Brexit 1) Don’t use Brexit to break up Britain, May warns Brussels

“Theresa May will warn Brussels not to use Brexit to break up the UK in a “robust” fightback against its insistence that Northern Ireland must remain in a customs union. The EU will today publish a new draft withdrawal agreement demanding that Mrs May sign up to legal commitments preventing a hard border in Ireland even if that means customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. It also states that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) must have the power to “interpret and enforce” the agreement against British objections. The prime minister has been told that failure to agree an outline of the text could jeopardise a transition agreement at next month’s European summit and stall talks on a future relationship. Figures close to No 10 said that the demands were unacceptable and would be rejected.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister to refuse deal which ‘threatens UK integrity’ – The Guardian
  • Brussels primes divorce text ‘grenades’ – FT
  • Johnson criticised for willingness to countenance a non-invisible Irish border – Daily Mail
  • EU Parliament will fight to keep Ulster, claims Verhofstadt – Daily Telegraph
  • Lord Hain tables amendment to ensure frictionless border – The Guardian
  • Barnier expresses ‘frustration’ with Davis over talks – FT


  • A customs union won’t help, there’s no such thing as ‘soft’ Brexit – Vernon Bogdanor, The Guardian
  • May is getting Brexit right, we can only pray she’s not thwarted – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph


  • Brussels has no right to dictate Ulster’s status to Britain – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 2) SNP’s own ‘Brexit Bill’ ruled illegal by Holyrood’s presiding officer

“An attempt by SNP ministers to force the UK Government to back down in a row over post-Brexit powers has descended into a legal quagmire  after Holyrood’s presiding officer declared it unlawful. The Scottish Government tabled their own EU Withdrawal Bill after failing to reach agreement over the UK Government’s version, which will determine which powers repatriated from Brussels are devolved. Mike Russell, the SNP’s Brexit Minister, said the legislation was a necessary “contingency” in case a deal cannot be reached as the Bill is also needed to plug the gaps in the Scottish statute book left by EU law. But the move appeared to backfire after Ken Macintosh, Holyrood’s version of the Commons Speaker, ruled that the new European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill was beyond the Scottish Parliament’s powers.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Nationalists try to push ahead with unconstitutional bill – The Scotsman
  • Scots and Welsh tee up standoff with Westminster – FT
  • Varadkar urges Sinn Fein to take their seats in the Commons – The Sun


Brexit 3) Gove plans ‘gold standard’ food labelling for post-Brexit Britain

“Supermarkets could be banned from using misleading labels on meat and dairy products under plans by Michael Gove for a “gold standard” labelling system after Brexit. The environment secretary wants to remove confusing terms such as “grass fed”, which implies a cow was grazed outdoors but could mean it spent its life in a shed and was fed some cut grass. The commitment to clearer labelling is contained in a government consultation paper published yesterday on the future of food and farming outside the EU… Mr Gove told farmers last month that he wanted to introduce a new labelling scheme after Brexit that involved “not just badging food properly as British, but also creating a new gold-standard metric for food and farming quality”. The government is considering whether the scheme should require meat labels to include whether or not the animal was stunned before slaughter.” – The Times

  • Britain can have its cake and eat it on fish, claims Eustace – Daily Telegraph
  • Fox claims Brexit will slash the cost of clothes and food – Daily Mail
  • Ex-advisor to Trade Secretary mocks ‘packet of crisps’ Brexit plan – FT
  • Major urges Parliament to soften Brexit – The Sun


  • Let’s not waste time on EFTA, which won’t deliver what voters want – Markus Fysh, Daily Telegraph
  • Fox and Johnson show the Brexiteers are losing sway – Sebastian Payne, FT
  • It will be Merkel’s fault if the EU falls apart – Roger Boyes, The Times
  • Last chance, Theresa: spell out Brexit like you mean it – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: “We need the ability to exercise a fully independent trade policy.” Fox’s trade speech: full text

Brexit 4) Backlash from Labour voters over Corbyn’s customs union u-turn

“Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to endorse staying in a customs union with the EU provoked derision in one of Labour’s key northern strongholds yesterday. Many families in Doncaster – a town synonymous with heavy industry, mining and the railways – have backed the party for generations. But after the South Yorkshire town heavily backed Leave in the 2016 referendum, many locals feel Labour no longer represents their views. Mother-of-two Beverley Smith, 55, a retail manager, said: ‘Corbyn is wrong. There’s a big wide world out there we can trade with. The people voted heavily for Brexit because they know what they want. ‘I know quite a few who voted Conservative for the first time in the general election last year. People’s will to come out of Europe is stronger than their support for Labour.’” – Daily Mail


  • Corbyn would do greater damage to the economy than ever Brexit could – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Eight in ten party members oppose membership of a customs union with the EU


May attacks web giants for failing to crack down on trafficking

“Theresa May will today slam web giants for failing to stop the “barbaric crime” of gangmasters selling migrant slaves for sex. She will say the internet is “increasingly enabling” gangs to condemn young women to a life of prostitution once they are trafficked to Britain. And the Prime Minister will demand social media companies use their cutting edge technology to identify adverts featuring victims on adult service websites and take them down. She will say the Government and National Crime Agency are already trialling their own software and that it has led to new leads. But No.10 says web giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter now need to lend their huge financial and technological muscle to the fight to “bring more perpetrators of this horrendous crime to justice”.” – The Sun

