Cautious optimism as the Cabinet seeks a shared Brexit end goal

‘The prime minister promised her senior ministers at least two more chances to shape Britain’s desired “end state” before setting out her position publicly at yesterday’s meeting of a cabinet sub-committee. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and Michael Gove, the environment secretary, led calls for a presumption that Britain would diverge from European Union rules during the first formal discussion of the future relationship by senior ministers. They were supported by Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, and Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, in making the case for Britain to seek maximum freedom to pursue economic advantages. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, and Amber Rudd, the home secretary, suggested that it was for those seeking to diverge from EU rules to prove that the benefits would outweigh the costs case by case. “It’s about choosing the ground and the time on which we fight,” an ally said. Mr Hammond, scarred by accusations that he was seeking to thwart Brexit, took care to appear positive about the chances of securing a beneficial deal with the EU. “He was notably upbeat about the range of scenarios that would work and the chances of getting one of them,” according to one of the ten members of the Brexit strategy and negotiations sub-committee.’ – The Times

  • Both cake and eating are back on the menu – FT
  • Business wants clarity – Bernard Spitz, FT
  • Davis will warn the EU it cannot ‘cherry-pick’ between goods and services – The Guardian
  • Let’s take back control of the EU wine cellar – Edward Leigh, The Times
  • There’s a Eurosceptic beauty contest underway – Rachel Sylvester, The Times
  • Rudd praises Soubry – The Times
  • Oxford University finds ‘minimal’ Russian Twitter activity around the EU referendum – FT


The Prime Minister wants a ‘bespoke’ deal from the EU

‘The Prime Minister set the stage for a major clash with Brussels by making clear the UK will not obey the key policies from March 2019. She also insisted that Britain wants a ‘bespoke’ trade deal from the EU, and said she wanted the same level of access as the current arrangements. The bullish comments came as she defended her handling of the Brexit talks in a statement to the Commons – after an EU summit last week formally signed off on moving on to the next phase of negotiations. However, the scale of the challenge still in prospect has been laid bare after senior Eurocrats warned that there will be no special Brexit deal for the City of London. Mrs May flatly rejected a statement from the EU’s Michel Barnier that the UK cannot have a ‘bespoke’ deal, saying he had been contradicted by one of his own aides today.’ – Daily Mail


Timothy: We need more ambition on social mobility

‘Social mobility in Britain, however, is stalling. According to the Social Mobility Commission, “for this generation of young people in particular,” it is “getting worse not better.”…Some policies are moving in the right direction. Conservative school reforms mean English children are better educated than ever before. Our primary schools are climbing the international league tables…Young people have it especially bad. If they go to university, they emerge with average debts of £50,000 – the highest in the world. For the majority of young people who don’t go to university, we have completely inadequate technical education. This is why Justine Greening’s Social Mobility Action Plan, released last week, was disappointing. Full of jargon but short on meaningful policies, it would have been better left unpublished.’ – Nick Timothy, The Sun

  • He calls for higher wealth taxes to help the poor – The Sun
  • Tech makes 13 per cent of jobs redundant every year, but the miracle of capitalism means we all still gain – Daniel Hannan, Washington Examiner

>Today: Robert Halfon’s column: Our schools are the best ever – now let’s build on that success, and deliver more social justice

Lewis: The MoD’s secrecy over the F-35 programme is unacceptable

‘Like any major procurement programme, the F-35 has been no stranger to criticism, on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, since its inception. However, The Times’ investigation reported a number of allegations that provided particular cause for concern. This included claims that the F-35 “is way over budget, unreliable, full of software glitches and potentially unsafe”. Given these serious allegations against one of our country’s biggest investments in defence capability, we immediately resolved, following the formation of the defence committee after the general election, to hold an inquiry into F-35 procurement…Despite repeated requests, the MoD has failed to provide us with the full cost of each aircraft, once spares, upgrades and retrofits are included, or its estimates of the total cost of the programme. This failure to disclose cost estimates, and the suggestion that we would have to wait until the end of the programme in the mid-2030s to discover the full cost of the programme, is completely unacceptable.’ – Julian Lewis, The Times

  • New carrier suffers a leak during sea trials – Daily Mail
  • Defence budget is unlikely to increase, says security adviser – FT
  • Trident might be removed from the MoD budget – The Guardian
  • Cyber attacks take priority over more troops – The Sun
  • Shots fired at Suffolk airbase as car breaches security – The Times

The Great British Manufacturing Boom grows

‘British factories are ramping up production to cope with the biggest rise in demand since the “Lawson boom” of the late 1980s as the cheap pound and a global economic recovery creates a surge in new orders. A closely watched survey of manufacturing by the CBI shows that factories are reporting their strongest order books in the past three decades. It adds to evidence that the 12 per cent fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote has helped fuel a rise in demand for UK goods overseas. The survey said that manufacturers were reporting the sharpest increase in export orders over the past two months than at any time since 1995. Economists said manufacturing was becoming the “brightest sector” of the UK economy as it heads into 2018.’ – The Times

