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What to look out for in Theresa May's Florence speech on Brexit | Jon Henley

The prime minister must balance offering the EU27 enough to unblock the talks against satisfying Brexit hardliners at home

Theresa May’s eagerly awaited speech in Florence is seen as the UK government’s third defining statement on Brexit after the prime minister’s Lancaster House speech in January and the white paper that preceded the triggering of article 50 in March.

May must tread a delicate line between offering enough to the 27 EU member states to restart the stalled negotiations (but not so much as to throw away all future leverage) and keeping Brexit hardliners in her cabinet and parliament on board. Here are the key points to watch out for.

Related: Here’s what Theresa May would say in Florence – if she really cared about Britain | Polly Toynbee

Related: Time isn’t on her side: Theresa May must set out her Brexit plan this week | Anand Menon and Jonathan Portes

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Published on 22 September 2017 | 6:00 am

Country diary: ancient survivors and wild dune edges

Magilligan Point, County Derry The botany of the spit was once so rich that it was known as the ‘medicine garden of Europe’

The view from the top of the basalt outcrop of Windy Hill is sublime. Below, the flat expanse of Magilligan Point, County Derry, narrows into the distance as it almost reaches across the mouth of Lough Foyle to the heather-topped green hills and little white cottages of Donegal, six miles away.

Most of the sandy spit has been converted into grazed farmland, the field boundaries following the lines of ancient sand ridges deposited as the point has grown since the last ice age. A half-mile wide strip along the western edge, facing the Atlantic, is still wild sand dunes, tall and rough. A stiff breeze blows up and over the rocky ridge and to the east dark grey storm clouds roll.

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Published on 22 September 2017 | 4:30 am

Irish border data underlines huge task facing Brexit negotiators

Official analysis shows scale of potential disruption from hard border, finding there were more than 110m crossings last year

The scale of the difficulties facing Brexit negotiators in disentangling the border between Britain and Ireland has been highlighted by new data showing there were more than 110m border crossings between the two last year.

An official analysis by British and Irish statisticians found there were an estimated 375,900 Irish-born people living in the UK and 277,200 UK-born people living in Ireland.

Related: Barnier tells May UK will have to obey EU rules during transition - politics live

Related: Article 127: the obscure clause that could deliver a soft Brexit | Jonathan Lis

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Published on 21 September 2017 | 2:53 pm

EU Brexit negotiator attacks Boris Johnson's 'old-fashioned' views on identity

Guy Verhofstadt responds to UK foreign secretary’s criticism of young voters who feel allegiance to Europe

The European parliament’s Brexit negotiator has launched a scathing attack on Boris Johnson, saying his recent criticism of young voters who feel allegiance to Europe was “old-fashioned” and “nonsense”.

Guy Verhofstadt told a special meeting of three committees in the Irish parliament that it was perfectly possible to feel European while at the same time feeling allegiance to your country of birth.

Related: With a liar like Boris Johnson as foreign secretary how can Europe trust Britain? | Joris Luyendijk

Related: What is Boris Johnson playing at? – Brexit Means ... podcast

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Published on 21 September 2017 | 11:26 am

Northern Ireland could stay in customs union after Brexit – Verhofstadt

European parliament negotiator says Irish border solution is needed before talks can progress, as unionists oppose special status

Northern Ireland could continue to be in the single market or customs union after the UK leaves the EU, the European parliament’s Brexit negotiator has said.

But Guy Verhofstadt’s proposal for special status for the region was met with immediate opposition from unionists who said they would never accept any deal that made Northern Ireland different from the rest of the UK.

Related: Tony Blair says there's 30% chance Brexit won't happen - Politics live

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Published on 20 September 2017 | 2:49 pm

Belfast 'peace wall' between communities felled after 30 years

Three-metre concrete wall erected in 1989 to protect residents on either side from sectarian attack is knocked down

Another of Belfast’s so-called peace walls separating Catholic and Protestant communities is being dismantled as part of a programme to eliminate barriers that divide the city into rival sectarian zones.

The three-metre-high wall cutting off Springfield Road from Springfield Avenue in west Belfast is being taken down on Wednesday after almost 30 years.

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Published on 20 September 2017 | 1:33 pm

Roland Moyle obituary

Popular and principled MP who served as minister of state for Northern Ireland in Harold Wilson’s government

Roland Moyle, who has died aged 89, typified a generation of Labour politicians, now almost forgotten, who followed the ideological path first trodden by their working-class parents, but did so having acquired professional qualifications unavailable to earlier generations of their families.

