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Brexit 1) May ‘cancels Brexit speech’ over fears of Cabinet splits…

“Theresa May has abandoned preparations for a third high-profile speech on Brexit for fear of widening cabinet splits over Britain’s future relationship with the EU. The prime minister had planned to provide more detail of the so-called “end state” in an address next month on the same scale as those given at Lancaster House and in Florence. Downing Street has called a halt to the preparations, however, fuelling fears that differences in her cabinet are irreconcilable. One senior figure warned that “the concrete is setting… David Davis, the Brexit secretary, played down cabinet rifts over Europe, insisting that there was “no difference” between him, the chancellor and Mrs May on the subject. He used a speech in Teesport, Redcar and Cleveland, to try to quell Tory unease…” – The Times

  • Chancellor ‘begs’ mutinous Conservatives to back the Prime Minister – The Sun
  • Hunt rounds on May’s Tory critics – Daily Telegraph
  • May’s allies fear ‘humiliating’ confidence vote – The Sun

Comment:

  • One well-aimed speech could topple May – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • May must be strong and lead ministers through the crisis – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • Can the Prime Minister survive? – George Parker and Laura Hughes, FT

Editorial:

  • Too-timid Cabinet must show more ambition – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Why May should make it clear that she will not lead the Conservatives into the next election

Brexit 2) British officials in ‘secret negotiations’ about extending transition

“British officials are in discussions with Brussels about extending the Brexit transition period to almost three years, The Telegraph has learnt. The official Government target for transition is “around two years” but many senior Whitehall officials remain privately concerned about the practicality of such a short transition, given potentially massive changes that would be required by a “hard” Brexit. The Telegraph understands that although it is not formally Government policy, Britain has discreetly begun sounding out senior EU figures over whether transition could be extended amid growing disarray within the Cabinet over the ultimate terms of a long-term deal with the EU.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Davis warns Brussels not to impose new laws on London… – The Sun
  • …as he seeks transition deal in March – FT
  • Brexit Secretary admits migration won’t be limited until 2021 – The Sun
  • Carney predicts ‘conscious recoupling’ with the world economy after Brexit – Daily Mail
  • Rees-Mogg warns May against soft Brexit – Daily Telegraph
  • Peers plot to block ‘no deal’ – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Brexit may need time, but Remainers will exploit the slightest delay – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph
  • A Brexit bonus for the civil service – Sue Cameron, FT

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: David Davis: “A strictly time limited implementation period”. Speech at Teesport – full text

Brexit 3) Hammond launches ‘outspoken attack on Brexiteers’

“Philip Hammond has launched an outspoken attack on Eurosceptics who he accused of wanting to sever trade links with Europe after Brexit and insisted: “We have got to stick to the middle way.” The Chancellor did not resile from comments he made on Thursday when he suggested that Brexit would only result in “very modest” changes to the UK’s relationship with the European Union. Instead, Mr Hammond doubled down and said that the “smaller the changes” to the UK’s access to the European market “the better”. Mr Hammond’s original characterisation of what he wants the UK’s new relationship with Brussels to look like sparked a fierce backlash among Brexiteers.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Paterson urges the Prime Minister to sack the Chancellor – Daily Telegraph
  • Furious MPs demand Hammond be given ‘final warning’  – The Sun
  • Cabinet seeks to present united front after spat – The Guardian
  • Poll shows support for second referendum – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • I regret being so polite about Hammond, he’s utterly unsuited to his job – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • On Brexit there are Tory grownups and the ‘wild bunch’ – Rafael Behr, The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Hammond’s indiscipline shows why May should have moved him – and why she must stop dithering over Brexit

