EU renegotiation 1) Business for Britain: scrap red tape for firms which don’t export

EU Flag‘British firms who do not export to the EU should be freed from the most burdensome Brussels regulations, hundreds of business leaders will say today. Business for Britain, a Eurosceptic campaign group representing 800 business leaders, will propose that only the five per cent of UK companies who trade with the Continent should be subject to the rules of the single market…the plan is winning considerable support among Eurosceptic Tories, including former Europe minister David Davis and former Cabinet minister John Redwood.’ – Daily Mail

EU renegotiation 2) Leadsom: Reform or the people will choose to leave

‘The way the EU works now fails to meet the aspirations of the British people on crucial levels. If the EU is not fundamentally reformed, the clamour for UK withdrawal may become overwhelming. The next few years present a unique opportunity for such reform. The eurozone crisis means that the status quo in the EU is no longer an option—those countries who use the euro are moving towards closer fiscal and financial integration.’ – Andrea Leadsom MP, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Andrew Lilico on Comment: “Renegotiation” should mean “renegotiation”, “leaving the EU” should mean leaving, and we should be clear which is which

EU renegotiation 3) Ganesh: Cameron’s referendum speech has failed

‘The question is whether the referendum pledge, a year on, has met its narrow aims. Only the most fantastic reading of events could yield a positive answer. Downing Street’s three objectives were to pacify Tory MPs, sap the momentum of the fringe UK Independence party and put the troublesome subject of Europe to sleep until the general election in 2015. On all scores, it failed. Eurosceptic MPs did what they always do: win a concession they pretend is “final” before coming back for more.’ – Janan Ganesh, FT

Benefits cap could be lowered further

idspic‘The cap on benefits of £26,000 a year could be cut, Iain Duncan Smith suggested  yesterday, telling MPs that the figure was ‘under review’. The Work and Pensions Secretary was responding to continuing anger from Tories, who indicated that they want the figure reduced to £20,000 or lower. MP Andrew Bridgen told the Commons that the limit was ‘considerably more’ than the average take-home pay in his constituency.’ – Daily Mail 

Lancashire demands more money from frackers

‘MPs and councils in Lancashire will not support fracking unless local communities receive a far bigger slice of the spoils, David Cameron has been warned. A standing offer by the shale gas industry to hand local communities 1 per cent of the revenue from nearby fracking wells “doesn’t go nearly far enough”, according to a cross-party letter dispatched to the Prime Minister last night. The letter, seen by The Times, has been signed by four of the county’s council leaders and local MPs from all three main political parties.’ – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: WATCH: Fallon – “Fracking could make a huge difference to the economy.”

Labour Waving/Drowning 1) Miliband bids for the middle classes

MILIBAND Ed red background‘Today, the British middle class is being squeezed by a cost-of-living crisis as never before – and people grafting to join it find that the obstacles in their way are getting bigger. The motors that once drove and sustained it are no longer firing as they used to. Access to further education and training, good quality jobs with reliable incomes, affordable housing, stable savings, secure pensions: they have all been undermined…Later this week I will be setting out the next steps of our plan to build a One Nation economy by reforming finance, skills and wages while paying down the deficit. Only Labour will create more and better-paid jobs, tackle insecurity at work, and build the homes we need for the future.’ – Ed Miliband, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Local Government: Labour’s mixed messages on home ownership

Labour Waving/Drowning 2) Union reforms watered down even further

‘Ed Miliband was accused of watering down attempts to weaken the stranglehold of Labour’s union paymasters on his party last night amid claims that his Spring showdown with the unions will last just two hours…his aides have already had to admit that plans to make union members ‘opt in’ if they want hand over part of their union subscriptions to the party will take five years to implement.’ – Daily Mail

Labour Waving/Drowning 3) Poll lead shrinks further

Opinion Poll graphic‘Support for Labour is sinking as faith in the UK’s economic recoverybuilds, according to a new Guardian/ICM poll. Ed Miliband’s party drops two points on the month to stand at 35%, which is just three points ahead of David Cameron’s Conservatives, who stand still on 32%. Labour’s lead in the Guardian’s respected 30-year polling series is thus squeezed to three percentage points, down from five last month and eight points in November.’ – The Guardian

New poll shows support for assisted suicide

‘A YouGov survey commissioned by The Sun found 73 per cent support a change to existing laws which ban assisted suicide…Almost seven in ten said they would want the choice of an assisted suicide if they were terminally ill. And 38 per cent — a majority among those polled — would consider helping a dying loved one take his or her life.’ – The Sun (£)

  • With proper safeguards, it would be a positive step – The Sun Says (£)

England will take on all Scotland’s debts if independence comes

Scottish flag‘The UK will continue to honour Scotland’s huge debts even if it votes for independence, the Treasury said yesterday. In a surprise intervention, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said the move was essential to prevent investors being spooked by the independence referendum and charging a ‘separation surcharge’ for lending to the UK. It follows concerns over debt being transferred to a newly-independent country with no credit history. The Treasury denied that London was letting Scotland ‘off the hook’.’ – Daily Mail

New case of horrific neglect in the NHS

‘A boy of four died in a ‘chaotic’ hospital ward where he was so neglected after heart surgery that he resorted to sucking the moisture out of wet wipes, an inquest heard yesterday. Sean Turner, from Warminster, in Wiltshire, excitedly told friends that doctors were going to ‘mend his heart’ when he underwent complex surgery to correct heart problems he was born with. But after the operation he was moved out of intensive care too soon because his bed was needed for other patients, his parents told an inquest.’ – Daily Mail

The Army struggles to recruit key specialists

‘An alarming shortfall of specialist troops are leaving Britain’s Armed Forces ‘vulnerable’, a damning report reveal today…Shocking new figures show the Army has a shortfall of some 700 intelligence officers – vital to tackling global terrorism. And more than four out of ten posts in some medical specialisms – including emergency nurses, anaesthetists and radiologists – are unfilled, leading to fears that lives are being put at risk.’ – Daily Mail

  • Millions wasted on defence IT – The Times (£)
Stop HS2

New HS2 Chairman plays down hopes of savings

‘The new head of HS2 has played down expectations of delivering large savings to the £50bn budget and warned that scrapping the high-speed rail project would prove “disastrous” for the country. Sir David Higgins, who took over as chairman of HS2 at the start of January, is under pressure to deliver rapidly on demands by David Cameron to cut the cost.’ – FT

  • Higgins puts pressure on Labour to back the project – The Sun (£)

Should Cameron go to Sochi to embarrass Putin?

LGBTory‘I reckon David Cameron should go to Sochi for the Winter Olympics. He should visit a gay bar, have a summit meeting with Pussy Riot and, if possible, conduct a very public chat with Mikhail Khodorkovsky on the subject of judicial independence. Perhaps all three at the same time….Mr Putin is an odious leader with dictatorial tendencies. Any chance to embarrass him, particularly in front of his own people, should be grasped with both hands.’ – Matthew Syed, The Times (£)

News in brief

  • Caroline Dinenage and Mark Lancaster to marry – Daily Mail
  • Police Federation braces for fresh criticisms – The Times (£)
  • Ministers will have to reveal lobbyist meeting details – FT
  • Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood move their HQ to London – Daily Mail
  • The French culture of coverups is more dangerous than we realise – Hugo Rifkind, The Times (£)