Iain Dale: Were it not for Churchill, McDonnell might be speaking German. And so could the rest of us.

Plus: Up, up and away – HS2’s costs. Staying down – LibDem poll ratings. Stuck where they are – Labour’s.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

I don’t know how many of you watched Liam Halligan’s Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 on Monday night, but he raised some real questions about the future of the HS2 project.

It’s cost the taxpayer £4.2 billion so far, but from this year the spending is ratcheting up, and that amount will apparently be spent each year. HS2 now employs 17 – yes, 17 – different PR companies to persuade us that a) HS2 is needed and b) it’s value for money.

As someone who thinks visionary transport projects are much needed in this country ,I think the jury is out on both counts. It’s rumoured that Theresa May wanted to can the scheme on her first day as Prime Minister, but was persuaded not to.

Were it cancelled now, it would be a humiliation for a Government which could do without any further humiliation, and there would be hell to pay for wasting more than £4 billion on a white elephant.

But sometimes you have to do the right thing and seal a political wound. I wonder whether we are at that point, or at least very near it.

– – – – – – – – – –

So John McDonnell thinks Winston Churchill is a villain. Good luck in explaining that to working class communities up and down the country, who see know nation’s war leader for what he is and was.

An absolute hero – without whom McDonnell and the rest of us might well be speaking German.

What is it about the Left who love to laud real villains like Chavez, Maduro and the like, yet delight in trying to denigrate the reputation of people who achieved things for this country that they couldn’t even dream of doing in a month of Sundays?

– – – – – – – – – –

It amuses met to see Labour supporters on Twitter trying to maintain the myth that Labour is constantly ahead in the opinion polls. The last three polls that I have seen showed a five to seven point Conservative lead. The last poll I saw a Labour lead of more than a couple of points was weeks ago. Even a poll of polls shows a Tory lead of 1.5 points, and that was before the last two Ipsos/MORI and Kantar polls showing seven and five point leads.

Given the shambolic state of the Government, it is incredible that, in what is now effectively a two party system, Labour isn’t way ahead. Yet those Labour supporters are so deluded they daren’t even ask the question as to why that is. They cling to the mantra that they started the last election 24 points behind and on polling day nearly won – nearly being 50 seats behind. This hubristic view that lightning is bound to strike twice may well be their undoing. It deserves to be.

Another polling mystery is why the Liberal Democrats still can’t get much more than ten. They are the only party with a distinctive Brexit message, and they ought to be cleaning up the Remain vote, given Jeremy Corbyn’s clear determination to avoid a second referendum. But they’re not.

Is it down to Vince Cable’s less than charismatic leadership? Is it the fact that their part in the coalition busted their support on the Left? Is it the hangover from the tuition fees debacle? A combination of all three, probably. I expect Cable to stand down in the summer. The leadership contest is likely to be between Jo Swinson, Layla Moran and Ed Davey.

I interviewed Moran for an hour on my show on Tuesday evening, and was hugely impressed. She may be inexperienced, but she comes across incredibly well and has the kind of charisma that a third party requires. She didn’t avoid answering some tough questions very directly. She’s certainly not an Orange Booker, but she is the sort of LibDem who might well appeal to people on the left of the Conservative Party. The Tories would do well not to underestimate her.

Nus Ghani: Our new measures will make taxis and minicabs safer for passengers

Whilst most drivers are pillars of the community, recent events have shown how regulation and protections can be tightened.

Nus Ghani is a Transport minister and Member of Parliament for Wealden.

Taxi and minicab drivers do a vital public service – whether that’s helping the elderly to visit the supermarket, transporting children to school, or ensuring a safe journey home after an evening out.

But it’s crucial that everyone, including the most vulnerable, know that when they take a taxi ride they will be safe.

Sadly the recent child sexual exploitation scandals in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford, and Newcastle, in which some rogue drivers used their vehicles to facilitate assaults on young girls, have highlighted that this is not always the case.

Since I became a Minister at the Department for Transport last year I have made it my goal to ensure that everyone can use a taxi or minicab safely. I know first-hand how entirely women and girls in particular must place their trust in their driver.

