The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 17 August 2017

Also: Big Ben to fall silent; unemployment lowest since 1975

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Regulated rail fares will rise by 3.6 per cent in January, bringing the price of annual tickets from Oxford, Colchester or Hastings to more than £5,000. The rise depended on the annual rate of inflation in July as measured by the Retail Prices Index, which had risen to 3.6 per cent; as measured by the Consumer Prices Index it remained unchanged at 2.6 per cent. A passenger train was derailed near Waterloo station but none of the 23 on board was injured. A train from Royston hit the buffers at King’s Cross. Richard Gordon, the author of Doctor in the House, died aged 95. The landlord of the Mallard in Scunthorpe became the third person at the pub to win £1 million in the National Lottery.

There could be a ‘temporary customs union’ after Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019, according to a joint paper by the Treasury and the Department for Exiting the EU. The paper envisaged a ‘highly streamlined’ border with the EU or no customs border at all. In response, Guy Verhofstadt, the chief Brexit representative for the European Parliament, tweeted disobligingly: ‘To be in and out of the Customs Union and “invisible borders” is a fantasy. We first need to secure citizens rights and a financial settlement.’ Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, had already put on a united front in a joint article for the Sunday Telegraph, saying that ‘a time-limited interim period’ could not be ‘indefinite; it cannot be a back door to staying in the EU’. In another position paper, Britain opposed the erection of customs posts on its border with Ireland. An 8ft diameter pipe 524 yards long was washed up on the beach at Winterton, Norfolk, having broken loose as it was being towed to Algeria.

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