MPs reject Lords’ amendments to the Article 50 Bill…

Commons‘MPs last night rejected a Lords amendment to guarantee the status of EU nationals resident in the UK by a margin of 335 votes to 287, and also overturned a second amendment, which would have required the government to grant Parliament a “meaningful” vote on the withdrawal deal eventually secured by Mrs May, by 331 votes to 286. The SNP’s Alex Salmond claimed government promises over the single market had been “swept aside” in favour of pursuit of a hard Brexit.’ – The Scotsman

  • Grieve says it’s “deranged” not to have a vote (but then abstains) – The Guardian
  • Article 50 will be triggered in the last week of March – FT
  • Leaked documents reveal plan for seven Brexit Bills – The Times (£)
  • There’s still hope for left-wing Remainers – Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
  • The falling out over the Budget doesn’t bode well – Rachel Sylvester, The Times (£)

>Today: MPsETC: The Conservative rebellion on EU citizens shrank to just two MPs


…and peers back down, opening the way to Royal Assent

‘Downing Street had appealed to MPs not to back the peers’ amendments, saying that it wanted the short bill to pass unamended. After the votes by MPs the bill returned to the Lords on Monday night where peers voted heavily to reject both their own amendments, completing the bill’s legislative progress. The amendment on the rights of EU citizens was defeated with a government majority of 139; the demand for a “meaningful vote” in parliament on the final deal lost by 156 votes…Once the bill clears the Lords it will be referred for royal assent; that could take place as early as Tuesday. The bill will pass into law when royal assent is announced in both Houses. Mrs May will then be free to trigger Article 50 whenever she chooses.’ – FT

  • Sterling has risen – FT
  • We won’t fall off a ‘cliff edge’ because there is no cliff – Matt Ridley, The Sun
  • Brexit department hires Olympic negotiators – The Sun
  • Heseltine says his critics are ‘losing their minds’ – The Sun

>Today: Iain Duncan Smith’s column: The EU does not speak with one voice – it is increasingly divided

Sturgeon demands a second Scottish independence referendum…

Scottish Independence‘Scotland’s first minister ambushed the prime minister yesterday, announcing her intention to hold a new vote by spring 2019. The timing — before Mrs May has triggered formal Brexit talks — and the scope of the demands took opponents at Westminster and Holyrood by surprise. Last week an Ipsos Mori poll found that 50 per cent of Scots backed independence, up from 45 per cent in the 2014 referendum. The Scottish National Party needs Westminster’s approval for a legally binding vote and last night Mrs May’s allies made clear that she would not allow a referendum during exit negotiations with the EU.’ – The Times (£)

  • The EU and NATO say Scotland would have to reapply to join them – Daily Telegraph
  • IFS: Independent Scotland would need to find £1,000 per person – Daily Mail



>Today: ToryDiary: Scotland and a referendum. Send for Cummings to help fight for the Union.

>Yesterday: WATCH: Sturgeon to seek second referendum on independence for Scotland

…but May rejects her timing, telling her “politics is not a game”

‘Theresa May has ruled out Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a new Scottish independence referendum before Brexit, but postponed triggering Article 50 after the First Minister’s demands caught her by surprise. In a day of high drama, Ms Sturgeon appeared to wrong-foot No 10 when she announced she would set the wheels in motion for a second referendum next week, and insisted the ballot should take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 – while the Brexit negotiations are still going on. The Prime Minister issued a stern rebuke, telling her “politics is not a game”, and accusing her of “tunnel vision”.’ – Daily Telegraph


Pension lock will drive the welfare bill above £240 billion a year

money‘Pensioner spending will send Britain’s welfare bill rocketing to over £240 billion a year by 2022, the Treasury’s forecaster claims. The huge sum is equivalent to the entire annual economic output of Singapore. Eye-watering figures compiled by the Office for Budget Responsibility reveal the cost of the state pension alone will rise 14 per cent to £106 billion in five years’ time. It means almost half of the Government’s benefit spending will sit outside George Osborne’s welfare ‘cap’ – designed to keep a lid on the welfare spend – at the start of the 2020s. The OBR last week warned the huge rise in the number of people living longer threatened the Chancellor’s bid to balance the books by 2025.’ – The Sun

  • Pensioners don’t want to saddle their grandkids with debt – The Sun Says

Expected rebellion forces rethink on school funding

‘Plans to change the way that schools are funded are widely expected to be withdrawn by the government amid mounting protests from Conservative MPs. A senior Tory MP told The Times that the scale of dissatisfaction among colleagues was so great that ministers would have to revise their proposals. They could backtrack within weeks. Revising the funding formula would be controversial because it almost certainly would mean cutting additional funding for children from less well-off families, given that no extra money was announced in the budget. Ministers have hosted a series of meetings with Tory MPs, who have told them that they cannot accept cuts to the budgets of schools in their constituencies.’ – The Times (£)