Of course there are already many rules in place to ensure drivers are fit to carry out their jobs. In the vast majority of cases these regulations work well. However the Jay and Casey reports into the circumstances surrounding the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, along with work by the Times, Daily Mail, and other newspapers, have highlighted how these rules could be strengthened and tightened.

For instance, while under current system taxi and minicab drivers must apply for a licence from a local authority, the standards they must meet to obtain one varies across the country. It means that drivers can get a licence in areas where the rules are applied less stringently – but they can then offer their services in places where they may have been refused a permit.

Last year an independent review commissioned by my Department laid out a series of recommendations as to how the current system might be improved. We have given the findings of the review, carried out by Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq of the University of Bolton, great consideration, and today I am unveiling a package of comprehensive and tough measures – including new laws – that will ensure taxis and minicabs are safe for all.

These reforms will also ensure that reputations of honest drivers, who are overwhelmingly in the majority, are left untarnished by the criminal few. We plan to:

  • Introduce legislation that will set out minimum standards all drivers must meet before they can be issued with a licence;
  • Create a national database of all operators, vehicles and drivers, including those who have lost or been refused licences because of safety issues;
  • Bring in new powers which will enable authorities to take action against drivers found flouting regulations, regardless of where they are licensed;
  • Consider laws to prevent drivers from working anywhere in the country without restriction.

As part of new national minimum standards, the department will consider whether vehicles should be fitted with CCTV, using encrypted systems that mean footage can only be accessed if there is a crime reported.

In addition we are consulting on tough new guidance to licensing authorities that will improve safety of passengers. This includes; increasing the regularity of criminal record and background checks for drivers and new checks for taxi firm staff; tests to ensure drivers are proficient in English; and improved handling of customer complaints about rogue drivers.

I’m of course very aware that the vast majority of taxi and minicab drivers are pillars of the community who would never dream of harming to a passenger or exploiting the rules. So we have taken great care to ensure that these measures do not make honest drivers’ vital and challenging work any harder.

Nor will these reforms will not stifle consumer choice or stunt the innovation in this sector – something the Government is keen to support through its ‘Future of Mobility Grand Challenge’, which aims to make Britain world leaders in the movement of goods, services and people. Already firms are creating some great developments, such as Citymapper’s Smartride system that harnesses technology to enable people to share rides.

So it’s clear: the future is exciting one for both passengers and drivers, and the measures I am outlining today will play a vital part in creating a world where taxis and minicabs are safe for all.

Shaun Bailey: London just isn’t working for everyone. We need a Mayor who will help it to do so.

Our concerns aren’t in Europe, or America. They’re local. They’re at the end of our road. We are worried about the dire state of crime, housing and air quality.

Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London

One of the things that strikes me as I go around meeting Londoners is just how much of our beautiful city we don’t see on our tellies or in our newspapers.

London is – without a doubt – the global city the world knows and loves, but for most of us it’s just ‘home’. Yes, it’s the place of the Palace of Westminster, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Square Mile, but it’s also home to quiet neighbourhood parks, local chippies, crowded train platforms, and backed-up roundabouts that do our heads in.

Most of us living in London just don’t experience the city the world reads about. Other than a long commute to work, most of our day-to-day doesn’t reach much beyond our hood. The London experience of someone living in Harrow can be significantly different to someone living in Romford. The same goes for Sutton and Walthamstow. Or Bexley and Barnet, for that matter.

London sure felt like a small place when I was growing up. I had the estates around Ladbroke Grove and not much beyond that. We’d wander up and down the Grand Union Canal and take the Number 7 bus to Oxford Circus every once in a while, but my ends were my world. I didn’t know much about the City, or the historic redevelopment of Canary Wharf. And South London? You might as well have been talking about another country.

No, my concerns back then were closer to home. And it’s the same principle that applies to local elections now. Our concerns aren’t in Europe, or America. They’re local. They’re at the end of our road. Londoners are worried about the dire state of crime, housing and air quality. The upcoming election is about the cost and quality of our daily lives.

