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Anne Milton quits as education minister as Boris Johnson wins Tory leadership race

6 hours 58 minutes ago
Boris Johnson, Anne Milton and David Davis in 2016
Boris Johnson, Anne Milton and David Davis in 2016

Education minister Anne Milton has resigned her post ahead of Boris Johnson taking over as Prime Minister and Conservative party leader.

The Guildford MP quit minutes before it was announced that the ex-foreign secretary had recorded a landslide victory against Jeremy Hunt to take over from Theresa May.

The Skills and Apprenticeships minister said her decision to step down from the frontbench post came over “grave concerns about leaving the EU without a deal”.

Mr Johnson pledged during his leadership campaign to take the UK out of the European Union “do or die” by the 31 October deadline.

In a letter to Mrs May, Ms Milton said: “I have always believed that our departure from the European Union should be centred around future co-operation, and I had sincerely hoped that we would be able to leave the EU in March with a deal. 

“I regret very much that this was not possible. 

“However, I have grave concerns about leaving the EU without a deal, and so I feel it is time for me to return to the backbenches.”

“It is important to me to be free to do what I feel is right for the country and my constituents.

“This has not been an easy decision to make but I believe strongly that Parliament should continue to play a central role in approving a deal, and that we must leave the EU in a responsible manner.”

Her decision comes a day after Sir Alan Duncan stood down as a Foreign Office minister over Mr Johnson's Brexit stance. He later failed in a bid to instigate a confidence vote in the Prime Minister-designate.

Elsewhere, David Gauke and Rory Stewart confirmed that they were stepping down as Justice Secretary and International Development Secretary respectively.

The pair had previously ruled out serving under Mr Johnson over his openness to pursuing a no-deal exit.

 

 

Speaking moments after his victory was announced, Mr Johnson said: "We are going to energise the country.

"We are going to get Brexit done on 31 October and take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring with a new spirit of can do.

"We are once again going to believe in ourselves, and like some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity."

Follow all the latest announcements as the newly elected Conservative leader forms his new government here.

Nicholas Mairs

Britain's new Prime Minister to be unveiled as top Tories warn Boris Johnson over no-deal Brexit

15 hours 27 minutes ago
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt
Mr Johnson is widely expected to win the race to become Tory leader.

Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt will be unveiled as the new leader of the Conservatives later, as the party faces a bitter battle over a no-deal Brexit.

The man chosen by the party's members to succeed Theresa May as Prime Miniser will be announced at 11:45am at London's QE2 conference centre.

The winner will officially enter Number 10 on Wednesday afternoon, following Mrs May's final Prime Minister's Questions session.

Mr Johnson is widely expected to seize the Tory crown, but he will immediately face trouble from his own backbenches over his vow to deliver Brexit with or without a deal by 31 October.

Justice Secretary David Gauke - who has promised to quit on Wednesday if Mr Johnson wins - warned the Tory frontrunner that his strategy for leaving the EU would see the party shed votes to the Liberal Democrats under their new leader Jo Swinson.

The Cabinet minister told The Times Mr Johnson's strategy was "going to draw millions of traditional Conservative voters away from us".

And he warned: "If we were to narrow our support to purely being those in favour of a no-deal Brexit I think we would be significantly out of touch with a lot of people who have traditionally voted Conservative — those who live in London, the home counties, and various other relatively affluent parts of the country.

"It is important the Conservative Party appeals to voters in the centre ground. It’s a position that would play into the hands of the Liberal Democrats."

STEWART: I HAVE FRIENDS

Meanwhile International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, who has also said he could not serve under Mr Johnson, insisted the next Prime Minister would not have the numbers needed to get a no-deal Brexit through the Commons.

Speaking at an event hosted by the i newspaper, Mr Stewart pointed to the Government's slim Commons majority saying: "There is a majority of two, and I have at least three friends."

He added: "There are at least five of us leaving the Cabinet, and there are many others too, who are against a no-deal Brexit and he has a majority of two."

Chancellor Philip Hammond has already made it clear that will not serve under a Prime Minister contemplating a no-deal Brexit - while Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan, who worked for Mr Johnson when he was Foreign Secretary, quit on Monday.

However, in a boost for Mr Johnson, Sir Alan failed in his bid to try and secure a vote of confidence in the new Conservative leader before they had taken up post.

The Telegraph reports that should Mr Johnson win, he will use his victory speech to focus on the three themes of "delivering Brexit, bringing the Tory Party together and seeing off the threat of Jeremy Corbyn".

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Tories face general election backlash if they push for no-deal, new poll finds

16 hours 28 minutes ago
EU FLAGS
The poll, commissioned by new anti-Brexit group 'no to no-deal', found half of voters expected the NHS would be hit by staffing shortages under a no-deal situation

More than 40% of voters say they would be less likely to back the Conservatives if the next Prime Minister triggers a no-deal Brexit, a new poll has found.

The survey is a major blow for Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, as both of the candidates in the race to replace Theresa May have vowed to exit the EU with no agreement in place if they fail to strike a new deal with the bloc.

And the expected winner Mr Johnson has vowed to deliver Brexit "do or die" by the October 31 deadline.

But according to the latest polling, 65% of voters believe the cost of "daily essentials" would be likely to rise in a no-deal scenario, while just under half (49%) say they would expect UK manufacturing exports to be hit with expensive tariffs.

The 38 Degrees poll, commissioned by the 'no to no-deal' campaign group, also found that half of voters expected the NHS would be hit by staffing shortages under a no-deal situation.

Ellie Gellard, campaigns director at 38 Degrees, said: "People didn't vote to 'Take Back Control' to put working people out of a job, for our NHS to run shirt of medicines or to threaten the future of proud British industries like manufacturing and farming.

"Today's research shows the public understand what No Deal could mean for their lives - and the Conservative Party will pay the price if the next leader is responsbile for deliver it."

Automotive worker Andrew MacIver, who voted Leave in 2016 but who now backs the 'no to no-deal' campaign, told the study: "In 2016 I voted to leave the EU. Today, seeing the harm that a no deal Brexit will cause to the UK manufacturing industry, I'm utterly opposed to a no deal Brexit."

