Brexit: EU ministers to be updated as talks continue

EU flagsImage copyright Reuters

EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg are to receive an update on Brexit talks from the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, later.

Discussions between EU and UK officials aimed at reaching a Brexit deal have intensified in recent days.

Hopes of a deal being agreed before the 31 October Brexit deadline were boosted after a meeting between Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart last week.

But Mr Barnier this week said “big gaps” remained between the UK and EU.

‘Final hours’

Finland’s prime minister, Antti Rinne, who holds the EU’s rotating presidency, went further, saying there was not enough time for a deal to be reached.

After meeting the European Council’s president-elect Charles Michel, Mr Rinne said: “I think there is no time in a practical or legal way to find an agreement before the EU Council meeting. We need more time.”

In response, housing secretary Robert Jenrick rejected the remarks, stressing a “great deal” of progress had been made and negotiators are working “very intensively”.

He told BBC’s Newsnight: “The EU is capable of moving extremely quickly if they wish to.

“Like any negotiation with the EU, and in fact with any major negotiation in life, everything happens at the last minute.

“This was always going to be both complicated and come down to the final hours and days, so this doesn’t surprise me. We are going to work round the clock to try to secure it.”

The comments came as negotiators stepped up efforts to work out a way to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop, the contingency measure to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland that is seen as the key factor in the talks.

On Monday, Irish deputy premier Simon Coveney raised hopes on an agreement being reached before the EU summit by saying a deal could possibly be achieved as soon as this week.

“But we’re not there yet,” he added.

In similar comments, Mr Johnson told senior ministers there was “still a significant amount of work to get there” but a “pathway” to a deal was still visible.

With talks in Brussels ongoing, a Cabinet meeting expected to take place on Tuesday has been postponed and is now likely to take place on Wednesday. Downing Street sources say it is to allow for a fuller update on Brexit.

It’s extremely hard to see how a new Brexit deal can still be agreed by this Thursday.

Negotiations continue – but time is tight, and, to use the words of even the most upbeat of those involved, “there’s still much work to do”.

EU internal talk is focusing now on a possible “holding pattern statement” at this week’s EU leaders summit, along the lines of “we’ve made great progress in negotiations but still need more time”.

There are also renewed mutterings about a new Brexit summit, maybe towards the end of the month.

Read more from our Europe editor.

The two-day EU summit is crucial because the prime minister must get a new deal approved by MPs by Saturday if he is to avoid asking for a Brexit delay.

The Benn Act passed by MPs opposed to no-deal says he must ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline if MPs do not back a deal by then.

However, Mr Johnson has repeatedly ruled out requesting such an extension, prompting speculation that he may seek to sidestep the legislation.

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested it could be possible for the government to use European law to achieve no-deal.

“Theresa May got an extension not through UK law but through EU law and, until the 1972 European Communities Act is repealed, EU law is superior law in the UK,” he said on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.

Labour has threatened court action to force the PM to obey the legislation.

Regardless of what happens in Brussels, a showdown is anticipated in an emergency sitting of Parliament on Saturday – the first in 37 years.

MPs will be able to back or reject any deal presented to them, or there will be discussions on what to do next.

Timeline: What’s happening ahead of Brexit deadline?

Thursday 17 October – Crucial two-day summit of EU leaders begins in Brussels. This is the last such meeting currently scheduled before the Brexit deadline.

Saturday 19 October – Special sitting of Parliament and the date by which the PM must ask the EU for another delay to Brexit under the Benn Act, if no Brexit deal has been approved by MPs and they have not agreed to the UK leaving with no-deal.

Thursday 31 October – Date by which the UK is currently due to leave the EU.

British holidaymakers ‘traumatised’ after arrest at US border

Protesters, with a small child, holding a sign saying 'kids my age are in cages without their parents'Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, calling for immigration detention centres to be shut down earlier this year. The British couple detained are not pictured here

A British couple say they have been detained in the US after accidentally crossing the border from Canada.

David Connors, 30, and his wife Eileen, 24, say they are being held in Pennsylvania with their three-month-old baby and are “traumatised”.

They say were driving with relatives on 3 October when, to avoid an animal, they veered onto a small road.

A police officer then pulled them over, told them they were in the US state of Washington and arrested them.

The couple have detailed the “scariest experience of our entire lives” in a sworn statement that was provided to BBC News by their lawyer.

