Wednesday briefing: EU blasts 'stupid' Brexit blame game

Wednesday briefing: EU blasts 'stupid' Brexit blame game

Angela Merkel was depicted in anonymous No 10 briefings as making impossible demands. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Prospects look remote of deal before 31 October ??? Turkey poised to invade Kurd-held Syrian territory ??? and housing estate a ???modest masterpiece???


Main image: Angela Merkel was depicted in anonymous No 10 briefings as making impossible demands. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Top story: ???Working people will pay the price??? ??? Starmer

Hello ??? I???m Warren Murray, here to walk you through the news at a leisurely gallop.

There seems little prospect of a Brexit deal before 31 October after stormy exchanges between the EU and No 10 were fuelled by a series of anonymous briefings from within Downing St portraying European leaders, in particular Ireland???s Leo Varadkar and Angela Merkel of Germany, as making impossible demands. ???What???s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,??? wrote Donald Tusk, the European council president. The Irish government also hit back, saying it was working ???flat out??? for a deal.

Brussels appears resigned to an extension of Britain???s membership stretching until next summer, even though Boris Johnson has pledged to crash out of the EU if necessary in order to leave by the end of this month. The situation is moving closer to the Benn Act coming into play ??? it obliges Johnson by law to seek an extension of article 50 if he can???t get a deal at next week???s European council meeting. Most at Westminster expect Johnson to be forced into requesting the extension and to then trigger a general election, which could be held in November or early December. But members of the Tory cabinet are privately concerned about persistent suggestions the PM could try to sidestep the Benn Act in pursuit of a hard Brexit.

In the House of Commons, the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has accused Johnson of deliberately making proposals he knew Brussels would reject: ???It will be working people who pay the price.??? MPs were sent home on Tuesday night as parliament is suspended for a few days before next week???s Queen???s speech, which Johnson will use to set out an election-friendly list of domestic priorities.

Flashpoint on Syria border ??? Turkey???s government has claimed Donald Trump is handing it the leadership of the campaign against Isis and its forces will be crossing into north-eastern Syria ???shortly???. After Trump suddenly withdrew American forces, Kurdish troops who have been receiving US support to defeat Islamic State now face fighting alone against Turkey, Isis and Iranian or Russian-backed units backing Syria???s ruler, Bashar al-Assad. There are British and French special forces in the region and in the event of a major Turkish-Kurdish conflict the Guardian understands they would be tasked with bolstering the security of camps where captured Isis fighters are being guarded by the Kurds. ???We are nervous, and very much against this Turkish offensive,??? a European official said. ???If it is an unmitigated Turkish offensive, we are going to suffer serious consequences.???

Midweek catch-up

> Police have tried to clear Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest camps from around Westminster. XR activists are now preparing for a sit-in protest at London City airport for at least three days. The veteran activist Swampy, who lived in tunnels to stop roads being built, has said the rise of XR has given him hope for environmentalism.

> The White House has declared it will not cooperate with impeachment hearings as Trump seeks to shield himself from scrutiny over his attempts to get Ukraine???s president to investigate Joe Biden???s son. Donald Trump has said he prevented the US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, from testifying to the hearings.

> A humpback whale seen in the Thames has died, according to marine conservation experts. The Port of London Authority will attempt to recover for examination the body of the whale, which was estimated to be 10 metres long.

> The Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is back home after being hospitalised for a heart attack and says he will adjust his campaigning. Sanders said: ???I must confess, I was dumb,??? admitting he ???should have listened to those symptoms??? while doing ???three or four rallies a day??? over recent months.

???Architectural marvel??? ??? The prize for the best new building in the UK has been awarded to one of the first new council housing projects in a generation. Goldsmith Street in Norwich is described as a ???modest masterpiece??? by RIBA Stirling prize judges. The 105 creamy-brick homes are designed to stringent ???Passivhaus??? environmental standards, meaning energy costs are around 70% below average. Walls are highly insulated and roofs are angled at 15 degrees so each terrace doesn???t block sunlight from the homes behind. Letterboxes are built into external porches rather than having door slots that allow draughts.

Goldsmith Street housing estate in Norwich.
Goldsmith Street housing estate in Norwich. Photograph: Tim Crocker/Riba/PA

The architects, Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley, won the job because they were one of the few firms to propose streets rather than slabs of apartment blocks. Oliver Wainwright writes that Goldsmith Street ???represents what has become a rare breed: streets of terraced homes built directly by the council, rented with secure tenancies at fixed social rents. And it???s an architectural marvel, too.???

Zantac alert ??? Several versions of the heartburn medicine Zantac are being withdrawn from sale and recalled worldwide by GlaxoSmithKline after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found ???unacceptable??? levels of a probable cancer-causing impurity called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Zantac is also sold generically as ranitidine. Regulators have been recalling some blood pressure and heart failure medicines since last year over similar contamination. Britain???s medicines watchdog said GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was recalling four prescription-only Zantac medicines: a syrup, an injection and tablets of 150mg and 300mg dosages. Over-the-counter 75mg dosage Zantac products were made by a different company and not affected, said authorities.