Since Sadiq Khan’s election, London has become more dangerous, commuting to work has become more expensive, and homes have become harder to find and even harder to afford. It’s these everyday concerns that have made Londoners anxious for their futures.

Violent crime now haunts every borough in Greater London. Knife crime is at its highest for a decade. Gangs are out of control. Londoners are worried about their personal security, and the safety of their children. Everyday it feels like we read about yet another young life lost to knife attacks.

London is also growing and that’s putting intense pressure on our transport services. Despite what was promised, tube fares have gone up for 4.5 million Londoners, while ridership has gone down. Bus routes are being cut and tube improvements are being cancelled. The Elizabeth Line is now two years behind schedule and billions over budget. All told, Transport for London is losing nearly a billion pounds per year, meaning Londoners will be paying the bill for Sadiq Khan’s poor leadership for years to come.

As a result, the city’s volume of road traffic is up and our road congestion is worse. Our air is far too dirty. The millions of trees that were promised aren’t being planted. Asthmatics like me are finding it harder to function, and the health of our youth and our elderly are being impacted.

In short, Londoners are finding it harder to get by and get around. They’re finding it harder to find a home and raise a family. The cost of living is up, and quality of life down. While those with the means are rightly enjoying all that London has to offer, most ordinary Londoners on ordinary wages are struggling.

Put simply, London just isn’t working for everyone. And Khan doesn’t have a plan to make it work. Instead of getting on with solving London’s problems, Khan is satisfied with shifting the blame. Because Khan never takes responsibility. Ever. In Khan’s world, his lack of delivery is always someone else’s fault.

That’s just not good enough for the people of Barnet. Or Harrow. Or Romford. Or Bexley. Or whatever piece of this wonderful city you call home. If London doesn’t work for all of us, then that’s on the Mayor, and no-one else.

And it’s on me, too, as I develop my plan for London. I look forward to sharing it with you over the coming months.

Andy Street: The West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy ensures we are the workshop of the modern world

From transport tech and data-driven healthcare, to creative enterprises and the services sector, we are forging ahead.

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

As the cradle of the industrial revolution, the West Midlands left its mark on the globe. In the 19th and 20th centuries the factories and furnaces of Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country forged much of the modern world, exporting goods from ACME whistles to BSA motorcycles, from Cadbury’s chocolate to Bird’s Custard.

Even the ships that carried produce and people to far-flung new markets were anchored by huge chains wrought in our land-locked furnaces.

Now, as the first UK region to finalise a Local Industrial Strategy, we are once again leading the way.

The West Midlands has always been a hotbed of innovation and invention, driving advances in engineering, manufacturing, transport, marketing, social change and more. It was the workshop of the world.

Industrial decline began in the 1960s and, by the end of the last century, our region bore the scars of decay – empty, abandoned factories that once employed thousands. All of that has now started to change.

The West Midlands is undergoing a renaissance of growth and investment. New start-ups are choosing our region as the place to be. Nowhere else outside of London has seen the level of growth witnessed in the West Midlands. Output here has risen by 27 per cent in the last five years. Our productivity growth was twice the rate of the rest of the UK in 2017-18. The innovation and invention that once made us the workshop of the world is back.

Like other post-industrial regions in the UK, we must carve out a new strategy for the West Midlands in an increasingly global 21st century. With the uncertainty around Brexit, we need to think about how we build a globally-competitive economy.

That’s why the West Midlands agreed to be a trailblazer, creating the UK’s first Regional Industrial Strategy, leading the way for others to follow.

This strategy sets out the priorities we believe will enable local growth to continue, as well as ensuring that the success of our region is felt by all the communities within it. This success must be inclusive and accessible to all.

With this ground-breaking document now agreed within the region, we are awaiting the endorsement of Government so that, together, we can start turning strategy into action. With the uncertainty over Brexit, that endorsement would mean we can begin this important work soon – and share our message of confidence.

