Plans for the UK to keep ties to the customs union temporarily after Brexit features on several newspaper front pages, alongside more build-up to Saturday’s royal wedding.
The Financial Times says the prime minister has conceded that Britain will have to remain tied to a customs union after 2021 until an alternative can be found to having a hard border in Ireland.
Under the plan, the paper says, the whole of the UK will be covered by the EU’s common external tariff, removing the need for a customs border in Ireland or between Ireland and the UK mainland.
The Daily Telegraph, which already carried a report on the customs union decision in its Thursday edition, chooses to lead with a warning from the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.
He says Britain would need to follow many of the rules of the single market after Brexit and not just remain tied to the customs union.
The paper says his comments will raise fears among Brexiteers that Britain may remain shackled to the EU, with the cabinet still divided over the country’s future trading relationship with Europe.
Royal wedding fever
The image of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they are driven to Windsor to rehearse their wedding adorn most of the front pages this morning.
“Nothing’s going to spoil our big day” is the front page headline in the Daily Mail, referencing the announcement that Ms Markle’s father will not be giving her away. Meanwhile, “I’m sad about Dad” is how the Sun headlines the story.
Many of the papers focus on the arrival in Britain of the bride’s mother Doria Ragland. The Mail reports that the yoga instructor, 61, had a “jolly” meeting with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at Clarence House. She meets her most esteemed new relative by marriage – the Queen – for tea later on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror claims Theresa May will use the cover of the royal wedding to appoint 10 more Conservative peers to the House of Lords. Under the headline “sneaky, sneaky”, it says the announcement is likely to come while Britain is distracted by events in Windsor.
The possibility of hundreds more British troops being sent to Afghanistan is the main story for the Times.
The newspaper says the decision to consider increasing the military presence follows pressure from US President Donald Trump, adding that the US has repeatedly called on other Nato members to increase their contributions of troops.
According to the Times, Britain and its European allies fear Mr Trump will use the Nato summit in July to threaten to pull out of the organisation in frustration at “feeble” European defence spending.
Meanwhile, the Guardian has learned nearly 100 Wiltshire police officers and staff have sought psychological support following the Novichok nerve agent attack on the Skripals in Salisbury.
Wiltshire’s chief constable, Kier Pritchard, said he and other police officers continued to receive help for more than two months following the incident.
The government’s decision to reduce the maximum stake for fixed odd betting machines from £100 to just £2 is welcomed by the Guardian as long overdue. But the paper says more must be done to ensure the industry behaves responsibly and calls for a ban on gambling adverts around live sporting events.
But the announcement has not been welcomed by the Daily Star which says the reduction to £2 is too drastic and could mean the loss of up to 4,000 betting shops and with them more than 20,000 jobs.
The Daily Mirror says that instead of threatening to close shops and sack staff, the major bookmakers should be imaginative by finding ways of promoting responsible gambling and making bookies more attractive to visit.
The announcement that ministers could relax planning laws on fracking receives a warm reception from the Sun. The paper says it salutes the government for coming forward with a measure to help firms explore for shale and compel councils to approve it.
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that the cricketing authorities are considering banning what is considered by many an immutable part of the game: the toss.
It is one proposal being looked at by the International Cricket Council in a bid to reduce home advantage in test series. It would mean Australia being given the choice of either batting or bowling first when they next tour England for the Ashes.
And the mayor of Rome has surprised residents by suggesting that hundreds of sheep should be brought into the city to tame its overgrown parks. According to the Times, Virginia Raggi wants to use the sheep as natural lawnmowers to bring the grass in the parks back under control.
But one of her political opponents has warned that she has left it too late to expect sheep to do the job, and what is needed now are camels or even giraffes.