Brexit 1) Criticisms abound as Commons’ Brexit Committee today recommends “postponing departure” if significant progress not made by October

“The Commons committee scrutinising Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union is engulfed in a row over a new report that a leading Conservative member claimed was intended to “negate the referendum result” and damage the Government’s negotiating position amid crucial talks in Brussels. The report, published on Sunday by the Commons Brexit committee, recommends postponing Britain’s exit from the EU if “substantial aspects” of an agreement have not been ratified by October, as well as giving Parliament the power to extend the implementation period of a trade deal. The proposals were opposed by seven, mainly Leave-supporting, Conservative members of the committee but were passed with the support of three Tories who backed the Remain campaign during the referendum.” – Sunday Telegraph 

  • The committee is split over its proposals – Observer
  • Rees-Mogg “blasted” them as a “prospectus for the vassal state” – Sun on Sunday

>Today: ToryDiary: Ministers are dicing with disaster if they’re not Ready on Day One for Brexit

Brexit 2) Fox: The global opportunities ahead of us

“In reality, the UK has cutting-edge capabilities. We lead the world in art and culture, food and drink, finance and education.Last year we had 58,000 tech start-ups in the UK, a new tech business every hour. Digital technology has helped reduce many of the old barriers to trade and made the world more connected. You don’t have to leave Basingstoke to sell your digital app to someone in Beijing. UK businesses have a huge amount to gain from this trend. The IMF predicts 90 per cent of global growth will be generated beyond the borders of Europe in the coming years. Much of this will come from Asian economies, where new markets are growing to match their new wealth. Trade between the UK and China is already at record levels, worth more than £59billion, while UK exports to China increased by over 25 per cent last year.” – Sunday Express

Brexit 3) Group including Jones and Paterson write to Juncker criticising Brussels’ “threats”

“Just before the next round of negotiations, the Leave Means Leave group has written to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other Brussels bigwigs telling them “no amount of threats, scaremongering and bullying” will make Britain reverse the referendum result. It states: “Far from regretting our decision, as you have said, increasingly the British public is looking forward to the day when we regain the freedom fully to govern ourselves.” In the open letter, signed by Brexit Minister David Jones and Tory MP Owen Patterson among others, Brussels is urged to agree “a new deep and special partnership” – or face the consequences.” – Sunday Express

  • Their letter has also been sent to Tusk and Barnier – Sun on Sunday

Brexit 4) War cabinet received “damning” new civil service report last week on Britain’s customs system

“Britain’s customs system will not be ready in time for the start of its new relationship with the European Union at the end of 2020, according to a damning report presented in secret to senior cabinet ministers last week. The readiness assessment, drawn up by senior civil servants, was given to Theresa May’s Brexit war cabinet on Tuesday afternoon. But ministers did not get a chance to study it properly before the meeting was cut short by a Commons vote. The cabinet was told it would have to sign up in Brussels this week to a transition phase lasting 21 months from the date of Brexit next March, with a new trade deal kicking in at the end of December 2020. David Davis, the Brexit secretary, announced on Thursday that Britain would accept the EU’s target date of March 29, 2019.” – The Sunday Times

More Brexit

May 1) She announces new measures against “irresponsible executives”

“Bosses who gamble with their staff’s pension schemes will face prison sentences of up to two years under plans to criminalise their unscrupulous business practices. … Announcing the proposals, Mrs May said it was “absolutely vital” that people who worked hard and contributed to society throughout their career should have “confidence” that their pension would be secure in retirement. “I am committed to making sure our economy works for everyone – backing businesses to create good jobs but stepping in to make sure they play by the rules,” she continued.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Bosses to face prosecution or fines for risking workers’ pensions – Observer

May 2) She speaks of her personal dependence on the NHS

“Theresa May has told how she relies on the NHS every day because of her diabetes as she defended her record on public services. The Prime Minister admitted that some people question the Conservative Party’s “motives” on health and schools but insisted Tories care “deeply” about the state sector. Mrs May said “when Brexit is done” she wanted the Conservatives to lead the country “into the next decade and beyond”. Addressing grassroots supporters in central London, the PM made an unusually personal speech that reflected on her school years as well as her reliance on the health service.” – Sunday Telegraph 

  • And talks of Tory commitment to the national interest – Sunday Express
  • And says women’s refuge centres will stay open – Sun on Sunday

>Yesterday: MPsEtc: “If something is in the national interest, it is always in the Conservative interest.” May’s speech to Spring Forum – full text

Russia 1) Johnson attempting to get support of EU foreign ministers over Skripal poisonings

“Boris Johnson is seeking to cement the support of foreign ministers of the 27 other EU member states on the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal at a meeting to be held on Monday in Brussels, as the UK tries to rally more international support behind its tough stance against Moscow. Senior government insiders say ministers hope that the Foreign Affairs Council would, as a minimum, issue a joint statement condemning the attack and hold initial discussions on possible further moves that could be taken at an EU level. Since 2014 the EU has imposed a series of economic sanctions and other measures against Russia, including asset freezes and travel restrictions, over its illegal occupation of Crimea and destabilisation of Ukraine. Foreign Office sources said that it was too early to say if further EU action could be taken as a result of the Salisbury attack.” – Observer

