Customs union

In an exclusive report, the Telegraph claims three leading Brexiteers will push for no customs union.

Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Liam Fox will this week warn against joining a Customs Union with the EU after Brexit in a potentially “explosive” Cabinet confrontation.
The three eurosceptic Cabinet ministers will say that Britain must be able to strike free trade deals after it leaves the European Union as the issue is debated for the first time by senior members of the Government.
Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, and Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, have argued for a new Customs Union to limit the loss of trade with Europe, reduce the need for new customs procedures and avoid a hard border in Ireland.
However eurosceptics argue that such a move would severely limit Britain’s ability to strike new trade deals with non-EU countries and take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit.

The Independent quotes the International Trade Secretary.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said Britain will “have to be” outside of any customs union with the  European Union after Brexit.
The Cabinet minister said it would be necessary for the UK in order to take advantage of global markets, but his words go further than Theresa May’s in an interview on the same morning.
The Prime Minister did not rule out staying in a customs union with the EU, saying simply that she wanted the best possible “trade arrangements” with other countries after Brexit.

The Independent has an exclusive report claiming Labour will try to keep the UK in the customs union.

Jeremy Corbyn will change tack and pledge to keep the UK in the EU customs union, the Welsh First Minister has said.
Carwyn Jones said he had discussed the issue with Mr Corbyn and Sir Keir  Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, and believed a policy change was likely “in the next few months”.
Urging his party leader to “keep all options open” and “be guided by what is best for working people”, Mr Jones said Labour should reject the “wrong option” of leaving the customs union.
The comments are some of the strongest from a senior Labour representative in favour of remaining in the bloc and add to the growing clamour among Labour figures for the party to change its approach.

The Sun claims government advisers are making plans for a ‘no border’ deal.

A FRESH Cabinet row has exploded over whether to forge a new customs union with the EU just days before a key four hour showdown on a Brexit trade deal.
It has emerged that the PM’s advisers are drawing up plans for a permanent new no border posts arrangement for goods only rather than services as well.
Officials backed by Chancellor Philip Hammond  insist it would solve a host of problems, including the thorny dilemma over how to keep the Irish border open.
Downing Street refused to rule out the move, saying that Mrs May is keeping “an open mind” on the negotiations.
But just hours earlier, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox spoke out against any new customs union while on a visit to China.

The Express claims it is a ‘betrayal of red lines’.

BRITAIN’S Brexit officials are secretly considering whether to strike a customs union deal covering trade in goods with the European Union in a move which betrays Theresa May’s red-lines.
Such a step would severely limit the UK’s ability to strike its own trade deals, but the Prime Minister’s Brexit advisers argue the move would limit a loss of trade with Europe after the exit from the EU, help address concerns about the north-south Irish border, and reduce the need for complex new customs procedures.
Three UK officials told the Financial Times the discussions are “live” in Whitehall.
Mrs May laid out in her Lancaster speech in January 2017 that Britain must not be tied to the EU’s customs union as membership would restrict the country from striking its own comprehensive trade deals with other countries.

And two avid europhiles are still fighting to keep the UK in a customs union, says the Guardian.

Two leading Conservative MPs have launched a bid to make Theresa May keep the UK in a customs union with the European Union, as the prime minister faces cabinet and party splits over the issue.
Anna Soubry, a former business minister, and Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, said they would try to get cross-party support for keeping the UK’s current customs arrangements with the EU, in a clear challenge to May’s authority.
They have a strong chance of causing an embarrassing government defeat if Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench supports their amendments to two trade bills when they are debated in the House of Commons before the end of February.
It is understood Labour is not ruling out backing the Tory rebels, who already have the support of a number of pro-EU Labour backbenchers. Soubry said it was part of “building a Brexit consensus inside and outside parliament”.


Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is still working on breaking the deadlock between the UK and the EU, says the Times.

Theresa May’s team will try to break the 19-month cabinet deadlock over Brexit next week by presenting senior ministers with a plan they hope will win the approval of the main Conservative factions as well as Brussels.
Oliver Robbins, the prime minister’s Europe adviser, will seek to convince cabinet members on the 11-person Brexit strategy committee that a blueprint involving a new customs arrangement and areas of regulatory alignment and divergence should be put forward to the EU.
The committee, which comprises seven cabinet members who backed Remain in the referendum and four Brexiteers, will have two days of discussion to thrash out the subject. Britain is expected to provide Brussels with an update on its plan for the “end state” UK-EU relationship on Friday.

