Brexit 1) Davis: Corbyn lets down voters and British interests with his snake-oil pledge

‘This Conservative Government understands that the Brexit vote was a call for greater control over the policies which determine people’s lives. Labour seem intent on giving that up. Last week in a speech in Vienna I explained how Britain’s economic future, and its new partnership with Europe, would be underpinned by a race to the top in global standards – for workers, businesses, and consumers. It means a Conservative Government will use the power to set our standards to improve regulations and enhance rights. The degree of decision making power Labour are now considering handing over to Brussels would make that impossible. Oh to have been a spectator in the shadow cabinet room last week when the Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Brexit Secretary commended a customs union plan which their own Shadow International Trade Secretary had publicly described as “a disaster”. Labour may think they have stumbled across a simple solution to Brexit, but there is a lesson they are yet to learn: if it looks like snake oil, and it smells like snake oil, don’t expect it to make you feel better.’ – David Davis, Daily Telegraph

  • labour wants to retain the freedom to nationalise – City AM
  • Field says Corbyn is treating Labour voters as if they were ‘thick’ – The Times
  • Fox says Tory rebels should keep ‘an open mind’ ahead of May’s speech – The Sun





Brexit 2) The SNP’s demands threaten to disjoint the Union and divide the economy, warns Lidington

‘Powers being contested by London and Edinburgh are vital to the UK’s “existence as a Union”, Theresa May’s deputy will say today after warning that the SNP was risking the future of post-Brexit trade. In a major speech on the future of devolution once the UK leaves the EU, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington will say the UK is “at a crossroads in our history”, with failure to break the deadlock resulting in “a poorer country that is divided at home and a weaker player on the global stage”. Ministers from the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments are expected to meet for the second time in two weeks seeking agreement on how powers in devolved areas returning from Brussels will be managed, with devolved administrations threatening to trigger a constitutional crisis by refusing consent for essential Brexit legislation. Yesterday Mr Lidington warned that the SNP’s demand for all 111 powers returning from Brussels to be fully devolved would mean the UK leaves the EU “as a country split and an economy disjointed”.’ – The Scotsman

  • He is bringing forward amendments to appease Holyrood and Cardiff – The Guardian
  • Spain tries to add Gibraltar back in to a deal – The Sun
  • The EU might be about to go back on its agreement over Northern Ireland – FT
  • The border is being used as an excuse to try to thwart Brexit, Dodds claims – Daily Telegraph
  • Blair has become Sinn Fein’s useful idiot – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 3) Growth forecasts set to be upgraded (three months after their sudden downgrading)

‘The Office for Budget Responsibility is set for an embarrassing U-turn as it prepares to dramatically hike forecasts for UK growth just months after they were suddenly downgraded. The OBR slashed assumptions in November, reining in expected productivity growth and warning that the deficit would rise in this financial year. However, strong numbers in the intervening period mean economists expect the watchdog to reverse some of that gloom, a move that would shrink the deficit and deliver a £15bn windfall to the Chancellor. Growth in the UK’s dominant services industry has surged in the last three months with profits rising at the fastest pace since November 2015, according to a new CBI survey. Meanwhile, confidence among businesses and professional services is growing with a further pick-up anticipated in the coming three months.’ – Daily Telegraph

  • Britain targets Indonesia in the first test of its trade strategy – Daily Telegraph

Energy cap legislation introduced today

‘Eleven million households will see their energy prices capped under legislation to be introduced by Theresa May today. The cap, which will apply to anyone on a standard variable tariff for their gas and electricity, promises to save consumers as much as £300 by bringing overcharging under control. Standard variable tariffs are typically more expensive than fixed-term contracts, punishing those who do not switch. The Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill would allow energy watchdog Ofgem to limit tariffs until 2020, with the option to extend the cap annually until 2023. The Government hopes it will become law before next winter.’ – Daily Mail

I could abolish council tax altogether, says Conservative leader of East Hampshire

‘A local authority leader has said that he could abolish council tax in his area within four years, claiming investments and efficiencies will balance the books. Ferris Cowper, the Conservative leader of East Hampshire council, has predicted that local services such as rubbish collection could be delivered for free by 2022. Last year East Hampshire was the only local authority to reduce its council tax levels and boasts one of the lowest rates in England. The former Mars director said his “ESI” strategy, which stands for efficiencies, sales and investments, could be applied at other councils willing to adopt the right “attitude”. East Hampshire district council, which is made up of only Conservative councillors, has a policy of selling services, including dog foul patrols, to neighbouring authorities. It provides consultancy to other authorities.’ – The Times

  • Council tax up, services down Daily Mail
  • Property taxes could kill 20,000 high street businesses – The Sun
  • Shops need some relief – The Sun Says

Leadsom speaks of postnatal depression

‘“I still remember holding that tiny baby in my arms and feeling completely helpless,” she said last week at a charity event hosted the mental health research organisation, MQ. “I have this abiding memory of snow outside and filthy windows and being in tears at the prospect of having to find a window cleaner. You know, the prospect of cleaning the windows myself was utterly beyond me.” The cabinet minister…is the founder and a patron of Parent Infant Partnership UK, a charity that supports families in which ante- and postnatal depression arises. She said: “Mental health is a cause very close to my own heart and it affected me very personally. When my eldest son was born in 1995 I suffered postnatal depression. You just can’t imagine until you have suffered poor mental health just how awful it makes you feel and how helpless. It’s a very real, incredibly debilitating experience for far too many women.”’ – The Times

