Downing Street rebukes Hammond over paying to access EU markets

“Downing Street has disputed a suggestion by Philip Hammond that the UK could keep paying into the EU budget after Brexit in exchange for British banks getting privileged access to European markets. The Times revealed yesterday that government figures in EU capitals were examining ways to tailor a trade deal that includes financial services if Britain keeps making substantial payments to the bloc — despite the chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s insistence that the EU could only offer an agreement that excluded banking. The chancellor appeared to embrace the idea. Asked in Berlin if Britain could pay the EU for banking access, he said: “We will talk about all of these things.” Downing Street played down the idea. “We will not be paying for market access,” a spokesman for Theresa May said. ” – The Times

  • Prime Minister promises financial services priority in deal – FT
  • Khan ‘restarts Project Fear’ with pessimistic impact assesment – Daily Mail


  • TUC demands that May defends workers rights post-Brexit – FT
  • Farage climbs down after backing new vote – The Times
  • No-one in Brussels wants a second vote, Eurocrat claims – Daily Express
  • Tory donor Stringfellow threatens to quit over Brexit – Daily Mail
  • Brussels may impose ‘border charge’ on visiting Britons – Daily Express

>Today: ToryDiary: Sir Nigel Farage, prince of self-indulgence, would like your attention

Stephen Hammond: We need to take a serious look at EFTA

“There are several options for the UK. If our objectives are to provide some certainty for businesses, replicate mutual access, allow some opportunity for wider free trade agreements (FTAs) and give scope to agree a long-term bespoke deal with the EU, then initially rejoining Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland in the European Free Trade Association (Efta) would be a sensible and pragmatic first move. Efta was an appropriate staging post when joining the EU, so surely the same applies when leaving.” – Times Red Box

  • Hammond’s cham offensive won’t work – James Blitz, FT
  • Barnier knows he’s winning the negotiations, we must turn the tide – John Longworth, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour was right to be cautious on Europe, but no longer – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • Brexit exposes our reliance on the City – Philip Collins, The Times
  • Farage has called for a second vote. Bring it on – Lord Adonis, The Guardian
  • Liberal leavers need to retake control of Brexit – Ben Kelly, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Nick Faith in Comment: Five actions for new Secretaries of State as they get to grips with their new departments

May pledges to defend press freedom…

“Theresa May has criticised peers for voting to restrict media freedom, saying the plans would “undermine high-quality journalism and a free press”. Ministers have pledged to overturn amendments passed in the Lords on Wednesday night that seek to compel the government to launch the second phase of the Leveson inquiry into press standards. The Lords also voted in favour of a separate set of amendments that would effectively force all newspapers to pay legal costs in data protection court cases, even if they win. Publishers would only be able to escape the penalties if they signed up with the state-recognised regulator Impress, which most refuse to do… Yesterday the prime minister said that the government would seek to remove the amendments when the Data Protection Bill reaches the Commons.” – The Times


  • Lord help us from this press-hating band of botherers – Mick Hume, The Sun


  • Amendments are a threat to journalistic freedom – The Times
  • ‘Leveson 2’ is a threat to a free press – Daily Telegraph

…as she sets out 25-year plan for ‘green and pleasant land’…

“Endangered species will benefit from 1.2 million acres of new habitat, an area three times the size of Greater London, the government pledged yesterday in its 25-year environment plan. A new principle of “environmental net gain” will become mandatory for new housing and transport links, meaning that wildlife will have to be enhanced, not just protected, when development is permitted. The plan, which is much bolder than leaked versions, seeks to deliver on Theresa May’s manifesto pledge to “make ours the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it”… Unveiling the plan at the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes, Mrs May said Brexit would “not mean a lowering of environmental standards” and that the 25-year plan would deliver “clean air, clean and plentiful water, plants and animals which are thriving, and a cleaner, greener country for us all”.” – The Times

  • May under pressure to back bottle deposit scheme after Tesco support – Daily Telegraph
  • Developers told to improve the environment – FT


  • Environmental push is a good start but more must be done – Vanessa Kirby, Times Red Box
  • May’s plan is big on gimmicks but won’t cut waste – George Monbiot, The Guardian


  • Conservatives scent political advantage in environmental plans – The Times
  • Innovate to defeat the plastic sludge – Daily Telegraph
  • A plan short on concrete action – FT

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Theresa May: “Our goal of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste”. Speech on the 25 Year Environment Plan – full text

