Customs union

The row over the customs relationship with the EU after Brexit is rumbling on. The Telegraph says:

Theresa May’s plan for a customs partnership with the EU is “unviable”, HM Revenue & Customs believes, as it emerged Mrs May is prepared to accept the Brexiteers’ favoured “Max Fac” option.
HMRC believes the customs partnership idea is “incredibly complicated” and impractical, Whitehall sources have told The Telegraph, and the idea it could be used to solve the Irish border problem is “for the birds”.

The Guardian says the problem could be solved within another week.

Resolving the cabinet standoff over customs after Brexit could take another week or more, senior government sources say, as ministers prepare to meet in breakout groups to thrash out the rival proposals.
Theresa May has divided members of her deadlocked Brexit inner cabinet into two groups, tasked with tweaking the two rival plans to find an acceptable compromise.
But ministers remain pessimistic about the prospect of finding a workable solution, with one comparing the process of wearing down their opponents with the Marathon des Sables, an endurance race across the Sahara.
“It feels like everyone’s quite entrenched,” said another senior source.

Reuters‘ report is neutral.

A row over Britain’s future customs arrangements with the European Union has left the opposing Brexit camps more deeply entrenched than ever and Prime Minister Theresa May facing one of her toughest decisions yet.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech to students and staff during her visit to Derby College in Derby, Britain, February 19, 2018.
Under pressure from the EU to move forward with talks on a future partnership, May must settle on a customs proposal to unite, or at least not tear apart, her government, her party, Britain’s parliament and one that could be backed by the EU.

But it seems that Mrs May’s top adviser is a bit devious, says the Sun.

WHITEHALL Brexit guru Olly Robbins was accused of holding back key evidence that proves technology can be used to solve the Irish border headache.
Seething Brexiteer Cabinet Ministers are convinced Theresa May’s pro-EU aide could have made a stronger case for the hi-tech “maximum facilitation” customs option at the crunch meeting of the Brexit “war cabinet” last week.
The high-flying civil servant talked the 11 strong committee through the merits of the No10’s previously  preferred complex Custom Partnership over the option backed by Boris Johnson.
Mr Robbins said “Max Fac” would mean more red tape for 145,000 companies trading with the EU.

The Telegraph claims the PM’s plans are in ‘free fall’.

It feels like a last roll of the dice: after 10 days in which Britain’s Brexit plans have been in “complete free fall” – in the words of one senior ministerial aide – Theresa May has hit upon a plan to resolve the impasse over Britain’s future.
Exasperated with the posturing and the feuding, Mrs May has asked leading ministers to enter into a thought-experiment this weekend in an attempt to force hard and soft Brexiteers to engage constructively with their rivals’ plans.

The Express points to a tiny country which could solve the problem.

BRITAIN’S seemingly intractable Brexit problems could be solved by following the example of tiny Liechtenstein, experts said today.
The little land-locked principality between Austria and Switzerland – which has a population of only 38,000 – straddles two separate economic spaces with conflicting standards on goods, just like post Brexit Britain and the EU.
But Liechtenstein solves the tricky problem using a system of “parallel marketability”.
The pressure is on for the UK to look for creative solutions on future trading deals with Europe as well as the thorny issue of avoiding a hard border with Ireland.

ECJ

The Express claims EFTA could hold the solution to the problem with the European Court of Justice.

BREXIT BRITAIN should join the EFTA court which suits British values a lot more than the German and French-influenced European Court of Justice, a former EFTA court judge has claimed.
Brexit Britain has been urged to join the European Free Trade Association court by former judge Carl Baudenbacher.
Mr Baudenbacher claimed EFTA would be a solution to Brexit for the UK insisting the court shared the same values as Britain and would allow the country to remain sovereign.

Brexit

Calls have been made for Boris to go, says the Times.

The former attorney-general Dominic Grieve called on Boris Johnson to resign yesterday, accusing him of “destroying” collective cabinet responsibility over Brexit.
In an outspoken attack the prominent pro-European Conservative MP said that the foreign secretary had “utterly” undermined the prime minister with his attack on her “crazy” plans for a customs partnership with the EU.
He claimed that Mr Johnson’s unauthorised comments were “hugely damaging” to the process of government and if he did not like the policy he should “leave the government”. Asked if he thought Mr Johnson should resign Mr Grieve replied: “Yes”.

Mrs May should not extend the transition period, says the Express.

THERESA May was last night warned that a new plan to lengthen Britain’s transition out of the EU could plunge the Tories into “civil war”.
The Prime Minister’s former close adviser Nick Timothy yesterday floated the idea of extending the so called 21-month “implementation period” beyond its scheduled expiry date of the end of December 2020 as a “compromise” to solve the Cabinet row about which future customs model to adopt.
A meeting last week broke up with no agreement when six out of the 11 Cabinet ministers present signalled their opposition to the “customs partnership” that would leave the UK closely tied to the EU.

House of Lords

There’s growing pressure on the upper chamber, says the Telegraph.

