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Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin savages Macron and Barnier over ‘pathetic’ trade plot ‘trick’

Tim Martin, the owner of nationwide pub chain Wetherspoon, insisted the British public are now fed up with warnings from French President Emmanuel Macron and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier about delays to a Brexit deal beyond 2020. Boris Johnson wants a full post-Brexit free trade agreement signed with Brussels before the end of the transition period in 2020, which he is refusing to extend if negotiations collapse. Several leading European Union figureheads, including Mr Barnier and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, have repeatedly warned a comprehensive agreement will be impossible to achieve in the short timeframe.

Brexiteer Mr Martin warned UK and EU negotiators people will not be fooled by a deal that fails to achieve what he said would be a real restoration of democracy.

He warned if the UK is forced to closely align with EU laws, or fails to protect fishing rights, the public will shun goods from the bloc and would drive imports from the two biggest EU economies of Germany and France “down to zero”.

But the pub chain boss also launched a scathing attack against the EU, particularly Mr Barnier andFrench President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Martin said: “If the public is tricked or cajoled it will have the power to drive imports from France and Germany down to zero, irrespective of any agreement.

“In my opinion, the public is fed up with repeated warnings from French President Emmanuel Macron and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, in areas such as fishing rights and prospective delays to a deal beyond the end of this year.

“It’s truly pathetic of the EU to imply that a deal can’t be done by December 2020.

“Brussels is a laughing stock in most of the world for its bureaucracy and sclerosis.

“If Macron and Barnier don’t want a deal, or make threats, consumers will simply reject EU goods and will buy from the rest of the world, as Wetherspoon has shown by swapping French brandy and champagne, and German spirits and beers, for UK and new world alternatives.”

Mr Martin insisted anything bought from Europe could still also be purchased from elsewhere in the world.

He added: “Scare stories about planes not flying, blocked ports or loss of jobs in the City of London have proved to be cobblers, and consumers won’t fall for Macron and Barnier’s baloney.”

Earlier this week, Mr Martin urged the Prime Minister to abandon post-Brexit trade talks with the EU, suggesting the UK should leave on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

EU bosses have continued to insist they want Britain to stay closely aligned with Brussels’ rules and have warned Mr Johnson they will not back the kind of agreement he is seeking.

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This has led the Weatherspoons boss to urge the Prime Minister to walk away from talks and urged him not to “tie our hands” and sign a bodged trade deal with the EU.

Mr Martin told Express.co.uk: “I actually think we would be better off with no deal and leaving on WTO terms.

“I think we would be better off in the long run than signing one under pressure.

“We must not sign anything that ties our hands.”

Fishing rights are arguably proving to be the biggest sticking point in negotiations, with Brussels demanding the UK continues to allow its fleets access to British waters in any post-Brexit trade deal.

Mr Barnier said on Tuesday fishing rights must be included in the deal or there “won’t be any agreement at all”.

He said: “The trade agreement will be associated with a fisheries agreement and an agreement about a level playing field or there won’t be any agreement at all.”

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman hit back: “The UK did not vote twice to take back control of its fishing waters only to give that control up again.

“As a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter what the EU puts in its mandate as we become an independent coastal state on December 31 2020.

“This does not have to be negotiated, nor will it be.

“Any access by non-UK vessels to fish in UK waters will be for us to determine.”

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Don’t do it! Panicked Tory MPs urge new Chancellor not to commit major own goal

The group of 18 MPs, largely from the newly-conquered ‘Red Wall’ in northern England, issued the warning to the Chancellor ahead of the Budget on March 11. It follows reports Mr Sunak, who took over from Sajid Javid earlier this month, was looking at ending the freeze on fuel duty rates which has been in place since 2010.

The MPs from the Blue Collar Conservatism group insisted a rise in fuel duty would “send the wrong message” to Tory voters, including those who backed the party for the first time in December.

The MPs told Mr Sunak: “If the decision was taken to raise taxes on fuel, hard-working people and businesses in blue collar communities – many of which lent us their support at the General Election for the first time in generations – will suffer.

“We appreciate that levelling up local transport in blue collar communities across the country is firmly at the top of the Prime Minister’s agenda.

“As a Yorkshire MP, we know you will, too.

“But clobbering these communities with a tax rise in our first Budget would send the wrong message about this Government’s priorities.”