…and is next to receive a letter from health chiefs

“Furious A&E chiefs have warned Prime Minister Theresa May that patients are ‘dying prematurely’ in hospital corridors. A leaked letter, written by the bosses of 60 casualty units, reveals there are ‘serious concerns’ about patient safety amid the NHS’ worst winter on record. Chiefs warned just 45 per cent of patients had been seen within four hours in some A&E units during last week – well below recommended levels. The strongly-worded letter also revealed how levels were ‘never higher than 75 per cent’. The Government time-target is 95 per cent. Their revelation, seen by HSJ, mirrors figures released by NHS England today which showed waiting times have reached their worst on record… Names on the scathing letter, dated yesterday, included some of the bosses of the biggest and busiest casualty units across the country.” – Daily Mail

  • Boles urges Government to rebrand ‘National Health Insurance’ – The Sun
  • Sturgeon apologises again over NHS waiting times – Daily Telegraph


  • Politicians would rather use health as a battleground than fix it – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Local Government: Councils should challenge the NHS to sell more surplus land for homes

>Yesterday: Interviews: Boles says that National Insurance should become National Health Insurance – and fund the NHS

Gove ‘opens door to new leadership bid’

“Michael Gove has opened the door to making a second Tory leadership bid to replace Theresa May. The ambitious Environment Secretary pointedly refused to rule out mounting another run for No10 yesterday. His first bid for power 18 months ago ended in disaster, as well as the sack from the Cabinet, after he knifed former close ally Boris Johnson. Quizzed on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme if he was a candidate to lead the country one day, Mr Gove would only say his “focus is completely” on his current job. He also tipped fellow Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and newly appointed Education Secretary Damian Hinds as potential Tory leaders.” – The Sun

>Today: Peter Franklin in Comment: Ruling political tribes 2) The Conservatives. Gove is now in a position to emerge as kingmaker – or, just maybe, as King.

Ministers 1) Jo Johnson raises tensions over Timothy’s role after Greening criticism

“Tensions over Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former chief of staff, flared yesterday as a minister publicly attacked him for disparaging Justine Greening. Jo Johnson, the new transport minister, defended Ms Greening, who walked out of government during Monday’s reshuffle. He was responding to Mr Timothy who claimed in an article that Mrs May had been “exasperated” by Ms Greening before sacking her. The role of Mr Timothy is understood to be exacerbating tensions inside No 10 with other key Downing Street aides unsure exactly how much Mrs May continues to talk to her former chief of staff. Mr Timothy left No 10 after being blamed for the Tories’ lacklustre election campaign last year, but is also thought to feed ideas to Mrs May through other figures in Downing Street with whom he has worked, as well as ministers.” – The Times

  • Minister’s new job shows northern transport is taking a back seat once again – Mike Amesbury, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Ed Cox in Comment: The North has taken a step closer to getting the transport infrastructure it deserves

Ministers 2) Nokes drafts banks and building societies to campaign against illegal immigration

“Banks and building societies have started checks on up to 76 million current accounts in the biggest extension of Theresa May’s plan to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in the UK. The Home Office said that about 6,000 illegal migrants and failed asylum seekers were likely to be identified in the first year of the policy, with an estimated 900 annually after that. Under the policy, banks and building societies are required to check the immigration status of all current account holders against details of known illegal migrants held by the authorities. An illegal migrant found to be operating an account will be reported to the Home Office… Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, said: “These measures are part of our commitment to make it more difficult for people with no right to live or work in the UK to remain here.”” – The Times

  • UK sees influx of foreign students dry up – FT


  • We’re making it harder for illegal migrants to work in Britain – Caroline Nokes, Daily Telegraph

Ministers 3) Lidington convenes ministers over possible collapse of major contractor

“Senior ministers from across most of Whitehall gathered on Thursday to discuss the plight of Carillion amid fears the ailing contractor is close to collapse. David Lidington, Cabinet Office minister, convened the afternoon gathering of senior figures including Greg Clark, business secretary, Jo Johnson, transport minister, Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury and justice minister Rory Stewart to discuss the possible demise of the construction and services group. Also present were ministers from the culture, health, education and communities departments as well as the Foreign Office. The scale of the meeting reflects the importance of Carillion to the government given its contracts with numerous departments, and in particular justice, transport and defence. These will need to be replaced – or taken in-house – if the company collapses.” – FT

Francois warns against further defence cuts

“A former Conservative defence minister warned “pinstriped warriors” at the Treasury against pushing for reductions to the armed forces because of a lack of money. Mark Francois voiced his concern in the Commons along with other MPs from all parties at the threat of a new round of cuts to the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force unless there is an increase in defence spending. He described a suggestion, said to have been supported by the chancellor last year, to reduce the army to as low as 50,000 soldiers from a target size of 82,000 as ludicrous… Three leaked lists of options for cost-saving cuts to the armed forces published in The Times today reveal a stark set of options to reduce manpower, warships, jets, helicopters and vehicles to enable the Ministry of Defence to balance the books.” – The Times

