This week’s big stories

Big Ben has fallen silent and will remain so (special occasions aside) for four years. Photo: Xinhua

Big Ben has fallen silent and will remain so (special occasions aside) for four years. Photo: Xinhua/Stephen Chung - Credit: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Plenty of eyebrows were raised when former Chancellor George Osborne was handed the role as Editor of London's Evening Standard.

But the editorial pages of the Standard – which remains influential – have become a must-read barrage of vicious attacks on Britain's Brexit-obsessed ministers.

And this week on the Today programme he launched another assault: 'We don't have the customs controls, the farm payment systems, the business arrangements ... we need to work with our European allies on that transition.'

With Jeremy Corbyn seemingly not that worried about leaving the EU it seems the real opposition on Brexit is sat in a plush office in High Street Kensington.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Michael Kappeler/DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Michael Kappeler/DPA - Credit: DPA/PA Images

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Going, going ... BONG – Big Ben has fallen silent and will remain so (special occasions aside) for four years.

To mark the occasion some MPs joined crowds outside the Palace of Westminster to watch a bell they could not actually see ring out for the last time ... for a little while.

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The backlash to the silencing of Big Ben has been rather over the top, a fact even acknowledged by Labour's Stephen Pound who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the move.

Even the Prime Minister waded into the debate saying 'it can't be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years'. This is the same woman who said 'no deal is better than a bad deal'. The Prime Minister's priorities are certainly questionable.

'Pie in the sky,' screamed former Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC on the idea that Britain could 'wholly escape the influence of the European Court of Justice'.

As usually nobody in Government is listening. Dominic Raab – who fancies himself as PM – said: 'Let's also be clear about it – when we leave the EU we are taking back control over our laws.' There it is again, that over-used nonsensical phrase 'taking back control'.

Lawyers agree the Government's position is unworkable. Sir Paul Jenkins, formerly the Government's most senior legal adviser, said if the UK wants to stay close to the EU it will have to mirror many European laws – on an ongoing basis. That really is taking back control.

Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz has switched gears in his bid to become the new German chancellor – and he is hoping The Donald will be his Trump card.

He has accused her of pandering to the US leader and failing to take a hard line over the recent demonstrations in Charlottesville.

Schulz mocked her a speech Merkel made in may in which she said the times when Germany could rely on the US were 'to some extent over'. He said: 'You can't confront a US president who refuses to distance himself from a Nazi mob with such a sentence,' he said. 'You have to tell such a person: 'Your policy is wrong and it will never be the policy of Germany.'

Schulz has just five weeks to rescue his flagging campaign. Earlier in the year the party was polling well and some commentators even thought Merkel may lose the election. However the so-called 'Schulz effect' has fizzled out.

His latest move is an all-out attempt to grab the youth vote.

Merkel's response to the latest assault is to not even mention her challenger. In a wide-ranging interview with Bild Zeitung she didn't even mention his name once.

More woes for Emmanuel Macron as his approval rated took a serious nosedive.

Although he has made a strong international debut Macron now only commands the support of 38% of the public – down from 58% when he first took over the job.

And there is trouble at home as well – that job he promised his wife has fallen through. He had planned to formalise the role of first lady in a similar vein to the role in the US. But a public backlash put paid to that.

And now the unions are readying themselves for a battle as well. Macron is seeking to loosen France's employment laws making it easier for firms to sack works. One union boss said he risks facing an 'alliance of the aggrieved' if the plans go ahead next month.

Spanish swimmer Fernando Alvarez stood stock-still on the starting block as his fellow competitors battled it out to be crowned 200m breaststroke champion in the FINA World Masters.

Overawed? Nope. Mr Alvarez refused to swim in honour of those killed in the horrific Barcelona attacks. The veteran swimmer had requested a minute's silence to be held before the race. Inexplicably the powers that be refused, so Mr Alvarez refused to race.

In Spain he has been applauded for his stance. He said: 'I stayed alone. I left a minute later. But I do not care, I felt better than if I won all the gold in the world.'

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