Salisbury Terror Attack 1) May plans to strike back against the Kremlin

‘The PM has told ministers to prepare a powerful response across diplomatic, economic and military fronts to punish the Salisbury outrage – dubbed by Home Secretary Amber Rudd as “a brazen and reckless act”. Intelligence chiefs are just “a few days” away from establishing hard proof that poison plot was ordered by Moscow. Senior Whitehall sources said Mrs May accepts she must then initiate a response to match the public uproar that will meet the revelation that another state was behind a chemical weapons attack on British soil. It will include; the immediate expulsion of senior Russian diplomats and spies, as well as potentially cancelling Kremlin-linked oligarch’s visas to London, plus asset freezes and travel bans; a statement of joint international condemnation from Britain’s closest allies – France’s President Emmanuel Macron and German leader Angela Merkel; [and] in the longer term, boosting Britain’s military deployments in Eastern Europe with more jets and troops, as well as a pushing for a NATO-wide reinforcement at the alliance’s summit in July.’ – The Sun

  • Boles urges her to cut off diplomatic ties – The Times
  • Injured police officer named as Sergeant Nick Bailey – The Times
  • 21 people have been treated as a result of the incident – The Guardian
  • Russian state broadcaster issues warning to ‘traitors’ – Daily Mail
  • It’s hardly likely to have been Canada – The Sun Says
  • We cannot ignore Russia’s threat to the West – Daily Express Leader
  • Terror arrests are up 58 per cent – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Williamson’s verdict at Westminster, not attempted murder in Salisbury, is our best guide to responding to Putin

Salisbury Terror Attack 2) Tugendhat says a boycott of the World Cup should be ‘kept on the table’

‘Ministers were under growing pressure last night to order a boycott of the World Cup in Russia. As speculation mounted about Russian involvement in the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, MPs questioned whether England’s participation in the tournament should go ahead. Whitehall sources say it may be only a matter of days before detectives are able to confirm whether there is a Russian link to the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. One MP last night described the attack as a ‘brazen act of war’. Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said ministers should urge allies to join a co-ordinated boycott of the World Cup, as part of a wider package of reprisals against the Putin regime. He said it was ‘extraordinary’ that the tournament was being held in a country that used ‘murder as an instrument of state policy’, and said a boycott should be ‘kept on the table’.’ – Daily Mail

>Wednesday: ToryDiary: Sorry, Gary Neville, but Putin’s World Cup has always been political – England should have boycotted it from the outset

EU Commission tries to fine the UK £2.4 billion over alleged customs fraud

‘The European Commission has hit Britain with a £2.4 billion fine, accusing the government of turning a blind eye to widespread customs fraud at ports. In a provocative move, ahead of the start of trade negotiations, Brussels has written to the government demanding payment after an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud unit, Olaf. It accuses the UK of allowing Chinese criminal gangs to systematically undervalue goods imported into the EU through Dover and Felixstowe, avoiding billions of pounds in customs duty and VAT that should have been paid to Brussels. The EU claims that Britain was made aware of the fraud more than ten years ago but failed to act, costing Brussels €2.6 billion in lost revenue. British authorities say they do not recognise the commission’s findings or the estimate of what it owed and will dispute the fine.’ – The Times

  • They’re acting like gangsters – The Sun Says
  • Johnson predicts ‘very, very minimal’ controls at the Northern Irish border – The Sun
  • Tusk threatens to delay talks over the issue – The Sun
  • Calais boss warns of tailbacks – The Guardian
  • New powers offer expected for Cardiff and Holyrood – The Guardian
  • Freedom for the City is mutually beneficial to the EU and the UK – The Times Leader


>Today: Iain Dale’s Friday Diary: Davis’s message to the EU should be: we’re not Greece – and won’t be treated like Greece

