⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃
May gives no guarantee on NHS waiting times: Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to guarantee that the NHS will get back to delivering A&E care, cancer treatment and planned operations within key waiting times despite its £20bn a year funding rise. Asked on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday whether the targets would be met in future, the prime minister admitted the NHS’s performance was slipping and blamed its inability to provide those types of care within the maximum waiting times on the fast-growing pressures it is under. May’s failure to promise a return to the days when most hospitals in England met most key targets most of the time is at odds with her previous pledge that under the NHS long-term plan the service would once again hit the four-hour A&E target, give cancer patients urgent treatment within 62 days of referral and carry out non-urgent surgery within 18 weeks. The government’s 10-year plan for the NHS lacks both the staffing and funding to succeed, Labour has said. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said May was just trying to clear up a mess that she had made.
Universal credit: Vote to extend benefit to three million delayed: The next stage of the universal credit rollout is to be scaled back amid concerns about the controversial new benefits system. MPs were due to vote on whether to move three million benefit claimants onto universal credit in the next few weeks. But this vote has been pushed back and Parliament will instead be asked to vote on transferring just 10,000 people to the new benefits system. Labour said ministers should halt the rollout as a matter of urgency. Universal credit works by merging six different benefits for working age people into one monthly payment. The single payment is paid directly into claimants’ bank accounts, covering the benefits for which they are eligible. 2.2 million families are expected to gain under the system, according to analysis by the Resolution Foundation think tank. However the same analysis found that 3.2 million households could loose an average of £48 per week. Some people already claiming universal credit say it has forced them into destitution and in some cases prostitution. Others say they have been left to rely on foodbanks.
Anti-racism campaigners hold vigil to welcome refugees: Campaigners have called for compassion towards migrants braving the Channel as they host a vigil welcoming refugees to the UK. Kent Anti-Racism Network (KARN) organised the gathering in Ramsgate Harbour on Sunday afternoon. The group said it was concerned for those making the crossing in small boats. It describes itself as a group of residents who want to “firmly say refugees are welcome here”. Donations will be collected for not-for-profit organisation Care4Calais, which is providing aid for refugees in northern France.
⊂ JOB-BOARD UNITED KINGDOM ⊃
politjobs.uk: Association of Directors of Children’s Services seeks Policy Officer *** The Royal Society seeks Senior Policy Adviser (Education) *** ITV Cymru Wales seeks Public Affairs Manager *** Independent Age seeks Public Affairs Officer *** Dogs Trust seeks European Policy Advisor (Publish your job ad)
⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Britons would now vote to stay in EU: More Britons want to remain a member of the European Union than leave. A survey by polling firm YouGov showed Sunday that if a referendum were held immediately, 46% would vote to remain, 39% would vote to leave, and the rest either did not know, would not vote, or refused to answer the question. The survey also showed that 41% thought the final decision about Brexit should be made by a new public vote versus 36% who believe it should be up to parliament. British Prime Minister Theresa May used a television and print media blitz Sunday to reject calls for the second referendum on Britain’s EU membership. May urged members of parliament to back the Brexit deal she has negotiated with the EU and insisted the parliament vote will happen as planned in mid-January, countering reports that she could delay it. She refused to rule out repeated votes on the same deal if she loses the first time round.
cnbc.com, politico.eu, euronews.com
Migrant ships dispute on the Mediterranean Sea: Pope Francis urged European leaders on Sunday to stop bickering over the fate of 49 migrants stuck aboard two humanitarian rescue ships on the Mediterranean and let them land at a safe port of call. Last week, nearly two dozen humanitarian groups, including Amnesty International and the United Nations’ International Organisation for Migration, called on the EU to offer a safe port to both vessels. 32 people are aboard the “Sea-Watch 3”, a vessel run by a German humanitarian group, which plucked them from an unsafe boat off Libya in December. Another ship run by the German group “Sea-Eye” is carrying 17 people. Speaking at a political meeting shortly before the pope made his appeal, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat defended his country’s refusal to take the vessels, saying it had no legal responsibility for the rescue. Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement, shot back at Muscat, saying Italy had for years taken migrants who arrived via the Mediterranean. Germany and the Netherlands agreed to take in some of the refugees, but only as part of a collective European effort.
