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Brexit: Labour MPs in ‘show us the money’ row



John Mann: This is not transactional politics
John Mann: This is not transactional politics

Labour MPs have been warned by their party not to accept money for their constituencies in return for supporting Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Labour chairman Ian Lavery said “taking such a bribe would be fool’s gold” given the Tories’ record on austerity.

John Mann has urged the PM to “show us the money” with “transformative investment” in areas that voted Leave.

But the Labour MP, who backed Theresa May’s Brexit deal, denied it amounted to “transactional politics”.

Writing on the Labour List website , Mr Lavery, the former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, accused Mrs May of playing “divide and rule” over Brexit.

“If the prime minister wants to talk about ending austerity and protecting rights as we leave the EU, she should do so with the leader of the Labour Party and his team.

“Any Labour MP seriously considering discussions with the PM should remember her record and that of her party going back generations. Quite simply, taking such a bribe would be fool’s gold.”

The government is understood to be considering proposals from a group of Labour MPs in predominantly Leave-supporting constituencies, to allocate more funds to their communities for big infrastructure projects.

It is thought the MPs have urged the prime minister to consider re-allocating the EU’s regional aid budget away from big cities and local councils and to give the cash direct to smaller communities, often in former steel and coal mining areas.

John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, a former coal mining area in Nottinghamshire, met cabinet office officials in Whitehall on Thursday and told reporters: “I want to see, when we leave the European Union, significant investment in new technologies, new jobs, science and industry in areas like mine and all the other areas in the country like mine.

“This isn’t transactional politics, this is about getting a national fund … the areas that voted Leave the most are the areas that have not had that investment.”

Is cash for constituencies wrong?

A couple of weeks ago, a Labour MP confessed quietly that they would vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the end.

But they wanted something to show for it, suggesting, half-teasingly, that they wanted the PFI debt of their local hospital paid off.

That MP was frustrated that the government had taken so long, as they saw it, to try to reach out to get them on board.

But they predicted that we would soon see what they described as “transactional politics”, in a way that we haven’t seen before in this country.

With Number 10 in a frantic hunt for support, maybe that time has arrived.

It comes as ministers continue to try to win support for the withdrawal deal Theresa May has negotiated with the EU, which was rejected by a historic margin in a Commons vote more than two weeks ago. Mr Mann was one of only three Labour MPs to back the deal.

Downing Street says that ministers are looking at a programme of “national renewal” following Brexit, to tackle inequality and rebuild communities but has denied any funding amounted to “cash for votes”.

David Lammy
Tottenham MP David Lammy is part of the People’s Vote campaign for another referendum

Asked if the government was trying to bribe Labour MPs, Chancellor Philip Hammond said: “No it doesn’t work like that I’m afraid.

“What we are doing is looking at some of the drivers behind the Brexit vote.

“What was it that felt that made so many communities feel that they didn’t have a stake in the way our economy was operating?

“And making sure we are investing in, for example, former coalfield communities to ensure they can keep up with the changes that are happening across the economy and that they too can share in our future prosperity.”

But David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, in north London, tweeted his response to headlines suggesting the PM was preparing to “woo Labour MPs with cash to back Brexit” saying: “Cowards and facilitators. History will be brutal.”

And his colleague Chuka Umunna, who like Mr Lammy campaigns for another EU referendum, said on Twitter: “Government by bung is WRONG – whether involving DUP MPs or those from any other party.

“Funding should be based on the needs of the people not on the needs of an incompetent Tory PM to secure the votes of MPs for a deal which will make the UK poorer.”

Asked about Mr Lammy’s comments, the former Labour MP Frank Field, who now sits as an independent, said: “David would say that, he is in London. He isn’t going to get any money and they are well provided for by the amount of rates they get in most areas and the wealth the business community brings to London.”

The veteran MP for Birkenhead, on Merseyside, who backs Brexit, told BBC Newsnight Labour MPs representing Leave constituencies “should be fighting me to get to the front of the queue to get those funds”.

He added: “That’s how politics operates. The Tory party in government is very good at shoving money their way to their constituencies. I wish Labour were as effective.”

But Anna Turley, MP for Redcar, a Teesside coastal town, which voted to leave the EU, told the same programme she found the idea “appalling”.

“We have had nearly a decade now of austerity that has seen constituencies like mine absolutely hammered, £6bn has come out of public spending in the North by this government and if [there is] a programme or national renewal, I’m afraid it’s too little too late.”

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Mental health: UK could ban social media over suicide images, minister warns



After Molly Russell took her own life, her family discovered distressing material about suicide on her Instagram account
After Molly Russell took her own life, her family discovered distressing material about suicide on her Instagram account

Social media firms could be banned if they fail to remove harmful content, the health secretary has warned.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Matt Hancock said: “If we think they need to do things they are refusing to do, then we can and we must legislate.”

But he added: “It’s not where I’d like to end up.”

The minister earlier called on social media giants to “purge” material promoting self-harm and suicide in the wake of links to a teenager’s suicide.

Molly Russell, 14, took her own life in 2017 after viewing disturbing content about suicide on social media.

Speaking to the BBC, her father said he believed Instagram “helped kill my daughter”.

Mr Russell also criticised the online scrapbook Pinterest, telling the Sunday Times: “Pinterest has a huge amount to answer for.”

Instagram responded by saying it works with expert groups who advise them on the “complex and nuanced” issues of mental health and self-harm.

Based on their advice that sharing stories and connecting with others could be helpful for recovery, Instagram said, they “don’t remove certain content”.