The group of signatories includes more than a dozen Tory MPs who won seats in 2019.

They added: “Any decision to scrap the fuel duty freeze must be seen for what it is: a tax rise which would hit our blue collar communities hardest.

“Increasing fuel duty would show these communities that this people’s Government does not actually have, at its heart, the priorities of the people.”

Meanwhile, the Chancellor is also under pressure from consumer campaigners to protect access to cash.

Which? has written to Mr Sunak calling for legislation that protects cash for as long as it is needed.

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The letter says: “The UK’s ATM network is on the verge of collapse.

“In the past two years, 9,000 free cash machines and 1,200 bank branches have vanished.

“We’re even being charged a fee to access our own money at 25 percent of the cash machines that remain.

“Understandably, millions of people are unhappy about this.

“They rely on cash. For many of them, cash is the only option.

“If things carry on as they are, cash as we know it will cease to exist in just two years.

“Yes, digital payments are good, but right now the UK isn’t ready to go cashless.

“If you don’t act now, free access to our own cash will soon be gone forever.”

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, added that the Budget will “decide the future of cash”.

He said: “Many people have been left struggling from the double blow of cashpoint and bank branch closures – and suffered at the hands of industry mismanagement that has left Britain’s cash landscape on the verge of collapse.

“This Budget will decide the future of cash.

“The Chancellor has a huge opportunity here to protect cash for the millions of people who rely on it.”

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Labour MPs ‘jabbering away’ SILENCED by Speaker in PMQs as Boris dismantles Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MPs were accused of “jabbering away” as Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a huge blow at which point Speaker Lindsay Hoyle silenced Labour. Mr Hoyle said: “I think we will have a little more silence on the bench.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said: “They’re jabbering away because they still can’t decide whether or not they want to be in the European Union.

“And the hottest topic in the Labour Party is what job Mr Corbyn will have in the Shadow Cabinet after the leadership election.

“They are engaging themselves in narcissistic debates about the Labour Party.

“We are getting on in delivering on the people’s priories.”

His comments come as the Labour leadership election heats up between Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy.

Ms Long-Bailey has already promised the outgoing Labour leadership a place in her Shadow Cabinet.

Despite this, Sir Keir is the clear frontrunner of the campaign as London Mayor Sadiq Khan officially backed him

Mr Khan said the frontrunner in the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn is the “best person to unite our party” and put Labour in government.

The Labour mayor, who was MP for Tooting before entering City Hall, is one of the party’s most powerful elected politicians.

Announcing his endorsement on Twitter, he said: “I will be voting for @Keir-Starmer to be the next Labour leader. I’ve known Keir for decades.

“He’s the best person to unite our party, take the fight to the Tories and put Labour in government. £AnotherFutureIsPossible.”

Sir Keir, the shadow Brexit secretary, said he was “honoured” to have received Mr Khan’s backing.

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“Sadiq is demonstrating that Labour in power can change lives. I look forward to campaigning alongside him to keep London Labour.”

The battle to lead the party is being fought by Sir Keir, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy.

Members and party supporters have begun voting in the contest this week, with batches of ballot papers being sent out by email and post.

They will also select a new deputy leader from Angela Rayner, Dawn Butler, Ian Murray, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and Richard Burgon.

The winners are set to be named on April 4 before taking up the roles immediately.

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Parliament: 19,000 diagnosed with diabetes yearly, more expected to be diagnosed in short term, says MOH

SINGAPORE – An estimated 19,000 people are diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes each year, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin in Parliament on Wednesday (Feb 26).

Mr Amrin also said his ministry expects more diabetic patients in the short term because there is better access to health screening and Singaporeans are more aware of the importance of early detection and the potential complications of diabetes if left uncontrolled.

He was responding to Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) who asked for the annual figures of diabetes cases diagnosed in the past five years.

Mr Amrin said that there are many existing initiatives aimed at reducing the risk of developing diabetes and delaying the onset of complications in those who already have the disease.

But it will take years before both the overall incidence of diabetes and its complication rate decrease, he said.

Diabetes is caused by having too much sugar in the blood.

Type 1 diabetes is genetic and unpreventable. It occurs because the pancreas naturally does not produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes, related to weight management, is caused by lifestyle factors such as alcohol intake and a lack of exercise.

According to the latest available National Population Health Survey, 8.6 per cent of Singapore residents had diabetes in 2017.

