Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Saturday 16 Dec 2017

1. EU hails Brexit progress - now for the tough stuff

EU negotiators have confirmed that "sufficient progress" has been made in the first phase of Brexit talks, paving the way for discussions next year on trade. However, EU leaders also repeated calls on Theresa May to clarify what Britain wants from its future relationship with the bloc. "The most difficult phase is ahead of us," said Angela Merkel. "Britain has to tell us what they want."

2. Democrat says Trump 'killing off' Moscow inquiry

Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat in a congressional Trump-Russia probe, has said he fears Republicans are manoeuvring to kill off inquiries into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election. "I’m increasingly worried Republicans will shut down the House intelligence committee investigation at the end of the month," he said. So far the FBI’s investigation has snared at least four senior members of the Trump campaign.

3. Uber 'used undercover spies' says letter

Uber used undercover agents to steal competitors' secrets and engage in undercover surveillance, a letter published by a US court has claimed. The note will be pivotal in Uber's legal battle with rival Waymo, that accuses the ride-sharing firm of stealing its technology. In a statement, Uber said: "Going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology."

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4. 'Digital divide' leaves the countryside behind

Fears are growing that people living in the countryside are being "left behind", as it is revealed that 80% of homes and businesses in rural areas cannot get a good 4G mobile phone signal. The government will relax planning laws in the coming weeks to kick-start a new generation of mobile phone masts in the countryside in a bid to end the "digital divide".

5. Royal wedding to clash with FA Cup Final day

News that the royal wedding will take place on the same day as the FA Cup Final has caused a fuss. The Daily Mail describes the news as "A right royal own goal", while The Sun describes the clash of events as "Match of the Day". The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has been announced for May 19 next year - the same day as the big Wembley final.

6. Far-right party to join Austrian coalition government

The far-right in Austria will return to coalition under the conservative People's Party. The deal comes after a parliamentary election in October that the People's Party won without an overall majority. If the coalition deal is ratified, Austria would become the only country in western Europe with a governing far-right party. Right-wing populist groups have been promoting anti-immigration agendas across the European Union.

7. US Republicans reveal historic tax bill plan

Republicans from both houses of Congress have revealed their bill for the biggest overhaul of the country's tax system in 30 years. The move is seen as a major victory for President Donald Trump, who said he wants the bill signed into law before Christmas. The proposal brings the US corporate tax rate down to 21% from the current 35% and the top individual income tax drops to 37% from 39.6%.

8. Devon mud hut couple defy council eviction

A couple who live in a mud hut in Devon have vowed to defy a council eviction order. Kate and Alan Burrows, who say they have "an allergy to modern life", built their home from tree trunks, mud and straw without planning permission. North Devon Council has issued an enforcement notice for them to remove their home by today but the couple want their case debated by the council.

9. Grapes overtake apples to become top selling fruit

The increasing popularity of snack packs has seen grapes overtake apples to become Britain's best selling fruit for the first time. A record £604m was spent on grapes in the last 12 months, while just £600m was splashed on apples and £551m on bananas. Jack Wark, chief executive of the British Growers Association, said: "Grapes are a very good, convenient snack."

10. Strictly Come Dancing champion to be crowned tonight

The winners of reality television series Strictly Come Dancing 2017 will lift the glitterball trophy this evening. The remaining stars - Gemma Atkinson, Alexandra Burke, Joe McFadden and Debbie McGee - will each dance with their partners three times. This year has been the most popular series of the BBC One show, attracting an average of 11m viewers each weekend.

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