“Instead (we) offer people looking at, or posting it, support messaging that directs them to groups that can help.”

But Instagram added it is undertaking a full review of its enforcement policies and technologies.

Queen makes plea for Britons to find ‘common ground’

UK starts returning cross-Channel migrants to France

Facebook, which owns Instagram, 

said earlier it was “deeply sorry” The internet giant said graphic content which sensationalises self-harm and suicide “has no place on our platform”.

Papyrus, a charity that works to prevent youth suicide, said it has been contacted by around 30 families in the past week who believe social media had a part to play in their children’s suicides.

“We’ve had a spike in calls to our UK helpline since the BBC first reported this six days ago, all saying the same thing,” said a spokeswoman for the charity.

Mr Hancock said he was “horrified” to learn of Molly’s death and feels “desperately concerned to ensure young people are protected”.

Matt Hancock: We will and we must act if we have to
Matt Hancock: We will and we must act if we have to

In a letter sent to Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Apple, Google and Facebook (which owns Instagram), the minister “welcomed” steps already taken by firms but said “more action is urgently needed”.

He wrote: “It is appalling how easy it still is to access this content online and I am in no doubt about the harm this material can cause, especially for young people.

“It is time for internet and social media providers to step up and purge this content once and for all.”

He added that the government is developing a white paper addressing “online harms”, and said it will look at content on suicide and self-harm.

Mr Hancock explained: “Lots of parents feel powerless in the face of social media. But we are not powerless. Both government and social media providers have a duty to act.

“I want to make the UK the safest place to be online for everyone – and ensure that no other family has to endure the torment that Molly’s parents have had to go through.”

Molly was found dead in her bedroom in November 2017 after showing “no obvious signs” of severe mental health issues.

Her family later found she had been viewing material on social media linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.

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Mr Russell told the BBC: “Some of that content is shocking in that it encourages self harm, it links self-harm to suicide and I have no doubt that Instagram helped kill my daughter.”

Solicitor Merry Varney, who represents the Russell family, said Molly’s case “and the examples of how algorithms push negative material” show a need to investigate online platforms, and how they could be “contributing to suicides and self-harm”.

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Queen makes plea for Britons to find ‘common ground’


The Queen has urged people to find “common ground” and to respect “different points of view”.

Commentators have interpreted the remarks as a comment on the Brexit debate, with Parliament due to vote on the way forward next week and UK due to leave the EU on 29 March.

The Queen visits the Sandringham branch of the WI each year during her winter stay at the nearby Royal estate

She was at an event to mark the 100 years of Sandringham Women’s Institute.

BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said there was little doubt the Queen was “sending a message”.

“It is impossible to imagine that the head of state would use a construction of words such as this without it being appreciated that they would be seen as a reference to the current political debate,” he said.

Her words echoed,

the theme of her Christmas broadcast our correspondent added.

As head of state, the Queen remains neutral on political matters and does not express her views on issues.

Speaking on an annual visit to the Women’s Institute near her estate in Sandringham, the Queen said: “The continued emphasis on patience, friendship, a strong community focus, and considering the needs of others, are as important today as they were when the group was founded all those years ago.

“Of course, every generation faces fresh challenges and opportunities.

“As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture.”

She said these approaches are “timeless, and I commend them to everyone”.

BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said that it was “not common” for the Queen’s remarks to be released in this way and it seemed “quite feasible” that the palace was trying to send a message to politicians.

Her Christmas message touched on the same issues, with the Queen saying: “Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding.”

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UK starts returning cross-Channel migrants to France


By emmanuel Justices

The UK has begun returning migrants, who cross the Channel in small boats, to France in a bid to deter others from doing the same, the Home Office said.

Brexit: Theresa May faces ‘meaningful vote’ on her deal

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On Thursday, a small number of failed asylum seekers, who landed on UK shores in October, were sent back to France.

The Home Office said it wanted to provide “a strong deterrent against the dangerous crossings”.

The move is part of a new plan agreed by France and the UK which will see the UK spend an extra £3m on security.

It is understood fewer than five were returned to France on Thursday morning. The Home Office said it could not say where the migrants were from, nor whether they had travelled to the UK together in a small boat.

UK starts returning cross-Channel migrants to France

The measures come after a small spike in the number of migrants crossing the English Channel towards the end of last year.

Channel migrants numbers chart

Following talks with French ministers, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today’s joint action plan strengthens our already strong relationship and increases joint action around keeping both our borders secure and discouraging these dangerous journeys.”

Previously, the UK announced an extra £44.5m would be spent on strengthening Channel border security.

The home secretary has agreed now to spend £6m (of which £3m is new) on CCTV, night goggles and number plate recognition capability.

Extra security cameras will be placed at French ports and areas where migrants embark from, with a live feed viewable in the UK-France Coordination and Information Centre, in Calais, which is staffed by British and French agencies.

The Home Office said there would also be increased surveillance of the Channel by air and boat patrols, and more foot patrols on beaches and coastal areas.

Last week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron,

signed the Sandhurst Treaty, which committed them to reducing the time taken to process migrants.

It means it would take one month, rather than six, to process a migrant hoping to come to the UK from Calais – and 25 days to process children.

Over the whole of last year, 539 people attempted to travel to the UK on small boats – 434 (around 80%) made their attempts in the last three months of the year, according to the Home Office.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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Shoreham air crash trial: Pilot Andy Hill ‘chose risky stunt’


By mr ben rory

A pilot accused of killing 11 men at the Shoreham Airshow chose to perform the “highest risk” stunt possible before a fatal crash, a jury has heard.

