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Brexit 1) Disagreements among ministers and officials over using aid money to help with EU deal

EU Exit brexit‘Ministers are at war over plans to divert billions of pounds of foreign aid spending to eastern Europe in an effort to get a better Brexit deal. Downing Street officials and senior cabinet ministers believe part of Britain’s £12bn annual aid budget should be used to win support for a favourable new deal from Brussels. Under the plan, cash currently pumped into wasteful projects in Asia and Africa would be diverted to allies such as Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states. One of Theresa May’s closest aides has used private conversations on Brexit strategy to argue that the money would persuade eastern European countries to back Britain’s demands for an advantageous trade deal. But the proposal has sparked a bitter Whitehall turf war, with officials at the Department for International Development (DfID) declaring the plan illegal.’ – The Sunday Times (£)

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Brexit 2) More than 20 peers who are keen to change bill have ‘financial interest’ in Brussels

‘More than 20 peers expected to force changes to the Brexit Bill this week are still earning tens of thousands of pounds from Brussels, it can be revealed. Lord Mandelson, Labour’s former communications director, Lord Kinnock, the party’s former leader, and Lord Patten, who served in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, all still receive EU pensions. Many other former MEPs and European commissioners are also receiving payouts from a Brussels pension pot estimated to be worth £10 million. The peers are facing demands to reveal their “financial interest” before speaking on Brexit legislation this week or face the “outrage” of the public.  Dominic Raab, a former justice minister, said: “Lords with generous EU pension pots should be open with the British people and declare this when they speak in Parliament on Brexit.’ – Sunday Telegraph

Comment:

  • Lords is ‘comically unrepresentative’ – Tony Parsons, Sun on Sunday
  • Brexit moves to Lords and a politer form – Macer Hall – Sunday Express 

Brexit 3) Matthew Elliott: It’s a year since winning the referendum became possible

Cameron‘A year ago today, on Friday 19th February 2016, David Cameron stepped out of a conference room in Brussels to announce that he had successfully concluded his renegotiation with the European Union. … The next day, he would hold a Cabinet meeting at which the vast majority of ministers would tell him, and each other, what a wonderful deal he had got. He would then step outside to say the same to the British people. … In fact, as readers of BrexitCentral will be well aware, that late-night announcement was about the last point that things went according to plan for the Remainers. The next day, Cameron shared the headlines with the news that Michael Gove had come out for us at Vote Leave. And on the editorial pages, the renegotiation got a kicking.’ – Brexit Central

More Brexit

  • EU fears British immigration system not up to sorting ’stranded’ Europeans – Observer
  • Greek drama ‘shows every sign of reigniting’ – Observer
  • Commonwealth passport arrangements ‘back on the table’ – Sunday Express
  • Merkel ‘reveals concerns’ about Euro – Sunday Express
  • Ulster MEP says agriculture mustn’t be used as trade ‘bargaining chip’ – Belfast News Letter

>Today: George Maggs in Comment: Brexit, our Commonwealth friends – and a chance to discover the deepest sense of our national interest

Comment:

  • Why Blair and friends don’t understand Brexit – Simon Heffer, Sunday Telegraph
  • If only May ‘had the sense’ to keep us in EEA – Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph

Johnson has met privately with Blair twice in past few months

‘Boris Johnson has held two secret meetings with Tony Blair about the Middle East since taking office despite calling on voters last week to ignore his views. The Foreign Secretary – who once described Mr Blair as “unhinged” and needing “professional psychiatric help” – met him October and again in January, it can be revealed. The conversations are understood to have last between 30 and 45 minutes and focussed on policy towards the Middle East rather than Brexit. It shows the extent to which Mr Blair is re-engaging in British politics after restructuring his business affairs last year. The fact that Mr Johnson values Mr Blair’s insights enough to guide his foreign policy jars with his repeated criticism of the former Labour prime minister.’ – Sunday Telegraph