The West Midlands Combined Authority worked with our universities and the region’s three Local Enterprise Partnerships, from Greater Birmingham, the Black Country and Coventry and Warwickshire, to ensure the strategy not only provides a united vision, but that it also reflects the differing needs of our constituent members.

This spirit of inclusivity also included a wide-spread consultation, which asked regional networks, business groups and 350 different organisations for their input. They wanted a clearer definition of the West Midlands’ ‘unique selling points’, expanded opportunities for a broader cross-section of business sectors and more focus on the huge supply chains that link the conurbation.

Respondents also wanted our strategy to engage with all the different kinds of places where business flourishes in the region, from the big cities to the towns and more rural areas. By fully understanding the successes – and challenges – in our own backyard, we have created a strategy that will help sell the West Midlands to the rest of the world.

This meant identifying four major national and global strategic opportunities:

The UK centre for mobility: From driverless cars to light rail and aerospace, we have the supply chains and transport pedigree to steer huge investment to our region. We have a renowned automotive sector, ranging from world-famous brands like JLR and BMW to innovative smaller development firms. We also have the foundation industries that make the metals and materials that underpin vehicle manufacture at more than 20 sites. With our own transport system becoming more and more integrated, and the West Midlands pioneering the roll-out of the 5G network, mobility could bring billions of pounds.

Creative commerce: We have a wealth of nationally-important gaming, TV, film, VR and design firms. By connecting our universities and creative businesses we can design, develop and deploy new products and services. Evidence shows that Birmingham and Solihull alone have the potential to add nearly 4,000 new creative enterprises and 30,000 new related jobs, with the opportunity to scale this across the West Midlands as a whole.

Business services: As we move more towards a service-based economy, we expect to see large-scale growth across this sector. Business, financial and professional services already employ 400,000 people across the conurbation – with 125,000 more jobs forecast by 2030. Here in the West Midlands we have the full suite of services available, from huge international financial brands such as HSBC to an ambitious construction sector that is well placed to grow in strength with the building boom.

Data-driven healthcare: With our diverse and growing population, there are huge opportunities here for biomedical research, linking NHS patient records through 5G and enabling real-life testing of innovative new treatments. Our expertise and ability to work with patient data in an inclusive, collaborative way is a major UK and West Midlands strength. We have a growing cluster of both large and small firms and an associated supply chain, raising at least £35 million of investment in the last 12 months. Crucially, this innovation will be anchored in partnership with the NHS, translating directly into better health care for our citizens. Our diverse region has the research facilities and expertise. It has the population of Scotland and the genome of the world. It could be a global laboratory for data-driven translational medicine.

These four areas allow us to champion our specialist sectors in a way that will create growth and investment to benefit the entire regional economy.

Of course, all this industrial ambition requires a strong foundation in improved skills, transport, housing and land delivery. We are already making huge strides in all these areas but more remains to be done.

Our strategy lays out ideas to affect real change, from doubling the number of good-quality apprenticeships by 2030 to delivering £3.4 billion of investment in trams, road and rail over the next decade.

In housing, we will increase the rate of housing delivery with a £350 million housing plan, investing £250 million in land remediation and developing the skills required through the National Brownfield Institute in Wolverhampton. This is a great start – but more will be needed to serve our growing population.

The strategy will also push for post-EU growth funding to be targeted on the West Midlands and devolved to local decision makers. We must make the case for continuing to invest in us as a resilient and successful economy.

The former workshop of the world needs a world-class strategy to continue its remarkable economic renaissance. It needs to be distinctive to compete with likes of Berlin, Boston and Barcelona.

But in creating this new strategy, we have confirmed that this diverse, ambitious and inventive place still has an energetic, innovative outlook that makes it a powerhouse on the world stage, just as it did during the Industrial Revolution.

With this confident new vision, the West Midlands wants to lead the way in showing the Government’s Industrial Strategy can make a real difference.

Barry Lewis: The Conservatives are delivering for Derbyshire

A record number of 68,000 potholes were repaired in 2018. The new model will mean even better performance and efficiency in the future.

