Leo Varadkar and Theresa May will meet on Monday

Irish PM to meet Theresa May to talk post-Brexit borders and DUP deal

IRELAND’s new prime minister will meet Theresa May on Monday to discuss Brexit and insist the Conservative Party’s alliance with the DUP does not affect the border with Northern Ireland.

The pair are due to discuss Brexit and the political deadlock in the Northern Irish regional assembly, after a breakdown in a power sharing deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Brexit will be high on the agenda amid concerns of a return to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland once Britain leaves the EU.

Mrs May’s plans to agree an informal ‘confidence and supply’ deal with Arlene Foster on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will also come under scrutiny.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “I will be speaking to her about a renewed commitment by the two governments to work together to ensure that the Northern Ireland executive is established before June 29.

“Obviously also we are going to have a discussion around Brexit.

Theresa May is trying to agree a deal with the DUP
Theresa May is trying to agree a deal with the DUP

“I’ll be interested to learn from her to what extent, if at all, British policy has changed and to relay to her once again the particular concerns that we have in Ireland about the impact on the border, trade and freedom of citizens to move freely between our two islands as we have done for centuries.”

The Irish prime minister – known as the Taoiseach in the republic – also said today that the DUP deal must not interfere with devolution in Northern Ireland.

His office said in a statement :”The Taoiseach raised the ongoing discussions on formation of a new government in London with the DUP, which is a matter for the parties represented at Westminster, but noted the need to avoid any outcome which could interfere with devolution and the prospects of re-establishing the Executive.”

His comments come after a week of negotiations between DUP leader Arlene Foster and Mrs May over the confidence agreement,

Speaking after returning home to Belfast, Ms Foster said she wanted to see an arrangement that worked for everybody after the UK left the EU.

Arlene Foster urged for a "sensible" Brexit
Arlene Foster urged for a “sensible” Brexit

Ms Foster said: “Not just in Northern Ireland from my perspective but of course in the Republic of Ireland as well. So it is about a sensible Brexit.

“I know people want to talk about soft Brexit, hard Brexit, all of these sorts of things, but what we want to see is a sensible Brexit and one that works for everybody.”

The PM yesterday urged Northern Ireland’s political parties to reach an agreement to restore government by June 29, or London would need to consider alternative steps.

Theresa May said: “Speaking with the parties today, it was clear that real progress was made in the last round of discussions and agreement can be reached if there is good will on all sides.

“But time is running short and the parties must come together by the 29 June for the return of a strong voice at Stormont.”

Brexit negotiations are set to start on Monday.

The DUP is planning to scrap the TV licence

‘It’s a REGRESSIVE TAX!’ DUP’s pledge to scrap BBC TV licence fee may happen in Tory deal

TV licences could be abolished if the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) get their way in a parliamentary deal with the Tory party.

DUP officials have long pledged for the removal of the BBC imposed charge which the party calls a “regressive tax”.

However, the move, which would save families almost £150 a year, has been criticised by Labour

Jeremy Corbyn’s team have vowed to vote down any major overhaul of the publicly-funded BBC.

Deputy leader Tom Watson wrote to Tory counterpart Karen Bradley calling for her to “fight hard” to make sure DUP plans are not on the table as part of Theresa May’s desperate bid to hold on to power.

As part of the DUP’s six election pledges, they plan to scrap the £3.7billion a year licence fee.

The Northern Ireland party said: “The TV licence fee is a highly regressive tax which was designed for a different era and a world of communications that no longer exists.

“The success of Netflix and Amazon streaming services shows that subscription-based media can and does work.

Arlene Foster’s party said they would form an independent commission to review the BBC and “alternative funding models”, while producing a plan that will “either significantly reduce the licence fee or abolish it”.

Mr Watson, shadow culture secretary, hit back saying: “Don’t do this.

“Cutting or abolishing the TV licence would jeopardise the BBC’s future as an independent, advertiser-free national broadcaster. It would be a great mistake.

