May on the brink as ministers threaten to QUIT over Brexit plan

heresa May (pictured in Downing Street this week) is facing probably the biggest test of her premiership, with just six days to go until a crucial EU summit

The PM is under fire from all sides as she races against time to thrash out a divorce deal with the EU that does not tear her government to pieces.

But her latest plan to break the deadlock has caused fury as it could see the UK commit to staying in the customs union beyond 2020 with no hard departure date.

The walls are closing on the premier with just days to go until a crunch EU summit that could decide the country's future.

Mrs May gathered her Brexit 'War Cabinet' last night to try and swing them behind her ideas for unlocking the negotiations.

Her new 'backstop' plan to avoid a hard Irish border would see the UK effectively remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit until a permanent solution to the Irish border problem can be found.

A previous commitment that the UK will have cut ties by the end of 2021 'at the latest' is set to be dropped after fierce resistance from Brussels.

Sources insist that backstop would still be 'temporary' and is likely to last 'months, not years'. 

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom (pictured right), and Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt (left) - who were not invited to the meeting last night - are believed to be considering whether they can go along with the compromise

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey (pictured) is also believed to have serious doubts about Mrs May's approach

But Liam Fox, Sajid Javid, Gavin Williamson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab all voiced concern about the concession.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, and Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt - who were not invited to the meeting last night - are believed to be considering whether they can go along with the compromise.

No formal proposal was put to the ministers, but they were asked to agree the 'direction of travel' as negotiators seek agreement with the EU.

One Cabinet source predicted the issue could lead to resignations in the coming days, saying: 'This is going to be a big test for some ministers. Are they willing to accept assurances that this is temporary if those words have no legal force? If not, then they surely have to resign.'

The PM's backstop proposal is designed to ensure there is no hard Irish border.

It would see the whole of the UK stay in the customs union 'temporarily' until a wider trade deal is struck.

Northern Ireland would effectively remain in the single market to avoid regulatory checks on the border with the Republic.

The government's previous plan said that it wanted the UK to stay in the customs union until 2021 'at the latest'.

But it is not clear whether the UK would be subject to rules that stop countries striking their own trade deals outside the bloc.

It also remains to be seen whether free movement rules would still apply in Northern Ireland. The Common Travel Area already protects movement between Northern Ireland and the Republic.  

The blueprint would reduce friction on the Irish border but lead to greater checks across the Irish Sea.

These would include health and sanitary inspections for animals and animal products.

The backstop is designed to fall away when a wider trade pact is agreed - which Mrs May says should be based on her Chequers plan for a 'combined customs territory' with the EU.

International Trade Secretary Dr Fox, whose plans for trade deals outside the EU would be severely limited inside a customs union, has told friends the proposal would 'make life very difficult for me'.

However, Government Chief Whip Julian Smith last night urged Tory MPs and ministers to rally round, saying: 'The Prime Minister and the Government are conducting a complex negotiation that is going well and we should be backing the Prime Minister.' 

Proposals for a so-called 'temporary customs arrangement' were first announced in June as part of 'backstop' plans to resolve the Irish border problem.

At the time, the then Brexit secretary David Davis threatened to resign unless a clear end date was inserted, forcing Mrs May to accept the plan would be 'time limited'.

But Brussels has been implacable in its opposition to an end date, saying the 'backstop' plan must be 'all-weather'. 

Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said: 'Income tax was supposed to be temporary. Gladstone said it would expire in 1860. 

'Likewise, the 1911 Parliament Act says it is temporary. Both are still here.'

Chancellor Philip Hammond today signalled that the EU and UK were getting closer to agreement - and held out the prospect of a 'deal dividend' for the economy if a settlement is reached.

'What has happened over the last week, 10 days, is there has been a measurable change in pace,' he told the BBC. 

'There is a real sense now of engagement from both sides, of shared enterprise in trying to solve a problem rather than posturing towards each other. A really important step change. 

'But that shouldn't conceal the fact that we have some big differences left to resolve. Process is a lot more positive this week, substance still very challenging. 

'If we are able to get to a good deal for Britain as we leave the European Union I believe there will be a dividend, a deal dividend for us.' 

As pressure mounted on Mrs May last night, a DUP MP called for her to be replaced with a new Tory leader.

The party has become increasingly alarmed that Mrs May will accept Northern Ireland staying in the single market while mainland Britain leaves - something they say would split the UK. 

