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Brexit plans will not be derailed, insists Theresa May

17 December

The Prime Minister has claimed her Government is "proving the doubters wrong" after securing a deal in the first phase of Brexit negotiations.

Theresa May said her Brexit plans will not be "derailed" as senior ministers prepare to consider the future shape of the UK's relationship with the EU.
:: May's challenge: Unite her Cabinet around a Brexit vision
She said talks would now begin on an "implementation period" immediately after the formal date of Brexit.
But some Tory Eurosceptics have already warned they will not accept arrangements which resemble continued EU membership during the transition to a new relationship.
Boris Johnson called for Mrs May to strike a deal with Brussels that would allow the UK to ditch EU laws, warning that being unable to diverge from the bloc's regulations would leave the UK a "vassal state".
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mrs May said: "Amid all the noise, we are getting on with the job.
"In the face of those who want to talk Britain down, we are securing the best and most ambitious Brexit deal for our whole United Kingdom.
"And my message today is very clear: we will not be derailed from this fundamental duty to deliver the democratic will of the British people."
The Cabinet will thrash out its stance on a post-Brexit trade deal over the coming days, with Mrs May under pressure from Brussels to provide clarity on the UK's desired "end state" for the relationship it wants with the EU.
The Brexit "war cabinet" - a sub-committee of senior ministers chaired by Mrs May - will meet on Monday, with a meeting of the full Cabinet scheduled for Tuesday.
Mr Johnson used a Sunday Times interview to set out his vision for a UK-EU trade deal that would "maximise the benefits of Brexit" by allowing Britain the freedom to diverge from Brussels' laws.
He called for a deal that "gives us that important freedom to decide our own regulatory framework, our own laws and do things in a distinctive way".
Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes efforts to prevent a humiliating second Commons revolt appear to have resulted in a situation which will see March 29 2019 written into the Government's Brexit legislation.
It will be as Mrs May promised, but with flexibility allowing the date to be changed if negotiations with Brussels look set to stretch beyond that date.
:: IDS joins Eurosceptics in slamming Hammond's 'status quo' Brexit plan
Rebels who helped inflict Mrs May's first Commons defeat on Wednesday lined up behind the compromise, which has been put forward by prominent backbenchers on both sides of the EU referendum divide.
The Government is understood to be "looking closely" at the amendment tabled by MPs including Remain supporter Sir Oliver Letwin and Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin - which would give ministers flexibility to change the departure day if
Parliament agrees.
The Government has not formally supported the move but it would appear certain to back the measure if it presented a way for Mrs May to avoid another Commons reverse.
Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, one of the rebels who helped inflict Mrs May's first Commons defeat, gave her support to the compromise over the Brexit date.
She said the new amendment "demonstrates how all Conservative MPs can work together" to deliver the best possible Brexit and reflects the flexibility within the Article 50 withdrawal process.
The amendment also emphasises that "Parliament will be fully involved in Brexit", she said.

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Labour councillors accuse Momentum of a purge amid internal battle between left and right

17 December

Over the past two years, Jeremy Corbyn's foot soldiers, led by a movement called Momentum, have transformed the Labour Party, creating an internal battle between the left and the right.

Though quieter than it once was, the civil war has not stopped.
Ground Zero of that war is Haringey in north London.
In the last fortnight, no fewer than 15 sitting councillors have been de-selected, or chosen not to stand again, because many of the thousands of new members want a more left-wing agenda.
Those councillors, like Labour councillor for Crouch End, Natan Doron, argue that Momentum have organised a purge.
Mr Doron told Sky News: "There's someone waiting for you at the door and they say here's a slate, and literally it says at the top 'if you want candidates that support Jeremy Corbyn, here's who you vote for'. I wouldn't have withdrawn from the selection process if it hadn't been nasty and unpleasant. That's not Labour values to be intimidating to your fellow party members."
Many of the councillors who have been de-selected back the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) - the council's flagship housing initiative where they controversially used private sector money to develop the council's housing and estates.
The Right say the de-selections would have happened without the dispute over the scheme.
But Labour councillor for Haringey, Stuart McNamara, told Sky News any accusations of their stacking the deck are churlish.
"These are highly intelligent people who live in the local area, they know what's going on, they come from all different walks of life," he said.
"The chair of my local party is a successful lawyer. She is not going to be convinced on the basis of a leaflet... My strong view on this is that the HDV has become a Marmite test for people in that borough."
But why does any of this matter beyond Haringey?
For a start, one source from the council said if anyone thinks that the left are going to leave it at local Government then they're deluded - they're going to find out what works in terms of de-selection, what tricks they can use and then go after MPs.
But there's another sense in which Haringey is an important test case as well.
After Theresa May's local elections it's very likely that Haringey will be Britain's first and only Momentum controlled council.
It will be the first glimmer we will have of Corbynism in Government.
For their part, the Conservatives are hoping that a Momentum-controlled council in Haringey will be a repeat of the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher was able to attack Ken Livingstone's Greater London council, in which shadow chancellor John McDonnell, was a senior figure.
Momentum has told Sky News that this isn't about the left-right battle - it's about people losing their homes, and internal party democracy.
Whatever the rights and the wrongs, expect to hear more about Haringey, the centre of the Corbyn Project in his approach to both policy and party.