Dr Intan also asked when the measures to reduce Singaporeans’ sugar intake from sugar-sweetened beverages would be implemented.

In October 2019, the MOH said it had consulted the public and industry players over eight weeks starting December 2018 on four proposed measures to cut the consumption of high-sugar drinks.

The four measures were mandatory front-of-pack labelling, regulation on advertising, a sugar tax, and a ban on high-sugar sweetened beverages.

The ministry said then that it planned to implement two of the measures: mandatory front-of-pack labelling indicating the health value of the drink, and the ban on advertising drinks in the very unhealthy category. It said the other two measures needed more study.

Mr Amrin said on Wednesday that details of the two measures and their implementation timelines would be shared in the upcoming debate in Parliament on the ministries’ budgets.

Dr Intan also asked whether these two measures will be extended to drinks such as bubble tea, coffee, tea and syrup-based drinks served at buffets or eateries.

Responding, Mr Amrin said freshly prepared drinks like bubble tea and blended coffee form a third of Singaporeans’ sugar intake from drinks and data suggests that it is a growing source.

The ministry is currently considering whether to extend the labelling and advertising regulations to these drinks and it is consulting stakeholders such as the food and beverage industry, he said.

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At rowdy debate, Democratic rivals warn Sanders nomination would be 'catastrophe'

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidates unleashed withering attacks on Bernie Sanders in a boisterous debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, assailing his ambitious economic agenda and warning his nomination would be a “catastrophe” that would cost Democrats the White House and control of Congress.

In a debate that featured candidates repeatedly shouting over one another and ignoring their time limits, Sanders’ opponents united in attacking the self-avowed democratic socialist as a risky choice to face Republican President Donald Trump in November.

“Bernie will lose to Donald Trump, and Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red,” billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, adding that would be “a catastrophe.”

Pete Buttigieg, the moderate former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, criticized Sanders for the shifting estimates on the costs of his proposals such as government-run healthcare and warned that the front-runner would bring about chaos.

“I can tell you exactly how it all adds up. It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said.

“If you think the last four years has been chaotic, divisive, toxic, exhausting, imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump.”

Sanders, a senator from Vermont, has taken command of the Democratic race after his resounding win last week in Nevada, and the debate was the last chance for his opponents to try to stop his momentum before Saturday’s South Carolina primary and next week’s 14 vital Super Tuesday contests.

Under incoming fire, Sanders largely held his ground. He defended healthcare as a human right and said his economic and social justice agenda, including his Medicare for All plan that would replace private health insurance with a government-run program, is supported by the American people.

“If you want to beat Trump, what you’re going to need is an unprecedented grassroots movement of black and white and Latino, Native American and Asian people who are standing up and fighting for justice. That’s what our movement is about,” Sanders said.

Underscoring the high stakes of Tuesday’s debate, even Elizabeth Warren, a senator from Massachusetts and a progressive ally of Sanders, took a swing at her old friend.

“I think I would make a better president than Bernie. And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard,” said Warren, who is trying to revive her struggling campaign after poor showings in the first three nominating contests. “I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie’s team trashed me.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is seeking to become the moderate alternative to Sanders but so far has failed to make an impact, said neither Sanders nor Warren had shown the leadership in the Senate to accomplish much.

“It matters if you can actually get things done,” she said.

BLOOMBERG-WARREN ROUND TWO

Bloomberg, who turned in a shaky performance in his debut debate last week in Nevada, was sharper and more aggressive this time. He defended his treatment of women after Warren reprised attacks on what she said was his history of making sexist comments.

He said he complied with a request from Warren in the last debate to release three women he worked with from their non-disclosure agreements.

“The trouble is, with this senator, enough is never enough,” he said. “We did what she asked, and thank you, you’ve probably made the world better because of it.”

Bloomberg, who has been bankrolling a massive advertising blitz, said he also spent his own money to help elect nearly two dozen Democratic House of Representatives candidates in 2018 and “put Nancy Pelosi in charge” so Congress could “control” the president.

Bloomberg also took aim at Sanders, referring to reports that U.S. intelligence officials believe Russia is trying to help Sanders in the election.

“Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States, and that’s why Russia is helping you get elected so you lose to him,” Bloomberg told Sanders.