The family statement is the basis for a legal complaint lodged by their lawyer with the US Department of Homeland Security inspector general.

US immigration authorities confirmed to the BBC that the couple were being held, but denied their allegations of mistreatment.

Where were they taken?

The family’s attorney, Bridget Cambria, of Aldea – the People’s Justice Center, said the couple were driving in the Vancouver area on 3 October when they took a detour to avoid an animal on the road.

The family say they did not realise they had strayed over the US border.

They were pulled over by a police officer who did not read them their rights, nor allow them to “simply turn around” and go back to Canada, according to the complaint.

At first the young family say they were separated – with Mr Connors being held in a male-only cell, and Eileen Connors and their infant son in a women’s cell.

Later, the husband was taken to a detention centre in Tacoma, Washington, while his wife and their baby son were taken to a budget hotel near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, according to the complaint.

The following morning they say they were driven to the airport, which raised their hopes that they were being flown back to Canada or the UK.

“But that was not the case,” Eileen Connors says in the sworn statement. Instead, they were flown to Pennsylvania – on the other side of the country.

They were taken on 5 October to Berks Family Residential Center (BFRC), one of three immigration detention centres in the US that can accommodate families.

Mrs Connors says: “We will be traumatised for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us.”

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed the family was in detention at the BFRC facility in Leesport, Pennsylvania.

A spokesman for the agency told the BBC that BFRC “provides a safe and humane environment for families as they go through the immigration process”.

“Reports of abuse or inhumane conditions at BFRC are unequivocally false,” he added.

‘The worst experience’

The couple’s sworn statement says the cells are “frigid”, and staff have refused to turn the heating on until the end of next month.

“When I ask how I am supposed to keep my baby warm in this horrible cold, all they tell me is to put a hat on him,” Mrs Connors said in the statement.

“My baby can’t wear a hat all the time, he feels uncomfortable with hats and mittens and starts to cry.”

Staff, she added, confiscated her son’s formula for three days, as well as his teething powder, and would only provide “disgusting” blankets that smelled “like a dead dog”.

They say the baby’s skin is now rough and blotchy and he appears to have an eye infection.

“We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to,” Mrs Connors said. “It is not right.

“We have been treated unfairly from day one. It is undoubtedly the worst experience we have ever lived through.

“We have been traumatised and it has even damaged our relationship. No one should have to suffer this kind of treatment.”

Bulgaria v England: Euro 2020 qualifier halted twice due to racist behaviour from fans

England players and officials considered leaving the field but chose to stay on in Sofia

England’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria was halted twice as fans were warned about racist behaviour including Nazi salutes and monkey chanting.

The first pause came in the 28th minute with England leading 2-0.

A stadium announcement then condemned the abuse before stating the match would be abandoned if it continued.

However, the game was stopped again in the 43rd minute before restarting after discussions between the referee and England manager Gareth Southgate.

England went on to win 6-0 in Sofia to strengthen their place at the top of Group A.

‘One of the most appalling nights I’ve seen in football’

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke was at the game and witnessed the abuse first hand, saying it had left a number of the England players and staff visibly upset.

“I heard examples of appalling racist chanting,” he said.

“I was looking at a group of people, all in black – about 50 of them – who were making what looked like political fascist gestures. I couldn’t be sure, it was 100 metres away but it looked appalling.

“I’ve spoken to one or two of the players and I’ve also spoken to one or two of the backroom staff, because we don’t just have a multiracial team, we have a multiracial backroom staff.

“They were visibly emotionally upset, and I spoke to Gareth after the game too and I offered him our full support.”

Clarke says he expects European football’s governing body Uefa to conduct a thorough review of the incident.

“Uefa, who I’ve spoken to throughout the game, at half-time and at the end of the game, will be carrying out a thorough investigation to make sure this appalling scene of terrible racism is treated appropriately,” he said.

In a statement, the FA confirmed England players were subjected to “abhorrent racist chanting” and that it was “unacceptable at any level of the game”.

England defender Tyrone Mings, who was making his international debut, said the players had decided as a group at half-time to continue the game.

“Just before the end of the first half the appropriate next step was to return to the changing room,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“We made a common-sense decision to play the remaining few minutes and decided at half-time. Everybody made the decision. The manager, the team, the supporting staff. We spoke about it at half-time and we dealt with it and escalated it in the right way.

“I am proud of how we dealt with it and took the appropriate steps.”

