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To break the Irish backstop deadlock, May needs her biggest fudge yet | Marley Morris

It would heap huge pressure on her Chequers plan. But the alternative is crashing out of the EU with no deal at all

Theresa May’s speech in Belfast today has put the thorny issue of the Irish “backstop” back at the heart of the Brexit negotiations. Despite all the focus on ministerial resignations and parliamentary turmoil this week, it is the backstop – more than any other issue – that threatens a complete breakdown in the Brexit talks.

The backstop – agreed in principle by the UK and the European Union in December – is designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Without the backstop agreed, no withdrawal agreement can be signed, and therefore no transition period can be implemented.

Related: Barnier welcomes Raab to Brussels – with the mother of all deadlines

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Published on 20 July 2018 | 1:29 pm

Ireland open to new proposal on Brexit border

Irish minister speaks after Theresa May tells summit EU must drop ‘unworkable’ plan

The Irish government has said it is open to the possibility of a fresh proposal for a deal on the border issue, but will only consider a new plan if it is better than the one on the table.

The Irish finance minister, Paschal Donohoe, was speaking hours after Theresa May demanded the EU abandon its stance and “evolve its position” to include a guarantee there would be no border in the Irish Sea in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Related: To break the Irish backstop deadlock, May needs her biggest fudge yet | Marley Morris

Inside the EU, both Ireland and Northern Ireland (as part of the UK) are part of the single market and customs union so share the same regulations and standards.

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Published on 20 July 2018 | 12:14 pm

Northern Ireland close to recession, CBI warns as May visits region

Business group says collapse of power-sharing and Brexit turmoil are taking their toll

Northern Ireland is edging towards recession, the Confederation of British Industry has warned as Theresa May arrives in Belfast for her first visit to the Irish border.

The CBI said the political vacuum left by the collapse of power-sharing in Stormont along with Brexit uncertainty were taking their toll in the region, which is already the poorest performing of the 12 UK regions.

Related: Varadkar says Ireland is stepping up plans for no-deal Brexit

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Published on 19 July 2018 | 3:17 pm

Showers to interrupt UK heatwave before temperatures rise again

Yellow warning issued for south-east but sunny weather set to return for weekend

Rain is set to briefly dampen the UK’s potentially record-breaking summer before temperatures rise again into the weekend.

Showers are forecast to hit Northern Ireland and Scotland on Thursday afternoon and evening. They are expected to be more widespread on Friday and the Met Office has issued a yellow warning for south-east England, where slow-moving thundery showers could lead to flooding and transport disruption.

Related: Fahrenheit 100: could this be the summer Britain wakes up to climate change? | Michael McCarthy

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Published on 19 July 2018 | 1:49 pm

Ian Paisley could face byelection after breaking Commons rules

Likely 30-day suspension of DUP MP over holidays worth £50,000 could lead to recall

The Democratic Unionist party MP Ian Paisley could be forced to stand down and face a byelection after a serious breach of parliamentary rules.

The member for North Antrim is already facing a suspension from the House of Commons for 30 sitting days after becoming a “paid advocate” for the Sri Lankan government and failing to declare family holidays worth at least £50,000.

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Published on 18 July 2018 | 5:06 pm

Varadkar says Ireland is stepping up plans for no-deal Brexit

Theresa May due to visit Irish border, and Sinn Féin criticised for Commons abstentions

Ireland is stepping up contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit as Theresa May prepares to visit the Irish border.

The Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said the instability in Westminster meant there was no guarantee that a withdrawal agreement, even if agreed in Brussels, would get passed in London.

Related: Brexiters seem to forget that ‘no deal’ is not legally an option | Brendan Howlin

Westminster #Brexit vote to keep UK in the Customs Union lost by five votes tonight. Sinn Fein's 7 MPs could have changed Brexit completely, safeguarding Northern Ireland & jobs in the Republic.

I get the history & I understand the fact that abstentionism is a policy pursued by Sinn Fein but surely now when there is a chance to positively influence the Brexit situation and therefore help Ireland - North & South - using your key votes in Westminister is necessary

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Published on 18 July 2018 | 9:45 am

Man arrested over attack on Gerry Adams' home freed on bail

35-year-old held after explosive devices thrown at ex-Sinn Féin leader’s house

A 35-year-old man arrested in connection with an attack on the home of the former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has been released on bail.