The Independent reports on Mrs May’s upcoming meeting with Barnier.

Theresa May is set to meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator in London amid fresh splits over the transition period after Britain leaves the bloc.
The Prime Minister will see Michel Barnier when he attends a working lunch with David Davis on Monday ahead of the next phase of talks – in a rare example of the divorce discussions taking place outside of Brussels.
It comes as Ms May faced increasing pressure to set out her position on the UK’s long term relationship with the European Union in the face of growing dissatisfaction from both wings of the Conservative Party.
Mr Davis posted on Twitter: “Looking forward to welcoming Michel Barnier to London on Monday. Important next step in our work to build new partnership between UK and EU.”

The Express claims immigration is being discussed.

PROMISES to slash immigration may be watered down to get a deal with the EU, secret plans suggest. A leaked draft of proposals being discussed by ministers shows just 40,000 fewer EU migrants would come to Britain each year.
The revelation provoked fury last night from  Brexit campaigners. It comes after another internal leak from Whitehall to a pro-EU website claimed cutting immigration would harm the economy.
This has led to claims that Remainers within the Government are trying to water down the benefits of Brexit so that voters may be persuaded to reverse the referendum result.
The latest leaked impact assessment document suggests EU workers will be given “preferential” treatment if Britain wins a free-trade deal.

And the Independent reports a concerted attack on Mrs May’s plans is in the offing.

Nine campaign groups which want the closest possible links with the EU are to join forces in order to mount a more effective attack on Theresa May’s plans for a hard Brexit.
The organisations, which have half a million supporters between them, have set up an umbrella group to urge a soft Brexit and call for the public’s voice to be heard, possibly through a referendum on the exit deal. The move has been welcomed by 
The Independent.
The Grassroots Coordinating Group will play a crucial role in lobbying MPs before Parliament votes on the withdrawal agreement this autumn. If pro-Europeans win a referendum on the deal, the new group would be the starting point for a campaign to remain in the EU.

It seems a Scot might hold the key to our withdrawal, says the Express.

A SCOTTISH judge is to decide next week if the UK can REVERSE its decision on Brexit.
A group of just SEVEN pro-EU politicians wants to give Britain the option of staying in the bloc once it is established what Brexit actually means for the economy and politics.
The decision will be announced on Monday or Tuesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May formally notified the EU of Britain’s intention to leave by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on March 29 last year, starting a two-year exit process. 


Meanwhile, across the Channel, the Europeans are getting a bit worried about how well the UK is doing, says Westmonster.

If you want a further example of how the European Union is a backwards, fading organisation then simply look at its rumblings of ‘EU sanctions’ in response to Brexit.
As The Times report, a strategy paper by the EU now looking at penalties and even blacklisting to maintain a “level-playing field” as they are worried about the UK slashing tax and regulation to make Britain more attractive for businesses.
Former MP Nick de Bois took to Twitter to point how the “anti competitive” EU threat underlined once more why the UK voted to leave the bloc.
An independent Britain governing itself and able to bin EU red tape is clearly something that has spooked those in Brussels – and has exposed once again how it is in many ways an insular, protectionist racket.

And several states have been told they must pay more or face cuts after Brexit, says the Express.

EUROPEAN Union states have been told they are facing major cuts due to the massive shortfall in contributions missed by the UK when it leaves the bloc in March 2019, it has been revealed.
The European Investment Bank (EIB), the institution for funding new EU projects, and the EU Court of Auditors said thanks to Brexit the bloc is going on a budget diet.
Speaking at an EIB conference in Brussels, president of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) Klaus-Heiner Lehne said while individual countries may end up paying more as a percentage of GDP into the next EU budget (which runs 2021 to 2027), there is little chance the budget will rise overall in absolute terms.

The Express muses on whether Italy will leave the bloc.

