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A blow to Cameron’s EU deal 1) MEPs could modify it after the referendum

CAMERON EU fence“The European Parliament could modify David Cameron’s deal with the EU after Britain has voted on whether to stay in, it emerged today. … It came as the EU President Donald Tusk attempted to wake European leaders up to the ‘real’ prospect of a Brexit, warning: ‘What is broken cannot be mended’ and described the negotiations over Mr Cameron’s deal as still ‘very fragile’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Britain has delayed a series of difficult choices over whether to co-operate more with Europe in key areas such as home affairs until after the referendum.” – The Times (£)
  • “Nigel Farage has branded David Cameron a ‘chicken’ after the Prime Minister pulled out of meeting the Ukip leader in Brussels.” – The Sun

Today: ToryDiary – Would you trust a Eurocrat’s promise?

> Yesterday: WATCH – Fox opens fire on “Project Fear”

A blow to Cameron’s EU deal 2) He might not be able to curb child benefit payments

“David Cameron may not be allowed to cut child benefit for the two million EU workers already in Britain in a further weakening of his renegotiation deal, it emerged last night. … The Prime Minister had vowed at the election to stop the payments to anyone whose children live in another country to stop the practice of it being sent abroad.” – Daily Mail

  • David Cameron 07-06-15“The rest of Europe is getting cold feet over David Cameron’s new deal. Three days before the most critical EU summit the prime minister has attended, reservations are being voiced from Poland to Portugal about the concessions being made by the rest of the EU to try to keep Britain in.” – The Guardian
  • “Applications for asylum in the European Union more than doubled last year to more than 1.2 million, according to official UN figures.” – The Times (£)
  • “An ‘unprepared’ EU bungled their response to the refugee and migrant crisis and increased the threat of terrorism, a damning new report has revealed.” – The Sun
  • “Problems have been exacerbated by a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers in Britain, even if the numbers arriving are lower than elsewhere in Europe.” – Financial Times

Eurosceptic ministers to be freed to campaign for Brexit… “within days”

EU Exit brexit“Eurosceptic Cabinet ministers will be free to back a British exit from the EU within days after David Cameron dramatically backed down last night. … Downing Street said he was now planning an emergency Cabinet meeting on Friday evening to discuss the ‘deal’ he expects to strike with fellow EU leaders. … The move will effectively fire the starting gun on a four-month campaign on Britain’s EU membership.” – Daily Mail

  • “More than 12 ministers outside the cabinet could support Britain’s exit from the European Union, including an influential MP who has championed reforming Europe from within.” – The Times (£)
  • “This is middle England,’ said Philip Hollobone MP as he marched his anti-European Union canvassers through historic Rothwell in Northamptonshire on Saturday morning. ‘This referendum is going to be decided in market towns like this.’” – The Guardian
  • “George Osborne is facing demands to rule out spending any taxpayer cash on private spin doctors during the EU referendum.” – The Sun
  • “HSBC boss Stuart Gulliver has sparked a fresh Brexit row by threatening to move 1,000 banking jobs to France if the UK quits the EU.” – The Sun

Comment:

  • “Bringing the meeting forward is a climbdown – and a significant one. The original timetable was carefully crafted to give Mr Cameron a weekend in which to sway the public while Cabinet Eurosceptics remained outrageously muzzled.” – Daily Mail editorial
  • “May can be Cameron’s most potent weapon.” – Rachel Sylvester, The Times (£)
  • “Scaremongering on jobs hides the real reason we should remain in the EU.” – Oliver Kamm, The Times (£)
  • “Referendums have little or nothing to do with detail. They are highly charged, emotional events.” – Steve Richards, The Independent
  • “Why Jeremy Corbyn may privately support Brexit.” – Dan Hodges, Daily Telegraph

Osborne’s pension plans could discourage saving, warns the IFS

OSBORNE red and blue“Savers planning for retirement could be better off buying a bigger home than paying into a pension if George Osborne goes ahead with a tax raid on the middle class, a report has warned. … Proposed changes to tax relief on pensions will leave higher-rate taxpayers worse off than if they had invested their money elsewhere, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. … It warned that the move could ‘actively discourage’ people from saving.” – Daily Mail