Trump offers the possibility that the UK could be exempted from his new tariffs

‘The UK would face a better prospect of avoiding US tariffs on steel and aluminium after leaving the European Union, Donald Trump indicated last night. Mr Trump announced a 25 per cent tariff on steel, and 10 per cent on aluminium, to begin in two weeks’ time. He exempted, at least temporarily, Mexico and Canada, and suggested the “great country” of Australia would also be spared, along with “possibly other countries as well” who were “real friends”. Mr Trump indicated those nations spending more on defence would be better positioned, and White House officials indicated “carve outs” would be decided on a “country by country” basis. The UK is one of only half a dozen Nato countries that meets the requirement of spending two per cent of GDP on defence.’ – Daily Telegraph

  • Three cheers for the Donald ending globalisation – The Guardian Leader
  • We want more trade deals with the UK, Saudis say – The Guardian
  • Archbishop urges prince to lift ban on churches – The Times
  • Mohammed bin Salman has too much power already – FT Leader


Spring Statement 1) Truss: The Chancellor will hold course and resist calls for a splurge

‘Next week the chancellor will deliver the spring statement. But there will be no red box, no rabbits out of the hat and no tax changes. Almost everyone has agreed that our decision to move to one budget each year is for the best. Businesses and families will enjoy the greater certainty over the future, while the simplification has also been endorsed by the IMF, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Institute for Government. But Labour has called for big spending announcements, which would have to come alongside big tax increases. Their plan would be bad news for families, bad news for businesses and bad news for the economy. Now more than ever, we need to avoid crippling tax hikes and keep Britain open for businesses.’ – Liz Truss, The Times

Spring Statement 2) Ministers prepare to offer NHS staff 6.5 per cent pay rise over three years

‘The government is set to offer around 1 million NHS staff a 6.5% pay rise over the next three years but is insisting that health workers give up a day’s holiday in return for the £3.3bn deal. Ministers hope they are close to finalising a package to give NHS personnel in England their first meaningful pay rise since 2010, after months of behind-the-scenes talks with union leaders. The Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care plan to propose that all non-medical NHS staff across the UK receive a 3% increase in their salary in 2018-19 – the current rate of inflation – and then rises of 1%-2% in the following two years. Nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, ambulance staff and all other workers except doctors and dentists would benefit from the scrapping of the hated pay cap. Doctors and dentists have a separate pay review system. The deal the government is preparing to formally put to staff later this month would also see some NHS personnel get pay rises of 10% and, in certain circumstances, well above that by 2021. Those on the bottom of the NHS’s nine pay scales would get a bigger uplift.’ – The Guardian

  • Too often getting treatment relies on being able to pull strings – Jemima Lewis, Daily Telegraph
  • Millions to be offered blood pressure pills to cut stroke risk – Daily Mail
  • Doctors urge patients to complain to ministers about funding – Daily Mail
  • Health Trust bans fertility treatment for women whose partners are obese – Daily Mail
  • Rudd promises to protect every bed in women’s refuges – The Sun

Spring Statement 3) Bradley unlocks £410 million of the additional funding agreed for Northern Ireland

‘The UK government has tabled a budget for Northern Ireland in the ongoing absence of devolved ministers because of the powersharing crisis. Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley unveiled the £12 billion Westminster spending plan for the region in a written statement to Parliament. The budget includes £410 million of the £1 billion investment package secured by the DUP as part of its confidence and supply (C&S) agreement with the minority Conservative administration. DUP leader Arlene Foster welcomed the Secretary of State’s intervention, saying it would give Stormont departments “certainty” for the next financial year. She said: “Cynics doubted the C&S money would ever be delivered but today it has helped achieve an improved Budget compared to the one that many feared. Our efforts will help alleviate pressures in health and education, tackle issues with mental health and deprivation, transform our NHS and build new infrastructure.”’ – Belfast Telegraph

  • The money will go on mental health care, education and infrastructure – The Guardian
  • Foster criticises Major and Blair for ‘throwing threats of violence around’ as a political tactic – Daily Mail
  • She accuses Brussels of acting ‘in bad faith’ – FT
  • Brexit-hating Blair given democracy prize – The Sun
  • The prospect of a sell-out on fishing does not enthuse Scots – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Whether you care about fisheries or not, they’re an essential guide to the new politics of Brexit