SILVIO Berlusconi has re-emerged as a major player in the Italian election 2018 with his party Forza Italia predicted to win as part of a centre-right bloc with Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant Northern League and the right-wing Brothers of Italy.
But will Mr Salvini and Mr Berlusconi send Italy crashing out of the EU?
Italy will go to the polls on March 4 and opinion polls yesterday put the centre-right coalition on target for a win but falling just short of an outright majority.
Anti-establishment party Five Star Movement (5S) led the popular vote on February 1 with a 26.9 percent share and 3.1 lead but it has see-sawed over entering into a coalition.

Conservative Party

Back home, the Times warns that the Tories could lose a lot of seats in May’s local elections.

Senior Conservatives are warning that the party faces a near-wipeout in London during local elections this May as tension rises over the role of Boris Johnson in the campaign.
Theresa May has been told that she will face renewed attempts to drive her out of Downing Street if the party performs poorly.
The elections are concentrated in London and other cities, leading to fears that metropolitan voters could punish the Tories over Brexit. Mr Johnson, the former London mayor and the main Leave campaigner, is toxic in the Remain-backing capital, senior Tories have said.

Labour Party

And the Times also highlights a potential misuse of taxpayers’ cash by Labour activists.

Tens of thousands of pounds in taxpayers’ money was spent on staff wages, utility bills and entertaining at a football club chaired by Ian Lavery, the Labour Party chairman, an investigation by The Times has discovered.
Jeremy Corbyn’s party chief is under increasing pressure as it emerged that his non-league team relied on discreet cash support from a development corporation owned by the local Labour-led council.
The authority’s accounts have been queried by auditors and are under scrutiny from police over unspecified matters.


There’s more trouble in northern France, reports the Times.

Police reinforcements were sent to Calais yesterday to stop turf wars between people smugglers and growing violence among migrants trying to reach the UK.
Riot police were called in after 22 migrants were injured in clashes between Afghans and Eritreans, the biggest groups of migrants there. Five were shot and four have life-threatening injuries.
Although Calais is used to clashes between migrants and police, Gérard Collomb, the French interior minister, said the battles that began on Thursday had been of “exceptional gravity”. Fighting broke out in at least five places. The violence started at a food distribution point, continued at a lorry park used by traffickers and spread to an area near the town’s hospital.

Westmonster also has the story.

The complete chaos in Calais is escalating, with a huge gang brawl leaving four people fighting for their lives.
22 people are said to be hospitalised in total, with 4 Eritreans now in a critical condition after being shot. A number of other migrants have been stabbed.
Police are searching for an Afghan migrant they believe was involved in the shooting.
Local authorities have explained that: “Police intervened to protect the Afghan migrants faced with 150 to 200 Eritrean migrants.”
Interior Minister Gerard Collom responded, saying: “This is a level of violence never seen before.”


The Mail has a story about a private police force.

The country’s first ‘private police force’ is investigating hundreds of crimes that regular officers are too busy to look at.
A firm led by former Scotland Yard senior officers has successfully prosecuted more than 400 criminals and is now carrying out murder inquiries.
TM Eye, which has a 100 per cent conviction rate, is thought to bring more private prosecutions than any organisation besides the RSPCA.
The company, the country’s first de-facto private police force, is operating against a backdrop of rising crime rates and police budget cuts. Its activities include:
A service called ‘My Local Bobby’ costing wealthy households up to £200 a month each for guards to patrol their streets;
Three high-profile murder investigations that police have been unable to complete, including one case dogged by allegations of corruption and cover-up;
Help in cases of rape, missing persons, burglary, theft, stalking and blackmail. 


The Times blamed management for the crisis.

Autocratic management is a leading cause of poor NHS care, according to the compiler of a European health service league table that ranks Britain 15th.
The UK trails Slovakia and Portugal while the best performers such as the Netherlands and Switzerland pull away, according to the Euro Health Consumer Index. Treatment is Britain is mediocre and there is an “absence of real excellence” in the NHS, the report concludes. Only Ireland does worse on accessibility measures such as availability of same-day GP appointments, access to specialists and waits for routine surgery.

The Mail reports on the ditching of waiting times.

