Brexit 1) Fox rebukes the CBI for clinging to the EU

‘Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, will rebuke Britain’s largest business group today and call for the country to prioritise “trading opportunities of the future” above existing economic ties to the EU. In an attack on the Confederation of British Industry, which yesterday backed Labour’s new policy of remaining in a customs union, Dr Fox warns that such a move would leave the UK “with one arm tied behind our back” when negotiating future trade deals. Britain should move away from Europe’s economic and regulatory model altogether and seek new “multi-country alliances of the like-minded”. Dr Fox has held tentative discussions about Britain signing up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that includes Australia, Japan, Canada and Mexico. He is understood to have been told that membership would not be possible while the country is tied into Europe’s regulatory framework. “We cannot allow the practices and patterns of the past to constrain the opportunities of the future,” he will say in a speech at Bloomberg in London. “Our approach should not be premised on simply identifying how much of our current relationship we want to keep, but what we need to prosper in a rapidly changing global environment.”’ – The Times


>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Party members overwhelmingly oppose the Norway option. The majority against a Swiss model is less emphatic.

Brexit 2) Brussels wants the ECJ to retain power indefinitely

‘The EU will demand this week that the UK remains subject to European court rulings indefinitely under its Brexit divorce deal, forcing Theresa May into another fraught battle over the writ of Luxembourg judges. Brussels will propose a draft Brexit withdrawal agreement on Wednesday that requires the UK to accept the European Court of Justice as the ultimate arbiter of treaty-related disputes, according to three officials who have seen the text. The uncompromising “governance mechanism”, backed up by sanctions that cut off market access if Britain ignored court rulings, is among a host of potentially explosive political issues included in the 160-paragraph document. A prolonged role for the Luxembourg court is expected to be rejected outright by the British prime minister, who has struggled to convince sovereignty-minded Brexiters to accept ECJ jurisdiction even for a time-limited transition after Brexit. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative MP who chairs the party’s pro-Leave faction, said the commission plan would turn Britain into a “convict state”.’ – FT

  • The EU is trying to go back on its word over Northern Ireland – Daily Telegraph
  • Nobody wants a hard border, Brussels is just making it difficult as a tactic – Leo McKinstry, Daily Telegraph
  • The 27 will not split – John Springford, The Times
  • Juncker appoints crony to crucial job – The Times
  • Frustrated Italian voters prepare to go to the polls – FT
  • German economic engine fails to power rural areas – FT
  • The pint of champagne is set to make a comeback thanks to Brexit – The Times

>Yesterday: MPsETC: “Wide-ranging devolution from Westminster as well as Brussels”. Lidington’s Brexit and the Union speech: full text.

Brexit 3) Wallace: Corbyn has decided he can afford to alienate Labour Leavers

‘Ironically, while May’s election announcement speech rang hollow last April, it would be far more appropriate if she delivered it today. Now, the Lords really have dug in for a lengthy and bitter legislative battle. And Corbyn’s latest speech suggests that Labour truly is playing harmful games around the Brexit negotiations… By flirting with the possibility of customs union, Corbyn is backtracking on Brexit…that seems unlikely to prove popular with the Labour Leavers whom May had hoped to win over last year. The essential question is whether there is any risk that they will abandon Labour as a result. Evidently Corbyn, or at least the colleagues who dragged him to the podium yesterday, is no longer scared of ignoring or angering them. Perhaps he thinks that May is no threat any more, and Nigel Farage is never coming back; or, alternatively, he calculates that the hipster vote is big enough to make the old working classes redundant as an electoral force. That seems like a dangerous assumption.’ – Mark Wallace, the i paper

>Today: The Moggcast. Should May make a Customs Union vote a confidence vote? Rees-Mogg says no: “I don’t think it works”.


Gove plans to cut farm subsidies for largest landowners

‘Farm subsidies could be capped at £100,000 a year for the largest landowners from 2021 to release £150 million for environmental projects and other “public goods”, under reforms proposed today by Michael Gove. The cap would affect about 2,100 landowners including some billionaires, with several losing more than £1 million a year. Farms owned by Sir James Dyson, the inventor who backed Brexit and is thought to be worth £7 billion, received £1.6 million in 2016 under the EU’s common agricultural policy, according to analysis by Greenpeace. The environment secretary will publish a consultation document on post-Brexit farming policy that will commit to a new system of paying farmers “public money for public goods”. About two thirds of the £3 billion paid annually to British farmers under the EU system is paid per acre in “basic payments”, meaning that the more land farmers own, the more subsidy they get.’ – The Times

  • He wants a two-year transition to a new subsidy regime – FT

Women in Syria have been exploited by men delivering aid for the UN and various charities

‘Women in Syria have reportedly been sexually exploited by men delivering aid on behalf of the UN and international charities. A new report has revealed that the abuse is still going on in the south of the country, despite warnings aid bosses three years ago. Aid workers said the men would ask for sexual favours in return for food and lifts and that the exploitation has led to some Syrian women refusing to go to distribution centres. It is the latest in a growing list of allegations which have rocked the charity sector, since the Oxfam sex scandal came to light…Charity humanitarian adviser, Danielle Spencer, held a focus group of Syrian women at a refugee camp in Jordan three years ago. She heard that male council workers in Dara’a and Quneitra were offering aid to women in exchange for sex.’ – Daily Mail

