Brexit 1) Row over claim that Treasury officials want to keep Britain in the Customs Union

“Treasury officials are ‘determined’ to thwart a clean break from the EU by keeping Britain inside the customs union, it was claimed last night. An extraordinary row broke out after a recording revealed that Tory MPs have been warned that civil servants secretly want to keep the country tied to Brussels. At a private lunch held at the party’s conference in October, a European Union expert raised the prospect that Britain would not leave the customs union – which allows tariff-free trade between EU countries – because of the resolve of civil servants… In the recording of the event attended by several Tory MPs – including Brexit minister Steve Baker – Charles Grant of the think-tank Centre For European Reform could be heard referring to leaving the single market, which standardises regulations for industries across the EU, but expressing doubt about leaving the customs union.” – Daily Mail

  • Treasury deliberately produced gloomy reports, claims Baker – Daily Telegraph
  • Minister accused of undermining the civil service – FT
  • Baker forced into ‘humiliating retreat’ – The Sun
  • May will not sack Brexit minister over row – The Guardian

Brexit 2) No customs union with the EU after Brexit, says Fox

“Britain should not be involved in any customs union with the EU after Brexit, Liam Fox has said in comments which will further complicate Theresa May’s attempt to broker a truce among warring Tory MPs. The international trade secretary said Britain could only “take control” by seeking trade deals across the world which are impossible within EU arrangements. The prime minister has committed to leaving the customs union but nerves are growing among Conservative Brexiteers that the government, and especially the Treasury, are pushing for a deal that effectively replicates its rules in key areas. This would limit the government’s ability to sign trade agreements with new global partners.” – The Times

  • UK weighing post-Brexit deal on customs union – FT


  • May vows UK will remain a ‘player’ after Brexit – The Sun
  • Leaked analysis suggests EU migration will fall by 40,000 a year – Daily Telegraph
  • Residency rights are non-negotiable, says Brussels – The Times
  • Verhofstadt slams May for ‘discrimination’ – Daily Express
  • EU chief says he no longer believes Prime Minister on Brexit – The Sun


  • The Brexit Department is creaking under the weight of responsibility – Jennifer Guay, Times Red Box
  • Soft Brexiteers pile pressure on May – James Blitz, FT
  • Brexit will test our economic fitness, but we can emerge healthier – Ryan Bourne, Daily Telegraph


  • Ministers can’t get bogged down in arguments about the implemention period – The Times
  • Tories must get behind May to make the best of Brexit – The Sun

>Yesterday: Bill Wiggin MP in Comment: A Brexit implementation period might be acceptable – but only if it is strictly time-limited

Brexit 3) Afolami calls on ministers to be more aggressive to defend the City

“Britain must threaten to deregulate the City if Brussels blocks a Brexit trade deal giving its financial services access to EU markets, a Tory MP has warned. Bim Afolami said ministers should tell the EU they will slash financial rules to let the City take on Paris and Frankfurt following any attempt to snatch business from London. The Tory MP, who was an HSBC executive in the City before being elected in June, said playing hardball was the only way to change the EU’s uncompromising stance. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, says no free trade deal can include financial services.” – Daily Mail

  • Brussels threatens sanctions to stop Britain undercutting the EU economy – The Times
  • Patel demands money back from the EU – Daily Express


  • The EU refuses a soft Brexit, so we most invoke the WTO immediately – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph
  • Don’t fall for the prophets of economic doom – Ed Conway, The Times
  • Without fundamental economic change, those forecasts will be reality – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 4) SNP accused of ‘anti-English bias’ over tuition fees plan

SNP ministers have been accused of discriminating against the English by announcing that EU students will continue getting free university tuition in Scotland for four academic years after Brexit. Until now, EU laws have meant the Scottish Government has had to extend its free tuition policy to students from the Continent at a cost of around £93 million a year. The SNP administration has permitted universities to charge English, Welsh and Northern Irish students up to £9,250 a year as a quirk allows discrimination within the same member state. But Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Scottish Higher Education Minister, announced that EU students starting their courses in the 2019/20 academic year would get free tuition regardless of whether the legal obligation continues during the post-Brexit transition period.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Groups opposing hard Brexit unite under Umunna – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Welsh Tories demand that Jones gives investigators his personal emails

Hancock’s app ‘breaches data protection rules’, experts suggest

The minister in charge of the Government’s Data Protection policy has created an app which appears to break these very rules, after promising British people will “have more control over their data.” Matt Hancock MP excitedly launched his new app to engage with constituents – named after himself – on Thursday morning, but it has been described as a “comedy of errors” by data protection experts. It is full of posts about the Digital and Culture minister, allows users to add friends, and post their own thoughts as well as asking him questions. However,  data protection experts have said the app has many data protection and privacy issues, as well as being very loosely moderated, with some users posing as Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Matt Hancock, and even posting pornography.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Don’t knock Mancock, er, Hancock

Osborne urges May to invest in the north

“May was yesterday urged to invest in the North to boost British growth after it emerged pupils are one GCSE grade behind their southern counterparts. A report from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership highlighted the major divide between North and South with a quarter of secondary schools judged to be inadequate or needing improvement. Former Chancellor George Osborne said too many children in the north “weren’t getting the education they need or deserve”. The report calls for £300m in extra funding for the most deprived areas, reform of the Pupil Premium fund and local firms to provide pupils with worthwhile work experience.” – The Sun

