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If you thought Brexit tensions couldn’t get any more explosive, think again my friend. Our Europe editor, Peter Foster, has revealed that Europe’s negotiators fear they are being bugged by the British secret service.
The astonishing accusation was triggered by the leak of highly sensitive EU documents just hours after they were presented to top EU officials.
On the eve of Mrs May’s Chequers meeting, EU Brexit negotiators presented a series of slides suggesting that allowing the UK to diverge on services while remaining closely aligned on goods regulations would cost the EU dearly - to the tune of 8-9 per cent of GDP.
Mysteriously, hours after the damning slides were shared, senior UK officials were on the phone to the EU demanding that their publication should be scrapped. This prompted Sabine Weyand, Michel Barnier’s No.2, to say that “it could not be excluded” that British intelligence had penetrated their meetings. Wild times indeed.
In terms of the contents of the slides themselves, UK negotiators won’t exactly be rubbing their hands together with glee. Britain has been arguing that it’s best for everyone if the EU shows flexibility in the negotiations, and permits a degree of “cherry picking” by allowing the UK to remain in the single markets for goods only. The EU’s long held view has been that this approach is not in its political or economic interest - and this presentation appears to have given succour to that. THIS SEEMS GOOD TO GO! THANKS
Pity then Jeremy Hunt, who is this week attempting to woo those very member states into thinking the Chequers proposal is a great idea. The Foreign Secretary is visiting his counterparts in Latvia, Denmark and the Netherlands as part of the Cabinet’s summer charm-offensive. Ahead of his meeting with Mr Hunt yesterday, Latvia’s foreign minister made no bones about how far Europe was from being convinced, saying the risk of a no-deal Brexit was still “50-50” and a “considerable risk”. One can only hope he’s pulled together some particularly jazzy slides for his meeting with the Dutch Foreign Minister…
— Broken bridges —
That’s not all to say that the EU isn’t immune from attack. It is under fire from the Italian government this week after a bridge collapsed in Genoa on Tuesday, killing 39 people.
Matteo Salvini, Italy's deputy prime minister and interior minister, blamed the EU’s spending limits for preventing investment in infrastructure. Vehicles plummeted 45 metres onto railway tracks, buildings and a dried riverbed after a section of the bridge gave way during a storm.
— Terror on the streets —
Parliament has once again been affected by a suspected terrorist attack. On Tuesday morning, in a disturbing echo of Khalid Masood’s deadly attack on Westminster last year, 29-year-old Salih Khater ploughed into cyclists before careering into barriers outside the House of Lords.
The police were swift to respond and, blessedly, there have been no fatalities. While the motive for the attack is yet to be confirmed — with Khater reportedly refusing to cooperate with officers — it is being treated by the police as a suspected terror incident.
In a chilling message, Theresa May warned of the "severe" threat Britain faced, while Downing Street revealed that there are more that 700 live cases of suspected terror plots.
The patterns of events and motive that led to Khater mowing down innocent people on Tuesday will no doubt emerge in the days and weeks to come. What is already crystallizing is the disconcerting new reality we live in: one where objects of our everyday lives can be used as weapons of war against us.
— Police pay —
Meanwhile, as Mrs May champions the “formidable courage" of the police who ran towards danger during the Westminster attack, an embarrassing letter from the Home Secretary has emerged criticising her recent decision to block a police pay rise.
The leak will be awkward for the Prime Minister, especially as the the Police Federation have already accused her of celebrating the work that police do while "stabbing them in the back" over pay.
In the latest clash between Sajid Javid and the Prime Minister over policing, Mr Javid told Mrs May that she was “wrong” to reject an official recommendation to increase pay for police. While the recommendation had been to increase pay by 3 per cent, including a one-off "bonus" of 1 per cent, she instead opted for a 2 per cent pay rise and no bonus.
— Present but not involved —
With the predictable regularity of Dulcolax, more compromising stories about Jeremy Corbyn have emerged this week, prompting the former Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, to wade in and call on Mr Corbyn to “change”.
On Saturday the Daily Mail published a photo of Mr Corbyn at a commemoration event in Tunis in 2014. He is pictured proudly holding a wreath just feet away from the graves of terrorists involved in the gruesome murders of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic games.
Ordinarily, a photograph of an activity taking place is regarded as pretty concrete evidence that the said activity took place. But Jeremy Corbyn is no ordinary man. And, since the story emerged, we have been treated to a changing, muddled explanation of how a picture of Mr Corbyn holding a wreath next to some terrorist graves is not actually a picture of Mr Corbyn holding a wreath next to terrorists’ graves.
At first the Labour leader said while he was “present” at the wreath laying, he didn’t think he “was actually involved”. Days later he said it was in fact “pretty obvious” that he was “there when the wreaths were laid” and that he “laid one wreath along with many other people”.
While Mr Corbyn and his team have said that he was there to remember the victims of the 1985 Israeli bombing of the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters, not the Munich terrorists, the monument to the 1985 attack was more than ten metres from where he was photographed. Meanwhile The Telegraph has revealed a new photo of where he was for the wreath laying at the 1985 monument. Let’s just say he’s not quite so prominent — or holding a wreath.
The twists and turns of this story are certainly enough to make your head hurt. What’s more, today The Times reveal that in one of the photos of the ceremony, Mr Corbyn stands next to a senior official from an actual, proscribed terrorist group — a group that just over a month later went on to claim responsibility for the murder of a British rabbi. Throw in the fact that the Labour leader also failed to declare who paid for the trip on his register of interests (unlike other parliamentarians that attended), that Israel’s premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, waded in to publicly condemn Mr Corbyn on Twitter, and the fact that Labour’s last prime minister, Gordon Brown, has refused to endorse him as a future prime minister, and it looks as if summer could still get stickier for Labour.
— Travel spotting —
While Liz Truss has been strutting her stuff around the Tuscan Archipelago, Caroline Flint has come to regret taking a leaf out rabble-rouser Theresa May’s book on how to have a good time. Ms Flint is spending the rest of the summer nursing a broken wrist after taking a tumble in a field of wheat.
Anyway, that's quite enough from me. I’ll be back next Thursday with your weekly round-up.