Barnier abandons Brexit ‘punishment clause’ after backlash

“Brussels has cancelled a controversial plan to punish Britain during the Brexit transition if it breaks EU rules following a furious backlash. EU negotiator Michel Barnier included the clause in a draft transition agreement last week, setting out powers to penalise the UK during the two years after Brexit begins next March. Brexit Secretary David Davis accused Mr Barnier of acting in bad faith after he insisted it was necessary to enforce the divorce agreement and make sure Britain continues to follow all EU rules during the transition. The row had threatened to overshadow Theresa May’s visit to Germany for talks with Angela Merkel tomorrow, ahead of a speech in Munich on Saturday. Other EU states – thought to be as many as 12 including France – were also angered by the clause, believing it to be damaging to the hopes of a good trade deal at the end of the talks. It emerged today the clause had been dropped from the draft following the row.” – Daily Mail

  • May urged to offer ‘concrete’ plans in showdown with Merkel – The Sun
  • Prime Minister warned against harsh immigration policy – The Guardian
  • UK aims to align financial rules with EU after Brexit – FT
  • Businesses demand ‘partial customs union’ after split – Daily Express
  • Labour gets 16,000 emails urging it to consult on Brexit – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Martyn Rady in Comment: The Prime Minister should replace the negotiating team and follow Barnier’s tough-talking example

Stephen Martin and Allie Renison: Narrowed customs union could pave way to whole new world

“Leaving the EU customs union is less a choice and more an inevitable consequence of leaving the bloc. But that should not preclude a discussion about whether a new customs union should replace it and how it could be balanced against the government’s desired flexibility to negotiate with the rest of the world. Taking account of these competing pressures, we believe it is possible for the UK to remain in a narrowed customs union with the EU, covering all industrial good and some processed agricultural goods, but certainly not raw agricultural products such as oranges or cane sugar. This would minimise the cost to our manufacturers, while allowing us to take advantage of new trade deals in future.” – Times Red Box

  • EU is on the brink of political chaos and Britain could be the loser – Liam Halligan, Daily Telegraph
  • Let’s burn EU red tape and embrace an era of prosperity – John Longworth, Times Red Box
  • Soft Brexit would tie Britain to a decaying bureaucracy – Alan Oxley, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson could have healed a national rift but thought only of himself – Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Daniel Hannan MEP’s column: Johnson – a Tigger among Eeyores – is right to restate the positive, uplifting vision of Brexit

Williamson suggests that Corbyn betrayed Britain during the Cold War

“Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson accused Jeremy Corbyn of having ‘betrayed’ Britain today after secret documents revealed he met a Soviet-backed spy during the Cold War. Mr Williamson said the revelation, contained in secret files held by Czech security services, proved the Labour leader ‘cannot be trusted’. The incendiary intervention provoked a furious response from Labour, which has already angrily labelled the claims as a ridiculous smear. Confidential papers show Mr Corbyn met the Czech agent at least three times after being vetted by communist handlers in 1986, papers reveal. Two meetings took place in the heart of British democracy – the House of Commons. And in records of the meeting an espionage agent noted how Mr Corbyn was ‘occasionally explosive’.” – Daily Mail

  • Labour hits back at Defence Secretary over spy claims – The Guardian
  • Thatcher expelled Communist spy who met Labour leader – Daily Mail


  • May seeks ‘deep and special’ EU security links – FT
  • Retired head of MI6 criticises May’s international leadership – Daily Mail
  • Williamson’s levity masks serious ambitions – FT
  • Germany accused of ‘free riding’ on NATO – The Sun


  • Labour leader has a long record of opposing collective security – The Times
  • Corbyn’s Soviet links should bar him from Downing Street – The Sun

>Yesterday: Left Watch: It’s not a ‘smear’ to say chunks of the 20th Century Left were Soviet useful idiots – or worse

Thousands of prisoners will get out of jail early in bid to reduce overcrowding

“Thousands more prisoners are to be released early under a government drive to relieve pressure on overcrowded and drug-ridden jails, The Times has learnt. The Ministry of Justice has acted to significantly increase the number of inmates in an early release scheme after discovering that tens of thousands of eligible offenders – including those serving sentences for violence, robbery, burglary and public order crimes – were missing out. Governors have been ordered to review cases of prisoners refused release under the home detention curfew (HDC) scheme, which allows them to return home with an electronic tag and curfew, according to a paper quietly released by the MoJ last month.” – The Times

Villiers warns that London will have to set budget for Ulster as talks fail

“Westminster being forced to set Northern Ireland’s budget is “increasingly inevitable”, a former Cabinet minister has claimed after powersharing talks collapsed. The DUP, which props up the Conservative government in Westminster, refused to agree to Sinn Fein demands to introduce legal protections for the Irish language, and said there was “no prospect” of a deal. Theresa Villiers, the former Northern Ireland secretary, said the continued absence of a ruling executive in the province after more than a year of stalemate meant the UK Government would likely have to step in to keep services running. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, is under intense pressure over the instability after she visited Belfast on Monday amid increasing speculation that a deal was close.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sinn Fein blame DUP for Ulster talks collapse (and the DUP blame… May) – The Times
  • Parties criticised for ‘outsourcing blame’ to the Prime Minister – Belfast Telegraph
  • Ulster impasse adds to May’s woes – FT
  • Trimble backs call to direct rule… – Daily Telegraph
  • …but Dublin says there is ‘no appetite’ for it – FT
  • Robinson claims he declined a DUP nomination for a peerage – News Letter


  • Collapse of talks shows Belfast Agreement has outlived its usefulness – Ruth Dudley Edwards, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Why Northern Ireland’s talks collapsed. Sinn Fein’s red line was too green for the DUP.

