Agenda

PUBLISHED: 10:43 07 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:34 07 September 2017

Conservative former minister Anna Soubry

Conservative former minister Anna Soubry

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RICHARD PORRITT on the week's big stories

“Shut up and do as you are told or the Commie bastard on the opposition benches will send us all back to the 1970s” appears to be the Whips’ latest line of attack on Tory Remainers.

But why the paranoia? Even rogue Remain Tory Anna Soubry admitted that she would not be voting against the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – the bill’s third snappy title – and added she believed none of her Conservative colleagues would either.

She did unleash a stinging attack on her own party though saying “this bullish, macho sort of attitude that if you don’t fall into line and get behind something then somehow you’re going to be thwarting the will of the people ... has got to stop ... everything has changed since the general election”. And that is the key point. Theresa May might have returned after recess acting powerful, but no-one is fooled.

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Nick Clegg said the Government’s claims that we are on track with Brexit negotiations is akin to “staring at a building site and saying we’ve made progress because we’ve made a cup of tea” – and the comments might have hit home.

This week’s announcement that talks will now be held on a rolling basis confirms everything Brexit chief David Davis has been repeatedly claiming was untrue: We are already in a huge mess.

But this new rolling programme – much like the position papers – is rather hopeful on the part of Number 10. Asked when the rolling talks would begin a spokesman said: “Nothing has been formally agreed.”

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Brexiteer-in-chief Davis hailed “concrete progress” this week when he updated MPs on negotiations that took place during recess. It was notable that the resulting guffaws came not just from the Labour benches. That “progress” is bunkum but it does appear the Home Office is already hard at work on how ministers could use the new powers the repeal bill will offer them. These so-called Henry VIII powers would allow ministers to change old EU law without parliamentary consent.

A leaked document revealed plans to stop EU immigration even for family members – Henry VIII powers in action. Sir Michael Fallon said “we don’t want to shut the door” – more bunkum.

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The Leader of the Free World should be calm and composed in the face of provocation – sadly Donald Trump displays neither of these qualities.

Angela Merkel however struck a different – and rather more presidential – tone this week in the wake of North Korea’s latest nuclear test. Where Trump speaks of “fire and fury” Merkel told the Bundestag: “North Korea’s nuclear tests are a flagrant violation of all international conditions. I say clearly and in the name of the whole government: there can only be a peaceful, diplomatic solution.”

Merkel – who is locked in a general election campaign – also said she would urge Europe’s foreign ministers to follow her lead in asking for further sanctions in a bid to squeeze Pyongyang rather than threatening “talking is not the answer” as Trump did.

The German Chancellor also spent time reassuring Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – whose country is within range of Kim Jong-un’s missiles – she would back his calls for a peaceful solution and that China and Russia will play a key role in that.

If Washington is looking for tips on how to handle a crisis – and heaven knows their leader needs some – they need look no further than Merkel.

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Since being hailed as the saviour of the centre French, President Emmanuel Macron has suffered nose-diving popularity ratings and endless domestic political spats.

And now the 39-year-old has rounded on the media after being accused of not giving many interviews.

He told reporters: “I’m not interested in journalists, I’m interested in the French people, that’s what you need to understand. But journalists have a problem. They are too interested in themselves.”

Seems a bit rich coming from someone who is clearly very interested in himself. Last month it was revealed he had spent almost £24,000 in just three months on a make-up artist.

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Brexit has divided families and sparked rows across breakfast tables around Britain. Children fought with parents, wives and husbands fell out and youngsters blamed the old for ruining their future.

As much as many Europeans would love to fix Brexit – by halting it – they may have a short-term solution for Britain’s warring families.

New figures show a third of households in Europe are composed of a single person. Divorce is one of the main reasons for the increase.

Sweden, Lithuania and Denmark make up the top three but Britain does not even make the top 10. Expect that to change.

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