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (left) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (right) raised concerns during 'robust exchanges' at last night's War Cabinet meeting

Chief whip Julian Smith (pictured in Downing Street last night) has urged colleagues to get behind Mrs May as she tries to get a deal with the EU

Senior ministers Jeremy Hunt (left), Gavin Williamson (centre) and Philip Hammond (right) were at the 'war cabinet' meeting where Mrs May outlined her backstop proposals

The party's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said a new Conservative leader could 'heal the wounds' between the two parties.

A new leader taking a 'different direction' on Brexit would 'ensure that the agreement could stay in place', Mr Wilson said.

But Tory MP and former minister Nick Boles delivered an angry response, saying: 'Conservative leaders are chosen by Conservative MPs and Conservative Party members.

The dates of elections used to be decided by the Prime Minister - with the proviso that there had to be one every five years.

But the Coalition introduced the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which sets out a more formal arrangement.

Elections are now held on the first Thursday in May every five years - with the next one due in 2022.

Under the law, early elections can only triggered in two ways.

The first is at least two-thirds of the 650 MPs passing a motion in the Commons.

The other way is for a motion of no confidence to be passed by a simple majority.

That fires the starting gun on a two-week period in which the existing parties can try to form another government.

Only if the 14 days pass with no replacement administration in place is a national vote called.

The arrangements effectively mean that the DUP could vote no confidence once without risking an election that would let Jeremy Corbyn into power.

'Not by MPs of any other party. And we respond no better to threats than proud Ulster men or women do.'

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green insisted Mrs May would not give ground on keeping the UK together.

'She is a very unionist PM, we are the Conservative and Unionist Party,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today. 

'She and the DUP are as one in wanting to make sure than Northern Ireland isn't in some way treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom in trade or customs terms and that is an absolutely key point in these negotiations, as the DUP have pointed out.'

Earlier yesterday, Conservative MP Mark Pritchard underlined the growing levels of unrest by pointing out a Tory leadership contest could be rushed through in as little as a fortnight.

Brussels and London have been trying to play down expectations of a major breakthrough at next week's summit - but the two sides are thought to be closer than ever before to a divorce deal.

Even if Mrs May can secure an agreement with the EU and win over the DUP, she will still be left haggling over the 'political declaration' setting out the framework for a future trade deal.

She wants that declaration to be based on her Chequers blueprint - which would effectively keep the UK in the single market for goods, but diverge on services.

But the EU is resisting the plan, and Tory Brexiteers are implacably opposed, meaning it is it is far from certain the whole package will get past Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn says he would oppose arrangements that do not keep the UK more closely tied to Brussels - although there are claims that dozens of Labour MPs could defy him.

A band of more than 30 Remain-supporting Tory MPs are forming a movement to bring about a second referendum.

Organisers say the group will vote down whatever Brexit deal Mrs May secures from the European Union.

Meanwhile, Britain's official economic forecaster suggested last night a 'no-deal' Brexit could be as disastrous as the three-day week was in the 1970s. The Office for Budget Responsibility warned there was no precedent for what it referred to as a 'disorderly Brexit', making accurate forecasting difficult.

But it said it was 'worth noting' that the three-day week of 1974 led to a fall in output of 3 per cent.

The OBR warned a no deal could lead to higher prices, banks reducing credit and shortages of vital goods.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, pictured on a visit to Brussels on Tuesday, has warned that her line against anything that would risk splitting the UK is 'blood red'

Britain would stick to EU rules on goods by adopting a 'Common rulebook' with Brussels, but not in the services sector.

Theresa May says this would allow the UK to strike free trade deals globally, but the scope would be limited by commitments to the EU.

The blueprint should minimise the need for extra checks at the borders - protecting the 'just in time' systems used by the car industry to import and export parts.

The UK Parliament could choose to diverge from these EU rules over time.

But there is an admission that this would 'have consequences'.

Britain would set up something called a 'facilitated customs arrangement'.

This would see the UK effectively act as the EU's taxman - using British officials to collect customs which would then be paid on to the bloc. 

The borders between the UK and EU will be treated as a 'combined customs territory'.

The UK would apply domestic tariffs and trade policies for goods intended for the UK, but charge EU tariffs and their equivalents for goods which will end up heading into the EU.

Mrs May says her plan will prevent a hard Irish border, and mean no divergence between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

There would be no need for extra border checks, as tariffs on goods would be the same.