In his maiden speech as MP for the south-east London constituency of Lewisham North in 1966, Moyle evoked in sympathetic terms the memory of Wat Tyler camping on Blackheath on the night before he led the Peasants’ Revolt into London in 1381. He did so as a subtle means of contrasting the modern-day cushioned comforts of the housing in Blackheath with the rest of his constituency, and demonstrating his comprehension of the “sharp sense of injustice” felt by the council tenants among his electorate.

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Published on 19 September 2017 | 11:20 am

Letters: Kevin McNamara obituary

Mike Broadbent writes: Kevin McNamara’s first experience of television was a film I made with him in 1969 as a producer on the BBC2 programme Westminster. He was flexing his muscles as a relatively raw backbencher, opposing plans to end free school milk – “an absolute disgrace that a Labour government was taking it away”. The cause was won, but it did not endear him to the prime minister, Harold Wilson. Nor did it endear him to Patrick Wall, the Conservative MP for the neighbouring constituency of Haltemprice, who complained because we had “inadvertently” filmed in a school in his constituency without telling him. “I knew,” confessed McNamara, “but it was still on a Hull estate.”

He enjoyed the experience, so was up for it a few months later when I asked him to take part in a very different scenario. McNamara’s main interest as a Liverpool Catholic was always Ireland, though it was another 20 years before he made it to the frontbench as shadow spokesman. We flew to Belfast and on a damp day he was filmed tramping the streets of a quiet border village called Crossmaglen, later known as the centre of “bandit country”, in conversation with the Ulster Unionist MP Jack Maginnis.

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Published on 18 September 2017 | 4:42 pm

General election cost taxpayers £141m, government reveals - politics live

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs

One of the things we are would like to do as we reform the common agriculture policy is to see if there’s a way we can provide a cap on the level of support than any individual or institution can receive.

Confused about Brexit? pic.twitter.com/MtN7Xj72uK

Tory MPs will soon find that they can take quite a lot of Wednesday afternoons off. The government has to allocate a certain number of days per session, like today, for opposition day debates (they are usually on a Wednesday) and Labour normally uses these sessions to table a motion or motions criticising government policy. A government with a majority would just vote them down. But this government does not have a majority and, when it became obvious the DUP were going to vote with Labour, the whips decided to tell Tory MPs to abstain - so that technically the government has not been defeated, and Labour’s “victory” is relatively hollow.

The Tories feel free to do this because the Commons was not voting on legislation; MPs were just voting on a declaratory motion. In an ideal world, the government would always take notice of the views of the House of Commons. But, in practice, the government can happily ignore a declaratory motion saying, ‘Ministers must do X’ and no one will really notice.

The general election cost the taxpayer £141m, the Cabinet Office has revealed. In a Commons written statement, the Cabinet Office minister Chris Skidmore said free mail shots for candidates cost £43m and administering the election cost £98m.

In the Commons the Labour motion on NHS pay (see 11.54am for the text) has been passed by MPs unopposed.

No shouts against @UKLabour motion passes unanimously pic.twitter.com/gO8KotRcPq

Gove says a post-Brexit trade deal with the US would have to be ratified by the House of Commons. And the British people do not want to see animal welfare standards watered down, or labour standards watered down either.

If we cannot reach agreement on the US on these points, the deal will have to be limited in scope.

Gove is now talking about fishing after Brexit.

He says he does not think anyone is saying no foreign boats should fish in British waters after Brexit.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is giving evidence to the Commons environment committee now.

In response to a question from Labour’s Paul Flynn about the common agriculture policy, and subsidies paid to wealthy landowners, he said that as Britain its own subsidy regime after Brexit, the government is considering introducing a cap setting a maximum amount that can be paid to any individual or institution.

Here is the full statement from Calum Macleod, the Police Federation vice chair, on what Theresa May said about police pay at PMQs.

It shows they have lost touch with reality, if they ever had it, and are clueless as to the demands and dangers officers have to face on a daily basis to keep communities safe. Officers are struggling to keep their heads above water and all we are asking for is fair recognition.

When comparing total pay in 2015/2016 to what it was in 2009/2010 it has increased in nominal terms by +2%, but decreased by -16% in real terms. This cannot be right.