Hammond considering ‘interventions’ to ‘ease pain’ of business-rates overhaul

philip-hammond-20-11-16‘Ministers are prepared to intervene in the planned changes to business rates to head off growing fury among traders and Tory MPs. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is examining ways of making the scheme fairer after widespread outrage at the first rates overhaul in seven years, which will come into effect in April. Small businesses face huge increases while some of the biggest companies in Britain — including Amazon and large supermarkets — will benefit from rate cuts on some of their properties. Senior government sources insisted they would stick with the revaluation but conceded that more might need to be done to ease the pain.’ – The Times (£)

  • Senior Conservatives had been planning to give support over business-rates update – Sunday Telegraph
  • Javid accused of ‘betrayal’ over change of attitude – Mail on Sunday

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‘Trojan Horse’ fears over Oldham state school

Fears of a new “Trojan Horse” Islamic plot to take over a state school in Oldham have been raised by its head teacher, who says she has been concerned for her personal safety. Trish O’Donnell, head of Clarksfield Primary School since 2006, has been so worried that she has worked from home for short periods in recent months. In an email sent to Oldham council in December, O’Donnell said she had “very strong reasons to believe that . . . a ‘Trojan Horse’ agenda [is] being played out” and that her position was becoming untenable. The head teachers’ union, the NAHT, said it was “supporting a number of members in the Oldham area with a variety of apparent Trojan Horse issues”. –  The Sunday Times (£)

Simon Heffer: What it would mean for Labour to lose both by-elections

Jeremy Corbyn (Tory Poster)‘In a country obsessed by Brexit, and a world watching the epic battle between Donald Trump and his critics, it is easy to forget the Labour Party. It is a matter of record that three-quarters of its MPs wish Mr Corbyn were not leader. Its constituency parties are being hijacked by extreme Leftists (people whom we seem to find tolerable in a way we do not extreme Rightists: they are not). It is not even pretending to be a coherent opposition. One would need a heart of stone, etc etc. On Thursday the party defends two by-elections, both prompted by the decision of moderate Labour MPs to take jobs outside Parliament, having seen the writing on the wall.’ – Sunday Telegraph

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More Westminster

  • MPs ‘dissatisfied’ with secret-service information on extrajudicial drone killing – The Sunday Times (£)
  • DWP criticised for ‘refusing to commit’ nationally to claimant ‘yellow card’ scheme – Independent on Sunday
  • Government Equalities Office accused of paying men more than women – Mail on Sunday

>Yesterday: Elisha Walia in Comment: Conservatives must encourage business to join the equality debate

>Today: ToryDiary: “What do Cabinet Ministers do all day?”

Alleged Russian plot to overthrow Montenegro government and assassinate Prime Minister

‘Russia plotted to assassinate the prime minister of a European nation and overthrow its government last year, according to senior Whitehall sources. An election-day coup plot to attack Montenegro’s parliament and kill the pro-Western leader was directed by Russian intelligence officers with the support and blessing of Moscow, to sabotage the country’s plan to join Nato. The plot was foiled only hours before it was due to be carried out, but would have caused heavy bloodshed and plunged the tiny country into turmoil on the eve of becoming Nato’s 29th member. The allegation came as Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, criticised Nato as a “Cold War institution” whose expansion had led to unprecedented tensions in Europe over the past thirty years.’ – Sunday Telegraph

Comment:

Pence calls for greater European Nato spending

TRUMP victory speech‘US Vice President Mike Pence has told the country’s European allies to step up their spending on defence. Mr Pence was speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany today – his first trip to the continent since taking office. He reinforced the Trump administration’s message that NATO members must ‘do more’. This section of his speech was only greeted to a lukewarm applause by the 500 delegates. The 28 member countries committed in 2014 to spending two per cent of their gross domestic product on defense within a decade. But only the US and four other members of the post-Second World War military coalition are meeting the standard, Pence said.’ – Daily Mail

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6 comments for: Newslinks for Sunday 19th February 2017

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