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Published on 18 July 2018 | 9:18 am

Business leaders attack PM's surrender to Rees-Mogg on VAT

British Chambers of Commerce says Brexit measure will add significantly to costs

Theresa May’s decision to accede to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s demand that the UK sever ties with the European Union on value added tax has been condemned by British business leaders.

It could also result in a hard border in Ireland, which would mean the proposal faces sudden death when considered by the EU, experts have said.

Related: May narrowly heads off defeat after caving in to Brexit hardliners

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Published on 18 July 2018 | 6:00 am

Government pressed on same-sex marriage for Northern Ireland

Labour MP backs ‘equality and basic rights’ in tabling amendment to marriages bill covering civil partnerships

A Labour MP has tabled an amendment to try to push the government into altering the law to permit same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK where it is still not allowed.

Conor McGinn’s amendment applies to the civil partnerships, marriages and deaths bill, which reaches the committee stage, where MPs can table amendments, on Wednesday.

Related: Abortion rights in NI 'blocked by deal with DUP' says Sinn Fèin

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Published on 18 July 2018 | 6:00 am

MPs don’t need an early holiday. They should be fixing the country’s crisis | Andrew Adonis

Theresa May’s plan for an early break for parliament is ludicrous. Here are 10 bills it could be working on, instead of having 10 weeks off

This is the moment when Theresa May really lost it: her crass decision to try to send MPs away early for their summer holidays, when they were soon to leave Westminster for 10 weeks anyway. Even normally loyal Tories are appalled. It sums her up. The control freak who can’t handle debate and dissent. The tin ear for the public mood. Above all, the “do nothing” approach to the state of the nation.

Related: Sending MPs on early holiday could make all the difference for May

Related: Theresa May: how much worse can the PM’s summer get?

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Published on 17 July 2018 | 3:06 pm

Maj Gen Corran Purdon obituary

War hero who won an MC for his part in the famous St Nazaire raid of 1942 and was later sent to Colditz

Maj Gen Corran Purdon, who has died aged 97, commanded a demolition team in an audacious raid on the French port of St Nazaire in the spring of 1942, after which he was taken prisoner, finishing the war in Colditz, the camp for incorrigible allied officers who made repeated escape attempts.

The raid, widely regarded as the greatest of its kind in the second world war, was an intricate assault involving 621 sailors and soldiers in 18 small vessels, sailing brazenly into the estuary of the Loire. Their objective was the huge lock at St Nazaire, built for the great French liner SS Normandie.

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Published on 16 July 2018 | 3:01 pm

Gerry Adams calls for meeting with people who attacked house

Ex-Sinn Féin leader says he wants to know why explosive devices thrown at Belfast home

The former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has called on those who attacked his home to meet him and explain their actions.

Explosive devices were thrown at the homes of Adams and another prominent republican figure, Bobby Storey, on Friday night.

All well here. No one hurt. Thanks 4 all the texts & phone calls. Thanks 2 all the great neighbours, the Neighbourhood Watch & Sinn Féin reps who were here very quickly.

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Published on 14 July 2018 | 4:31 pm

Northern Ireland police chief blames Derry violence on 'New IRA'

Man arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after night of dissent in Bogside area

Northern Ireland’s chief of police has blamed a so-called “New IRA” for six successive nights of violence in Derry that culminated in explosive devices being thrown at officers.

The PSNI’s chief constable, George Hamilton, condemned the attacks which he said could easily lead to a death. “We believe violent dissident republican groups are behind this, they will use whatever excuse they can to bring about unrest and to have young people involve themselves in violence against the police,” he said.

Related: Vehicles torched amid tension over loyalist bonfires in Northern Ireland

Related: Orange Order parades take place amid violence in Northern Ireland

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Published on 13 July 2018 | 6:16 pm

Girl given long-term cannabis oil licence in Northern Ireland

Sophia Gibson, who has severe epilepsy, can use oil to be prescribed through NHS

A girl from Northern Ireland has been granted a long-term licence for the use of medicinal cannabis.

Sophia Gibson, seven, from Newtownards, Co Down, has a genetic condition which causes what her family describe as “frequent and dangerous fits”.

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Published on 13 July 2018 | 6:00 pm

Orange Order parades take place amid violence in Northern Ireland

Vehicles set on fire in Belfast and petrol bombs thrown at police in Derry before 12 July

Thousands of Orange Order members have taken part in 12 July parades across Northern Ireland after a night of sporadic violence in the region.

