EU hints at talks breakthrough…

“The EU finally indicated it was ready to start talks on a post-Brexit trade deal this evening. After weeks of stalemate, the president of the European Council hinted at a breakthrough following talks with Theresa May. Donald Tusk suggested it was ‘possible’ talks on trade could begin at a crunch summit of EU leaders in Brussels next month. But he warned of a ‘huge challenge’ ahead – and set the Prime Minister a new deadline of ten days for progress on ‘all issues’ before trade negotiations start. It comes after Mrs May secured agreement from her Cabinet this week to increase the Government’s offer on the Brexit ‘divorce bill’.” – Daily Mail

  • May told she has ten days to make a better offer – The Times
  • Brussels warns of limits to UK’s legal reach – FT
  • Tusk ally explains May’s ‘trouble’ in key Brexit battles – Daily Express

…as May considers giving post-Brexit role to the European Court of Justice…

“Theresa May is thinking of handing the European Court of Justice a role in post-Brexit Britain. The Sun today reveals reports that she has held talks about a referral system to the ECJ for EU nationals who stay here. UK judges would refer a case to Luxembourg if a query arose on a point of law that has not previously been addressed during our time as a member state. The idea was debated during a meeting of Theresa May’s inner Brexit Cabinet on Monday, James Forsyth reveals in his column today. A senior Government figure believes the solution is a “good compromise” that could represent a major breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations.” – The Sun

  • Tusk says Russia engaged in ‘hostile activities’ during the referendum – Daily Telegraph
  • Prospect of competition with the US worries British farmers – FT
  • EU presses ahead with defence cooperation – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Don’t believe claims of fewer EU nationals and doctors since the Brexit vote

…and Downing Street denies a u-turn on leaving Northern Ireland in the Customs Union

“Downing Street today denied changing its position on leaving Northern Ireland in the customs union after a spokesman said it was a ‘matter for negotiations’. In remarks that will alarm Theresa May’s DUP allies, the Prime Minister’s spokesman did not reject suggestions the province could be left behind after Brexit. A No 10 source later insisted that the Government’s position that the whole of the UK will leave both the customs union and single market after Brexit has not changed. The Government was condemned for running a ‘chaotic’ Brexit policy this afternoon.  Ireland has suggested leaving Northern Ireland in the customs union as the simple way of ensuring there is no hard border inside the island of Ireland.” – Daily Mail

  • Tusk gives May deadline to solve Irish border issue – Daily Telegraph
  • Irish Government accused of ‘hijacking’ talks – The Times
  • Prime Minister warned not to ‘drag out’ Irish talks – FT
  • Democratic Unionists urge May to be prepared to walk away – Daily Mail
  • Northern Irish manufacturers seek ‘passport’ south – The Times
  • Dublin faces political crisis over Varadkar deputy – FT


  • The Irish Question is back to bite Britain’s rulers once more – John Walsh, The Times
  • DUP are gearing up to address not just Ulster but the UK – Sam McBride, News Letter


  • A solution is possible with a little imagination – Ruth Dudley Edwards, FT
  • Ireland is the ultimate barrier to a hard Brexit – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • Unionists need their ‘red, white, and blue’ line – David McNarry, News Letter


  • Ireland and the EU need to stop using the border as a stick to beat us with – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Budget has vindicated Davidson’s rejection of a separate party

Fox accused of being ‘unfit for office’ after new remarks about exporters

“Liam Fox has reignited his feud with British business by accusing companies of not wanting to export their goods abroad. The International Trade Secretary – who sparked fury last year by branding UK firms ‘fat and lazy – said the refusal of businesses to export more is undermining his bid to boost the economy. He said the economy is still far behind where it should be and pinned the blame on British businesses not selling into global markets. Dr Fox said: ‘I can agree as many trade agreements as I like, but if British business doesn’t want to export, then that doesn’t do us any good.’ His comments sparked a furious reaction from Lord Bilimoria, businessman and founder of Cobra beer, who said it proved Dr Fox is ‘unfit for this office’.” – Daily Mail

  • British industry isn’t dead, it just needs new tools – Ian Jack, The Guardian
  • Ministers need to stop setting ludicrous expectations for Brexit – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • The Prime Minister is struggling to move the talks forward – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • Britain needs a clean break from the first day outside the EU – Shanker Singham, Daily Telegraph
  • Singapore-on-Thames is no vision for Britain – Jeevan Vasagar, The Guardian

Gove attacks social media for ‘corrupting and distorting’ politics

“The Environment Secretary hit out at online firms after two million web users read misleading claims that MPs had voted against treating animals as sentient beings. Celebrities helped to share the story that MPs had voted that animals cannot feel pain or emotions. Former Great British Bake Off presenter Sue Perkins tweeted that MPs were ‘shameful b******s’, while broadcaster Ben Fogle retweeted the story. Both have now retracted their claims. And late on Thursday night, the online Independent newspaper grudgingly retracted its original story.” – Daily Mail

  • Brexit will help save puppies, Environment Secretary insists – The Times
  • Social media blamed for Oxford Street panic – The Times


  • We have to back our institutions against the social media subversives – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Why have the Tories brought Gove back? To kill him again – Marina Hyde, The Guardian


  • Gove is right to establish Britain as a global leader in animal welfare – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The animal sentience story – viral, bogus, and uncomfortably revealing

