Brexit 1) May and Davis meet with Barnier in London

“The last time Michel Barnier dined with the British ministers in London, a slew of unflattering details emerged in the European press about how unprepared he and Jean-Claude Juncker thought their hosts were for the negotiation process. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator returned to the capital for lunch today, but this time without the Commission president. Nothing unflattering has yet to leak out from their meeting at least, in which Theresa May took part. Michel Barnier said he was “very pleased” to catch up with her, while David Davis sat beside him at this afternoon’s press conference and told reporters he was “confident” the terms of Britain’s transition period out of the European Union could be nailed down after “intensive” negotiations in time for March. His determined bonhomie couldn’t mask the challenges to come.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Downing Street speaks of seeking a “trade partnership” with EU – FT
  • Davis calls the talks “constructive” – Guardian
  • But Barnier “negative” about them – The Times
  • He says “time has come” for the UK to “make a choice” about staying in customs union with Europe – The Times
  • And that trade barriers are “unavoidable” otherwise – Independent
  • And that EU red lines should be respected – Daily Express


>Today: ToryDiary: Customs and practice

Brexit 2) “War cabinet” to convene tomorrow and Thursday to try to “break deadlock” on customs union row

“Ministers are preparing a Brexit compromise aimed at ending the increasingly acrimonious row in the Conservative Party over whether Britain stays in the EU’s customs union. The 11-strong Brexit “war cabinet” will meet on Wednesday and Thursday to try to break the 19-month deadlock over the country’s relationship with the European Union after it leaves the bloc. Fractious public exchanges between Tory remainers and Brexiteers continued today ahead of the talks. The former Conservative minister Anna Soubry said that she wanted to “gently remind” her party that it lost its majority in last year’s election because the public rejected its plans for a hard Brexit.” – The Times

  • Downing Street “dismisses” Hammond-backed pitch to keep elements of customs union – The Sun
  • NI politicians comment on UK’s “categorical” position – Belfast News Letter


  • It’d be “dangerous” to leave – Guardian


  • May “can’t be proud” of having needed to clarify her “policy remains the same” – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph
  • She has “no idea” what relationship she wants the UK to have with the EU – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

Brexit 3) What Whitehall thinks Britain “could be forced to accept” during the transition

“Britain could be forced to accept nearly 40 EU directives during a two-year transition period after Brexit, according to a leaked Whitehall analysis. The report, obtained by The Telegraph, reveals that a series of controversial EU laws could be imposed amid concerns that Britain is powerless to stop them. One of the most contentious of the 37 directives could require every British household to have four different bins in a bid to hit “unfeasible” new EU recycling targets. Another directive could give Brussels the authority to mount a massive raid on the City of London, while the UK could also be bound by renewable and energy efficiency targets for up to a decade after Brexit.” – Daily Telegraph

  • 37 EU directives “could be passed during the period” – Daily Mail
  • Hilton says Cameron was warned by Blair of civil service conspiracy – Independent


  • The civil service “at times suffers from groupthink” – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Henry Newman’s column: Amidst the row about neutrality, a big question looms. Is the civil service up to delivering Brexit effectively?

Brexit 4) Another Irish border “clash” is coming

“Britain and the EU are heading for another big clash over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit status, as Brussels pushes for greater clarity on a fragile compromise over the Irish border. The EU side is within weeks of publishing a legal text of December’s Brexit divorce agreement that would lay out exactly how Northern Ireland might need to “align” with the union’s single market — a move that would give much greater definition to the ambiguously worded deal. Senior negotiators see the Irish border issue as the single biggest risk in talks before a March EU summit, in which Britain is hoping to agree a transition deal and begin trade talks. “If this blows up over the next two months it will be over Ireland,” said one senior EU figure involved in talks. “That is the flashpoint.”” – FT

More Brexit

  • Could France be “set to block a deal”? – Daily Express
  • May’s “Britain fit for the future” internal strategy statement is called “pathetic” by ministers – The Times 
  • And immigration white paper won’t be published until “after transition deal is done” – Guardian
  • Soubry talks of quitting and says Rees-Mogg and Johnson aren’t “proper Conservatives”  – Daily Telegraph
  • She says they should be “slung out” – Independent
  • It’s right to oppose Brexit – Chuka Umunna – Independent

>Yesterday: Howard Flight in Comment: Of course the Withdrawal Bill needs to be scrutinised and amended – but it must ultimately pass

May to speak about risks to democracy on Representation of People Act centenary today

“Theresa May will mark the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act on Tuesday by warning that abuse in public life has become so severe it is threatening democracy. The prime minister will give a speech in Manchester marking the anniversary of the act, which extended the parliamentary vote to some women and paved the way for universal suffrage 10 years later. As well as celebrating the achievements of the suffragettes, she will warn that the tone of political life is deteriorating – and set out a series of steps the government will take to crack down on abuse. “While there is much to celebrate, I worry that our public debate today is coarsening. That for some it is becoming harder to disagree, without also demeaning opposing viewpoints in the process.” – Guardian

  • She will say debate is being “coarsened” – FT
  • And will ask social media companies to “step up” – Independent

Phillips: A hundred years on, what would the suffragists think of the “Me Too” climate?

