John Major: Brexit set to be more brutal than anyone expected

Brexit may be “even more brutal than expected” due to the UK’s negotiating “failures”, Sir John Major has said.

In a speech in London, the ex-prime minister said the UK’s “inflexibility” and “threats” towards the EU would make future trade “less profitable”.

And he warned of the “corrosive” impact to the UK’s reputation of a proposed law giving ministers the power to over-ride aspects of the Brexit Agreement.

Peers will vote shortly on whether to amend the Internal Market Bill.

They are expected to remove a series of clauses which would give the UK the right to disregard obligations in the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU in relation to Northern Ireland, a move that Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has conceded would break international law.

Ministers have said they do not intend to use the powers but they are needed as a “safety net” in case disputes over the agreement’s implementation cannot be resolved by other means.

But Sir John, who was an outspoken critic of the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 January, said this “was a slippery slope down which no democratic government should ever travel”.

In a pre-recorded lecture at Middle Temple, Sir John – who led the UK from 1990 to 1997 – urged Parliament to resist measures in the bill which he said threatened essential liberties and could place ministers above the law.

“This action is unprecedented in all our history – and for good reason. It has damaged our reputation around the world,” he said.

“Lawyers everywhere are incredulous that the UK – often seen as the very cradle of the rule of law – could give themselves the power to break the law.”

Sir John said he was not optimistic about the prospects for trade talks between the UK and EU, which resumed in London on Monday, saying the UK was not being “frank” about the possible outcomes.

The UK and EU are in a race against the clock to secure an agreement before 31 December, when the UK will leave the single market and customs union at the end of the post-Brexit transition period.

The UK has said it is hopeful of securing a comprehensive deal modelled on the EU’s arrangement with Canada, but Sir John said it was “disingenuous” of ministers to pretend they were not seeking far deeper commitments in key areas, such as energy and aviation.

He said he feared, as a result, the process would end up either with no deal or a “flimsy and bare-bones” agreement that created new barriers to trade and would be a “wretched betrayal” of the promises made to British voters during the 2016 referendum.

“These costs and complexities are the certain legacy of Brexit,” he said. “This is as a result of our negotiating failure – and it is a failure.

“Because of our bombast, our blustering, our threats and our inflexibility – our trade will be less profitable, our Treasury poorer, our jobs fewer, and our future less prosperous.”

He added: “It now seems that on 1 January next year, Brexit may be even more brutal than anyone expected.”

Sir John also warned that Brexit divisions increased the risk of the United Kingdom breaking up.

While he remained an avowed unionist, he said the UK government could find it difficult to stave off demands for another independence referendum in Scotland and should consider a two-stage process, where a vote on the principle of independence was followed by another on the terms of separation offered to the Scottish people.

In his speech, recorded before Joe Biden’s election as US president was confirmed on Saturday, Sir John also warned that the UK’s departure from the EU made it “less relevant” to its oldest and strongest ally.

While the UK had enormous strengths and assets, he said it was “no longer a great power” in a world dominated by the US, China and the EU and was struggling to “punch above its weight” on the international stage.

“Our hefty international influence rested on our history and reputation, buttressed by our membership of the European Union and our close alliance with the United States.

“Suddenly, we are no longer an irreplaceable bridge between Europe and America.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is looking forward to working with President-elect Biden to uphold the two countries “common values and interests”.

On post-Brexit trade talks, he said on Sunday that the “outlines” of an agreement were clear and a deal was “there to be done”.

Jack Mitchell death: Father jailed for manslaughter

A father who admitted causing the death of his teenage son by shaking him as a baby has been jailed for three years.

Jack Mitchell, 15, from Harwich, Essex, died in March 2016 from a pulmonary infection and pneumonia.

His biological father John Doak, 37, of Spalding, Lincolnshire, had denied murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Justice John Cavanagh said only Doak knew what happened as he was alone with the child when the incident happened.

David Emanuel, defending Doak, said that according to an expert report “what probably happened was the loss of control temporarily while trying to stop him crying”.

Justice Cavanagh said Jack suffered severe brain damage, required 24-hour care, was blind and unable to talk, had limited ability to move and had a “very poor… if non-existent” quality of life as a result of the assault.

“The cause of his death was a shaking-type assault that you inflicted on Jack many years previously, on May 22 2001, when he was only four months old.

“In the intervening period, Jack suffered from brain damage and from other very serious health problems that were the direct result of your assault on him.

“However, I sentence you on the basis that you did not intend to kill him or to cause him really serious harm.”

Mr Emanuel added that unemployed lorry driver Doak was married with three children and three step-children.