  • Cambridge students challenge college principal over her role with Oxfam – The Times
  • Mordaunt says taxpayers are sceptical about how aid is spent – Daily Telegraph
  • Take child abuse out of the shadows to prevent it – Sarah Champion, The Times
  • The Foreign Secretary says the West should not ‘stand idly by’ if Assad is using chemical weapons again – Daily Mail
  • We need to speak with one voice on atrocities – Champa Patel, The Times
  • Two per cent is not enough, says defence minister – The Times
  • Former general warns our military is ‘obsolete’ – The Sun

Ministers and Special Advisers accused of meddling in appointments to universities quango

‘The vetting process by which Toby Young was appointed to the board of the new higher education regulator was flawed and rife with political interference, according to the results of an investigation by an official watchdog. The commissioner for public appointments’ report castigates the Department for Education (DfE) and regulator the Office for Students (OfS) for failing to delve into Young’s controversial writings and social media postings, and uncovers a high degree of direct meddling by ministers in Young’s appointment and No 10 Downing Street in other nominations. The commissioner concludes that the OfS’s board appointments, including Young, showed a “clear disparity” in the treatment of different candidates, and that parts of the process “had serious shortcomings in terms of the fairness and transparency aspects” under the code governing public appointments. The report reveals Jo Johnson, who was then the universities minister, contacted Young about applying for the post and that his nomination was later queried by Justine Greening, the education secretary at the time.’ – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Richard Tice on Comment: University lecturers and Vice-Chancellors – more working, less whingeing, if you want sympathy

Yet another moderate Labour council leader has been driven from office by the left

‘The Labour leader of Brighton & Hove council is stepping down in the face of opposition from left-wing local party members. Warren Morgan, a centrist, said he would resign from his leadership role in May and would stand down as a councillor at the next local elections in May 2019. He told the BBC that while he had wanted to lead the party into the ballot next spring, the “local Labour Party have made it clear they do not want me to do so”. Mr Morgan is the third centrist Labour town hall leader to step down in recent weeks. Claire Kober quit as leader of Haringey council in north London last month after opposition from left-wing groups. Jon Clempner then stepped down in Harlow district council, citing a vicious campaign by activists linked to Momentum. The Brighton leader’s departure comes after The Times revealed this month that tensions had erupted in the city’s Labour Party over public-private partnerships, prompting fears that leftwing activists would try to deselect moderate councillors.’ – The Times

  • Kensington and Chelsea launches £220 million housing plan – FT
  • Momentum and Unite battle over the Labour NEC’s chairmanship – The Sun
  • McCluskey repays £400,000 that Unite gave him towards the cost of his flat – The Sun
  • The Conservatives must grapple for the future old – Hugo Rifkind, The Times
  • Corbyn says he doesn’t regret meeting with Czechoslovak ‘diplomat’ – Daily Telegraph
  • If he was that naive, it disbars him from high office – Norman Tebbit, Daily Telegraph

GPs are fuelling the superbug crisis by wrongly giving out antibiotics to millions of people

‘One in five antibiotics prescriptions given out by GPs in England are to patients who do not need them. Overuse of antibiotics means many germs have evolved to resist them and some dangerous strains have become untreatable. The more antibiotics are used, the stronger superbugs become. Yet doctors continue to hand out antibiotics for minor conditions against which they do not even work. Nearly a third of patients registered with a GP in England were given antibiotics at least once a year, yet in 20 per cent of cases they were unnecessary, the study from Public Health England reveals.’ – Daily Mail

  • Child died after being turned away for being a few minutes late for appointment – The Times

>Yesterday: J Meirion Thomas on Comment: If we are to stop losing our best doctors, we must keep training and retraining them

Four far-right terror plots thwarted last year

‘The outgoing head of counter-terrorism policing in the UK has used his valedictory speech to warn against the rise of the far-right as he revealed four extremist rightwing plots were thwarted in 2017. Mark Rowley, the assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan police, drew parallels between far-right groups and figures and the Islamist extremists they claim to despise in the annual Colin Cramphorn memorial lecture in central London. Speaking two weeks before his 31-year career in policing comes to a close, Rowley revealed four extreme rightwing-inspired plots were prevented last year. In a conference with journalists before the speech, Rowley said the far-right terror threat was “significant and concerning” and the public should be “gravely concerned” by the existence of National Action, the white supremacist, neo-nazi group banned under terror legislation.’ – The Guardian

Electoral Reform Society warns cutting MPs but not payroll vote would make Government overmighty

‘An analysis shows that reducing the number of MPs while failing to cut the numbers within the overall government would destabilise the balance between the executive and the legislature. The Electoral Reform Society (ERS), a political pressure group, said that dropping the number of MPs from 650 to 600 would “create the most powerful executive since at least 1990”. The power of the government would grow because a higher proportion of MPs would be constrained from challenging policies due to the fact they rely on Downing Street’s patronage for their positions, the ERS said. Mrs May has already been criticised for creating 12 new Tory vice-chairmen roles and appointing a high number of her MPs as parliamentary private secretaries (PPS). While the role of PPS is unpaid, it is considered the first rung on the ladder to ministerial office and MPs can be fired for disloyalty.’ – The Times