EU Talks 1) Ashcroft poll reveals voters’ innate scepticism

Opinion Poll graphic‘Downing Street is concerned that any vote after next summer – when the migration crisis is expected to peak – could push Britain towards the exit door. It comes as today’s poll by Lord Ashcroft finds that Britain will vote to leave the EU unless the Prime Minister is able to convince the public that he has secured a good deal as part of his renegotiation with Brussels. The new research found that 35 per cent of people would consider voting to remain in the EU if Mr Cameron can win concessions, including a significant percentage of those who are currently leaning towards the exit door. However, just 19 per cent of British voters believe that Mr Cameron will return from Brussels with a good deal for the UK.’ – Daily Telegraph



>Yesterday: Steve Baker: The EU referendum. We need to discuss and debate the issues – including, of course, with local Associations

EU Talks 2) Merkel rejects any change on migration

‘The German chancellor warned yesterday that the principles of freedom of movement and non-discrimination between EU citizens were “non-negotiable”. That flat rejection from Europe’s most powerful figure sets up a confrontation that could define Britain’s future in the trading bloc and Mr Cameron’s remaining time in No 10. The prime minister will initially stick to his demand on benefits in talks tonight, but he is banking on other EU leaders finding an alternative proposal.’ – The Times (£)

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Poland’s anti-democratic new government puts Thatcher’s Eastern Europe legacy in danger

Employment rate reaches new record high

growth flag‘Workers across Britain are clocking up more than a billion hours a week for the first time as employment soars to record levels. Official figures revealed average total hours worked per week for August to October were up nearly 10 per cent in just five years. The Office for National Statistics said the number of people in work rose in the quarter by 207,000 to 31.1 million. It means 73.9 per cent of the working age population has a job – the highest rate since comparable records began in 1971.’ – The Sun (£)

  • Wages slip back – The Times (£)
  • £5 billion of welfare for elderly to be devolved to councils – The Guardian
  • The US raises interest rates – Daily Mail
  • Carney should pursue greater transparency – Chris Giles, FT
  • Tyrie questions Northern Rock share sale – FT
  • Business leaders attack Heathrow ‘dithering’ – Daily Mail


Osborne and Hammond: Our five-pronged strategy to defeat ISIS

‘On Thursday will see the first meeting of Security Council finance ministers in its 70-year history. With our allies, including US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, we will seek agreement on new measures to deny Daesh access to the resources they need, finding and exploiting the vulnerabilities in their financial network. The UN sanctions regime should be used to target traders and middlemen who facilitate the illegal trade in oil – and the antiquities Daesh loot so wantonly.’ – George Osborne and Philip Hammond, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: WATCH: Ici Londres – Patriotism is the best defence against ISIS, argues Dan Hannan

The first thousand Syrian refugees arrive in Britain

Border‘One thousand refugees have flown in to Britain as part of David Cameron’s pledge to accept 20,000 people from the camps around Syria. The prime minister said that two charter flights on Tuesday and another yesterday meant he had met his target of resettling 1,000 Syrians in Britain by Christmas. He said that the UK was “doing its moral duty” to aid the crisis.’ – The Times (£)

  • One in five Brits would put up a refugee in their home – The Guardian
  • Immigration officers will scour social media – Daily Telegraph
  • Gove interviews Welby – The Spectator
  • Warsi suggests new English designs for mosques – Daily Telegraph
  • Umunna accuses the Home Secretary of acting like a ‘Farage tribute act’ – Daily Mail

MPs vote through shale gas exploration in National Parks

‘Fracking will be allowed under English National Parks and World Heritage sites after MPs approved the controversial plans yesterday. Ministers were accused of breaking promises after Amber Rudd, now Energy Secretary, had insisted in January that protected areas would not be subjected to onshore drilling for gas. But MPs voted by 298 to 261 to back the proposals, which will allow exploratory work in protected areas in England such as the Peak District, Exmoor and the South Downs.’ – Daily Mail

Strathclyde to recommend peers lose their veto on secondary legislation

Lords‘Peers should be stripped of their veto on secondary legislation, a government-commissioned report on the House of Lords will recommend today. Lord Strathclyde, the Conservative peer, will urge David Cameron to accept a compromise option to curb the power of the second chamber after it enraged ministers by breaking with convention in blocking the government’s tax credit cuts in October. He will say that in place of a veto, peers should be allowed to ask the Commons to think again about a piece of secondary legislation.’ – The Times (£)