  • Green proposes social care tax on over-40s – The Times

Hard left groups take on role in university strike

‘Students and academics face being branded ‘scabs’ if they turn up for classes today as hardliners picket universities in an increasingly bitter lecturers’ strike. Walkouts will be held at 65 institutions over the next three days, with 45,000 staff refusing to hold lectures in a row over pensions. Many of the picket lines originally set up by tutors have now been hijacked by rabble-rousing hard-Left student groups. Undergraduates desperate to access libraries and carry on working are being ordered by their peers to stay away to show ‘solidarity’ with the strikers. Activists have been running online campaigns telling peers ‘don’t be a scab’, while posters on campuses tell students to stay at home even if classes are not cancelled. One undergraduate at Exeter was even spat at as he tried to hand in work last week.’ – Daily Mail

  • Gyimah says strikers’ wages should be given to students as a refund – The Sun
  • £8 million expenses of senior university staff, including international travel for a dog – Daily Mail
  • There’s too much reward for failure in higher education – The Times Leader
  • Universities charging a fortune for useless degrees is a scandal yet to break – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • The OfS will limit their powers – The Times
  • Hackers stream school CCTV footage live online – The Sun

>Today: Peter Ainsworth on Comment: To solve the problems of higher education funding, universities themselves must share some of the risk

Think tank warns of charity involvement in ‘the spread of non-violent extremist views’

‘Islamic charities vulnerable to extremists receive £6 million a year from taxpayers in gift aid, according to a think tank report. It accuses charities of supporting “the spread of harmful nonviolent extremist views that are not illegal; by providing platforms, credibility and support to a network of extremists operating in the UK”. One international charity is chaired by an Islamic preacher banned from entering the UK. The claims provide an early challenge for Baroness Stowell of Beeston, who was appointed chairwoman of the Charity Commission by the government last week, despite opposition from MPs who accused her of having negligible experience with charities. The report, Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: How Islamist Extremists Exploit the UK Charitable Sector, was produced by the Henry Jackson Society think tank by its research fellow Emma Webb, a specialist in counter-extremism who studied 30 charities. It shines a spotlight on Helping Households Under Great Stress (Hhugs), which the think tank accuses of being “an institutionally problematic charity, with extreme and illiberal individuals involved at all levels”.’ – The Times

  • British charities should not harbour those who want democracy to be subverted – Emma Webb, The Times
  • Concern about clerics linked to an Abu Hamza ‘terror academy’ in the education system – Daily Mail
  • Britain’s security policy must be remodelled – Richard Whitman, The Times
  • Patel criticises The Guardian for ‘sitting on’ Save the Children abuse story – The Sun
  • The ‘Me Too’ mob must help child sex abuse victims – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Rotherham abuse investigation needs 100 more officers – Daily Mail

Corbyn hires Stalin apologist and North Korea fan as a part-time adviser

‘Jeremy Corbyn has drafted in Andrew Murray, the controversial former communist who is chief of staff to the Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, as a part-time consultant, as Labour hones its Brexit strategy. Murray, who was seconded to Labour’s general election campaign as a donation-in-kind from Unite, the party’s biggest financial backer, is working for the leader’s office a day and a half a week, a party spokesman confirmed. A longtime member of the communist party, who has in the past expressed solidarity with North Korea, Murray joined Labour only in 2016, after Corbyn’s victory – and is loathed by MPs on the right of the party. Unite continues to pay Murray’s salary, which Labour said had been formally declared to the Electoral Commission. A donation for “staff costs” of £15,761 from the union was declared at the end of January. His roles include sitting in on senior job interviews and discussing party strategy – which has given rise to anxiety among some shadow ministers about his potential influence, including over Brexit.’ – The Guardian

  • How much would Corbyn’s nationalisations cost? – FT
  • During the Cold War, the Left were the USSR’s ‘useful idiots’, Fox says – Daily Mail
  • Momentum revels in criticism – The Guardian
  • Archbishop who criticised second homes owns a six-bedroom house and a cottage in Normandy – Daily Mail
  • Man kicks poppy wreaths off war memorial while ranting about ‘Tory scum’ – Daily Mail

Xi attempts to make himself ruler of China for life

‘Four months after a historic Chinese Communist party congress was expected to answer most questions about Xi Jinping’s second five-year term in office, China’s president has demonstrated that he can still “shock and awe” his political rivals. Until Sunday afternoon, most guessing games ahead of the March 5 opening of China’s annual parliamentary session focused on the imminent political reincarnation of Wang Qishan, the recently retired head of Mr Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, and the race to succeed Zhou Xiaochuan, the veteran central bank governor.  But the party’s announcement that its central committee had recommended scrapping the two-term limit for the state president and vice-president was a reminder that in Mr Xi’s China, such personnel reshuffles matter much less now. One person with close ties to China’s leadership says that people worried about Mr Xi’s authoritarian tendencies are “not just scared, they are desperate”. ‘ – FT

  • Western business deals with China must require transparency and security guarantees – FT Leader
  • Wolff accuses Blair of ‘sucking up’ to Kushner – Daily Mail
  • Trump considers appointing envoy to Northern Ireland – Belfast Telegraph

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