Responding to the report, former Conservative cabinet minister Oliver Letwin, said: "These results show that many of our fellow citizens are concerned about the risks associated with a disorderly 'no deal' exit from the EU. I share that concern. It is not sensible to impose these risks on our economy and our society."

The incoming PM is already set to face a growing rebellion from Conservative MPs over the possibility of a no-deal exit.

On Monday, Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan resigned from the government, saying it was "tragic" that ministers had had to work "beneath the dark cloud of Brexit".

Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed he will resign after Theresa May's final session of Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday should Mr Johnson be named Tory leader.

The senior Cabinet minister said he would not be able to serve in Mr Johnson's cabinet if it meant accepting the "condition" of backing a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

John Johnston

Gordon Brown says Boris Johnson could be ‘first Prime Minister of England’ as he warns of Brexit threat to Union

1 day 9 hours ago
Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown urged Mr Johnson not to push the British economy "off a cliff"

Gordon Brown has said that Boris Johnson could be remembered as "the first Prime Minister of England" in a warning over how a no-deal Brexit could threaten the Union.

The former Labour Prime Minister said the Tory leadership frontrunner's opposition to devolution and Scottish representation at UK-level was "well-known" and could put the future of the country at risk.

He also warned that a hard exit from the European Union would hurt millions already affected by austerity.

Speaking at a Hope Not Hate and Institute for Public Policy Research event in London, Mr Brown warned the former foreign secretary not to push the economy “off a cliff”.

“A No Deal Brexit also threatens a United Kingdom that even now seems united in name only,” he said. 

“Boris Johnson has no workable answer to the Northern Ireland border problem.

“And his opposition to the fundamental lynchpins of Scotland’s relationship with Britain is well known.

"He opposes the level of Scottish representation in the UK; he opposes the devolution settlement and the powers the Parliament has; he opposes the funding format based on needs and demography and he thinks it’s just wrong for a Scot to be PM of the UK - a jibe I thought was directed at me but I now think was aimed at Michael Gove.

He added: “Indeed it sometimes seems as if is fated to be remembered not as the 55th Prime Minister of the UK but as the first Prime Minister of England.”

“But with Conservative members and supporters saying the end of the Union is a price worth paying for Brexit, a more extreme SNP now proposes to leave the UK customs union, the UK single market and the UK pound.

"Scotland is caught between two extremes - Conservative and Nationalist - that both put the Union at risk."

Mr Brown also quipped that the next Prime Minister will be voted in by a “smaller electorate than who voted for Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing.”

According to a poll by Hope Not Hate, 26% of men and 17% of women believe a no-deal Brexit is good for Britain.

It also revealed, at the launch of its 'No to No Deal' campaign, that three million Leave voters from the 2016 referendum say that exiting the EU without a deal would be bad for Britain.

The former PM added: “So even before he becomes PM, Boris Johnson is already out of step with the views of the British people and perhaps more than 20 million voters will oppose a no-deal Brexit.  

“Those vying to be Prime Minister have been cocooned in a Tory leadership contest giving the same ‘No Deal’ speeches to the same small crowds but out in the country the British people are right to be concerned.”

Anahita.Hossein-Pour_159579

Boris Johnson compares Brexit to the moon landings as Tory leadership voting closes

1 day 15 hours ago
Boris Johnson
The Conservative frontrunner hit out at "technological pessimists".

Boris Johnson has insisted that a "sense of mission" akin to the 1969 moon landings can ensure Britain leaves the European Union on 31 October.

The frontrunner to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister took a swipe at his "pessimist" Cabinet critics as he said the UK could leave the EU with a deal if it had the "will" and "drive" to make it happen.

His comments came ahead of the the postal ballot of Tory members closing at 5pm on Monday, with the winner declared at 11 o'clock on Tuesday morning.

Either Mr Johnson or his rival Jeremy Hunt will then take over from Mrs May on Wednesday when she hands in her resignation to the Queen following her final Prime Minister's Questions clash with Jeremy Corbyn. 

Writing in the Telegraph ahead of the voting deadline, Mr Johnson said the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landings showed that Britain could solve the "technical and logistical" problem of avoiding a hard Irish border as it leaves the EU.

But Mr Johnson said: "I am afraid that there are technological pessimists - some of them apparently in London  who seem genuinely to think that such technical solutions are impossible, that they are a kind of logical contradiction, a mythological species that we will never see in this universe. Are they right? Of course not."

Mr Johnson added: "It is absurd that we have even allowed ourselves to be momentarily delayed by these technical issues. If they could use hand-knitted computer code to make a frictionless re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere in 1969, we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border. 

"There is no task so simple that government cannot overcomplicate if it doesn’t want to do it. And there are few tasks so complex that humanity cannot solve if we have a real sense of mission to pull them off."

The European Union has repeatedly insisted that it will not reopen talks on the Brexit withdrawal agreement despite longstanding Conservative Brexiteer opposition to the backstop plan to avoid friction at the Northern Ireland border.

Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Sunday doubled down on that position, teeling the BBC: “The EU... has made it very clear that we want to engage with a new British Prime Minister, we want to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but the solutions that have been put in place to do that haven’t changed and just because a new British Prime Minister says they have to change doesn’t mean that the EU collectively will respond to that by changing the approach of the next three years."

Mr Johnson's comments meanwhile came amid mounting opposition from the current Cabinet to his vow to leave the European with or without a deal on 31 October.

On Sunday Chancellor Philip Hammond made clear that, if Mr Johnson wins the race, he would resign from the Cabinet before the new Prime Minister had the chance to sack him.

He said: "I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point, assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next Prime Minister."

And Mr Hammond - who has vowed to oppose a no-deal Brexit as a Tory backbencher - added: "I understand that his conditions for serving in his Government would include accepting a no-deal exit on 31 October.

"That is not something I could ever sign up to. It's very important that a Prime Minister is able to have a Chancellor who is closely aligned with him in terms of policy and I therefore intend to resign to Theresa May before she goes to the palace to tender her own resignation on Wednesday."