Sanders shot back: “Hey Mr. Putin, if I’m president of the United States, trust me you’re not going to interfere in any more elections,” in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sanders was criticized for his recent comments praising aspects of the late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s leadership, but said he opposed authoritarianism all over the world.

“When dictatorships – whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans – do something good, you acknowledge that. But you don’t have to trade love letters with them,” he said.

Sanders, who is Jewish, also drew the anger of the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby group and its supporters over the weekend when he said he would skip its meeting, labeling it a platform for “bigotry.”

During the debate, he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “a reactionary racist.”

MAKE OR BREAK

The pressure for a strong performance was high for all of the contenders. Joe Biden, the national front-runner not so long ago, needs to win South Carolina to keep his campaign alive and said he expected to finish first on Saturday.

The former vice president has been counting on his traditional strong support from black voters, who make up about 60 percent of the Democratic electorate in the state, but the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Sanders surpassing Biden in support among the critical constituency.

“I’m here to earn it. But, folks, I intend to win in South Carolina, and I will win the African-American vote here in South Carolina,” Biden said.

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who has spent heavily on South Carolina, is threatening Biden in the state and runs third behind Biden and Sanders in the Real Clear Politics average of state polls.

Steyer warned that the party was headed to danger with either Sanders or Bloomberg, a former Republican, on top of the ticket.

“I am scared, if we cannot pull this party together, if we go to one of those extremes, we take a terrible risk of re-electing Donald Trump.”

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Raucous Democratic debate yields no clear challenger to Sanders

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The stakes could not have been higher at the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday, with the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday contests looming in the week ahead.

Most candidates on the stage in Charleston, South Carolina, shared a common goal: stalling Senator Bernie Sanders’ march toward the nomination. As they battled to emerge as the alternative to Sanders, the rivals appeared to have a collective sense that, for at least some of them, time was running out.

Here’s a look at how the seven candidates on stage fared:

BERNIE SANDERS

Sanders was the object of much of the evening’s hand-wringing. Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar tried to sound the alarm, arguing that with the self-avowed democratic socialist Sanders as the nominee, the party had little hope of unseating President Donald Trump in November. [L1N2AP0HB]

Sometimes the senator from Vermont, who leads the delegate count in the primary, took the pounding in stride. Sometimes he didn’t, such as when he sparred with a member of the audience who booed one of his answers, or engaged in a lengthy shouting match with Buttigieg.

Sanders also seemed to acknowledge that parts of his record are potential liabilities. He called his past support for legislation protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits “a bad vote” but pushed back on accusations that he would be sympathetic to authoritarian regimes in places such as China and Iran.

JOE BIDEN

The debate was crucially important for Biden, who needs a victory in South Carolina on Saturday to re-assert his claim as the best chance to counter Sanders. For the most part, the former vice president delivered a steady performance, playing up his long record in politics and talking about his work on guns and passing the Violence Against Women Act.

“Progressive,” he said, “is getting things done.”

The free-wheeling debate format, in which candidates routinely exceeded their time and talked out of turn, sometimes kept Biden on the sidelines for long periods of time, leaving him increasingly exasperated.

Even so, Biden likely accomplished the goal of trying to assure South Carolina voters he remains a leading option.

ELIZABETH WARREN

After disappointing finishes in the first three early voting states, the senator from Massachusetts was looking to build on her assertive debate performance a week ago in Las Vegas. The results in Charleston were more mixed.

Warren finally took the fight directly to Sanders, as many of her supporters have urged. “I would make a better president than Bernie,” she said.

But she again aimed most of her fire at Bloomberg, to the point where at times it seemed she was more intent on making sure the billionaire New Yorker and former Republican does not end up the nominee than making the case for herself.

“The core of the Democratic Party will never trust him,” said Warren, herself a former Republican.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

It was a comeback of sorts for Bloomberg, who received blistering reviews for his debut presidential debate performance a week ago.

The attention on Sanders gave Bloomberg more room to discuss his record as mayor of New York and try to establish himself as his moderate foil ahead of Super Tuesday on March 3, when the billionaire businessman’s name will appear on ballots for the first time.

Bloomberg also emphasized the millions he has spent on behalf of Democratic congressional candidates and gun control.

At one point, under attack from Warren for his past support of Republicans, Bloomberg finally seemed to give up trying to assert his liberal bona fides. Instead, he turned pragmatic.

“I’m the one choice that makes some sense,” he said. “I have the experience. I have the resources. And I have the record.”

