Brexit 1) Ministers plan five-year visas and a ban on benefits for migrants

Border‘The biggest shake-up of immigration policy in a generation is expected to see multi-year visas handed to migrants who get jobs in key sectors of the economy but limit access to benefits for new arrivals. Under plans advocated by senior ministers the government would seek to take political heat out of immigration by getting an independent body to advise on how many visas should be issued. At a meeting of the cabinet’s Brexit committee on Thursday, Theresa May ordered ministers to draw up a two-stage plan: first, to deal with EU nationals already in the UK; second, to set up a new visa regime for those who arrive later. Ministers were also told to draw up a “traffic light” system, issuing regular red, amber and green updates on their preparedness for Brexit…Under one model being advanced by senior members of the cabinet, new arrivals would be given five-year working visas if they have a job, but banned from claiming in-work benefits for the duration of their stay in Britain.’ – Sunday Times (£)

>Yesterday: Hugo Swire on Comment: Brexit gives an opportunity to improve our passport security

Brexit 2) London to host Commonwealth trade summit next month

‘Britain is to host a summit of Commonwealth trade ministers to kick-start talks on a free-trade deal with some of the UK’s closest allies. More than 30 ministers will attend the summit in London on March 9 and 10, along with 60 business leaders. They are expected to sign an accord that will pave the way for a free-trade deal between Britain and countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada after Brexit. The summit, to be attended by Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, will also seek to put other leading Commonwealth countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and India on course for greater trade liberalisation. At the event, ministers and business leaders will chair events on key issues such as finance, technology, good business practice and attracting inward investment.’ – Sunday Times (£)

Brexit 3) Heseltine: The fightback starts here

HESELTINE Michael‘My opponents will argue that the people have spoken, the mandate secured and the future cast. My experience stands against this argument…my preoccupation is to ensure that if public opinion changes then Parliament has the means to reflect that, whether by election, referendum or rethink. It should not be forgotten that a month before the EU referendum, Nigel Farage said if the Brexit campaign lost by around 52 to 48 (in the event it won by precisely this margin) it would be considered ‘unfinished business’, with pressure for a second referendum to reverse the result.’ – Michael Heseltine, Mail on Sunday

>Today: Mohammed Amin on Comment: Why referendums are almost always a bad idea

Downing Street revels in Copeland triumph…

‘Conservative special advisers…were briefed on the party’s success in Copeland by Stephen Parkinson, the man who masterminded the by-election and ran the “leave” campaign’s ground war during the EU referendum. Parkinson is an unobtrusive character but he seemed even happier than after the Brexit vote, laughing as he weighed up which historical precedent the Tories should use on their triumphant press releases. Copeland was the first by-election gain by a government since 1982; the biggest swing (seven percentage points) towards a governing party in a by-election since Hull North in 1966. The last Tory MP in Copeland was born in 1879. You could argue, and Parkinson did, that it was the Tories’ best by-election result since 1878, when the Conservatives won a seat from the Liberals in the Worcester. “We are spoilt for choice,” he said…One of those at the Parkinson briefing said: “We got a presentation on all the polling and I kept thinking they were about to tell us there was going to be a general election. But there isn’t.”’ – Sunday Times (£)

>Yesterday: Rory Stewart on Comment: Three reasons why we won Copeland. Theresa May, Trudi Harrison – and Labour’s long failure to deliver

…and plans to ‘turn the screw’ by targeting 70 Labour seats

paint-map‘Some ministers have urged her to call a snap poll in the wake of her historic by-election victory in Labour-held Copeland. But the PM has told aides she wants to exploit the party leader’s weakness by “slowly turning the screw” from now to 2020. Tory strategists believe she can snatch up to 70 seats from Labour at the next general election – banishing them from power for decades….Campaign teams will be sent to work relentlessly in a range of marginal seats which Tories now feel are within their grasp.They include former northern strongholds of Halifax, Dewsbury, Wirral West and City of Chester. Party workers will also flood Labour’s flimsy foothold in the south at Enfield North, Ilford North and Hampstead and Kilburn. Some of them have not been held by the Tories since the early 1980s.’ – The Sun on Sunday

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