The Vasil Levski Stadium was subject to a partial closure for this match after Bulgaria were sanctioned for racist behaviour of fans during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.

The build-up to the game had been dominated by concerns of potential incidents of racism, with England striker Tammy Abraham saying the players would be prepared to walk off the pitch if they were targeted.

Southgate held a meeting with his players over the weekend to underline the Uefa three-step protocol in dealing with racist incidents – but the subject provoked an angry response from the Bulgarian football authorities.

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov had accused England of having a bigger racism problem than his own country.

What exactly happened during the game?

Some fans in the Bulgaria section of the stadium appeared to make Nazi salutes

After making a pass, England defender Mings glanced over his shoulder and could be heard calling towards the touchline: “Did you hear that?”

Within minutes the game was stopped.

Striker Harry Kane was in conversation with referee Ivan Bebek on the halfway line while a stadium announcement was made to condemn racist abuse and warn fans that the game could be abandoned if it continued. At the same time, England manager Southgate was talking to a number of his players.

The game resumed but was stopped again just before half-time. Southgate and several England players were in discussion with match officials before the game was restarted for a second time.

A group of Bulgaria supporters wearing black hooded tops – some wearing bandanas covering their faces – started to leave the stadium after the game was halted for a second time. BBC Radio 5 Live reported that some made right-wing and racist gestures while heading towards the exits.

After six minutes of time added at the end of the first half because of the delay, Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov was seen in a heated debate with a section of home supporters near the tunnel while the rest of the players headed for the dressing rooms for half-time.

What is Uefa’s approach to dealing with incidents of racism?

Uefa has a three-step protocol, introduced in 2009, in place for dealing with such incidents in matches.

For the first step, the referee will speak to the stadium announcer and demand the halting of racist behaviour.

If it continues, the referee can take the players off the field into the dressing rooms for a period of time and the stadium announcer will make another address.

If it still continues, the match will be abandoned.

In this incident, the first step was taken. The players were asked if they wanted to come off the pitch, but decided to continue.

Southgate said: “I explained to the players that if anything else did happen in the second half we would be coming off.

“We all saw the second half was calmer and that allowed our players to do their talking with the football.”

Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling scored twice, while Marcus Rashford and Kane were also on target in a win which moves England to the brink of a place at Euro 2020.

‘There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans’

This is not the first time in England’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign that their players have been subjected to racist abuse.

In March Sterling was vocal in condemning the abuse received by England players during their 5-1 win in Montenegro.

Montenegro’s punishment was to have two home games played behind closed doors and a fine of 20,000 euros (£17,000).

Anti-racism group Kick it Out has urged Uefa to take strong action, saying the governing body’s current sanctions are “not fit for purpose”.

“We are sickened by the disgusting racist abuse directed at England men’s team by Bulgaria supporters – including TV footage which appeared to show Nazi salutes and monkey noises,” it said.

“It’s now time for Uefa to step up and show some leadership. For far too long, they have consistently failed to take effective action. The fact Bulgaria are already hosting this game with a partial stadium closure for racist abuse shows that Uefa’s sanctions are not fit for purpose.

“There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans. If Uefa cares at all about tackling discrimination – and if the Equal Game campaign means anything – then points deductions and tournament expulsion must follow.”

Uefa told BBC Sport any action in response to Monday’s events would have to follow on from a disciplinary committee, which in turn has to wait for a referee’s report.

‘This is a seminal moment’

Former England striker Ian Wright, a pundit for Match of the Day who was covering the game for ITV Sport, said what happened in Sofia could be a “seminal moment” for the issue of racism in football.

“It’s a fantastic moment,” he said, referring to the players’ response to the abuse. “What is good about it is we have a generation of players – not just black players – who won’t tolerate it any more.

“This is the ‘by any means necessary’ generation. They don’t need to take that any more when they have their own platforms and the protocol to stick to.

“It’s a great day. I feel really good watching this. We have had so many games where we have had this racial abuse and people say ‘just beat them on the pitch’. It doesn’t do anything. Today, they won because [the abusers] had to leave.”

Jersey Reds ‘show guts’ to score late winner against Coventry

Nic Dolly’s late try meant Jersey Reds were one of four teams to get a bonus-point win on the Championship’s opening weekend of fixtures

Jersey Reds boss Harvey Biljon has praised his side’s fortitude after scoring a last-minute try with 13 men as they beat Coventry 22-15 in their opening Championship fixture.