He said Doak “grieves for (Jack) every day” and was otherwise of good character.

Foxes shot dead with crossbow in Greenwich

Two foxes have been shot dead with a crossbow in south-east London.

One of the animals was spotted in Kidbrooke, Greenwich, on Thursday and was taken for treatment to a charity in Kent where it sadly died.

The Met Police said another fox had previously been found dead in the same area and a third is also said to have been seen with an arrow in its body.

Conchi Gago, from the force’s Wildlife Crime Unit, said the killings were “disturbing”.

“It’s absolutely shocking that two animals have died in such awful circumstances,” she said.

“It is obvious that whoever did this did so deliberately and it is disturbing to think that someone would intend to injure and kill a wild animal.”

The Met said a £2,000 reward was being offered by the Fox Project charity for information that leads to a conviction as it is against the law to kill or take any wild animals using a bow or crossbow.

The Fox Project founder Trevor Williams said: “Every year we treat more than 1,000 foxes at our specialist rescue centre but this is a truly shocking case.

“It’s hard to understand that there is a small minority of people in society who are capable of such extreme cruelty to animals.”

White Stuff boss loses bid to save unlawful Devon skate park

A millionaire fashion mogul has lost a bid to save a skate park, tennis court and garage unlawfully constructed on a Devon beauty spot.

Sean Thomas, founder of the White Stuff fashion brand, had his plans to plant 1,000 trees to screen the site turned down by South Hams District Council.

The authority said the construction near Salcombe was “detrimental” to the “highly sensitive” local environment.

It said formal enforcement action would begin. Mr Thomas is yet to comment.

Mr Thomas has six months to appeal against the decision. He may have to tear down the development, the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported.

He built the additions to land adjoining his home in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and alongside the Salcombe to Kingsbridge Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest.

After complaints from residents about , a retrospective planning application was refused in 2019.

In April, Mr Thomas submitted the plans to plant more than 1,000 native trees.

Refusing the proposals, the council report described the constructions as an “incongruous development in a highly sensitive area of the open countryside”.

The district council report said: “The development has a detrimental impact upon the surrounding landscape… resulting in adverse impacts to the natural beauty, special qualities, distinctive character, landscape and scenic beauty of the South Devon AONB.”

Ex-FM Carwyn Jones accused of breaching ministerial code

Former first minister Carwyn Jones has been accused of breaking the rules that regulate ex-ministers taking up new jobs.

Mr Jones has been appointed as a global advisory board member of GFG Alliance, which includes Liberty Steel.

A UK government body, which warned him against advising GFG on steel, accused Mr Jones of breaching the ministerial code.

The Bridgend Senedd member said he has not done “anything wrong”.

Mr Jones’ appointment came about because of his employment by the international energy firm SIMEC – one of the energy and steel group’s companies.

In the summer the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) warned Mr Jones against advising GFG Alliance on steel or energy projects in Wales for two years from the date he stood down as first minister – which was in December 2018.

It raised concerns about Mr Jones’ previous involvement with the steel industry and how that could help GFG.

Sanjeev Gupta, chief executive of GFG, owns Liberty Steel, which took over a steelworks in Newport, and had tried to buy Tata Steel’s plant in Port Talbot a few years ago.

During his time as first minister, Mr Jones was heavily involved in the steel crisis of 2016.

Mr Jones, whose role was announced in the autumn, told the ACOBA his “position on the GFG Board is purely as an advisor to SIMEC”.

He said he “will not attend meetings where there is any agenda item that goes outside the committee’s advice nor will I take part in any discussion that goes outside the committee’s advice”.

The former first minister said he intends to play “a full part” in GFG Alliance from 12 December – just over two years since he left the Welsh Government.

In an attempt to avoid any conflict of interest, former ministers are required to apply for advice from ACOBA within two years of leaving office.

Earlier in 2020 Mr Jones sought advice from ACOBA on taking up role as an energy adviser with SIMEC.

In August, ACOBA said the length of time since he had left office and the requirement to meet certain conditions “appropriately mitigate the risks you may offer an unfair advantage with regard to your insight”.

But the advice did note that the former first minister “would have had access to information that could benefit GFG”, as he “had significant involvement in the steel industry, including meetings with Liberty Steel and its competitors Tata and Celsa”.

It added: “In particular, though it has been some time since you left office in December 2018, the Welsh Government confirmed you have access to potentially highly sensitive commercial information”.

ACOBA said there “are risks associated with your insights into the steel industry” but noted that Mr Jones described his role “as being limited to providing advice to SIMEC on energy issues… you will have no involvement in working in the steel industry when advising SIMEC”.