  • “Workers today face having to work until 77 if they want to retire with the ‘gold standard’ pensions their parents enjoyed.” – The Sun
  • “Families are now better off than they have been at any time since the recession, a think-tank has found.” – Daily Mail
  • “It costs more to bring up a child than to buy the average semi-detached house, a report has found.” – Daily Mail
  • “More than 70,000 renters have joined the queue to buy discounted houses and flats under the government’s Starter Homes scheme even though it has yet to launch, illustrating the scale of pent-up demand.” – Financial Times

Comment:

  • “Is George Osborne about to betray Tory voters on pension tax relief?” – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday:

Will the Chancellor enjoy a £20 billion windfall?

Pay“George Osborne is on course for a windfall of more than £20 billion in next month’s budget because of tumbling government borrowing costs and lower-than-expected inflation. … The cost of servicing ten-year government debt dropped to an all-time low of 1.23 per cent last week as markets pushed forecasts for a rise in interest rates back to 2019. Those expectations are critical for the chancellor because they are used by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) when preparing forecasts for the public finances.” – The Times (£)

  • “David Cameron’s tax break for married couples was denounced as an ‘utter flop’ after it emerged that only 8 per cent of eligible people had applied.” – The Times (£)
  • “Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio, said it appeared that ‘the public is only getting a partial picture of how Dorneywood, a grace-and-favour residence provided by the state, is being used for party political purposes’” – The Independent

Hunt welcomes probe into the NHS’s 111 hotline…

HUNT Doctor Carla Millar“Health watchdogs are to launch an urgent inspection of a troubled 111 service amid an outcry over the Daily Mail’s revelations. … The helpline was branded ‘not fit for purpose’ yesterday after the Mail published photos showing exhausted members of staff asleep when they were supposed to be taking life-or-death calls. … Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he welcomed the ‘tough action’ and would be ‘looking closely’ at the results.” – Daily Mail

  • “The 111 service was last night accused of a cover-up over a man who died of a heart attack after making 20 calls to the helpline in a single weekend.” – Daily Mail
  • “Jeremy Hunt’s key argument in his demands for a seven-day service in NHS hospitals has been called into question by his own department, in a leaked report.” – The Guardian
  • “Jeremy Hunt is now the most disliked frontline politician of any major political party after the disastrous Junior Doctor row.” – The Sun

> Yesterday: Judy Terry on Local Government – Health and Wellbeing Boards are failing to champion patients

…as the former head of the Civil Service proposes raising income tax to help fund the health service

“Income tax will have to increase by at least 3p in the pound to deal with the massive pressures on NHS funding and to guarantee future healthcare, the former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake has said. … In a stark assessment of NHS finances, Kerslake said that big questions needed to be asked to ensure that spending kept up with medical advances, an ageing population and the need to invest in hospitals.” – The Guardian

  • “NHS hospitals are coming under pressure to ‘cook the books’ and underplay the scale of their deficits, a whistleblowing finance director has told MPs.” – The Independent
  • “The NHS has turned down the chance to buy thousands of operations from private hospital groups, they say, even as hospital waiting times have lengthened to record levels.” – Financial Times
  • “Demand for nurses has grown so rapidly that England’s hospitals are now 15,000 short of the number they need, according to an official NHS assessment.” – Financial Times
  • “England and Wales endured the biggest annual rise in deaths for almost 50 years last year, new figures have revealed.” – Daily Mail

“Overtaking Labour has become a credible possible outcome.” The Tories in Scotland.

Ruth Davidson“The Conservative party is not on the side of Scottish voters, does not care about Scotland and is irrelevant in elections north of the border. That, at least, was the conclusion of a leading polling exercise in late 2013. … Now, in a rapid two-year reversal of fortune, the Tories are challenging Labour for second place in the polls and on track for their best-ever result in elections to the Scottish parliament later this year, which would make them the official opposition.” – Financial Times

  • “British politics rotates around an unofficial non-aggression pact between English conservatism and Scottish nationalism. As antagonistic as any two movements in the land — culturally, ideologically — they nevertheless have a mutual strategic interest in each other’s success that neither side can admit.” – Janan Ganesh, Financial Times