Having seen Mark Best and Auguy Slowik sin-binned Jersey won a scrum penalty, kicked to the corner and drove Nic Dolly over from the resulting line-out.

Two Greg Dyer tries and one from Luc Jones saw Jersey lead 17-9.

But two Rory Jennings’s penalties put Coventry close before Dolly’s score.

“A fair bit of guts needed to be shown by our players, make no mistake,” Biljon told BBC Radio Jersey.

“We did invite a fair bit of pressure on ourselves with a fair amount of ill-discipline, which we’ve got to get right.

“But we made some brave decisions today and that’ll pay dividends because we went away and were able to maximise points.”

Biljon was keen to praise his side’s defence as the visitors failed to score a try despite Jersey having three men yellow-carded during the match.

“It wasn’t comfortable,” he said. “We were under pressure, they had a fair amount of possession and I think we had two opportunities in their half in the second half and thankfully we were able to take points.

“The Coventry squad – that’s some squad that they’ve put together, it’s a team that are going to be top three or top four, and it shows just how much character we’ve had to produce to get that result.”

‘Oval Four’: Men ‘framed by corrupt detective’ to go to court

Winston TrewImage copyright Winston Trew
Image caption Winston Trew said his life fell apart after he served eight months in prison

Two men who say they were framed by a detective nearly 50 years ago have had their cases referred to the Court of Appeal.

Winston Trew and Sterling Christie were among a group – known as the Oval Four – who were arrested at Oval tube station in south London in March 1972.

They spent eight months in prison for assaulting a police officer and attempted theft.

But a review said the appeal would focus on the officer’s “integrity”.

The four men, aged between 19 and 23 at the time, were members of a political organisation which represented the interests of black people in London.

They were arrested by a police squad investigating crime on the London Underground.

‘Fitted him up’

The operation was led by Det Sgt Derek Ridgewell who was the key prosecution witness at the men’s trial when they were convicted.

But the policeman’s career ended in disgrace in 1980 when he was jailed for seven years for plotting to steal goods from the Royal Mail. He died in in prison in 1982.

A series of cases have raised further concerns about his honesty, and last year the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction of a businessman, Stephen Simmons, after hearing Ridgewell had “fitted him up”.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) said it had now decided to refer the cases of Mr Trew and Mr Christie to the Court of Appeal, although it had failed to trace the other two members of the Oval Four.

Image copyright Winston Trew
Image caption Winston Trew forged a career as a university lecturer

“The referral is made because the Commission considers there is a real possibility that the court will quash the conviction on the basis of new evidence and arguments concerning the integrity of DS Ridgewell,” it said, adding that the case may have “potential significance” for a number of other similar convictions.

Mr Trew, now 69, said he was “absolutely delighted” there was to be a fresh appeal, saying his life had been “shattered” when he was jailed 47 years ago.

“My wife left me, I lost my confidence, I was a shell of the person I was before,” he said.

Mr Trew, who remarried and forged a career as a university lecturer and author, said he thought about what happened every day and had “never given up” trying to overturn his conviction.

“The police did something wrong, so I’m going to fight the injustice.”

The appeal is expected to be heard next year.

Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood leads six authors in the frame to win

Booker Prize 2019 nominated authorsImage copyright Booker Prize/PA Media
Image caption One of these writers will pick up the Booker Prize later

The winner of this year’s Booker Prize is to be named later, with the six contenders led by Margaret Atwood for her follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Atwood’s The Testaments is the bookmakers’ favourite to scoop the prestigious literary award.

The other nominees are Lucy Ellmann, Bernardine Evaristo, Chigozie Obioma, Sir Salman Rushdie and Elif Shafak.

The winner will receive £50,000 at a ceremony at London’s Guildhall, which will be live on the BBC from 21:30 BST.

Both Atwood and Rushdie have won the coveted prize before, in 2000 and 1981 respectively.

Atwood also made the shortlist with The Handmaid’s Tale in 1986. The Testaments, which is set 15 years after the end of that novel, was published in September and sold more than 100,000 copies in the UK in its first week, making it the fastest-selling hardback novel for four years.

Belfast-born author Anna Burns won last year’s prize with her coming-of-age story Milkman.

This year’s shortlist

Margaret Atwood – The Testaments

Image copyright Liam Sharp/Chatto & Windus

Set 15 years after the enigmatic final scene of The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood’s much-anticipated follow-up is narrated by three female characters.