Andy Hill’s Hunter Hawker jet hit the ground and exploded after he attempted a manoeuvre known as the bent loop.

He had committed the “cardinal sin” of trying to complete the trick while apparently lacking the height to do so, the Old Bailey heard.

Mr Hill, 54, denies 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The court has heard the vintage jet “disintegrated” and erupted into a “massive fireball” when it crashed into the A27 in August 2015.

‘Distressing footage’

Jurors were shown footage of the crash, taken by spectators on the road who had been standing behind some of the victims.

Prosecutor Tom Kark QC warned the panel they may find the footage “distressing”.

“You are in effect seeing these gentleman in the last few seconds of their lives,” he said.

The video shows the aircraft going into the loop manoeuvre before coming towards the camera.

It ends with images of the fireball, with the footage cutting out as the person filming throws themselves to the ground.

Shoreham air crash
Eleven men were killed when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed into the A27

A clip filmed inside the aircraft’s cockpit was also shown to the court.

Lasting about a minute, the footage shows the jet performing a banking turn and a loop before inverting and descending, ending with the impact.

‘Dreadful negligence’

Jonathan Whaley, a “very experienced ex-Royal Navy pilot” who has flown more than 1,200 hours in a Hawker Hunter, had reviewed footage of the crash, prosecutor Mr Kark told the court.

Mr Whaley had concluded Mr Hill “made a conscious decision to pull through the loop even though he appeared to be too low to do so”, Mr Kark said.

Mr Whaley described this as a “cardinal sin,” the jury heard.

The court heard that Mr Whaley viewed the bent loop as “perhaps the highest risk manoeuvre in an aircraft which is not designed as pure aerobatic aircraft”, such as a Hawker Hunter.

Shoreham air crash
The prosecution argued Andy Hill was flying too low to complete a manoeuvre while performing at the Shoreham Airshow in 2015

Ten of the victims died instantaneously, the court heard, while the death of eleventh victim Maurice Abrahams would have been “rapid” once his car was engulfed in flames.

Outlining the case for the defence, Karim Khalil QC said g-forces had rendered Mr Hill “unable to properly and fully control the aircraft”.

‘Misplaced criticism’

He said the errors were “simply too numerous” to have been made by a pilot of Mr Hill’s experience unless he was suffering from “cognitive impairment”.

“He was not in full control of his actions,” Mr Khalil told the jury.

He said Mr Hill was “not a cavalier pilot” and was “not a pilot who plays fast and loose with the safety rules or the lives of others” and said the defence would provide evidence that the criticisms of Mr Hill were either “wrong or misplaced”.

Acknowledging previous mistakes made by Mr Hill at air shows, Mr Khalil said: “It would be a remarkable pilot indeed who had never made an error.”

However, the defence argued Mr Hill had “responded professionally” and taken steps to avoid repeating the mistakes.

Crash ‘inevitable’

Mr Kark told the jury: “Your task will be to examine the evidence and to decide whether or not you can be sure that the true reason Mr Hill crashed his aircraft was his dreadful negligence.”

He said the prosecution would argue a catalogue of errors had placed the aircraft in a position where a crash was inevitable.

“At the crucial point when Mr Hill committed to the downward part of the loop there was a serious and obvious risk of death to those on the ground – a risk that was to be tragically realised,” he said.

The trial is expected to last up to seven weeks.

(Top row, left to right) Matt Jones, Matthew Grimstone, Jacob Schilt, Maurice Abrahams, Richard Smith. (Bottom row, left to right) Mark Reeves, Tony Brightwell, Mark Trussler, Daniele Polito, Dylan Archer, James "Graham" Mallinson
(Top row, left to right) Matt Jones, Matthew Grimstone, Jacob Schilt, Maurice Abrahams, Richard Smith. (Bottom row, left to right) Mark Reeves, Tony Brightwell, Mark Trussler, Daniele Polito, Dylan Archer, Graham Mallinson

The men who died

  • Matt Jones, a 24-year-old personal trainer
  • Matthew Grimstone, 23, a Worthing United footballer who worked as a groundsman at Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Jacob Schilt, also 23 and also a Worthing United player, was travelling to a match with Mr Grimstone
  • Maurice Abrahams, 76, from Brighton, was a chauffeur on his way to pick up a bride on her wedding day
  • Friends Richard Smith, 26, and Dylan Archer, 42, who were going for a bike ride on the South Downs
  • Mark Reeves, 53, had ridden his motorcycle to the perimeter of Shoreham Airport to take photos of the planes
  • Tony Brightwell, 53, from Hove was an aircraft enthusiast and had learnt to fly at Shoreham airfield
  • Mark Trussler, 54, had gone to watch the display on his Suzuki motorbike and was standing next to the road
  • Daniele Polito, 23 was travelling in the same car as Mr Jones
  • James “Graham” Mallinson, 72, from Newick, was a photographer and retired engineer

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Brexit vote: What just happened and what comes next?


Brexit vote: What just happened and what comes next?
Brexit: What happens next?

It was an evening of high-stakes and unprecedented drama that will have an impact far beyond the UK.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for leaving the European Union – the only one on the table – was voted down by parliament on Tuesday.

And, given the constant stream of analysis and speculation, you could be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed by it all.

So let’s break it down…

What was the vote about?

Politicians were voting on the deal Mrs May struck with the European Union after more than two years of negotiations.

It set out a plan for how the UK would leave the EU on 29 March.

This deal covered some hugely important issues such as what will happen to UK citizens living in the EU and how much money the UK will have to pay to leave.

