The EU seeks ‘punishment’ powers during transition

‘Brussels is demanding that Theresa May submit to powers allowing the European Union to ground flights, suspend single market access and impose trade tariffs on the UK during the Brexit transition period. Under the proposals, the EU would have unprecedented legal powers — without the oversight of European courts — to punish Britain unilaterally if it breached the terms of the transition. The prime minister has also been warned by Brussels that she must make a legal commitment to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland within weeks or the EU will “stall” Brexit trade and transition talks. Both issues are expected to be discussed by ministers today when the cabinet’s Brexit sub-committee meets to try to reach agreement on the next stage of negotiations.’ – The Times

  • Leaked five-page draft – FT
  • New Immigration Bill only ‘likely’ to be ready in time – The Sun
  • Whitehall has been ‘too slow’, MPs warn – The Times
  • SNP ‘dereliction of duty’ over failure to prepare for Brexit – Daily Telegraph
  • Inside the ERG – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Andrew R T Davies on Comment: Brexit. Stop leaking. Ignore the scare stories – and get a move on.

Ireland is reported to be making another push on the border question

‘Ireland is pushing for a settled “legal text” over the border question as early as next month in a move that threatens once again to derail the Brexit negotiations, The Daily Telegraph has learned. Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs and trade, is understood to have made Dublin’s uncompromising position clear to British counterparts, putting further pressure on Theresa May to make hard decisions on the future relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom…The Irish border will be one of the items on the agenda when the Prime Minister’s inner Brexit war cabinet convenes this morning for the first of two meetings this week to try to agree the Government’s position over Britain’s future relationship with Europe. The pressure from Ireland threatens to unravel the delicate diplomatic text over the Irish border question that was orchestrated in December.’ – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Alex Morton’s column: We could have had a radical Brexit. But we’re out of time for one – for the moment.

The search for a ‘Stop BoMogg’ leadership candidate begins

‘Senior Conservatives have launched a search for a “Stop BoMogg” candidate to prevent Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg becoming prime minister in a sudden leadership contest. One cabinet minister privately warned that there was a “whiff of death” about Theresa May’s premiership. Two Remain-supporting former ministers, Justine Greening and Anna Soubry, yesterday suggested they could not stay in a party led by Mr Rees-Mogg, who has emerged as a frontrunner to replace Mrs May. There is growing unease among the parliamentary party mainstream that the party could be “captured” by hard-right supporters of an extreme version of Brexit. While Mr Johnson and Mr Rees-Mogg have emerged as favourites to become Tory leader, their opponents have yet to identify a candidate. Amber Rudd, the home secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, and Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, are all seen as being from the moderate wing of the party and are expected to enter the race.’ – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: What is a Conservative? Answers to Soubry on a postcard, please.

>Yesterday: WATCH: Soubry says – sling out 35 “hard, ideological” Brexiteers “who are not Tories”.

May launches investigation into ‘fake news’ industry – and proposes new law on “abuse” of politicians

‘The PM launched a major review to protect newspapers as she accused social media giants of destroying reliable journalism. The Government-led probe will look into stopping the likes of Google and Facebook taking ad revenue from traditional outlets while peddling fake news. Theresa May told an audience in Manchester more than 200 local newspapers had closed since 2005. She warned: “When trusted and credible news sources decline, we can become vulnerable to news which is untrustworthy.”…The PM also blasted web trolls who are making politics “toxic” – claiming far-left abusers have “hounded out” a senior Labour woman from office. Mrs May vowed to crack down on social media “intimidation and abuse” as she brings in new laws to tackle the most abusive trolls.’ – The Sun

  • Women’s minister left Twitter due to ‘nastiness’ – The Sun
  • Heckling is part of freedom of speech – Tim Stanley, Daily Telegraph
  • MPs don’t need special treatment – Diane Abbott, The Guardian
  • Kinnock’s 24-hour ‘hunger strike’ stunt is mocked as ‘a diet’ – The Times
  • The BBC refuses to sack presenter who told Goldsmith he deserved a death threat – The Sun
  • Olney misused £2,000 of Parliamentary resources for Party campaigning – The Sun
  • Internet firms might be forced to support local newspapers – The Times


>Yesterday: MPsETC: “The ideal of a truly plural and open public sphere where everyone can take part is in danger.” May’s speech on public life. Full text.

Rudd agrees to consider pardons for the Suffragettes

‘Suffragettes who were jailed while fighting to win the vote for women could be pardoned for their crimes, Amber Rudd has said following calls from campaigners on the 100th anniversary of their victory. More than 1,000 women were arrested and many were imprisoned during the battle for equality and the Fawcett Society, as well as relatives of the suffragettes and senior Tory MPs, called on the Home Secretary to grant a pardon. Ms Rudd responded and said she is “certainly going to look at the individual cases” and consider issuing pardons. She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: “Instinctively I can see where that campaign is coming from so I will take a look and see if there is a proposal that I can take more seriously.’ – Daily Telegraph