“Parliamentary privilege” sounds like something we should be against. We link it with the idea of politicians getting away with things – expenses claims, perhaps, or full scrutiny. Yet the history of the phrase shows it has the opposite meaning.
Parliamentary privilege evolved to protect our elected representatives from the arbitrary power of the state, for our benefit. When MPs speak in Parliament, their speech is “privileged”: they cannot be arrested for it, or sued for libel, or put under any legal or governmental threat.

In an exclusive, the Independent claims members of the House of Lords are ready to act against their fellow members.

Peers are ready to drive lazy lords out of parliament, but only if Theresa May is willing to commit to an overall cap on numbers in the upper chamber.
Members of the House of Lords want to start telling colleagues who do not attend often enough that is time for them to step down, 
The Independent understands.
But they argue that to show the push is credible and working towards an officially sanctioned target, the prime minister must clearly commit to capping the number of lords at 600.

Labour Party

A former Labour boss has warned Corbyn about his plans, says the Independent in an exclusive report.

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock has warned Jeremy Corbyn he is about to commit a “serious evasion of duty” by refusing to back a plan to keep Britain in the single market.
Writing exclusively for 
The Independent, Lord Kinnock said his refusal would see the party expose the working people it is supposed to protect, to the “rockslide” of hard Brexit.
He dismissed Mr Corbyn’s claims that the single market would restrict the UK’s ability to intervene in British industry as being part of an “infantile leftist illusion”.

Guido has another go at the party over anti-semitism.

A total shambles at the Labour NEC working group meeting on anti-Semitism this afternoon. First, they uninvited Adam Langleben of the Jewish Labour Movement, the Barnet councillor who lost his seat last week and has since been critical of Corbyn. Labour rather unbelievably claimed his invitation was a “misunderstanding” and shouldn’t have been sent out in the first place. A second JLM colleague of Langleben was also uninvited.
The JLM understandably decided to attend the meeting anyway – you’d have thought the main Jewish group in the Labour Party should be present at the NEC meeting on anti-Semitism, after all. They were banned from entering and made to stand outside.

Scotland

The Star reports that politicians north of the border have not given up hope of stopping Brexit.

The UK government has told its Scottish counterparts the “door is still open” for a deal to end the long-running Brexit powers dispute.
Despite months of talks between the two sides, the Scottish government has said it cannot yet sign up to the UK government’s Brexit bill.
It says the bill could see some of Holyrood’s powers constrained by Westminster for up to seven years.
MSPs are due to vote on whether to formally consent to the bill next week.

EU

Meanwhile, over on the Continent, things are not going smoothly for the bloc, says Breitbart.

The populist anti-establishment parties Five Star and Le Lega look ready to form the next Italian government after La Lega centre-right coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi withdrew his opposition to the parties working together.
The anti-establishment parties, who share many common policies on mass migration, the European Union and the euro currency, look set to form the next Italian government saying they have made “significant milestones” in a press release issued Thursday 
Le Monde reports.

And Westmonster reports on an anti-EU sentiment.

Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella, has hit out at the EU amid a backdrop of rising Euroscepticism in his country.
Speaking at a State of the Union address in Florence, Mattarella said that the “wind of war is blowing” and “the building of Europe is shaking”.
The 76-year-old warned Eurocrats that “the European project has lost its ability to meet the expectations of large portions of the population,” and urged Brussels to lead with “irreversible unity” at the highest levels.

Breitbart claims immigration is the top concern in the EU.

The top two issues facing the European Union (EU), according to voters in Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Lithuania, are immigration and terrorism.
The only nation where another issue occupied one of the top two spots, according to a new YouGov poll, was Italy, where they were immigration and unemployment.
Immigration was the top concern for the bloc as chosen by 53 per cent of people in Finland, 51 per cent in Greece, 49 per cent in Sweden, 47 per cent in Italy, and 39 per cent in Britain.
Terrorism was rated as number one by 43 per cent of people in Poland, 38 per cent in France, 35 per cent in the UK, and 34 per cent in Lithuania.

Westmonster also reports the result of the poll.

In a sad sign of the times, migration and terrorism are now the top issues for voters in Britain and across the whole of Europe when it comes to the problems now facing the European Union.
That’s according to new polling from YouGov that has shown huge numbers of people in virtually every European country are massively concerned about immigration and the terror threat.
Large numbers of people now see immigration as one of the the biggest issues facing the EU, including 53% in Finland, 51% in Greece, 49% in Sweden, 47% in Italy and 39% in Britain.
Many see terrorism as one of the major threats now too, including 43% in Poland, 38% in France, 35% in the UK and 34% in Lithuania.

NHS

Away from politics, the Times reports essential drugs are being rationed.

Cancer patients are being denied a life-extending drug by the NHS in an “arbitrary” restriction that experts fear could set an unacceptable precedent.
NHS England has been accused of defying a legal duty to make approved drugs available to hundreds of patients in an attempt to cut costs.
Campaigners say that if the restrictions stand, health chiefs will have a green light to impose tough restrictions on a wide range of medicines, with patients given little recourse.
The £17 billion fund for complex care has repeatedly run over budget, putting health chiefs under pressure. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, says that his harder line on drugs has forced companies to reduce prices.