If it had passed then it would have come into force on 29 March, only 73 days later. Simple enough – at least by the standards of Brexit.

But one thing we have learned by now is that the course of Brexit rarely runs smooth…

What happened?

It was the kind of result that Mrs May will have had nightmares about.

Members of Parliament (MPs) voted by an overwhelming margin of 230 votes to reject her deal.

Of those, 118 were from Mrs May’s own Conservative party.

It was the largest defeat for a sitting government in history and showed just how unpopular the deal was.

onfused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.

The most controversial sticking point was the issue of the so-called backstop.

This is a kind of safety net designed to avoid physical border checks between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the EU.

Why does it matter?

The defeat is a massive blow for Mrs May and throws yet more doubt on the Brexit process. The date for Brexit is only two and a bit months away, but the UK doesn’t appear to be any closer to agreeing how exactly it will leave the EU.

Ordinarily, such a crushing defeat would be followed by the prime minister’s resignation.

But, it’s fair to say, these are anything but ordinary times.

What comes next?

The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, has tabled what’s known as a vote of no confidence in the government.

This lets MPs decide on whether they want the government to continue.

It will be held on Wednesday evening and, if parliament decides that it does not want the government to carry on, then it could trigger a general election.

Flowchart explaining how a vote of no confidence could be called

If, as many analysts predict, Mrs May survives the vote then she says she will present parliament with a different Brexit plan on Monday.

But at this stage, there’s no sense at all what another plan would look like.

If parliament doesn’t change its mind then there are a few different possibilities.

If nothing else happens it will be a no-deal Brexit, This means – as you might expect – the UK leaving on 29 March without a formal agreement.

This would mean no transition period and a sudden rupture in UK/EU relations.

Quick guide: What is a no-deal Brexit?

A “no-deal” Brexit is where the UK would cut all ties with the European Union overnight.

Theresa May’s government, and many others, believe this would be hugely damaging and want a more gradual withdrawal. But if Parliament can’t agree on that, and nothing else takes its place, the UK will leave without a deal.

This would mean the UK would not have to obey EU rules. Instead, it would need to follow World Trade Organization terms on trade. Many businesses would see new taxes on imports, exports and services, which are likely to increase their operating costs. That means the prices of some goods in UK shops could go up.

The UK would also lose the trade agreements it had with other countries as a member of the EU, all of which would need to be renegotiated alongside the new agreement with the EU itself.

Manufacturers in the UK expect to face delays in components coming across the border.

The UK would be free to set its own immigration controls. However some UK professionals working in the EU and UK expats could face uncertainty until their status was clarified. The European Commission has said that even in a no-deal scenario, UK travellers won’t need a visa for short visits of up to 90 days.

The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic would become an external frontier for the EU with customs and immigration controls, though how and where any checks would be made is not clear.

Some Leave supporters think that leaving without a deal would be positive if the right preparations were made. They say criticism is scaremongering and any short term pain would be for long term gain.

But critics – including both Brexit supporters and opponents – say that leaving without a deal would be a disaster for the UK: driving up food prices, leading to shortages of goods and gridlock on some roads in the South East resulting from extra border checks.

The government could also propose to negotiate a brand new deal, although this may mean asking for some extra time from the EU.

There could also be another referendum, which would also likely mean asking for more time, or Mrs May could decide that a general election is the best way to end the stalemate.

Either way, the UK is in uncharted territory and the Brexit clock is ticking.

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Brexit: Theresa May faces ‘meaningful vote’ on her deal


By Emmanuel Justices

MPs are preparing to vote on whether to back Theresa May’s deal for leaving the European Union.

The so-called “meaningful vote” will take place later as five days of debate on Brexit comes to an end.

Mrs May has called for politicians to back her deal or risk “letting the British people down”.

But with many of her own MPs expected to join opposition parties to vote against the deal, it is widely expected to be defeated.

MPs will also be able to suggest amendments that could reshape the deal before voting starts at around 19:00 GMT.

The prime minister addressed her backbench MPs on Monday evening in a final attempt to win support for her deal – which includes both the withdrawal agreement on the terms on which the UK leaves the EU and a political declaration for the future relationship.

Earlier in the Commons, she said: “It is not perfect but when the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this House and ask, ‘Did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the EU, did we safeguard our economy, security or union or did we let the British people down?'”

Theresa May: “Give this deal a second look.”

Mrs May also tried to reassure MPs over the controversial Northern Irish “backstop” – the fallback plan to avoid any return to physical border checks between the country and Ireland.

She pointed to new written assurances from the EU that the contingency customs arrangement being proposed would be temporary and, if it was ever triggered, would last for “the shortest possible period”.

Mrs May will address her cabinet on Tuesday morning, before the debate resumes at lunchtime.

But many Tory MPs and the Democratic Unionists remain adamantly opposed to the deal.

About 100 Conservative MPs and the Democratic Unionist Party’s 10 MPs could join Labour and the other opposition parties to vote it down.

DUP’s Sammy Wilson: “The deal would remove us from the rest of the United Kingdom.”

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said: “Already the talk at Westminster is what happens once the vote is lost. It’s expected Mrs May will make her intentions clear immediately after the result.”

The deal suffered a heavy defeat in the House of Lords on Monday night, as peers backed a Labour motion by 321 votes to 152.

While the vote carries no real weight, as peers accepted MPs should have the final say, the motion – which also rejected a “no deal” scenario – expressed “regret” that Mrs May’s deal would “damage the future economic prosperity, internal security and global influence” of the UK.

