Budget 1) Hammond aims to be a Green Chancellor with tax increases for diesel drivers

“Diesel drivers could face a fuel duty tax rise in the Budget while petrol motorists enjoy a cut under plans being considered by Treasury, the Telegraph understands. A number of options are under consideration, including changes to vehicle excise duty which could hit drivers who already own diesel cars instead of those who buy new models, campaigners have been told. Philip Hammond wants to be seen as the green Chancellor, sources close to the Treasury said, and he is under pressure from Cabinet colleagues to announce plans to curb dangerous emissions in his Budget later this month.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Change could push up emissions by forcing motorists to stick with older cars – The Sun

Budget 2) Plan to cut VAT threshold faces small business backlash

“Philip Hammond is considering a radical Budget shake-up of VAT rules for small companies in a move that could raise up to £2bn a year for the Treasury but risks a business and political backlash. The chancellor is looking at ways to bring the £85,000 turnover threshold for VAT closer to global standards such as the EU average of £20,000 and is studying a report that says companies stop growing — or lie — to avoid crossing the line. According to people briefed on the situation, he will consider the report’s implications for VAT.” – Financial Times

Budget 3) Tax avoidance must be tackled demands Oborne

“Not only should Chancellor Philip Hammond shut the loopholes exposed by the Paradise Papers, but he should remind the country of the Tories’ laudable control of the economy and the dangers of the alternative — a country run by Jeremy Corbyn with Socialist policies such as big rises in corporation tax rises and restrictions on the movement of capital…There are any number of reforms that the Chancellor could announce that would be very popular with voters.” – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

Brexit 1) Barnier issues two week deadline for Brexit “clarity”

“The UK has two weeks to clarify key issues or make concessions if progress is to be made in Brexit talks, the bloc’s chief negotiator has said. Michel Barnier was speaking after meeting the Brexit secretary for talks on citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and the UK’s “divorce bill”. David Davis said it was time for both sides “to work to find solutions”. Before the talks, Theresa May said she wanted the UK’s exit date set in law, and warned MPs not to block Brexit. Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Mr Barnier suggested Britain would have to clarify its position in the next fortnight on what it would pay to settle its obligations to the EU if the talks were to have achieved “sufficient progress” ahead of December’s European Council meeting.” – BBC

  • May needs to justify why we should give them any money at all – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • No promise will be enough for cash hungry Barnier – The Sun Says
  • False claims that Brexit vote caused an NHS staffing crisis – Ross Clark, Daily Mail
  • Davis oozes defeat – John Crace, The Guardian


Brexit 2) We must not blink says IDS

“Tory Eurosceptics have warned the Brexit divorce bill is “critical” and that the UK cannot afford to give any more ground. Iain Duncan Smith, a Tory MP and former Conservative leader, told The Telegraph: “They think we blinked in Florence and now they believe we will blink again. We must not blink. “The one big hand we have is money. They are desperate. If we give away that we give away any chance of getting a good free trade agreement. The two get decided at the same time. The money is critical, we cannot give any more ground on this. Tory Eurosceptics are getting really unnerved by this. It is stretching them to breaking.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 3) “Frank discussions” about Northern Ireland

“There were “frank discussions” about the Irish border in the latest round of Brexit talks, David Davis has said. The Brexit Secretary was speaking in Brussels after a meeting with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier. Mr Davis said any solution for the border could not be at the expense of the constitutional integrity of the UK. The EU tabled a paper which suggested Northern Ireland will have to continue to follow many EU rules after Brexit if a hard border is to be avoided.” – BBC

Brexit 4) Sinn Fein pressure making a border deal harder

“The IRA’s political wing Sinn Fein is to blame for a serious new Brexit stand off over Northern Ireland’s border, ministers say. A leaked Brussels document yesterday revealed the Irish Taoiseach has significantly hardened the EU’s line over how to keep the border with the south open after Britain’s EU exit. In an ‘all island’ solution, Leo Varadkar is now insisting Ulster remain part of the single market and customs union while the rest of Britain leaves it. Ministers have told The Sun that the Irish PM has only been forced to adopt the stand under heavy political pressure from Gerry Adams’ Sinn Fein.” – The Sun

