Politics

3 bits of bad news you might have missed while the Brexit debate was happening

It’s been a busy day in Parliament with all eyes on the House of Commons chamber and all ears on Brexit.

Theresa May announced she wanted to re-open the full Brexit talks with Brussels in a bid to smash the deadlock.

While Jeremy Corbyn was busy trying to avoid giving way to one of his own Remain-supporting backbenchers.

MPs began shouting, the Chief Whip waved around a sign in facical scenes.

But away from the Commons three bits of bad news were announced.

1) NHS chiefs announced that they were cancelling blood donation in Dover and Folkestone

 

NHS chiefs said they were cancelling blood donation sessions in Dover and other Channel ports before and after Brexit amid fears the local transport system could grind to a halt.

NHS Blood and Transport (NHSBT) said that sessions in Dover and Folkestone had been cancelled in the two weeks before March 29 and the six weeks afterwards.

Mike Stredder, director of blood donation for NHSBT, confirmed that six sessions had been cancelled, out of around 2,700 countrywide in the same period, with "no effect on blood stocks or on our ability to supply hospitals".

He said they had taken the decision "because in the event of issues at Calais and other freight ports, Operation Stack may be put in place by Highways England and the Kent Police. 

"This could lead to significant traffic in Kent and may prevent donation teams from reaching venues in the area or a donation leaving."

But the Department for Health denied that the plan had been approved and quickly moved to cancel it.

A source told the Mirror it was a proposal being considered.

2) Funding for councils slashed AGAIN

 

The government chose the day of the Brexit debate to publish the Local Government Finance Settlement.

It cuts the central government grant going to councils again.

But at the same time have allowed local authorities to raise more money from council tax.

Labour say this means it is hard-pressed taxpayers are paying for the ideological cuts inflicted by the Conservatives.

The settlement also allows Tory-run Northamptonshire to raise even more money from council tax.

It was revealed in 2018 that Northamptonshire County Council had effectively run out of money, and faced a funding shortfall of around £65m. Two notices banning all new spending were then issued.

They have now been given an additional 2 per cent council tax flexibility, to "assist with the improvements to council governance and services after their serious issues".

Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, said: “The Government has tried to sneak out this shoddy deal for our councils during the Brexit debate, in the hope that no one will notice the bad news.

“This announcement means more cuts to our councils, more struggling families without the services they need, and an inflation busting increase in council tax with no end in sight for austerity.”

3) UK pensioners, students and tourists in the EU to lose free healthcare in No Deal Brexit

 

Government guidance warns retirees who live in Europe may not have their care funded by the NHS after March 29.

Separately,  it also says tourists and students  who currently benefit from a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) may find it’s no longer valid.

It will come as a huge blow to more than a million Brits abroad – including almost 250,000 British over-65s who live in the other 27 countries of the EU.

They includes 121,000 older Brits living in Spain as of 2017, more than double the number a decade earlier.

The schemes are all part of "reciprocal healthcare" arrangements – where two countries agree to repay their own citizens’ healthcare costs incurred in the other country.

Currently the UK has reciprocal arrangements with all 27 EU nations.

But after a No Deal Brexit , individual deals will have to be signed with one nation at a time.

Deals are in the offing with France and Spain but not yet ratified .

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