But in a letter sent on 16 October ACOBA Chair Lord Pickles said he was “concerned” to learn of Mr Jones’ membership of GFG Alliance’s board, announced three days earlier.

Lord Pickles said it “does not, on the face of it, appear to limit the advice you provide to just SIMEC”.

Despite Mr Jones’ insistence he is employed by SIMEC and has taken steps to ensure he will be “recused from matters related to steel”, the committee concluded on 6 November that Mr Jones’ role with GFG Alliance “is contrary to its advice”, resulting in a breach of the ministerial code.

Despite the comments Mr Jones does not face a sanction although the Welsh Government’s ministerial code – the rules of behaviour ministers are expected to follow – says politicians should abide by ACOBA’s judgements.

In a report published in the Western Mail, Carwyn Jones said: “I followed the advice that this committee gave and was very surprised to receive this letter from Eric Pickles. I would rather that they had just said no in the start.

“The process has no rules, no right to a hearing, no appeal and no complaints process.

“I will leave people to judge whether this is a fair and transparent process.

“Let’s remember that Boris Johnson didn’t even bother to ask for advice in 2018 when he took up a very well-paid job with the Telegraph.”

Mr Jones also told BBC Wales: “The process has been so secretive that I’ve been forced to issue several freedom of information requests to get information.”

Since standing down as first minister, Mr Jones has listed on his register of interests that he has taken paid work as a law professor at Aberystwyth University, advisor to Spectrum Internet, and consultant to media company Business News Wales.

He has been the Labour representative for Bridgend in the Senedd since 1999 but will stand down from the role at the next election in 2021.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We have received correspondence from ACOBA and will respond in due course.”

Brexit: Why is the Internal Market Bill ruffling feathers?

The government is standing by its controversial Internal Market Bill, which contains measures that overrule parts of the withdrawal agreement signed with the EU last year.

The House of Lords looks set to remove the offending clauses in a vote later today, with many Conservatives voting against the government. But ministers have already indicated that the same clauses will be reinstated when the legislation returns to the House of Commons early next month.

Much will depend on whether a free trade deal with the EU has been agreed by then, but Downing Street has said it regards the Internal Market bill as “a vital safety net”.

Speculation about the fate of the bill has been heightened by Joe Biden’s victory in the US election. The president-elect was quick to criticise the legislation when it was first published, warning that the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland “cannot become a casualty of Brexit”.

The withdrawal agreement (also known as the Brexit “divorce deal”) includes a section – or protocol – on Northern Ireland, and it is now an international treaty.

Article 4 of the agreement says the provisions of the treaty take legal precedence over anything in the UK’s domestic law.

So if any of the proposals in the Internal Market Bill that contradict the withdrawal agreement actually become law, it would breach the government’s international obligations.

That is what the Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, referred to in September when he spoke about breaking international law in a “very specific and limited way”.

Breaking the law, though, is still breaking the law.

The overall aim of the Northern Ireland protocol was to avoid the return of a “hard” land border between Northern Ireland, in the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, in the EU.

All sides agreed they did not want the return of border checks – or other physical infrastructure – that could become a target.

One of the solutions in the treaty was to keep Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods, unlike the rest of the United Kingdom.

It promised to maintain unfettered access for Northern Ireland goods to the rest of the UK but also introduced new bureaucracy for trade across the Irish Sea.

The way these measures will be implemented on the ground is still being negotiated by UK and EU officials, who meet in a joint committee.

But if they cannot reach agreement by the end of the transition period, on 31 December 2020, and there is no free-trade deal, that is when parts of this new proposed legislation could come into play.

For example, the protocol states companies moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) would have to fill out export declaration forms.

But the Internal Market Bill would give ministers the right to overrule or ignore this part of EU customs law.

Another part of the protocol says the UK has to follow EU rules on state aid – the financial support governments give to businesses – for goods related to Northern Ireland.

But the Internal Market Bill would give ministers power to interpret what that means and says this should not be done in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Justice.

Again, that puts the UK in breach of the international treaty it signed last year.

And the text of the bill makes this intention explicit.

“Certain provisions,” it says, would take effect “notwithstanding inconsistency or incompatibility” with international or other domestic law.

The government says it is just seeking to clarify the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, to avoid disruption.

But the EU says it is trying to change parts of a recently-agreed international treaty unilaterally, and President-elect Biden appears to agree.

There may be more proposed powers to come. The Internal Market Bill only deals with trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, but the debate about goods moving in the opposite direction is just as sensitive.

