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What is a clean-break Brexit?

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Fed up with Brexit?

There’s been a lot of talk about a “clean break”, allowing the country to sort things out once and for all and move on.

The Brexit Party says leaving the EU with no deal would produce a clean break – and a significant number of Conservatives agree.

Sadly, it’s not that simple.

What is a no-deal Brexit?

No deal would mean the UK leaving the EU without any kind of formal agreement on the terms of its withdrawal.

Under Theresa May’s leadership, the UK negotiated the current withdrawal agreement and political declaration, but now the government says it wants to make big changes.

And if it can’t get them, it says it is prepared to leave without a deal.

How clean a break would that be?

It would certainly be the most abrupt change in circumstances. The government’s own internal planning documents set out how much of a shock to the system it could be.

Overnight, all the laws and regulations that have governed the relationship between the UK and the rest of the EU for nearly half a century would disappear.

That wouldn’t happen under the current withdrawal agreement because it created a transition period of at least two years when the UK would have left the EU, but the trade and security relationship between the two would have remained more or less the same.

Supporters of such an arrangement say it would give government and businesses more time to prepare for a new relationship and to try to negotiate things like a free trade agreement.

Critics say it would turn the UK into a vassal state – following EU rules without having any say in making them.

But even if Brexit happened without a deal, possibly in acrimonious circumstances, the two sides would need to start talking again sooner rather than later.

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Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe has called for a “clean Brexit”

What about mini-deals?

There are those who argue that “no deal” is a misleading term, because a series of mini-deals has already been done.

But that’s wrong.

The EU has agreed upon a number of unilateral measures, without consulting the UK, to ensure (among other things) that for a few months certain financial transactions can continue and planes can keep flying.

Everyone will benefit from such arrangements, but they are temporary and limited in nature and will need to be renegotiated rapidly.

The government argues that the EU will be forced to deal with the UK because – in effect – it is too big and too important a partner to ignore.

But again, that means negotiations will – if anything – have to intensify.

New phase

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, speaking this week during a joint-press conference with Boris Johnson, summed up the prevailing view in EU capitals.

“The story of Brexit will not end if the United Kingdom leaves on 31 October or even 31 January,” he said.

“There is no such thing as a clean break, no such thing as just getting it done. Rather, we just enter a new phase.”

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The European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs who advocate leaving with no deal says that new phase should be used to negotiate a free trade agreement.

And they argue that the UK should no longer pay the EU the estimated £33bn financial settlement, or divorce bill, and saving money that could be used in other ways.

But Mr Varadkar repeated a warning made by other EU leaders – that if there were to be no deal, the EU would insist that the first items to be discussed in any subsequent negotiation would be citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the financial settlement.

Those are exactly the same items that make up the bulk of the withdrawal agreement that has been rejected three times in the House of Commons.

And before the EU was prepared to discuss a free-trade deal, those issues would still need to be settled.

Just walk away?

So the only way the UK could really have a clean-break Brexit is if it were prepared to walk away, at least for a while, from any kind of stable relationship with the EU, which accounts for roughly half of all UK trade.

That doesn’t sound sustainable.

To give a couple of brief examples…

The UK’s food supply is intricately connected with the rest of the European Union.

“From the consumer perspective, there is so much uncertainty from not having a robust deal with our biggest trading partner,” Andrew Opie, from the British Retail Consortium, told the Brexit Select Committee last week. “There is no getting away from that.”

“Eighty per cent of food imports into UK supermarkets come from the EU,” he said. “So probably about 25% of everything we sell comes from the EU.”

Also, the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is one of the most sensitive issues in the whole Brexit process – walking away from talking about it is not really an option.

The government’s own internal planning document concludes that the effect of a no-deal Brexit on the land border in Ireland could be so damaging that there would be “significant pressure to agree new arrangements which supersede the day-one model within days or weeks”.