> Today: Ruth Davidson’s column – Scottish Labour are too weak to argue for Trident, so it’s our responsibility to be strong

Lord Brittan’s wife to question the police

“Leon Brittan’s widow Diana will today ask the head of Scotland Yard why her husband was ‘hounded in life and death’ by his force. … She will demand to know why detectives, under pressure from Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, prolonged an investigation into a baseless rape claim made against her dying husband by a mentally ill Labour activist.” – Daily Mail

Livingstone defends his stance on Trident

Livingstone“Ken Livingstone has branded claims by the US Defence Secretary that Britain must keep the Trident nuclear deterrent to maintain its ‘outsized’ role in the world as ‘rubbish’. … Speaking to the Independent, the former London Mayor and co-convener of Labour’s defence review, said building the Trident submarines ‘which we will never use’ at the expense of the armed forces will leave the UK more vulnerable to the threat of terrorism.” – The Independent

  • “A notorious paedophile who once campaigned for sex with children to be legalised has been allowed to join the Labour party.” – The Times (£)

Eagle pushes for Leveson, Part II

“Shadow culture secretary Maria Eagle has called on David Cameron to ‘keep his promise’ to hold part two of the Leveson inquiry following reports the government has shelved plans for the investigation into the relationship between journalists, politicians and the police. … Writing in the Guardian, Eagle said campaigners and victims groups have demanded the government sticks to the plan.” – The Guardian

Read Maria Eagle’s Guardian article in full

The civil service has a “less diverse intake” than Oxford

Whitehall“A review for the Government has now found that the civil service’s fast stream recruitment scheme has ‘a less diverse intake’ than Oxford when the social and economic background of students is considered. And Labour has seized on figures showing that only 1.8 per cent of black and mixed race people who applied were accepted by Whitehall’s fast track recruitment programme – compared to 4.8 per cent of white applicants.” – The Independent

  • “Whitehall must not cut jobs in order to ‘bring in apprentices on the cheap’, the leading civil service union has said, amid fears that ministers plan to use redundancies to make space for apprentices required to hit Government quotas.” – The Independent

Bank of England rebuffs criticism of its banking reforms

“The Bank of England has rebuffed criticism from the chief architect of the UK’s banking reforms by denying that it has watered down his recommended minimum capital levels for Britain’s biggest lenders. … In a statement released late on Monday the BoE rejected that it had gone soft on UK banks and pushed back firmly against an article in Monday’s Financial Times by Sir John Vickers.” – Financial Times

  • “HSBC’s threat to swap London’s Docklands for Hong Kong concentrated minds at the Treasury and formed part of the backdrop of Mr Osborne’s conciliatory speech at Mansion House last June.” – Financial Times

Comment:

  • “Banks have swapped one addiction for another.” – Ed Conway, The Times (£)
  • “Europe’s failing banks are rotten to the core with bad loans… if only they’d listened to Gordon Brown.” – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • “Why banks are waging war on cash.” – Paul Mason, The Guardian

News in brief

  • Russia accused of bombing hospitals and schools in Syria, leaving 50 dead – Daily Mail
  • Turkey threatens to strike back at “terrorist” Moscow – The Times (£)
  • “We’ve degraded education in the hunt for A stars.” – Anthony Seldon, The Times (£)
  • “The intolerant student Left has even turned on me – a lifelong civil rights campaigner.” – Peter Tatchell, Daily Telegraph
  • One in five children have watched porn on the internet, ministers reveal – Daily Telegraph
  • Electronic voting for MPs could “improve accuracy” – The Independent
  • Ministers spent £500,000 on a lorry to promote exports – The Sun
  • Government embroiled in battle over Israeli goods boycott – Financial Times
  • The European Central Bank could act to boost the eurozone, says its President – Financial Times
  • George W Bush hits the campaign trail to support his brother – The Guardian

And finally: Soames vs Peston

soames“ITV’s political editor told a Tory MP to “eff off” on Twitter after taking offence at being urged to smarten up when he appears on screen. … Robert Peston and Nicholas Soames were locked in a social media spat today which started with a Sun exclusive.” – The Sun

14 comments for: Newslinks for Tuesday 16th February 2016

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