The Police Federation has accused Theresa May of lying about police pay at PMQs. Calum Macleod, the vice chair of the Police Federation, told HuffPost UK:

The government stating that police officers have had a 32% pay rise since 2010 is a joke – and is in fact a downright lie.

It shows they have lost touch with reality, if they ever had it, and are clueless as to the demands and dangers officers have to face on a daily basis to keep communities safe. Officers are struggling to keep their heads above water and all we are asking for is fair recognition.

One of John Bercow’s innovations as speaker has been to allow PMQs every week to over-run, effectively turning a 30-minute session into a 45-minute session without the prime minister or anyone else having a say. He has also been much, much more willing than his predecessors to grant urgent questions and emergency debates, again carving out time from the parliamentary timetable for topics that he has chosen to see debated, not the government.

Now he is proposing an even more significant shift. In an interesting article for Prospect, Bercow says a House business committee, not the government whips, should get to decide what gets debated and when.

How would a House Business Committee work? First, the government is entitled to have a majority, but not a monopoly, on the committee. The party, or coalition, with the majority of seats in the Commons should not have its business scuppered by being denied parliamentary time, as that would be undemocratic. The House, however, should have the right to ask that certain measures receive more scrutiny than the norm because of the nature and implications of those measures.

Second, it should be chaired by an independent individual, thus securing the confidence of the whole House: the Wright committee suggested the senior Deputy Speaker. Third, there should be a backbench component and representation from the so-called “minor parties.” Fourth, as it would be desirable to link the work of select committees to the Chamber, there is a strong case for a representative of the select committees to be included, possibly the chair of the liaison committee. Finally, there is a strong case for the backbench members of the committee being elected by the whole House, so they can speak with that mandate.

I was struck this week to see that Len McCluskey, or perhaps Mahatma as his friends call him, had said if they need to act outside the law, so be it.

Well, I have to say I join you, on this side of the House we’re very clear - we condemn illegal strikes, we condemn action outside of the law.

He’s the champion for his members and workforce and he’s saying to the government you’ve got to take this seriously or further down the line we are going to have big trouble ... Given his position, he’s probably right [to threaten illegal strike action] because he needs the government to listen because they are not listening.

As we look to life post-Brexit and spread our wings further across the world it is high time that we do more to compete for a bigger share of this international export market.

It is time now to build exportability into our thinking from the off, aligning that with requirements of our international partners, enabling a more open architecture to our platforms that can ‘plug and play’ with different bits of capability.

I have noticed that he is shortly to appear on a Channel 4 programme called Celebrity First Dates. What I’m not sure about is whether he is the celebrity or the first date.

This is what political journalists and commentators are saying about PMQs.

No one was hugely impressed, by Corbyn is definitely getting the better reviews.

Snap verdict on PMQs: May struggles to make work payhttps://t.co/Z4xaNCpprw pic.twitter.com/YGfy3t4guR

PMQs review by @georgeeaton: Jeremy Corbyn skewers Theresa May on everything from cuts to tuition fees https://t.co/2OSAFWWGbd pic.twitter.com/BeQeyhm54C

#PMQs Comment TM/JC ideological clash. Take your pick. JC punching his weight now.

Another largely dispiriting #PMQs. Slogans shouted past each other, pre-cooked lines delivered half-heartedly. Not a classic period.

Tepid trading of stats in latest May Corbyn PMQs bout. Little new learnt.

Pointless and dull exchange of poverty stats at #PMQs: Corbyn wins effortlessly by attributing "We've never had it so good" to Tory MPs

Corbyn started well but lost focus - a more confident looking May dealt with him - but not a very illuminating #PMQs

Interesting approach from Corbyn to PMQs. He now runs through a list of issues the Tories are politically weak on, such as tuition fees

In many ways it makes the session much more political than policy focused as he never lingers on the nitty gritty of each issue

Meaty exchanges on public sector pay, tuition fees, disability, the economy between PM and LOTO - good launch into conference season

The Independent’s Tom Peck has coined the term “director’s cut PMQs” to describe John Bercow’s new, longer version.

One intriguing aspect of the new elongated Directors Cut #PMQs is that the backbenches now empty long before the end. V quiet here now.

HuffPost UK’s Paul Waugh has thought up what Jeremy Corbyn should have said in response to Theresa May’s ‘he’s let people down’ riff. (See 12.20pm.)