Cllr Barry Lewis is the Leader of Derbyshire County Council

It has now been almost two years since the Conservatives took control of Derbyshire County Council. This was with a cataclysmic landslide that has rarely been seen in local politics, mid-term, with the same party in government. We bucked the national trend by overturning a majority of 43 Labour councillors to achieve our own majority of ten, achieving a result that many thought unthinkable.

Two years on, we are now leading an ambitious change agenda focused on delivering the most efficient and effective public services at the lowest cost to the taxpayer. Our aim is to become an “Enterprising Council”. This is not just about providing services in a different way but also about changing the mindset of the council. We are one of the biggest county councils in the country and culture change in local government is never easy. However, we are steadily moving from a bureaucratic approach to decision-making to one where teams and individuals feel empowered to get things done. In doing so, we are underpinning a sense of individual responsibility to make the organisation and culture far less paternalistic.

A few people have read “Enterprising Council” to equate to a programme of privatisation – which is wrong. This is not something that is driven by ideology, but by a desire to always find the best solution to delivering the highest quality of public services, at the lowest cost to the taxpayer. In doing so, we want to tap into the creativity and passion of our own staff to come up with different solutions. An example of this is a new operating model for our highways services which is already regarded as one of the best in the country, thanks to an extra £6 million of investment since we won the election. This has seen a record number of 68,000 potholes repaired in 2018. The new model will mean even better performance and efficiency in the future.

We are rolling out a new libraries strategy that is working with local people to turn 20 of our least visited and used libraries into community-run facilities that will not only safeguard their future but also ensure that they play a leading role in the community. We are also looking to work with local organisations to safeguard the future of our mobile library service, a service decimated by previous Labour cuts.

The sea change in the way that we work with local communities is fundamental to Enterprising Council. We do not want to be a council that “does things to” local communities, we want to be a council that works with local communities to find the best solutions. In doing so, we are changing the whole dynamic of the council by driving top to bottom culture change. I make no bones about it: I want people to recognise that Derbyshire County Council is a Conservative County Council.  Working hand-in-glove with our senior officer team, we are developing leadership skills across the organisation to embed an ethos of efficiency, effectiveness, and enterprise, while making sure that the ethos is cascaded down.

We have just completed a Corporate Peer Challenge from the LGA which has not happened in Derbyshire for more than 10 years. This has been a nerve-wracking experience because you open the council to criticism. We did it because we wanted to benchmark ourselves with other authorities.  Overall we came out well with many of the issues identified already clear in our minds and already being addressed via the emerging Enterprising Council approach.

Our Labour colleagues have already lambasted us for not taking the full 4.99 per cent council tax rise allowed by Government without triggering a referendum.  We had to explain to them, and the local press bizarrely, that it’s not a target to aim for. We have a responsibility to balance our budget and take into account that residents are squeezed too. It is critical to remember that taxpayers fund our services and the people who we employ or commission. Often it seems that they get very little that is noticeable from us on a day-to-day basis. For them, it is all about street lights, well-maintained roads, bins and pavements. Of course, go below the surface and you will see the sheer range of life-changing services and support that we provide, particularly to people who are more vulnerable. We also take care of large areas of countryside, former pits, railways and opencast sites, canals and other assets that are there for environmental or recreational purposes.  Not every taxpayer will benefit directly from this provision. So we should always ask the question: could someone else look after these sites?  If so, who from the local community would come forward to manage the assets at less cost while deriving more benefit from that sense of involvement?

There is of course a huge range of other things we do, which is mostly unseen. For example, facilitating economic growth, promoting tourism, providing public transport, managing budgets for schools, and a whole host of other things.  All these things cost money, some of which is non-statutory but if we did not do it, who would?  This means that Derbyshire has a circa £1.1 billion annual operating budget.  A not inconsiderable sum which demonstrates the need to take a carefully balanced view on how we spend the money.

I hope that I have given you a flavour of the sense of change that we are trying to engender in Derbyshire. I am unapologetic in my ambition for Derbyshire to be seen as, and feel like, a “Conservative County Council” in four short years. There’s no reason why, with good policies and a laser-like focus on efficiency, effectiveness, and lower tax we could not be as safe as a Sussex council.

