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News Daily: Backstop pressure on PM and cash for teachers

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'Freedom clause'?

Image copyright UK Parliament/Mark Duffy

Forgive us, because you'll have heard this before - but it's going to be a big week for Brexit. On Tuesday, MPs will take part in a series of votes that could shape the future direction of the process. These votes are on amendments - possible changes suggested by MPs - to Theresa May's deal. They'll give the PM a strong indication of what Parliament wants, or is willing to swallow, when it comes to voting again on the deal itself at a later date.

For many MPs, the sticking point is the Northern Ireland backstop - the insurance policy against a hard border on the island of Ireland. Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says negotiating a "freedom clause" - an expiry date for the backstop, or a way for the UK to unilaterally withdraw from it - is crucial. That's backed up by senior Conservative backbencher Sir Graham Brady, who says replacing the backstop with "alternative arrangements" would allow the Brexit deal to pass.

The EU, though, has so far proved unwilling to consider any watering down, and the Irish deputy PM said any changes would be unacceptable. Read more about the backstop here, and about the impact all this is having on Anglo-Irish relations.

It's also possible that MPs will back amendments that call on Mrs May to rule out a no-deal, or to delay the date of the UK's departure.

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Cash incentives

In 2018/19, the number of people starting training as secondary school teachers in England was 17% below target, with subjects such as physics, chemistry and computing facing the largest shortfalls. Too many teachers also leave after just a few years - here, some tell us why.

Now the government has announced plans to give young teachers cash incentives and improve their work-life balance in an effort to address the crisis. Some will receive £5,000 in their third and fifth years in the classroom - on top of initial £20,000 training bursaries. They could also have some protected time for extra training. Head teachers' unions have welcomed the plan - one said it could be "a game-changer" - but warned there was no time to lose.

Social prescribing

A significant number of GP appointments are not directly related to medical conditions, but made by patients who are anxious, lonely or need support, for example, with losing weight. NHS England wants to address this by training more than a thousand "link workers", trained in what's known as social prescribing. That means that rather than drugs, they prescribe community activities, like exercise groups or art classes, that can improve health in a different way.

The US state looking to take down Trump

By Anthony Zurcher, BBC North America correspondent

A California senator is one of the front-runners for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. A California congresswoman is speaker of the House of Representatives. California's new governor is a young, progressive champion promising to offer an alternative to the "corruption and incompetence" of Donald Trump's White House. The Golden State has become solidly Democrat blue, and its politicians are flexing their muscles on the national stage. But this golden opportunity doesn't come without risk for the progressive cause.

Read the full article

What the papers say

Image copyright i, Daily Express

"It is crunch week for Brexit," says the editorial in the Times "because it is always now crunch week for Brexit". It's one of several papers to suggest Brexiteers are "coalescing around" the amendment put forward by Sir Graham Brady as a way to show what Parliament will approve and thus give fresh impetus to negotiations with the EU. The Daily Mail says Theresa May is poised to "throw her weight" behind the proposal in a "high stakes gamble", while the Sun says she appears to be "warming to" the Brady plan. But not every paper sees signs of progress. The Daily Mirror and the Guardian say the PM's hopes of securing a compromise in Brussels have been dealt a blow by Ireland's insistence that the backstop must stay. Elsewhere, there's praise for Novak Djokovic, who won a record seventh Australian Open men's singles title on Sunday. The Daily Telegraph calls his performance "tennis from another planet".

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Lookahead

Today The Commons will decide whether to introduce proxy voting, which would allow MPs on parental leave to nominate a colleague to vote on their behalf

Today Five people charged with being members of banned neo-Nazi group National Action due to enter pleas at Birmingham Crown Court

On this day

1986 The Challenger space shuttle explodes just over a minute after launch, killing all seven astronauts on board

From elsewhere

Hugh McIlvanney: a friend, a towering presence, and the greatest sportswriter (Observer)

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What it's like to be detained inside Libyan detention camps (Huffington Post)

Venezuela: how Latin American tolerance of illiberalism let a nation slide into crisis (The Conversation)

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