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Brexit 1) May has ‘forged consensus’ inside Tories over Brexit bill (or has she?)

“After months in which British Eurosceptics railed against the EU’s divorce demands, Theresa May has forged a rare consensus in her often fractious Conservative party. Not only has the UK prime minister won cabinet backing for an increased offer to settle the country’s Brexit bill ahead of a crucial EU summit next month, but some of the most outspoken EU opponents in the party’s ranks also appear to have fallen into line. The majority of pro-Brexit Tory MPs — some of whom once rejected the idea of any kind of payment to leave the bloc — refused to criticise Mrs May as news of the financial offer sank in.” – FT

  • Brexiteers furious at prospect of paying billions to EU for decades – The Sun
  • Hardliners could vote against the divorce bill – The Guardian
  • Prime Minister says EU won’t see a penny until deal is struck – Daily Express

More:

  • SNP slate Fox’s trade plans – Daily Express
  • Cap on bankers’ bonuses could end post-Brexit, suggests Carney – Daily Mail
  • Prime Minister hits back at Patel – The Sun
  • ‘Baby boomer’ used as term of abuse after vote – Daily Mail
  • Scots seek judicial review on revoking Article 50 – Daily Express

Comment:

  • A £50 billion divorce bill will save Britain a fortune – Daniel Hannan MEP, The Sun
  • The EU is fatally divided over Brexit, and that’s our opportunity – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

Sketch:

  • Finally, the country is realising Juncker just wants our cash – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Bill may be hard to swallow, but it will be worth it – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Under one in six Party members would support an EU deal payment of £60 billion or more.

>Yesterday:

Brexit 2) British ‘close to Irish border deal’

“EU leaders are preparing to offer a two-year Brexit transition deal as early as January after negotiators said that they were close to a breakthrough over the Northern Ireland border. British officials tabled proposals this week to avoid a “hard border” in Ireland that could unblock the last remaining major obstacle to a deal, The Times understands. In return the EU will pledge at a summit in Brussels next month to speed up approval for a transition deal that maintains Britain’s present relationship with the EU, reassuring businesses that might otherwise begin implementing plans for a hard Brexit… The British proposal is understood to commit the government to work towards “avoiding regulatory divergence” in Ireland after Brexit even if the rest of the UK moves away from European rules. This would involve the government devolving a package of powers to Northern Ireland to enable customs convergence with the Irish Republic on areas such as agriculture and energy.” – The Times

  • London and Dublin scramble to break stalemate – FT
  • Customs checks could be done remotely post-Brexit, minister suggests – Daily Telegraph
  • Trimble slams Varadkar for ‘mimicking Sinn Fein’ – The Sun
  • Paisley urges the Government to get tough with Dublin – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • If the Irish won’t protect British borders post-Brexit, who will? – Danielle Grufferty, Times Red Box
  • Ireland’s threat to veto a deal is a nightmare come true – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph
  • The brazen cheek of Remainers is astonishing – Iain Martin, The Times

Editorial:

  • Britain has suggested sensible ways forward on all issues – The Times

>Yesterday: Profiles: Arlene Foster, standing firm for Britain in Belfast

May mulls branding Tories as ‘the caring party’…

“The Conservatives will seek to re-brand themselves as the caring party after their disastrous general election campaign. Backbenchers have been told the party will concentrate on issues such as the environment and animal welfare after internal polling showed they were seen as uncaring. Tory MPs have been told to push the message that they will help young people get on the housing ladder, improve school standards and tackle rogue businesses. But the party will no longer concentrate on its record on the NHS because it accepts it can never beat Labour on what voters see as the rival party’s turf. Details of the new priorities emerged after MPs were invited into Downing Street for a briefing on the party’s future from Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff.” – Daily Mail

  • New policy briefing amidst concern over ‘compassionless’ image – The Guardian

Comment:

  • We’re on a mission to fix Britain’s skills problem – Justine Greening, Times Red Box

…but gets pulled into a row over defence cuts…

“Theresa May’s first visit to Iraq backfired spectacularly today as she visited troops ahead of Christmas but refused to guarantee their jobs. Amid fevered speculation on cuts to the defence budget, she was asked three times if she would commit to keeping troop numbers at 70,000 or pledging that the British army would not get any smaller. On the three day whistlestop tour of Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, she sidestepped every question on the issue. She refused to give any assurances – despite a pledge in the Tory manifesto to maintain numbers – only saying: “It is about looking at the threats that we face and ensuring we have the capabilities to meet those threats.”” – The Sun

  • Secret visit is first by a British leader to country in 10 years – The Guardian
  • Defence chiefs given dressing down after leaks over budget cuts – The Times

Comment:

  • Weak but stable, the Prime Minister is nailed to her perch – Anand Menon, Times Red Box