Single market origin rules and regulations would also be sufficiently aligned to avoid infrastructure.

Britain would strike a Canada-style trade deal with the EU, meaning goods flow both ways without tariffs.

As it is a simple free trade deal, Britain would not be bound by most of the rules and red tape drawn up in Brussels.

The arrangement would be a relatively clean break from the EU - but would fall far short of full access to the single market.

Eurosceptics have suggested 'Canada plus' in key areas such as services and mutual recognition of standards.

The UK would have broad scope to strike free trade deals around the world.

Technology would be used to avoid extra customs checks on the borders.

As a result goods travelling into the UK from the EU and vice versa would be tracked and customs paid without extra checks.

The EU says the Canada model would mean border controls are required between Northern Ireland and the Republic to protect the single market and customs union.

It insists Northern Ireland must stay in the bloc's customs jurisdiction in order to prevent that.

Mrs May has signalled she agrees with the analysis - seemingly the reason she is reluctant to go down this route.

But Brexiteers point out that there is already a tax border between the UK and Ireland, and say technology and trusted trader schemes can avoid the need for more infrastructure. 

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October 12, 2018

Sources: Daily Mail

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    Travel chaos expected as train companies introduce new timetable today

    tion following the launch of the latest new timetable.</p><p>The last time major changes were made, in May, commuters were left stranded as thousands of services were delayed or cancelled.</p><p>And although network bosses stressed they had planned fewer changes this time around, they warned there could still be 'pockets of disruption'.</p><p>Worst-hit in May were 8,000 Thameslink and Great Northern services - run by Govia Thameslink Railway - and 5,000 run by Northern, which were cancelled or severely delayed. </p><p>Both companies could face fines in the New Year following an investigation into whether they breached their operating licences.</p><p>Rail passengers are bracing themselves for delays this morning after train companies introduced another new timetable yesterday. File image of chaos at St Pancras Station used</p><p>The fiasco led to the introduction of emergency timetable services in which trains were cancelled or replaced by buses for weeks on end.</p><p>In one case, trains were delayed by a lack of drivers qualified to take them through a newly-built tunnel in North London.</p><p>The winter timetable was officially launched yesterday without incident but today is the first weekday the revamped service will be used by millions of commuters.</p><p>Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: 'This time around passengers expect the rail industry to drive a smooth set of timetable improvements.</p><p>'Passengers paid a hefty price for the catalogue of over optimism, missed deadlines and blurred accountability that led to a summer of timetable crisis and ensuing chaos.</p><p>'To regain their trust, passengers need to see that lessons have been learned.</p><p>'Looking forward, someone must be placed clearly in charge of major timetable changes in future, to ensure robust oversight and with the power to hit the stop button when something is not going to work.'</p><p>The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies, said changes for the winter timetable have been 'smaller than those seen earlier this year' to minimise the risk of problems.</p><p>When timetable changes came in in May the worst-hit were 8,000 Thameslink (pictured) and Great Northern services - run by Govia Thameslink Railway - and 5,000 run by Northern, which were cancelled or severely delayed</p><p>Improvements include the introduction of 200 additional weekday services on Thameslink and Great Northern.</p><p>But Northern, which has had up to 10 per cent of its trains out of action due to wheel damage caused by leaves on the line, admitted its service would still not be up to scratch.</p><p>Hundreds of the company's trains have had fewer carriages than usual, causing sometimes severe overcrowding, and it said the problems could 'last until at least next May'.</p><p>In the month to November 11, 1,162 of Northern's trains lacked the normal number of carriages and some were axed altogether.</p><p>Later last month, services on the Preston to Ormskirk line in Lancashire were cancelled for an entire week.</p><p>Raj Chandarana, stakeholder manager for Northern, told a public meeting in Manchester that May's timetable crisis had led to a 'horrendous' shortage of trains - worsened by the wheel damage issue.</p><p>The last time major changes were made, in May, commuters were left stranded as thousands of services were delayed or cancelled. File image of delayed passengers at London Waterloo used</p><p>He said: 'We are doing what we can but in reality until the infrastructure improvements happen we are not able to use the trains that are fit for purpose on electrified tracks and it won't be until May next year at the earliest that we'll be in a position to say at peak there won't be short-formed trains.'</p><p>Northern blamed Network Rail for delays on electrification projects on major lines, which meant diesel trains on those routes could still not be released for use elsewhere.</p><p>Mr Chandarana said: 'We've tried to plug the gap with existing stock and by borrowing trains from other operators.' </p><p>'The situation we face is one that is hugely regrettable.' Greater Manchester authorities estimate a 5 per cent rise in traffic coming into the city has been generated by the rail disruption, which also includes Northern guards striking every Saturday.</p><p>Robert Nisbet, regional director of the Rail Delivery Group, admitted there could be 'some pockets of disruption' on the network today and urged passengers to check the new timetables before they travel.</p><p>It comes after a report into May's timetable chaos by Professor Stephen Glaister, chairman of watchdog body the Office for Rail and Road, warned train companies had a battle to restore 'trust and confidence'.</p><p>Mr Nisbet said: 'Over the next few years, we are committed to delivering a step change in the quality and reliability of rail services through huge investment in infrastructure so that thousands of extra services can run.</p><p>'We know that people in some areas might be concerned about another timetable change but as the Glaister Review acknowledges the rail industry has worked together to start learning the lessons from May.</p><p>'As with the introduction of any new timetable, there may be some pockets of disruption as people get used to new journeys and train times, so we advise people to check before travelling.'</p><p>He added that improvements over the next three years would include introduction of 7,000 new carriages and hundreds of fully refurbished trains, supporting 6,400 extra services a week by 2021.</p><p>Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, said: 'The railway industry (took) a long hard look at its plans for the timetable change in December and, taking into account recent painful lessons, the industry has scaled back its ambition and tempered it with a more cautious, phased approach.</p><p>'The railway is too vital for the health and wealth of our country to risk a repeat of the mistakes of May and this more balanced approach of ambition and caution is absolutely the right thing to do for the millions who rely on our railway every day.' </p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday &amp; Metro Media Group</p>