Arlene Foster's DUP party hopes to strike a deal with the Tory party
Arlene Foster’s DUP party hopes to strike a deal with the Tory party

“I look forward to receiving reassurances that there will be no concessions to the DUP on this matter.

“And I would be grateful if you would give a specific commitment to maintaining the TV licence as the BBC’s funding mechanism.

The Tories reached a deal with the BBC in 2015 that saw the corporation take on the £750million costs of providing the service free to people over the age of 75.

David Davis is set to carry out Brexit talks next week

Brussels calculates minimum Brexit bill the EU will thrust at David Davis before talks

BRUSSELS bureaucrats have reportedly raised their demands for Britain to cough up a minimum cost of €100billion (£84billion) before they hammer out a Brexit divorce settlement on Monday.

The Brexit bill is set to rise as eurocrats revise their initial calculations to increase the liabilities the UK must pay for, following demands from bitter members including France and Poland.

The €100bn figure is set to be the minimum payment demanded by eurocrats who are keen to spare its budget from Britain’s momentous decision to sever ties with the bloc.

The EU has insisted Brussels will not bow to Theresa May’s demands to talk trade until “sufficient progress” is made over the divorce settlement.

New calculations include Britain’s pensions liabilities, as well as its €251bn in budget commitments approved by the UK before 2019, known as reste a liquider, according to the Financial Times.

This means the Brexit bill has significantly increased from €40bn net and €60bn gross to €60bn net and €86bn gross.

EU bosses have broken down the €100bn eye-watering sum, with €84.5bn from the UK to honour financial commitments it made as a member state and £11.5bn of contingent liabilities and €1.7bn in development funding pledges.

Europe’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned he will not enter talks with the UK over its future trading relationship with the bloc before Britain met its financial liabilities.

Barnier will meet with David Davis on Monday for Brexit talks
Barnier will meet with David Davis on Monday for Brexit talks

The demands come after controversial snap election, which saw a gamble by Prime Minister Mrs May backfire on a stunning scale as she lost MPs while Labour gained.

Now, forced to form a minority government, the PM is trying to form a “confidence and supply” deal with Northern Ireland’s hardline DUP – but it could be days or even weeks before a government deal is agreed.

But David Davis and Michel Barnier have reportedly confirmed they are on track to start talks on Monday, June 19.

‘A century defined by religion’ Europe’s chief rabbi predicts seismic shift in EU politics

EUROPE is undergoing a seismic shift in its politics which will see the next century defined by conflicting views over the role of religion in public life, the continent’s chief rabbi has said.

In an interview with Express.co.uk Pinchas Goldschmidt said politicians would find it increasingly difficult to walk the tightrope between their own personal views on faith on policies suited to a secular society.

He linked a number of political phenomenons globally, from the rise of the far-right in Europe to the election of Donald Trump in America, to a growing influence of religion on politics.

His comments came after the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron resigned earlier this week, citing questions about his Christian attitudes towards gay sex as a key factor in his decision.

Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt said it will be increasingly hard for politicians of faith
Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt said it will be increasingly hard for politicians of faith

Britain’s prime minister Theresa May, the daughter of a vicar, is also a Christian and has seen her own private views subject to much media questioning and scrutiny.

In a telephone interview from Moscow, chief rabbi Goldschmidt, said what was a predominantly secular 20th century has given way to a new age dominated by questions about how religion affects the global order.

He said: “The last century, the 20th Century, was the secular century. Then this century started with the most important moment, 9/11, which was a religious moment, because it was a war declared because of religion.

“This century is going to be more and more religious and religion is going to play a much more important role in its politics than during the last century.”

He pointed out that President Trump, who made much of his Christian faith on the campaign trail, chose “three destinations based on religion” for his first official tour outside the United States.

The Republican visited Muslim majority Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican City last month and made different speeches at all three which focussed heavily on religion’s role in world peace.