PETE BUTTIGIEG

No candidate on stage appeared more intent on drawing a contrast with Sanders than Buttigieg, who time and again re-stated what he called the stakes for the Democratic Party.

The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, worried aloud about the cost of Sanders’ domestic agenda and warned that Russia was trying to sow “chaos.” He said a Sanders-Trump matchup would divide and exhaust the nation.

African Americans make up two-thirds of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina, and with his low support from those voters leaving little hope of scoring high in the state, Buttigieg must hope his steady debate performance translates into an infusion of quick cash to keep his campaign afloat past Super Tuesday.

AMY KLOBUCHAR and TOM STEYER

Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota, and Steyer, a California billionaire, largely appeared to be afterthoughts for most of the evening. Almost a half hour passed at the start of the debate before Klobuchar spoke. Steyer often had to battle to grab the moderators’ attention.

Both tried to present themselves as reasonable alternatives to Sanders.

Like Buttigieg, Klobuchar draws little support from black voters, and she is already looking past South Carolina to Super Tuesday with the hopes that winning her home state will keep her alive.

Steyer is looking for a top-three finish in South Carolina, though he said after the debate he had the resources to stay in the race longer.

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Ursula von der Leyen ordered to keep out of Poland’s court reforms row

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) claims the controversial new measures are aimed at improving the workings of the country’s judicial system. But the European Union has not bought the government’s explanation and has clashed with the Poles over the issue for the past four years. After taking office last December, Ms von der Leyen had hoped to find common ground with Poland’s conservative-nationalist government on the topic.  

But the PiS has shown it is not willing to bow to Eurocrats’ pressure by rolling out further judicial changes which came into effect this month.  

The party says it is not the place of the EU to interfere in internal affairs of member states.  

But critics slammed the PiS for what they say was a brazen move which poses a threat to judiciary independence in the eastern European nation.  

Opponents said the changes could cause courts across Europe to stop recognising Polish courts as independent.  

Ms von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, and her team are not showing any signs of giving up the fight.  

Reports suggest Brussels will likely ask the European Court of Justice to suspend the measures.  

While the commission did not comment on what move it would make next, it did issue a warning to Poland.  

The body said it would not hesitate to “take appropriate measures as necessary”.  

Dutch judge Kees Sterk, who is president of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, has been an outspoken critic of the raft of changes.  

He told the Financial Times: “A lot of people think that what keeps the [European] Union together is the free market, economics, and finance.  

“But actually, the cement of the union is law: uniformly applied law, and mutual trust and recognition of law among member states.  

“If the mutual trust is not there anymore, the disintegration of the EU could go very rapidly.  

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“Trust goes easily, but it is very difficult to recover it.”  

The changes pave the way for judges to be sacked for questioning the government’s new laws.  

And they also make it easier for judges appointed under the ruling party to decide who should be the next head of Poland’s Supreme Court.  

After taking office in 2015, the PiS assumed direct control of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS). 

The formerly independent body oversees processes of appointment, promotion and discipline of all Polish judges. 

In January judges from 20 European countries took part in a protest march through the streets of Warsaw.  

They were joined by thousands of members of the public for the silent demonstration.  

Judges donned robes for the protest which was an unprecedented display of international solidarity among the judiciary.  

Norway, Bulgaria and the Netherlands were among the countries represented on the day.  

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Foreign diplomats owe more than £116m in congestion charge debt

Foreign diplomats in London owe more than £116 million in congestion charge debt, Dominic Raab has revealed.

In a written statement to MPs, the Foreign Secretary revealed the North American diplomatic mission to the UK owed the most, with unpaid congestion charge debts of £12,446,845.

There were 102,255 individual fines outstanding between the charge being introduced in February 2003 and the end of 2018 for US embassy staff alone.

Unpaid congestion charges and fines incurred by all diplomatic missions and international organisations in London since the scheme was introduced until the end of 2018 was was £116,868,825 in total.

The Japanese diplomatic mission had the second largest debt, owing £8,510,650 after incurring 69,690 fines, according to the figures supplied to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) by Transport for London (TfL).


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Nigeria was third with debts of £7,063,965 from 58,102 fines.

Mr Raab said: "FCO officials write to diplomatic missions and international organisations with large congestion charge debts annually, to encourage payment."

