Brokenshire reignites dispute with Dublin over Lough Foyle

The Northern Irish Secretary has become embroiled in a row with the Republic of Ireland over control of Lough Foyle, a large body of water on the border near Londonderry, according to the News Letter.

The lough, which was home to a strategic naval base during the Second World War, sits between County Londonderry, in Northern Ireland, and County Donegal, in the Republic.

Whilst fielding questions on the Government’s plans for fishing post-Brexit he reasserted London’s long-standing claim over the entire lough, but this was rejected by Dublin. However, Irish ministers are striking a conciliatory tone about working towards a solution.

Elsewhere, Brokenshire said that more work is needed to build on the political deal which saved Northern Ireland’s devolved institutions from collapse last year, the News Letter reports.

SNP MPs’ spending under scrutiny as costs soar

The former First Minister of Scotland has claimed almost four times the travel expenses of his Liberal Democrat predecessor, despite having one of the worst attendance records in the House of Commons.

According to the Daily Express Alex Salmond, MP for Gordon, only took part in 45 per cent of votes, spoke in just 49 debates, and submitted only four written questions – all whilst answering only one in five letters sent to him by constituents.

Despite this he’s claimed almost £50,000 in travel expenses, fitting a pattern whereby SNP MPs have claimed far more than the Labour and Lib Dem MPs who held their seats in the previous Parliament. There are now demands for a probe into their spending.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail revealed that the SNP accounted for almost half of the £116,345 spend by MPs on staff bonuses last year, despite only accounting for ten per cent of MPs.

The Nationalists claim that this is because the new MPs are “harder-working”, The Scotsman reports, but Salmond isn’t the only example that contradicts this rosy picture. SNP wunderkind Mhairi Black, the youngest MP in the Commons, spoke in just 17 debates whilst Angus Robertson, their Westminster leader, failed to ask even one written question.

Previous highlights from the Nationalist contingent on the green benches include two members losing the whip whilst a third faces a police probe into his spending during the independence referendum.

Economist claims Wales is no longer ‘significantly underfunded’

Professor Gerry Holtham, an economist who led a review into whether or not Wales was underfunded compared to England, has said that this is no longer the case.

Although in 2010 he said Wales was missing out on £300 million a year under the Barnett Formula, he told Assembly Members on Monday that Welsh public spending had risen from 112 to 116 per cent of that in England. The Welsh Government insisted it would keep pushing for reform regardless. Concerns about an Anglo-Welsh public spending disparity have been a major thorn in the side of efforts to devolve tax powers to Cardiff Bay.

Holtham also attacked Carwyn Jones’ administration for not developing a properly-focused economic strategy, and warned that Westminster is unlikely to make up all the funding Wales stands to lose after Brexit.

Banks claims DUP demanded cash to back Leave.EU

The multi-millionaire UKIP donor who bankrolled a designation challenge to Vote Leave before the EU referendum campaign has claimed the Democratic Unionist Party might have backed him – for cash.

The News Letter reports Arron Banks’ assertion that Northern Ireland’s largest party demanded £30,000 a month to support him. The party insist this is “entirely false” and that the millionaire instead offered them money in a bid to woo them over.

With the ability to demonstrate cross-party support critical in what proved a very close-fought battle for the official designation, the DUP’s support could have made a critical difference – particularly as they were the only one of Britain’s front-rank regional parties to back Brexit.

Since the referendum the DUP have been drawing closer to the Conservatives, a development which won’t have pleased Banks, who still hopes to create a “right-wing Momentum” to challenge the established parties.

Sturgeon to push for ‘Norway-style’ EU plan

The First Minister has confirmed that the Scottish Government is considering a ‘Norway-style’ arrangement to maintain Scotland’s links with the EU, according to the Scotsman.

Such a plan would involve Scotland staying in the single market even in the UK left, and seems another of the designed-to-fail tests the Nationalists hope will stoke public anger over Brexit and lift support for independence. However it would concede Scotland leaving the EU.

Elsewhere her Brexit minister has been caught making exaggerated claims to Brussels diplomats about Scotland’s levels of support for the EU.

Meanwhile some of Scotland’s biggest councils have criticised Sturgeon’s administration for ‘snubbing’ them over Brexit – and have secured talks directly with the British Government. The Scottish Local Government Partnership has called for more devolution from Holyrood to councils after Brexit.

In other news, the Guardian reports that Sturgeon could offer Northern Irish women free access to abortions, in order to help them get around the Province’s strict limitations on NHS access to such services.