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Davis braces for Brexit talks to ‘turn nasty’ over services and the City…

“David Davis warned of more ‘thunder and lightning’ to come in Brexit talks today – as he vowed that financial services must be covered by any deal with the EU. The Brexit Secretary delivered a stark message to Brussels that they will not be allowed to ‘cherry pick’ a free trade deal that excludes the City of London. He admitted the negotiations would not be ‘straightforward’ but said the UK wants ‘the full sweep of economic cooperation’, with minimal barriers to trade in both goods and services. His comments challenge those of Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, who has repeatedly said the final Brexit deal cannot include financial services.” – Daily Mail

  • Brexit Secretary warns Brussels it can’t ‘cherry pick’ a deal with Britain – The Sun
  • May affirms confidence in Davis – FT
  • Prime Minister warned she will be ‘brought down’ if she goes for soft Brexit – The Sun

>Yesterday: John Longworth in Comment: Leavers have every reason to be optimistic about the year ahead

…as Starmer prepares to force a vote on the Charter of Rights

“Keir Starmer has torn into the government’s “woefully inadequate” analysis of how the EU charter of fundamental rights will be covered by British law after Brexit, warning that essential protections will be lost. The shadow Brexit secretary said Labour would force a vote on the issue this month at the next stage of the EU withdrawal bill, as the government was still refusing to transpose the charter into UK law. The government managed to head off a rebellion on the issue by Conservative MPs, led by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, by promising a “right-by-right analysis” of how UK law already covers the same ground as the charter on areas such as children, the environment, data and consumer rights.” – The Guardian

  • Government mulls membership of Trans-Pacific Partnership post-Brexit – The Times
  • Fox slams die-hard Remainers who can’t see the positives of leaving the EU – Daily Mail
  • Cable attacked for saying he’ll block Brexit in the Lords – The Sun
  • German MEP wants to use Brexit to punish rule-breaking member states – Daily Express

Comment:

  • A seismic year awaits financial services even before Brexit – Omar Ali, Daily Telegraph
  • The post-Brexit deals the UK needs to prioritise – Gemma Tetlow, FT
  • Brussels will gain nothing by erecting a new wall between Britain and Europe – David Campbell-Bannerman, Daily Telegraph
  • Even EU leaders are giving up on stopping Brexit – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The destruction of German conservatism by Merkel and Kohl

May ‘single-handedly’ resisting bid to remove students from immigration figures

“Theresa May has “single-handedly blocked” her colleagues’ attempts to remove international students from immigration figures, George Osborne claimed, as speculation grew that the government will drop the policy. Ministers have warned Mrs May that she faces defeat in the Commons if the issue comes to a vote. Ruth Davidson, the increasingly influential Scottish Conservative leader, said that “including students in the figure is distortive, counterproductive and sends out entirely the wrong signals”. She added: “I hope this change happens soon.” Mrs May has repeatedly resisted calls to remove students from the official measure of immigration but the arithmetic of a hung parliament means she would almost inevitably be defeated if it came to a vote.” – The Times

  • Defiant Prime Minister will continue to count them towards her targets – Daily Mail
  • Airport blunders may have allowed thousands to bypass border checks – Daily Telegraph

More May:

  • Tory leader claims Stamp Duty cut has helped 16,000 already – The Times

>Today: Local Government: Beauty is not enough to secure the new homes we need

Tories warned that they could lose half their London boroughs

“Theresa May faces losing half of the Tory-run London boroughs at the local elections, a Conservative peer warns today. Lord Hayward, an elections expert who worked for David Cameron, said the party is on track to lose Barnet to Labour and Kingston to the Liberal Democrats. Barnet – Margaret Thatcher’s former borough – has never been controlled by Labour since it was first established in 1965. And he warned the Tories were in a ‘fight for their lives’ in Wandsworth and Westminster, with both set to fall to Labour on a good night for Jeremy Corbyn. Such losses in May would see the Tories reduced to running just five town halls among the capital’s 32.” – Daily Mail

  • Conservatives now have ‘fewer than 10,000’ young members – iNews

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Tory optimism about the next election is at its highest since August (but is still only half the level of April)

Ministers 1) Grayling hints at facing down unions to lower rail prices

“Transport Secretary Chris Grayling denied shirking his responsibilities to squeezed commuters tonight after he was slammed for flying to Qatar as fares spiralled. Mr Graying said he would like to see lower increases in future but warned it involved unpicking long-term contracts and opposition from unions. Average fares are up 3.4 per cent, in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation – much higher than wages and the higher of two main inflation indexes. Mr Grayling said RPI was used across the rail industry and was the basis of salary claims by trade unions – meaning it could not be scrapped overnight.” – Daily Mail

  • Tory MPs lead revolt after biggest increase in years – Daily Telegraph
  • Outcry over rail prices as minister takes flight – The Times
  • Transport Secretary accused of ‘hiding in Qatar’ – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Don’t blame rail companies for the franchise system’s failings – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • This reveals the rotten state of Britain’s rail system – Nils Pratley, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • Nationalisation won’t solve rising fares – The Sun

