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3,500 troops on standby under new no-deal Brexit plans which become 'operational priority'

18 December

All UK citizens will be sent information about how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, as the government dramatically ramps up its contingency planning.

Downing Street revealed the "public communications" will be released alongside a "general advertising campaign", with 101 days until the expected divorce date.
Other measures revealed include:

  • 3,500 troops being "held at readiness" to help with any "contingencies"
  • Information packs being sent to business and traders about border changes
  • £2bn being allocated for Brexit preparations for all scenarios
  • Space being set aside on ships to ensure medical supplies continue as normal
  • Security and law enforcement being treated as a "priority issue"
  • COBRA meetings being held at required intervals
The decisions were made at a crunch cabinet meeting this afternoon, as ministers agreed to "fully" implement planning for a no-deal divorce on 29 March 2019.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay emerged after the meeting to declare the government's focus was on getting a deal negotiated with Brussels through parliament.
But he said a "responsible government" had to prepare for leaving the EU with no agreement and that had become its "operational priority".
Mr Barclay also blasted the idea of a "managed no deal" - floated by senior MPs like International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt - saying it was "not feasible".
Sky sources said discord broke out at the two-hour meeting when Justice Secretary David Gauke spoke up to call the idea of a "managed" no-deal "a unicorn that needs to be slaughtered".
They added he argued for the option to be able to block a no-deal Brexit nearer the deadline.
A cabinet source also said Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd spoke up to warn: "Just because you've put a seatbelt on, it doesn't mean you should crash the car."
Mrs May's spokesman said there were no rows, insisting it was the best cabinet meeting in a while.
He added all UK citizens will be sent information in the next few weeks about how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit - ruling out that the information will be sent on Christmas Day.
Later on Tuesday, the Treasury revealed how more than £2bn will be allocated across 25 Whitehall departments and other bodies for Brexit preparations for all scenarios.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said: "The PM's deal is the only way to deliver on the referendum while protecting jobs, businesses and prosperity.
"I've worked with departments so they have the resources to prepare as we leave the EU, including our borders, trade policies and support for businesses.
"But a responsible government prepares for all contingencies and that is why we're stepping up no deal planning.
"The Treasury has provided more than £4.2bn for Brexit preparations since 2016. We are now allocating over £2bn from that fund to continue and step up this work in 2019-20 as we leave the EU."
The biggest sums of cash have been handed to the Home Office (£480m), HMRC (£375m), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (£190m) and Department for International Trade (£128m).
Among other preparations, the money will be spent on 3,000 new HMRC staff, hundreds of new border officers and new border technology, and exploring a UK alternative to the EU's Galileo satellite navigation system.
A total of 106 technical notices and 320 "ongoing no-deal work streams" have so far been published on how the country should get ready for leaving without an agreement.
And a petition calling for the UK to leave the EU without a deal has reached 220,000 signatures - at one point garnering over 1,500 an hour.
Mrs May was earlier given a boost of support by backbench Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who vowed to "move on" after losing a bid to unseat her.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who was one of 117 Tory MPs to vote against the PM in a confidence vote, said he respected the result and was now backing her.
"I lost the vote last week - and if you lose, that is ultimately conclusive," he told Sky News.
"Events move on, they have moved on and I have therefore moved with them."
Labour is still threatening to call a vote of no-confidence in the government, which could force a general election if successful.
Downing Street sources said a no-confidence motion in the PM would not be granted parliamentary time for a debate this year.
The prime minister looks set to avoid any more major showdowns in parliament, with MPs breaking up for the Christmas holidays on Thursday.
Despite Labour not being able to debate its no-confidence motion in the prime minister, it will still push for one in the government in the new year.
Earlier, shadow housing secretary John Healey told Sky News it was a question of "when - not if" the push would come.
Jenny Chapman, Labour's shadow Brexit minister, said the no-deal planning move was "testament to the prime minister's failure in these negotiations".
"A no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for jobs, the economy and the border in Northern Ireland. It is simply not a viable option," she said.

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Business groups 'watching in horror' as they plead with MPs to stop no-deal Brexit

19 December

Five leading business groups have joined forces to urge politicians to prevent a no-deal Brexit as firms "reach the point of no return" ahead of the UK's departure from the EU on 29 March.

The CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses and the EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, expressed dismay that MPs had descended into factional in-fighting as the risk of crashing out without a deal rises.
A joint statement from the groups, together representing hundreds of thousands of firms employing millions of people, said the suggestion that there could be a "managed" no-deal was not credible.
The statement called on MPs from all parties to talk to their constituency business communities over Christmas and remember that when they return to parliament "the future course of our economy will be in their hands".
It comes after the government began ramping up preparations for a no-deal scenario, which will include information packs being sent to businesses about border changes as well as 3,500 troops being held on standby to deal with any "contingencies".
The business groups said that for many companies who have yet to start preparing it is too late and that there was "simply not enough time to prevent severe dislocation and disruption" with 100 days to go until the UK's departure.
"Businesses have been watching in horror as politicians have focused on factional disputes rather than practical steps that business needs to move forward," the statement said.
"The lack of progress in Westminster means that the risk of a 'no deal' Brexit is rising.
"Businesses of all sizes are reaching the point of no return, with many now putting in place contingency plans that are a significant drain of time and money.
"While many companies are actively preparing for a 'no deal' scenario, there are also hundreds of thousands who have yet to start - and cannot be expected to be ready in such a short space of time."
The statement was the latest intervention by business into the Brexit debate.
It added: "With just 100 days to go, the suggestion that 'no-deal' can be 'managed' is not a credible proposition.
"Businesses would face massive new customs costs and tariffs. Disruption at ports could destroy carefully built supply chains.
"From broadcasters, to insurance brokers, to our financial services - the UK's world-leading services sector will be needlessly disadvantaged, and many professional qualifications will be unrecognised across the EU.
"UK and EU nationals working abroad will be left in deep uncertainty about their future."
Leading companies from Rolls-Royce to Mr Kipling maker Premier Foods have already said they are stockpiling goods in case of no deal.
Food and drinks giant Nestle has also said it is building up goods but warned that even after making preparations the consequences of no deal would be "very severe".
Meanwhile, warehouse space is filling up fast as companies push ahead with no-deal preparations.
Airbus has said that its investments in the UK are in a "holding pattern" amid uncertainty over Brexit but that these could be unlocked in the event of the withdrawal agreement being resolved.
Meanwhile, the City faces reduced access to European markets and uncertainty over how rules on trading in trillions of pounds worth of financial instruments will be affected.

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Labour whips 'furious' with Jeremy Corbyn over no-confidence 'omnishambles'

18 December

Labour whips are "furious" with Jeremy Corbyn's handling of an attempt to force a no-confidence vote in the prime minister, sources have suggested.

The Labour leader tabled a non-binding no-confidence motion in Theresa May late on Monday, but the government refused to grant parliamentary time for a vote, describing it as a "stunt".
Downing Street instead challenged Mr Corbyn to table a more meaningful no-confidence motion aimed at the government as a whole and under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
Sky News understands Labour's chief whip Nick Brown had earlier told his party's MPs that the government would be obliged to grant Mr Corbyn's motion under parliamentary rules and, if it was refused, the Labour leader would immediately escalate his motion to one with legal weight in an effort to force a general election.
In discussions with parliamentary colleagues on Tuesday, Mr Brown is understood to have been "contrite", acknowledging his guidance on parliamentary rules had not been accurate.
However, a number of other Labour whips are said to be "furious" with Mr Corbyn's office for sending out inconsistent messages about their intentions.
One senior backbench figure said many Labour MPs shared a "considerable frustration" with the handling of the no-confidence motion, as well as the lack of clarity about whether Mr Corbyn would escalate his motion to one of no confidence in the government as a whole.
Another backbencher said the last 24 hours had been an "omnishambles" of the party leadership's making.
Had a full no-confidence motion in the government passed, it would have triggered a process under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act that could have resulted in a general election if a government was unable to win a second confidence vote within 14 days.
But House of Commons Speaker John Bercow confirmed to MPs on Tuesday that the government was not under any obligation to grant parliamentary time to the motion as tabled by Mr Corbyn because it amounted to an issue of censure not confidence.
Mr Bercow said: "For the avoidance of doubt, and in the name of better public understanding of our procedures, I should make it clear that there is a strong convention that the government provides time at the earliest possible opportunity for a no confidence motion in Her Majesty's government, if tabled by the official opposition.
"However no such convention applies in relation to this particular motion, which is not a conventional no confidence motion."
Following the Speaker's intervention, Tory grandee Sir Edward Leigh accused Mr Corbyn of holding back because he feared having to put Labour's backing to a second EU referendum.
"The problem for the leader of the Labour Party is that he does not want an immediate motion of no confidence because if, as is likely it was lost, he would be forced by his party to go for a referendum, so he was playing games", said Sir Edward.
The DUP, who provide Mrs May with a working majority in parliament, confirmed on Monday night they would not support Labour's call of no confidence in the prime minister.
This was despite the party's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson suggesting the DUP would be prepared to back a censure motion in Mrs May last week.
Without DUP support, or significant numbers of Conservative rebel MPs, any confidence motion is unlikely to succeed.
A Labour spokesman insisted no pledge to immediately escalate to a binding motion of no confidence in the government had been made, saying instead that the party "reserved the right" to make that move.
On Tuesday night, other opposition parties sought to put further pressure on Labour by tabling their own no-confidence motion in the government.
The cross-party bid was supported by the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green Party.
The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: "Opposition leaders have taken the decision to table a vote of no confidence in the UK government under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act - something Jeremy Corbyn has failed to do.
"Labour has failed to hold the UK government to account over their shambolic Brexit negotiations.
"Their motion of no confidence in the prime minister on Monday was a gimmick - we attempted to strengthen it with our own amendment and it's regrettable it was not offered time for debate in parliament.
"By tabling our motion on Tuesday evening, we hope to be afforded time by the UK government to debate it before parliament closes for the Christmas recess."