Britain scraps Brexit ferry deal with company that has no ships

Seaborne Freight’s contract had been controversial from the start.

The British government said today that it has scrapped a contract to provide emergency ferry services across the Channel in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as the company in question has no access to vessels.

Under the deal, Seaborne Freight had committed to providing services between Ramsgate in Kent and the Belgian port of Ostend — reviving a route that has been dormant since 2013 after the last operator went bust.

The aim was to provide emergency ferry capacity should the introduction of custom checks around the Dover-Calais maritime link lead to heavy congestion and delays after Brexit.

But without ships of its own, Seaborne’s contract relied on a previously unconfirmed support arrangement with Ireland’s Arklow Shipping. The company claims to have a fleet of 45 ships suitable for shifting everything from containers to grain, but will no longer back Seaborne’s government contract.

“Following the decision of Seaborne Freight’s backer, Arklow Shipping, to step back from the deal, it became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the government,” a spokesperson at the Department for Transport said Saturday.

The contract with Seaborne Freight was worth £13.8 million and part of a trio of arrangements that included larger deals with DFDS and Brittany Ferries. Transport Minister Chris Grayling has been under pressure over the contracts but the spokesperson said the department was in “advanced talks” with multiple companies about replacement services via Ramsgate, where preparatory dredging work has already begun.

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5 February 2019 – today’s press releases (part 1)

It’s been a busy day today, so we’ll break today’s releases up into two pieces, starting with… Govt must take action on projected rise of car emissions Cable: Brexit causing the economy to stagnate EU citizens in Holyhead face 224 mile round trip to register for settled status Davey questions Justice Minister on potential Brexit […]

It’s been a busy day today, so we’ll break today’s releases up into two pieces, starting with…

  • Govt must take action on projected rise of car emissions
  • Cable: Brexit causing the economy to stagnate
  • EU citizens in Holyhead face 224 mile round trip to register for settled status
  • Davey questions Justice Minister on potential Brexit bribes

Govt must take action on projected rise of car emissions

Today a report from Friends of the Earth, and the think-tank Transport for Quality of Life highlights that a rise in emissions from the roads could have a hugely detrimental effect on climate change and public health.

Commenting former Liberal Democrat Climate Change Secretary of State Ed Davey said:

The Liberal Democrats welcome this report and agree more radical thinking needs to be done in the transport sector to tackle climate change.

While real progress has been made in the power sector, with renewables now replacing by dirty fossil fuels, thanks in part to Liberal Democrat policies, the Conservatives must now cut emissions elsewhere.

Transport is one of the biggest contributors of emissions so we desperately need a more ambitious plan to slash emissions.

Liberal Democrats want a new Green Transport Act with a new programme of measures to significantly reduce emissions from road transport.

Jenny Randerson, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson said:

The Conservatives are presiding over a shameful decline in public transport at a time when we need to cut emissions, not only to combat climate change, but to tackle the public health disaster in our towns and cities.

Since 2015 the DfT’s own figures show a decline of nearly 200 million bus journeys. This Tory Government claim they are committed to public transport, but instead they are driving it into a wall. It is clear that for the Conservatives the car remains king.

Liberal Democrats would aim to improve bus services, encouraging people to move out of cars and into public transport. We would create a nationwide bus plan, creating a model shift towards public transport use, we would enable councils to choose how they run their own services and we would introduce a discount card for Young People.

Cable: Brexit causing the economy to stagnate

Responding to the news that growth in the service sector has stalled according to the IHS Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

There is now cumulative evidence that Brexit uncertainty is causing the economy to stagnate. Even if we avoid no-deal, we will have to face the prospect of a blind Brexit.

With our economy in such a fragile state, it would take very little to push the country into a recession. This is the risk the government is taking.

The Liberal Democrats are clear that there is only one way to end this paralysing economic uncertainty. The public must be given a People’s Vote on Brexit, with the option to Remain.

EU citizens in Holyhead face 224 mile round trip to register for settled status

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have slammed the Conservative Government for their “hapless treatment” of EU citizens after the Home Office released guidance on the new EU Settlement Scheme.

The Home Office has confirmed that for the duration of the trial period, until 30 March, EU citizens applying to stay in the UK must either use an Android phone or travel to one of 13 ‘document scanning’ centres instead.

For Holyhead, the closest ‘document scanning’ centre is Trafford. According to analysis by the Welsh Liberal Democrats, EU citizens travelling from Holyhead, would face costs of £55 on the train for at least a six and a half hour round trip. The drive would be a 224 mile round trip costing around £56 in fuel.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

Too many people in Wales are deeply anxious about their right to stay. Many of them fill vital roles in the health service, our schools and the tourism sector. They want to register as soon as possible, but Theresa May’s hapless treatment of EU citizens could result in a new Windrush scandal.

For anyone who doesn’t have an android phone, this botched scheme means they will have to travel. For people in in Holyhead that means facing a 224 mile round trip and paying over £50 for the privilege. This postcode lottery is simply unacceptable.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey MP said:

Following significant pressure, the Prime Minister said there will be no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. How long did that commitment last?

It is Conservative Ministers who have made a mess of Brexit. They should either pay the cost for EU citizens or change the application system and ensure EU citizens are made to feel welcome in the UK.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid all of this mess is by giving the people the option to remain in the EU with a final say on Brexit.

Davey questions Justice Minister on potential Brexit bribes

The Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey has questioned the Justice Minister, David Gauke, on whether the Government are in breach of the Bribery Act (2010) over plans to offer MPs money for their constituency to vote for the Brexit deal. The Justice minister stated that he would meet with Ed Davey to discuss this important matter.

The issue has come to prominence after a letter from Liberal Democrat Peer Martin Thomas was published in the Sunday Times.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

With media reports that a desperate Number 10 is seeking to tempt Opposition MPs to back their Brexit deal by offering constituency favours, Liberal Democrats are right to call foul play.

The Government could be in clear breach of the Bribery Act. I am pleased David Gauke is now prepared to meet me to discuss this serious matter, and I will be seeking an early date.

Brexit should not be stitched up with backroom deals but sorted out with a people’s vote, with an option to remain in the EU.

The Brexit vs. Dieselgate Nissan blame game

The UK government promised Nissan up to £80M to manufacture in Sunderland — that deal is now in tatters.

LONDON — There are two possible culprits for Nissan’s decision to move production of its X-Trail SUV from its Sunderland factory back to Japan.

One is Brexit. The other is the broader travails of diesel-powered cars, as demand for them falls thanks to the Volkswagen emissions scandal and public fears over the harm caused by exhaust fumes.

Nissan’s Sunday announcement left plenty of ammunition for both sides: “While we have taken this decision for business reasons, the continued uncertainty around the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future,” said Nissan Europe’s Chairman Gianluca de Ficchy.

Euroskeptics highlighted every causal factor other than Brexit, while Remainers and advocates of a soft Brexit pointed to the car manufacturer’s explicit reference to Brexit uncertainty as the hardest evidence yet of the harm that could be done to the country’s car industry.

“I fear this announcement is only the beginning, and it is working people who will suffer the consequences,” Labour MP Bridget Phillipson, a supporter of holding a second Brexit referendum, said on Monday.

Ford plans to scale back operations in Europe and Jaguar Land Rover will shed 4,500 jobs, with the majority of those at British plants.

Japanese automakers are heavily exposed to the U.K. market that many had chosen as a gateway to the EU. Honda runs a plant in Swindon. And the boss of Toyota, which produces vehicles in Derby, said in October that a no-deal Brexit should be avoided “at all costs.”

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, however, told LBC Radio on Monday that in his view Brexit is “far from being the primary reason” for Nissan’s decision, blaming the Dieselgate emissions scandal and fresh taxes on vehicle registrations for an overall decline in demand across the car industry.

