Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Monday 5 Feb 2018

1. May ‘categorically’ rules out customs union with EU

Theresa May has sought to clarify her Brexit plans, with a Downing Street source saying that the UK is “categorically leaving” the customs union with the EU. The statement comes as the Prime Minister begins a week of important Brexit meetings, with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and with her own ministers. Talks are to focus on the transitional period.

2. Snow and -7C temperatures in winter’s coldest week

This week is expected to be one of the coldest of the winter so far, with most of the country facing temperatures below zero, and some areas -7C. Heavy snowfall early this morning in Kent caused several accidents on the M20. The Met Office has issued snow and ice yellow warnings for most of the country.

3. Lloyds bans bitcoin purchases on its credit cards

Lloyds Banking Group has banned its customers from using their credit cards to buy the virtual currency bitcoin, because of fears its value will drop. After several buoyant years, the value of bitcoin fell by 30% last week to $8,291.87, and Lloyds bosses fear the bank might end up having to pay for unpaid debts if the price continues to fall.

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4. ANC puts pressure on Zuma to stand down

South Africa’s ruling ANC party held talks with President Jacob Zuma this weekend, urging him to stand down. Zuma, who was replaced as ANC leader by Cyril Ramaphosa in December, faces corruption allegations. He reportedly refused to quit and the ANC is now expected to seek his removal through formal parliamentary means.

5. Panel proposes new tax to fund the NHS

A panel of health experts set up by the Liberal Democrats has suggested creating a new ring-fenced tax to fund only the NHS. The panel also says that NHS England needs an extra £4bn on top of inflation in the next financial year. Panellists included former NHS England boss Sir David Nicholson and former doctors’ leader Clare Gerada.

6. Masonic lodges ‘operating secretly’ in Parliament

Two Freemasons’ lodges are operating in secret in Parliament, according to The Guardian - one on them set up for MPs, peers and others, and the other originally created for political journalists. The newspaper says there is such secrecy surrounding the practice that even lobby reporters do not know who the members are, though it is thought no Labour MPs are involved.

7. Black cab rapist Worboys back in Wakefield Prison

The serial sex offender John Worboys – dubbed the black cab rapist – has been moved back to Wakefield Prison after several women came forward with details of alleged offences in a bid to keep the 60-year-old in jail. Worboys had been moved to a prison near London after the Parole Board approved his release. He has served ten years in jail.

8. Katie Hopkins ‘collapses after taking ketamine’

The former Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins has revealed she collapsed in South Africa after taking the drug ketamine, tweeting a photograph of herself lying face-down on the pavement. Hopkins, whose epilepsy has left her with weakened shoulders, wrote that she received “medical ketamine for a serious dislocation”.

9. Sex and City star announces death of brother

Chris Cattrall, brother of Sex and the City actor Kim Cattrall, has been found dead, days after going missing. Kim Cattrall had earlier appealed to her online followers for help finding the 55-year-old, who disappeared from his home in Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said there were no suspicious circumstances to the death.

10. Briefing: why the US condemns Venezuela but is silent on Honduras

The US has been called out for its double standards on Central and South American human rights issues following the inauguration of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez this week.

When Venezuela’s populist anti-American government rigged state gubernatorial elections in October, “the US led a campaign of condemnation and stepped up sanctions”, The Washington Post says.

Why the US condemns Venezuela but is silent on Honduras

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