Five Conservative Brexiteer MPs who have been critics of the withdrawal agreement have now said they will support the government though, including Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and former Public Accounts Committee chairman Sir Edward Leigh.

Labour backbenchers John Mann, Jim Fitzpatrick and Sir Kevin Barron will also back the deal, along with MP Frank Field – who resigned the Labour whip last summer.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said it showed there had been “progress” and that the government had been “working hard” to win support, but he admitted to the BBC’s Politics Live that gaining support was “challenging”.

Brexit plan: Political declaration and withdrawal agreement

A number of amendments to Mrs May’s deal have been put forward by MPs to try to make changes to it in Parliament.

Proposals include giving MPs a vote on whether to implement the backstop, putting a time limit on how long the backstop could last and rejecting leaving the EU without a deal.

The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, will decide which ones can go forward to be voted on just before the vote on the deal itself.

Speaking to his own backbenchers last night, Mr Corbyn again condemned the deal and reiterated his call for a general election if it is voted down by Parliament. He also promised Labour would call a no-confidence vote in the prime minister “soon”.

He said: “Theresa May has attempted to blackmail Labour MPs to vote for her botched deal by threatening the country with the chaos of no deal. I know from conversations with colleagues that this has failed. The Labour party will not be held to ransom.”

What happens next?

If the vote is rejected by MPs, Mrs May has three sitting days to return to Parliament with a “Plan B” option.

Some have suggested she would head to Brussels on Wednesday to try to get further concessions from the EU, before returning to the Commons to give a statement about her new proposal by Monday. This could then be put to a vote by MPs.

If this also fails, there is a proposal put forward by senior Conservative backbenchers Nick Boles, Sir Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan for a “European Union Withdrawal Number 2 Bill”. This would give ministers another three weeks to come up with another plan and get it through Parliament.

If this doesn’t work either, they propose giving the responsibility of coming up with a compromise deal to the Liaison Committee – which is made up of the chairmen and chairwomen of all the Commons select committees, drawn from opposition parties as well as the Conservatives.

This proposal in turn would have to be voted through by MPs.

However, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom told BBC Newsnight that Mrs May remained intent on fighting for her agreement.

“The prime minister will remain determined to deliver on this deal,” she said. “Her purpose is to leave the European Union in line with what people voted for.”

New referendum proposal

In another development, a cross-party group of anti-Brexit politicians has published proposed legislation to bring about another referendum to ask the public whether they want to remain in the EU or leave under the prime minister’s deal.

Lib Dem’s Layla Moran: “Brexit is a complete cluster shambles.”

The MPs behind the draft legislation point out that Article 50 – the two-year process by which an EU member can leave the bloc – would have to be extended in order for another referendum to take place, meaning the UK would remain a member beyond 29 March.

But, unless new legislation is introduced, the default position will be that the UK leaves the EU on that date with no deal.

Quick guide: What is a no-deal Brexit?

A “no-deal” Brexit is where the UK would cut ties with the European Union overnight without a transition period.

Theresa May’s government, and many others, believe this would be hugely damaging and want a more gradual withdrawal. But if Parliament can’t agree on that, and nothing else takes its place, the UK will leave without a deal.

This would mean the UK would not have to obey EU rules. Instead, it would need to follow World Trade Organization terms on trade. Many businesses would see new taxes on imports, exports and services, which are likely to increase their operating costs. That means the prices of some goods in UK shops could go up.

The UK would also lose the trade agreements it had with other countries as a member of the EU, all of which would need to be renegotiated alongside the new agreement with the EU itself.

Manufacturers in the UK expect to face delays in components coming across the border.

The UK would be free to set its own immigration controls. However some UK professionals working in the EU and UK expats could face uncertainty until their status was clarified. The European Commission has said that even in a no-deal scenario, UK travellers won’t need a visa for short visits of up to 90 days.

The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic would become an external frontier for the EU with customs and immigration controls, though how and where any checks would be made is not clear.

Some Leave supporters think that leaving without a deal would be positive if the right preparations were made. They say criticism is scaremongering and any short term pain would be for long term gain.

But critics – including both Brexit supporters and opponents – say that leaving without a deal would be a disaster for the UK: driving up food prices, leading to shortages of goods and gridlock on some roads in the South East resulting from extra border checks.

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Brexit: Theresa May warns no-deal Brexit could break up UK


By Emmanuel Justices

If MPs vote down the Brexit withdrawal deal in Parliament it could lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May has claimed.

She said a no-deal Brexit would “strengthen the hand” of those calling for an Irish border poll and a second referendum on Scottish independence.

An exchange of letters between the UK and EUoffers more reassurances on the Irish border backstop, she said.

MPs are due to vote on the withdrawal agreement on Tuesday night.

‘Sacrificial lamb’

But the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), which opposes the backstop, said the letter offers nothing legally binding, and the party will still vote against Mrs May’s plan.

As the deal was debated in the House of Commons on Monday night, DUP MP David Simpson said his constituents feel like “the sacrificial lamb to placate the Irish Republic and the EU”.

The Upper Bann MP said that as a “proud unionist”, he cannot support the withdrawal agreement.

“The way the EU has treated the fifth largest economy in the world is an insult,” Mr Simpson told the Commons.

In the House of Lords, the prime minister’s Brexit plan suffered its first official parliamentary defeat on Monday night, as peers registered their opposition.

David Simpson
DUP MP David Simpson said his constituents felt like “the sacrificial lamb”

While the Lords motion has no real power, peers voted to reject the deal by 321 votes to 152.

