Government rules out military retaliation against Syria

Syria“Britain has no plans for military retaliation against Syria for the deadly nerve gas attack that killed up to 100, Government sources said yesterday. Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the suspected sarin attack in a rebel-held town and called for an end to the appalling suffering of civilians. But asked if preparations were being made for military retaliation, a Downing Street official travelling with Mrs May in the Middle East said: ‘Nobody is talking about that.’ Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said President Bashar al Assad’s regime appeared to have carried out the attack, adding: ‘I’d like to see those culpable pay a price.’” – Daily Mail

  • Trump threatens action against Assad after ‘heinous’ attack – The Times (£)

More overseas:

  • Prime Minister tries to bring world’s biggest stock market flotation to London – Daily Mail
  • May meets Saudi princess and pledges to boost sport for girls – The Sun
  • India dents British trade hopes with lapsed deal – FT
  • Dismay over Fox’s claim of ‘shared values’ with Philippines regime – The Guardian
  • Government’s ‘secret move’ to boost Russian relations – Independent
  • Prince Charles commandeers May’s official plane – Daily Mail


  • Assad and ISIS are both poisoning a once-proud nation – The Times (£)

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Why Britain must speak out against Orban’s assault on the Central European University

>Yesterday: Richard Black in Comment: The Government must end its unconditional support for Saudi Arabia

Prime Minister starts ‘dismantling roadblocks’ to Brexit deal…

“Theresa May has begun to dismantle roadblocks to a Brexit deal, including accepting the possible extension of free movement, as the European Parliament agreed to open the way to a potential “association agreement” between Britain and the EU. With Britain’s parliament in recess, the prime minister used a three-day visit to the Middle East to soften her stance on Brexit, effectively conceding that the UK may have to carry on playing by some EU rules after it leaves the bloc in 2019. Mrs May has accepted that Britain will not be able to sign a trade deal until after it formally leaves the EU and becomes a “third country”, raising the need for a transition agreement to bridge the gap between Brexit and the ratification of the deal.” – FT

  • Mandelson calls £50 billion divorce bill ‘small change’ – Daily Mail


  • Duncan Smith insists that Gibraltar’s status be a red line – The Sun
  • Lord Hain calls for joint sovereignty – The Guardian

…as the European Parliament demands Britain stick with EU rules for years

Red Tape Britain“The European Parliament yesterday demanded Britain abide by EU regulations long after we leave. The Strasbourg body voted to issue a series of its own tough red lines for Brexit talks. The orders from MEPs – who wield a powerful veto over the final deal – include the UK keeping similar competition, trade and social policies in exchange for a trade deal. They also want the European Court of Justice to be able to rule over the agreement’s terms during disputes. The package throws up another tricky hurdle for Theresa May and will infuriate Brexiteers.” – The Sun

  • Hardliners stay ‘zen’ over May’s softer Brexit mantras – FT
  • Barnier dampens hopes of a swift Brexit – Daily Express

David Aaronovitch: Can the EU trust May before she faces down the European Research Group?

“In January, Hammond gave an interview to Die Welt which was headlined “Philip Hammond issues threat to EU partners”. Hammond essentially said if the deal wasn’t acceptable then Britain would have “to change our economic model” to a much more ferociously low-regulation, low-tax one in order to compete. There is no poll yet taken showing that this is what the British people want, Leavers or Remainers. Nor is such an outcome in any way compatible with Theresa May’s oratorical embracing of the JAMs and the hard-pressed workers. But there are some very influential people in her own party who want just that.” – The Times (£)

  • Gibraltar once rejected a deal on its status but must think again – Lord Hain, The Guardian
  • How Britain can help businesses prepare for Brexit – Allie Renison, Times Red Box



May stresses high cost of Labour-run councils at launch of local government campaign

tax“Labour councils cost the average family £100 extra a year, Theresa May will claim today as she launches the Tories’ local elections campaign. The Prime Minister will reveal that this year’s council tax bills are £102 a year more for the average Band D property in Labour areas than Conservative ones. Liberal Democrat authorities charge even more – £124 a year on top. In a speech in Nottinghamshire, Mrs May will call on councils to put the interests of ordinary working people at the heart of what they do. She will claim only the Tories have a ‘plan for Britain’ whose goal was nothing less than to ‘improve the lives of everyone in our country, in every community’.” – Daily Mail

Jane Ellison: Our tax cuts will matter to millions

“The measures may not grab headlines, but they matter. The government wants people to take home more of their hard-earned money, giving them the means to live well, realise their ambitions and look after their families. Our plan for Britain means living within our means as a country, giving the lowest earners a pay rise through the national living wage, taking 1.3 million people out of tax altogether, helping hard-working families to keep more of what they earn by cutting taxes for 31 million people and doubling free childcare for nearly 400,000 parents. We’re following a long-term plan to get our tax system working for working people – a plan that will have spanned a whole decade.” – Times Red Box

May defends MPs’ second jobs after Osborne’s editorship

PARLIAMENTA sleaze watchdog has launched a consultation on reforming rules on MPs’ second jobs in the wake of Mr Osborne’s latest appointment. But Mrs May said many MPs have demanding outside jobs in the health service, Army and police. She said: “MPs throughout time and continuing now have often had other roles and responsibilities and jobs as well as being an MP. “We have doctors, dentists, nurses; we have reservists, special constables in the House of Commons. That brings a breadth of experience into the House of Commons. “I think generally a breadth of experience in the House of Commons is a good thing.” Conservative former minister Dan Poulter is a practising GP and Sir Paul Beresford is a dentist.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Former Chancellor’s new ISA shunned by banks – Daily Mail
  • What do millenials think of the Lifetime ISA? – FT

