Brexiteers launch campaign to leave the Customs Union and make Britain a ‘beacon of free trade’

change-britain‘Britain will become a “beacon of global free trade” and create nearly 400,000 new jobs if it quits the customs union as part of the Brexit negotiations, it has been suggested. An analysis by Change Britain, a group with the backing of Michael Gove, said that leaving the European Union’s customs union and striking trade agreements with just eight foreign countries will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in manufacturing and service industries. The customs union allows the free trade of goods between members, but members also have to apply the same tariffs to goods imported from outside the union.’ – Daily Telegraph


British aid handed out in cash in Pakistan, despite fraud concerns

‘Standing in line, Pakistani families wait at a cashpoint used to withdraw money on cards loaded with funds from British taxpayers. More than £1billion of our foreign aid budget has been given away in cash over the past five years, it can be revealed today. Despite warnings of fraud, officials have quietly quadrupled expenditure on cash and debit cards that recipients can spend at will…Pakistani newspapers reported in August that a nationwide probe was being launched ‘after growing number of complaints about fake accounts and alleged corruption’ from project staff. Seven employees have been suspended on corruption charges and 125,714 suspicious accounts have been suspended.’ – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Nigel Evans on Comment: I support the Government’s aid target. But we risk it being abandoned unless spending is reformed.

200,000 people have quit their jobs because of rising rail fares

money‘More than 200,000 people have given up work as a result of rising rail fares, research suggests. Pollsters for Sainsbury’s Bank also found that 77,000 commuters were considering quitting their jobs in the next two years and that more than 600,000 people had changed jobs in the past three years to reduce the cost of getting to work. The figures from a poll of 2,000 commuters come the day after the highest price increases on the rail network since 2014 came into effect. Two per cent of respondents said that they had given up work completely, which would translate to 231,000 commuters nationally. Another 5 per cent — the equivalent of 590,400 people — said they had moved house so that they could be closer to work; 6 per cent said they worked from home more often; and 5 per cent said that they had to work overtime because of rising fares.’ – The Times (£)

  • Some fares are six times higher than on the Continent – The Times (£)
  • More extensive privatisation is the answer – The Sun Says
  • SNP defends increases – Daily Telegraph
  • Orkney considers declaring independence – Daily Mail

May pledges new homes for first time buyers

‘Thousands of new homes to help first-time buyers on to the property ladder will be built on brownfield land, Theresa May will announce today. In her second big housing pledge in as many days, the Prime Minister will announce support for people aged between 23 and 40 to buy their first home by helping 30 areas around the country to unlock land to build on. The new homes will be started early this year and be available to buy from 2018, ministers have said. The housing will also help to reinvigorate town centres through new investment and development of green spaces. It follows a promise Mrs May made earlier this week to build 14 new garden villages and three new garden towns across Britain. The project is designed to boost housing stock quickly to help tackle a shortage of homes.’ – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Local Government: If they are to succeed, new garden villages must be beautiful

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Monday is May day

Brokenshire says Troubles inquiry will target terrorists, not troops

BROKENSHIRE, James headshot‘A witch-hunt probe targeting British troops over killings during The Troubles is today branded “wrong” by the Northern Ireland Secretary. James Brokenshire MP blasted the unfair way current investigations appear “focused” on the actions of British security forces – while ignoring those carried out by terrorists. He said: “I share the frustration and anger of many people that the current structures for looking at the past seemingly focus almost entirely on former soldiers and police officers. This is wrong and needs to change.” He added: “The new bodies will be fair, balanced and proportionate. This means that their main focus will be on the terrorists who committed 90 per cent of the killings in the troubles – not on the brave men and women of the security forces.”’ – The Sun

Doctors want GPs’ surgeries established in A&E departments

‘Most doctors believe GP surgeries should be placed in accident and emergency departments to deal with patients who turn up at hospitals inappropriately. A survey of doctors found that a significant majority thought the move was necessary to relieve pressure on A&E units. Official NHS figures show that about 13 per cent of people who attend A&E are discharged without requiring treatment. A further 35 per cent are discharged after being given advice or guidance only. In November MPs on the Commons health committee warned that poor performance in A&E has “become the norm” for some NHS trusts.’ – The Times (£)

