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Monday briefing: May rejects Corbyn’s customs union proposal

Monday briefing: May rejects Corbyn’s customs union proposal

Top story: Business warns of cliff edge as exit date approaches Theresa May has effectively ruled out Labour’s proposal for a Brexit compromise, stressing her objection to staying inside a customs union. “I am not clear why you believe it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the…


Top story: Business warns of cliff edge as exit date approaches

Theresa May has effectively ruled out Labour’s proposal for a Brexit compromise,stressing her objection to staying inside a customs union.“I am not clear why you believe it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the ability to strike our own deals?” she wrote to Jeremy Corbyn. The PM argued that her own Brexit plan “explicitly provides for the benefits of a customs union” in terms of avoiding tariffs, while allowing “development of the UK’s independent trade policy beyond our economic partnership with the EU”. She accepted a customs union could potentially have delivered her a Commons majority but at the serious risk of splitting her party. The letter comes amid a growing presumption that while May remains officially committed to putting a revised Brexit plan to MPs as soon as possible, in practice this is unlikely to happen before the end of February. Business leaders have called for quicker action, with the head of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, saying the UK is “in the emergency zone of Brexit now” and the confusion will not just affect jobs and investment, but harm the UK as a long-term business destination.

The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, will say in a speech today thatBrexit represents an opportunity for Britain to boost its global military standingin response to the threats posed by Russia and China. He will argue that a post-Brexit UK should redefine its role as a global power prepared to intervene against countries that “flout international law”, backed up by new military technologies and capabilities.

Meanwhile, a new report by the Global Future thinktank that supports more open immigration has warned that Brexitcould cost employers more than £1bn in administration costs over five years. It warns the NHS could face £120m a year in additional costs to recruit overseas staff.

It comes amid warnings of Brexitdamaging police powers to detain foreign suspects and leave British fugitives in Europe beyond the law.“Criminals are entrepreneurs of crime … if there is a gap to exploit I’m sure some of them probably would,” says assistant commissioner Richard Martin, who is leading national police preparations to cope with with the loss of key crime-fighting measures if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.


Baftas and Grammys– It’s been a big night in the entertainment world with both ceremonies taking place within hours of each other.The Favourite almost reigned supreme, taking best actress (Olivia Colman), best British film, best production design, best supporting actress, best original screenplay and best costume design. Rachel Weisz also won best supporting actress. But the top award of the night, best picture, went to Roma, whose director, Alfonso Cuarón, also won best director. Rami Malek won best actor for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. You can read aboutall the winners and losers here; and check outthe best images from the red carpetandfrom the awards themselves.

Olivia Colman won one of the seven awards for The Favourite at the Baftas.

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Olivia Colman won one of the seven awards for The Favourite at the Baftas. Photograph: Ian West/PA

Across the Atlantic the Grammy awardswere dominated by live performances by femaleartists. The host, Alicia Keys, opened the show by asking: “Can I get some of my sisters in here tonight?” as Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Michelle Obama and Jennifer Lopez joined her on stage. English singer and songwriter Dua Lipa won best new artist and Cardi B became the first solo woman to win best rap album for Invasion of Privacy. Childish Gambino’s This Is America marks the first time a rap song has won for song of the year and record of the year. The night’s biggest prize, album of the year, went to country artist Kacey Musgraves for Golden Hour.You can see all the winners hereand catch all the bestpictures from the night here.

Lady Gaga performed Shallow from the hit movie A Star is Born.

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At the Grammy Awards, Lady Gaga performed Shallow from the hit movie A Star is Born. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Knife crime– London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, will today announce a pilot scheme where offenders will betagged with tracking devices on release. The scheme, beginning on 18 February, will be used on up to 100 offenders deemed likely to reoffend in four London boroughs that have among the highest rates of knife crime – Lewisham, Lambeth, Croydon and Southwark. The tags will automatically check the movements of the offenders against the location of reported crimes and share significant matches with police.


‘The fighting was intense’– Fresh details have emergedabout the attempted coupagainst the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in eastern Syria. Witnesses claim that foreign members of Isis lost a two-day battle with his bodyguards before being rounded up and executed. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, a witness said the clash took place in September in al Keshma, near the village of Baghouz, three months earlier than originally reported.


TV licences– Labour has urged the government tokeep licences free for over-75s. The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has told the PM that scrapping the benefit would represent a “huge financial blow” to millions of pensioners and breach a Conservative general election manifesto pledge. His intervention comes as a BBC consultation on whether to carry on with the scheme after government funding ends in 2020 is due to close on Tuesday.