Budget 1) Mercer urges Hammond to take Trident out of the defence budget

“A Tory MP is leading a campaign among backbench colleagues to force the chancellor to take the escalating funding for Britain’s nuclear deterrent out of the defence budget. Johnny Mercer, a former army officer, is canvassing 30 Conservative MPs to sign a letter to Philip Hammond calling on him to stop the rising cost of replacing Trident submarines eating into funding for the forces. At present, there is no such protection, which means an extra £600 million needed for the programme this year will have to be absorbed by the rest of the military without a Treasury bailout.” – The Times

  • Hard-won security and influence may take decades to restore – The Times

Budget 2) Ellwood threatens to resign over military cuts

“A defence minister has threatened to resign if the military is forced to impose cuts that include reducing the army to below 70,000 soldiers, The Times has learnt. Tobias Ellwood, veterans minister, has shared with colleagues his “deep discomfort” at a list of cost-saving options faced by the Ministry of Defence. Gavin Williamson, the new defence secretary, was shocked at what one source described as the “completely awful” headline proposals drawn up by military chiefs. Mr Williamson, who took charge of the department from Sir Michael Fallon three weeks ago, has signalled that he is ready to take on Philip Hammond, the chancellor, if necessary. “We are beginning to try and push back,” a Whitehall source said.” – The Times

  • Soldiers, tanks, and helicopters caught in political crossfire – The Times


  • Size matters, so ministers must prove they are serious about defence – Deborah Haynes, The Times

Budget 3) Clark says pension funds will be allowed to invest in start-ups

“Pension funds will be able to invest in Britain’s start-ups, said Greg Clark, the business secretary, in an effort to channel more money into industry and stimulate innovation. The plan is a key plank of the government’s industrial strategy white paper, to be published on Monday, and which aims, in part, to prepare Britain for life after Brexit. Mr Clark said in an interview there was “a difficulty for growing firms to access capital” adding: “We need to be better at commercialising ideas and getting a better connection between the sources of finance and the companies that need it.”” – FT

  • Another ‘stealth tax’ to hit millions of savers – Daily Mail


  • Now is not the time for a fight with the Treasury, NHS boss told – The Times
  • Hammond backtracked on funding after ‘fury’ of demands – The Guardian


Tories in danger of becoming an ‘outdated’ and insular party, warns Freeman

“Having served as life sciences minister under Mr Cameron, this year he set up the Big Tent Ideas Fest to provoke new thinking. “I am a Tory disruptor,” he says. “Conservatism isn’t at its best always defending the status quo.” This week Mr Freeman resigned as head of the prime minister’s policy board to concentrate on boosting the Tory party’s campaigning strength and to try to repair what he warns is a “deepening disconnection” with young voters. Although he insists the split was agreed amicably with Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff, he has clearly been frustrated by Downing Street.” – The Times

  • Ex-policy chief wants state-funded gap years for ‘peace corps for our times’ – The Times

Report into Green ‘may be kept secret’

“A report into claims Theresa May’s deputy had extreme porn on his computer and made a pass at a Tory activist might be kept secret, No10 today admitted. Damian Green is being investigated by the Cabinet Office over the allegations and could face the sack if he is found to have acted inappropriately. Sir Michael Fallon has already been forced to quit as Defence Secretary after admitting his behaviour fell short amid the Westminster sex harassment scandal. A Downing Street spokesman was asked repeatedly if the inquiry into Mr Green would be published, but refused to say it would be.” – Daily Mail

  • Deputy Prime Minister ‘misled’ May – The Sun

Row with Burnham over cost of Manchester terror attack

The Mayor of Manchester has warned that public services in the city will have to be cut because the Government has not reimbursed the full cost of the terror attack which killed 22 people earlier this year. Andy Burnham has accused Theresa May of refusing to pay back a bill of over £17 million for policing, health and court costs despite initially pledging to give the city everything it needed. The former Labour MP said he should not be forced to “plead” for the funding when Kensington and Chelsea council has been awarded support following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The row comes after the Prime Minister sent Mr Burnham a letter setting out what the Government has so far agreed to pay – around £12 million in “reasonable costs”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • McDonnell’s talks with hedge funds show new interest in Labour – The Guardian
  • Labour suggests middle-class workers should retire later – Daily Telegraph
  • Dugdale could be a ‘valuable commodity’ if she quits politics – The Scotsman


  • The week which convinced me Corbyn will never be Prime Minister – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
  • Labour looks like it’s cynical enough to win – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • SNP austerity is Scotland’s reality – Richard Leonard, The Scotsman


  • Corbyn as Prime Minister would destroy countless livelihoods – The Sun

Sinn Fein accused of ‘stealing’ a Westminster seat

“Sinn Féin’s narrow general election victory in Foyle this year has been described in parliament as “a clear case of electoral fraud and the theft of a constituency”. DUP MP Gregory Campbell referred specifically to the use of proxy voting in his comments while speaking under parliamentary privilege during Cabinet Office questions in London on Wednesday. The chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland, however, has said she “strongly refutes” any suggestion of the “theft of a constituency”. The Foyle constituency was won by Sinn Féin in June by a margin of just 169 votes. Its taking of the seat from the SDLP was an unexpected and historic victory for the republican party, coming in Foyle where the SDLP had won every Westminster vote since the constituency itself was created, back in 1983.” – News Letter

News in Brief:

  • This week’s Budget proves they don’t matter very much – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • Ireland’s stance on Brexit is a dangerous gamble – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Varadkar needs to remember who Dublin’s real friends are – Kate Hoey MP, Brexit Central
  • December’s Council summit is judgement day for a Brexit deal – Peter Divey, Comment Central
  • Leaving the Customs Union shows that Tory interests are defining Brexit – Stephen Bush, New Statesman