May rules out membership of either “the” or “a” Customs Union

‘Theresa May has categorically ruled out keeping Britain in any form of customs union with the EU in a significant victory for Brexiteers ahead of two crucial Cabinet meetings this week. Downing Street said it wanted to “put to rest” arguments that have raged for weeks about whether the UK would join a customs union after Brexit. Following reports that Eurosceptic Tory MPs were plotting a coup if Mrs May bowed to the will of Remainers, sources close to the Prime Minister insisted customs union membership was off the table. A No 10 source said: “We must be free to sign trade deals with the rest of the world…so it is not our policy stay in the Customs Union. It is not our policy to stay in a customs union.” It represents a significant change in stance from Mrs May, who as recently as Friday refused to rule out being part of a customs union.’ – Daily Telegraph

  • A ‘customs partnership’ aligning border practices might serve as a compromise – FT
  • The lack of a clear lead allowed a free-for-all – FT
  • Downing Street hopes to divide Johnson and Gove – The Times
  • Whitehall database tracks Brexit preparation progress – The Times
  • Fox appoints senior trade commissioners – Daily Telegraph
  • South Korea expected to drive a hard bargain for a trade deal – Daily Telegraph




O’Donnell accuses Brexiteers of ‘selling snake oil’

‘A former head of the civil service accused Brexiteers yesterday of “selling snake oil” as the war of words between officials and the Tory right escalated. Brexiteer ministers and officials have been at loggerheads since the leak of a classified civil service analysis showing Britain will be worse off under all Brexit scenarios. MPs are likely to be able to see the analysis for themselves tomorrow after Labour threatened a parliamentary vote to force its disclosure. One source said that the sight of the economic analysis would make some MPs “do their collective nut”, and further leaks from it are now expected.’ – The Times

  • On the contrary – it’s the civil service that cannot bear having its product tested – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph
  • Bias against Brexit runs deep in Whitehall – Matt Ridley, The Times
  • EY Item Club revises its growth forecasts upwards – Daily Telegraph
  • Adonis’s demands for a second referendum fall flat – The Guardian
  • Bank of England Deputy Governor attacks the idea of deregulation – FT
  • Cable accuses Corbyn of Brexit ‘collusion’ – The Sun
  • The EU could force us to ditch British Summer Time – The Sun


The health surcharge for migrants is doubled

‘Theresa May has watered down her pledge to tackle health tourism by only raising the fee for NHS access to £400 a year – instead of the £600 promised in her manifesto. The immigration health surcharge – paid by temporary migrants from outside Europe to use the health service – will double from its current rate of £200. The discounted fee for students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme will double – from £150 to £300 per year. But the Tory manifesto at last June’s General Election promised to triple both rates. It risks accusations of a climbdown over the controversial immigration health surcharge – dubbed the cheapest travel insurance on the planet. Every non-European migrant or student applying for a UK visa for more than six months must pay the health surcharge at the time of application…The Government insists the increased fees will “better reflect” the costs to the NHS of treating migrants. An estimated £220million extra a year will be raised to support the NHS.’ – The Sun

  • They promised to triple fees, so why have they only doubled them? – The Sun Says
  • Google and the NHS work together to develop an AI that can diagnose eye disease – FT
  • Patients die from malnutrition on NHS wards – Daily Mail
  • We need to talk about ageing – John Harris, The Guardian
  • University applications from EU and non-EU students rise again – Daily Telegraph
  • Time to take students out of the migration target – The Times Leader
  • The growing costs of PFI – FT

The Government plans to criminalise abuse of parliamentary candidates

‘The UK prime minister is set to reveal plans for a new criminal offence aimed at activists who threaten or intimidate parliamentary election candidates. Theresa May will call on all sides of the political spectrum to take a stand for “decency tolerance and respect”, in a speech to mark the centenary on Tuesday of women’s right to vote. The government will announce a consultation on the changes to electoral law that could see the introduction of a new offence for those found guilty of intimidating candidates and their campaigners. It comes after an inquiry by the Committee on Standards in Public Life found ethnic minority, women and gay candidates were disproportionately subjected to abuse in last year’s general election. Candidates and MPs from across the political scale have spoken out about receiving death threats and being targeted by activists on social media.’ – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: Universities. The Conservatives will be “stepping up our speaker programme”. Here are some suggestions.