Karen Wheeler, who was in charge of co-ordinating the UK’s border plans after Brexit until she resigned from her post in June, told the Brexit committee that things would come to a head extremely quickly.

“It was clear that both the customs regime and the tariff regime would not be sustainable in the long term. They would both, therefore, only apply for a short period of time.”

“So what is the plan after the short period of time to get out of that… It was not clear what the solutions were.”

Years of negotiation

There is, of course, plenty of talk about alternative arrangements that might replace the Irish backstop – the guarantee that the border will remain as open as it is now under all circumstances.

But any solution would require prolonged negotiation and goodwill on both sides.

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Media captionConfused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.

A clean break would deliver neither.

For anyone who has had enough of Brexit, the uncomfortable fact is that – whatever the outcome – many years of technical talks and political drama lie ahead.

It looks set to dominate British politics and public life for the foreseeable future.

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Vaping nearly killed me, says British teenager

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Ewan FisherImage copyright
Ewan Fisher

A teenage boy nearly died after vaping caused a catastrophic reaction in his lungs, doctors in Nottingham say.

Ewan Fisher was connected to an artificial lung to keep him alive after his own lungs failed and he could not breathe.

Ewan told BBC News e-cigarettes had “basically ruined me” and urged other young people not to vape.

His doctors say vaping is “not safe”, although health bodies in the UK say it is 95% safer than tobacco.

Listen: Beyond Today – Can vaping kill you?

What happened?

Ewan started vaping in early 2017. He was 16 at the time and wanted to quit smoking to improve his boxing.

Despite being under age, he said, “it was easy” to buy either cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

In May that year, Ewan was finding it harder and harder to breathe.

His mother took Ewan to accident and emergency on the night before his GCSE exams, because he was coughing and choking in his sleep.

His lungs were failing and he very quickly ended up on life-support in intensive care in Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

“I thought I was going to die,” Ewan told BBC News.

Ewan was getting worse. Even ventilation could not get enough oxygen into his body and his life was in the balance.

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Ewan Fisher

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Ewan was attached to an ECMO machine to keep him alive

He was taken to Leicester and attached to an artificial lung or ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation) machine.

“This machine saved my life,” he said.

Large tubes took blood out of Ewan, removed the carbon dioxide, added oxygen and pumped the blood back into his body.

“He had very serious respiratory failure, he had to go to ECMO and that is a very big deal,” Dr Jayesh Bhatt, a consultant at Nottingham University Hospitals, told BBC News.

“He got as ill as anyone can get.”

The case – from May 2017 – has just come to light in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

How is Ewan now?

Ewan, who is 19 on Tuesday, had a long recovery. It was six months before he was properly up and on his feet again.

“I’m still not back to normal, I’d say 75-80%, it’s in the last six months that I’m feeling a bit stronger in myself,” he said.

“Vaping has basically ruined me, I try to tell everyone and they think I’m being stupid, I tell my mates and they don’t listen.

“They still do it, they all still vape, but they’ve seen what I’ve been through.

“Is it worth risking your life for smoking e-cigs?

“I don’t want you to end up like me and I don’t want you to be dead, I wouldn’t wish [that] on anyone.”

Ewan also fears being around other vapers – everywhere from the pub to High Street – could damage his lungs again.

Is vaping to blame?

His doctors say the answer is yes.

Ewan developed a condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis – something he was breathing in was setting off his immune system, with catastrophic consequences.

“You get an over-exuberant inflammatory response and the lungs pay a price and develop respiratory failure,” Dr Bhatt said.

One of the most common forms of hypersensitivity pneumonitis is “bird fancier’s lung”, which is caused by particles from feathers or bird droppings.

When scientists tested the two e-cigarette liquids Ewan had been using, they found one of them was triggering an immune reaction.

Dr Bhatt said: “The real learning point is vaping is not safe, especially for young people, they should never go near it.

“We consider e-cigarettes as ‘much safer than tobacco’ at our peril.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

How common is this?