???Step up??? ??? Universities in the UK have made progress in dealing with sexual harassment, with nearly two-thirds introducing consent training for students and some making it mandatory for freshers, according to a survey. But the findings also point to more work being needed to combat racial harassment, violence and hate crime. The survey was conducted by Universities UK two years after its Changing the Culture report set out a framework for improvements in tackling harassment, particularly sexual misconduct. Julia Buckingham, the UUK president and Brunel London vice-chancellor, said: ???While it is understandable that there has been a particular focus on addressing gender-based violence, it is time for us to step up and make sure the same priority status and resourcing is given to addressing all forms of harassment and hate.???

Today in Focus podcast: Shell vs Nigerian widows

In 1995 the Nigerian government executed nine anti-pollution activists. Four widows are now taking the oil company to court. And: Dan Sabbagh on the ramifications of Trump???s decision to withdraw troops from the Turkish-Syrian border.

Today in Focus

Shell vs Nigerian widows


Lunchtime read: Alexa ??? get out of my house

Technology frequently inspires ambivalence: we know that Facebook and Google know too much about us, yet we continue to use their services because they???re so damn convenient. ???Voice assistants, however, are unusually polarising,??? writes Dorian Lynskey. ???People who consider them sinister and invasive (myself included) regard enthusiasts as complacent, while those who find them useful and benign see the sceptics as paranoid technophobes.???

Amazon???s Alexa personal assistant.
Amazon???s Alexa personal assistant. Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Voice assistants may not be the most pressing threat to privacy, but that is only because they are optional. A facial recognition scanner can spy on you in public, but Alexa, like a vampire, must be invited into your home. The only truly effective power you can wield is not to use it ??? but making an informed choice is compromised by misleading marketing and undermined by Amazon???s efforts to embed Alexa into countless products including cars, televisions, headphones, microwaves, thermostats, clocks, new houses and hotels. As the Gizmodo editor Adam Clark Estes puts it: ???Voice control is being forced down consumers??? throats whether they like it or not.???


Tammy Abraham says England???s players have resolved to walk off the pitch in their Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia on Monday if they are subjected to racist abuse. Clare Stokes, the wife of cricketer Ben Stokes, has dismissed allegations of a physical altercation between the couple at an awards ceremony. England captain Owen Farrell has not been at his most influential thus far at the Rugby World Cup but Eddie Jones and his team know that often allows George Ford to prosper.

Scotland are ???champing at the bit??? ahead of their must-win final two pool games as they bid to keep their hopes alive. The head of UK Athletics, Neil Black, is to quit at the end of this month after paying the price for his longstanding support of the banned US coach Alberto Salazar and his failure to hit his medal target at the recent World Athletics Championships.

Simone Biles has won a record 21st medal at the world gymnastics championships as the United States retained their women???s team all-around title. Phil Neville gave the impression that he was only feeling the searing heat of Set??bal and not the pressure of his job after a scrappy Beth Mead goal salvaged a win for England against a stubborn Portugal team. And on a day when it was revealed that Andy Murray will make his grand slam singles return at the Australian Open, he came close to the best win of his comeback from hip surgery in a bad-tempered match against Fabio Fognini.


Customers who were mis-sold loans by the collapsed payday lender Wonga are expected to receive less than 10% of what they are owed in compensation after administrators revealed that only ??41m will be put aside for claimants. Wonga went bust last year after a stream of complaints about loans that sometimes came with rates of 5,000%. Fears about worsening relations between the US and China put the mockers on Asian markets overnight and the FTSE100 is expected to open flat today. The pound was also level at at $1.222 and ???1.114 after a torrid Tuesday.

The papers

???We???re going round in Merkels,??? says the Metro???s front page today of the Brexit debate, and the same could be said of the front pages, which once again lead with news of failing Brexit negotiations.

Guardian front page, Wednesday 9 October 2019
Guardian front page, Wednesday 9 October 2019.

The Guardian says: ???Day the deal was doomed???, the Telegraph reports: ???Brexit deal now ???essentially impossible??????, the i has: ???Brexit deal ???impossible??? as Eu leaders reject PM???s proposals??? and the Express has ???That???s it then! PM???s angry clash spells end of deal???. The FT focuses on a potential meeting with the Irish leader: ???Johnson urges Varadkar to keep talking as Brexit deal hopes fade???, the Times sounds a note of optimism: ???Johnson gets last chance to keep Brexit deal alive???, while the Mirror splits its front page between a ???taunt??? from Donald Tusk to Johnson: ???You don???t want a deal??? and the response from Clare Stokes to a picture suggesting her husband Ben assaulted her: ???Ben and I were just messing about ...???.

The Sun???s main story is ???Cha cha chaps???, about the ITV decision to feature a male couple on the new series of Dancing on Ice and the Mail leads on what it has labelled the ???dementia care scandal???: ???The roar No 10 cannot ignore???.

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