Cabinet ministers reported to want to remove Lord Chancellor role from Truss

“Theresa May is being urged by Cabinet Ministers to strip Liz Truss of her role as Lord Chancellor and break up the Ministry of Justice amid concerns the department is “not fit for purpose”. Senior Government sources have told The Daily Telegraph that a series of embarrassing mistakes have prompted “concerns at the very top that a major overhaul is needed” which could involve removing responsibility from the MoJ. In an attack on Ms Truss, colleagues highlighted a number of high-profile errors over the last couple of months including the justice secretary’s apparent refusal to defend high court judges after they came under attack over the Brexit court case.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ministers want to break up ‘ministry of mayhem’ – The Sun
  • Justice Secretary warned that controversial new ‘death tax’ may be illegal – Daily Mail

Foreign aid bill soars after EU accounting revisions

aidgraphic“The foreign aid budget soared by £1.2billion last year – because EU rules added prostitution and drugs to national statistics. Under targets brought in by David Cameron, ministers are committed to sending 0.7 per cent of our national income overseas every year. With the Brussels-led accounting change raising estimates of the size of the UK economy, the foreign aid bill has gone up. Figures out yesterday showed spending jumped by 10 per cent to a record £13.3billion last year. The surge will raise pressure on the Government to scrap the aid promise at a time when vital services at home such as social care, the NHS and schools are so squeezed.” – Daily Mail

  • Support for Africa falls over transparency fears – The Guardian


  • Immoral aid splurge insults the taxpayer – Daily Mail

Livingstone faces fresh inquiry after Corbyn bows to MPs

“Jeremy Corbyn has ordered a new inquiry into Ken Livingstone’s repeated claim that Hitler supported Zionism, after more than 100 Labour MPs denounced the party’s refusal to expel the former mayor of London. Mr Corbyn said he would ask the party’s ruling body to investigate after Mr Livingstone defended claims deemed to fall foul of its rules. He intervened after an outcry from MPs and peers over Mr Livingstone’s refusal to apologise for claiming that Hitler supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”. Mr Livingstone said yesterday that he would take Labour to court if it tried to expel him.” – The Times (£)

  • Corbyn ‘betrayed Jews’ by letting Livingstone off the hook, Prime Minister says – Daily Mail
  • Watson says failure to expel ‘incomprehensible’ – The Sun
  • Almost half of Labour MPs sign letter criticising decision – The Independent


  • Suspension proof Labour is a zombie party capable only of destruction – Stephen Pollard, Daily Telegraph
  • Livington’s refusal to apologise shows Labour is weak and immoral – Suzanne Moore, The Guardian
  • The Jewish community will not soon forget Labour’s obscene decision – Daniel Sugarman, Daily Telegraph


  • Labour is shamed by its failure to expel former mayor – The Times (£)

Labour under fire for plan to squeeze private schools

Jeremy Corbyn (Tory Poster)“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire after pledging to impose VAT on private school fees to pay for free meals for all primary school children in the UK. Should his party get into power, it would bring in the policy to ‘boost the health and educational attainment of all children’ while ending a ‘subsidy to the privileged few’. The announcement will be seen as an attempt to regain the political initiative following rows over the party’s poor showing in the opinion polls and allegations of anti-Semitism against Ken Livingstone. But the Independent Schools Council (ISC), representing private schools, said Labour’s proposals did not add up and would force some smaller schools to close.” – Daily Mail

  • State schools hire fundraisers in bid to make ends meet – The Times (£)


  • The middle classes should cough up for state schools – Toby Young, The Times (£)

Sturgeon urged to come clean over legal challenge for referendum authority

“Nicola Sturgeon has been challenged to reveal whether she is ready to go to court in a bid to force a new vote on breaking-up Britain. Speaking during a visit to California, the First minister claimed the need to have Westminster’s permission for another referendum had not been challenged. In a question-and-answer session at Stanford University, she said: “It’s not been tested in court, but in 2014 we accepted that for there to be a referendum in Scotland… it required the legal consent of the UK Government.” She is currently in a stand-off with Theresa May over the prospect of a second ballot on independence, with the Prime Minister insisting “now is not the time”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First Minister ‘distracted’ by independence as figures find Scotland halfway to recession – Daily Telegraph
  • Sturgeon brands SNP campaign ‘an example to the world’ – The Sun


  • Cruel awakening from referendum dream – Bill Jamieson, The Scotsman


  • Nationalists need to put the economy before indyref2 – The Scotsman

Reckless applies to sit with Conservative AMs but won’t be let back into party

RECKLESS Mark“A former Tory MP who defected to Ukip and is rumoured to be considering joining the Tories will be blocked from returning the Conservative Party. Mark Reckless, a member of the Welsh Assembly, has allegedly applied to sit alongside the Conservatives. However The Telegraph understands that he will be barred from formally rejoining the Tories. There are suggestions that he will instead apply to sit alongside Conservative members of the Welsh Assembly.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Brown, Jones, and Dugdale want powers anywhere but London

News in Brief:

  • Eleven charities fined for spying on supporters – Daily Mail
  • Spain accused of ‘bully tactics’ after three-hour delays at Gibraltar – The Times (£)
  • Greedy doctors ‘aiming to damage NHS’ with walkout over pay demand – The Sun
  • US cyber attacks may be bringing down North Korean missiles – Daily Telegraph
  • Trump removes Bannon from National Security Council – FT
  • CBI says more needed to make apprenticeship levy a success – The Independent
  • Fox jumps to rescue of baby having a seizure on a flight – Daily Mail
  • Britain’s young universities lead the world – The Times (£)
  • Sinn Fein reports little progress in Stormont crisis talks – Belfast Telegraph