>Yesterday: WATCH: The moderate Labour leader who quit in Haringey speaks out over the NEC, Momentum, sexism and intimidation

Retired Admiral warns that the Navy could lose its next war

‘The Royal Navy would struggle to win a war after decades of shrinkage, a former admiral has warned. Chris Parry, a former Nato commander, said the naval service appeared more like a maritime bureaucracy than a credible fighting force. He cited a survey of middle-ranking officers between 2015 and 2017 that indicated that “none was confident about going to war against a peer competitor in the current generation of surface ships”. The comments were in an article in The Naval Review, a pro-navy publication whose readership is largely serving and former personnel. The use of such blunt language by a former naval officer in such a highly regarded journal is an indication of the concern about the state of the Royal Navy, which has undergone years of cuts to manpower, ships and submarines. “You could say that it has made explicit what was implicit,” Mr Parry, 64, told The Times. “It’s like an alcoholic admitting at last he has a problem.”’ – The Times

Gauke pledges to examine possible divorce law reforms

‘The justice secretary has agreed to examine the case for reforming divorce laws that force couples into damaging and false allegations of blame. The move by David Gauke comes after senior judicial figures called for an end to the “unjust” and “outdated” laws in support of a campaign by The Times. Mr Gauke said: “I know The Times has campaigned vigorously for reform of family law, including fault-based divorce, and a number of respected figures have voiced their support for change. I acknowledge the strength of feeling on this issue and will study the evidence for change.” However he added that he would not “rush to a conclusion”. His comments come as the government pledges to look at other reforms to the marriage laws. On Friday ministers indicated they would consider a review of the law to extend the right to enter civil partnerships to opposite sex couples, another plank of The Times’s Family Matters campaign to reform the marriage laws.’ – The Times

Corbyn’s water nationalisation plan would cost £90 billion

‘Labour’s plans to renationalise the water industry would cost £90 billion, the equivalent of the education budget, according to a leading think tank. The figure would be more than a tenth of all annual government spending, the Social Market Foundation said, adding that the size of future investment in a newly nationalised water industry would also probably be cut back since it will have to compete with schools and the health service for cash. John McDonnell has suggested that Labour’s mass renationalisation would not cost taxpayers a penny. Speaking in November to the BBC he said: “Cost is always covered because these are profitable industries and that will cover the cost of any borrowing. It will not be a burden on taxpayers.” The SMF calculated, however, that a government that chose to buy the English water industry at fair market prices would pay between £87 billion and £90 billion. This is a “takeover price” based on an assessment of company accounts and following valuation methods used by investment banks and fund managers.’ – The Times

  • That’s more than the entire education budget – The Sun
  • Labour has been taken over by toxic Trots – The Sun Says
  • The Opposition’s bully boys must be exposed – The Times Leader
  • Gerry Adams endorses Corbyn – Daily Mail
  • The Party’s over – and decent Labourites let it happen – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Football club chaired by the Labour Party Chairman got £1 million from Labour-controlled council – The Times
  • HMRC causes vast loss of productive work time – The Times

Merkel misses her own deadline for coalition talks

‘Germany has been without a government for more than four months and concerns are growing across the world that Europe’s largest economy may not be in a position to introduce key policies as Brexit and eurozone reform issues loom. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and the SPD had agreed to renew the ‘grand coalition’ by today, but it now appears talks will continue into the beginning of next week as major differences prevent the chancellor from forming a coalition. The parties had planned to negotiate until midnight tonight but a senior SPD member has said talks will stop for today before resuming on Monday morning. SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil said: “We had a very constructive day today and we reached a lot of agreements”, adding negotiators had realised the parties remain far apart on some issues and wanted to go over them in more detail.’ – Daily Express

  • Her backbenchers are uncomfortable about the slide towards European fiscal union – Wolfgang Munchau, FT

GCHQ counter-fraud measures block 54 million online attacks

‘UK security chiefs took down more than 120,000 fake websites last year and blocked 54m malicious online attacks as part of a “great British firewall” designed to stop cyber criminals targeting the public for money and secret data.  According to a report to be released on Monday, GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre says its “active defence programme” has led to a 2 per cent reduction in the volume of global “phishing” and “malware” attacks hosted in the UK since July 2016. While the report, seen by the Financial Times, does not cover severe cyber attacks launched by hostile state actors such as North Korea or Russia, the NCSC said it was the first time the UK had outlined the scale of what it called “commodity attacks” that caused “the majority of people the majority of harm”. Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the NCSC, who warned last month that it was a question of “when not if” a big cyber attack hit the UK, launched the active cyber defence initiative in September 2016.’ – FT

News in Brief

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