The original was set in a totalitarian state of Gilead, where women are subjugated and enslaved by an oppressive patriarchal society.

The Handmaid’s Tale was adapted for a film starring Natasha Richardson in 1990. More recently, it formed the basis for an Emmy-winning TV series starring Elisabeth Moss.

Canadian author Atwood, 79, won the 2000 Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin. She was also shortlisted for the prize in 1986, 1989, 1996 and 2003.

Peter Florence, chair of the judges, described it as “a savage and beautiful novel that speaks to us today with conviction and power”.

Lucy Ellmann – Ducks, Newburyport

Image copyright Galley Beggar Press

Born in Illinois in 1956 and now based in Edinburgh, Ellmann is the only US author on this year’s shortlist.

Her novel, which runs to a whopping 998 pages, is a stream-of-consciousness monologue that is largely made up of one continuous sentence.

Its narrator is an Ohio housewife who reflects on her past, her family and her country while latticing cherry pies.

Judge Joanna MacGregor described the book as “a genre-defying novel, a torrent on modern life [and] a hymn to loss and grief”.

This is the first year since the controversial decision to make US authors eligible in 2014 that there has only been one American on the shortlist.

If Ducks, Newburyport also goes on to win, it will be the longest winning novel since 2013 winner The Luminaries.

Bernardine Evaristo – Girl, Woman, Other

Image copyright Jennie Scott/Hamish Hamilton

Born in London in 1959, Anglo-Nigerian author Evaristo has made the Booker Prize shortlist for the first time with her eighth book.

Described as a “fusion fiction” novel, Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives of 12 characters, most of whom are black, British and female.

Judge Xiaolu Guo called it “an impressive, fierce novel… about modern Britain and womanhood” that “deserves to be read aloud”.

Evaristo herself has said she aims to “explore the hidden narratives of the African diaspora” and “subvert expectations and assumptions”.

Chigozie Obioma – An Orchestra of Minorities

Image copyright Jason Keith/Little Brown

Born in Nigeria in 1986 and now based in the US, Chigozie Obioma is the author of two novels that have both been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

His debut novel The Fishermen previously made the cut in 2015. It went on to inspire a 2018 stage adaptation that finished a run at London’s Trafalgar Studios on Saturday.

An Orchestra of Minorities tells the story of a young Nigerian chicken farmer whose love for a woman drives him to become an African migrant in Europe.

Told in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, it was described by judge Afua Hirsch as “a book that wrenches the heart”.

Salman Rushdie – Quichotte

Image copyright Beowulf Sheehan/Jonathan Cape

Sir Salman is no stranger to the Booker Prize. He won in 1981 with Midnight’s Children and made the shortlist again in 1983, 1988 and 1995.

Midnight’s Children went on to be judged the “Booker of Bookers” in 1993 and “Best of the Booker” in 2008.

Inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Quichotte tells of an ageing travelling salesman who drives across America to prove himself worthy of a TV star’s hand. The novel, Rushdie’s 12th, “pushes the boundaries of fiction and satire”, according to jury chair Florence.

Born in India in 1947 and now based in New York, Rushdie is also widely known for his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, which sparked widespread protests by Muslims and a fatwa from Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.

Elif Shafak – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

Image copyright Oliver Hess/Viking

British-Turkish novelist Shafak was born in France in 1971 and has published 17 books, 11 of which are novels.

Set in Istanbul, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is made up of the recollections of a sex worker who has been left for dead in a rubbish bin.

Judge Liz Calder – a publisher and editor whose former colleagues include Sir Salman Rushdie – called the book “a work of fearless imagination”.

Shafak is also a political activist who was tried and acquitted in 2006 for “insulting Turkishness” in one of her books, and was put under investigation by Turkish authorities again earlier this year.

Image copyright Booker Prize

‘A wide-ranging and ambitious line-up’

By Rebecca Jones, BBC arts correspondent

After years of mounting criticism that the Booker Prize had become too worthy and dominated by American novelists, this shortlist is a welcome riposte.

First there are two literary heavyweights with Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie. Both enjoy critical and commercial success and have won the prize before.

There is only one American, Lucy Ellmann, who moved to England as a teenager and now lives in Scotland. Yet it is worth noting that a number of the books this year deal with the state of America.

After four years when the shortlist featured no writers from Africa, the Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma makes the cut for the second time.

