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After three days chained to Westminster debating Theresa May’s Brexit deal, ministers are being dispatched to different corners of the country on Friday to sell it to the public. Critics back in the Commons, though, still aren’t buying it, and an attempt to find a compromise seems to have been rejected.
On Thursday night, an amendment – understood to have No 10’s backing – was laid down in the Commons offering MPs more say over when or if the contentious Northern Ireland backstop – explained here – is activated. It wasn’t well received. DUP leader Arlene Foster dismissed it as “legislative tinkering” while Tory Brexiteers said it was “desperate” ,”transparent and risible”.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says the prime minister is looking for a way out, a way of fiddling with the fiddly bit of the deal. But, she notes, offering Brexiteers a choice between two things they don’t want – the backstop or staying longer in the EU – is not very appealing, and anyway, the EU won’t let the UK alone decide what it does. MPs will vote on the deal next Tuesday – here, we break down what could happen next if they reject it.
Mobile operator O2 says its data networks are back up and running after a day of disruption. O2’s 25 million customers, plus another seven million customers of the Sky, Tesco, Giffgaff and Lycamobile networks, were hit. Services such as bus timetable information were also knocked out, while many businesses faced difficulties. The company has apologised and blamed “faulty software”. It says it’ll keep a close eye on things in the coming days.
Oxford and Cambridge recruit more students from the top eight schools in England than almost 3,000 other state schools put together. That’s according to social mobility charity the Sutton Trust. The study blames a lack of guidance for state school applicants and says the universities should take into account young people’s backgrounds when making admissions decisions.
Oxford said it was “very aware” that it “must work harder”. Cambridge welcomed the idea of more support for would-be applicants but rejected the idea of “lowering grade requirements” to help certain students. What does a “fair” admissions policy look like? Read more.
Quiz of the week
Have you been paying attention? Find out.
Is Ashley Roberts ‘too good’ to be on Strictly?
By Steven McIntosh, BBC Entertainment reporter
There are some things you can depend on happening every Christmas. Mariah Carey on the radio. The Queen’s speech on the TV. And, like clockwork, a Strictly contestant being accused of having too much dance experience. But this year, the celebrity in the firing line arguably has a more notable dance background than any before her. Many viewers say singer Ashley Roberts might as well be one of the show’s professionals herself. “There were a lot of raised eyebrows when Ashley was announced as part of this year’s line-up,” TV critic Emma Bullimore tells BBC News.
What the papers say
The NHS is in the news this morning. The Times focuses on GP shortages and says despite extra money, £20,000 “golden hellos” and overseas recruitment drives, numbers continue to fall. The Guardian reports that the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, is at loggerheads with the government about how much his long-term plan for the health service can promise to boost care. Ministers are “fed up”, the paper adds, because he is refusing to give explicit guarantees on what exactly the government’s extra spending will achieve. On Brexit, the Daily Telegraph says ministers have told Theresa May to come up with a new plan to get her deal through Parliament, but were “exasperated” when she failed to commit to any of them. The Sun reports on what it calls “a media blitz” by ministers paving the way for a leadership run. The Daily Mail, finally, leads on what it calls the O2 “mayhem”.
Pay gap Ethnic minority academics earn less
Hart quits Comedian steps down from hosting the Oscars
Disabled flyers Ministers promise new charter to improve travel
Paris protests Landmarks to close amid riot fears
If you see one thing today
If you listen to one thing today
If you read one thing today
09:00 UK Sport will announce which sports have gained up to £500,000 in new funding – skateboarding and surfing are among the contenders
10:00 George Duke-Cohan, 19, will be sentenced after admitting making bogus bomb threats which triggered the evacuation of more than 400 schools
On this day
1941 Japan attacks the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, and declares war on Britain and the US