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Bookmaker accused of 'casual racism' over Diane Abbott mockery

17 December

Star Sports Bookmakers has been accused of racism after it posted a picture of a man mocking Diane Abbott on Twitter.

The tweet was posted on Friday night and showed a man with his face covered in dark make-up at a darts competition holding up a sign reading 190 - a dig at the shadow home secretary's blunder with numbers during the election campaign.
The maximum score with three darts is 180.
"An early contender for best fancy dress costume at the #PDC #WorldDartsChampionships tonight at #AllyPally," was the caption.
It was retweeted almost 2,500 times as of Saturday evening.
Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, responded to the tweet, saying: "Wow @StarSports_Bet - guess it says what you really think of your customers that you promote this..hoping @Yourallypally expect better about those using their beautiful venue …as bookies or punters… #21stcenturycalling."
However, the bookmakers defended itself, responding: "This wasn't some guerrilla marketing stunt Stella, one of our team attended on a social night out. We thought it was a very impressive attempt at fancy dress and merely shared it with our followers. Please stop taking things so seriously."
Ms Creasy then responded, calling the bookmakers out for "promoting casual racism".
Star Sports Bookmakers declined to comment when contacted by the Press Association.
Other users also responded to the tweet with disdain, with one writing: "Ok I'm done with trying to explain racism to grown ups who should know better. This is 2017, not 1977."
Another said: "So racism & misogyny are ok with you as long as it's not a marketing stunt? Good to know your company's values."
However, not everyone shared the view that the costume was offensive.
"Get a sense of humour stella for god sake," one person wrote.
Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott made headlines during the 2017 General Election campaign when she managed to fluff her numbers on policing live on the radio.
In September, research by Amnesty International found that of over 25,000 abusive messages and tweets sent to female politicians in the six months leading up to the general election, half were directed at Ms Abbott.
Ms Abbott has said that although she was subjected to abuse when she was elected 30 years ago, the sheer volume she now receives is overwhelming.

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Pentagon says it used to investigate UFOs but doesn't confirm whether it still does

17 December

The Pentagon has confirmed it had a UFO investigation programme, but says it was ended in 2012 to fund "higher priority issues".

The New York Times reported the secret Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Programme which was tasked with investigating sightings of unidentified flying objects ran from 2007 to 2012 with $22m (£16.5m) in annual funding.
The newspaper said the programme produced documents that describes "sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift".
The programme's existence was not classified but operated with the knowledge of an extremely limited number of officials, the report said.
It also said initial funding came in large part because former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid had a passion and enthusiasm for space phenomena.
Mr Reid posted a link to the New York Times article on Twitter, writing: "The truth is out there. Seriously."
Also tweeting a link to the article, Mr Reid's former spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said: "If you've talked to Harry Reid for > 60 seconds then it's the least surprising thing ever that he loves UFOs and got an earmark to study them."
Following the article's publication, Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Ochoa told Reuters: "The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Programme ended in the 2012 timeframe.
"It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change."
However, the US Department of Defence was unclear on whether the so-called Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Programme still operates in some capacity.
Ms Ochoa said: "The DoD takes seriously all threats and potential threats to our people, our assets, and our mission and takes action whenever credible information is developed."

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Santa Barbara evacuated as wildfires roar, threatening celeb homes

17 December

Residents of downtown Santa Barbara fled their homes on Saturday as 60mph winds fed wildfires that have been tearing through California.

The mandatory evacuations were put in place in Montecito, neighbouring Summerland and a portion of Santa Barbara.
Workers at the Santa Barbara zoo began putting some animals into crates and kennels in the hopes that they can be evacuated.
:: Sky Views: The sad truth about the US wildfires
The 404-square-mile Thomas Fire was moving rapidly westward north of Montecito, home to Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and many other celebrities.
Winfrey tweeted: "Still praying for our little town. Winds picked up this morning creating a perfect storm of bad for firefighters."
The fire is now the third-largest in California's history, burning more than 700 homes and killing a firefighter.
Around 95,000 people have been placed under mandatory evacuation since the fire took hold on 4 December.
Pierre Henry, a Montecito bakery owner, said he received a text to evacuate on Saturday morning as the fire approached homes.
"The worst was the smoke," he said.
"You couldn't breathe at all and it became worse when the wind started. All the ashes and the dust on the street were in the air. It was very, very frightening."
Authorities say the fire has burned another six square miles of vegetation.
California Governor Jerry Brown said the wildfires ravaging his state should serve as a warning to parts of the world threatened by climate change.
"The important fact is that these fires are going to become a very frequent occurrence. That's what the science is telling us," Mr Brown said.
"It's a real indicator of bad things to come, and hopefully will serve to wake up people who right now are too complacent."
Santa Barbara County Fire Department Division Chief Martin Johnson said: "It's a beast... but we will kill it."

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