May rushes to Brussels after Merkel threatens to scrap November summit
Update: This story was updated at 13:00 – UK and EU agree draft political declaration on future relationship
Theresa May will dash to Brussels for an emergency meeting on Saturday to complete the Brexit negotiations, after German chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to scrap the ‘extraordinary’ leaders summit on Sunday, unless the deal was finalised beforehand.
May met with EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, though it is believed that talks failed to make a breakthrough, with an EU spokesman confirming the pair did not reach a final deal.
After the meeting, May said: “We have had a very good meeting this evening. We have made further progress and as a result, we have given sufficient direction to our negotiators.
“I hope for them to be able to resolve the remaining issues and that work will start immediately. I now plan to return for further meetings, including with President Juncker, on Saturday to discuss how we can bring to a conclusion this process and bring it to a conclusion in the interests of all our people.”
On Wednesday afternoon, May repeated her warning of ‘no Brexit at all’ as her colleagues in the Conservative party demanded that she renegotiate parts of her deal with Brussels.
May told the Commons on Wednesday: “If you look at that alternative to having that deal with the European Union, it will either be more uncertainty, more division, or it could risk no Brexit at all.”
At least 320,000 homeless people in Britain, report finds
New research by homeless charity Shelter has found that there are at least 320,000 people sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation in Britain.
The figure marks a 13,000 increase year-on-year, despite the government pledge made to tackle the homelessness crisis in 2017. In addition, Shelter has indicated that government cuts are largely responsible for the increase, with rising rents, cuts to welfare and social housing support to blame.
Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Due to the perfect storm of spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a hostel room. We desperately need action now to change tomorrow for the hundreds of thousands whose lives will be blighted by homelessness this winter.”
In November 2017, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in his Autumn Budget that the government would launch a ‘homelessness task force’, aimed at tackling the issue in the UK. This tied in to the Conservative party’s pledge to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and eliminating it altogether by 2027.
However, in February, nearly three months after the taskforce had first been established, it was revealed that the group was yet to have held a single meeting. Theresa May told the House of Commons that the first meeting of the taskforce was held on 22 February.
McDonnell says Labour should form minority government is May’s Brexit deal fails
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said that Labour should form a minority government if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is voted down in parliament.
As May makes an emergency dash to Brussels for last minute Brexit talks, Labour’s shadow chancellor argued that a chaotic government, without much-needed support from the DUP, meant it was increasingly unlikely May would get her deal through the Commons.
In a speech to business leaders on Wednesday, McDonnell said that Britain “can’t go on like this”, with the growing uncertainty caused by the increasingly complex last stage of Brexit negotiations.
McDonnell said that if May’s deal was rejected, and she failed to get concessions on the deal from Brussels, Labour should be given the chance to form a government.
“At that stage, we will be saying give us the opportunity. You’re a minority party, give us the opportunity to take over and see if we can form a government, a minority but with a majority position in parliament,” he said.
“If that’s denied us then we will be pressing for a general election, but as you know you need that two-thirds majority it’s very difficult to get. Anything could happen at that stage.
McDonnell also said Labour would support a second referendum at this stage, but did not indicate whether remaining would be an option:
“Then it is coming back to parliament, then seek a majority for going for some second referendum, that’s when the discussion takes place about the nature of the vote,” he said.
Government launches new bid to help low-paid and unemployed women
The government is driving a new bid to help low-paid and unemployed women in Britain, as part of new equalities measures led by Penny Mordaunt, the women and equalities minister.
Mordaunt said that the bid was an effort to help the UK’s “invisible women”; the 1.8 million women in Britain who are not in work because of home and family responsibilities.
The bid indicates a shift for the Government Equalities Office (GEO) who will focus their efforts away from erasing the gender pay gap and towards getting women into higher-paid positions.
Speaking at a Women in Work conference, Mordaunt said: “There’s a lot of focus on women in boardrooms. Of course, that is emblematic of the progress women are making. But, in truth, this is not the place where business is being re-imagined.
“Often poor treatment and the perception of being undervalued in the workplace is the main driver for female entrepreneurs.
“But if we want every woman to thrive, to be as financially secure and resilient as they can be, and to reach their full potential we need to broaden out our work beyond, the FTSE 350, beyond London, beyond executives, women on boards and big business.”