That followed an identical pledge from Justice Secretary David Gauke, who said he could not sit on the frontbench while Mr Johnson pursued a no-deal Brexit.

“Given that I’ve been in the Cabinet since Theresa May came to power, I think the appropriate thing is for me to resign to her,” he wrote in The Sunday Times.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Simon Coveney says Brexit facts 'have not changed' as he dismisses new Prime Minister's hopes of fresh deal

2 days 9 hours ago
Simon Coveney
Ireland's deputy prime minister Simon Coveney

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister has warned the next Prime Minister that they will not be able to “tear up” Theresa May’s Brexit deal and replace it.

Simon Coveney said a “change in personality” did not alter the “complexities” and “vulnerabilities” of issues such as ensuring an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

His intervention comes after both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt said that the controversial backstop solution had to be taken out of any agreement if it were to win the backing of the Commons.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Ireland's Tanaiste said: “I think it’s important to say very clearly, if respectfully, that the facts don’t change around Brexit.

“The complexity doesn’t change, the vulnerabilities around the island of Ireland don’t change and just because there’s a change in personality as British Prime Minister, doesn’t mean that the negotiation of the last three years and the solutions that were designed by the British Government as much as the EU aren’t still as relevant and important today as they were six weeks ago.”

He went on to warn against either candidate pursuing a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, adding: “I think if the approach of the new British Prime Minister is that they’re going to tear up the Withdrawal Agreement then I think we are in trouble.

“I think we’re in trouble quite frankly because that’s a little bit like saying 'either give me what I want or I’m going to burn the house down for everybody'.

“The EU, I think, has made it very clear that we want to engage with a new British Prime Minister, we want to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but the solutions that have been put in place to do that haven’t changed and just because a new British Prime Minister says they have to change doesn’t mean that the EU collectively will respond to that by changing the approach of the next three years."

Mr Coveney added that there would be a “fundamental unfairness” in offering a fresh agreement to Theresa May’s successor, when one had already been negotiated “in good faith” and with “compromise on all sides”.

He repeated that the backstop – which has proved a major sticking point in Mrs May’s three failed attempts to get her deal through the Commons – had to remain in any withdrawal agreement, although it could be replaced with alternative arrangements when they arose.

“This is about reassuring people in Northern Ireland that they are not going to go back to the friction and tensions of the past," he added.

“That is ultimately what this is about and so to ask Ireland to compromise on that core issue when we spent two and a half years working with the British Government and the EU to try and find a way to compromise on all sides to ensure that we don’t face that prospect is not a reasonable ask, because of a political challenge in Westminster to move away from that position.”

He also became the latest figure to dismiss a provision under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, known as GATT 24, which proponents, including Mr Johnson, say would allow free imports and exports to continue while a long-term trade agreement is thrashed out.

Mr Coveney said of the plan: “We just don’t think that’s a viable option at all, and by the way, it is not just the Irish government, I think the Brexit committee in the House of Commons has also made it very clear that that’s a non-starter.”

Nicholas Mairs

Keir Starmer to seek alliance with Tory ex-Cabinet ministers in bid to halt no-deal Brexit

2 days 12 hours ago
Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer has pledged to work with Tory ministers to avoid a no-deal Brexit

Keir Starmer has announced plans for a cross-party alliance with Cabinet ministers on the verge of quitting the Government in a bid to stop the next Prime Minister from pursuing a no-deal Brexit.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary confirmed that would reach out to figures such as Philip Hammond and David Gauke, who are strongly opposed to Britain quitting the EU without an agreement.

Mr Johnson, the runaway favourite to take over from Theresa May this week, has insisted that the UK will leave “do or die” on 31 October.

His rival, Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile has refused to commit to a hard exit date, but has said that if a deal is not in sight by the beginning of October, he would ramp up preparations for a no-deal exit.

The Chancellor, Mr Hammond, last week said he would do “everything in my power” to prevent Britain from crashing out, while the Justice Secretary, Mr Gauke, has vowed to quit on Wednesday.

Mr Starmer said the Commons had to be put on a “war footing” to prevent a “disastrous and chaotic” no-deal outcome.

Writing in the Observer, he said: “On Tuesday morning some ministers will sit around the cabinet table for the last time.”

“They know very well the dangers of no deal. They will have been briefed about what it would mean for jobs, the economy, our public services and the union. They will have seen the advice and read the evidence.

“After they have resigned this week, I will want to work with all those former ministers who, like me, want to ensure parliament can stop a disastrous and chaotic exit from the EU.”

The Labour frontbencher said Mr Johnson and his rival, Mr Hunt, had taken part in an “arms race towards a more and more extreme form of Brexit”.

“Deeper red lines, even more ludicrous promises, but absolutely no coherent or workable plan for the country,” he added.

It comes after Mr Hammond insisted that he would “not exclude anything for the moment,” when asked about potentially voting to bring down a Tory government that sought to rail a no-deal Brexit through against MPs' wishes.

He added: “I will do everything in my power from my position to make sure that Parliament blocks a Brexit without agreement.”

Meanwhile Mr Gauke, writing in the Sunday Times, said a hard exit would be a "humiliation" for the UK.

He added: “In a period of time where there is no parliamentary majority, there’s political uncertainty and a lack of stability, I worry that the UK then will essentially be supplicants.

“We’ll go through the pain of no-deal and then we will have no choice but to go back to the EU but in a weaker negotiating position.

“I fear that, frankly, there is a humiliation for us there if we go down that route.”

Nicholas Mairs

Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes wins appeal against £20,000 Electoral Commission fine

4 days 4 hours ago
Darren Grimes
Mr Grimes said he was "delighted and relieved" by the verdict.

Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes has won his appeal against a £20,000 fine handed down by the Electoral Commission.

Mr Grimes was hit with the five-figure fine in 2018 after the elections watchdog said it had found "significant evidence" that the official Vote Leave Brexit campaign had failed to properly declare its links with his youth-focused BeLeave group.

