Newspaper headlines: 'Soft Brexit talks' and a Bafta queen

Theresa May Image copyright Reuters

Today's papers and news websites feature differing takes on the latest Brexit developments.

The Times and the Daily Telegraph both suggest Theresa May's response to Jeremy Corbyn's letter - setting out his demands for a deal - has opened the door to a soft Brexit.

The Telegraph says the prime minister "surprised" colleagues by not explicitly ruling out keeping the UK in a customs union, and the Times warns the move risks a cabinet split, involving an "exodus" of ministers.

According to the FT, Mrs May's willingness to work with Labour could persuade some wavering MPs to back her Brexit deal, but Eurosceptic Conservatives will see it as a move to "bounce" them into supporting the agreement, for fear of a softer deal.

The Guardian believes Mrs May "has in effect ruled out" Labour's ideas for a compromise Brexit plan.

The prime minister, it says, made a concession on environmental and workers' rights, but "stressed her objections" to keeping the UK in some form of customs union.

With the headline, "I'm Jez Saying No", Metro agrees, claiming Mrs May "refused to change tack".

And the website, Huffpost UK, says the prime minister rejected both Mr Corbyn's demand that the rights of British workers will automatically keep pace with those in the EU after Brexit, and his call for the UK to remain in a customs union.

Free TV licences threat

Tomorrow's closure of a consultation on the future of free TV licences for the over-75s is highlighted by the Daily Mirror, which tells readers there's just 24 hours left to "save" the benefit.

Writing in the paper, Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson, points to research by Age UK which claims 40% of people over 75 will have to cut back on food or heating to pay for the licence, if it's no longer free.

But the Sun insists the scheme is "simply too much" for the taxpayer to continue funding.

The "giveaway", it says, was a Gordon Brown electoral bribe, and if the "bleating" BBC want to keep it free, the cash should come from the corporation's "bloated empire".

The lead story in the Daily Express warns that one in three people live in parts of the UK which have "dangerously high" levels of air pollution.

It reports that analysis of figures from the British Lung Foundation show almost 18 million people are registered to a GP surgery in areas where toxins exceed limits set by the World Health Organisation.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Millions of people live in areas with dangerous air pollution, research warns

"Surprisingly", it says, some of the worst-affected areas are ones you would expect to be "fresh-air friendly", such as Lowestoft and Penzance.

The mother of a nine-year-old girl who died from severe asthma linked to air pollution in London has told the paper the research shows the facts are at odds with claims by the authorities that they are dealing with the issue.

An investigation by Channel 4's Dispatches programme is featured on the front page of the Daily Mail, which questions if the HS2 rail link is "set to hit the buffers".

It says a growing cabinet revolt is threatening to sink the project, as ministers are alarmed by the "astonishing cost".

Dispatches claims the total outlay could reach £64bn, almost twice the initial budget of £33 billion. The Department for Transport said it did not recognise the figures.

Action over tycoon 'abuse'

The Telegraph claims Scotland Yard could investigate recent allegations of abuse made against Sir Philip Green, after the Labour MP, Peter Kyle, reported him to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Writing in the paper, the chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, Frank Field, says it is "surely" time to ask whether Sir Philip deserves to keep his knighthood.

The Sun thinks police have been "missing in action" in the case of the billionaire retailer, and accuses the government of the same failure.

"It's time for a little more action", it says, "and a little less conversation". Sir Philip has denied doing anything that was criminal, or amounted to gross misconduct.

The Guardian claims to have seen a leaked document which shows that the political strategist, Sir Lynton Crosby, offered to work on a campaign to cancel the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar - and get it awarded to another country - in exchange for £5.5m.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sir Lynton Crosby reportedly offered to campaign to cancel the Qatar World Cup

It says the proposal "gives a rare insight" into the activities of the man who helped run the four most recent Conservative general election campaigns.

The paper reveals it would involve efforts to delegitimise the Qatari government in the minds of the public - including linking its activities to terrorism - in order to put pressure on Fifa to restart the World Cup bidding process.

Sir Lynton is reported to have not responded to requests for comment on the story, but his lawyers have told the Guardian the proposal was "hardly controversial", given criticism of Qatar's human rights record.

Dangerous offenders complaint

According to the Times, an "unprecedented" legal challenge is being brought against police, for releasing hundreds of thousands of suspects without bail safeguards to protect their alleged victims or the public.

The so-called "super-complaint" follows warnings that dangerous offenders are being "let loose without restrictions", because they are routinely invited for police interviews as "voluntary witnesses", instead of being arrested and then released on bail.

The paper's leading article says the "creeping informality" in the way suspects are treated needs to change, and argues in favour of a blanket rule, stipulating that those accused of serious crimes are never released without strict constraints.

A number of papers report that the non-emergency police number, 101, could be switched off at night, following warnings that its resources are overstretched.

Image caption Police call centres are overstretched, reports say

According to the Telegraph, waiting times for the helpline have increased, as handlers focus on the growing number of 999 calls.

The Sun reports that senior officers have told Policing Minister Nick Hurd that the service is no longer a priority.

The Times says scrapping the service could lead to victims reporting crimes such as shoplifting, noise pollution or littering either online or to their local council.

An investigation by the i newspaper has found that so-called "property guardians" around the country are living in "dangerous and dilapidated" buildings, leading to cross-party calls for the industry to be regulated.

It says the guardians are "lured" to live in and look after empty properties by the promise of cheap rents, but are classed as licence-holders, rather than tenants, meaning they sign away many of the rights that apply to renters.

The paper says a landmark legal case could result in many property guardianships being classed as Houses in Multiple Occupation, which would force companies to adhere to stricter regulations.

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