Syria 1) Johnson pulls out of visit to Russia

Boris Johnson 30-01-17“Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, yesterday abandoned a visit to Moscow, where he had been due to meet the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, after talks with Tillerson and Theresa May on Friday night. Johnson said he stood aside so Tillerson could deliver a “clear and co-ordinated message to the Russians”, adding: “We deplore Russia’s continued defence of the Assad regime.” The decision sparked claims that the US did not want Johnson — with his notoriously florid language — heading into an already volatile situation. Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, branded the foreign secretary “a poodle of Washington” who was “having his diary managed from across the pond”. He added: “It is pretty shameful when even Trump judges you to be a buffoon.”” – The Sunday Times (£)

  • This would’ve been first trip by British Foreign Secretary for five years – Sunday Express
  • He “dramatically cancelled’ with just hours to go – Sunday Telegraph
  • After saying “the situation has changed fundamentally” – Observer
  • He’s “spearheading” international plan to tell Putin to withdraw from Syria – Sunday Telegraph
  • And gathering support among the G7 – Independent on Sunday
  • Kremlin accuses him of “making up absurd excuses’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Farron called him a “poodle” – Sunday Express
  • Navy flagship helicopter up for sale – Sun on Sunday



  • If we’re going to lead on these things, we must fund our forces – Simon Heffer, Sunday Telegraph
  • Russia’s “weird” theories and lies – Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times (£)

Syria 2) Fallon: Something had to be done to stop more people dying

“The barbaric gas attack that killed nearly 100 innocent civilians and children in Syria’s Idlib province last Tuesday was immoral and illegal. After the horrors of chemical attacks in the Great War, the use of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases was banned by the Geneva Protocol in 1925. However, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has a history of using such weapons against its people. It flouted international law in 2013 by gassing nearly 1,500 people to death outside Damascus. … By sending Tomahawk missiles to attack the airfield, aeroplanes and equipment believed to be involved, it has sent a strong signal to the Syrian regime to think twice before using gas in future.” – The Sunday Times (£)

  • Defence Secretary says Russia “needs to get engaged with UN’ – Sunday Express
  • And blames Putin for “every civilian death” – Belfast Telegraph



>Today: ToryDiary: Syria. Conservative MPs should reserve their options – and ring the whips

Syria 3) Gove: This shows Trump’s contrast with “no-drama” Obama

TRUMP victory speech“Donald J Trump is not one of nature’s soft speakers. His Twitter storms and his campaign speeches are — like the man himself, his hotel business and his TV shows — brash and bombastic. There couldn’t be more of a contrast with his predecessor. Barack “no-drama” Obamaspoke in cool and measured tones, every inch the lofty law professor and always the calmest guy in the room. But while Barack’s honeyed words may have won him admiring plaudits from America’s East Coast elites and the diplomatic establishment, his failure to wield any stick as President, other than on the golf course, cost us all dear.” – Sun on Sunday

Brexit 1) Ashcroft: My research shows there’s very little public appetite for blocking our departure

“For an event that was supposed to change everything, Brexit has made strikingly little difference to domestic politics. The single biggest reason, according to my latest research, is that most people, however they voted in the referendum, think a democratic decision has been made and needs to be implemented: even among remain voters there is very little appetite for trying to block or delay our departure. Thus the Liberal Democrats are struggling to become the party of the 48 per cent (or even the 12 per cent, according to recent polls), and Labour’s confused stance on Brexit is the least of its problems.” – Sunday Telegraph

Brexit 2) Verhofstadt: We must “move quickly” towards a reciprocal deal for citizen rights

EU Exit brexit“Since the UK referendum on European Union membership, I have received thousands of letters from UK citizens angry that their European identity is being taken from them against their will… This means moving quickly to agree a reciprocal deal on the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK. As the European Parliament’s Brexit resolution adopted this week makes clear – this agreement must be subject to the principles of reciprocity, equity, symmetry and non-discrimination. Any degradation of the rights linked to freedom of movement, including discrimination between EU citizens in their access to UK residency rights before Brexit day, would be contrary to EU law.” – Independent on Sunday

  • We should note that Eurosceptics didn’t “go bananas” at talk of transition – John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday

Brexit 3) Leaked documents show plan to “scale down” focus on climate change

“Civil service documents, photographed on a train, reveal that Britain plans to scale down its concern over climate change and the trade in illegal wildlife to clear the way for post-Brexit trade deals. Details of the policy change were contained in the papers of a senior civil servant at the Department for International Trade (DIT) photographed by a passenger earlier this month. They include the speech notes of Tim Hitchens, the director-general of economic and consular affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).” – The Sunday Times (£)

  • The trade-policy plans were photographed on a train – Mail on Sunday

Brexit 4) Leanne Wood and Steffan Lewis: Plaid’s “victory against” the Repeal Bill

Wales flag“Last week, Plaid Cymru won a crucial vote in the National Assembly for Wales to call for a Continuation Bill to ensure that already devolved powers remain under Welsh control. This is a major victory for Plaid Cymru and all those determined to prevent a power grab by Westminster as the UK prepares to leave the EU. With the Labour Welsh Government and the Conservatives abstaining on the vote, Plaid Cymru winning more votes than UKIP means that there is now a mandate for this Welsh Continuation Bill. The UK Repeal Bill White Paper is an act of constitutional aggression by the UK Government.” – The Sunday Times (£)

  • Economists’ views on an independent Wales – WalesOnline

>Yesterday: Matthew Smith in Comment: Wales needs the Conservatives ‘hwyl’ for the opportunities of Brexit

More Brexit

  • MPs back plan for 5-year ban on unskilled migrants – Sun on Sunday
  • Mandelson deemed a “traitor” for German newspaper interview – Sun on Sunday


  • The “internal migration thing” – Rod Liddle, The Sunday Times (£)
  • The Scottish economy is shrinking. Brexit is Project Fear on steroids –

    Iain Macwhirter, Herald

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The irony of the EPP outflanking the Tories on the right

Sturgeon “dismisses” early elections

“Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed suggestions of early elections in Scotland to end a standoff with Theresa May over a second independence referendum. The first minister said the scenario, alongside speculation about taking legal action to try to secure another referendum, was not one she had in mind. Sturgeon said she would set out her next steps to the Scottish parliament following the Easter recess after MSPs voted by 69 to 59 in favour of seeking permission for another vote. The Scottish government insists a second referendum is needed to give Scots a choice between Brexit and independence, but the prime minister has repeatedly said “now is not the time”.” – Observer

Leadsom to launch waste plans

Andrea Leadsom 11-07-16“Ministers are determined to make the punishment fit the crime as they launch new action to tackle rubbish-strewn communities. Sending tippers to clear the mess they and others create, will have the added benefit of cutting the £50 million-a-year cost of removing fly-tipped waste. Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Charging local residents for doing the responsible thing and taking their household waste to the tip is not only unfair and unacceptable, but could also be a lead factor in the reported increase in fly-tipping. “We’ll be issuing clear, common sense guidance for waste and recycling centres so they can be in no doubt people have the right to take their rubbish to these sites free of charge.”” – Sun on Sunday

Northern Ireland power sharing “will take a miracle” says MP

Only a “miracle” can save talks aimed at restoring a power sharing government in Northern Ireland, an MP has warned. With just over a week left before the deadline on discussions between the Northern Irish parties, the prospect of what has been called “direct rule by stealth” now appears to be closer than at any time since the Good Friday agreement. Other sources at the negotiations in Belfast, which are continuing over the weekend, said the British government would be forced to introduce legislation that would transfer power from some devolved departments back to London by the end of April. – Observer

More Westminster

  • Khan tells Labour not to “faff around” about Livingstone – Observer
  • Farage offers to be May’s contact with Le Pen – Sunday Express


>Today: Tom Hunt in Comment: So you welcome OFCOM’s new BBC scrutiny role? Don’t. Here’s why it could make matters worse.

Infighting continues to make trouble for Trump

Donald Trump Jan 2017“President Donald Trump’s White House, one perpetually plagued by infighting among aides jockeying for the president’s ear, has been sharply divided by a new rivalry, one pitting his powerful son-in-law with unfettered access to the president against the sharp-elbowed ideologue who fuelled Trump’s populist campaign rhetoric. … Although the White House is rife with rumours of a staff shakeup, Trump’s young administration is pushing back against reports of a pending West Wing overhaul fueled by squabbling among top aides.” – Independent on Sunday

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