Tory members happy to trash UK economy and destroy their own party to get Brexit, poll finds

From The Independent: Conservative Party members would happily support the break-up of the UK, “significant damage” to the British economy and even the destruction of their own party in order to secure Brexit, a poll has found.

[Read article on Independent website…]

Theresa May suffers major blow as DUP refuses to back Brexit deal

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.

[Read full article on HuffPost UK…]

No-deal Brexit ferry company owns no ships and has never run Channel service

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.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Drug firms preparing for no-deal Brexit told to sign ‘gagging orders’

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”.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Theresa May’s Brexit strategy left brutally exposed by Brussels failure

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”.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Military could be used in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, says minister

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.

[Read full article on Sky News website…]

Theresa May refuses to guarantee medicine supply under ‘no-deal’ Brexit

From Sky News: Theresa May has refused to guarantee that the NHS will have enough medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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.

[Read full article on Sky News website…]

No-deal Brexit could result in Northern Ireland blackouts, leaks reveal

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.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Brexit: 80 Tory MPs will reject Chequers plan says former minister

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.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

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