Top story: Brexit brinkmanship Good morning, I’m Warren Murray with the news resized to fit your screen. There are 50 days remaining until Brexit and things appear to be going to the brink, with any EU offer on the Irish backstop predicted to be put to MPs only towards the end of March. In strained
Top story: Brexit brinkmanship
Good morning, I’m Warren Murray with the news resized to fit your screen.
There are 50 days remaining until Brexit and things appear to be going to the brink, with any EU offer on the Irish backstop predicted to be put to MPs only towards the end of March. In strained talks on Thursday, Donald Tusk suggested Theresa May should consider Jeremy Corbyn’s permanent customs union plan. May’s meeting with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, was described as “robust” after he rebuffed her demand to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement.
It is understood EU officials are looking at offering May a potential plan for a technological solution to the Irish border. The European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the parliament was willing “to make this political declaration more binding, more precise. Also on the issue of the backstop explaining and saying very clearly that this is an insurance and not more than that.”
A joint statement from Downing Street and the European commission committed them to speeding up the post-Brexit finalisation of the “future relationship” between the EU and Britain, to make triggering the backstop less likely. But officials believe it is increasingly likely that any deal for Brexit itself will come so late in March that article 50 will have to be extended. May said she continued to insist on “legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement to deal with the concerns that parliament has over the backstop”. The PM and Juncker agreed to hold more face-to-face talks by the end of February. Meanwhile May will be in Dublin today trying to swing the Irish PM towards her way of thinking.
Sala’s tragic fate confirmed – The body recovered from a light plane that crashed in the Channel has been formally identified by the Dorset coroner as that of the Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala, police have said. The aircraft crashed on 21 January en route from Nantes to Cardiff. “The families of Mr Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson have been updated with this news and will continue to be supported by specially trained family liaison officers,” Dorset police said.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch said the effort to raise the plane had proven unsuccessful – “the weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close”. Sala had been signed by Cardiff City from the French Ligue 1 club FC Nantes and was flying to south Wales from the French city where he had been saying goodbye to friends and teammates.
‘No thank you, Mr Pecker’ – Jeff Bezos has accused David Pecker, the Trump ally behind the National Enquirer, of “extortion and blackmail” after its lawyers threatened to publish text messages and intimate photos – colloquially, “dick pics” – involving the Amazon CEO. After the tabloid previously printed some of his personal messages, Bezos brought in a private investigator to find out how it got them. In a blogpost, Bezos published in full Pecker’s lawyers’ emails which demand Bezos cease his pursuit of AMI. Bezos wrote that any personal embarrassment “takes a back seat”, saying: “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” Pecker (straight faces everyone) and his AMI publishing company have been caught up in the investigations into Donald Trump, who has repeatedly attacked Bezos. The Amazon founder owns the Washington Post, which Trump hates.
French fury over Di Maio meddling – France has recalled its ambassador from Italy in the worst crisis between the two neighbouring countries since the second world war. The French government was enraged after Italy’s co-deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio of the populist Five Star Movement, met members of France’s gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protest movement and cheered them as part of a “wind of change” in the coming European elections. The French foreign office said: “Having disagreements is one thing but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another.” Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Italy’s far-right populist coalition government have clashed heavily over a range of issues, chiefly the movement of migrants from Africa.
Bid to topple Isis ‘caliph’ – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis, is believed to have been the target of a coup attempt launched by foreign fighters in his eastern Syrian hideout. Intelligence agencies think it happened on 10 January in a village near Hajin in the Euphrates River valley. Iraqi officials and their counterparts in Britain and the US are confident that Baghdadi has recently spent time in the location, where the group’s diehard members have regrouped after two years of battlefield losses.
Thai princess to run for PM – The sister of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been unveiled as a prime ministerial candidate in next month’s elections. The Thai Raksa Chart party confirmed Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi has joined the race, a move one expert said had created a “political earthquake”.
Thai Raksa Chart was founded as an alternative to the Peu Chart party formerly led by Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006. Ubolratana has openly maintained close ties with Thaksin. She will face coup leader and head of the ruling military junta Prayut Chan-o-cha, who said on Friday he would run to “maintain peace and order”.