Wonder if Corbyn will counter to May "she promised her party a bigger majority...and she let them down"? #PMQs

At the post-PMQs briefing Theresa May’s spokesperson was asked about George Osborne’s reported desire to carve her up and pop her in his freezer. (See 11.30am.) This is from Business Insider’s Adam Bienkov.

May's spokesman asked about Osborne saying he'd like to chop her up: "The contents of the former chancellor's freezer are not one for me."

I missed the question from Ian Blackford, the SNP leader, because I was writing up the snap verdict. So this is what he asked.

Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, asked about the economy and wage growth.

It is an SNP government that is failing the people of Scotland ... The people in Scotland now have a strong voice in this house through our 13 Conservative MPs.

The government can find the money for QE but can’t find the money for fiscal measures to grow the economy. This is a government that does not understand how to use economic levers and it’s our people who are paying the price.

In all of that rather lengthy question never once did he record the increase in employment but he started off by standing up and complaining that I’d referenced the acts of the Scottish government. He believes in independence, so I think in this House we deserve to talk about what the Scottish government is doing for the people of Scotland.

PMQs is now over. It is now routinely running for closer to an hour than half an hour, the time supposedly allocated for it. That is a choice made by John Bercow, the Speaker.

Nigel Huddleston, a Conservative, asks what May thinks should be done to get more talented women into parliament.

May says she wants women to see parliament as a place offering a future career.

The Lib Dem Norman Lamb asks May to make it a priority to ensure that there is proper support for people in the prison system with mental health issues.

May says this is a longstanding issue. Some progress has been made. But the government will continue to look at this.

Simon Hoare, a Conservative, says he his hosting an event for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

May says she knows from her family (her mother) what impact this disease can have. This is not just an issue for the department for health; it is also about helping people with MS back into the workplace.

May says the UK wants to leave the EU with a trade deal that will be a “friction-free” and “tariff-free” as possible.

Julian Lewis, a Conservative, says Ian Gow’s widow has expressed disgust that former soldiers are being investigated for shootings in Northern Ireland while the killers of her husband walk free. Will May introduce a statute of limitations to put an end to this “grotesque situation”.

May says the overwhelming majority of soldiers in Northern Ireland acted honourably. She says the bodies looking at deaths in the Troubles will act in a fair and proportionate manner, she says. She says most of those killed in the Troubles were killed by terrorists.

Victoria Atkins, a Conservative, says the shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon refused four times to condemn possible illegal strike action. Will she condemn this?

May says she was struck this week to see that the Unite leader Len McCluskey, “or perhaps Mahatma as his friends call him”, defended illegal strikes. May says the Tories do condemn them.

The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman says 3,000 Aberdonians were born in Nigeria. What is being done to promote peace in the country?

May says the UK is helping Nigeria in a number of ways.

Mike Wood, a Conservative, says today is world sepsis day. What more can be done to increase awareness of this?

May says she is glad Wood recovered from sepsis. Some 10,000 deaths a year could be avoided by better and earlier diagnosis. A sepsis action plan is being published.

Labour’s Daniel Zeichner says schools and pubs in Cambridge are losing staff because EU workers are going home. What will be done to tackle this shortage of labour?

Mays says Zeichner implies there is no net EU migration to the UK. There is. But there is another point. The government needs to increase training, so people can take on these jobs.

PMQs - Snap verdict: Corbyn easily had the best soundbite of those exchanges - the spoof, and very apposite, recasting of Harold Macmillan famous ‘Never had it so good’ - and his wide-ranging case against May was solid, but there was no point at which he caused her serious unease or embarrassment in a drab exchange that effectively amount to a draw. It was not that May was especially effective; she dodged the key question (about a below-inflation pay rise being a real-terms cut) and at one point she took refuge in an irrelevant and slightly tedious generalised anti-Labour rant. (If you are going to try to change the subject at PMQs by taking a detour into Corbyn-bashing, as Cameron did almost every week, at least make it incisive, or funny.) Her point about Labour introducing tuition fees seemed particularly otiose in the light of Corbyn’s own almost non-existent loyalty to the Blair regime. Her answers were never very good, but she did at least manage to parry all Corbyn’s questions and, apart from the moment when he pointed out that record employment is no good if wages are lousy, generally he did not follow up on his points. Not for the first time, it sounded like two figures throwing statistics at each other with too little actual engagement.