Masked men hijacked and set 13 vehicles on fire in and around Belfast, while young republicans threw petrol bombs at police during a fifth night of disorder in the Bogside area of Derry.

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Published on 12 July 2018 | 12:05 pm

Vehicles torched amid tension over loyalist bonfires in Northern Ireland

Incidents come after the clearing of two bonfire sites by contractors escorted by police

Cars and a bus have been stolen and torched in Northern Ireland in violence linked to loyalist bonfires.

The incidents on the outskirts of Belfast and in nearby Newtownards came as police warned that loyalist paramilitaries were planning to “orchestrate and participate in serious disorder” in east Belfast through Wednesday night.

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Published on 12 July 2018 | 4:36 am

Whitehall’s ‘potty’ plan to keep NI lights on if no Brexit deal

Flotilla of barges with energy generators would be sent to Northern Ireland if UK crashes out of the EU

A flotilla of barges would be sent to the coast of Northern Ireland with energy generators after Brexit to keep the region’s lights on in the event of no deal, according to reports on Wednesday.

The scheme, which has been described as “potty” by business leaders in Northern Ireland, is said to be part of contingency planning by Whitehall mandarins in case the UK crashes out of the EU, smashing Ireland’s all-island electricity supply in its wake.

Related: Part of M20 to be used as lorry park to counter Brexit jams at Channel

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Published on 11 July 2018 | 7:06 pm

Northern Irish girl waiting for cannabis oil licence hospitalised

Seven-year-old Sophia Gibson is in an induced coma following a severe seizure

A seven-year-old from Northern Ireland, waiting to hear if she will be granted a licence to be treated with medicinal cannabis oil, has been admitted to hospital after suffering a severe seizure.

Sophia Gibson, from Newtownards in Co Down, has an extreme form of epilepsy which can lead to frequent fits. Her parents, Danielle and Darren Gibson, have applied for a licence to use cannabis oil to help her condition but have yet to hear a response from the Home Office, which is reviewing the benefits of the oil for medical use.

Related: Billy Caldwell licensed for cannabis oil use in Northern Ireland

Related: MPs condemn UK cannabis laws after epileptic boy's medication seized

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Published on 11 July 2018 | 4:45 pm

Coming home: St George's Cross to return to Big Ben

Victorian clock tower will also revert to its original Prussian blue and gold palette

The Cross of St George is coming home to one of the most prominent and best-loved landmarks in England. When Big Ben strikes again, after a £61m restoration of the mechanism, clock faces and tower, it will once again bear the emblem, so joyfully ubiquitous this summer, on six shields above each of its four faces.

The clock and its chimes have been such a part of life in central London that there was a public outcry and questions in parliament when it fell silent last summer and it emerged it would remain so for the entire period of the restoration. The House of Commons Commission, which is responsible for the work, relented and the bells rang in the new year and signalled the start of the two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday. It will ring again, the commission promises, for other events “of national significance”.

Related: Big bill for Big Ben: cost of renovating Elizabeth Tower rises to £61m

Related: Is Big Ben London’s most disappointing tourist attraction?

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Published on 11 July 2018 | 11:55 am

Lord Laird obituary

Ulster Unionist politician forced to resign from the party over a lobbying scandal who was a great defender of Ulster Scots culture

John Laird, Lord Laird, who has died aged 74, was pitched into a political career as the youngest MP at Stormont in 1970, at the age of 26. His father, Norman, the Ulster Unionist MP for St Anne’s, Belfast, died in April that year and John won the seat in the consequent byelection. He was catapulted out of politics in 2013 after being caught by reporters from the BBC Panorama programme, the Telegraph and the Sunday Times, offering to lobby for cash.

He referred himself to the House of Lords’ standards committee, which suspended him for four months. He then resigned the Ulster Unionist party (UUP) whip at the demand of the party leader, Mike Nesbitt, after Nesbitt watched recordings of meetings with the fake lobbyists – undercover reporters who had trapped Laird – which he found “not edifying”. Laird returned to the Lords in 2014 but under a strict injunction from the UUP to rein in his behaviour. He had previously used Lords’ privilege repeatedly to name those he claimed were IRA killers, criticised Ireland for failing to support Ulster Scots, and in 2008/09 had claimed £73,000 in expenses, which made him the most expensive peer that year.

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Published on 11 July 2018 | 11:09 am

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