‘Golden era’ of UK-Chinese trade thrown into doubt

“A mutually proclaimed “golden era” in bilateral ties between China and the UK has been thrown into jeopardy ahead of Theresa May’s visit to Beijing next week amid disagreements over China’s overseas investment drive, according to government officials. The UK prime minister was due to hold roundtable discussions with British and Chinese business executives during the visit to discuss the investment programme, known as the Belt and Road Initiative. But the events are now at risk of being scrapped after Mrs May resisted giving a formal endorsement to the programme, the officials said.” – FT

‘Rush to Calais’ after Prime Minister’s asylum promise

“Theresa May’s promise to fast-track the asylum claims of migrants in Calais has led to an increase in the number of people trying to reach Britain. Charities say they have registered about 200 new arrivals since the prime minister announced the accelerated procedure after talks with President Macron of France at Sandhurst, Berkshire, on January 18. There are now said to be between 800 and 900 migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and elsewhere in Calais. The French interior ministry says that about 100 migrants, mainly children, have arrived since the pledge. When the Sandhurst Treaty was signed, Downing Street denied that it would encourage more people to try to reach the UK. The treaty was drawn up after intense lobbying by Mr Macron for Britain to take more migrants.” – The Times

Ministers 1) Defence Secretary accused of scaremongering over Russia

“Experts have accused the UK defence secretary of scaremongering by claiming a Russian disruption of Britain’s electricity interconnectors to Europe would cause chaos and kill thousands of people. Gavin Williamson told the Daily Telegraph that Moscow was looking at energy cables and pipelines between the UK and the EU, and sabotage could come by a cyber-attack, missile or undersea activity. “Why would they keep photographing and looking at power stations, why are they looking at the interconnectors that bring so much electricity and so much energy into our country?” the defence secretary told the newspaper. Experts said the lights were unlikely to go out if the electricity interconnectors, which supply about 5% of UK power, were somehow cut off.” – The Guardian

  • Williamson accused of plotting as colleagues dispute account of affair – Daily Mail

Profile:

  • Ruthless, brilliant… a little bit Alan Partridge – Robert Booth, The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Voters need to take defence spending seriously – then the Government will

Ministers 2) Chancellor accused of ‘misleading Parliament’ over savers tax

“Philip Hammond was today accused of “misleading” Parliament over a ‘Stealth Savers Tax’ first revealed by the Sun. Campaigners revealed letters from the Treasury officials where they admit customers WILL lose money because of a Budget Day decision to end tax relief on a range of saving plans. The admission is in stark contrast to the Treasury’s insistence in November that there would be “no impact on individuals or households”. Former Lib Dem Pensions Minister Steve Webb insists the tax raid will cost 11 million Brits a combined £250 million. Mr Webb – now director of policy at insurance giant Royal London: “There is no doubt that the Chancellor has misled Parliament over this stealth tax.”” – The Sun

>Today: Festus Akinbusoye in Comment: We should be the party of small businesses – not big multinationals

Islamist groups lead campaign against new anti-extremism czar

“The backlash against the appointment of Sara Khan as the Government’s anti-extremism tsar grew today as 100 Muslim groups united to oppose it. Ms Khan is due to run the newly created Commission for Countering Extremism from next month but she has been dismissed as a ‘mouthpiece for the Home Office’. The post is intended to be an independent watchdog advising government on the best ways to tackle extremism in Britain. Ms Khan is co-founder of Inspire, a counter-extremism and human rights organisation. Her website describes her as ‘one of the UK’s leading Muslim female voices on countering Islamist extremism and promoting human rights’.” – Daily Mail

  • I hear my critics – but I’ll listen to victims too – Sara Khan, The Guardian

Labour 1) Pro-Momentum medics seek to end doctors’ union neutrality

“A hard-left plot to drag the professional body for junior doctors into party politics for the first time in its 185-year history can be exposed today. Labour activists with links to Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum group have taken up key roles on the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee. Leaked emails, obtained by the Daily Mail, reveal how they are attempting to ditch the committee’s apolitical stance. The messages show how the Left-wingers are using their positions in a bid to mobilise thousands of junior doctors to join anti-Tory NHS protests.” – Daily Mail