But Mr Grimes appealed against the fine at the Mayor's and City of London Court, accusing the watchdog of "errors of fact, the law and unreasonableness".

In a statement, Mr Grimes said he was "delighted and relieved that the Court has found me innocent".

He added: "This case has taken a huge toll on myself and my family, and I'm thankful it's now over. I will be eternally grateful to all those people who have supported me - your generosity and kind words of encouragement have kept me going.

"The Electoral Commission's case was based on an incorrectly ticked box on an application form - something that it had been aware of for over two years and had not been raised in two previous investigations.

"Yet the Commission still saw fit to issue an excessive fine and to spend almost half a million in taxpayer cash pursuing me through the courts. This raises serious questions about its conduct both during and after the referendum."

The case against Mr Grimes had focused on a £680,000 donation from Vote Leave to BeLeave in the final weeks of the EU referendum.

The Commission found that this had been used under a "common plan" between the two groups to spend money on digital ads from Canadian firm Aggregate IQ - a move that meant Vote Leave broke the £7million legal spending cap imposed on campaigns.

Under electoral law, groups are allowed to transfer money but cannot direct each other on how to spend it.

In statement following the verdict, the watchdog said: “We are disappointed that the court has upheld Mr Grimes’ appeal.

“We will now review the full detail of the judgement before deciding on next steps, including any appeal.”

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Sajid Javid praises Nigel Farage for quitting Ukip as he says Brexit Party 'not extremists'

4 days 9 hours ago
Nigel Farage
The former Ukip leader quit the party late last year.

Sajid Javid has praised Nigel Farage for quitting Ukip and dismissed suggestions his new Brexit Party is made up of "extremists".

In a speech in London, the Home Secretary said "populism and even open racism" had "catapulted extremists to power" around the world in recent years.

But he argued that a similar trend had not happened in the UK, as he defended Mr Farage's new outfit despite the Brexit Party he now leads not making "life any easier" for the Tories.

The Cabinet minister said: "Ukip have floundered since they moved further right, with their leader being advised by EDL founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a man that is now behind bars.

"That decision sparked a wave of resignations and their support has collapsed.

"And we must give credit where credit's due. So I applaud Nigel Farage for walking away, branding Ukip thugs and extremists.

"And even though his Brexit Party has not made my life any easier, I want to be clear: they are not extremists.

"Because it doesn't help to exaggerate the problem, to demonise anyone with a different view and to see danger when it is not there."

Mr Farage quit Ukip late last year after a 25-year-long stint in the party, including three spells as leader.

He blamed his exit on the decision to appoint Mr Yaxley-Lennon - known as Tommy Robinson - as an adviser to the party, and hit out at the "fixation" of Ukip's then-leader Gerrard Batten with anti-Islam policies.

Mr Javid's intervention comes after the Brexit Party surged to the top of the polls in May's European elections.

The party swept up 31.6% of the vote, bagging 29 MEPs, while the Conservatives slumped to fifth place behind the Greens with just 9.1% of the vote.

TRUMP ROW

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Javid hit out at Donald Trump amid an ongoing row over tweets telling four ethnic minority congresswomen to "go back" to their "broken and crime infested" countries rather than criticise America.

The Home Secretary said: "I’m from an immigrant family, I know what it’s like to be told to go back to where I came from. We must confront the myths about immigration that extremists use to drive divisions.

"We know the scale is exaggerated to stoke up fear and that they use immigration as a proxy for race.

"Anyone can challenge the myths peddled by extremists that deepen divisions. So tell your friends, shout it loud and proud: people from minority backgrounds did not steal our jobs, they’re not terrorists, that there is no global ‘Zionist conspiracy’."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Philip Hammond hints he may vote to bring down a Boris Johnson government as he blasts 'noisy' Brexiteers

4 days 10 hours ago
Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson
Philip Hammond has suggested he could vote against Boris Johnson's government in a vote of no-confidence.

Philip Hammond has suggested he could back a vote to bring down a Boris Johnson goverment as he accused "noisy" Brexiteers of attempting to frustrate the negotiations.

The Chancellor said he would not “exclude” the possibility of backing a motion of no-confidence in the likely new Prime Minister if he attempted to force a no-deal through Parliament.

In a scathing interview with the Le Monde and Suddeutsche Zeitung newspapers, Mr Hammond vowed to do “everything in his power” to stop a Brexit outcome that failed to secure “explicit parliamentary approval”.

 “There should be a new and sincere attempt to reach a consensus”, he said. “If we do not find a solution with the members, we may have to ask the British to give their opinion again in one form or another.”

On Thursday Mr Hammond rebelled against his party by abstaining on a vote by MPs to block Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament in order to force through a no-deal exit on October 31.

Asked if he would consider lending his support to a motion of no confidence in Mr Johnson if and when he gets into power, the veteran Cabinet minister told the papers: “I do not exclude anything for the moment.”

The frontrunner to replace Theresa May has repeatedly refused to rule-out proroguing Parliament to make sure we exit the EU ahead of the Hallowe’en deadline, but Mr Hammond hit out at such a suggestion.

“In practice, extending the deadline is absolutely necessary,” he said. “Between the summer break, the arrival of the new commission and the change of the British government, it is simply impossible to negotiate anything before October 31.

“If the next government is sincere in its desire to reach an agreement with Europe, it must try to get more time. If it does not, the British Parliament will insist on getting a new postponement.

“I will remain a member of the House of Commons. I will do everything in my power from my position to make sure that parliament blocks a Brexit without agreement.”

And in a blast at Brexiteers within his own party, the senior cabinet minister accused “deliberately noisy, rude and inconsiderate” MPs of attempting to frustrate negotiations.

“Some are trying to make the Europeans so tired that they ask us to leave,” he said. “But please, do not listen to the few noise-makers.”

John Johnston

No-deal Brexit 'a foolhardy gamble that poses fundamental risk to economy', say MPs

4 days 15 hours ago
EU and UK flags
A no-deal Brexit would pose a 'fundamental risk' to the economy, say MPs.

