May will tell MPs today that the UK will be free to sign trade deals on Day One…

‘Theresa May will today insist that Britain is allowed to begin striking global trade deals and registering new EU arrivals on the first day after Brexit. Eurosceptics have voiced concerns over the Prime Minister’s plan for a two-year transition period following our official exit on March 29, 2019. Brussels has said during the period the UK will have to remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and be forced to abide by freedom of movement rules. Critics say it is remaining in the EU in all but name. But in a bid to allay fears among her backbenches, Mrs May will today tell MPs the country will start the process of going its own way during the transition.’ – Daily Mail

  • Cabinet sub-committee meets today to consider ‘gradual divergence’ from EU rules – The Times
  • She is urged to spell out what kind of arrangement she is aiming for – The Sun
  • Britain must ‘face the consequences’ of Brexit, Barnier warns – Daily Mail
  • He claims there are no options available beyond the existing Canada and Norway arrangements – The Sun
  • Cameron to lead China investment fund – The Times



>Today: Nicky Morgan’s column: Threats, intimidation, violence, and trolling. Something is rotten in the state of our democracy.

…while Labour is on the verge of backing a policy that would make trade deals impossible

‘Labour is likely to announce that it wants to stay in a modified version of the EU customs union indefinitely, according to three members of the shadow cabinet…Jeremy Corbyn’s party is likely to say that it wants to negotiate to be part of a new UK-EU customs union very similar to the one at present. It will also say that Britain should be part of future trade deals done by the EU. Critically, under Labour Britain would demand a seat at the table, on the EU side, in future trade talks between the EU and other countries, something that would have to be negotiated in Brexit talks. The plan reflects Labour’s scepticism on the benefits of Britain signing future trade deals, the belief that the impact on the customs regime of the Tory plan is likely to be catastrophic and the desire for a clear dividing line between it and the government. “It think we’re almost there,” one member of the shadow cabinet said about the plan.’ – The Times

  • Abbott admits immigration might not fall under Labour – Daily Mail
  • We’ll make it easier for universities to hire the brightest talent – Brandon Lewis, The Times
  • Key Opposition figures commit to conflicting positions on a second referendum in the same day – The Sun
  • Tory rebels want May to work with Labour against her own policy – The Guardian
  • Ignore the people – A.C.Grayling, The Times
  • Malloch-Brown joins anti-Brexit alliance – The Guardian
  • The Economist rejects an advert from a pro-Brexit animal charity – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: WATCH: Lewis – “We’re delivering what business needs whilst taking control of our borders”

Anonymous Cabinet sources urge the Prime Minister to stay until 2021

‘Theresa May is being urged to delay her departure until close to the next election to avoid the Tory party engaging in a bloody battle that could ruin trade talks with the EU before they are complete. Cabinet ministers and senior backbenchers fear that any resignation before 2021 could be ruinous for the party and thwart the delicate negotiations, which are likely to continue after Brexit in March 2019…One cabinet minister told The Times: “She is not one to up sticks and leave. I’m confident that she will go on long beyond when many people expect. There is no clean and simple moment when she will or can leave. I think the leadership contest will be pushed back and back.” Brussels is expecting Mrs May to agree the broad principles of a new EU-UK relationship by next October. However, the government is being warned by the European Commission that a full EU-UK trade agreement (FTA), running to thousands of pages, will take many more months, meaning that it will not be ready until the end of 2020 at the earliest. The next general election must be held before June 2022; Tory leadership elections take about four months, and some experts think that the FTA negotiations will take longer.’ – The Times

  • ‘Allies’ urge her to delay a reshuffle – The Sun
  • Do not fear change, Prime Minister – The Sun Says

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Needed early in the New Year. A reshuffle to help Britain better prepare for leaving the EU.

Mordaunt rebukes Saudi Arabia over Yemen blockade

‘Saudi Arabia has “no excuses” for blocking food and fuel shipments to Yemen and could be in breach of international humanitarian law if it continues to do so, a British minister has said, in the strongest rebuke yet to a key ally. Penny Mordaunt, the secretary of state for international development, said that Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the UK could be damaged if Riyadh does not act to ease restrictions she warned could push the country into the “worst famine in decades.” Ms Mordaunt flew to Riyadh on Sunday to push for an end to restrictions on deliveries of food, fuel, and medical supplies to rebel-held areas of Yemen imposed by the Saudi-led coalition last month. Speaking exclusively to the Telegraph in Djibouti before her visit, Ms Mordaunt stressed that Britain “fully appreciates” the coalition’s security concerns and supported its right to screen shipping to prevent military supplies entering rebel held areas. But she said it had “no excuse” for blocking ships that had been screened, adding: “It is very clear that if you are using starvation as a weapon you are in breach of international humanitarian law. And what I have seen on my visit is that what is being held up is aid.”’ – Daily Telegraph

  • DfID worker assaulted and killed in Lebanon – The Times
  • Kremlin-linked Twitter accounts promote hatred after terror attacks – The Times
  • The far right will control Austria’s foreign, interior and defence ministries – The Times