Brexit 4) Soubry threatens to rebel over “crass” plans

“Theresa May is facing a rebellion from pro-European Tory MPs who have vowed to vote against her “crass” plans to enshrine the date the Britain leaves the European Union in law. The Government on Thursday tabled an amendment which formally commits Britain to leaving the European Union at 11pm on 29 March, 2019 ahead of a debate and vote in the Commons next week….Ms Soubry told The Daily Telegraph: “It will tie our hands in a way that is not necessary.”…She said that she would “need some persuading” not to vote against the amendment.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 5) Enshrining departure date in law is nonsense, says Parris

“If I were a clever hardliner, I’d have none of this “enshrining” March 2019 in law. If I were a stupid hardliner I’d ask for a triple-lock on Mrs May’s promise, in the form of a second act of parliament forbidding any further amendments to the first one. And then a quadruple-lock, making it a criminal offence on pain of death to propose any amendment to the second one. No: every page of every act of parliament has, written in invisible ink across it, the words “until further notice”. All the rest is noise.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Brexit 6) Moore: EU plotters are acting ruthlessly in their best interests – why won’t the Government do the same for Britain?

“If we follow the Commission’s weird negotiating order, as Mr Barnier again insisted yesterday, and promise the money before we have made a deal, we will have thrown away our biggest card in two weeks’ time. Yet the British Government is currently hinting that we just might. In the online magazine Reaction, Lord Bridges, who was a minister for Brexit until he could stand the muddle in Downing Street no longer, reminds us that the basic principle of EU negotiation is “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” Although he voted Remain, he points out that the Commission’s negotiating concept of “sufficient progress” before moving to the next stage clearly contradicts this principle.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Jones announces fracking incentive

“Local communities will be given control of up to £1 billion in tax revenues from fracking and homeowners affected by new developments could be paid cash directly, the government announced yesterday…Andrew Jones, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said the programme would ensure that residents in communities disrupted by new fracking developments — which have been subject to sustained protests — “reaped the rewards” of up to £33 billion in investment into the UK economy.” – The Times

Sharp increase in output

“The UK’s industrial output grew at its fastest pace so far this year in September, according to official figures. Production rose by 0.7% compared with the month before, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, boosted by machinery and equipment output. Separate data showed the UK’s trade deficit in goods and services narrowed by more than expected in September. However, construction output fell by 1.6% in the month, the ONS said.” – BBC

Boles call to take on the Nimbys

“Nick Boles was at home “unable to move” on the night of the general election in June, too weak after cancer treatment to attend his own constituency count. He had watched Theresa May calling the election from an NHS ward while undergoing chemotherapy. ….The government must do much more to encourage house-building, the former planning minister says. The nimbys must “accept that the next generation has an equal right to bring up a family as they have. Everybody’s house, even Windsor Castle, was once a green field.” – Interview, The Times

  • May resists Hammond push to relax planning laws – The Sun

Johnson backs bullfighting

“Bungling Boris Johnson made another gaffe when he defended bullfighting during an Anglo-Spanish dinner. The Foreign Secretary told the dinner to celebrate ties between the two nations that trying to ban the barbaric sport was “political correctness gone mad”. MPs said the bizarre comments left some Spaniards at the event in Bath on Saturday fuming as many are against bullfighting.” – The Sun

  • Foreign Office attempts to improve relations with Iran – The Guardian

Cameron seeks approval for China job

“David Cameron has formally asked permission to take a job with a planned £500 million investment fund. The Times revealed yesterday that the former prime minister had discussed a “UK-China fund” with Ma Kai, a Chinese vice-premier who heads Beijing’s finance ministry, during a trip to the country in September. The fund is being set up by figures including Lord Chadlington, a Conservative peer and a longstanding friend and financial backer of Mr Cameron. A spokesman for the former Conservative leader has now confirmed that he has sought clearance to take a role in the fund from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), which vets jobs taken by former ministers.” – The Times

Labour MP complains of “unwanted attention” from Kelvin Hopkins

“Labour’s Kerry McCarthy is to submit letters to the party which she says show she received “unwanted attention” from a fellow MP, the BBC understands. The member for Bristol East claims she was sent “upsetting” correspondence from Kelvin Hopkins, the MP for Luton North, over a period of about 20 years. Mr Hopkins 76, said the complaint had caused him “unbearable” stress. He is currently suspended from the party in connection with a separate allegation, which he denies.” – BBC

Call to scrap Overseas Aid target from Short and Straw

“Labour grandees Jack Straw and Clare Short have both called for the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target to be dropped – saying the pledge has backfired. Mr Straw, who was Foreign and Home Secretary under Tony Blair, said too much of the cash goes towards meeting the  bumper salaries of white middle class people. While Ms Short, who was appointed Britain’s first International Development Secretary in 1997, said the target has become ‘destructive’. Their outspoken intervention will pile further pressure on Theresa May to finally ditch the target and spend the cash on boosting services and investment in the UK instead.” – Daily Mail


Another Labour row over anti-Semitism

“The Labour Party is embroiled in another anti-Semitism row after a mother who questioned Hitler’s reputation was shortlisted to fight a council seat. Nasreen Khan, a former member of George Galloway’s Respect Party, made offensive remarks about Jews on Facebook five years ago. She said Jews ‘have reaped the rewards of playing victims’ and that there were ‘worse people than Hitler in this world’. Miss Khan, a Muslim who has since joined the Labour Party, said they were ‘inappropriate and unacceptable’. But despite the remarks, she is on a two-person shortlist for the Labour nomination in a safe seat in Bradford at next year’s local elections.” – Daily Mail

Claim that Chief Whip broke confidentiality of “victim”

“The new chief whip’s office is facing legal action from an alleged sexual assault victim who claims his confidentiality was breached by the department, The Times has learnt. A civil servant in his thirties emailed Julian Smith last Saturday to complain that no action was being taken over his allegation that he was groped by Nigel Evans despite the Crown Prosecution Service reviewing its decision not to charge the Tory MP…Mr Evans, 60, who strenuously denies the latest claims, was told in March 2017 that he would not be charged as the CPS was concerned about discrepancies in the alleged victim’s statements.” – The Times

Sturgeon rebukes Salmond over Russian TV show

“Nicola Sturgeon has said she would have advised Alex Salmond against hosting a TV show on Russian state-funded broadcaster RT if she had been asked. RT has been described as a propaganda tool for Vladimir Putin’s government, but Mr Salmond urged viewers to judge for themselves. Ms Sturgeon said the channel chosen by her predecessor as first minister would not have been her choice. And she said she would not shy away from criticising Russian policy.” – BBC

Tillerson warns against using Lebanon as a proxy for conflicts

“US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned other countries against using Lebanon for proxy conflicts, following a crisis triggered by the resignation of its prime minister, Saad Hariri. Iran and its Lebanese ally, the militant Shia group Hezbollah, claim the Saudis detained Mr Hariri and forced his resignation. Mr Tillerson said he had received assurances that Mr Hariri is free. Mr Hariri resigned a week ago while in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. “There is no legitimate place or role in Lebanon for any foreign forces, militias or armed elements other than the legitimate security forces of the Lebanese state,” Mr Tillerson said in a statement.” – BBC

Forsyth: We need a proper, unforced reshuffle

“She needs to do a proper, not forced, reshuffle. At a time of her choosing, she needs to carry out a major shake-up of her team. She needs to show she still has the power to hire and fire. She also owes it to the party to bring on the next generation of talent, to give those who want to run for the leadership a chance to show whether they’ve got it or not. Theresa May hasn’t had any breaks recently. But she needs to remember that the best prime ministers make their own luck.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

News in brief

  • We can’t afford to end the age of austerity – Ben Ramanauskas, Cap X
  • Barnier’s Brexit deadline highlights May’s political weakness – Isabel Hardman, Coffee House
  • Will the Government fall? – Alex Wickham, i news
  • After meeting Barnier I’ve concluded that no deal will be better than his deal – Chris Chope, Brexit Central
  • Trump’s end of year report – Campbell Campbell-Jack, The Conservative Woman