Tory rebels to vote for ‘a’ customs union

“Theresa May is facing the biggest test of her fragile parliamentary authority as more than ten Tory MPs announced that they would vote to keep Britain in a customs union with Europe. Two of the party’s select committee chairmen and three former ministers put their name to an amendment that would force the prime minister to put Britain’s membership of a customs union back on the negotiating table. The announcement came hours after the cabinet’s Brexit committee signed off a policy that Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said excluded a customs deal with the European Union. Instead the government is expected to pursue a policy of so-called “managed divergence” where Britain agrees to follow EU rules in specific areas in return for market access but with the freedom to diverge at a future date.” – The Times

  • Pro-Brexit MPs warn May against conceding on amendments – Daily Telegraph
  • Customs union ‘coup’ will collapse, Downing Street sources claim – The Sun
  • EU rubbishes May’s Brexit blueprint – Daily Mail
  • Tusk describes proposals as ‘pure illusion’ – Daily Express


  • Abbott refuses seven times to discuss Labour’s new position on Brexit – The Sun
  • Blair predicts that Britain will be forced to hold a second vote – The Sun


  • Pro-EU Airbus votes to stay in the UK – The Sun
  • Brussels funding linked to migrant quotas – The Times


  • Canada’s Northwest Passage could yield a Brexit bonus – Andrew Lilico, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour’s clever move re-opens Tory wounds – Sebastian Payne, FT
  • Amnesty has strayed badly with its ideological attack on Brexit – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph


  • Labour’s customs union plot would be a staggering Brexit betrayal – The Sun

>Today: Stephen Hammond MP in Comment: Why I will be tabling amendments to the Trade Bill to explore joining EFTA


Charles Moore: Both we and Brussels need to know what’s going on in May’s head

The old Spitting Image joke about Margaret Thatcher is so famous that people think it actually happened. The waiter at Chequers takes Mrs Thatcher’s order. She asks for steak. “And the vegetables?” ventures the waiter. “Oh,” she says, waving dismissively towards her Cabinet colleagues, “they’ll be having the same.” Theresa May’s method seems to be almost exactly the opposite. The “vegetables” say what they want, and try to order for her as well. She says nothing. No one knows what she wants. Her future biographer (no, I am not volunteering) will have to decide whether this technique was very deep or merely vacuous. In this troublous and confusing present, it is hard to know.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister’s moment to compromise her red lines – Charles Grant, FT
  • Hologram May leads a hopeless mission – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • No Plan B, but Plan A seems to be working for the Tories – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • Brexit walls are closing in on May – Rafael Behr, The Guardian


  • Prime Minister’s fragile truce unlikely to last – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: As May’s top team met at Chequers, Brains for Brexit launched in London

EU official mocks Gove’s plan to ban plastic straws

“One of the European Union’s top officials has mocked Michael Gove’s plans to try to ban plastic straws after Brexit. Frans Timmermans, the deputy to EU Commission president Jean Claude Juncker, pointed out that the EU was already planning to ban the straws later this year… But Mr Timmermans said in response that the EU was “one step ahead of you” adding that “the EU doesn’t suck” with the taglines “Stronger Together “ and “Plastics Strategy”. He wrote on Twitter: “EU legislation on single-use plastics coming before the summer. Maybe you can align with us?”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Environment Secretary denies that Brussels is one step ahead – The Guardian


  • Seriously cutting plastic waste will not be easy – Oliver Tickell, Daily Telegraph

Bradley faces questions from DUP as NIO denies striking ‘side deal’ on legacy issues

“No side deals were made during the latest round of talks to restore power-sharing, the Northern Ireland Office has insisted. The denial came after DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party had no knowledge of a claim by Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly on Thursday that his party had secured agreement with the UK Government to release funding to progress legacy inquests… But Mrs Foster insisted no one in the DUP had been aware of inquest funding being progressed, and said she intended to raise the matter with Secretary of State Karen Bradley. “It would be astonishing if the Government granted funding for legacy inquests in the absence of an overall agreement to progress all elements of the Stormont House Agreement,” she said. In response to the DUP leader, the NIO said: “There are no side deals.”” – Belfast Telegraph