Mordaunt commits £180 million to reduce migration and people smuggling

‘Ministers yesterday pledged to spend £180million of Britain’s bloated foreign aid budget to stem the flow of migrants fleeing Africa. International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said the taxpayer-funded package will help build infrastructure, create jobs and smash smuggling routes across Libya, Sudan and Tanzania. Britain will spend £121million over five years in Sudan to persuade nearly half a million people to stay in the country by giving potential migrants cash and vouchers to buy food, health assistance and also helping returning migrants to integrate back into communities. A further £55million will be spent in Tanzania over four years – supporting 300,000 vulnerable refugees to live safely in the country. And an extra £5million package in Libya will provide humanitarian aid and protection to migrants and refugees stranded in detention centres. Ms Mordaunt said: “The sheer scale of the migration crisis in the Mediterranean makes it one of the most pressing global challenges we face, and behind the numbers are millions of individual tales of both hope and tragedy.”‘ – The Sun

Wallace: My best friend’s a Marxist – and my life’s all the richer for our disagreements

‘When Sophie Warrener, a young Tory, recently tweeted about her friendship with a Labour voter, she was bombarded with messages from those who not only did not understand their relationship, but apparently could not even tolerate its existence. Some even sent her death and rape threats. For what? The crime of caring across party lines. From people wearing “never kissed a Tory” t-shirts (sorry to break it to you: you probably have) or booing LGBT Conservatives at Pride parades, to MPs like Laura Pidcock and Mike Amesbury who announce they could never be friends with a Conservative, this approach combines the petty viciousness of the playground with the dangers of treating a nation state like the set of Mean Girls. It’s entirely short-termist – any gain from painting opponents as untouchables is outweighed by the fact that doing so fragments our society.’ – Mark Wallace, the i paper

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

Corbyn supporter convicted of voting twice

‘A Jeremy Corbyn supporter was fined £150 yesterday after he was caught boasting online that he had voted twice for Labour in the general election. Mohammad Zain Qureshi, 21, admitted he had undertaken the illegal practice of double voting, having registered twice at his home address in Waltham Forest, northeast London, using a minor variation of his name. He used his postal ballot and then voted in person at his local polling station in the constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, represents the seat, but his majority fell to 2,438 at the snap election in June from 8,386 in 2015.’ – The Times

  • Corbyn: ‘I will probably win’ a general election in the next 12 months – Daily Mail
  • Allegations of bullying, corruption and vote-rigging as Momentum seizes control of another constituency – The Sun
  • Labour claims 100,000 NHS jobs are unfilled – Daily Mail
  • Prostate cancer test results take four times longer than breast cancer test results – Daily Mail
  • Salmond investigated for ‘fake tweets’ on Russia Today – The Times

Greater Manchester Police embroiled in corruption allegations

‘A £3.5 million inquiry into one of Britain’s most notorious crime gangs collapsed after multiple claims of police corruption, an investigation by The Times has revealed. Officers from Greater Manchester police were accused of taking bribes from associates of Paul Massey, the underworld “Mr Big” who was murdered in Salford two years ago. The allegations emerged during Operation Holly, a five-year inquiry into money laundering, fraud and tax offences, which centred on a security company for which Massey, 55, was a consultant. Detectives believed that he was a “shadow director” for 21st Security Ltd and that it was used to launder funds and disguise the gang’s gains. Greater Manchester, Britain’s fourth largest force, was facing serious questions last night after this newspaper exposed the corruption allegations and established that the force had failed to investigate them.’ – The Times

  • How a row in a cafe exploded into a bloody gang war – The Times
  • Manchester police officer masterminded drug ring – Daily Telegraph
  • Hertfordshire Police wasted thousands trying to force Private Eye to reveal its subscriber list – The Times

Macron plans wave of privatisations

‘President Macron is poised to sell €10 billion of state holdings in airports, the national lottery and the Engie energy group in the biggest wave of privatisations in France for more than a decade, it emerged yesterday. The sell-off, planned for the spring, is meeting limited resistance from the political left and far right. The income will finance a campaign promise to create a €10 billion fund for high-tech innovation aimed at making France the “digital champion” of Europe. Paris Aéroport, the group that runs Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget airports, could provide the biggest windfall because the state holds 50.6 per cent of the company which is valued at €25 billion. The government wants to retain ownership of the land. This will require a new structure in which the state will retain a minority holding, said Les Échos, the business newspaper that leaked the plans.’ – The Times

News in Brief