Elif Shafak, who was born in Turkey, is shortlisted for a novel written in what is her second language.

Bernardine Evaristo completes a wide-ranging and ambitious line-up with a novel told in free verse. Don’t be put off – it’s glorious.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email .

Labour’s nationalisation price tag would start at £196bn, CBI says

John McDonnellImage copyright PA
Image caption Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said Labour’s nationalisation plans would be cost-neutral

Labour’s nationalisation plans would cost at least £196bn, according to the Confederation of British Industry.

The employers’ group said the up-front cost of taking control of the water and energy utilities, train firms and Royal Mail was equivalent to all income tax paid by UK citizens in a year.

It was the combined total of the £141bn health budget, and the £61bn spent on education, analysis by the CBI said.

A Labour Party spokesman said it was “incoherent scaremongering” by the CBI.

The CBI’s report, published on Monday, estimated there could be a 10.7% increase in debt from bringing industries back into public ownership.

This would raise debt levels to 94% of GDP, their highest point since the 1960s, and would cost around £2bn per year, according to the study.


It also claimed that under Labour’s plans, savers and pensioners could suffer an estimated £9bn loss to their holdings, which translates into £327 for every household in the country.

The CBI bases its analysis on the nationalisation of:

  • Nine water and sewerage companies and seven water-only companies in England
  • National Grid, and the electricity transmission and distribution networks
  • Rail rolling stock
  • Royal Mail

The report said the confidence of international investors in the UK would be “severely hit” if Labour refused to pay full market value for the industries.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour has said nationalisation of energy infrastructure would help create a green revolution

Although the analysis said that the state-owned assets would increase in value and there would be potential revenues generated, the study’s focus was on costs rather than estimates of potential benefits.

Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s chief economist, called the price tag “eye-watering”. And she said that £196bn was only the starting point.

“It doesn’t take into account the maintenance and development of the infrastructure, the trickle-down hit to pension pots and savings accounts, or the impact on the country’s public finances.

Fair economy

“There are so many other genuine priorities for public spending right now, from investing in our young people to the transition to low carbon economy and connecting our cities and communities.

“These issues are what keep businesses up at night and what they want to see the government get on with addressing. Nationalisation would waste time, energy and public money.”

A Labour spokesman said the CBI was more interested in protecting shareholders than in creating a fair economy. He accused the organisation of “incoherent scaremongering”.

The party has said that rail nationalisation, for example, would be hugely popular with travellers tired of poor services. And bringing National Grid back under state control would be part of plans to create a National Energy Agency to help usher in Labour’s proposed Green Industrial Revolution.

The spokesman said: “It is disappointing that the CBI seems incapable of having a grown-up conversation about public ownership – which is hugely popular, and common across Europe. It sadly reveals that they are more interested in protecting shareholders than in creating a fair economy.”

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has said that nationalisation would be cost-neutral as the companies’ profits would cover the cost of borrowing needed to finance it.

Last week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, suggested that focusing on the upfront cost of Labour’s plans was the wrong approach. “Economically what matters is whether these assets would be better managed by the public or the private sector,” it said.

‘Brexit: ‘Big gap’ remains in UK-EU deal discussions

Northern Ireland borderImage copyright PA Media
Image caption Arrangements for the Northern Ireland border are a key sticking point in the UK-EU deal talks

The UK is willing to make concessions to its plans for the Northern Ireland border after Brexit but “a big gap” remains over customs arrangements, EU ambassadors have been told.

In a briefing on UK-EU weekend talks on a Brexit deal, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said UK plans on the tracking of goods were unacceptable.

Earlier, Boris Johnson told his cabinet “significant work” was still needed.

It comes as his government’s agenda is to be set out in the Queen’s Speech.

Plans for life after Brexit, crime prevention and ending rail franchises are all expected to be outlined in the Queen’s address on Monday, which opens the new session of Parliament.

Meanwhile, the UK and EU negotiating teams are due to meet again in Brussels today, as efforts continue to reach a deal before a summit on Thursday and Friday.

The government says that, if it can strike an agreement at the summit, it will introduce a withdrawal agreement bill to be voted on next Saturday in a special Parliamentary session.

It is seen as the last chance to do this before Brexit is due to happen at 23:00 GMT on 31 October.

On Sunday, Mr Johnson told cabinet ministers he could see a “way forward” to a deal “in all our interests”.