  • Labour suspends activist in transgender row – The Times
  • Three women vying to become first deputy leader in Wales – Wales Online

Comment:

  • Corbyn should attack the Government, not his own side – Alastair Campbell, FT

Labour 2) McDonnell says Venezuela failed because it ‘wasn’t socialist enough’

“The hard-left regime in Venezuela collapsed because it wasn’t socialist enough, John McDonnell said today. The Shadow Chancellor used an appearance in Davos today to say that their system only didn’t work because they didn’t mobilise their oil resources and invest long-term. He told a panel discussing free markets that former leader Hugo Chavez’s policies had helped to “tackle inequality” and “invest in education”. And that they would have worked if they had only “mobilised the oil resources” and invested for their futures. Speaking to business leaders and world leaders in the Swiss ski resort today, Mr McDonnell bizarrely claimed: “It’s not that the issue is socialism vs capitalism.” – The Sun

  • Shadow Chancellor wants rich to publish tax returns – The Times

Trump declares America ‘open for business’

“President Donald Trump told world leaders and bigwigs gathered in Davos the U.S. was now ‘open for business’ – then promised his ‘America First’ agenda didn’t mean the U.S. would go it alone. But after an invest-in-America pitch that had lines that could have been cribbed from a governor’s trade mission, Trump drew audible gasps from the crowd when he reached for his ‘fake news’ broadside against the press. Trump vented in a brief question-and-answer session about ‘how fake the press can be’ then observed ‘the cameras start going off in the back.’ The line lead to gasps, ‘oohs,’ and even some boos from the crowd, who otherwise listened quietly to his remarks.” – Daily Mail

  • Thousands of Ulster jobs safe as Bombardier wins trade dispute with the US – Belfast Telegraph

Comment:

  • Davos is just Britain’s latest humiliation – Marina Hyde, The Guardian

Editorial:

>Today: Book Reviews: Liberal Americans are no nearer working out how to cope with Trump

Policing investigating four cases of expenses abuse

“Police are carrying out investigations into four cases of MPs’ expenses abuses – with prosecutors considering whether to charge one politician. Scotland Yard has been conducting probes into the cases for up to two years, but the individuals have never been named. The investigations, uncovered by MailOnline, raise fresh concerns about the levels of secrecy surrounding allegations about politicians. Two of those under investigation are thought to have stood as candidates in the general election last year. Former sleaze watchdog Sir Alistair Graham said it was wrong that voters were being denied crucial information about their elected representatives.” – Daily Mail

Teachers hit out at ‘flagship’ SNP reform

“John Swinney’s flagship teaching reform to give more power to headteachers could result in an increasing attainment gap between Scottish schools, teachers have claimed. The warning comes in a document outlining teachers and headteachers’ concerns about the education secretary’s plans to overhaul the Scottish schools system. The dossier, to be considered by MSPs at Holyrood next week, reveals teachers’ fears that the reforms will increase their workload and could lead to a “hire and fire” culture for headteachers. Dissatisfaction with pay and conditions as well as problems with teacher recruitment were listed in the document, which is based on a series of focus groups held by the Scottish Parliament’s education committee earlier this month.” – The Scotsman

  • Scottish Government challenged to give teachers a ten per cent pay rise – The Scotsman

>Yesterday: John Bald in Local Government: Greening is not to blame for our unpopularity with teachers

News in Brief:

  • How anti-globalisation switched from being a left-wing to a right-wing issue – Rory Horner, Reaction
  • May is to blame for the row between Hammond and Rees-Mogg – Andrew Grice, The Independent
  • Ten practical remedies for the ailing NHS – Ian Birrell, CapX
  • Britain might consider EFTA, but should steer clear of the EEA – Hjörtur J. Guðmundsson, Brexit Central
  • The FT is a sensationalist rag… say FT readers – Melanie McDonagh, The Spectator

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