Alstom-Siemens merger could be blocked: The EU Commission would be making an economic error and a political mistake by blocking a proposed Alstom-Siemens merger, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Sunday. Blocking the merger would also send to a conquering China a signal of European division and unarming, he added. Paris and Berlin have previously called on the Commission to allow the creation of a European champion in the railway industry to be able to compete with China. “Politico” reported in November that the EU executive body had reached a preliminary conclusion that Siemens’ acquisition of Alstom would be incompatible with the internal market.
⊂ QUOTES ⊃
“It is not right that a particular EU country has to reduce unemployment benefits because of rising jobless numbers in a crisis that is not of its making.”
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has spoken out in favour of a European unemployment insurance.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
“Yellow Vests” attack French ministry building: The first “Yellow Vest” demonstration of the new year reached a new level of violence on Saturday as a government ministry building was attacked and chief government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux evacuated out the back door. Griveaux told French television that “Yellow Vest” protesters and men dressed in black commandeered a construction vehicle and broke down the door of the Left Bank building. They then entered a courtyard and broke several windows, he said. Several thousand protesters demonstrated in Paris, while smaller protests took place in cities such as Rouen, Nantes, Rennes and Toulouse. There are reports of multiple arrests and police injuries, including four police injured and three protesters arrested in Montpellier. On Sunday, hundreds of women wearing yellow vests organised their own march to show the female faces of the social movement. Unlike Saturday, the female “Yellow Vest” marches went peacefully.
nytimes.com, politico.eu, euronews.com
German interior minister promises clarity after data breach: Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has pledged to provide clarity on a massive data breach that has shaken Germany’s political establishment. He announced that he would meet the heads of the country’s criminal police office (BKA) and cyber defence agency (BSI) again on Monday to find out what they knew about the cyberattack and how they dealt with it. The interior committee of the German parliament’s lower house, the Bundestag, will also meet for a special session on Thursday to discuss the breach. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), demanded on Sunday that the government provide more clarity on the data breach. The government said on Friday that personal data and documents from hundreds of German politicians and public figures including Merkel had been published online, in what appeared to be one of Germany’s biggest data breaches.
Ukraine church independence sealed: The spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians worldwide on Sunday presented the head of the Ukrainian church with a decree granting it independence from Moscow, a historic split strongly opposed by Russia. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who signed the autocephaly decree on Saturday, handed the document to Ukrainian Metropolitan Epifaniy at St George’s Cathedral in Istanbul after a mass to mark the feast of Epiphany. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who also attended the event, compared the development to Ukraine’s referendum for independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
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Protests over “slave law” in Hungary: Thousands marched in the Hungarian capital Budapest on Saturday, the latest in a series of protests that started before Christmas, against a new law. The change to the labour law, which was passed by parliament in December, has faced intense criticism and sparked the biggest street protest in over a year. The law is dubbed “slave law” because it allows employers to ask staff to work two extra hours to an average work day, or the equivalent of an extra workday per week. That’s up to 400 hours of overtime per year. Hungary’s opposition has staged several rallies in the past weeks in Budapest and other cities against the rule of conservative nationalist Viktor Orban which they say is authoritarian.
⊂ JOB-BOARD ⊃
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⊂ MALFUNCTION ⊃
France’s most senior cleric on trial over silence in child abuse: France’s most senior cleric will go on trial this week – accused of failing to denounce the activities of a suspected paedophile priest. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and five of his colleagues are blamed for staying silent in the case of Father Preynat, who allegedly abused more than 70 Scouts 25 years ago. The victim support group “La parole liberee ” is seeking a symbolic euro in damages – saying its main concern is to highlight the responsibility of those in authority. The trial is scheduled to last until Wednesday.