Chief rabbi Goldschmidt said: “Whether it was the right decision or the wrong decision I’m going going into it, but it symbolised how politics today is being defined by religion much more than before.”

And asked about the plight of Mr Farron, who said in his resignation speech it was “impossible to be a political leader and to live as a committed Christian”, he pointed to a seismic shift in the way the public sees politicians.

He said: “It used to be in the past that many politicians who were privately religious, of any faith, they divided their personal faith and their political views.

“There was a division – I’m religions at home and in the street I’m a politician.

“But I think as religion is more and more defining our politics, especially in a European context, it’s going to be more and more difficult to create this dividing line between a person’s religious beliefs and his policies.”

During the general election campaign Mr Farron was repeatedly grilled by interviewers over whether he thought gay sex was a sin, a question he initially avoided answering before saying he did not think that.

But the Lib Dem leader’s voting record on gay rights was largely positive – he backed key issues like same sex marriage – and the episode left some commentators uncomfortable at the image of a man being tormented over his own private religious views.

In a wide-ranging interview the chief rabbi also spoke at length about Brexit and the French election, expressing his relief at the defeat of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

The religious leader, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, predicted that the “radical right which wants to take Europe back to 1914” will subside if the EU can sort out its security and migration problems.

And he said the UK’s decision to leave the EU had created “a lot of doubt and uncertainty” amongst the Jewish community across Europe and urged both sides to reach a sensible Brexit deal.

How Brexit negotiations will be held on Monday – including a VERY long lunch

ON MONDAY the day the entire country has been waiting a year for will finally arrive and negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union will begin in earnest.

And in oh so typical Brussels style it won’t be the bang of a starting gun but rather the pop of a wine cork that denotes the start of Brexit as David Davis and Michel Barnier get down to work over the one thing this global capital of bureaucracy does best – lunch.

An itinerary released by the EU Commission this afternoon shows that officials from the British and EU sides will spend just six to seven hours negotiating on the first day of the talks.

Michel Barnier is the EU's chief negotiator
Michel Barnier is the EU’s chief negotiator

The day will begin with an opening salvo of talks between the two camps for 90 minutes, which are likely to be ceremonial in nature as both sides mark the start of history.

An hour and a half is then dedicated to a “working lunch” between Mr Davis, the Brexit secretary, and his French counterpart Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.

Over fine food the pair, who already know each other well over long lives in European politics, will lay the foundations for a close working relationship which will ultimately determine the success or failure of the talks.

After lunch officials from both Brussels and London will come together for working groups, during which they will discuss what eurocrats have amusingly dubbed “talks about talks”.

Confusingly, the opening salvos of the Brexit process will all focus on the technical framework within which the actual negotiations themselves will be carried out.

Brussels has insisted on an overall phased approach to the divorce, meaning that aspects including citizens’ rights, a financial settlement and Northern Ireland must be resolved before trade talks can begin.

Britain initially rejected this idea, saying it wanted to conduct trade and technical talks at the same time, but now appears to have admitted defeat and agreed to it in principle.

The EU also wants to hold the negotiations themselves in four week rotating blocs, all taking place in Brussels, during which individual issues will be compartmentalised and discussed.

Under their plan Mr Davis would spend one week of every month in Brussels holding face-to-face meetings with Mr Barnier, whilst the other three weeks would be characterised by constant contact between their officials.

EU sources say Britain is yet to formally agree to any of Brussels’ proposals on the structure of the talks, but that eurocrats expect the UK side will do so in the end.

In the afternoon intense talks to this effect will be held between Mr Barnier’s fearsome second-in-command Sabine Weyand, who is one of the EU’s most highly regarded officials, and Mr Davis’ deputy Olly Robbins.

The day will end with a closing session between the two chief negotiators and a press conference, at which journalists and the public will be updated of progress made on the first day.

The plans were published hours after Germany’s president, Walter-Frank Steinmeier, warned Britain to stop playing “time games” with the bloc and get on with the process of delivering Brexit.