A no-deal Brexit would pose a "fundamental risk" to the UK economy, harm the competitiveness of key industries and put thousands of jobs at risk, according to senior MPs.

In a damning report, the cross-party Brexit Committee said leaving the EU without a deal would be "at best a foolhardy gamble and at worst lead to severe disruption" across the country.

Boris Johnson - who is expected to be confirmed as the new Prime Minister next week - - has pledged to deliver Brexit "do or die" on 31 October.

But the committee report says: "Some have argued that a no deal exit would bring the EU 'back to the table' and that the UK would secure a better deal as a result.

"This is, at best, a gamble. At worst, it could lead to severe disruption of the economy, pose a fundamental risk to the competitiveness of key sectors of the UK economy, and put many jobs and
livelihoods at risk."

In particular, the report says that the north east of England and the West Midlands would be the areas of the UK most badly affected by no-deal, with the chemical, retail, food and drink and manufacturing sectors the hardest parts of the economy.

The report also dismisses Mr Johnson's suggestion that the UK could maintain tariff-free trade with the EU even after no-deal through the World Trade Organisation's so-called "GATT 24" rules.

"It requires an agreement between the two parties, a plan as to how the end state will be reached, and for this agreement to be notified to all parties to the WTO," the report says. "By definition, leaving without a deal means there is no agreement."

Labour MP Hilary Benn, who is the committee's chair, said: "We heard from representatives of important sectors of the UK economy which are all great British success stories. Every single one warned us of the damaging consequences faced by their members in the event of a no-deal Brexit. 

"Yesterday’s latest forecast from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility that a no-deal Brexit could cause a £30bn hit tothe public finances, with an economy pushed into recession and asset prices and the pound falling sharply, will only add to the deep concerns of UK businesses.

"A no-deal Brexit, with no GATT XXIV agreement, would be at best a foolhardy gamble and at worst, lead to severe disruption, and it is neither desirable nor sustainable as an end state for our economic relations with the EU.

"This clear evidence reinforces our previous conclusion that a ‘managed no deal’ cannot constitute the policy of any responsible Government."

Kevin Schofield

Theresa May refuses to sack Cabinet rebels despite humiliating Brexit defeat

5 days 6 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May is refusing to sack the Cabinet rebels who defied the three-line-whip on the vote

Theresa May has refused to sack the rebels in her Cabinet after four senior ministers refused to vote with the Government against a bid to block a no-deal Brexit.

Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart, David Gauke and Greg Clark all broke a three-line Tory whip by abstaining an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill.

The amendment, which is aimed at preventing Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit if he becomes Prime Minister - was passed by 315 votes to 274.

Mr Hammond explained his decision on Twitter, writing: “The Conservative Party has always, at its core, had a fundamental belief in the importance of strong institutions – and in a representative democracy there can be no more vital institution than it’s Parliament.

“It should not be controversial to believe that Parliament be allowed to sit, and have a say, during a key period in our country’s history.”

And Mr Clark told BBC News: "I couldn't support the idea that we would allow the doors of Parliament to be locked against MPs at this crucially important time.

“I think that would be a constitutional outrage, and we should not participate in that.”

But despite the mass rebellion, a spokesman for Mrs May confirmed that she would not be taking any disciplinary action.

He said: "The Prime Minister is obviously disappointed that a number of Ministers failed to vote in this afternoon’s division.

"No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their government."

In a further sign of Mrs May's waning authority as she prepares to quit as Prime Minister, a total of 17 Tory MPs voted against the Government.

They included Margot James, who immediately quit as culture minister, saying: “Over the course of the last few months I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable about the way the rhetoric is developing on Brexit.”

She told BBC’s Newsnight although her constituents in Stourbridge strongly backed Leave, she has “become more and more worried” about a no-deal Brexit, and: “The fact that Boris Johnson…is not ruling out proroguing parliament, I felt that this time that rather than just abstain I would vote for the amendments that will make it more difficult.”

In a major embarrassment, Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt also failed to vote after mistakenly thinking he had been given permission not to take part.

He tweeted: "Missed votes today because I thought I was slipped and it turns out I was not.

"Apologies to my colleagues and Whips Office. My position is that parliament should NOT restrict the hands of an incoming govt in this way and I remain opposed to how Parliament voted."

The change to the legislation would mean a minister would have to appear in the Commons every two weeks to discuss progress on breaking the deadlock at Stormont, which has not sat for more than two years.

This would prevent the new man in Downing Street from suspending - or proroguing - Parliament in the run up to the 31 October deadline.

Alain.Tolhurst_162914

MPs back bid to stop Boris Johnson suspending Parliament to deliver Brexit

5 days 7 hours ago
EU and UK flags
Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out prorogation.

MPs have backed a fresh attempt to stop Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament to deliver Brexit if he becomes Prime Minister.

The clear frontrunner to succeed Theresa May in 10 Downing Street is contemplating so-called "prorogation" to make sure the UK leaves the European Union on 31 October.

But following a major rebellion by Tory MPs, the Commons voted 315 to 274 in favour of an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill which all-but rules that out as a possibility.

A total of 17 Conservative MPs voted in favour of the amendment, while at least four Cabinet ministers who are opposed to a no-deal Brexit were among those who broke the whip by abstaining.

But confirming they will not be sacked, a Downing Street spokesman sais: "The Prime Minister is obviously disappointed that a number of Ministers failed to vote in this afternoon’s division. No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their government."

Meanwhile, culture minister Margot James has resigned after voting in favour of the amendment.

The result means ministers will be forced to return to Parliament throughout October to give regular updates on the progress being made in talks to restore power-sharing at Stormont, which has not sat for more than two years.

It came after peers passed a similar amendment in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson - the runaway favourite to be named the new Conservative leader next Tuesday - has repeatedly refused to rule out suspending Parliament in order to guarantee Brexit by Hallowe'en.

Earlier this week, it emerged that his campaign team are considering tabling a Queen's Speech for the start of November.

That would allow him to prorogue Parliament in the middle of October, thereby ensuring the UK leaves at the end of the month - even if a majority of MPs are opposed to it.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister condemned the changes to the Northern Ireland Bill.