The European Commission echoed the prime minister, saying: “A lot of work remains to be done.”

In a statement it added that the “intense technical discussions” between the UK and EU officials in Brussels would continue on Monday before member states were updated on the progress at a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Talks between the UK and EU will continue in Brussels on Monday

The issue of the Northern Ireland border in post-Brexit arrangements is seen as the key factor in the EU-UK talks and Mr Johnson came up with revised proposals this month.

BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming said Mr Barnier, in his briefing to EU diplomats, said the UK had dropped its proposals to include an up-front veto for Northern Ireland politicians in the Stormont Assembly before any arrangements for Northern Ireland came into force.

But he said the UK is still seeking the power for Northern Ireland to leave the arrangements at some point in the future.

According to a note of his meeting with EU ambassadors on Sunday evening, Mr Barnier also said he would be willing to accept Mr Johnson’s plan for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK’s customs territory but apply EU customs procedures.

However, he said he could not accept a British proposal to track goods entering Northern Ireland to determine whether they ended up in Ireland.

Our correspondent said it appeared EU negotiators seemed to have “softened” their position, indicating they are prepared to keep talking until Wednesday, the eve of the summit, despite saying previously that a revised deal had to be ready a week in advance.


Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Rehearsal for the State Opening of Parliament and Queen’s Speech have been taking place

By BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley

This Queen’s Speech will feel rather different to normal.

Boris Johnson does not have a majority in Parliament and cannot guarantee that he will be able to pass all the bills announced this morning. There is no guarantee the Queen’s Speech itself will pass.

Add into the mix the fact he wants a general election and some of what you will hear will feel more like a pitch to the country than a concrete plan for the next year in Whitehall.

There is also the fact that whatever is announced in the House of Lords could quickly be overshadowed by what happens in Brussels.

A lot has been spoken about crucial weeks at Westminster.

This really feels like it could be one – where key questions are answered.

Can the PM get a new Brexit deal? If so, can he persuade Parliament to back it? If not, can MPs force him to delay Brexit again?

Strap yourself in – it could be a bumpy few days.

The State Opening of Parliament – an event steeped in pomp and ceremony – is the first since Boris Johnson became prime minister.

Ministers say the speech, the 65th of Elizabeth II’s reign, will focus on “people’s priorities”.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption It will be the first Queen’s Speech since Boris Johnson became PM
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The State Opening of Parliament is Westminster’s biggest ceremonial event

In the Queen’s Speech, the government will unveil its plans to get the withdrawal agreement bill through Parliament if the PM gets a deal with the EU, and to end the free movement of EU citizens into the UK after Brexit.

It will promise to create more powers to “get weapons off our streets” and ensure “the worst offenders serve the time they deserve”.

And it will pledge to “significantly increase” sentences for foreign offenders who return to the UK having breached deportation orders.

Other proposals in the Queen’s Speech include:

  • Measures to bring in a points-based immigration system from 2021
  • Scrapping the rail franchise system – the contracting out of services introduced when the rail system was privatised in the 1990s
  • Setting up an independent NHS investigations body with legal powers to improve patient safety
  • Updating the Mental Health Act to reduce the number of detentions made under it
  • Creating legally binding targets to reduce plastics, cut air pollution, restore biodiversity and improve water quality

There are also plans to improve building standards, and increase investment in infrastructure and science.

Mr Johnson promised to “get this country moving again”, adding: “This is a Queen’s Speech that will deliver for every corner of the UK and make this, once again, the greatest place on Earth.”

But, with a general election expected soon, Labour is calling it a “stunt” and a “party political broadcast”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News on Sunday that holding the event ahead of an expected general election in the autumn was “ludicrous”.

He said: “What we have got in effect is a party political broadcast from the steps of the throne.”

Timeline: What’s happening ahead of Brexit deadline?

Monday 14 October – The Commons is due to return, and the government will use the Queen’s Speech to set out its legislative agenda. The speech will then be debated by MPs throughout the week.

Thursday 17 October – Crucial two-day summit of EU leaders begins in Brussels. This is the last such meeting currently scheduled before the Brexit deadline.

Saturday 19 October – Special sitting of Parliament and the date by which the PM must ask the EU for another delay to Brexit under the Benn Act, if no Brexit deal has been approved by Parliament and it has not agreed to the UK leaving with no-deal.

Thursday 31 October – Date by which the UK is due to leave the EU, with or without a withdrawal agreement.