The protocol says the joint committee is supposed to determine which goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are “at risk” of being exported to the EU and should therefore have tariffs – taxes on imports – imposed on them.

If there is no agreement between the two sides, then the default position is tariffs would have to be paid on all goods.

But the UK has plans, which could be introduced in a finance bill in the coming weeks, to allow UK ministers to make unilateral decisions on which goods are “at risk”.

That would reignite criticism from the EU and Ireland, and President-elect Biden would have a view on it too.

For the moment, though, the attention is on the Internal Market Bill, and it is worth remembering it has not yet become law.

Downing Street has pointed to isolated precedents for governments breaking international law, but none of them is directly comparable with the proposals in this bill.

“This is unique,” said Lorand Bartels, an international law expert at the University of Cambridge.

“I cannot think of any other legislation that expressly states that it permits violating a treaty.”

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Kamala Harris: NI peer Lord Kilclooney told to apologise for offensive tweet

A member of the House of Lords, Lord Kilclooney, has been told to apologise for referring to US vice-president-elect Kamala Harris as “the Indian”.

In a tweet, the Northern Ireland peer wrote: “What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes President. Who then becomes Vice President?”

Ms Harris made history as the first female, first black and first Asian-American US vice-president-elect.

Lord Speaker Norman Fowler said the peer should “retract and apologise”.

Several MPs have described Lord Kilclooney’s tweet as “racist” and have already lodged complaints with the Lord Speaker’s office.

However, Lord Kilclooney denied his message was racist and when challenged about referring to Ms Harris as “the Indian”, he claimed he had not “known her name yet”.

In response to complaints, the Lord Speaker said: “This is an offensive way to refer to anyone, let alone a woman who has just made history.

“The comment is entirely unacceptable and has no place in British politics. I could not be clearer.”

Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Smith, is among those who said they would report Lord Kilclooney over his remarks.

“I am so angry about this comment,” she said.

“It is despicable and beneath contempt, and totally unacceptable from anyone – but especially from someone in Parliament.”

Conservative MP Simon Hoare, who chairs the Northern Ireland affairs select committee, also said he had submitted a formal complaint.

Mr Hoare described the message as: “Bad. Rude. Racist. Appalling”.

Lord Kilclooney is a former deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and now sits in the House of Lords as a crossbench peer.

On Monday afternoon, he told the PA news agency: “The first thing is to get it in perspective, the criticism is minor, the support is massive – I’ve never had so many Twitter followers in one day, ever.

“I’m very fond of India myself, I’m a member of the British India all-party group, I have two Indians (tenants) in my flats here in London and there’s nothing racist in it whatsoever.

“She’s proud of her Indian roots just as Biden’s proud to say he’s Irish.”

However, criticism of Lord Kilclooney has continued to grow both in the UK and further afield.

A former special adviser to US President-Elect Joe Biden told Lord Kilclooney he “should be ashamed”.

Jon Wolfsthal also reminded the peer that Ms Harris “is American”.

Labour MP Wes Streeting said: “This sort of racism would be unacceptable from anyone, but from a member of the House of Lords it beggars belief. Action must be taken.”

Lord Kilclooney is no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to social media.

In 2018, he called the then taoiseach (Irish PM) Leo Varadkar a “typical Indian”, which he later described as a mistake.

The House of Lords commissioner for standards decided there would no formal investigation into the matter.

Comedian Nish Kumar tweeted: “This guy is a life peer. What a country.”

Broadcaster Mohammed Shafiq described Monday’s tweet as “another racist comment from Lord John”.

North Down MP Stephen Farry said the tweet was “disgusting and racist”.

Doug Beattie, an Ulster Unionist Party member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, tweeted it was “poor” and urged the peer to delete the tweet.

Daniel McCrossan, an SDLP assembly member, branded the peer “a disgrace”.

Aldi extends click and collect to 200 more shops

Discount supermarket Aldi is to extend its trial click-and-collect shopping service to 200 more UK stores as it faces growing competition from rivals.

It means about 25% of its 900 shops will offer the service by Christmas, compared with 18 now.

Aldi and discount rival Lidl only recently began trialling internet shopping and have missed out in the pandemic as more sales go online.

By contrast traditional grocers such as Tesco have seen their sales accelerate.

Aldi first launched its click and collect service to customers at a single store in the Midlands in September, before extending the trial last month.

Shoppers can choose from a full range of grocery items online, then collect them in their cars “contact-free” at their local stores.

The German discounter has expanded rapidly over the past decade, largely by outcompeting traditional chains on price.