Williamson preparing ‘anthrax vaccination programme’ for high-readiness troops

“Britain has drawn up plans to vaccinate thousands of troops against anthrax to be better prepared to respond in the event of a war with North Korea or a terrorist attack at home. Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, is understood to be considering the introduction of an anthrax vaccination programme for all service personnel on short notice to mobilise, Whitehall sources say. This would include 16 Air Assault Brigade, 3 Commando Brigade and all other “high readiness” units of soldiers and Royal Marines. “It is something that has gone through the planning phase and the secretary of state is seriously looking at it,” one source said.” – The Times

  • Army major returns medals over ‘cruel’ enquiries – The Times


>Today: ToryDiary: Williamson’s new defence policy will be meaningless without funding

May and Corbyn back opt-out organ donation

Organ donation will be made automatic under plans backed by the Government in a move which ministers believe could save 200 extra lives every year. People will have to opt-out of having their organs donated when they pass away under the terms of a presumed consent scheme. The proposals brought forward by backbench Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson have won the support of both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn which means they will almost certainly become law. It is hoped that the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill will make its way onto the statute book by the end of the year after it cleared its first major Commons hurdle as it received an unopposed second reading on Friday.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour 1) Labour’s general secretary quits

“Labour’s general secretary has announced that he is quitting his role after a ‘tumultuous’ seven-year tenure. Iain McNicol said he was standing down to ‘pursue new challenges’ in the Labour movement. The move comes after rumours  that allies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wanted to oust Mr McNicol from the top backroom role… Mr McNicol, who took on the job in 2011, reportedly angered allies of the Labour leader after rumours he was involved in trying to stop Mr Corbyn being automatically included on the ballot paper when he faced a leadership challenge. Labour said officers of the party will now meet to decide the election of a successor. It will give Mr Corbyn a chance to further strengthen his control over party structures.” – Daily Mail

  • SNP MPs targeted in Labour’s NHS campaign blitz – The Scotsman

Labour 2) Corbyn has questions to answer over spy claims, says ex-MI6 chief

“Jeremy Corbyn has ‘questions to answer’ over his Cold War links, a former spy chief has said. Sir Richard Dearlove said the Labour leader should have ‘taken care to avoid’ meeting a Czechoslovakian agent and cannot just ‘laugh off’ the claims. The ex-MI6 boss said holding only a couple of meetings with Jan Sarkocy would amount to ‘stupidity’ but if the spy’s claims that many more took place were true then ‘this affair takes on a completely different aspect’. Labour said Sir Richard should not be ‘trying to give credence to these entirely false and ridiculous smears’. Mr Sarkocy, a former agent of the Czech StB intelligence agency, has been described as a fantasist by Mr Corbyn’s allies.” – Daily Mail

  • Cold war allegations fail to dent leader’s support – The Times

Labour 3) Short attacks ‘hysterical’, ‘anti-aid’ reaction to Oxfam scandal

“A New Labour veteran risks uproar after slamming the “hysterical” reaction to the Oxfam charity sex abuse scandal. Clare Short – Tony Blair’s Development Secretary – said while Oxfam staff were wrong to have used prostitutes in Haiti, 11 per cent of all British men had done so. And she said the story was being whipped up by critics of Britain’s £13 billion a year overseas aid budget. She told the BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster: “This is no excuse, but it’s a crazy, crazy, hysterical, distorted story. “Very hard not to think it’s part of the anti-development, anti-aid agenda.”… The comments will fuel fury that while Oxfam and Save The Children bosses have apologised for sexual abuse shame, the charity sector has yet to wake up to the need for far-reaching change.” – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • What does McNicol’s resignation say about Corbyn’s control of Labour? – Stephen Bush, New Statesman
  • A partial customs union could be the solution to Britain’s trade dilemma – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • Brexit will let us drop the stupid ban on human cloning – Hugh McLachlan, Reaction
  • The NHS internal market is an expensive catastrophe – Max Pemberton, The Spectator
  • DUP’s shambolic tactics mean prospects for devolution look bleak – Sam McBride, The i
  • Ministers must provide the resources to police our seas – Lee Rotherham, Brexit Central