"We have been clear that the purpose of this bill is to ensure the continuation of vital public services and effective governance for the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

"Our view is that forcing a report and debate every two weeks on the progress of the those talks risks being counter-productive to this over-arching aim."

Northern Ireland minister John Penrose told the Commons that the amendment risks being seen by voters as "a stitch-up, a clever piece of procedure that pretends to care about democracy, but in reality is trying to prevent a decisions that has already been taken from ever happening at all".

Labour MP Hilary Benn, who put forward the original amendment, told the House: “The amendment would ensure that the House is sitting at a crucial time for our country, which I believe the country would expect and I don’t think that we could accept circumstances, if I may coin the phrase, in which we were sent missing in action.”

Former Foreign Office minister, Alistair Burt said: "If we felt under the weight of any pressure up to now, I venture to suggest to the House that it will be of nothing in the days leading up to October 31 if it’s not clear where the country is going, either because a deal has been agreed or because the consequences of no-deal have not been sufficiently spelt out so that everybody has been able to take a view."

Ex-Education Secretary, Justine Greening added: "If it doesn’t [pass] I really do feel that we will have crossed a rubicon inadvertently...

"That rubicon will be that when a government runs up against an issue and worries that the elected House of MPs may decide to stand up against it, then it can just close it down and that’s not in Britain’s DNA as a democracy."

Meanwhile Tory MP, Fiona Bruce, who opposed the amendment, hit out at last week's separate move to use the legislation to change abortion laws in the province.

She said: “The way in which this bill has been handled has been unconstitutional, undemocratic, legally incoherent and utterly disrespectful to the people of Northern Ireland…

“Let [the people of Northern Ireland] decide on such sensitive issues. We talk here of not being colonial, but what is this? Is this what new colonialism looks like?”

The DUP's Nigel Dodds continued: “When it comes to Northern Ireland debates it seems the chamber fills up and people only take an interest when it serves their purposes for other reasons.

"Sadly that is the case, I would like to see as many people take an interest in Northern Ireland affairs when we’re debating other issues of real effect and practical impact on the constituents that we represent here.”

Kevin Schofield

UK set to enter recession under no-deal Brexit, warns government spending watchdog

5 days 10 hours ago
UK and EU flags
The UK could be plunged into a recession under a no-deal Brexit

Britain’s economy will fall into recession and leave a £30bn black hole in the country’s finances if there is a no-deal Brexit, according to the Government’s spending watchdog.

The Office for Budget Responsibility warned that the UK’s economy could shrink by 2% by the end of 2020 – 4% below the group’s March forecast – if the next Prime Minister fails to reach an agreement with Brussels.

Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have both insisted they are prepared to deliver a no-deal Brexit.

But the OBR’s latest fiscal risks report, published on Thirsday morning, said such a scenario would be bad for the economy.

It said: “Heightened uncertainty and declining confidence deter investment, while higher trade barriers with the EU weigh on exports.

“Together, these push the economy into recession, with asset prices and the pound falling sharply.”

The body found that leaving without a deal would add £30bn a year to government borrowing from 2020-21 onwards and increase net debt by 12% of GDP by 2023-24.

OBR chairman Robert Chote said: "The big picture is that heightened uncertainty and declining confidence deter investment.

"Higher trade barriers with the EU weigh on domestic and foreign demand, while the pound and other asset prices fall sharply.

"These factors combine to push the economy into recession. The economy and asset prices then recover somewhat over time."

Responding to the report, Chancellor Philip Hammond said: “The report the OBR have published this morning shows that even in the most benign version of a no-deal exit, there would be a very significant hit to the UK economy, a very significant reduction in tax revenues and a big increase in our national debt – a recession caused by a no-deal Brexit.

“But that most benign version is not the version being talked about by prominent Brexiteers. They are talking about a much harder version which could cause much more disruption to our economy, and the OBR is clear that in that less benign version of no-deal the hit would be much greater, the impact would be much harder, the recession would be bigger, so I greatly fear the impact on our economy and our public finances of the kind of no-deal Brexit that is realistically being discussed now."

Labour MP and campaigner for a People’s Vote, Rachel Reeves, said: “There is no mandate for No Deal. No Deal has never been put to the people in any shape or form.

“Yet an elite in Westminster now want to force it on us, despite all the costs and damage. They are even prepared to suspend Parliament, something not tried since the reign of Charles I, to ram this outrage through.

“However many votes Boris Johnson wins from the 0.25% of the population who are members of the Conservative Party, any plans he has for No Deal have no legitimacy and must be stopped. 

Jo Stevens, her colleague and a campaigner from the pro-EU Best for Britain group, said: “You can't have Brexit and an end to austerity. It's clear that no-deal would devastate our public finances.

“The Government keep telling us there's no money left yet we're still spending huge sums of money preparing for a no-deal cliff-edge.

“It's clear we must stop Brexit so that we can properly fund our NHS, schools and police forces."

Nicholas Mairs

British negotiators ran around 'like idiots' during Brexit talks, claims EU chief

5 days 14 hours ago
Frans Timmermans
Frans Timmermans blasted David Davis for his "grandstanding" over Brexit

British ministers were "running around like idiots" at the start of the Brexit negotiations, top EU official Frans Timmermans has claimed.

In a scathing attack on the UK's negotiating team, the EU Commission's first Vice President compared former Brexit Secretary David Davis to bumbling Dad's Army character Lance Corporal Jones.

Speaking to the BBC's Panorama programme, set to be aired on Thursday, the top EU boss said he had expected a "Harry Potter-like book of tricks" from ministers, but was left "shocked" by their approach.

He said: "We thought they are so brilliant. That in a vault somewhere in Westminster there will be a Harry Potter-like book with all the tricks and all the things in it to do."

But the senior EU official said he changed his mind after seeing "grandstanding" Brexit Secretary David Davis.

"I saw him not coming [to Brussels], not negotiating, grandstanding elsewhere and I thought, 'oh my God, they haven't got a plan, they haven't got a plan," he said.

