From the Daily Mirror: Nearly 7 in 10 Tory members think the Government is bungling Brexit negotiations, a scathing poll has revealed.
From the Daily Mirror: The Brexit ships firm that has no ships has deleted legal text that MPs accused it of copying and pasting from a takeaway food outlet.
From HuffPost UK: Theresa May’s hopes of winning DUP support for her Brexit deal have been dealt a blow after the party demanded significant changes – which the EU is already refusing to allow.
After two days of talks with the prime minister and other senior government figures, the DUP on Thursday revealed it will still refuse to back the deal in its current form.
Theresa May made getting DUP support an absolute priority after delaying the Commons vote on the Brexit deal last month in the face of almost certain defeat. She was hoping their backing could start a domino effect to win over scores of Tory opponents.
From The Guardian: One of the companies contracted by the Tory government to charter ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit does not own any ships, has not previously operated a ferry service and is not planning to do so until close to the UK’s scheduled departure date from the European Union, it has emerged.
Concerns have been raised about Seaborne Freight, which was awarded a £13.8m contract to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate to the Belgian port of Ostend if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, after a councillor for the Kent town queried whether it would be possible to set up the new service by the scheduled Brexit date.
The contract is one of three agreements worth a total of £107.7m signed by the government without a tendering process to help ease “severe congestion” at Dover by securing extra lorry capacity.
Seaborne hopes to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate from late March, beginning with two ships and increasing to four by the end of the summer.
But Paul Messenger, a Conservative county councillor for Ramsgate, questioned whether the government had carried out sufficient checks on the firm, telling the BBC: “It has no ships and no trading history so how can due diligence be done? Why choose a company that never moved a single truck in their entire history and give them £14m? I don’t understand the logic of that.”
Seaborne was established two years ago and has been in negotiations about running freight ferries between Ramsgate and Ostend, but no services are currently running. Narrow berths in the port mean there are few suitable commercial vessels available.
From The Guardian: Pharmaceutical organisations working with Whitehall to maintain medicine supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit have signed 26 “gagging orders” that bar them from revealing information to the public.
Figures show that 16 drug companies and 10 trade associations have been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) which prevent them from revealing any information related to contingency plans drawn up with the Department of Health and Social Care.
It means that the government has now asked at least 60 partners working on no-deal preparations across Whitehall to sign such agreements, angering transparency campaigners and MPs.
Theresa May’s government has been accused of controlling the release of information about no-deal preparations to try to force Conservative MPs to back the prime minister’s Brexit agreement through parliament.
The prime minister has previously condemned the use of NDAs by employers. She told parliament in October that it was clear they were being used “unethically”.
From The Independent: A total of 3,500 troops will be put on standby for any crisis triggered by a no-deal Brexit, the defence secretary has announced.
From The Guardian: Theresa May has come home from Brussels empty-handed and without hope of further negotiations over the Irish backstop, with the failure to achieve any kind of breakthrough leaving her brutally exposed.
Plans to work over Christmas on a legal guarantee over the temporary nature of the backstop had run into a brick wall, EU officials said, despite May’s claim that she would be holding further talks “in the coming days”.
Brussels sources claimed May was just keeping up a pretence that the legal guarantee she had promised rebellious Tory MPs during this week’s leadership challenge was still on the cards.
Without clear evidence that she has made progress, May faces mounting jeopardy in Westminster, with Labour seriously considering tabling a vote of no confidence before Christmas, if it believes the prime minister’s DUP partners might support it.
Jeremy Corbyn accused May on Friday of “dangerously running down the clock”.
From Metro: The Health Secretary reportedly told the Prime Minister and her cabinet that he ‘could not guarantee that people would not die’ if no Brexit deal was agreed.
From Sky News: Work is under way on the possibility of using the military in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, a defence minister has said.
Tobias Ellwood said talks were being held behind the scenes about contingency plans.
A “no-deal” divorce could lead to disruption in a number of areas of British life, hence the contingency planning.
The prime minister insisted she was working for a “good” divorce with the EU and that the government was making “responsible contingency decisions”.
But she refused to be drawn on reports that warehouses are being sought to stockpile six weeks of medicines in if talks with Brussels fail.
From Daily Mirror: Theresa May faces a furious new threat to topple her over Brexit by the end of the *month* as tensions boil over.
From The Independent: DUP leader Arlene Foster has said the Good Friday Agreement is not “sacrosanct”, insisting the landmark peace treaty could be altered to accommodate a Brexit deal.
From The Guardian: Northern Ireland faces blackouts and drastic electricity price rises in the event of a no-deal Brexit, leaked government documents reveal.
The country would likely be cut off from electricity supplies from the Republic of Ireland and unable to use its sole electricity link to the UK mainland, according to an internal briefing.
Officials have been warning for months that Northern Ireland’s electricity market could collapse, triggering “unprecedented consequences” and forcing authorities to prepare to take energy infrastructure into public ownership to keep the lights on.
The government documents, shared widely across Whitehall and seen by the Guardian, show that in the event of a no-deal Brexit:
- Householders in Northern Ireland could see electricity bills rise by up to £200.
- Energy companies could collapse.
- Diesel generators would be needed to keep power supplies running.
- The UK government has not yet talked to power station operators in Northern Ireland.
From The Independent: Britons have been confronted with the prospect of transport chaos by road, rail and air after a no-deal Brexit, with the release of the latest government advice papers.
From The Guardian: The Conservatives face a “catastrophic split” if Theresa May relies on Labour votes to push her Chequers plan through parliament, one of the prime minister’s most persistent critics has warned, as the conflict within the party over Brexit intensified.
The former junior Brexit minister Steve Baker used an interview to mark 200 days before departure to argue May must take a different approach.
Baker said at least 80 Conservative MPs would be willing to vote against the plan, which Eurosceptics argue ties the UK too closely to the EU on regulation and alignment, hampering future bilateral trade deals.
Baker told the Press Association: “We are reaching the point now where it is extremely difficult to see how we can rescue the Conservative party from a catastrophic split if the Chequers proposals are carried forward.
“It is absolutely no pleasure whatsoever to me to acknowledge that, but I look at the mood of colleagues and the mood of the Conservative party in the country and I am gravely concerned for the future of our party.”
Brexit: Government will have to make cuts if UK crashes out of EU with no deal, Philip Hammond admits
From The Independent: Philip Hammond has admitted telling ministers to prepare to make cuts if the UK crashes out of the EU with no agreement.
From the Morning Star: Chaos in the Conservative ranks over Brexit means most people already blame Theresa May’s government for a bad deal before an agreement on Britain’s departure has even been struck, new figures show.
A poll of over 10,000 people by the anti-Brexit People’s Vote campaign found that 62 per cent said a bad deal would be “mainly the fault of the government.”
Even Tory voters were more likely to blame the government than the EU for a bad deal by a 48 to 43 per cent margin.
From Daily Mirror: A damning leaked warning has revealed NHS chiefs fear running out of drugs in a chaotic No Deal Brexit.
From Daily Mirror: Theresa May’s “disastrous” handling of Brexit poses a deadly threat to the NHS, the SNP’s Westminster health spokesperson Dr Philipa Whitford has warned.