Corbyn says the only problem is that more people in work are in poverty. That is the Conservative legacy.

A woman called Aisha wrote to him, saying she had graduated with a hefty amount of debt. She said she was scared about the future. People who want to become a nurse no longer want to. Will May vote this afternoon against another hike in tuition fees.

Corbyn says with inflation at 2.9%, the police and prison service are effectively taking a pay cut. Can she assure MPs no staff will be cut?

May says the recommendations came from independent bodies.

Jeremy Corbyn says the UK must respond as generously as possible to Hurricane Irma.

He says the UN body on disabilities has described the situation facing the disabled in the UK as a disgrace. He challenges May over why.

£50 bn spend on disability benefits is usual Tory misrepresentation of facts. IFS report proves it. From https://t.co/bIXN0ZxfnD

@AndrewSparrow Tories £50 bn disability spend lie @Dis_PPL_Protest relevant link https://t.co/61aT1qmVnq

Philip Davies, a Conservative, asks for a Shipley bypass, and for more infrastructure in Yorkshire generally.

May says the government is spending more money on transport in the north in this parliament than any government has spent before.

The Lib Dem Layla Moran says the Oxford car industry could be badly affected if the UK leaves the single market and the customs union. Shouldn’t people get a referendum on the final deal?

May says, if that is what Moran is telling her constituents, she is not telling them the facts.

Theresa May starts by updating MPs on Hurricane Irma. Boris Johnson has travelled to the region, she says. She says Cobra has been meeting regularly to coordinate the UK’s response. And today she can announce an extra aid package worth £25m, in addition to the £32m already provided.

Here is my colleague Heather Stewart’s take on what to expect from PMQs.

Oh dear, cue another #PMQs where JC raises the issue of poverty pay; Maybot repeats "record low unemployment...record low unemployment..." https://t.co/AK9unMjaHv

She's right of course, and it's a *good thing* - but (unfortunately) it doesn't answer qu of why too many jobs have crap pay and conditions.

Yesterday Downing Street announced a tentative start to the dismantling of the public sector pay cap.

Related: No 10 faces backlash from Labour and unions over public sector pay cap lift

Corbynomics: The Labour leader’s office was incredulous at May’s decision to announce the 1.7 percent hike for prison officers and 1 percent bonus for police on the very day higher inflation figures were published — showing the rises still constitute real-terms pay cuts. “So they concede the argument but don’t solve the problem,” a senior Corbyn aide told Playbook. “And they even timed it so Jeremy could respond in his speech at the TUC two hours later. Who thinks this stuff up?”

Tory grumblings: Less jolly were members of May’s own cabinet, according to Newsnight’s Nick Watt. One cabinet minister in favor of lifting the cap said the policy “had not landed well.” Former paymaster general Francis Maude told the show: “I’m not happy that we are giving the impression we can suddenly spend money to alleviate a political pressure point.” Today’s Telegraph leader grumbles that “the government may come to rue the day it gave in.”

Still, No.10 was clearly stung yesterday by the backlash to its big reveal on the melting pay cap. Prison officers still threatened action despite their 1.7% rise, and the cops weren’t over the moon at getting a 1% lump sum top-up. Downing Street was surprised that the cabinet’s announcement hadn’t ‘landed’ better, but maybe that’s because the cabinet’s language was so opaque. On the 2018/19 settlements for other workers, the PM’s spokesman told us the cabinet recognised the need for “more flexibility”, but you can’t pay the bills with flexibility. What’s amazing that is that ministers were amazed a grateful nation didn’t leap up with joy.

That this House notes that in 2017-18 NHS pay rises have been capped at one per cent and that this represents another below-inflation pay settlement; further notes that applications for nursing degrees have fallen 23 per cent this year; notes that the number of nurses and midwives joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council register has been in decline since March 2016 and that in 2016-17 45 per cent more UK registrants left the register than joined it; and calls on the government to end the public sector pay cap in the NHS and give NHS workers a fair pay rise.

If you’ve got a spare five to 10 minutes and you’re curious about George Osborne, do read Ed Caesar’s long and very good profile/interview for Esquire. Here are three of the highlights.

Osborne’s animus against May is complicated in origin — personal, political, ideological, tactical — but purely felt. When I met him at the Standard this past spring, he was polite enough about the prime minister. But according to one staffer at the newspaper, Osborne has told more than one person that he will not rest until she “is chopped up in bags in my freezer”.