    1 December 10, 2018
  • Britons will save £2.85 on filling up their cars after petrol prices fall by 5p a litre

    Britons will save £2.85 on filling up their cars after petrol prices fall by 5p a litre

    op in nearly four years, the latest figures show.</p><p>The average cost of unleaded is back to mid-May levels of about 130.61p a litre after dropping 5.18p in November, while diesel fell by 2.5p to 134.42p.</p><p>This equates to a saving of £2.85 on a typical family-sized car’s tank of unleaded fuel.</p><p>The price of petrol fell 5p a litre last month. The average cost of unleaded is back to mid-May levels of about 130.61p a litre [File photo]</p><p>Oil prices have fallen by 24 per cent on the world market while, in the UK, supermarket price wars have also contributed to price cuts, said an RAC report.</p><p>Petrol prices are still up to 10p a litre higher than they should be as not all the savings have yet been passed on to drivers.</p><p>Simon Williams, of the RAC, said: ‘This should have translated to the average price of petrol being about 120p a litre but retailers chose not to pass on the savings, meaning the current average still remains unnecessarily high at 125.43p.</p><p>‘Petrol still ought to come down by 7p a litre in the next two weeks and diesel by 5p.’</p><p>He added: ‘We can only hope they are planning some cuts in the run-up to Christmas with a view to getting more shoppers into their stores.’</p><p>Petrol prices fell 5p a litre last month – the biggest drop in nearly four years, the latest figures show [File photo]</p><p> The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. </p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday &amp; Metro Media Group</p>

    1 December 10, 2018
  • Final words of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi are revealed in transcript

    Final words of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi are revealed in transcript