…as she praises Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on jihadism…

“Theresa May has warned that Islamic State fighters could slip back into Europe as she became the first British Prime Minister to visit Iraq in almost a decade. During the surprise trip to Baghdad, Mrs May said Britain would step up efforts to stop jihadists dispersing through the Middle East. The Prime Minister then travelled to Saudi Arabia and met King Salman and his 32-year-old son, who now stands next in line for the throne. Mrs May’s trip to Saudi Arabia was for talks with the king and his heir Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the kingdom-led war in Yemen. She is the second European leader to specifically seek out the crown prince as he amasses power.” – Daily Mail

  • Barnier slammed for ‘outrageous’ claims that UK backed out of fight against ISIS – Daily Mail
  • Prime Minister ‘snubs’ EU-Africa summit for visit – The Times

…and Trumps hits back at in row over tweet

“Donald Trump has fired back at Theresa May by saying she should concentrate on ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism taking place in the UK’ and not his Twitter activity. The British Prime Minister slammed the president on Wednesday after he retweeted anti-Muslim videos posted by the leader of the far-right group, Britain First. The first clip he shared depicted a ‘Muslim migrant’ beating up a ‘Dutch boy on crutches’. But Trump overlooked her criticism, and hinted that she should be focusing on potential security threats and radicalization and her doorstep instead.” – Daily Mail

  • Khan reignites feud with the President – The Sun

Comment:

  • Trump is out of his depth and lashing out to cover it up – Rob Crilly, Daily Telegraph
  • May discovers she has no friend in the White House – Julian Borger, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • The President should be shown the real Britain in his forthcoming visit – The Times

>Yesterday: Ben Roback’s column: A crucial week in Washington as the budget deadline looms (again)

Chris Grayling: We’re taking the railways back to their golden age

“If the first stages of the UK’s railway renaissance were reversing decades of decline, and securing long-term funding to update the infrastructure, the next stage will change the way the industry operates. Joined up teams. Simpler, more accountable structures. Regional teams focused on their own services. And opening up lines that were shut when the fortunes of the industry were very different from those of today. This is a strategy for a successful, modern railway, that lays the foundation for a new generation, and puts the passenger first.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Repairing a great act of government vandalism – Rod Liddle, The Sun
  • It’s not just driverless cars, robots could drive our trains too – Will Quince MP, Times Red Box

Editorial:

Lidington to set out plans to take over bad prisons

“Theresa May’s Government will take direct control of Britain’s worst jails under radical plans. Justice Secretary David Lidington is set to announce he’ll personally appoint a taskforce to turn around any prison judged to have “serious failings” by the independent prison inspectorate. They will have 28 days to come up with an action plan to “bring the prison up to the required standard”. Governors will remain in day-to-day charge of the jail. But for the first time a team of specialists – accountable to Ministers – will be drafted in over their head if inspectors raise an “alert”. The move follows months of discussions between the Ministry of Justice, the Prison Service and Peter Clarke, HMIP.” – The Sun

Green refuges to apologise for ‘Pestminster’

“Damian Green refused to issue a blanket apology to victims of the Westminster harassment scandal today as the embattled minister stood in for Theresa May at PMQs. The First Secretary was asked about the wave of sleaze allegations threatening to engulf politics during the regular Commons session – which Mrs May missed because she is visiting the Middle East. However, although MPs made thinly-veiled references to the fact Mr Green himself is facing an official probe into claims of inappropriate behaviour, they stopped short of raising them directly. Labour backbencher John Mann urged him to apologise to victims of sexual harassment that ‘parliament and Government have been letting down’.” – Daily Mail

  • Pressure mounts on deputy as texts back sleaze claim – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: PMQs sketch: Green shows no trace of imperial purple

Labour MP accused of threatening a journalist

“A Labour MP was forced to apologise for an “ill-judged” outburst yesterday after being accused of threatening a pregnant television producer. Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, reacted after she was pressed by Channel 4 News over whether she could lobby the government of Bangladesh about the case of Ahmad Bin Quasem, a British-trained barrister who was allegedly abducted by government security forces last year. Ms Siddiq is the niece of Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, and has cited her aunt as her political inspiration.” – The Times

  • Where do Tulip’s loyalties really lie? – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Labour must answer the question: why isn’t it pulling ahead? – Owen Jones, The Guardian

Controversial SNP policy ‘descends into chaos’ after committee withholds approval

“The SNP’s controversial plans to assign every child a ‘state guardian’ have descended into chaos again after a cross-party Holyrood inquiry concluded that it could not recommend that MSPs give their approval. The Scottish Parliament’s education committee said it was impossible to scrutinise how the Named Person scheme would work in practice until John Swinney, the SNP Education Minister, provides an “authoritative” code of practice for those filling the role. In a move that threatens to delay its implementation by at least six months, its members said the code should reflect changes in data protection law being made by the UK Government in April or May next year.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Ireland should see the Brexit negotiations as an opportunity, not a threat – Owen Paterson, Brexit Central
  • Paying €50 billion just to talk would be an unforgivable mistake – Andrew Lilico, CapX
  • How many Tory MPs would vote against giving the EU a £45 billion settlement? – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • Damning social mobility statistics show the Government needs a new approach – George Maggs, Reaction
  • America backs down against China, again – Julian G Ku, Foreign Policy

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