Corbyn has lost 44 per cent of 2015 Labour voters

LABOUR dead rose‘Jeremy Corbyn has lost nearly half the voters who backed Labour in 2015 under Ed Miliband, an analysis by the Fabian Society has shown. Four million voters – 44 per cent of those supporting the party just a year and a half ago – have deserted it. The study, using YouGov data, predicts Mr Corbyn could lose around 90 MPs, taking Labour to below 200 seats for the first time in more than 80 years…The Fabian Society’s Andrew Harrop said: ‘Labour is around twice as far from victory as it was in the run-up to 2015 … As things stand, Labour is on track to win fewer than 200 seats, whether the next election comes this year or in 2020. Even if Labour recovers it has almost no chance of securing a majority in a general election, because it needs over three million more votes than the Conservatives to win.’’ – Daily Mail

  • Do better or consider standing down, McCluskey warns the Labour leader – The Times (£)
  • This will be Labour’s year of reckoning – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • Unite boss attacks rival as a ‘Blairite’ – The Sun

Bower: Costly curbs on the press will protect the guilty

‘Reliance on the truth as a defence against greed and chicanery is now endangered by the government’s refusal to rule out implementing section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. In a nutshell, if a newspaper refuses to register with Impress, the government’s approved regulator bankrolled by Max Mosley and staffed by his anti-media sympathisers, then newspapers will be compelled to pay the costs of claimants even if their claim fails. Crooks like Robert Maxwell could sue, lose their case having been exposed in court as liars, and still receive millions of pounds from the victorious newspaper. Not surprisingly, newspapers have urged the government to appreciate how section 40 will encourage the dishonest to pursue their groundless complaints knowing that the threat of ruinous costs will terminate investigative journalism. Karen Bradley, the culture secretary responsible for resurrecting Mr Mosley’s opportunity to impose his regulator, says she will make her final decision after reviewing the results of a consultation exercise that ends next week.’ – Tom Bower, The Times (£)

Lithuania urges NATO to respond to Russia’s ‘military hooliganism’

NATO‘Lithuania’s foreign minister has urged a tougher response to Russia’s build-up of weapons on the border of the EU and its “military hooliganism” in the Baltic Sea. In an interview with The Times, Linas Linkevicius pointed to the concentration of advanced weaponry in the Kaliningrad exclave — a sliver of land between Poland and Lithuania, both Nato members — and the Kremlin’s continuing war in eastern Ukraine. “There is a build-up going on in Kaliningrad,” he said. “Iskander missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads have been deployed. There are S-400 missiles and modernised jets.” He said that the development was “a challenge to Nato”.’ – The Times (£)

Turkey strikes 100 ISIS targets in revenge for Istanbul attack

‘Turkish jets and tanks hammered 100 ISIS targets in Syria just hours after the terror group’s gunman killed 39 New Year’s Eve revellers in an Istanbul nightclub. Dramatic aerial footage shows warplanes using rockets to obliterate ISIS hideouts near the towns of al-Bab, Tadif and Bzagah in the north of the war-torn country, killing 22 extremists and destroying buildings. The video emerged as Turkish authorities continued their manhunt for the nightclub killer who arrived in a taxi before slaughtering partygoers.’ – Daily Mail

  • Police claim they are closing in on the gunman – The Times (£)
  • Germany arrests refugee who allegedly sought car bomb funds – Daily Mail
  • Double suicide blasts kill 27 in Baghdad – Daily Mail
  • Algerian terror suspect wins battle to live in the UK – Daily Telegraph
  • The Arab Spring could happen again – The Guardian Leader

News in Brief

  • Former chef dies fighting ISIS – The Times (£)
  • Economists are gloomy on 2017 prospects – FT
  • Former Farage aide faces up to 20 years in jail – Daily Mail
  • North Yorkshire village fears anti-fracking camp – The Times (£)