Mr Timmermans added: "That was really shocking frankly because the damage if you don't have a plan - you know, we see it - time's running out and you don't have a plan, it's like Lance Corporal Jones, you know, 'Don't panic, don't panic!' Running around like idiots."

Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Timmermans accused Tory leadership favourite Boris Johnson of "playing games" during the Brexit negotiations.

"It's about time we became a bit harsh, because I am not sure he was being genuine," Mr Timmermans said.

"I always had the impression he was playing games."

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have vowed to renegotiate a fresh agreement with Brussels ahead of the 31 deadline if they become Prime Minister.

Speaking at a leadership hustings on Tuesday, both contenders commited to dumping the controversial Irish backstop proposals, aimed at ensuring there remains an open border with Ireland after Brexit.

"It needs to come out," Mr Johnson said. "No time limits or unilateral escape hatches or all those kind of elaborate devices, glosses, codicils and so on that you could apply to the backstop."

Mr Hunt added: "The backstop as it is, is dead, so I agree with Boris - I don't think tweaking with a time limit to do the trick, we've got to find a new way."

John Johnston

Theresa May warns her successor they must 'compromise' to avoid a no-deal Brexit

6 days 3 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May has said the next PM must compromise to get Brexit done.

Theresa May has warned her successor in Number 10 that they will have to "compromise" on their Brexit position if they want to avoid a no-deal departure.

The outgoing Prime Minister said "whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long-term", an apparent rejection of leaving without a deal.

Boris Johnson has insisted that the UK must leave "do or die" on 31 October, while both he and Jeremy Hunt have insisted the Irish backstop must be ditched for any deal to be done - a move ruled out by Brussels.

In her last major speech before she leaves Number 10 next Wednesday, Mrs May hit out at those who take "absolutist" positions as she bemoaned the polarisation of politics around the world.

The Prime Minister said she had "no bigger regret" than her failure to persuade the Commons to back her Brexit deal.

"But whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long-term – so that delivering Brexit brings our country back together," she said.

"That has to mean some kind of compromise. Some argue I should have taken the United Kingdom out of the European Union with no deal on 29 March. Some wanted a purer version of Brexit. Others to find a way of stopping it altogether.

"But most people across our country had a preference for getting it done with a deal. And I believe the strength of the deal I negotiated was that it delivered on the vote of the referendum to leave the European Union, while also responding to the concerns of those who had voted to remain.

"The problem was that when it came time for Parliament to ratify the deal, our politics retreated back into its binary pre-referendum positions – a winner takes all approach to leaving or remaining.

"And when opinions have become polarised – and driven by ideology - it becomes incredibly hard for a compromise to become a rallying point."

The Prime Minister also made clear her frustration that even promising to quit her job had not been enough to get Brexit over the line.

"I was told if I stand down, the votes would come," she said. "They didn’t come. That’s politics."

Kevin Schofield

Nick Clegg says Tories' Brexit stance has left ‘the clock ticking’ towards break-up of UK

6 days 5 hours ago
Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg was deputy prime minister between 2010-2015

The Conservative Party's hardline Brexit stance has meant the “clock is ticking” towards the break-up of the UK, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said.

The ex-Liberal Democrat leader said “aggressive and regressive” English nationalism had taken over the Tories as they are forced to compete with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.

When asked how he expected the next few years to unfold, Mr Clegg told the New Statesman: “It seems to me that the clock is now ticking for the end of the union of the United Kingdom.”

“I am afraid I’ve sort of come to the view I think that is now more likely than not. I think the Brexit demon has unleashed such an aggressive and regressive right-wing English nationalism.

“And that the Conservative Party is converting itself into an English nationalist party.

“It has so little representation in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and they have to compete with Farage.

“So I think the Conservative Party is condemned – whoever is leader – to be pulled in an ever more English and divisive direction.”

Mr Clegg also hit out at Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson by branding him “one of those classic examples, the more you see of him, the less impressive he is". 

He added: "With familiarity, he diminishes.”

The former MP, who is now Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications, predicted that Mr Johnson would end up calling a snap election in a bid to prove his popularity, were he become PM.

“He’s going to really scratch away at that itch because that’s all he has got," he continued.

"I mean he’s literally reduced to saying I’ve got no plan for Brexit – ‘I have no answers to the questions about my character’.

“You know as I do that [Mr Johnson’s] journalism is about striking poses; that’s the whole point about it.

“That’s what columnists do – they’re trying to provoke thought. But that is not what government is about.

“Instead, you are trying to play Solomon on a whole bunch of really invidious choices where you will never keep everyone happy, where there’s no perfect solution.”

Elsewhere, Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems had “a real opportunity to hold the balance of power again”, after they finished ahead of the Tories and Labour at May's EU elections with their anti-Brexit stance.

It comes four years after they lost dozens of seats in a backlash over their role in the coalition government.

He added that Jo Swinson and Ed Davey, the two candidates running to succeed Sir Vince Cable as the next leader “will give some real energy” to the party.

“In the grand scheme of things for such an old political party, it’s only four years and we’re back in business and I think that’s very exciting,” he added.

Nicholas Mairs

Downing Street slaps down Philip Hammond over claim no-deal Brexit would cost the UK £90bn

6 days 7 hours ago
Theresa May Philip Hammond
Downing Street has slapped down Mr Hammond's £90bn assessment

Downing Street has hit back at Philip Hammond over his claim that a no-deal Brexit would cost the UK £90bn.

A spokesman for Theresa May said the Chancellor was “making a particular argument of his own” as part of the Tory leadership race.

It followed Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay accusing Mr Hammond of quoting “selectively” from Treasury figures to bolster his arguments against a no-deal Brexit.

Mrs May’s spokesman said: “The Chancellor has on a number of occasions pointed to some research from last year which was modelling Chequers-type agreements against a no-deal scenario. 

“They were published by the Government, but they are a specific comparison between the Chequers-type model of a future partnership, not a comment on no-deal in general.”

