Sat. Dec 15th, 2018

News Daily: Brexit legal advice row and rail chaos report

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Withdrawal deal latest

MPs will begin five days of debate later on the Brexit withdrawal agreement. But before that, they’ll vote on whether the government broke Parliament’s rules by not making public all the legal advice it has received about the deal. Ministers have published only an overview and say any more would not be in the national interest. Opposition parties, though, insist MPs must have the full picture before they decide whether or not to back the Brexit deal next week.

In particular, they want to know what the government’s chief legal adviser, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, has said about the controversial Irish border backstop. Mr Cox accepted on Monday that the backstop could leave the UK “indefinitely committed” to EU customs rules if Brexit trade talks break down in the future, but said he didn’t believe that was actually likely to happen. Those reassurances were not enough for those pushing for more details. BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says losing the vote over the legal advice could lead to ministers being reprimanded or suspended, but sanctions would be unlikely to affect the number able to take part in next week’s crucial decision on the deal itself.

In the coming days, a series of senior ministers will take centre stage in the Commons to make the case for Theresa May’s deal, focusing on issues like the economy and security. Read more on how the debate – and vote – will work.

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‘Totally unacceptable’

Rail timetable changes in May caused chaos across the country, leading to widespread delays and cancellations, and considerable anger among passengers. Now a scathing report from MPs has said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling should have done more to ideally prevent, or at least deal with, the crisis. “There was extraordinary complacency about protecting the interests of passengers,” concludes committee chairwoman Lilian Greenwood, and it was “totally unacceptable” that no-one took charge of the situation. Far from an “insulting” rise in fares, those worst affected should receive a discount on their 2019 season tickets, she added. Mr Grayling has apologised for what happened, but said he was given assurances that adequate preparations had been made for the timetable changes.

Special needs schooling

It’s a “national scandal” that more than 4,000 children in England assessed as having special educational needs receive no support at all, says the chief inspector of schools. That’s five times more missing out than in 2010. What’s behind this? Demand for special needs assessment has risen by 50% since 2015. At the same time, schools and local authorities are struggling to cope with budget pressures and cannot foot the growing bill. One parent, Lorna Lynch, told the BBC why she home educates her daughter, who has a form of autism.

‘I gave birth but it’s not my baby’

By Valeria Perasso, BBC World Service

Marissa Muzzell spent 16 hours in labour to deliver a baby girl. She suffered from acute morning sickness during her pregnancy and twice has to spend time in hospital. She underwent months of daily hormone injections, and previously endured four failed embryo transfers. All this she did for a baby that is not hers. Marissa, 32, is a surrogate in Canada, where hundreds of women like her volunteer to give birth to babies that are not theirs. “I’ve just created [a] family… someone else’s family,” says Marissa.

Read the full article

What the papers say

Apocalyptic front-page headlines stress the urgency conveyed by Sir David Attenborough in his speech to the UN on climate change. “Our planet is on the brink of destruction” is the Daily Mirror’s take, while the i sums things up with the headline “Act now – or face the collapse of civilisation”. Other papers are preoccupied by the state of the UK’s railways. The Times focuses on the “damning” report on this year’s timetable changes. The Financial Times says London’s Crossrail project is to demand hundreds of millions of pounds more from the government. And in its editorial – headlined “Going off the rails” – the Daily Mail notes that further problems with the HS2 plan demonstrate the “lamentable lack of leadership” in the sector. Finally, according to new health advice reported in the Daily Telegraph, medical professionals should consider prescribing weightlifting and protein powders to elderly people.

Daily digest

Water bills “Too expensive to flush the toilet”

Energy drinks Not enough evidence for a ban on sales to children

Bush death Donald Trump pays his respects to late president

Christmas songs Should we stop listening to some questionable classics?

If you see one thing today

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My childhood will be lost to the sea

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Lookahead

Today A handwritten letter in which scientist Albert Einstein grappled with God, the Bible and his own Jewish identity goes up for auction in New York.

17:00 The Prince of Wales attends a service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East.

On this day

1976 Benjamin Britten, considered to be Britain’s leading composer, died aged 63.

From elsewhere

Rwandan women paddle into the male world of fishing (New York Times)

How whales and dolphins may be harmed by new seismic airgun approval (National Geographic)

I do not care about your renovation (Sydney Morning Herald)

Seven ways to keep exercising in the cold, dark winter months (Guardian)

In a hurry? Here’s what you need to know in five minutes

If you want to get this briefing by email, sign-up here MPs will begin five days of debate later on the Brexit withdrawal agreement. But before that, they’ll vote on whether the government broke Parliament’s rules by not making public all the legal advice it has received about the deal.

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