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Stormont talks collapse as Foster joins calls for direct rule

Young People 1) Bottomley suggests Tories could back votes for 16-year-olds

“The voting age could be lowered to 16 before the next election, a former minister said last night. Sir Peter Bottomley suggested there was ‘growing’ support among Conservative MPs for the reform. Senior Tories including ex-Chancellor George Osborne and former education secretary Nicky Morgan have recently come out in favour of reducing the voting age. Mr Osborne, who now edits the London Evening Standard, said yesterday that the Tories would lose a vote in the Commons if they do not back down. He tweeted: ‘More Tory MPs now support votes for 16-year-olds. By my count, the Government now doesn’t have a majority to stop it.’ Jeremy Corbyn is strongly in favour of cutting the current voting age of 18, believing it could ease his path to Downing Street.” – Daily Mail

  • Osborne wants the voting age lowered – The Times

Young People 2) MPs urge May to take action on housing

“Young middle-class professionals are half as likely to get on the housing ladder as they were 20 years ago, a new study has found as Tory MPs warned that the issue is an “iceberg” that could sink the party at the next election… It comes amid mounting concern in the Conservative Party that the Government is failing to build enough homes and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, is cutting through to “generation rent”. A string of Tory MP are urging Theresa May to take more radical action. Nick Boles, a Tory MP and former planning minister, said: “The double whammy of stagnant wages and spiralling house prices has had a devastating effect on the ability of people in their 20s and 30s to buy their own home. “This is is an iceberg warning for Theresa May and the Conservative Party: if we do not take bold steps to get more houses built it will sink us at the next election.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Home-ownership amongst young middle-earners has ‘collapsed’ – The Times


>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Exclusive: Proposed changes on associations and candidate selection are being “revised” in the face of strong opposition

Labour MP claims tackling child abuse was a priority for Cameron… as he was a father

“Tackling child abuse was a priority for David Cameron partly because he was a father, a Labour MP said last night. But Theresa May has not taken as much interest in the issue since she entered Number 10, Sarah Champion said. In an interview with The House magazine, the MP for Rotherham said it was likely that some MPs were involved ‘in some way or another’ with child sexual abuse. And she claimed the British authorities do not take enough action to crack down on female genital mutilation because they are wary of ‘cultural sensitivities’. Miss Champion spoke out six months after she was sacked from Labour’s front bench for warning that the UK had a ‘problem’ with Pakistani men targeting vulnerable white girls.” – Daily Mail

Miller leads investigation into sexual harassment at work…

“MPs have begun an inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace, including the use of non-disclosure agreements in such cases. The women and equalities select committee is to look at workplace culture, how staff can be better protected from sexual harassment by clients, and the effectiveness of means of redress. Maria Miller, the Tory MP and chairwoman of the committee, said: “Over the past few months there have been widespread reports of women’s appalling experiences of sexual harassment at work. Our recent evidence session… painted a stark picture. Clearly much more needs to be done, both by government and employers.” She added: “We need to change workplace culture, keep women safe and provide effective legal remedies. We also need to understand whether non-disclosure agreements are being abused by legal experts and employers to cover up wrongdoing.”” – The Times

…as Oxfam faces two probes from MPs and the watchdog

“The Charity Commission is to investigate Oxfam’s operations in Haiti, Chad and Liberia as part of a widescale inquiry into aid workers’ conduct overseas. The charity’s bosses will also be hauled before MPs for a separate probe into allegations of sexual misconduct by its staff. The developments came as Oxfam admitted rehiring one of the workers sacked over the Haiti sex scandal. The charity said it later took him on as a consultant in Ethiopia – a decision it described as a ‘serious error’. Chief executive Mark Goldring and chairman of trustees Caroline Thomson will face the Commons International Development Committee at an ‘urgent session’ next Tuesday to answer questions about the scandal and the charity’s safeguarding policies.” – Daily Mail

  • Let the poor, not Oxfam, decide what to buy – Philip Collins, The Times

Court ruling edges UKIP closer to bankruptcy

“Ukip has been edged closer to financial ruin after a judge ruled the party must contribute towards a £660,000 legal bill following a defamation action brought against one of its MEPs by three Labour MPs. Last year, Jane Collins was successfully sued by Sarah Champion, Sir Kevin Barron and John Healey, whom she had accused in 2014 of ignoring child sex abuse in Rotherham. At the time, Mr Justice Warby said Collins, the Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, should pay £54,000 in damages to each MP as well as paying their costs, with an interim payment of £120,000. Estimates suggest Ukip will have to pay at least £200,000 of a legal bill which stood at £660,000 before a further hearing on Thursday. None of the costs have so far been paid.” – The Guardian

Sarwar urges Sturgeon to take action on racism

“Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to adopt equality training for senior figures in public life to help tackle “everyday racism” in Scotland. Labour MSP Anas Sarwar is also calling for a review of the legal framework surrounding racist and Islamophobic abuse on social media in a letter to the First Minister. Mr Sarwar recently claimed that senior Labour councillor Davie McLachlan made racist comments during a conversation between the pair during the recent Labour leadership contest, when the Glasgow MSP lost out to Richard Leonard. This was “categorically denied” by the councillor and a party probe is now underway. Mr Sarwar recently launched the Cross Party Group (CPG) on Tackling Islamophobia, supported by MSPs from every political party and over 50 organisations.” – The Scotsman

  • SNP suspend councillor over alleged incident – The Scotsman

News in Brief:

  • Johnson clears the path for Cabinet to agree a Brexit deal – Mark Fox, Reaction
  • Is the UK up to the challenges of this volatile age? – James Rogers, CapX
  • Stop and search is our best weapon in the fight against crime – Munira Mirza, The Spectator
  • Brexit is rightly focusing us on the markets of the Commonwealth – Lord Howell, Brexit Central

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