“What would Emmeline Pankhurst or Millicent Fawcett have said to the film star Uma Thurman? … Tuesday marks the anniversary of the law giving women the first (limited) rights to vote in a general election, following the great female suffrage campaign in the 19th and early 20th centuries led by Fawcett and the Pankhursts. It takes place amid the uproar over serial accusations of sexual misconduct against men in public life, ranging from rape to groping or flirting. Are today’s feminists fighting in the same cause as their suffragist forebears? Or has the patriarchal boot turned into a vengeful stiletto?” – The Times

  • We should be grateful to them – Nicola Sturgeon, The Times
  • It was a “fearful atmosphere” – Rachel Holmes, Guardian
  • But we’ve still got some way to go – Ruth Davison, Daily Telegraph
  • Yes, we do – Amber Rudd, The Times
  • I agree – Harriet Harman, Independent 
  • There’s plenty for us to march for today – Helen Pankhurst, Daily Telegraph
  • My great-grandmother was a suffragette, too – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph


May responds to Rees-Mogg’s suggestion that she is finding leadership “hard work”…

“Theresa May enjoys being prime minister “enormously”, Downing Street has insisted after Jacob Rees-Mogg said that she did not appear to be having fun in the job. In comments that will do little to dampen speculation that the backbencher could yet emerge as a leadership candidate, Mr Rees-Mogg, who is MP for North East Somerset, suggested today that the prime minister was in office “because it’s her duty” and was not enjoying her premiership. “If you look at Mrs May, it seems to be quite clear she does it because it’s her duty to do it, I don’t get the impression that it’s a lot of fun for her — it’s hard work,” he told a group of journalism students in London.” – The Times

….While Rees-Mogg “distances himself” from idea of being Prime Minister, citing family duties

“Jacob Rees-Mogg, the bookies’ favourite to be the next Tory leader, has said it would be “very difficult” for him to be Prime Minister because he is a “family man” with six children. Mr Rees-Mogg, the leader of a 60-strong group of Conservative Eurosceptic MPs, added that Theresa May does not look like she is having fun being Prime Minister and does it “because it’s her duty”. Mr Rees-Mogg’s remarks about Mrs May not enjoying her job prompted a tart response from Number 10. Her official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister enjoys her job enormously and views it as a great privilege.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • And criticises “gloomy vision” of Party in last election – Guardian
  • Will Ukip members help “pave the way” for him? – The Sun


  • Rees-Mogg is dangerous – Matthew Norman, Independent
  • Here’s why he’s “suddenly relevant” – Janan Ganesh, FT
  • He and Corbyn are both about values – Hugo Rifkind, The Times

More Conservatives

  • “Senior” figures frustrated about Government’s housing crisis approach – The Sun 

Grayling claims “directly” running East Coast mainline is “very much on the table”

“The East Coast mainline may be nationalised in a matter of weeks due to a string of failures by Stagecoach and Virgin, the Transport Secretary has admitted. The companies, who have run the franchise since 2015, had already announced they would be handing the franchise back three years early, having originally agreed to run the line until 2023. But in a dramatic announcement in the Commons yesterday, Mr Grayling revealed that the companies could walk within weeks, adding that prospect of “directly” operating the franchise was now “very much on the table”. Critics said last night that such a move would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, and would mean that the London-to-Edinburgh line being nationalised just three years after it was re-privatised.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He says the Virgin franchise will only last a “very small number of months” – The Times
  • And that the “situation is urgent” – Guardian


  • Virgin and Stagecoach have “got off lightly”- Nils Pratley, Guardian

Devolved nations

  • May found to have misused official figures on Welsh NHS – The Times 
  • Optimism grows about gaining agreement between DUP and SF – Guardian
  • Dornan first SNP member to announce he’s standing for depute position – Herald

Hunt sticks up for UK healthcare history after Trump criticises NHS

“Donald Trump triggered another unwelcome transatlantic spat with Theresa May today after using Twitter to claim that the NHS was “going broke and not working”. In an early morning tweet the US President repeated comments made by the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage who told Fox News that the UK health service was “pretty much at breaking point.” … Mr Trump’s intervention infuriated ministers. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, replied directly to the president. “NHS may have challenges but I’m proud to be from the country that invented universal coverage — where all get care no matter the size of their bank balance,” he wrote.” – The Times

  • And May “rebukes” the US president – Guardian
  • Who tweeted British system was “going broke” – Daily Telegraph


  • We haven’t asked for solutions from Trump – Nash Riggins, Independent

More America

  • FTSE falls as global markets “spooked” over interest rates following Dow Jones’ worst loss since financial crisis – Daily Telegraph
  • Lauri Love wins High Court appeal against extradition over FBI hacking – The Times

News in Brief

  • Rees-Mogg is ridiculous and unforgivable – Alastair Benn, Reaction
  • Can Ukip survive? – Michael Woodland, Backbencher
  • The UK must lead on digital currency – Callum Crozier, CapX
  • Bittersweet Syrian ice cream in America – Gustavo Arellano, New Yorker
  • The last days of the rooster? – Amanda Giracca, Aeon