He added: “The Chancellor has obviously, over a number of weeks now, been making a particular argument of his own in relation to the Conservative Party’s leadership contest.”

Mr Hammond quoted the figure after Conservative leadership rivals Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson laid out a series of spending pledges in their bid to become the next PM.

Both candidates have also admitted they are willing to take Britain out of the EU, with or without a deal, on the 31 October deadline.

Speaking critically of their plans to spend the £25bn “headroom” stored up by the Treasury, the Chancellor said: “I have no doubt whatsoever that in a no-deal exit we will need all of that money and more to respond to the immediate impacts of the disruption of a no-deal exit.

“And that will mean that there is no money available for longer-term either tax cuts or spending increases.

“But let me go further. The Government's analysis suggests that in a disruptive no-deal exit there will be a hit to the exchequer of about £90bn.

“That will also have to be factored in to future spending and tax decisions.”

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, giving evidence to the Exiting the European Union Committee, told MPs that Mr Hammond’s calculations were "selectively picked out" of Treasury reports.

He said: “Firstly that’s a prediction for 2035, and I’m sure the Chancellor himself would say that it is very difficult for any finance ministry with certainty to predict 15 years after the implementation period.

“Secondly that figure assumes no government intervention…”

He added: “As a former treasury minister all assessments from the Treasury are collectively signed off as a government assessment.

“But I am also, so that one doesn’t selectively pick out from those reports, putting them in context and it is in reference to 2035, and it is in reference to no intervention from government in event of no deal.”

A source close to the Chancellor however hit out at the pile-on, claiming the £90bn was from a cross-government analysis.

They said: "Colleagues in Government must have short term memories as the £90bn is from the cross government economic analysis published by DEXEU.

"Economists across government fed into it – indeed Stephen Barclay presented it to the House of Commons. No10 and other departments signed it off so officially it’s the ‘government’s view’ not just the Chancellor’s.

"They had every opportunity to take out if they disputed it so much…"

'TERRIFYING'

Meanwhile, Mr Hammond branded the views of Mr Johnson ally Jacob Rees Mogg, as "terrifying" as the Tory backbencher argued that no-deal Brexit could boost the economy by £80bn.

The Brexiteer referred to Mr Hammond’s “negative” no-deal forecast as “pure silliness” in an column for the Daily Telegraph.

But Mr Hammond fired back on Twitter: “Happy to debate scale of negative impact of No Deal on the economy - but terrifying that someone this close to a potential future government can think we’d actually be better off by adding barriers to access to our largest market.”

Anahita.Hossein-Pour_159579

Peers back bid to stop Boris Johnson suspending Parliament to deliver Brexit

6 days 7 hours ago
A debate in the House of Lords
The Lords backed plans to make ministers produce regular reports on the situation in Northern Ireland ahead of the crucial Brexit deadline.

Peers have backed an attempt to prevent the next Prime Minister from shutting down Parliament in order to force a no-deal Brexit.

They voted 272 to 169 in favour of an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill which its supporters claim will prevent Parliament being prorogued in the run-up to 31 October.

The move sets up a major Commons showdown when the legislation is debated again by MPs on Thursday.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, a staunch opponent of a no-deal Brexit, launched a similar bid last week.

Elements of the senior Tory's plan were trimmed back by MPs, but a key amendment scraped through by a single vote and requires ministers to produce regular reports in the run up to the Brexit deadline on attempts to get the Stormont executive back up and running.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out proroguing Parliament to try and ensure Britain leaves the EU on Hallowe'en, and it was reported this week that his team is considering holding his first Queen's Speech in early November to keep Parliament closed in the preceding two weeks.

But the move to make it harder to shut down has now been endorsed by peers, meaning it will go back to the Commons for a fresh showdown.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Amber Rudd warns Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt their Brexit plans will 'collide with reality'

6 days 14 hours ago
Amber Rudd
The Work and Pensions Secretary is backing Jeremy Hunt as the next Conservative leader.

The next Prime Minister will have to compromise on their Brexit plans when they "collide with reality", Cabinet minister Amber Rudd has warned. 

The Work and Pensions Secretary, who is backing Jeremy Hunt over Boris Johnson in the race to be the next Conservative leader, said both men would have to make concessions to win over a "difficult" Parliament.

And she admitted to being "surprised" that the two contenders had taken a hardline stance on leaving the EU in a head-to-head debate earlier this week.

They both insisted that the Northern Ireland backstop would need to be removed from the EU withdrawal agreement, rather than simply amended, for it to be acceptable to MPs.

But Ms Rudd told Politico: "I think they will find they have to compromise.

"I was surprised by what they both said and I think their views will collide with the reality when whichever one wins, starts negotiating and starts dealing with a Parliament which may be more difficult than they think to engage with."

Ms Rudd - a longstanding Cabinet opponent of leaving the European Union without a deal - raised eyebrows last week when she said that a no-deal needed to be "part of the armoury" for the next Prime Minister as they attempted to get changes to the withdrawal agreement signed with the EU.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said Mr Hunt had "convinced" her that no-deal had be kept on the table.

But she acknowledged that Parliament could still move to block a hard exit.

"I think Parliament could very well," Ms Rudd said. "It’s not a certainty but I think the likelihood is that Parliament will find a way."

'PEACE AND STABILITY'

The Cabinet minister's comments come amid reports that Mr Johnson could suspend Parliament in the two weeks running up to the 31 October to guarantee Brexit happens on that date.

Sky News reported that the leadership frontrunner's team is planning to hold a Queen's Speech setting out his legislative plans at the start of November - a move that usually closes down Parliament for the preceding two weeks, meaning MPs would be unable to vote against a no-deal in the run-up to the crucial Brexit deadline.

Meanwhile, newly-appointed EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has poured cold water on any suggestion to backstop could be scrapped by insisting that "peace and stability on the island of Ireland" and citizens’ rights would be her Brexit priorities.

She added: "The Withdrawal Agreement concluded with the government of the United Kingdom provides certainty where Brexit created uncertainty.

“However, I stand ready for a further extension of the withdrawal date, should more time be required for a good reason."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47