‘Obligation chocolate’– Japanese women are pushing back against a tradition ofgiving male colleagues sweets on Valentine’s Day. Giri choco literally means obligation chocolates. But now women are changing course, with growing evidence that giving chocolate to avoid causing offence has become intolerable for many. A recent survey found that instead around 60% of women will buy chocolates as a personal treat on 14 February. Bon appétit.

Today in Focus podcast Dying on the streets: homelessness in Britain

After a spike in deaths among homeless people in the affluent city of Oxford,Robert Booth went to investigate.In a growing community of rough sleepers, there is little support for people with mental health problems and addiction. Plus: Nosheen Iqbal on the “white fragility” preventing a frank national discussion about racism.

Homelessness people wiht mental illness and addiction problems often struggle to find support.

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Homelessness: people with mental illness and addiction problems often struggle to find support. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Lunchtime read: ‘We can’t let fear consume us’

Almost a year after the March for Our Lives that followed the tragic Parkland high school shooting, gun control may have faded from the spotlight,but the survivors are not done quite yet.Dealing with the trauma of what happened at their school, including 17 deaths, some of the students are looking to college. Others are organising for 2020, to boost the youth vote and to push for better gun control laws. David Hogg became one of the best-known faces after the shooting, internationally recognised as a voice against gun violence.

David Hogg and other Parkland activists are focusing on the quiet, unglamorous work of grassroots organising.

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David Hogg and other Parkland activists are focusing on the quiet, unglamorous work of grassroots organising. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for March For Our Lives

Hogg and a small group of his friends are focussed on the unglamorous work of grassroots organising, training regional directors to help build out their nearly 200 March for Our Lives local chapters. “One of my goals in the next two years is to get 71% youth voter turnout in 2020,” Hogg told the Guardian in a recent phone interview. Justunder 50% of votersaged18-29 voted in the 2016 presidential election. “I like the way the number [71%] looks,” he said. Gun control policy and changing gun laws remains the key driver: “The thing that I’m most proud of is the stories that were not reported on because they didn’t happen,” Hogg says.

Sport

Maurizio Sarri admitted hedoes not know if Chelsea will sack himas manager and said it was right that there should be scrutiny of his position followingthe 6-0 hiding at Manchester City, in whichSergio Agüero hit another hat-trick.

Eddie Jones wasted no timelighting a fuseunder England’s potential Six Nations grand-slam decider against Wales on Saturday week aftercrushing France, while Warren Gatland says his Wales side’s unconvincing win over Italycould pile expectations on England.

England’s women appearcertainties for a grand slamafter only two games following a ruthless display by their forwards and some sharp finishing by their backs in a destruction of Six Nations champions France.

Mark Wood took a Test-best five for 41to put England in controlof the third Test against West Indies.

And racing was rocked by late-night bad news for the second time in five days when it emerged that horses at a second stable, this time in Newmarket,have tested positive for equine influenza.

Business

The chancellor, Philip Hammond,must find an extra £5bn in this year’s Whitehall spending reviewto reverse planned cuts andmeet his claim of ending austerity, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The thinktank said funds pledged in last year’s budget to boost NHS spending, defence and international aid, failed to safeguard local councils and some of the worst-hit government departments from further shortfalls. It also said a minimum of £2.2bn would be needed to freeze all budgets and protect them from inflation, but ministers would need to find an extra £5bn to allow departments to maintain services in line with the UK’s rising population.

The pound is buying €1.14 and $1.29.

The papers

The Guardian front page 11/2/19
Photograph: The Guardian

Concern for the future of the world leads on the front page of theGuardian, with “Plummeting number of insects threatens ‘catastrophe for planet’”. TheExpressalso has dire environmental news to report: “18 million breathing toxic air”.

TheTelegraphreports Sir Philip Green will face an investigation over allegations of sexual assault and racial abuse: “Green faces Met police inquiry over allegations”. TheMailasks “Is £60bn HS2 set to hit the buffers?” and theihas a report on “Britain’s hidden housing scandal”.

TheTimeshas: “Soft Brexit talks with Labour risk cabinet split” and theFTsays “May offers Brexit concessions to win over wavering Labour MPs”.

TheSun’s front page is dominated with reports about Wayne Rooney’s marriage: “Coleen lets fly at Roo” and theMirroris concerned about the end of the BBC consultation period on television licences: “24 hours to save free TV for OAPs”.

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