Millions aren’t saving enough for retirement

‘More than six million middle-class workers are failing to save enough for their retirement. An official study shows that 40 per cent of staff eligible for the Government’s flagship retirement scheme are ‘under-saving’. This is defined as putting away too little to maintain their standard of living in retirement. The Department for Work and Pensions says 12million people in total are not saving enough – despite more than half of them earning at least £34,500 a year. The findings are the result of a major study into auto-enrolment, introduced in 2012 to guarantee access to a basic company pension. Tom McPhail, of investments firm Hargreaves Lansdown, said the policy had helped lower earners. But he added: ‘Auto-enrolment has massively diluted the average amounts people are saving into pensions.’ – Daily Mail

  • Sharp fall in self-employed savers – FT
  • £15.3 billion withdrawn from pension pots under new freedoms – FT
  • Save early, save often – Daily Telegraph Leader
  • City watchdog under fire over British Steel pension scheme – The Times

>Today: Hugo Sugg on Comment: I’ve been homeless and live on the edge of poverty. Let’s help others like me with low hours contracts.

>Yesterday: WATCH: Gauke on extending pension auto-enrolment to 18-year-olds

Verdicts expected this week on Green and Garnier

‘Theresa May will this week decide whether to sack Damian Green following claims he touched a young activist’s knee and watched pornography on his Commons computer. Downing Street aides expect the Cabinet Office inquiry into the First Secretary of State to report back before Parliament rises on Thursday. The Prime Minister will then decide whether to allow Mr Green to remain in his post as her de facto deputy. Mr Green has been under investigation for six weeks over disputed claims that he made unwanted advances towards Tory activist Kate Maltby, who is 30 years his junior…Mrs May is also expected to make a decision on the fate of international trade minister Mark Garnier, who was accused by a former secretary of instructing her to buy sex toys.’ – Daily Mail

  • New powers for parliamentary watchdog – The Times
  • That could lead to a second investigation – The Sun
  • Maltby received ‘violent threats’ – The Guardian
  • Labour under fire for mishandled harassment investigation – Daily Telegraph

Defence Select Committee warns the MoD will ‘struggle’ to fund acquisitions through savings

‘Plans to buy warships, spy planes and armoured infantry vehicles are in jeopardy, MPs warned yesterday, because the Ministry of Defence will struggle to save the extra £7 billion it needs to foot the bill. The defence select committee said that the MoD had proved “incapable” of making similar savings in the past. “We seriously doubt the MoD’s ability to generate the efficiencies required,” it warned in a report. It said the funding plans, which rely on finding £7.3 billion of savings on top of the £7.1 billion previously announced, were inadequate for “delivering major projects at the heart of the UK’s defence capability”. The £178 billion shopping list, which was set out in 2016, includes eight Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy, mechanised infantry vehicles and nine Boeing P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, to replace the fleet of Nimrods that was decommissioned in 2010.’ – The Times

  • Medicine shortages cost the NHS a fortune – The Times
  • Smart data system planned to stave over winter hospital crisis – Daily Telegraph

Ridley: Vaping is a British success story

‘Imagine if Britain led the world in a new electronic industry, both in production and consumption, if independent British manufacturers had a worldwide reputation for innovation and quality, were based mainly in the north and were exporting to Asia. And that this innovation was saving lives on a huge scale while saving consumers over £100 billion so far. All of this is true of electronic cigarettes. Britain leads the world at vaping. We have taken to it more enthusiastically than any other nation, consuming more than twice as many e-cigarettes as the average European country. There is a thriving manufacturing industry here, even exporting from Blackburn to China. It is probably the fastest-growing industry in the country. Few innovations have happened faster or seen Britain lead the way so much. The result has been a steep fall in smoking.’ – Matt Ridley, The Times

SNP’s Sheppard investigated over ‘anti-semitic’ event from which Jews were turned away

‘An MP is being investigated after Jewish activists were barred from a meeting in which a senior Palestinian made allegedly anti-Semitic remarks. The meeting to highlight injustices faced by Palestinians was held in the Commons and hosted by the SNP MP Tommy Sheppard. It was initially advertised as an open event. But a number of pro-Israel campaigners who had successfully applied to attend were later told it was ‘private’ and turned away – with the exception of a Jewish woman who claimed she was allowed entry because she used an Islamic-sounding name and dressed in a hijab…At the event, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to the UK, Professor Manuel Hassassian, attacked Britain’s attitude towards Israel. He said: ‘They [the British] are still doing trade relations and still sympathising with the Jews as being the victims of the Holocaust. Enough of this rhetoric.” – Daily Mail

  • Scottish Tories urge Sturgeon to cut waste instead of raising taxes – Daily Telegraph
  • Headteachers warn SNP tax raid on private schools will cost more than it brings in – Daily Telegraph
  • Salmond offered to help Mhairi Black get a makeover – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief