Politics update: Ireland ramps up no-deal preparations, hospitals warn of ‘mayhem’ over cold snap

Leo Varadkar Brexit

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Leo Varadkar ramps up preparations for no-deal Brexit

Theresa May and Leo Varadkar

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has confirmed that Ireland is escalating no-deal Brexit preparations, as the date approaches for MPs to vote in favour of or against the prime minister’s deal.

Varadkar also confirmed he had held a 40-minute phone conversation with German chancellor Angela Merkel, where the two leaders discussed how to help Theresa May push her Brexit deal through parliament.

Varadkar said: “We’re happy to offer reassurances and guarantees to the UK, but not reassurances and guarantees that contradict or change what was agreed back in November,” adding that he had “given up speculating” whether Britain would crash out of the EU should May’s deal be voted down in parliament.

MPs are expected to have their ‘meaningful vote’ on Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the week commencing 14 January. The vote was originally set to take place in December, but May postponed this after it appeared that her deal would not get majority support in parliament.

Cold weather set to cause chaos for UK hospitals

NHS Crisis AandE Waiting Times

A leading doctor has warned that UK hospitals are expecting ‘mayhem’ as a result of the approaching cold snap in Britain, combined with a growing number of flu patients and a shortage of NHS staff to handle them.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said that hospitals will experience chaos this weekend, but that it came as “no surprise” to him and his colleagues.

Scriven said: “Within the last week I have had colleagues warning of emergency departments and intensive care units being full, and that will only worsen in the coming weeks.”

Last winter, the NHS reported its ‘worst month on record’, with waiting times the worst since records began in 2010.

Ministers clash over funding for navy warship to patrol channel

Politics update 03.01.2019 Sajid Javid Migrants

Two cabinet ministers have clashed over who should foot the bill for the navy war ship formally requested by home secretary Sajid Javid, in response to the increased number of migrants attempting to cross the channel.

Though Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson offered a Royal Navy vessel, HMS Mersey, to patrol the channel, he ruled that the Home Office would have to pay a bill of £20,000 a day to cover costs.

The Home Office then countered, saying that the Ministry of Defence should be able to supply hardware and troops without charge, since Mr Williamson had already pointed out at the start of the “crisis” that the armed forces were ready to assist at any moment.

Meanwhile, a representative from the Treasury ruled out the possibility of Philip Hammond footing the bill, saying that the boats needed to patrol the channel were “a matter for the Home Office to manage within their budget.”

University leaders say no-deal Brexit poses ‘one of the biggest threats’

A group of university leaders has said that a no-deal Brexit ‘one of the biggest threats’ ever faced by the sector, as figures show a decline in the number of EU students enrolling in universities.

According to the Russell Group of universities, there has been a 9% decrease in the number of students from EU countries enrolling this academic year, which follows the same percentage decline from the year prior.
Dr Hollie Chandler, a senior policy analyst at the group, said that the new figure were “troubling”, and a no-deal Brexit would be sure to add more uncertainty to the number of EU students enrolling in universities in Britain.

Earlier this week, an open letter from the leaders of 150 universities in the UK said a no-deal Brexit could cause “an academic, cultural and scientific setback from which it would take decades to recover”.

“University leaders are united in the view that the UK leaving the EU without a deal is one of the biggest threats our universities have ever faced,” the letter says. “As a sector which contributes over £2bn to UK GDP every year and supports 944,000 jobs, it is critical to the national interest, to the economy, communities and wider society, that the UK’s universities thrive post-Brexit.

“To do so, our government must demonstrate the required ambition, put the right measures and guarantees in place, and, crucially, avoid the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on 29 March.”

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