Health chiefs have scrapped A&E waiting time targets as  NHS bosses claim government cuts make them impossible to meet.
Tory cuts have been blamed for an inability to see 95 per cent of patients within four hours – a target not met since 2015.
The target is being postponed until April next year, with the NHS Confederation calling on the government to rethink.
In today’s Daily Mirror the group warns: ‘It will be an immense task just to stabilise the service. We repeat our call for the Government to tackle health funding.’

The Times also reports on the waiting times.

A target for reducing waiting times at A&Es will not be hit for at least another year, NHS chiefs have accepted.
Hospitals will not be expected to deal with 95 per cent of patients within four hours until sometime in 2019, after bosses accepted that it was impossible to do this year. This is at least 12 months later than under previous plans.
Jeremy Hunt said last year that meeting the target was “critical for patient safety”, instructing hospitals to hit them again by next month after failing to do so since summer 2015.
However, NHS guidance issued yesterday acknowledges that this will not happen. Instead A&Es will be expected to treat 90 per cent within four hours by September.

The Mirror blames the Tory party.

With the NHS brought to its knees by eight years of  Tory austerity, millions of Brits are so worried they would dip into their own pockets to rescue it.
In a clear message to Theresa May that people are fed up with her crippling our cherished service, 63% said they will happily pay an extra 1% tax to secure its survival.
It would raise an extra £5.5billion and cost those on the average wage of £27,600 just £3.50 a week.
And 73% of those quizzed in a Mirror poll by ­Survation, would give up an £1 a week to keep the NHS free and out of the clutches of the private health firms circling like vultures.
That would bring in £2.75billion a year.
More than half said they would part with £2 a week.

The Mail reports on the funding for cancer treatments.

Boosting prostate cancer funding to match cash for breast cancer could save the lives of 7,000 men a year.
Just £290,000 a week – half the wage of the country’s top-paid footballer – would bring prostate funds in line with breast cancer and dramatically improve survival rates, experts say.
Prostate Cancer UK last night said a £15million annual increase could lead to a national screening programme within five years, vastly better drugs and improved prevention.
The charity was backed by a string of MPs after official figures yesterday revealed prostate cancer is now a bigger killer than breast cancer for the first time. 


A school’s decision on wearing the hijab is reported in the Mail.

Neena Lall’s success as a headmistress stems from a simple mantra: ‘Every child can,’ she says. And: ‘If they can’t, why can’t they?’
It’s a philosophy which has turned St Stephen’s in Newham, East London, into one of the best primary schools in Britain.
At seven, pupils at St Stephen’s, which tops national league tables, know all their times tables. By ten, they have routinely finished the national curriculum a year early. At 11, SATs results prove they are the best in England at reading, spelling and maths.
Such achievements are all the more remarkable because St Stephen’s is in one of the poorest parts of London, where most youngsters have English as a second language.
The school was judged ‘outstanding’ in the most recent Ofsted report.

The Sun also has the story.

IN the poverty-stricken East London borough of Newham, St Stephen’s Primary School is a beacon of hope.
In just two years it jumped from No148 in the primary school rankings to being named state school of the year.
Not bad for an institution where almost every pupil has English as a second language.
But the positive mood has turned toxic.
The talented and driven head teacher who turned the school around has gone from worrying about grades to fearing for her life.
Neena Lall, 50, banned Muslim pupils aged eight and under at the secular school from wearing hijabs or fasting during Ramadan for health and safety reasons.
But with around two thirds of St Stephen’s 540 pupils being Muslim, some parents were upset at the ban.

Breitbart reports a potential repeat of the Rotherham child grooming scandal.

An executive headteacher for five Kent schools believes a “Rotherham-style” abuse scandal could be in the offing in Thanet.
Paul Luxmoore, executive headteacher of the Coastal Academies Trust, says he will resist taking young people in care from outside Thanet’s home county, because the practice of dumping children and teenagers on what is already a deprived area is exacerbating a growing gang problem and creating the circumstances for youngsters to fall prey to groomers.
“London boroughs don’t have nearly enough foster carers in their area, so children are sent to places like Thanet, which is a poor area with high unemployment and so has far more foster carers,” he told Sky News.