However, it has seen growth slow since March as online grocery shopping has doubled its share of the UK market to around 14%.

Analysts say mounting competition from traditional retailers with established online shopping services will make it harder for Aldi and Lidl to expand as quickly as they once did.

For example, in the 12 weeks to May, Tesco and Sainsbury’s increased sales at a faster rate than Aldi for the first time in a decade as the pandemic spurred weekly shops and more online ordering.Aldi and Lidl have been rolling out new online options in response.

In April, Aldi started selling online food parcels to help self-isolating and vulnerable customers and has also started a rapid delivery service in partnership with Deliveroo.

Lidl is offering home deliveries via a partnership with Buymie, and is trialling click and collect lockers.

Giles Hurley, boss of Aldi UK and Ireland, said its click and collect trial had been “hugely popular” so far.

“By extending it to hundreds of new stores, we’re making Aldi accessible to thousands of shoppers who might never have visited one of our stores before.”

EU imposes tariffs on $4bn of US goods in Boeing row

The European Union is moving forward with a plan to hit $4bn of American goods with tariffs as punishment for US subsidies for plane-maker Boeing.

The taxes on some imports from the US into the EU, which got the go-ahead from the World Trade Organization last month, will go into effect on Tuesday.

The EU said it still hoped to settle the fight, which saw the US impose tariffs on European products last year.

A trade official said Joe Biden’s election could help “reboot” talks.

EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the EU wanted to see both sides now remove the tariffs, which are a result of a long-running feud over state support provided to Boeing and European rival Airbus.

“Removing these tariffs is a win-win for both sides, especially with the pandemic wreaking havoc on our economies,” Mr Dombrovskis said.

“We now have an opportunity to reboot our transatlantic co-operation and work together towards our shared goals.”

The fight over aircraft subsidies for Boeing and European rival Airbus pre-dates Donald Trump’s time in office, but trade tensions between the two traditional allies have grown particularly strained during his tenure.

Last year, the WTO said the US was justified to retaliate against the EU on $7.5bn worth of goods for support granted to Airbus. It made a similar ruling in October in favour of the EU over support offered to Boeing.

In recent months, both sides have taken steps they say correct the offending programmes. But Mr Dombrovskis said there had been no progress toward a settlement.

“We have made clear all along that we want to settle this long-running issue. Regrettably, due to lack of progress with the US, we had no other choice but to impose these countermeasures,” he said.

The EU tariffs will affect American aircraft, agricultural produce and industrial goods.

Julia Rawson murder: Dudley flat of horrors couple guilty

A man obsessed with horror films has been convicted along with his boyfriend of murdering and dismembering a woman in their flat.

Nathan Maynard-Ellis, 30, took Julia Rawson home after meeting her in a pub in Dudley, West Midlands, in May 2019.

He and David Leesley, 25, then killed her and hid her body parts in undergrowth, the trial at Coventry Crown Court was told.

Maynard-Ellis was also found guilty of rape charges relating to another woman.

The four rapes, an attempted rape, and threats to kill were revealed when a woman came forward after his murder arrest.

Both men had admitted perverting the course of justice and concealing a body, but had denied murder.

Jurors heard Maynard-Ellis had a fascination with decapitation and horror films and had been addicted to fantasies about the “sexualised killing of women”.

His victim would have seen swords and spiders mounted on the walls of the Tipton flat, reptiles kept in tanks, and “gory face masks” of horror film characters, Karim Khalil QC, prosecuting, told jurors at the start of the trial.

Ms Rawson “could not have known that she was about to enter a flat of horrors”, he said.

“But she must have realised this very soon after she went in.”

Tracey Barrett, a neighbour of the two killers, told the BBC their flat “was the making of horror stories” with Freddy Krueger figures and Chucky dolls.

Police said Maynard-Ellis had gone out the night of the murder with the aim of finding a victim.

“Unfortunately that victim was Julia”, Det Insp Jim Colclough, from West Midlands Police, said.

Ms Rawson, 42, was struck about the head. Her remains, including her severed head, hands and feet, were found on 12 and 29 June last year in two different locations, near a canal and on wasteland.

After identifying Maynard Ellis from CCTV video when he was with Ms Rawson at the pub, he was arrested on suspicion of kidnap and officers discovered a bloodstained carpet underlay in the flat.

Mr Colcough described the killing as “a terrible, terrible thing to have taken place.”

Ms Rawson came from a close-knit and private family and was a talented musician and a fun-loving character, he said.

“Of course her family are absolutely devastated,” he said.

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