Doctors will be required to work in the NHS in return for the taxpayer funding their education

NHS_Logo‘Doctors could be forced to work in the UK for at least five years after completing their training, under plans by Jeremy Hunt to expand the supply of home-grown doctors. The Health Secretary will today unveil plans for the largest ever expansion in the NHS medical workforce, training an extra 1,500 doctors a year. The scheme means the number of junior doctors will expand by one quarter, in an effort to ensure Britain is less reliant on overseas doctors, in the years after Brexit…New plans today sets out proposals for a “return of service” programme – similar to that used by the armed forces. Under the proposals, medics could be forced to pay back some of their training costs, if they do not stay in the NHS.’ – Daily Telegraph

Cameron’s National Citizen Service under fire over cost

‘David Cameron’s trademark National Citizen’s Service volunteers policy has been blasted by MPs for costing £1,863 per head — three times the price of being a Scout. Warning lights are flashing on the ex-PM’s flagship scheme that sees teenagers help the community, say the influential Commons’ Public Account Committee. PAC boss Meg Hillier hit out: “The NCS Trust has received some £475 million of public money – 99 per cent of its income – since 2014-15”. She went on “it is not yet clear why NCS participation costs should be so much higher than those for a voluntary sector organisation”. And the respected Labour MP added that it was as “not at all clear” why this was so much higher than the £550 cost of creating a four-year place for a young person in the Scouts.’ – The Sun

  • The bill is £475 million and counting – The Times (£)
  • £260 million in aid powers just 100 homes – The Sun

Employers’ hiring intentions slow down

GROWTH Krieg‘Employers are planning to hire at a slower pace in the second quarter of this year in a further sign that the UK’s jobs boom may be cooling. Manpower’s quarterly survey of about 2,000 employers found corporate Britain in a slightly less bullish mood in the second quarter compared with the first. There was a particularly sharp slowdown in hiring intentions in London and Scotland, in the agriculture and utilities sectors, and among small businesses with fewer than 10 staff. However, the data still pointed to net jobs growth overall in 11 of the UK’s 12 regions and seven of its nine sectors.’ – FT

  • Irregular trading patterns spark a hunt for a Whitehall leak of economic statistics – The Sun
  • Britain is on track for record mergers – The Times (£)
  • Businesses fear bureaucracy bombshell – The Times (£)
  • And uncertainty doesn’t help – Sadiq Khan, The Times (£)
  • Bankers’ dilemma between whistleblowing and keeping quiet for their careers – FT
  • Public sector workers still earn more than private sector counterparts – Daily Mail

British troops and tanks deploy to Estonia

‘British forces will this week deploy to Estonia to ward off mounting Russian aggression, the Defence Secretary said yesterday. More than 540 troops will head to Eastern Europe to lead the new Enhanced Forward Presence. Soldiers from 5 Rifles will join Estonian, French, ­Danish and Spanish forces on a new frontline on the border with Russia — backed by tanks from the Queen’s Royal Hussars. Sir Michael Fallon told the Commons: “This is the year in which Nato is deploying its enhanced forward presence. I’m proud that Britain is leading that deployment in Estonia.’ – The Sun

  • Soldiers warned to beware Russian honeytraps – Daily Mail
  • NATO spending rises overall, but France and Spain fail to hit the target – The Times (£)
  • Russian whistleblower was ‘poisoned’ in the UK – FT

Merkel to meet Trump

Angela Merkel‘The White House summit, which brings together the world’s most powerful man and its most influential woman, will be watched for far more than its impact on bilateral relations amid concern over the future of the transatlantic alliance, Nato, free trade and global economic co-operation. In a warning to Washington, Ms Merkel has pledged to work with Mr Trump only on the basis of common democratic values. The president, for his part, has repeatedly challenged her approach by pledging to put “America first” and accused the chancellor in his election campaign of “ruining Germany” via an open-door immigration policy which he dubbed a “catastrophic mistake”…But on the eve of the summit there was some thawing of relations. Mr Trump’s officials said the president wanted to ask Ms Merkel for her views on Ukraine and how to handle Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, while Berlin indicated that the cautious Ms Merkel will avoid confrontation in Washington.’ – FT

  • The meeting is delayed to Friday thanks to bad weather – Daily Mail
  • Brexit and Trump could happen here, warns Rutte – The Times (£)
  • Wilders demands Holland’s borders be closed – Daily Mail
  • European countries shouldn’t muzzle pro-Erdogan speakers – The Times Leader (£)

News in Brief

  • Abu Hamza’s son is fighting in Syria – The Sun
  • Royal Mail considers union proposal for new kind of pension – FT
  • Leith is scared of ‘doing a Chris Evans’ on the new Bake Off – Daily Mail
  • Councils still hand unions £15 million a year – The Sun
  • Skull of mystery human ancestor found – Daily Mail
  • The next Speaker is waiting in the wings – The Times (£)