There was speculation that Osborne’s editorial line on Grenfell was born of a concern that the budget cuts he oversaw as chancellor might be linked to the deaths of mostly poor Londoners. (This was, in fact, precisely Labour’s line of attack.) But Osborne insists that wasn’t the case.

“I was sceptical of the instant experts in other papers who rushed to blame the whole thing on Kensington and Chelsea Council saving costs,” he told me, noting that the cladding accused of accelerating the fire was in use across the UK long before austerity measures took effect. “It’s the kind of sloppy journalism I’m trying to get my paper, at least, away from. The failure was a massive failure of fire standards over many, many years, and that is a scandal we’ve talked about.”

We’re all fucked. I’m fucked. You’re fucked. The whole department’s fucked. It’s been the biggest cock-up ever and we’re all completely fucked.

Rank and file police officers in Northern Ireland are furious that they will not be included in the pay rise the government announced for their colleagues in England and Wales yesterday.

But the Police Federation for Northern Ireland are more angry at local politicians than the cabinet in London over their exclusion from the marginal hike in police wages.

The sole reason for this is the absence of a devolved administration, which requires consideration for any recommendations by both a justice minister and a finance minister.

In addition, there is currently no legislative process in place in Northern Ireland to sign off any element of an award.

Downing Street revealed this morning that Theresa May spoke to Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, and Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland, last night in separate phone calls, and urged them to reach an agreement on the resumption of power-sharing. A Number 10 spokesperson said:

The prime minister made clear the importance of restoring a power-sharing executive to Northern Ireland as soon as possible and she recognised their continued leadership towards reaching agreement. They discussed key outstanding issues that remain for both parties and the prime minister encouraged both leaders to come to an agreement soon in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland.

Nick Clegg, the former Lib Dem leader and former deputy prime minister, and his wife Miriam González Durántez have revealed that their 14-year-old son Antonio was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer, around this time last year. He has had chemotherapy and is now in remission, and his parents have chosen to speak out to raise awareness for Bloodwise, a blood cancer research charity.

They spoke in an interview on ITV’s Lorraine. González Durántez said they took their son to the doctor after discovering a “very, very small” lump on his neck. Antonio did not have any other symptoms. “We took him to the GP anyway which was a stroke of luck really because immediately he spotted it could be something more serious and it was lymphoma,” she said. She said that telling her son about his cancer was “one of the toughest things that we have every done”.

Well it’s like a sort of ‘word bomb’ isn’t it? Certainly if you are unfamiliar with it, as we were, and your initial reaction, I think, we found, was like any mum and dad, it’s irrational, but you just have this almost physical wish to try and take it off your kid and take it yourself. And then very quickly you get into the pretty gory details of the treatment.

The advances in science have been remarkable of course but it’s still a very brutal thing - you’re basically poisoning the body with very powerful chemicals and drugs to kill the cancerous cells and that has huge side effects; hair loss and vomiting and nausea. At one point his body was neutropenic which means his body had no defences against infection, so you very quickly move from the shock into just trying to support your child as they’re battling through this very heavy treatment ...

You have got your work and you’ve got all sorts of other things going on in your life but when something like this happens it just becomes the sole principle, objective, just to make sure he is better.

His lymphoma was all over his chest and his neck and he gets tested every three months I think for a couple of years, so there is always a slight spike of anxiety with us every three months but basically he is on the road to recovery.

Peter Ricketts, a former head of the Foreign Office and former national security adviser, has welcomed Lord Bridges’s speech. (See 9.30am.)

1/2 George Bridges dead right on 2 key points. First: no time to negotiate bespoke transition. Prolong existing posn https://t.co/cGsWqwwdHi

2/2 Second: both sides have to move on the money. EU can't expect UK to sign large chq now. UK must show willing to settle reasonable debts

Memo to Lord Bridges: Why on earth should we pay the EU for access to the Single Market? What will the EU pay for access to the UK market?

Westminster Unionist, an official DUP Twitter account, has taken issue with Lord Bridges’ world war two analogy. (See 9.39am.)

It's just not true though, is it? The wartime Govt managed to walk & chew gum at the same time, cf Beveridge, Butler etc, even though it ...