Earlier on Monday, the prime minister told MPs a no-deal Brexit would lead to “changes to everyday life in Northern Ireland that would put the future of the union at risk”.

Mrs May has always insisted that her plan is the best deal to protect the union as a whole, but the DUP and opposition parties claim it poses a threat to the integrity of the union.

The DUP’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds asked the prime minister to “admit nothing has fundamentally changed” since she postponed a vote on the deal in December.

But Mrs May said the assurances had “legal force in international law” alongside the withdrawal agreement and political declaration, although she recognised “it’s not what some members wanted from the EU”.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s tánaiste (deputy prime minister) said his country must “hold its nerve” this week as British MPs prepare to vote on the EU withdrawal deal.

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney has urged MPs to support the UK government’s plan in Parliament this week

Simon Coveney warned against a “knee-jerk reaction” and said his government has been working for months on no-deal Brexit contingency planning.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said the EU backstop cannot be set aside or diluted.

“Whatever transpires at Westminster, it is essential that Irish interests are protected. That the economy is protected and that the Good Friday Agreement is protected in all its parts,” she said.

What do the letters say?

The letter from Prime Minister Theresa May to the EU asks for clarity that in the event the UK and EU have negotiated but not yet ratified a trade deal, then the backstop would not be the “default” position and that all efforts would be made to avoid it.

The backstop, a mechanism that is included in the withdrawal agreement, is an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard Irish border “unless and until” another solution is found as part of the UK-EU future relationship.

The response from EU leader Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker states that the backstop is not the EU’s preferred solution to avoiding a hard border.

The letter also said that the backstop does not undermine the Good Friday Agreement, or “annex” Northern Ireland.

It also promised to consider alternative ways of preventing the need for physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

However, EU leaders said they are “not in a position to agree anything that changes” the legally binding withdrawal agreement, which was approved by the other EU27 leaders last year.

What has the Irish government said?

Speaking to Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Simon Coveney said the government needed to “tread carefully”.

“People shouldn’t feel threatened by it (the backstop), some people have painted the backstop into something that it’s not,” he said.

“This week is going to be a really significant few days. This is a time where Ireland has to hold its nerve. We’re most impacted by Brexit of all the EU states.

“We need to stay close to the British government and EU partners – but shouldn’t respond in knee-jerked or any panicked way.”

He said the Irish government had been working for months on no-deal Brexit contingency planning, and would circulate four detailed memos at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday,building on a previously released document .

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds is the deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Have the letters reassured the DUP?

Not at all.

The DUP has been saying for weeks that its 10 MPs will vote against the deal because of their opposition to the backstop, which would see extra checks for some goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, if it took effect.

The party believes any measure that could lead to differences between one part of the UK and the rest could threaten the integrity of the union.

Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.
Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme , before the letters had been published on Monday, the DUP’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds dismissed them as meaningless.

“When the prime minister delayed the vote in December, she said she was going to get legally binding reassurances,” he said.

“A letter certainly isn’t legally binding.

“It’s another example that the EU is not prepared to do what’s required, even to take the first step if it wants to get a deal in the House of Commons.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster also renewed her assault on the backstop on Monday.

She said it “fundamentally undermines Northern Ireland’s place in the UK” and “runs roughshod” over the principle of consent contained in the Good Friday Agreement.

Presentational grey line

Analysis: DUP not budging on backstop

By Jayne McCormack, BBC News NI Political Reporter

This is a last-minute letter for Theresa May to wave at her critics – but the party most vocally against the backstop is not budging.

A DUP source told me: “Unionists are far too long in the tooth to fall for written assurances.”

Without a binding pledge from the entire EU27 that the backstop would be temporary, the DUP’s view is that this letter has no effect on its voting intention.

It still wants to see the withdrawal agreement reopened and the backstop binned, or its terms changed.

Both these things look unlikely.

The DUP’s problem with the backstop, as set out by Nigel Dodds, is three small – but important – words in the legally binding withdrawal agreement: “Unless and until.”

While the backstop has its supporters – the Irish government, as well as other political parties in NI and business and farming groups – the scale of the opposition to it in Parliament at this late stage is likely to prove the downfall of Mrs May’s deal.

Presentational grey line

What happens on Tuesday?

It is expected that about 100 Conservative MPs will join Labour and other opposition parties in voting against the deal on Tuesday night.

Theresa May has urged MPs to get behind her plan and has warned that not voting for it could mean not leaving the EU becomes a possibility.

She made a statement to MPs in Parliament on Monday afternoon and said, as a “proud unionist”, she understood concerns about the backstop – and that once the withdrawal agreement was signed, immediate talks could begin with the EU in order to reach a trade deal and avoid entering the backstop.

Conservative MP Dr Andrew Murrison
Dr Andrew Murrison chairs the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster

The chair of Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Conservative MP Andrew Murrison, said that although he voted to leave the EU in 2016 he would back the plan.

He has tabled an amendment to the deal to create a “sunset clause” , preventing the backstop extending beyond the end of 2021.

“It is important in my opinion that we understand the backstop is not needed to ensure the absence of a hard border in Northern Ireland,” he said.

While the DUP is likely to vote against the deal, it will almost certainly back the prime minister if a no confidence motion is brought against her in Parliament.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to table such a motion if the deal is defeated on Tuesday.

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UN sees increased prospects for peaceful, credible elections in Nigeria


By Emmanuel Justice

The United Nations says that there are increased prospects that the forthcoming general elections in Nigeria will be peaceful and credible.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Chambas, said this in his latest briefing to the Security Council.