    of journalist Jamal Khahsoggi as he was brutally killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. </p><p>A source, who read a translated transcript of the recording, said that the journalist repeated several times 'I can't breathe' moments before his death.</p><p>The recording also captured the horrific sounds of Khashoggi's body being dismembered with a saw - while his alleged killers were told to listen to music to block out the noise.  </p><p>The shocking recording has thrown even more doubt on Saudi claims that the killing was a botched rendition attempt and not an execution.  </p><p>Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi repeatedly told his captors he couldn't breathe as he was killed in October</p><p>Khashoggi can be heard struggling against his captors - who make a series of phone calls during his torture. </p><p>The calls suggest that the killers were keeping higher-ups updated with their butchering of the journalist. </p><p>Turkish officials claim the calls were made to senior figures in Riyadh. </p><p>It was supposed to be a routine appointment, but the journalist was then confronted by a man he recognised and did not expect to be at the consulate.</p><p>Khashoggi can be heard asking the man what he is doing there. </p><p>According to CNN, the man is Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former Saudi diplomat and intelligence official working for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and known to Khashoggi from their time together at the Saudi Embassy in London.</p><p>He can be heard telling Khashoggi: 'You are coming back'.</p><p>The recording also captured the horrific sounds of Khashoggi's body being dismembered with a saw at the consulate</p><p>The journalist can be heard arguing back and saying that there are people waiting for him outside. </p><p>He is believed to have told his waiting fiancee to call associates if he didn't return.  </p><p>Khashoggi is then set on by a several people, according to the transcript.  </p><p>Despite Saudi officials suggesting he was accidentally choked to death, the journalist can be heard repeating: 'I can't breathe.' </p><p>The transcript notes that Khashoggi screams and gasps before dying and his body is then sawed.  </p><p>The only other person named in the transcript is Dr Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi, the head of forensic medicine at Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry </p><p>Tubaiqi can be heard advising people to listen to music as they dismember the dead journalist.  </p><p> Mutreb, who is updating someone throughout, then says: 'Tell yours, the thing is done, it's done.' </p><p>According to CNN, the transcript has been circulated to Turkish and Saudi allies, including those in Europe, but only the United States and Saudi Arabia have received the recording itself.  </p><p>The office of one US senator, who has received a briefing on the investigation by CIA Director Gina Haspel, told CNN that the source's recollections of the transcript are 'consistent' with that briefing. </p><p> The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. </p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday &amp; Metro Media Group</p>

    1 December 10, 2018
  • Watership Down author 'didn't think children should be lied to about the realities of death'

    Watership Down author 'didn't think children should be lied to about the realities of death'

    on of Richard Adams' bestselling novel</p><p>Children thought they were going to see a cartoon movie about fluffy rabbits.</p><p>But with its harrowing images of injured and dying rabbits, the original Watership Down movie traumatised a generation of youngsters when it was released in 1978.</p><p>Now the producers of BBC1’s latest reboot of the much-loved tale have warned: It’s not for small children.</p><p>Rory Aitken, one of the producers, said: ‘It’s drama and it’s not a kids’ film. </p><p>'Television is about family viewing, but it’s clearly not appropriate for younger children.’</p><p>However he would not be drawn on a minimum age, adding: ‘We want to leave that to parents.’ </p><p>It came as the daughters of Watership Down author Richard Adams have revealed he thought children shouldn’t be ‘pandered’ to and lied to about the realities of death. </p><p>Adams died aged 96 in 2016 and daughters Juliet, 60, and Rosamond, 58, who encouraged their father to write when they were children, look after his legacy.</p><p>The producers of BBC1’s latest reboot of the much-loved tale have warned: It’s not for small children. Rory Aitken, one of the producers, said: ‘It’s drama and it’s not a kids’ film' [File photo]</p><p>Speaking about their father’s opinions on death, his eldest daughter said: ‘Daddy didn’t like the way people babied, and pandered to, and “icky-ised” children, lying to them about death and so on. </p><p>'He was very explicit about that, and I think he was right. I mean, why lie to kids? </p><p>'We’re destroying the environment and endangering all the animals – I think it would be strange to ignore that.’</p><p>The author’s daughter also told Radio Times Christmas issue the 1972 novel is really ‘just a story about rabbits’ – despite fans thinking it has deeper meaning.</p><p>The threat of death looms large in the novel, with snares, poisoning and violence amongst the rabbits themselves. It also includes a black rabbit that acts as a ‘grim reaper’ for the characters.</p><p>A new BBC two-part adaptation, airing on December 22-23, features James McAvoy, John Boyega, Gemma Arterton and Olivia Colman among the voice cast. </p><p> With its harrowing images of injured and dying rabbits, the original Watership Down movie traumatised a generation of youngsters when it was released in 1978 [File photo]</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday &amp; Metro Media Group</p>

    1 December 10, 2018
  • World War 3 THREAT: China to send TWO warships to CONFRONT US Navy in South China Sea

    World War 3 THREAT: China to send TWO warships to CONFRONT US Navy in South China Sea