Russia 2) Williamson “reprimanded by No 10” for “outspoken” comments

“… Senior sources said that when the defence secretary submitted the text of his speech condemning Moscow and Vladimir Putin, it also raised the heart rates of Theresa May’s team because he appeared to be declaring war on Russia. Williamson’s outspoken style created such a headache for the prime minister’s team that a senior Downing Street official called colleagues in another department and denounced the defence secretary for being “childish” and “unhelpful” at a time when the government was trying to calibrate its response to Moscow’s aggression. He indicated that No 10 would issue Williamson with a slap on the wrist. …Williamson’s aides deny the reprimand was issued.” – The Sunday Times

  • Ministers are “planning” new sanctions – Sunday Telegraph
  • Including targeting money-launderers – Sun on Sunday
  • Energy firms, Sellafield, hospitals, and Whitehall told to prepare as fears grow about potential Russian cyber attacks – The Sunday Times
  • SNP claims Sturgeon “faces online attacks from Kremlin” – Herald
  • Meanwhile, Putin votes in Russian election – Belfast Telegraph

Russia 3) Davey: Conservative Party has been “torn between” national security and potential investment

“Vladimir Putin’s ambitions have been evident for some time, but the Conservatives’ position has long been incoherent and inconsistent. During the coalition years, the Conservatives seemed torn between the national security evidence of the country’s wrongdoings and the billions of roubles it had to invest. Russian industrial investment plans would never have stood up to the sort of detailed scrutiny we gave to Chinese ones. … I also felt I was given less than full support from No 10 or Theresa May’s Home Office as I fought to stop Russian investment in strategic North Sea oil and gas assets.” – The Sunday Times

  • The “more we learn about Salisbury”, the “more disturbing” it all becomes – Boris Johnson, Sun on Sunday 
  • Here are some more things we should do – Ruth Davidson, Sunday Telegraph
  • Putin has turned Russia into an “aggressive autocracy” – Ian Birrell, Mail on Sunday
  • Did the BBC really think the RT journalist invited on to Newsnight had valuable insights? – Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times
  • Has Corbyn just lost the next election? – Adam Boulton, The Sunday Times
  • His “spy support” is for real this time – Andrew Rawnsley, Observer
  • His MPs must rebel against him – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday


>Today: Chris Whitehouse in Comment: The BBC needs to welcome and respond to scrutiny

A new initiative led by Northern Conservative MPs will focus on social and economic liberalism

“A group of “Rust Belt Tory” MPs who won their seats in Labour heartlands are to launch a campaign this week telling Theresa May how to appeal to young voters. The Freer campaign, which is backed by the cabinet minister Liz Truss, will argue that millennials are not as left-wing as they are portrayed. The MPs will say the generation believes in personal freedom and can be won over if the Conservatives offer them social freedoms as well as economic liberalism. The group will be run by Lee Rowley and Luke Graham, both state-educated MPs in their thirties, who represent working-class seats in Derbyshire and Perthshire. … Future papers planned by the group include one on freedom of expression by the rising star Kemi Badenoch and another on the nanny state by Simon Clarke.” – The Sunday Times

  • Meanwhile, cross-party MPs have been discussing a pro-European “Start Again” party – The Sunday Times

More Conservatives 

And Labour 

  • North-London Labour councillors speak out about Momentum’s “institutional anti-semitism” – The Sunday Times

Hutton: Why was Hammond’s budget speech so “tiggerish”?

“Britain has just endured the worst economic decade of modern times, and official forecasts for the next five years, offered in the spring budget, predict more of the same. Yet Philip Hammond, the chancellor, began his otherwise low-key budget speech declaring he was feeling Tiggerish. There was light at the end of the tunnel, he said, with day-to-day spending now balanced and the national debt set to fall in three years’ time. The government would meet its self-imposed fiscal mandate. If the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) remained upbeat in the autumn – you never know – he might be able to allow some extra public spending, building on the concessions he was already making. Hurrah! At any other time, Hammond’s statement would be regarded as an extraordinary admission of defeat…” – Observer

  • Clarke and Penrose claim debt figures are “over-optimistic” – Sunday Telegraph

More government

  • MPs back child refugee bill – Observer
  • Committee to “block” alcohol sales “crackdown” – Sun on Sunday

>Yesterday: Roy Galley in Comment: Failing to invest in good religious education now will cost us later

News in Brief

  • On Gimson’s Prime Ministers – John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday
  • Lockdown drills from a child’s-eye perspective – Jesse Dorris, New Yorker
  • The new political critique of sex – Amia Srinivasan, LRB
  • Fake news is not new – Phil Tinline, New Statesman 
  • The Kaweahan dream – Daegan Miller, Aeon