He also cited what he called Nissan’s own “corporate governance issues,” apparently linking the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn by Japanese prosecutors on financial misconduct allegations to the company’s X-Trail decision.

It was to Ghosn that Business Secretary Greg Clark issued a four-page written guarantee in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum, promising government protection in return for a commitment by Nissan to build new models at its Sunderland plant.

Nissan had already been forced to scale back production by 10 percent at Sunderland | Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

“I understand, of course, your worries now about uncertainties as the UK prepares to leave the EU,” he wrote, adding that the U.K. would offer up financial support of up to £80 million plus other measures to keep production of Nissan’s Qashqai and X-Trail models in Britain.

That deal is now in tatters — which explains why the letter that ministers had refused to release citing commercial confidentiality is now in the open for all to read.

But there is truth to the Brexiteers’ claim that there is more Nissan’s decision than Brexit.

The automotive industry is in turmoil thanks to dampened consumer confidence in diesel, which would have been used in the X-Trail models, due to pollution concerns and new EU fleet CO2 emission reduction targets up to 2030.

Matthias Schmidt, a Berlin-based automotive analyst, said the X-Trail is one of Nissan’s highest emitting vehicles, and so is lagging its CO2 fleet average.

Nissan had already been forced to scale back production by 10 percent at Sunderland — which was the first English city to call its vote for Brexit on referendum night in 2016. When the carmaker laid off workers last year, it blamed diesel.

Downing Street’s spin dodged both Brexit and Dieselgate, trying to look for the positive side of Nissan’s announcement.

The recent entry into force of the EU-Japan free-trade agreement will also slash tariffs for vehicle imports into the bloc over a seven-year phase-in period. That makes it easier for Nissan to manufacture X-Trails in Kyushu, Japan, and ship them to the EU.

Nissan isn’t the only carmaker with U.K. operations to announce cutbacks.

Ford plans to scale back operations in Europe and Jaguar Land Rover will shed 4,500 jobs, with the majority of those at British plants. Again, Brexit uncertainty got some of the blame, but there were other factors too.

The U.K.’s vehicle output tumbled more than 9 percent in 2018, while exports fell by more than 7 percent, partly due to what the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said were slowdowns in key European and Asian markets. Around half of the production from Nissan’s Sunderland plant is exported.

New cars wait for distribution at the Sunderland car assembly plant | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Investment in the sector has also plunged — falling by almost half to £589 million in 2018, according to the SMMT — another factor where Brexit gets some of the blame.

Downing Street’s spin dodged both Brexit and Dieselgate, trying to look for the positive side of Nissan’s announcement.

“It’s obviously very disappointing,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said on Monday, but added: “The company’s confirmed that no jobs will be lost and that they remain committed to the U.K. by continuing to manufacture in Sunderland the current three models and also a new model from 2020.”

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EU capitals agree to visa-free Schengen access for Brits

If approved, post-Brexit Brits would be able to travel visa-free across the Schengen area for 90 days in any 180-day period.

EU ambassadors want to allow British citizens entering the Schengen travel area post-Brexit to stay for up to 90 days without a visa, the Council said Friday.

The allotted 90 days can be taken in any 180-day period, the Council said, and adds the U.K. to a list of countries that already includes Australia, Canada and Brazil.

The Council said its decision was based on an assumption of reciprocity by British authorities for EU country nationals heading to the U.K. for a short stay, and warned that visa requirements would quickly be imposed should that not be the case.

“In the event that the United Kingdom introduces a visa requirement for nationals of at least one member state in the future, the existing reciprocity mechanism would apply and the three institutions and the member states would commit to act without delay in applying the mechanism,” the Council said in a statement.

Should the deal be approved, under the original proposal from the European Commission visa-free access would also apply to Britons visiting Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, in addition to EU countries Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus — which are not yet members of the Schengen zone.

Ireland, which is not in the Schengen zone, has a bilateral arrangement on cross-border travel with the U.K.

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee unanimously backed the proposal to allow visa-free access earlier this week, and will now work out the final text of the deal with the Council.

Read this next: Survey: Almost a third of UK firms planning some relocation over Brexit