The Foreign Secretary said that two diplomats were expelled from the Saudi Arabian diplomatic mission in 2018 for three alleged offences involving driving under the influence of alcohol.

He said: "We define serious offences as those which could, in certain circumstances, carry a penalty of 12 months' imprisonment or more.

"Around 23,000 people are entitled to diplomatic or international organisation-related immunity in the UK and the majority of diplomats and dependants abide by UK law.


"The number of alleged serious offences committed by members of the diplomatic community in the UK is proportionately low.

"We take all allegations of illegal activity seriously. When the police or other law enforcement agency bring instances of alleged criminal conduct to our attention, we ask the relevant foreign government or international organisation to waive immunity where appropriate.

"For the most serious offences, and when a relevant waiver has not been granted, we request the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat or dependant."

As Foreign Secretary, Mr Raab is currently involved in the controversy over the case of teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn who died in a collision with a car outside RAF Croughton on August 27, 2019.

The suspected driver, 42-year-old Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a US intelligence official working at the base, claimed diplomatic immunity following the crash and was able to return to America, sparking outrage from Mr Dunn's family.

An extradition request for Mrs Sacoolas was rejected by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo last month.

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Senator Rubio confident Trump administration will extend Florida offshore drilling ban

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio on Tuesday said he was confident the administration of President Donald Trump will extend a ban on oil and gas drilling off Florida, despite its enthusiasm for opening much of the country’s coasts to petroleum development.

“I expect that the Trump Administration will not act to oppose or defeat my efforts to extend the offshore drilling moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico beyond its current expiration in 2022,” Rubio, a Florida Republican, said in a statement.

In December, Rubio lifted a hold he had placed on the confirmation of Katharine MacGregor as deputy secretary of the Interior Department. He had voiced concern that MacGregor, a proponent of Trump’s expansive oil and gas production policy, would work to lift the ban off Florida.

Florida Senator Rick Scott, Rubio’s fellow Republican, also opposes drilling off the state. Not extending the ban would face fierce opposition by coastal tourism, real estate and environmental interests in Florida.

The U.S. Senate will not likely pass a permanent moratorium on the drilling, Rubio believes, so he has sponsored a bill to extend the ban through 2027.

Trump’s offshore drilling plan, which MacGregor helped develop, was sidelined after a court ruling blocked drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic, but it could resurface after November’s U.S. presidential elections.

Since lifting the hold on MacGregor, Rubio has been in touch with the White House regarding the drilling moratorium. He now plans to back MacGregor’s confirmation as No. 2 at the Interior Department and will talk about his support in the Senate this week, his office said.

The White House referred questions about Rubio’s comments to the Department of Interior. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Juror identities must be protected in Stone trial, U.S. judge says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Tuesday warned lawyers representing President Donald Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone to protect the privacy of the jurors who found him guilty ahead of a hearing in which the defense was seeking a new trial.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Stone’s lawyers and journalists covering the case that the safety of the jurors could be put at risk if their identities are made public. Jackson sentenced Stone last week to serve more than three years in prison in a case that angered Trump and rattled the Justice Department.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the jury forewoman in Stone’s trial, accusing her of being politically biased, and Stone’s lawyers are seeking a new trial on that basis.

“Any attempt to invade the privacy of the jury or harass and intimidate them is certainly antithetical to our entire system of justice,” Jackson said.

Less than an hour later, Trump again criticized the forewoman on Twitter.

“She was totally biased, as is the judge. Roger wasn’t even working on my campaign. Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!” Trump wrote.

Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones previously sought to uncover the identities of some of the jurors but misidentified them on his Infowars show. Fox News host Tucker Carlson is among the conservative-leaning media figures who have mentioned one of the jurors by name.

Stone was convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering in a case that stemmed from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Russian meddling in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy.

One of the jurors came under fire from Trump after she posted a message on social media defending the four career prosecutors who resigned from the Stone case after the Justice Department intervened and scaled back their sentencing recommendation for the self-proclaimed “dirty trickster.” The department’s intervention came after Trump assailed the prosecutors.

Stone’s lawyers have previously said they were reviewing past social media posts by one of the jurors that have been critical of Trump, including one that apparently made a reference to Stone’s pre-dawn arrest in January 2019.

He was convicted of lying to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks, the website that released damaging emails about Trump’s 2016 Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded were stolen by Russian hackers.

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