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25 April 2018 Conversation

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Theresa May lacks ‘enthusiasm’ for Brexit and her plans for a customs partnership are ‘completely cretinous’, says Jacob Rees-Mogg

Theresa May lacks  “enthusiasm” for Brexit, Jacob Rees Mogg has said, as he accused the Prime Minister of a “betrayal of good sense” over her “cretinous” plans for a customs partnership with the European Union.

The leading Eurosceptic Tory MP also warned that staying in the partnership would mean a return of duty free trade on cross-channel ferriescould not happen because the UK would effectively still be in the customs union.

Mr Rees-Mogg also said that peers are “playing with fire” by passing amendments which he said were attempts to overturn Brexit.

Speaking at an event in the House of Commons, organised by Open Europe, Mr Rees-Mogg said that it would be “racist” if EU nationals are given more rights to enter Britain after Brexit than people from the Commonwealth.

Mrs May and her Cabinet are poised to decide whether to keep Britain a customs partnership, broadly favoured by Remainers, more fluid customs arrangement, backed by Brexiteers.

A customs partnership would see the UK mirror the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world, applying the same tariffs as the EU.

A customs arrangement would use a combination of technology and goodwill to limit the impact of checks on trade and let good move through the UK and EU without paying EU duties.

But asked by The Daily Telegraph if the partnership was acceptable, Mr Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group, said: “No, no – it is completely cretinous.

“It is a silly idea. It wouldn’t work, it is impractical, it is bureaucratic, it would mean we are effectively in the single market. It is a betrayl of good sense.

I can’t understand why the government is faffing around with a system that nobody has looked at to see if it actually work.”

Staying in a customs partnership would mean there would be no return of duty free alcohol and cigarettes on cross-channel ferries after Brexit.

Mr Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group, said: “We ought to get that – if we are out of the customs union we will have duty free.”

Mr Rees-Mogg also questioned Mrs May’s commitment to Brexit, saying: “The Prime Minister is a very enigmatic figure – she is carrying out the will of the British people but it is hard to read what level of enthusiasm she has for it.

“She is doing it. She has never indicated anything other than that. She said Brexit means Brexit. But she doesn’t by her nature express herself unduly emotionally. And I think that is rather a good thing, I like that in a Prime Minister.”

Turning his fire on the House of Lords, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “They are trying to stop the largest ever public vote in our history. They are not elected, they are not acting as a revising chamber and they are not in compliance with the Salisbury convention … not to oppose manifesto commitments.

“We are in a position of peers against the people. It is deeply unattractive and I think it is the weakest position for the House of Lords to be in.

“It is deeply disgraceful that members of the House of Lords receive pensions from the European Union and do not have to declare those pensions when they speak.

“There is a problem with the House of Lords in that it is very condescending towards the democratic vote. They seem to think that they know better than 17.4million people.”

He added that “their lordships are playing with fire and it would be a shame to burn down the historic house”.

Customs Union Guide

Mr Rees-Mogg also warned that giving EU nationals more rights to enter the UK after Brexit than those from the Commonwealth would be “racist”.

He said: “As a member of the European Union there may be a case to be made that we should give preferential treatment to people from the EU. If we are outside the EU we are then if we give them preference running a racist immigration policy.

“People of Europe are by and large white and we should think about that extraordinarily carefully. If we are to decide that we are to have a policy that discriminates against the Caribbean because they are not in the European Union, to take people from inside the EU after we have left.

“I think that would be an extremely dubious policy to run and I think it would be wrong.”

Responding to Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments, Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said that it was part of the Upper House’s role to scrutinise legislation.

But he added: “We have been clear that we are disappointed with the decisions which have been taken by the House of Lords. We believe that the Withdrawal Bill was passed by the House of Commons and was passed in a way which would allow us to deliver the smooth Brexit which the country wants.”

The spokesman added that the Government had already set out its plans in relation to House of Lords reform.

Asked whether he would agree that Mrs May had been “enigmatic” about her views of Brexit, the spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has made absolutely clear her determination to deliver on the will of the British people, and that she believes that we can deliver Brexit in such a way that provides for Britain a stronger, more prosperous and more secure future.”

Labour’s Leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon added: “I think Jacob is getting a little bit over excited. All that has happened is that the House of Lords has voted to give the House of Commons an opportunity to further look at these issues. Why is he is so worried about that?”

Why people perform better when they are being watched


Technology may have made working from home easier than ever, but according to a new study, staff who are out of sight may not perform as well as those in the office.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, wanted to find out whether being watched while undertaking a task made a difference to its outcome.

Many people believe that being under constant scrutiny damages their creativity while others live in fear of freezing in front of an audience during a public event.

But the findings suggest that the pressure of others actually makes people achieve more.

“You might think having people watch you isn’t going to help, but it might actually make you perform better,” said lead author Vikram Chib, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins and the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

“An audience can serve as an extra bit of incentive.”

When people know they are being observed, parts of the brain associated with social awareness and reward invigorate a part of the brain that controls motor skills, improving their performance at skilled tasks.

In the new experiment, Dr Chib and colleagues asked 20 participants to play a game on a Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect.

The participants performed the task both in front of an audience of two and with no one watching. Their brain activity was monitored with functional magnetic resonance imaging.

While people were watching, participants were an average of five percent better at the video game – and as much as 20 percent better. Only two participants didn’t perform better in front of others.

But if the audience was a lot bigger, and the stakes higher, the results could have gone the other way.

“Here, people with social anxiety tended to perform better,” added Dr Chib. “But at some point, the size of the audience could increase the size of one’s anxiety. … We still need to figure that out.”

The research was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.


Sitting at desk all day may damage brain and raise dementia risk, study suggests

Sedentary behaviour was associated with a thinning in a crucial part of the brain related to memory  CREDIT: CAIAIMAGE/PAUL BRADBURY

Sitting at a desk all day or spending hours watching television may damage the brain in a way which is known to increase the risk of dementia, a new study suggests.

While researchers have known for some time that sedentary behaviour is bad for physical health, raising the risk of heart disease, diabetes and early death, it is the first study to show it could also influence mental wellbeing.

Scientists at the University of California recruited 35 people aged between 45 and 65 and questioned them about how many hours per day they spent sitting down over the previous week

Each then underwent a brain scan to specifically look an area known as the medial temporal lobe which is crucial to the formation of new memories.

The difference between dementia and Alzheimers – in 60 seconds

They found that people who reported more sitting had thinner brain structures. Although the researchers say they cannot say for sure that the sedentary behaviour is responsible for the thinning, they are now launching long term studies to find out if the link is causal.

Thinning of the medial temporal lobe can be an early sign of cognitive decline and dementia in middle-aged and older adults.

The researchers say that getting up and moving about could be a good way to prevent dementia of Alzheimer’s disease.

Around 850,000 people are currently living with dementia in Britain with the figure expected to soar in coming years as the population ages.

The research was published in the journal Plos One.


Fifth time lucky? Takeda makes another offer for rival drugmaker Shire

Shire makes the ADHD drug Adderall CREDIT: JB REED/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Irish drugmaker Shire is considering a fifth offer from Takeda, after its Japanese rival once again sweetened its bid for the firm.

Takeda faces a race against time to secure any deal, as it has a deadline of 5pm tomorrow to either make a firm offer for Shire or walk away under UK takeover rules.

Shire confirmed it had received a better offer but did not disclose the details. The previous offer on Friday from Takeda valued it at £42.8bn, which the FTSE 100 firm had said it was considering.

Takeda confirmed the new proposal in a statement but also gave no details. It said there was no certainty a firm offer would be made.

Any tie-up could create a global pharmaceutical powerhouse with close to £22bn of annual sales, roughly equivalent in size to Britain’s AstraZeneca.

Shire share price

But Takeda’s tilt has concerned some analysts who have raised warnings about the large amount of debt the smaller Japanese company would be taking on.

City speculation is rife that Shire could become the subject of a bidding war. Analysts believe its lucrative portfolio of highly profitable medicines for rare diseases could prove tempting to another bidder.

Fellow Dublin-based pharmaceutical company Allergan briefly entered the fray last Thursday by saying it was interested in making an offer, but performed a U-turn hours later after a shareholder backlash.

Takeda’s cash-and-shares offer last Friday valued Shire at £47 per share, comprising £21 in cash and £26 of Takeda shares. Shire had previously rejected a £46.50 offer saying it “significantly undervalued the company”.

Shire’s shares jumped 5pc to £40.02.


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