... had a *far* harder task. Geo B is a very nice man, but this is axe-grinding of a fairly obviously self-serving sort.

The unemployment figures are out. This is from my colleague Graeme Wearden.

Breaking! Britain’s unemployment rate has fallen to a new 42-year low of 4.3%, in the three months to July.

That’s down from 4.4% a month ago, and the lowest since 1975.

Related: UK jobless rate hits new 42-year low but real wages keep falling - business live

Lord Bridges of Headley is not exactly a household name - he’s an Old Etonian former Conservative party official ennobled by David Cameron - but he was a Brexit minister until June when, after the general election, he resigned without saying why. Bridges voted remain, and according to one report (paywall) he left because he was “convinced Brexit couldn’t work”. But he did not say so himself.

Now he has spoken out, in a speech in the House of Lords last night. It was his first speech in the chamber since his resignation and, although he was not overtly critical of the government’s stance, you don’t have to be a cryptologist to work out that he thinks Theresa May and her team are not handling Brexit well. Ministers are not being “honest” about the challenges Brexit poses, he suggested. He told peers:

First, an observation: faced with any challenge, one must acknowledge the truth. If we are not honest with ourselves, our plans will be built on sand. Consequently, we will lose the trust of those who look to us for leadership, and those with whom we are negotiating. We must be honest about the task we face—its complexity and scale. We must be honest about the need to compromise and about the lack of time that we, and Europe, have to come to an agreement on our withdrawal.

We should make it clear that we are willing to continue to contribute to the EU budget as we cross the bridge—in other words, between March 2019 and the end of 2020. That would help us to address the EU’s concern that our withdrawal blows a hole in its budget. We would be honouring commitments we have made for the rest of the EU’s budgetary period; the EU would then need to justify why we must contribute more than that.

The challenge of creating a new partnership touches on every aspect of our lives, as we have been discussing. It is a gargantuan task; so, let us be honest about this too. I hear the government talk of not wishing to be defined by Brexit. Brexit is the biggest change this nation has faced since 1945. To say we do not wish to be defined by Brexit is like Winston Churchill saying in 1940 that he did not want his government to be defined by the war. Such careless talk costs time, as it allows the machinery of government to be distracted from the task at hand.

No mention of Brexit from Juncker, which might appear odd in a speech about the "state of the EU".. now speeding up trade talks with Oz/NZ https://t.co/fRp0NGTwof

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Published on 13 September 2017 | 5:08 pm

Strong winds and heavy rains to batter northern UK

Met Office says heavy rain across northern England, Northern Ireland, north Wales and Scotland is likely to lead to flooding

Much of the country is being warned to expect strong winds and heavy rain that could bring some flooding on Tuesday.

Gusts of up to 75mph are possible overnight across northern and central portions of England and Wales, as well as on the eastern edge of Northern Ireland and the southern limits of Scotland. Rain is also expected to affect all of Northern Ireland and the south of Scotland in the evening.

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Published on 12 September 2017 | 7:50 am

DUP convinces May to raise Northern Ireland plane jobs with Trump

Democratic Unionists say 5,000 jobs at risk at Belfast factory if Bombardier loses contract with US-based Delta Air Lines for new jets

Theresa May has raised concerns with Donald Trump about a trade dispute that threatens thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland amid pressure from the Democratic Unionist party.

Sources confirmed that the prime minister spoke to the US president and expressed her concerns that more than 5,000 jobs in Belfast could be put in jeopardy if Boeing won its case against rival plane maker Bombardier.

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Published on 12 September 2017 | 1:20 am

Post-Brexit Irish border conundrum deepens | Letters

Shirley Williams considers the negotiations between Northern Ireland and the Republic, while Tim Shelton-Jones says the issue is more political than logistic

I have just come home from a troubled Ireland still strongly committed to the Good Friday agreement (aka the Belfast agreement) but uncertain about whether they will survive the Brexit negotiations and the uncertainties of the minority Conservative government’s stance.

The government’s position on paper is good: clear, strongly committed to the existing agreements and supported in the Irish government’s priorities paper. But it offers October this year as the date to achieve an outline agreement. That sounds optimistic. Given suggestions that negotiations on Brexit may be suspended until after the German election, it seems hopelessly so.

