Brexit 1) Ministers plan five-year visas and a ban on benefits for migrants

Border‘The biggest shake-up of immigration policy in a generation is expected to see multi-year visas handed to migrants who get jobs in key sectors of the economy but limit access to benefits for new arrivals. Under plans advocated by senior ministers the government would seek to take political heat out of immigration by getting an independent body to advise on how many visas should be issued. At a meeting of the cabinet’s Brexit committee on Thursday, Theresa May ordered ministers to draw up a two-stage plan: first, to deal with EU nationals already in the UK; second, to set up a new visa regime for those who arrive later. Ministers were also told to draw up a “traffic light” system, issuing regular red, amber and green updates on their preparedness for Brexit…Under one model being advanced by senior members of the cabinet, new arrivals would be given five-year working visas if they have a job, but banned from claiming in-work benefits for the duration of their stay in Britain.’ – Sunday Times (£)

>Yesterday: Hugo Swire on Comment: Brexit gives an opportunity to improve our passport security

Brexit 2) London to host Commonwealth trade summit next month

‘Britain is to host a summit of Commonwealth trade ministers to kick-start talks on a free-trade deal with some of the UK’s closest allies. More than 30 ministers will attend the summit in London on March 9 and 10, along with 60 business leaders. They are expected to sign an accord that will pave the way for a free-trade deal between Britain and countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada after Brexit. The summit, to be attended by Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, will also seek to put other leading Commonwealth countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and India on course for greater trade liberalisation. At the event, ministers and business leaders will chair events on key issues such as finance, technology, good business practice and attracting inward investment.’ – Sunday Times (£)

Brexit 3) Heseltine: The fightback starts here

HESELTINE Michael‘My opponents will argue that the people have spoken, the mandate secured and the future cast. My experience stands against this argument…my preoccupation is to ensure that if public opinion changes then Parliament has the means to reflect that, whether by election, referendum or rethink. It should not be forgotten that a month before the EU referendum, Nigel Farage said if the Brexit campaign lost by around 52 to 48 (in the event it won by precisely this margin) it would be considered ‘unfinished business’, with pressure for a second referendum to reverse the result.’ – Michael Heseltine, Mail on Sunday

>Today: Mohammed Amin on Comment: Why referendums are almost always a bad idea

Downing Street revels in Copeland triumph…

‘Conservative special advisers…were briefed on the party’s success in Copeland by Stephen Parkinson, the man who masterminded the by-election and ran the “leave” campaign’s ground war during the EU referendum. Parkinson is an unobtrusive character but he seemed even happier than after the Brexit vote, laughing as he weighed up which historical precedent the Tories should use on their triumphant press releases. Copeland was the first by-election gain by a government since 1982; the biggest swing (seven percentage points) towards a governing party in a by-election since Hull North in 1966. The last Tory MP in Copeland was born in 1879. You could argue, and Parkinson did, that it was the Tories’ best by-election result since 1878, when the Conservatives won a seat from the Liberals in the Worcester. “We are spoilt for choice,” he said…One of those at the Parkinson briefing said: “We got a presentation on all the polling and I kept thinking they were about to tell us there was going to be a general election. But there isn’t.”’ – Sunday Times (£)

>Yesterday: Rory Stewart on Comment: Three reasons why we won Copeland. Theresa May, Trudi Harrison – and Labour’s long failure to deliver

…and plans to ‘turn the screw’ by targeting 70 Labour seats

paint-map‘Some ministers have urged her to call a snap poll in the wake of her historic by-election victory in Labour-held Copeland. But the PM has told aides she wants to exploit the party leader’s weakness by “slowly turning the screw” from now to 2020. Tory strategists believe she can snatch up to 70 seats from Labour at the next general election – banishing them from power for decades….Campaign teams will be sent to work relentlessly in a range of marginal seats which Tories now feel are within their grasp.They include former northern strongholds of Halifax, Dewsbury, Wirral West and City of Chester. Party workers will also flood Labour’s flimsy foothold in the south at Enfield North, Ilford North and Hampstead and Kilburn. Some of them have not been held by the Tories since the early 1980s.’ – The Sun on Sunday