Ministers 2) Lidington concerned by drop in community sentences

“Ministers are worried at the drop in community sentences being handed down by judges and magistrates. David Lidington, the justice secretary, is relying on the greater use of community sentences to help to stabilise and then reduce the prison population from its present level of 84,500. However, the number of offenders given community sentences each year has fallen by almost half from 190,000 in 2008 to 102,000 in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016 the number fell by 10 per cent. There has also been a steady rise in suspended sentences, whereby offenders are jailed if they break the terms of their sentences.” – The Times

Ministers 3) Downing Street mulls ‘significant’ reshuffle… of the junior ranks

“Downing Street are eyeing a “significant” reshuffle of the junior government ranks while only making minor changes to Theresa May’s Cabinet top team, The Sun has learnt. The Prime Minister is under pressure to bring in new talent to the Government ranks to give future leadership contenders vital ministerial experience. It’s understood members of the 2015 intake of Tory MPs will be the biggest winners, but no new jobs yet for MPs who joined the Commons in 2017. Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis was hotly tipped to be put in charge of struggling Tory HQ with ex-soldier James Cleverly as his deputy. And Tory sources said Digital Minister Matt Hancock was also bidding to replace under fire party chairman Patrick McLoughlin.” – The Sun

  • ‘Toxic’ Hunt must not be promoted, May warned – The Times

>Today: J Meirion Thomas in Comment: The new rules aimed at preventing health tourism are toothless, and leave the NHS wide open to abuse

Scottish Conservatives urge Sturgeon to abandon tax hike plans

“Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to drop plans for an income tax hike in April after it emerged Scottish households were hit with a 15 per cent increase in their energy and insurance bills last year. Price comparison website comparethemarket.com published research showing on average Scots paid £300 more last year in total for their utilities and car and home insurance premiums. The rise was one of the largest anywhere in the UK, with an £268.39 (19.7 per cent) average increase in energy bills responsible for the vast majority of the squeeze on household incomes. The Conservatives seized on the figures as further evidence that “now is not the time” for the SNP government to increase income tax on middle and high earners.” – Daily Telegraph

Corbyn urged to break his silence on Iran

“Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure to speak out about the unrest in Iran. The Labour leader has a longstanding interest in the country but has yet to comment on the protests. Elite troops charged with protecting the Islamic revolution have taken control of security in Tehran while security forces on motorcycles and in armoured vehicles have appeared on the streets. The protests grew out of provincial demonstrations last week against rising food prices. On Sunday Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, said he was “watching events in Iran with concern”, adding it was “vital that citizens should have the right to demonstrate peacefully”. But it was not until yesterday that Emily Thornberry, his Labour shadow, offered the opposition’s stance.” – The Times

  • Labour leader holds his tongue as death toll mounts – The Sun
  • Trump orders Iran to unblock social media- Daily Mail

More America:

  • US withholds $255 million in aid to Pakistan – Daily Mail
  • President taunts Kim as South Korea seeks talks – The Times
  • Trump warns he could end aid to Palestinians – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • The West must seize this chance to change Iran – Roger Boyes, The Times
  • The world must show a united front supporting the protests – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph
  • Picture of defiance which could spark a revolution – Mark Almond, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Corbyn should speak out against the theocracy – The Times

Young claims the Left are out to topple him from education post

“Toby Young, the free school pioneer and writer, claimed yesterday that a politically motivated campaign by the left was attempting to halt his appointment to the new university watchdog. Mr Young, 54, has faced criticism since being selected this week to join the board of the Office for Students after critics unearthed deleted comments about women he had posted on social media. Tweets emerged yesterday showing that Mr Young, who runs the New Schools Network charity, requested the identity of an MP with “serious cleavage” sitting behind Ed Miliband during prime minister questions in 2012… Mr Young told The Times he had composed more than 56,000 tweets since joining Twitter almost ten years ago and admitted that some were “sophomoric and politically incorrect”.” – The Times

  • Doubts cast on Department’s claims about his qualifications for the post – The Guardian

Comment:

  • We need outsiders to keep an eye on our universities – James Kirkup, The Times

>Yesterday: Local Government: Another attempt to give vulnerable children the chance to go to boarding schools

Varadkar sparks fresh row as he outlines hopes of annexing Northern Ireland

“Ireland’s PM was branded “immature” and accused of grandstanding by the DUP after he admitted he wants to see the UK break apart. Leo Varadkar said he will try and persuade unionist voters to support a united Ireland – in comments likely to enrage the DUP and Brexiteers. The country’s PM is supposed to guarantee the Good Friday Agreement, which states it is up to the people of Northern Ireland to decide whether to stay in the UK or not. But he told reporters today he is keen to see Northern Ireland join the Republic in a new state covering the whole island of Ireland.” – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • May shouldn’t over-promise on a reshuffle – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • Protesters toppling the Iranian regime could be a game-changer – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • Our top risks for 2018 – Eurasia Group
  • Happy New Year, Michael Gove – Brexit Central
  • Meet the man who introduced Britain to the joys of free trade – Christopher Rowe, CapX

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