Chambas said: “In Nigeria, tensions are high ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections of Feb. 16, and the governorship and state assembly elections of March 2.

“However, the prospects for peaceful and credible elections have been increased following the signing of the National Peace Accord in Abuja on Dec. 11, 2018.

“Over the coming weeks, I will continue to engage actively with all stakeholders in Nigeria, including through the organisation of peace fora in the key states of Benue, Rivers, Kaduna and Kano.”

The UN envoy said since his last briefing to the Security Council, further progress had been made in democratic consolidation in West Africa and the Sahel, in spite of persisting security challenges.

“In the past six months, presidential elections were successfully organised in Mali, regional and parliamentary elections were held in Mauritania and Togo and local elections were organised in Cote d’Ivoire.

“However, despite appreciable progress in democratic consolidation in the region, there is a need for continuous efforts to address contentious issues around elections.

” This is to prevent and mitigate election-related violence, as well as to support inclusive dialogue as a key attribute of inclusive societies.

“This is even more important as over the next six months, the region will see several high-stake elections in Nigeria, Senegal, Mauritania and Benin.”

He expressed regret over the rising number of attacks and the increasing sophistication in the tactics deployed by extremist groups, saying it risks undermining the collective efforts in the region.

Military solutions, while necessary, are not sufficient, Chambas said, encouraging all actors to ensure holistic responses, grounded in the respect of human rights, and the socio-economic needs of the population in the affected areas.

“Through inclusive approaches predicated on national ownership, we must continue to work hard on addressing the governance deficits, the extreme poverty and lack of development that feed and sustain armed violence and extremism,” he said.

He said Boko Haram attacks in the Lake Chad Basin over the last months had increased, especially in Borno and Yobe during the last week of December alone.

“Violent clashes between farmers and herders are also continuing, although on a lesser scale, thankfully, than in the first half of 2018,” he said.

In its efforts towards advancing the long-term stabilisation goals of the region, Chambas said UNOWAS continued to work closely with regional partners, including ECOWAS, the G-5 Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC).

“Laudable progress was made in the implementation of Security Council resolution 2349 (2017) to support a regional response to the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin.

“On 30 August, the LCBC Ministerial Council adopted a Regional Strategy for Stabilisation, Recovery and Resilience of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin.

“The meeting took place before the high-level conference on the Lake Chad region, which was held from September 3 to 4 in Berlin, during which partners pledged over $2 billion to help meet the needs of the more than 17 million people affected by this crisis.”

He also commended the holding of the ECCAS-ECOWAS joint Summit on July 30 in Lome as an important step towards addressing cross border threats facing West and Central Africa.

As one of the key outcomes of the summit, Heads of State and Government affirmed their readiness to enhance the inter-regional collaboration.

It is to jointly address threats to peace and security, including from violent extremism.

The UN envoy said the leaders also committed to holding regular meetings to identify measures for the prevention and peaceful management of farmer-herder conflicts.

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Trump says he is not looking to declare a national emergency ‘right now’ for border wall, urges Democrats to vote again on funding


By Emmanuel Justices

President Trump on Friday threw cold water on the idea of immediately declaring a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, reversing days of signals that he might soon declare the emergency amid a protracted standoff with Democrats over a partial shutdown of the federal government. 

“What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” he said Friday afternoon, surrounded by law enforcement officials at a White House roundtable. “I’m not going to do it so fast.”

The president has defiantly said for days he might declare a national emergency to expedite construction of the wall — and his administration has asked agencies to begin preparations. 

But he has gotten sharp pushback, even from Republicans, at the notion of declaring such an emergency. His lawyers have privately warned that he could be on shaky footing with such a move, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The House broke for the weekend Friday, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown would become the longest in U.S. history.

The Democratic-led House held its final votes of the week Friday, including on a measure to ensure that federal workers who are furloughed receive back pay once the government reopens. The bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday, now goes to Trump for his signature.On 20th day of shutdown, Hoyer blames Trump

The House also passed another bill that would reopen more shuttered government departments — but it was already declared dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from Trump.

Democracy Dies in Darkness

Furloughed employees rally against shutdown: ‘Stop playing politics with our lives’Furloughed federal employees and supporters protested the ongoing government shutdown, urging President Trump and Congress to open the government. (Video: Joyce Koh /Photo: Michael Williamson/The Washington Post)By John Wagner ,Erica Werner andJosh DawseyJanuary 11 at 3:16 PM

President Trump on Friday threw cold water on the idea of immediately declaring a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, reversing days of signals that he might soon declare the emergency amid a protracted standoff with Democrats over a partial shutdown of the federal government. 

“What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” he said Friday afternoon, surrounded by law enforcement officials at a White House roundtable. “I’m not going to do it so fast.”

The president has defiantly said for days he might declare a national emergency to expedite construction of the wall — and his administration has asked agencies to begin preparations. 

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But he has gotten sharp pushback, even from Republicans, at the notion of declaring such an emergency. His lawyers have privately warned that he could be on shaky footing with such a move, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The House broke for the weekend Friday, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown would become the longest in U.S. history.

The Democratic-led House held its final votes of the week Friday, including on a measure to ensure that federal workers who are furloughed receive back pay once the government reopens. The bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday, now goes to Trump for his signature.On 20th day of shutdown, Hoyer blames Trump

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Jan. 11, “One person is responsible for shutting down government: Donald Trump.” (C-Span)

The House also passed another bill that would reopen more shuttered government departments — but it was already declared dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from Trump.