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Manchester United 'accidentally reveal Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager'

18 December

Manchester United appear to have accidentally unveiled Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their interim manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.

The club shared a video on their website called "The Most Famous Night of Ole's Career", as rumours swirled they have appointed their former striker as temporary boss until the end of the season.
Alongside the video, a message read: "Solskjaer becomes our interim manager, 20 seasons after clinching the Treble with THAT goal at Camp Nou..."
The former Norwegian international scored United's winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final which secured an historic treble for the club.
The leaked video was swiftly followed by a congratulatory tweet by Erna Solberg, Norway's prime minister.
It read: "Great day for Norwegian football. Good luck keeping control of the Red Devils."
Both of those posts have since been deleted.
United sacked Mourinho on Tuesday morning after suffering their worst ever start to a Premier League season.
The club have put Michael Carrick temporarily in charge and announced intentions to select an interim manager, who will be named in the next 48 hours, until the end of the season.
Sky Sports News learnt that Solskjaer is the front-runner to be the temporary boss after managing United's reserve side from 2008 for two years before leaving for Molde.
He made 235 Premier League appearances for United, hitting 91 goals including the injury-time winner in United's 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
As a manager, he had a disastrous eight-month spell in charge at Cardiff City in 2014 before returning to Molde in 2015 and has just signed a new three-year deal until the end of the 2021 season.
A senior figure at Molde, whose season does not start again until the end of March, declined to say whether Solskjaer will remain as their manager.
Sky Sports News has contacted Manchester United for comment.

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'You sold your country out': Judge hits out at Trump's former adviser Michael Flynn

18 December

A judge has delayed the sentencing of Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn after telling him: "You sold your country out."

Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Sergei Kislyak, the-then Russian ambassador in Washington.
The White House has said in a statement after the hearing that it still "firmly believes" the FBI broke protocol when they "ambushed" Flynn.
The statement added that there is "certainly a concern" that the former national security adviser lied but it will "let the courts determine that".
Flynn's lawyers had requested the sentencing in Washington be postponed to allow him to continue co-operating with the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
District Judge Emmet Sullivan said Flynn's actions bordered on treason and threatened the decorated former Marine general with a stiff prison sentence.
Judge Sullivan said he could not "hide my disgust, my disdain" for the crime, but later clarified that he was "not suggesting" Flynn committed treason.
He said Flynn committed a "very serious offence" by lying to the FBI on the premises of the White House.
The judge continued: "You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president.
"Arguably, this undermines everything this flag over here stands for.
"Arguably, you sold your country out."
The judge later admitted that he was mistaken in his remark that Flynn had been an unregistered agent.
The retired lieutenant general did however operate as an undeclared lobbyist for Turkey while working on Mr Trump's election team.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, head of the Russia probe, had recommended Flynn should not serve prison time because of his "substantial" co-operation with the investigation.
The judge did not set a new date for sentencing but asked Mr Mueller's team and Flynn's attorney to give him a status report by March 13.
Flynn admitted on Tuesday that he knew lying to the FBI was a crime as he stood by his guilty plea.
In a filing before the hearing in December, a lawyer for Flynn noted that he was not warned during his FBI interview that lying would be a crime.
But an attorney said during a sentencing hearing on Friday that the former national security adviser was not entrapped.
Hours before Flynn's sentencing, Mr Trump tweeted: "Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn.
"Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign.
"There was no Collusion!"
Before the hearing, the federal judge made sure Flynn had entered his guilty plea knowingly and voluntarily.
Flynn told investigators in January 2017 that he had not discussed US sanctions against Russia with the diplomat, when according to his plea agreement he had.
Lying to the FBI carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison.
However, Flynn's plea agreement stated he is eligible for a sentence of between zero and six months and can ask the court not to impose a fine.
Prosecutors said Flynn had already provided most of the cooperation that he could to the Russia probe, but it was possible he might be able to help investigators further.
In a separate development on Tuesday, Flynn's former business partner Bijan Rafiekian pleaded not guilty after being charged with unregistered lobbying for Turkey.
Prosecutors say the lobbying effort was aimed at having the United States extradite a Muslim cleric who lives in America.
Rafiekian's trial date is 11 February and Flynn is expected to testify in that case.

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