  • Elite regiments face merger threat – The Times


  • We can’t afford to rule the waves anymore – Edward Lucas, The Times

Tory peer drops ‘C-bomb’ whilst describing abuse of candidates

“A Tory peer today became the first politician to purposely drop the C-bomb in Parliament as she used the swear word in a debate on social media abuse. Baroness Jenkin warned her fellow peers that she was about to use ‘unparliamentary language’ before turning the air blue. She used the word as she quoted the abuse one Conservative Party candidate received in the General Election campaign last year. A source in Hansard – which has documented every single parliamentary debate since 1909 – said it is the first time the word was used in a speech by a peer or MP in the Chamber since records began over 100 years ago.” – Daily Mail

MPs plan to ‘force’ the Government into approving Westminster renovations

“Worried MPs plan to force Theresa May’s hand on approving a £6billion restoration of Parliament – amid fury over 18 months of dithering by No 10. The Sun can reveal Tory backbencher Sir Edward Leigh is close to securing a six-hour Commons debate at the end of the month in a bid to compel the Government to begin urgent repairs. The move comes 24 hours after a drainage problem forced red-faced officials to close of dozens of toilets in the seat of power. Officials on the so-called Backbench Committee have yet to take a final decision – but have pencilled in a possible date… His motion will urge MPs to support the immediate beginning of restoration work – but with MPs and peers allowed to remain on site while work takes place.” – The Sun

Williamson resigns from Labour front bench over council tax call…

“Close Corbyn ally Chris Williamson today quit the Labour frontbench after ‘letting the cat out of the bag’ and calling for a council tax rise. Mr Williamson resigned as shadow fire minister saying he is returning to the backbenches so he can campaign ‘on a broader range of issues’. A Labour source denied he was quitting after angering party chiefs by threatening to try to usher in a major tax rise. But his departure comes just a day after he called for council tax to be hiked by up to 100 per cent so town halls can spend more. And Tory chiefs had seized upon his comments, creating leaflets to warn voters about his bid to clobber them with higher taxes ahead of local elections in May. Tory Party deputy chairman James Cleverly said he had been ‘fired by Labour for letting the cat out of the bag’ and on their bid to raise taxes.'” – Daily Mail

  • HMRC slammed by MPs for giving super-rich ‘concierge-style’ treatment – Daily Mail
  • Waiting times for tax helplines are twice as long as claimed – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Ben Houchen in Local Government: Why I will not increase the Council Tax in Tees Valley

…as another Corbyn ally backs RMT ‘bung’ to striking workers

“Labour’s shadow transport minister has sparked fresh anger by backing a militant union’s cash “bung” to rail workers to keep striking. Opposition frontbencher Karl Turner dubbed The Sun’s revelation about the RMT’s £200 handout to all strikers this month as “very good”. He also risked deepening frustrated commuters’ rage by pledging to join the RMT picket line today in its third day of industrial action this week. Mr Turner tweeted about the cash: “It’s called ‘strike fund’. That’s what unions do. Well done RMT and thanks for looking after members!”. But only the RMT union are making the controversial payments to strikers during the 20 month-long dispute about driverless trains. More moderate train drivers union ASLEF has held back for fear of upsetting passengers, despite strike pay being legal.” – The Sun

  • Labour may open quotas to transgender women – The Times

>Yesterday: Peter Franklin in Comment: Ruling political tribes 1) Labour. How the Left came in from the wilderness and drove the Blairites out.

Trump cancels UK visit

“Donald Trump has scrapped plans to visit Britain next month. The US President was expected to make his first trip to the UK since entering office, but Government officials have been told he has gone cold on the idea. No new date has been offered, raising the prospect of a major diplomatic snub. One senior source suggested Mr Trump – who was expected to officially open the new US embassy in London – cancelled because he was unhappy about the arrangements and the scale of the visit. But Mr Trump tweeted overnight that he thought the US embassy’s move from Grosvenor Square in London’s prestigious Mayfair district to Nine Elms, south of the Thames, was a ‘bad deal’.” – Daily Mail

  • Britain, Germany, and France urge US not to abandon Iran deal – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Garvan Walshe’s column: The protests in Iran show the regime is running out of time

News in Brief:

  • Farage’s call for a second referendum is epically stupid – Suzanne Evans, Brexit Central
  • Mending the Conservative Party – Martin Le Jeune, Reaction
  • We can radically reform the NHS without privatising it – Andrew Lilico, CapX
  • The mob won’t stop until it has destroyed me – Tony Young, The Spectator