There are 3.6 million people vaping in the UK and reactions like this are rare.

However, doctors have told BBC News Ewan’s case is not an isolated incident.

“As vaping becomes more popular, we are beginning to see more cases,” Dr Hemant Kulkarni, a consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said.

He told BBC News: “Some of the cases my colleagues and I have seen are teenagers presenting with severe lung injury and some of these have been life-threatening.

“However, in the cases I’ve been involved in, patients are now regaining normal lung function.”

Dr Kulkarni is “surprised” e-cigarettes are advertised in the UK, given the severe reaction they can cause in children and a lack of scientific studies on their safety.

Is vaping dangerous?

Smoking is pretty much the worst thing you can do for your health.

E-cigarettes are promoted in the UK as a way to quit because they let people inhale nicotine in vapour rather than breathing in smoke.

Ewan’s reaction to vaping was extreme, but what about the rest of us who would not end up with hypersensitivity pneumonitis?

Public Health England says vaping is 95% safer than smoking but is not without risks.

Rosanna O’ Connor, the body’s director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, said: “Smoking kills half of lifelong smokers and accounts for almost 220 deaths in England every day.

“Our advice remains that while not completely risk free, UK regulated e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of smoked tobacco.”

But there are arguments about how safe vaping really is.

The World Health Organization says e-cigarettes are “undoubtedly harmful and should therefore be subject to regulation”.

It also raises concerns vaping is being aggressively marketed at young people – particularly through the use of flavourings – and risked re-normalising smoking.

Is Ewan’s case similar to those in the US?

The deaths of 39 people in the US have been connected to vaping and have prompted worldwide concern about its safety.

There have been 2,051 cases of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (called EVALI) in the outbreak.

Most of those cases, but not all, have been linked to vaping THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Ewan was vaping standard e-cigarettes bought from a shop.

What do experts says?

Dr Nick Hopkinson, the medical director of the British Lung Foundation, said: “If people switch completely from smoking to vaping, they will substantially reduce their health risk as e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and any harmful components are present at a much lower level.

“People who do switch should try to quit vaping in the long term too but not at the expense of relapsing to smoking – and non-smokers should not take up vaping.”

Prof John Britton, the director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is worrying, and the risk needs to be acknowledged, but in absolute terms it is extremely small and, crucially, far smaller than that of smoking.

“The advice remains the same: if you smoke, switch to vaping; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape.”

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England v Montenegro: Raheem Sterling to miss Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley

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England team-mates Joe Gomez and Raheem Sterling during Sunday’s Premier League match at Anfield, where Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-1

England forward Raheem Sterling will not play in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro on Thursday “as a result of a disturbance in a private team area”, the Football Association has announced.

The 24-year-old Manchester City player was involved in an on-field argument with Liverpool and England defender Joe Gomez, 22, during the Reds’ 3-1 Premier League victory at Anfield.

“Unfortunately the emotions of yesterday’s game were still raw,” said England boss Gareth Southgate.

“One of the great challenges and strengths for us is that we’ve been able to separate club rivalries from the national team.

“We have taken the decision to not consider Raheem for the match against Montenegro on Thursday. My feeling is that the right thing for the team is the action we have taken.

“Now that the decision has been made with the agreement of the entire squad, it’s important that we support the players and focus on Thursday night.”

England play their 1,000th senior men’s international on Thursday and a win at Wembley would book a spot at Euro 2020 with one qualifying game to spare.

The Three Lions are top of Euro 2020 Qualifying Group A, three points clear of the Czech Republic and four ahead of Kosovo with the top two nations advancing.

A win for Southgate’s side will see them qualify, while a point will also be enough if the match between the Czech Republic and Kosovo also ends in a draw.

England then play their final group match away in Kosovo on Thursday, 17 November.

More to follow.

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Russia throws more weight behind Haftar in Libya

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