Crouch to launch new sport strategy

‘Children as young as five will be targeted as part of a new government strategy to involve more people in sport and fitness. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has announced plans to get Britain more active, while also promoting good governance and safety. Sport England, the agency responsible for grassroots sport, will now share its £1bn budget more widely. As part of the plan, the Premier League will double its grassroots investment.’ – BBC News

  • Parents must shoulder most responsibility – The Sun Says (£)
  • Borwick wears London 2012 uniform to PMQs – The Sun (£)

Fowler: Only a Royal Commission can freely judge the future of the NHS

NHS_Logo‘Nowhere is it written that the health service should be isolated from new ideas. There are a range of options. A health tax would have the advantage of connecting more closely the public to the service they finance. Charges for missed GP and outpatient appointments should certainly be considered. So too should be the range of prescription charge exemptions – currently 80 per cent of prescription items are dispensed free. Many need the benefit of the exemption but others could afford to pay. Most radical of all, a Royal Commission could try to settle the argument once and for all on whether it would be possible to move to an insurance system, with exemption for those unable to pay.’ – Norman Fowler, Daily Telegraph

Kerslake: FOI is a force for good

‘The membership of this commission and the questions it has asked in its call for evidence seem designed to support the conclusion that curtailment is needed. This is an “insider” commission. Completely lacking is anyone such as an investigative journalist who might have experienced the difficulty of having to extract information from a reluctant public service. I strongly disagree with this “received wisdom”. Indeed, I would argue that we need more open government – not less.’ – Lord Kerslake, Daily Telegraph

Mandelson warns of ‘two parties’ as 30,000 members leave Labour

LABOUR holes‘Jeremy Corbyn was confronted by Lord Mandelson last night with claims that 30,000 Labour members have quit the party under his leadership. The Labour peer said that “two parties” were developing under Mr Corbyn — one formed of long-term, moderate members and another made up of the leader’s personal following.’ – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: Cameron wishes Corbyn an unhappy Christmas

SNP presents ‘tartan Tory’ budget

‘Scotland will follow the Conservative government at Westminster by raising tax on the purchase of some properties and keeping income tax at current levels — choosing not to use its greater fiscal autonomy to diverge from the rest of the UK. In a pre-election budget announced amid tumbling oil prices, John Swinney, the Scottish National party finance secretary, also announced funding for the near doubling of free childcare hours over the next parliament, another goal shared by the Tories south of the border.’ – FT

Montgomerie: Fear is the major factor in the Republican race

MONTGOMERIE Tim offical‘If Trump is far removed from Reagan’s warmth towards immigrant Americans he is even further away from the foreign policy of George W Bush. Although you can dispute the accuracy of his figures (nearly everything Trump says can be disputed), the billionaire hotelier argued that America had spent $4 trillion “trying to topple various people” and that the money would have been better spent on building roads and bridges in America. This is pretty much what the presidential candidate John Kerry argued in 2004 when he was running against George W Bush.’ – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

>Yesterday: WATCH: Cameron says he wouldn’t ban “stupid” Trump from the UK

HMRC’s ‘appalling’ service to taxpayers

Tax Take‘Taxpayers are facing an ‘appalling’ average delay of 38 minutes to get through to the HMRC helpline. Despite promises of improved services and more staff, waiting times have more than doubled over the past year, with the average rising from 18 to 38 minutes. Researchers found it can take as long as 76 minutes to speak to an official. By then some callers will already have run up a bill of more than £34.’ – Daily Mail

News in Brief

  • Women are 35 per cent more likely to go to university than men – Daily Mail
  • Downton star pays tribute to fiancé – The Sun (£)
  • MP’s push to save the hedgehog – The Times (£)
  • 90 per cent of cancers are related to lifestyle – Daily Mail
  • Briton disappears in Thailand mystery – The Guardian
  • Spanish Prime Minister punched in the head – Daily Telegraph
  • Over a thousand charity bosses earn six figures – The Times (£)
  • Boris woos MPs at Christmas party – FT
  • Inside the ultimate guide to government – The Guardian

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