Government Backs Down and is to Waive £65 Settled Status Fee

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has confirmed that the Government is no longer going to charge EU residents a fee of £65 to apply for settled status in the UK.

The Prime Minister said in a statement in the House of Commons:

“I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30th March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. And anyone who has or will apply during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed”.

Neil Gray, the SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts, said during the debate:

“I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to waive fees for EU nationals, but once again, she is four months behind the Scottish Government. It is clear—I see it again today—that her pig-headed stubbornness and ridiculous red lines have brought us to this position; it is a mess of her making. Why was she not willing to have cross-party talks two and a half years ago?”

Boris Johnson Criticised for False Claims on Turkey

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has been criticised following claims he made this week that he didn’t mention Turkey during the Brexit referendum. Answering a question from a journalist, Johnson said:

“I didn’t say anything about Turkey in the referendum campaign. I didn’t say a thing about Turkey”.

He then added:

“Since I made no remarks, I can’t disown them”.

When a journalist queried this Johnson replied:

“I didn’t make any remarks about Turkey, mate”.

The  BBC fact check team said in a post:

“Boris Johnson talked about the issue of Turkey joining the EU several times in the lead-up to 23 June 2016 and was co-signatory of a letter to the prime minister warning about Turkish membership a week before the vote”.

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP for Streatham, said on Twitter:

“Earlier today, Boris Johnson claimed that he never spoke about Turkey during the 2016 referendum. It’s yet another lie he’s been caught out on. Don’t let him get away with lying again”.

Sir John Major Calls for Prime Minister to Become Mediator

Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, has called on Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to become a “mediator” in an attempt to break the deadlock on Brexit.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Major said in an interview with Nick Robinson that one way to make progress was “for the Prime Minister to lift some of her red lines”, or alternatively to ask Parliament to “form a consensus”.

Major added:

“The Prime Minister argued valiantly for her deal, she fought for it, she got a deal, but the House of Commons killed it and killed it comprehensively. So her deal is dead and I don’t honestly think that tinkering with it is going to make very much difference, if any difference at all. So the Prime Minister still needs a deal. If she can’t deliver one that Parliament accepts, then she will need to become a facilitator, a mediator, to find out what Parliament will accept. I think there is a way she can do that, I personally would hope that she puts down a series of motions so that Members of Parliament can indicate their preference. We can then see whether there is a consensus in Parliament that is possible, that Parliament would accept. Ideally for that, all party leaders would permit a free vote, so we can get an honest representation of Parliament. That is in the Prime Minister’s interests for this reason, it’s the only way to get an absolutely honest answer from Members of Parliament and if it is a free vote, it removes the danger of resignations from Government or the opposition front bench because they disagree with their leader’s policy”.

Suella Braverman, the Conservative MP for Fareham, rejected the former Prime Minister’s call for Parliament to reach agreement, saying that Major was part of the “elite” and she added “thank you Sir John, but no thanks”.

Jeremy Corbyn Refuses to Enter Brexit Talks Until No-Deal is Ruled Out

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has rejected the call from Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to take part in cross-party talks on Brexit until she rules out the possibility of a no deal. In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Corbyn wrote:

“On behalf of the Labour party, I ask you to rule out ‘no deal’ and to immediately end the waste of hundreds of millions of pounds of public money preparing for a ‘no deal’ outcome. The £4.2bn currently allocated to ‘no deal’ planning could significantly improve many of cash-starved public services on which people rely and could transform the lives of those struggling on universal credit.”

The Prime Minister said that it was an “impossible condition” for the British negotiating team to entirely rule out a no deal Brexit. She also confirmed that she would not accept British membership of the customs union and she also wouldn’t support a second referendum.

Harriett Baldwin Summons Zimbabwean Ambassador to Foreign Office

Harriett Baldwin, the Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister of State for International Development, has summoned the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the UK to explain the recent unrest in the African country.

There have been fuel and food shortages in the country and a series of riots have taken place. Rumours have been circulating about the force being used by the police and the army, with the Internet being shut down by the Government.

Baldwin said in a statement:

“I have been following the events in Zimbabwe over the last week with growing concern. I summoned the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the United Kingdom to attend the Foreign Office on 17 January to discuss the situation. Since the weekend there has been widespread unrest and a heavy security force response, with several people killed and many injured.

While we condemn the violent behaviour of some protesters, and unlawful acts such as arson and looting, we are deeply concerned that Zimbabwe’s security forces have acted disproportionately in response. In particular, there are disturbing reports of use of live ammunition, intimidation and excessive force.

In addition, the Government of Zimbabwe shut off access to the internet on 15 and 16 January and continues to block a number of social media sites.

We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure its security forces act professionally, proportionately and at all times with respect for human life and constitutional rights. We further call on the Government of Zimbabwe to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses. We also urge the reinstatement of full internet access, consistent with citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of expression.”

Alan Duncan Makes Statement of Concern About Guatemalan Government

Sir Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, has said that he is disappointed at the news that the Guatemalan Government ending their agreement relating to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.

In a statement Duncan said:

“The UK is extremely disappointed by the announcement of the Guatemalan Government on Monday 7 January unilaterally terminating their agreement with the UN on the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a decision which has since been suspended by the Constitutional Court. CICIG has made a valuable contribution to the fight against corruption and impunity in Guatemala, strengthening the national institutions of Guatemala in the process.

The UK, along with the EU and other international partners, has been a strong supporter of CICIG and we value their work and close cooperation with the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Guatemala.

The UK supports the statement made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations rejecting the Guatemalan government’s decision to unilaterally terminate the agreement establishing CICIG and calling for the Guatemalan Government to allow CICIG to continue its important work until the completion of its mandate in September this year.

The UK supports the statements made by the G13 donor group and the EU, and calls on the Government of Guatemala to respect the rule of law and the importance of strong, independent institutions, which are vital for ensuring security and prosperity.”

Iván Velásquez, a spokesperson for the CICIG, said:

“Since its establishment in 2007, the CICIG has worked resolutely – in accordance with its mandate, accompanying national institutions – for the identification and dismantling of illegal organizations and clandestine security apparatuses, as well as promoting legal and institutional reforms to prevent their reappearance.”