MPs 3) Rees-Mogg ‘strengthens position as members’ favourite’ in our survey

Jacob Rees-Mogg has bolstered his position as the favourite among Conservative Party members to be the next Tory leader. The leading Eurosceptic was backed by 21 per cent of Tories who took part in the latest ConservativeHome survey on who should succeed Theresa May, up three points since last month when he was on 18 per cent. Meanwhile, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, and Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, have solidified their positions in the second and third spots with the former on 16 per cent and the latter on 14 per cent. Support for both Mr Gove and Mr Johnson increased by two points on last month. Mr Rees-Mogg, Mr Gove and Mr Johnson are three of the Conservative Party’s most prominent Brexiteers and their position as the frontrunners for the top job is likely to spark speculation that the Tory rank and file want a truly Eurosceptic leader to replace Mrs May if and when she quits.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Gove now second favourite to replace May despite knifing Johnson – The Sun
  • Young Tories say how they think Party can win youth vote – The Sun


  • Charm, style, tousled hair – is it any surprise we lust after Tories? – Paris Lees, The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: A bright start in our Cabinet League Table for McVey, Lewis, Hancock & Hinds. Hammond’s rating heads west.


MPs 2) Halfon calls for aid budget to be used to end hospital parking

“Ministers should raid the overseas aid budget to end the ‘stealth tax’ of hospital car parking charges, a senior MP demanded yesterday. MPs lined up in the Commons to criticise the scandal of vulnerable patients being forced to pay up to £4 an hour to visit their local hospital. Rob Halfon, an ex-minister and chairman of an influential select committee, revealed that families with cancer-stricken children are being forced to pay £37 a week on average, with some spending £10 a day… MPs hit out at private parking companies who used sick patients as ‘cash cows’ – and said many NHS trusts were unable to stop charges because of restrictive private finance initiative deals.” – Daily Mail

  • Government accused of ignoring campaign to scrap charges – The Sun


  • Hunt may let mothers who miscarry late register their baby – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Sir Greg Knight MP in Comment: My Private Member’s Bill will call time on rogue parking operators

MPs 3) Cleverly urges Timothy to “shut… up”

“Theresa May’s divisive former chief of staff must “shut the f*** up”, the deputy chairman of the Conservatives has said. In remarks that reflect simmering tensions within the party, James Cleverly urged Nick Timothy, who resigned last June after overseeing a disastrous election campaign, to refrain from passing comment on the government. Mr Timothy, now a columnist for The Daily Telegraph and The Sun, last week used his first public appearance since his ignominious departure from Downing Street to criticise the government’s “strategic confusion” as well as attack Philip Hammond, the chancellor… In further remarks, reported by The Huffington Post website, Mr Cleverly acknowledged Mr Timothy’s reputation as a cerebral policy thinker but urged him to consider a “period of silent contemplation”.” – The Times

  • Tories failing to produce a ‘big vision’, claims Osborne – Daily Telegraph

MPs 4) Miller backs proxy voting in the Commons

MPs could be allowed to nominate someone to vote on their behalf after plans to help new parents were passed in the House of Commons yesterday. In a unanimous decision politicians backed the idea of baby leave to ensure communities are represented when their MP has a baby or adopts a child. A committee will now draw up proposals to make it happen. Conservative former minister Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “It is 100 years on since the first woman sat in this place but it can, for many of us, still feel like we’re operating in an 18th century model of work – and that is something that really does need to change.” Currently MPs are expected to turn up to vote if the numbers are tight, even if they have just given birth, and babies in the chamber are becoming more common.” – Daily Telegraph

  • MPs must stay in London, and be back in Westminster as soon as possible – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

MPs 5) Elphicke still hasn’t been told why he’s suspended

“Theresa May is facing criticism over an MP who was suspended from the Conservative Party three months ago but has still not been told why. Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, was suspended in November, supposedly in relation to claims of harassment, which he vehemently denies. He said that he had still not been informed of the claims against him. “My lawyers have been making inquiries of the police on a regular basis. No one in this country should have allegations made against them and not be told what they are for three months.” Mr Elphicke said that the saga had cast a long shadow over his family and Christmas. His suspension means that he would not be able to submit a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee – 48 letters are needed to trigger a leadership contest and it is thought that the present number may be about 40.” – The Times

Labour would force landowners to sell at rock-bottom prices

“Labour would force landowners to sell for knockdown prices, it was revealed last night. Under existing laws, the amount of compensation for land compulsorily purchased by the State is calculated by its value after development. It means a hectare of agricultural land – which would be worth around £20,000 undeveloped – would sell for around £2million. But Labour would set up a quango, the English Sovereign Land Trust, and give it powers to buy sites at rock-bottom prices which excluded the up-rating after planning consent is granted. Last night there were warnings that such a move would damage pension funds that invest heavily in land. Property experts Savills also warned there would be legal challenges to the move as it could breach property rights.” – Daily Mail

  • Opposition to seize land ‘for social housing’ – The Times
  • Second council leader quits amidst claims of hard-left abuse – The Times


  • Labour to clarify policy on trans women and all-female shortlists – The Guardian


  • In Haringey the people have taken over, not the hard left – Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian
  • Labour’s antisemitism is worse than it looks – Philip Collins, The Times

>Today: Nicholas Daniels in Comment: I’ve seen African dictators wreck their countries. Corbyn must be stopped from doing the same to Britain.

News in Brief:

  • May must stop presenting Britain as the supplicant in the EU negotiations – Tom Goodenough, The Spectator
  • If civil servants want to play politics they must be held to account – Hugh Bennett, Brexit Central
  • May’s disgraceful treatment of EU citizens shows her small mentality – Alastair Benn, Reaction
  • Why wealth inequality is nothing to worry about – Andrew Lilico, CapX
  • Business must break the curse of short-termism – James Kirkup, UnHerd

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