You won’t feel fine – Too much beer and wine in any order will do you in, according to scientists who recruited 90 people for drinking sessions followed by bleary sleep, hangovers and a statistically significant amount of vomiting. Kai Hensel from Cambridge University said researchers had wanted to test the saying “beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer”. One group drank about two-and-a-half pints of lager followed by four large glasses of white wine. The second group had the same but in reverse order. A third had only beer or wine up to the same breath alcohol concentration of 0.11. They then rated their hangovers. A week later they did it all again, but took the drinks in reverse order. The results showed that “hangover intensity” was the same. Hensel concluded: “You’re going to be the same whatever order you drink these beverages in.” But wait on a minute, the study only compared beer with white wine, and did not include red wine, spirits or dark beers. Ah, there you go then …
Today in Focus podcast: Is EU ready for no-deal Brexit?
Unless a deal can be reached in the coming weeks, Britain will crash out of the European Union without a deal. There have been stark warnings about the effects for the UK, but how badly would it hurt the EU? The Guardian’s Jennifer Rankin, Angelique Chrisafis and Kate Connolly dig into the detail. Plus Amelia Gentleman on the resumption of deportation flights to Jamaica after the Windrush scandal.
Lunchtime read: They should never have put Stonehenge next to the A303
Nobody knows for sure why, or by whom, the vast arrangement of boulders known as Stonehenge was erected on Wiltshire’s downlands. Today it is at the centre of an agonisingly long planning dispute, claims of government incompetence, deeply entrenched opposing sides and a preoccupation with traffic and tourism.
The A303 may offer wonderful views of the monoliths, but is just as famous for its dire traffic jams – a torture to holidaymakers making for Devon and Cornwall, a drag on the region’s economy, and a bane to locals. The proposal is to widen and sink the road into a tunnel running for almost two miles – but to some archaeologists’ horror, it means boring through an ancient landscape unique in the world. Later this year, experts will examine the evidence for and against the scheme before making their recommendation to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, on whether it should go ahead.
The biggest shutdown since foot and mouth has hit racing with all meetings cancelled until at least Wednesday while the sport’s governing body awaits test results from more than 100 stables. Ben Stokes is in doubt for the third Test against the West Indies with a bruised right heel that may have been caused by running on the beach. Manu Tuilagi is back in the Six Nations fold and relishing the chance to occupy a more senior role in Eddie Jones’s squad.
Great Britain set up a winner-takes-all Fed Cup clash with Hungary on Friday, but their victory against Greece was dogged by controversial line calls. What started out as a “crazy ambition” ended in a world record as the British runner Susannah Gill completed seven marathons across seven continents in seven days. Bernardo Silva has said Manchester City feared they had blown their defence of the Premier League title with last week’s defeat at Newcastle only to receive “a big boost” psychologically from Liverpool. Mark Allen faces a fine from World Snooker after conceding a match-winning frame with 11 reds still left on a “disgusting” table at the World Grand Prix.
Asian markets have tumbled after Donald Trump said he doesn’t plan to meet President Xi Jinping of China before a tariffs truce ends in March. Unless American and Chinese negotiators come to a new agreement, the US is expected to raise import taxes from 10% to 25% for $200bn in Chinese goods. Overnight the pound has been trading at $1.294 and €1.141 while the FTSE is forecast to open down this morning.
A mixture of stories on the front pages today. Various facets of Brexit feature on the Express: “May gives Tusk hell”, the i: “Corbyn faces Labour revolt over Brexit offer to PM” and the FT: “Plans hatched in secret to revive economy after a no-deal Brexit”. The Times has a warning from the Bank of England: “Weakest growth in a decade” and the Mail is up in arms about “Fury over sneaky £6,000 death tax” which it says will affect 300,000 families a year.
Instagram features on the front of the Guardian: “Instagram to ban graphic images of self-harm” and the Telegraph: “Instagram boss: duty of care can save lives”. “Too cruel” says the Mirror – Len Goodman from Strictly is unhappy at free TV licences for over-75s being threatened. The Sun has a story about the arrest of a man in connection with the disappearance of Libby Squire: “Butcher held over missing Libby”.
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