And the Times reports on the problems facing foreign nurses wanting to work here.

Foreign nurses should be exempt from visa surcharges to use the NHS, the Royal College of Nursing has urged, warning that the fees are “tearing families apart”.
Nurses from overseas have received requests for more than £3,000 upfront to cover their families’ potential use of the NHS, the college said.
According to NHS Digital, the average basic pay of an NHS nurse is £27,811.
Almost 25,000 nurses from outside the EU work in the NHS in England.
Under a system introduced in 2015, non-European Economic Area citizens in the UK must pay £200 per family member for every year on the main sponsors’ work permit.

The Morning Star backs the nurses.

NON-EU nurses working in the NHS should not have to pay hundreds of pounds a year for their family members to access the health service, the Royal College of Nursing conference will hear tomorrow.
The union is calling on the government to drop the up-front fee for non-EU staff — that will double to £400 per relative later this year — which it said is tearing families apart.
The immigration health surcharge introduced in 2015 is paid by people from outside the European Economic Area who want to live in Britain for at least six months to work, study or join family.
Rates for students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme will also increase, from £150 to £300 per year.

Armed forces

The Star has a story about money problems in the forces.

BRITAIN cannot afford to put jets in its hangars or submarines in the sea it has emerged – news that will be music to the ears of Vladimir Putin.
Relations with Russia are at an “all-time low” after the Kremlin is thought to have poisoned a former spy on UK soil.
A UN chief even went as far as to claim “The Cold War is back with a vengeance”.
The problem could be set to worsen as it emerged Britain’s armed forces are in crisis and haven’t got enough money to buy new equipment.
British army bosses don’t have the cash to pay for nuclear-armed dreadnought submarines or new aircraft carriers stocked with Lightning II F-35 jets.

Racism

A black member of the UN has claimed Britain is racist, says the Telegraph.

Britain’s policies on austerity, immigration and tackling terrorism are racist, a United Nations watchdog has claimed.
Ministers hit back after Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on racism, called for the anti-terrorism Prevent strategy to be shut down and anti-immigration laws to be repealed.
A Home Office source said the criticism was not based on “reality” while former Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith said her claims were “complete rubbish”.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the influential European Research group, said: “The UN ought to have better things to do than issue tendentious reports abut the UK.”

The Times claims the charge includes the Prime Minister’s immigration policies.

Brexit and Theresa May’s immigration policies have made Britain a more racist country, the United Nations has claimed.
A UN inspector provoked a backlash yesterday after arguing that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union had left racial and ethnic minorities “more vulnerable to racial discrimination and intolerance”.
Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s special rapporteur on racism and xenophobia, said that hate crimes had risen starkly since the EU referendum in 2016 and that anti-migrant and anti-foreigner rhetoric had become “normalised” even among high-ranking civil servants.

The Mail reports the fury that has arisen from the comments.

UN race relations envoy sparked fury today as she claimed Brexit had made Britain more racist and fuelled a rise in anti-Semitism.
Tendayi Achiume said the EU referendum had resulted in a rise in ‘racial discrimination and intolerance’.
And she pointedly said that anti-Semitic abuse and attacks surged last year in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
Labour has been dogged by claims of anti-Semitism ever since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2016, with Jewish Labour MPs telling how they received death and rape threats after they spoke out.

Education

The government’s plan for new grammar schools is echoed in the Mail with news of a private school.

A private ‘grammar school’ costing just £52 a week is set to open this September.
The Independent Grammar School: Durham aims to provide a no-frills ‘traditional academic education’ for families of modest means who can’t find a good school in the state sector.
Its creators believe there is a gap in the market because average private school fees are now £17,200 a year – against £2,700 at the new school. The school will not be selective but will be similar to a grammar because it will provide an old-fashioned academically rigorous curriculum.
If it is approved by the Department for Education, the first term will begin on September 17 for pupils aged four to nine. All age groups up to 18 will be joining later.

Farage

Our former leader could join the DUP, says the Mirror.

Speculation is mounting that Nigel Farage could follow in the footsteps of Enoch Powell, joining the Democratic Unionist Party ( DUP ) in another desperate bid to be elected as an MP.
The former Ukip leader is expected to speak at a DUP fundraiser tonight in Belfast.
And millionaire Arron Banks, who bankrolled Ukip under Farage’s leadership and co-founded the Leave.EU campaign, refused to deny the pair planned to join the hardline Northern Irish party.
He told Sky News: “That’s something you’ll have to ask Nigel. We’re attending a DUP fundraiser this evening and I’m not really able to comment on that.

But the Star claims he has denied the suggestion.

Nigel Farage has poured cold water on speculation he could join the DUP in order to win a place in Parliament.
A close ally of the former UKIP leader had fuelled suggestions Mr Farage might be on the verge of linking up with the Northern Irish party.
Millionaire businessman Arron Banks, who previously bankrolled UKIP, is attending a DUP fundraiser alongside Mr Farage in Belfast on Friday night.
Speaking to Sky News’ Adam Boulton, Mr Banks refused to rule out both he and Mr Farage switching his party allegiance ahead of the event.

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