Finkelstein: Votes at 16 might inadvertently help the Conservatives

‘Although 16-year-olds are almost all dependents, and therefore may not support low taxes, you would expect them to be quite fiscally conservative about borrowing, as they will have to pick up that bill. For the same reason they would exert pressure (although possibly fairly mild) for longer-term solutions to problems. Social attitude surveys show that young people tend to favour a more rugged individualism and are among the most sceptical about welfare spending and the most supportive of welfare reform. They are sympathetic to entrepreneurialism and risk-taking. Their attitude to the state is influenced by the fact that they are less trusting than older people. Attracting the support of young people will also pull politics in a socially liberal direction.’ – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

Employment law shake-up to be presented today, but the IoD says ministers should go further

‘Ministers will today announce that millions of people working flexible hours will be given new employment rights including holiday entitlement and sick pay. For the first time, workers in the so-called “gig economy” will have enforceable rights from their first day in a job, rather than having to wait weeks or months to build up entitlement to paid time off. Workers on zero hour contracts and agency workers will be given more stability and the right to a pay slip showing any costs deducted from their wages. But the Institute of Directors said the Government’s response to the Taylor Review should have gone further. Stephen Martin, director general of the IoD, said: “The lack of action on tax reform is a wasted opportunity. “The different tax treatment of the employed and self-employed has been a driving force behind the rise in self-employment in recent years, but tax treatment should not determine a person’s choice of employment status.”‘ – Daily Telegraph

  • There could be legislation to bring new clarity to types of work – The Times

Boles, Penrose and Prisk urge Javid to be more radical on housing

‘The government’s proposed planning reforms are “too weak to make a difference”, three former Tory ministers have said. Nick Boles, John Penrose and Mark Prisk said that Britain was facing a “slow-motion crisis” that would leave a generation locked out of home ownership, and that the government’s response to the problem was inadequate. Sajid Javid, the housing secretary, announced this week that the government would consult on changes making it easier for developers to add new floors to existing buildings. MPs criticised the scale of the plans. “You are absolutely right that overhauling our slow, expensive, uncertain and conflict-ridden planning laws is the place to start,” they said in a letter to Mr Javid. “But given the size of our housing crisis, we’d like to encourage you to be even bolder. Unless these proposals allow for building up not out in all towns and cities, and without red tape, they will be too weak to make a difference on the scale that’s going to be needed.”’ – The Times

>Today: Peter Franklin: “Allowing expansion where it’s needed will mean some building on the green belt.” An open letter to Dominic Raab.

Network Rail boss quits

‘The chief executive of Network Rail is to leave the company after speculation that the government wanted him out because of delays to major upgrades. Mark Carne, 58, will retire in the summer after more than four years in charge of the state-owned group that operates and maintains infrastructure. He is one of the country’s highest paid public servants, with a package of £820,000 in 2016-17, and had been due to retire before April next year when the company’s new five-year funding period starts. He is believed to have brought an announcement forward amid frustration over negative briefings in the past month. A Sunday newspaper quoted Whitehall sources attacking his pay and Network Rail’s performance last month.’ – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Failing rail firms are among privatisation’s worst enemies – Grayling should hold them accountable

The late Carl Sargeant’s son has won his Welsh Assembly seat

‘The son of late Labour politician Carl Sargeant who committed suicide after being suspended over groping allegations has succeeded his father in the Welsh Assembly. Jack Sargeant, 23, won the vote at the by-election in Alyn and Deeside, which was sparked as a result of his father’s death, as Labour retained the seat. He had said he would fight to represent local people ‘in the proud tradition of my father’ and vowed to find out the truth behind his father’s death in an apparent suicide in November. Mr Sargeant, 49, had been suspended from the party and dismissed as a Welsh Assembly minister following unspecified allegations about his personal conduct. In his winning speech following the by-election, Mr Sargeant said: ‘I want to say a big thank you to every person standing in this room tonight, everyone across Wales, across the UK and across the world as well who have stood by my family during the toughest time of our lives.’ – Daily Mail

MI6 raises concerns over ‘scandal’ of Putin-linked billionaire raising money in London

‘Security sources have raised questions over how EN+, an energy company, came to be floated in London last November without the intelligence services being properly consulted. EN+ is controlled by Oleg Deripaska, one of Russia’s wealthiest men who is closely linked to Vladimir Putin. The company also owns half of Rusal, a giant Russian aluminium company which until recently said on its website that a fine metal powder it produced was used “in the production of military equipment”. Mr Deripaska is president of Rusal. The Telegraph understands that the same type of powder was used in the production of a Russian-built Buk missile that Dutch investigators said downed Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people. A senior British intelligence official familiar with the issue described the decision to allow the flotation to proceed as a “scandal”.’ – Daily Telegraph

Fantasist ‘Nick’, who made false allegations agains Heath, Bramall, Proctor and Brittan, arrested

‘A man who falsely claimed he had been raped and tortured as a boy by a VIP paedophile ring is to face trial for child sex offences. Allegations by “Nick” against bigwigs Sir Ted Heath, Leon Brittan, Harvey Proctor and Lord Bramall sparked a £3million witch-hunt by police. The man was arrested and charged with possessing and making indecent images of children. He has appeared at magistrates’ court and will go on trial later this year. He could face up to ten years in jail if convicted. The Crown Prosecution Service is also examining a file of evidence over his role as a witness in Operation Midland.’ – The Sun

  • He might also be charged with perverting the course of justice – The Times