About 800,000 workers missed a paycheck Friday as the impasse between Trump and Democrats stretched into its 21st day. Without a dramatic turn of events, the shutdown would become one for the record books at midnight.

[Trump administration lays groundwork to declare national emergency to build wall]

As of early Friday afternoon, there were no signs of serious negotiations underway, and leaders of both chambers announced no plans to meet before Monday.

Meanwhile, speculation continued to swirl around whether Trump would declare a national emergency and direct the military to build the wall without congressional consent.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who talks frequently with Trump, said that he expected the president to take that step in a matter of “days, not weeks” but that it was unclear whether doing so would lead to a full reopening of government.

Trump took to Twitter to tout his high-profile trip to the border Thursday, writing, “I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!”

“The Democrats, Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy don’t know how bad and dangerous it is for our ENTIRE COUNTRY,” Trump wrote, referencing Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Trump asserted that without a wall — or steel barrier — “our Country cannot be safe.”

Pelosi said Friday that Democrats have not felt any political pressure to give in to Trump’s wall demands.

“No, except to stay firm,” she said.

She dismissed Trump’s negotiating style as one destined to fail. “His version of a negotiation is, ‘Do everything I want,’ ” she said.

Other Democrats pushed back in television appearances and speeches on the floor.

“One person is responsible for shutting down government: Donald Trump,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told his colleagues. He argued that Democrats are open to tightening border security but are not going to “waste money” on what he characterized as an antiquated approach advocated by Trump.

Hoyer referred to comments last month by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) in which he described Trump’s call for a border wall as a “metaphor.”

“If it is a metaphor for security, we’re in,” Hoyer said.

House Republicans accused Democrats of going through the motions Friday by passing the latest of four bills to reopen parts of the government unrelated to border security. The bill taken up Friday would reopen the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service and several other agencies.

The bill passed 240 to 179, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in the chamber supporting it.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) called the exercise “a charade” because Senate leaders have already indicated they do not plan to vote on the bill and Trump has said he would not sign it.

“If anybody thinks this is accomplishing anything, it’s not,” Cole said.

“We’ve wasted the week because our friends can’t sit down and split the difference,” he added. “I don’t think anyone looks particularly good in this. . . . This will end another sad week in this chamber.”

The bill to ensure workers receive back pay passed 411 to 7. All those who opposed it were Republicans.

As part of an effort to continue to build a public case for the wall, Vice President Pence spoke Friday with Customs and Border Protection employees, assuring them, “We’re going to build that wall.”

“Let me assure you that in a challenging time . . . I’m here to say we are with you and we are going to continue to stand with you until you have the resources and reforms to do your jobs, Pence said.

The agency is among those with employees working without pay because of the shutdown.

Later Friday afternoon, Trump was scheduled to hold what was billed as a “roundtable discussion on border security” at the White House with state, local and community leaders.

Amid the stalemate, the White House has been laying the groundwork for a declaration of a national emergency to build Trump’s border wall.

The administration is eyeing unused money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget, specifically a disaster-spending bill passed by Congress last year that includes $13.9 billion allocated but not spent for civil works projects, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The list includes dozens of flood-control projects in areas affected by recent natural disasters, including the Texas coastline inundated by Hurricane Harvey and parts of Puerto Rico battered by Hurricane Maria. The military construction budget is also being looked at as a potential source for unspent funds, with billions more potentially available there.

The notion of declaring a national emergency to bypass Congress has divided Republicans, some of whom see it as an encroachment on congressional authority.

“I think the president should not do it,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters Friday. “I think as a member of Congress I ought to be very selfish about the constitutional powers that we have to appropriate money. I think it might be a bad precedent.”

Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner, Democrats from Virginia, both objected to the use of military funding for the wall while speaking with reporters Friday after a meeting in Alexandria with furloughed workers.

Kaine, who sits on the Armed Services Committee and is the only U.S. senator with a child on active duty, said military construction dollars are used for things such as removing lead from the water supply in troops’ housing and hardening overseas bases to better resist a terrorist attack.

“There is a lot of emergency expenditures that are already in the queue,” he said. “I’d like the ability to compare, well what’s more of an emergency right now.”

Warner said the courts would have to decide if money could be spent on the wall after Congress had already appropriated it for other uses.

“Let’s face it,” Warner said. “This is an attempt to basically go around the law, to go around the rules. That’s why you even see pushback from some in his own party.”

On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló also strongly objected to the idea of diverting money intended for hurricane mitigation.

“No wall should be funded by the pain and suffering of citizens of the United States who have suffered a tragedy and loss through a natural disaster,” he said in a statement.

While the emergency declaration has been floated as way to end the standoff between Trump and congressional Democrats, Meadows said such a move by Trump would not necessarily end the partial shutdown.

“They’re two separate things, and I can tell you that everybody who thinks the national emergency declaration would actually end the shutdown, those two don’t necessarily go hand in hand,” he said. “They probably would, but they don’t necessarily go hand in hand.”

Pelosi told reporters that she expects the government to reopen if Trump declares a national emergency.

“Well, I think that would be his purpose,” she said. “Well, I guess his purpose is to build a wall. But remember this about the wall: This isn’t a wall between Mexico and the United States.”

She said Trump is instead trying to distract from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and other challenges his administration is facing.

“This is a wall between his failures of his administration, problems that he might have with the Mueller [investigation], people leaving his Cabinet in dismay and disgrace,” Pelosi said. “That’s the wall he’s trying to build between public opinion and what is going on. And so this is his big diversion, and he’s a master of diversion.”

Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane and Jenna Portnoy contributed to this report.

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