May and Hammond plan cash injection and reform to tackle social care crisis

‘The prime minister and her chancellor have held a series of meetings in recent days to hammer out a plan to be announced in the budget on March 8 and officials say it is their “top priority” in the coming weeks. The chancellor is looking at a short-term cash injection of hundreds of millions to be paid to councils and ring-fenced so it can be spent only on care. But insiders say May and Hammond do not believe that a “sticking plaster” approach is enough. They plan to announce an overhaul in the autumn, which could include a review by an independent expert. A senior government source said: “There will be more money but the prime minister and the chancellor do not want a sticking plaster solution. It is top of the list. This is now the main subject of budget discussions.”’ – Sunday Times (£)

‘Integrated’ Free Schools planned for segregated communities

School‘Controversial plans are being drawn up to open Christian and other free schools in the heart of Muslim-dominated communities in areas such as Oldham, Birmingham and Derby. The “integrated” schools, some of which could be run by organisations such as the Church of England, would enrol pupils from Christian, Muslim and other faiths, alleviating the risks of children growing up in segregated “parallel” communities, according to government sources…A government source said: ”There is work going on with the DfE to create more integrated schools in areas where schools have a very high concentration of a particular ethnic group. It is part of a new integration strategy across the UK into how we use the free school provision to create new schools with more mixed intakes across class as well as ethnic background.’ – Sunday Times (£)

Frigates will enter service with missile tubes but no missiles

‘A navy programme to build a fleet of new warships at a cost of £8bn has been branded a “dog’s breakfast” after it emerged the ships would have missile-launching tubes — but Britain has no missiles to fire from them. The construction of the first of eight Type 26 frigates is due to start this summer, yet defence experts warn that it could enter service with silos — intended to launch missiles against other ships and targets on land — containing “fresh air” instead of weapons. This would leave the frigates with just naval guns and helicopter-launched missiles to attack targets and raises concerns they could be outgunned by Russian or Chinese ships.’ – Sunday Times (£)

  • Botched IT system leaves MoD suppliers waiting months for payment – Sunday Times (£)
  • Professor who spied for Russia now working in the UK – Sunday Times (£)

Terror risk is at its worst since the IRA, warns new watchdog

ISIS‘British citizens are facing a level of threat from terrorists not seen since the IRA bombings of the Seventies, the country’s new terrorism watchdog has warned. In his first major interview since taking the role, Max Hill said Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) was planning “indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians” on a scale similar to those perpetrated by the IRA 40 years ago. He told The Sunday Telegraph that Islamists were targeting UK cities and said there was an “enormous ongoing risk which none of us can ignore”.’ – Sunday Telegraph

Banks demands to be made UKIP chairman so he can purge Carswell

‘Major Ukip donor Arron Banks has threatened to pull his funding unless he is made chairman so he can ‘purge’ members and stop it being ‘run like a jumble sale’. Following party leader Paul Nuttall’s defeat to Labour in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, Mr Banks blamed ‘dullards’ like Ukip’s only MP Douglas Carswell for not bringing in enough Tory votes. He said the defeat was the ‘final straw’ in terms of Mr Carswell, accusing him of being preoccupied with ‘sabotaging’ a knighthood for former leader Nigel Farage, an allegation strongly denied by the MP.’ – Mail on Sunday

>Friday: UKIPWatch: Nuttall’s nightmare – UKIP’s flawed machine is being found out and the party is losing its purpose

Hodges: Labour’s problems run far deeper than Corbyn

Woolfie Corbyn‘The shadow Shadow Cabinet – Chuka Umunna, Dan Jarvis, Lisa Nandy, Clive Lewis, Yvette Cooper – are now playing an elaborate game of Ring A Ring O’ Roses. Just hide and wait and pray for the plague to pass. There is no evidence it will. On Friday the extent of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s reaction to the Copeland catastrophe was a series of hand-wringing statements that ‘the country needs Labour’. But that is the point. The country has decided it doesn’t. Voters see a party that has no coherent policy on Brexit. That has not had a coherent economic or fiscal policy for decades, and as a result has no coherent policy on public service provision. That adopts stances on defence, law and order and immigration that are not just incoherent, but overtly provocative.’ – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday


News in Brief

  • ‘Drunk’ driver ploughs into Mardi Gras crowd – Mail on Sunday
  • Hoaxer, ‘fantasist’ and abuser among those interviewed by Heath police – Sunday Times (£)
  • Ross Kemp sparks Commons security alert – The Sun on Sunday
  • The British charity clearing mines and booby traps in Iraq – Sunday Telegraph