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Published on 11 September 2017 | 6:33 pm

Tory-DUP £1bn payment needs parliament's approval after Gina Miller challenge

Release of cash promised by Theresa May in deal to prop up her minority government will have ‘appropriate parliamentary authorisation’

Parliament will need to approve the release of £1bn in funding for Northern Ireland promised to the Democratic Unionist party by Theresa May to secure its support after the general election, the government has conceded.

Challenged by the campaigner Gina Miller about the legal basis for releasing the funds, which have not yet been made available, the Treasury solicitor, who heads the Government Legal Department, said it “will have appropriate parliamentary authorisation”, adding: “No timetable has been set for the making of such payments.”

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Published on 11 September 2017 | 5:00 am

Northern Ireland secretary puts pressure on assembly to reach power-sharing deal

James Brokenshire suggests that salaries of more than £50,000 may be frozen unless Stormont gets up and running

The British government will consider whether to stop paying members of the Northern Ireland assembly if Ulster politicians fail to reach a deal to restore power-sharing government in the region.

The Northern Ireland secretary raised the possibility on Friday that individual salaries of more than £50,000 per annum being frozen in the absence of the Stormont assembly getting up and running again.

Related: Northern Ireland secretary says window is closing on power-sharing

Related: UK government rules out joint authority in Northern Ireland

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Published on 8 September 2017 | 9:41 pm

N Ireland police officer held over alleged sectarian, sexist and racist tweets

Group of officers and support staff have been under investigation over misuse of Twitter, including potentially prejudicing criminal inquiries

A serving police officer in Northern Ireland has been arrested over allegedly using Twitter to distribute sectarian, sexist and racist remarks.

The police ombudsman’s office in Belfast confirmed on Friday the officer was arrested by the policing watchdog.

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Published on 8 September 2017 | 1:52 pm

Court to hear challenge to Theresa May's £1bn deal with DUP

Northern Irish Green activist spearheads crowdfunded case, arguing deal breaches Good Friday agreement and Bribery Act

Theresa May’s parliamentary deal with the Democratic Unionist party will face a judicial challenge in the divisional court in London within the next few weeks.

The crowdfunded legal challenge brought by Ciaran McClean, a Green party activist in Northern Ireland, is likely to be heard by several senior judges.

Related: Opposition condemns government's Commons committee 'power grab'

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Published on 8 September 2017 | 12:31 pm

Ian Paisley Jr denies £100,000 Sri Lanka holiday claim

DUP MP refers himself to parliamentary watchdog but says report he took all-expenses-paid trip is defamatory

One of the Democratic Unionist MPs whose votes prop up Theresa May’s government has denied allegations that he took £100,000 worth of hospitality from the Sri Lankan government.

Ian Paisley Jr, the MP for North Antrim, has referred himself to a Westminster watchdog committee after allegations that he did not declare two all-expenses-paid holidays to the country in 2013.


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Published on 8 September 2017 | 8:57 am

The Guardian view on the Irish border: the UK’s Brexit blind spot | Editorial

The UK government’s lack of practical solutions reflects a more profound failure to see how its actions are viewed from overseas

Two weeks before last year’s EU referendum, Sir John Major and Tony Blair appeared together at an event in County Derry to warn that Brexit could undermine the foundations of peace in Northern Ireland and sabotage relations with the Irish Republic. Such a sombre note struck by two former prime ministers should have resonated long and loud. It did not. The leave campaign had effectively cast the remain camp as serial alarmists and discredited the collective voice of experience and expertise. The Irish challenge was forgotten as another face of “project fear”. But, like many warnings written off under that rubric, this one was accurate.

Brexit makes the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic an external frontier of the EU. It also follows from the UK government’s choice to quit the single market and customs union that new regulation will be needed. Neither side wants a hard border and David Davis calls for “imagination” in navigating the challenge. But he cannot imagine his way out of the facts.

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Published on 7 September 2017 | 6:23 pm

No prosecution risk for Northern Ireland medical staff over abortion referrals

Medical professionals told they will not face prosecution if they refer women to clinics in England and Wales for abortions

Medical staff in Northern Ireland have been told they will not face prosecution if they refer women to clinics in England and Wales for abortions, a development that campaigners say will ease the climate of fear under which many have been operating.

In a significant clarification of the law, the director of public prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Barra McGrory, has said he does “not see the issue of criminal liability arising in the context of NHS staff advising or informing patients of the availability of abortion services in England and Wales”.

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Published on 7 September 2017 | 8:55 am

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