May to tell MPs Brexit talks at ‘crucial stage’

Theresa May will today tell the Commons that her Brexit talks are at a “crucial stage” and add that “we now all need to hold our nerve” while she seeks changes to the Irish backstop position to satisfy MPs and get her exit deal through parliament for the 29 March deadline. The BBC says she is “essentially asking for more time”.

US border wall deal ‘will stop shutdown’

US Republicans and Democrats have agreed a compromise which will prevent a further government shutdown, if it is ratified by Congress and President Donald Trump. The agreement pledges $ 1.4bn (£1.1bn) for border security – but does not mention a concrete barrier. Trump had wanted $ 5.7bn (£4.4bn) for his much-vaunted wall.

Government sued over ferry contracts

Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel is suing the government over its plans to award freight ferry contracts to three firms – one of which had no ships and had never operated a ferry service – in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Eurotunnel says the contracts were not awarded in a transparent manner and it was not told of them.

Missing student: butcher denies sex acts

A butcher in Hull who was arrested over the disappearance of 21-year-old student Libby Squire, missing since 31 January, has been charged with several unrelated offences and remains “under investigation”, police say. Pawel Relowicz, 24, denies performing a sex act in Squire’s street and stealing underwear from homes there.

Syria: new terror threat blocks aid

Aid agencies have pulled out of Syria’s Idlib province after the area was taken over last month by fighters linked to al-Qaeda, known as Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). According to The Guardian, the area’s three million residents are “beginning to feel the pinch” as schools and hospitals struggle to function without international support.

Space ‘snowman’ is ‘flat like a pancake’

New data from Nasa’s New Horizons probe shows that the snowman-shaped ‘planet’ nicknamed Ultima Thule and found out beyond Pluto is flatter and “more like a pancake” than previously thought. The surprising shape creates a “scientific puzzle” as to its formation, according to Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins University.

Horse-racing to resume after flu scare

After six days of suspension in the UK, horse-racing will resume on Wednesday. The sport was shut down as a precaution after cases of equine flu were discovered at a Cheshire stables. Some 23 meetings had to be cancelled during the shutdown and 174 racing stables were placed on lockdown. Four meets will go ahead tomorrow.

Most congested roads in UK revealed

Traffic data firm Inrix has published a list of what it says are the most congested roads in the UK – and the worst offender is London’s North Circular between Chiswick Roundabout and Hanger Lane on the A406. Roads in Leeds and Birmingham also make the ‘top’ five. The firm says the average driver spends 178 hours a year in jams.

Desert Island Discs names as best show

A poll of radio industry experts carried out by Radio Times has proposed BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs as the greatest radio programme of all time. Currently presented by Lauren Laverne, the one-on-one chat show has been broadcasting since 1942. Long-running soap opera The Archers was voted the second-greatest show.

Briefing: what’s in the Tory foreign aid blueprint?

Plans for a multibillion pound cut in the UK’s foreign aid budget have been set out as part of a new Conservative vision for a post-Brexit “global Britain”.

The proposals feature in a report called Global Britain: A Blueprint for the 21st century, drawn up by Bob Seely, a Tory member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and James Rogers, a strategist at the Henry Jackson Society think tank

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