    South China Sea is on the brink of escalation. The claim was made by the state-owned tabloid, Global Times. The paper quoted a senior Chinese military official, who declared China should be prepared to attack US naval vessels, should the US violate Chinese &ldquo;territorial waters&rdquo;.</p><p>Dai Xu, who is president of the Institute of Marine Safety and Cooperation, said: &ldquo;If the US warships break into Chinese waters again, I suggest that two warships should be sent: one to stop it, and another one to ram it.</p><p>&ldquo;In our territorial waters, we won't allow US warships to create disturbance.&rdquo;</p><p>The PLAAF Air Force Colonel Commander was quoted by the Chinese tabloid after a conference held in Beijing on Saturday.</p><p>Referring to the increasingly regular Freedom of Navigation Operations being carried out by the United States in the South China Sea, Mr Dai said he couldn&rsquo;t understand why people in China were afraid of using military force to counter US Navy activity.</p><p>Tensions in the South China Sea are predicted to intensify in the coming year.</p><p>The US sent two naval vessels through the Taiwan Strait last month, in a move which alarmed Chinese officials in Beijing.</p><p>Meanwhile, cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan are fraught because of a widening political gap between the mainland and the disputed territory.</p><p>Speaking about Taiwan, Mr Dai appeared to express anticipation for increasing tension in the South China Sea, emphasising China should not fear conflict.</p><p>He suggested some provocation in the South China Sea might push China towards military action targeting Taiwan.</p><p>He said: &ldquo;It would boost the speed of our unification of Taiwan.</p><p>&ldquo;Once a strategic opportunity emerges, we should be ready to take over Taiwan.&rdquo;</p><p>Another speaker, Huang Jing, from the Beijing Language and Culture University, claimed US foreign policy was no longer capable of competing with Beijing&rsquo;s in attracting support from other countries in the region.</p><p>US President Donald Trump has been waging an economic trade war with the Chinese, as he relentlessly pursues his &ldquo;America First&rsquo; mantra.</p><p>In recent developments, Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to halt new trade tariffs for 90 days to allow for talks, the US said on December 2.</p><p>At a post-G20 summit meeting in Buenos Aires, Trump agreed not to boost tariffs on $200billion (&pound;157billion) of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent on January 1.</p><p>China will buy a &ldquo;very substantial&rdquo; amount of agricultural, industrial and energy products, the US said.</p><p> See today's front and back pages, download the newspaper, order back issues and use the historic Daily Express newspaper archive.</p>

    1 December 10, 2018
  • REVEALED: Melania Trump hasn’t brought husband Donald ANY Christmas presents this year

    REVEALED: Melania Trump hasn’t brought husband Donald ANY Christmas presents this year

    Christmas the Presidential couple will travel to Trump&rsquo;s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. They are due to be joined by all of Trump&rsquo;s children and grandchildren.</p><p>A source close to the First Lady told Hollywood Life: &ldquo;Melania absolutely loves Christmas, she goes all out, but as of now she has yet to buy Donald anything.</p><p>&ldquo;Melania says Donald&rsquo;s next to impossible to buy for and often they don&rsquo;t exchange gifts at all for Christmas.&rdquo;</p><p>The source did not mention whether the couples resistance about giving presents extends to their 12 year old son, Barron Trump.</p><p>For Christmas the extended Trump family will be joined at Mar-a-Lago by Melania&rsquo;s parents.</p><p>Trump also spent Christmas 2017, his first as President, as the Florida resort dubbed the &ldquo;Winter White House&rdquo;.</p><p>The source added Melania is taking an active role in Christmas preparations.</p><p>They commented: &ldquo;Melania has worked hard with the kitchen staff to devise a health but tasty menu for dinner and she&rsquo;s thrilled with the end result.&rdquo;</p><p>The First Lady is also a stickler for tradition and attends midnight mass with her husband each year.</p><p>The source explained: &ldquo;Donald and Melania always go to midnight mass, so they will definitely be doing that again this year.</p><p>&ldquo;Melania finds it the perfect start to Christmas and she&rsquo;s big on tradition.&rdquo;</p><p>Late last month a video was released on the First Lady&rsquo;s official Twitter account showing Melania admiring the White House Christmas decorations.</p><p>According to the official White House website this year&rsquo;s decorations are themed around &ldquo;American Treasures&rdquo; and are intended to represent the heritage of the country.&nbsp;</p><p>Melania commented: &ldquo;This is a joyous time of year when we decorate the White House for the Christmas Season.</p><p>&ldquo;Our theme honours the heart and spirit of the American people.</p><p>&ldquo;Thank you to the many volunteers and staff who worked hard to decorate the halls of the People&rsquo;s House in Christmas cheer.&rdquo;</p><p> See today's front and back pages, download the newspaper, order back issues and use the historic Daily Express newspaper archive.</p>

    1 December 10, 2018

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