Johnson hails Saudi visit as sign of modernisation

“Britain should welcome the arrival of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince next week despite concerns over the regime’s human rights record and the war in Yemen, Boris Johnson has said in an attempt to head off expected protests. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, appointed heir last year, will visit for two days from Wednesday. Downing Street said yesterday that the visit would “usher in a new era” in Britain’s relationship with Saudi Arabia but it comes amid increased concerns over the regime’s human rights record and the deaths of thousands of civilians at the hands of its military in Yemen. The prince is expected to be confronted by protests but the government is anxious that the visit reflect what it sees as a new appetite for social and economic reform under his leadership.” – The Times

  • Foreign Secretary says UK should ‘seriously consider’ strikes on Syria – Daily Telegraph
  • Britain ‘should act’ as if chemical weapons were proven, says Johnson – The Scotsman


  • Reformer Mohammed bin Salman deserves our full support – Boris Johnson, The Times
  • Putin’s bloody adventure in Syria will yield no lasting victory – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph

Hammond hints that MoD will get cash to avoid cuts

“Philip Hammond offered the first signal yesterday that he was ready to give the armed forces an increase in money to fill a hole of at least £2 billion in the defence budget. The Ministry of Defence could have to cut capability before the results of an internal review of the military are known unless the Treasury steps in with cash to balance the books for the coming financial year. Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP and former army officer, asked the chancellor for confirmation that there would be no further cuts to the armed forces while the modernising defence programme, which is due to be concluded in the summer, is carried out… [Hammond] also said during Treasury questions in the Commons yesterday that he understood how challenging it was to manage the £36 billion defence budget. “The prime minister and myself are working very closely with our right honourable friend, the defence secretary, as he carries out the modernisation review,” Mr Hammond said. “We will ensure defence has the funding it needs to continue to defend this country appropriately.”” – The Times

  • Chancellor criticised for comments during homelessness debate – Daily Telegraph

Ministers urge rail companies to offer automatic compensation

“Ministers have told rail companies they should automatically give passengers compensation following delays and cancellations caused by blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. The Telegraph yesterday disclosed that train companies are pocketing huge compensation payments for disruption to their services while passengers are given far less. Compensation for rail companies is automatic, while passengers on nearly all services are required to fill out “bureaucratic” forms as they apply for compensation on their journeys. Between 2011 and 2017 rail companies were handed more than £2 billion in compensation by Network Rail, while over the same period passengers received just £187 million. The Government wants rail companies to automatically compensate passengers instead of requiring them to fill in forms to get money back.” – Daily Telegraph

#LabourToo: dozens of women speak out about harassment

“Dozens of Labour women spoke out yesterday about alleged sexual harassment and abuse by party members. They say rapes were covered up by the party over concerns that its reputation could be damaged, according to campaigners who have submitted a dossier on the claims to Jeremy Corbyn. One woman felt she could not report a sexual assault by a married male MP at a Labour Christmas party because he had powerful friends. The LabourToo activists set up their campaign to protect women in the party following the MeToo scandal in Hollywood, in which actresses accused powerful men in the film industry of decades of abuse. The 43 anonymised cases in the their report include party staff, activists, politicians and candidates.” – Daily Mail

Watson under pressure to return Mosley cash

“Tom Watson is under intense pressure to return more than £500,000 given to him by Max Mosley after the Mail exposed the former F1 tycoon’s racist past. This includes the disclosure that Mr Mosley published an appalling racist pamphlet during a by-election campaign which claimed ‘coloured immigrants’ spread ‘terrible diseases like leprosy’ and should be sent ‘home’. Our revelations are hugely embarrassing for Mr Watson, the MP for West Bromwich East – where around 30 per cent of constituents are from ethnic minorities. And they could trigger a new round of infighting in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party about the deputy leader’s funding arrangements with the multimillionaire.” – Daily Mail

Momentum founder enters the race to be Labour’s General Secretary

“The founder of Momentum is set to battle a top Unite figure to become Labour’s general secretary in a contest that would expose the faultline that cleaves the left-wing, pro-Corbyn party flank. Iain McNicol is to step down as general secretary after seven years. Mr McNicol, 48, was a controversial figure among left-wing activists, who accused him of trying to get rid of supporters of Mr Corbyn. Jon Lansman, 60, the founder of Momentum, is set to apply for the role, according to his allies. He is said to believe that he has the votes on Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), which will appoint the successor, to win unless a third candidate enters the race. Before his candidacy emerged, Jennie Formby was tipped as a shoo-in. The Unite union official confirmed her intention to stand yesterday on Twitter, pledging to “focus on uniting and organising our party to build on our ground-breaking manifesto”.” – The Times

  • McDonnell criticised for addressing Marx event – The Sun
  • ‘All whites are racist’ transgender model handed Labour role – The Times

Tom Harris: New GenSec will ensure anti-Corbyn MPs fall into line

Like the public row over the chairmanship of the party’s National Policy Forum a couple of weeks back, this appointment will pass most people by. Who cares about the appointment of an unelected official at Labour HQ? The answer, of course, is that a great many people in the Labour Party do, and should. The general secretary wields a range of executive powers and can make important decisions – particularly on how internal elections should be run – without reference to the ruling National Executive Committee, to which he or she is accountable… It’s the general secretary who is key to an essentially voluntary organisation, who makes sure the rules (or his interpretation of the rules) are adhered to. It is the general secretary who appoints staff. It is the general secretary who makes the key decisions about election campaigns, and brings a shed load of influence to bear on who the candidates should be. And now, for the first time in Labour’s modern history, it is a post guaranteed to be taken by someone from the hard Left.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Why Labour’s customs union proposals are a non-starter – Shanker Singham, Brexit Central
  • Johnson blows himself up on the Irish border – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • Are the Brexit talks bordering on collapse? – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • The pest that demonstrates Africa’s need for GM crops – Tirzah Duren, CapX