New Government review into factors holding back women in business

‘The Government has ordered the first ever “serious review” into the funding gap preventing women from becoming business leaders in Britain. A day after 200 business leaders, entrepreneurs and MPs signed an open letter published in The Telegraph urging the Government to put money aside to boost female entrepreneurship, the Treasury has pledged to examine the challenges facing female entrepreneurs. The review will result in a report later in the year which will be a “call to arms” for the financial sector to “sit up, take notice, and to act” to help break down the barriers women face when trying to access funding for a business in this country.’ – Daily Telegraph

  • Lady Barbara Judge attacks the IoD for leaking a critical report about her chairmanship – FT
  • She was recorded complaining about “blacks” – The Times

>Yesterday: Road to Parliament 3) Gillian Keegan: An apprenticeship gave me my start in business, so I designed one for entering politics

Corbyn admits posting in Facebook group that hosted anti-semitic material, but claims he never saw any racist content

‘Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has admitted being a member of a controversial private Facebook group about Palestine – but has denied ever seeing any anti-Semitic posts. A party investigation has been launched over claims that abusive messages about Jews were exchanged in the group. Mr Corbyn said he was signed up to the Palestine Live forum without his knowledge, but later exchanged messages on it. The Labour leader said: “I was joined on to that group without knowing it in probably about 2013/14. “I removed myself from the group in 2015. I replied by Facebook message to a couple of things about a suggestion on the vote on recognising Palestine, which I supported, and inviting a doctor to speak at an event. I have never trawled through the whole group.”‘ – Sky News

  • Yet again all they have is poor excuses – The Sun Says
  • Former chief rabbi says he wouldn’t even meet Labour until they improve their record on hate – The Sun
  • Mosley pictured at fascist rally two years after he claims to have ended his involvement – Daily Mail
  • Labour expects to gain 20 seats in Scotland at the next election – Daily Telegraph
  • Radical transgender politics are being imposed on Labour’s women with no debate – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • New university strikes threaten exam season – FT

MPs urge Gove to get on with introducing a coffee cup tax

‘Ministers have rejected calls for a “latte levy” on takeaway coffee cups to reduce the amount of waste they create. Mary Creagh, the chair of the environmental audit committee, accused the government of talking warm words but taking no action after ministers refused to adopt a charge on throwaway coffee cups similar to the plastic bag levy. It comes after the environment secretary, Michael Gove, again failed to act to introduce a plastic bottle deposit scheme, despite Theresa May’s pledge that she was declaring war on single-use plastic and considering policies including a tax on takeaway containers.’ – The Guardian

Bercow accused of bullying parliamentary staffer out of her job

‘John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, bullied a senior member of his parliamentary staff out of her job, it was alleged last night. Mr Bercow, who has repeatedly called on political parties to clamp down on misconduct by MPs, was accused of bullying Kate Emms, his former private secretary. Former colleagues of Ms Emms, who was appointed to work with Mr Bercow in May 2010, told Newsnight on BBC Two that she had been shouted at and undermined by the Speaker. She was signed off sick in February 2011 before returning three months later to a different role in the Commons, designed so that she would not have to speak to Mr Bercow. Commons authorities were told that she had post-traumatic stress disorder after her departure. It is alleged that she had to leave her role as a result of bullying behaviour by the Speaker, who colleagues said shouted at her “a lot”.’ – The Times

  • The Speaker is accused of not taking allegations against other MPs sufficiently seriously – Daily Mail

The US and North Korea agree to hold summit

‘President Donald Trump has accepted North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s dramatic offer to meet, and he’ll do it by May, a South Korean official said Thursday evening. South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong informed U.S. press of the expected in-person conversation and said the goal of the unprecedented meeting between the two countries’ leaders is permanent denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Chung did not say where the meeting would take place. A half hour after the foreign official announced the meeting, steps from the West Wing, the White House confirmed Trump’s participation. But it did not second Chung’s claim that talks would be held within the next two months. A statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the place and time of the meeting was still being worked out.’ – Daily Mail

  • Kim reportedly offers to suspend nuclear tests in return – The Times
  • It’s a gamble, and Kim could simply use it to demonstrate his supposed power – The Times
  • He wants to be treated like an equal, and Trump is giving him exactly that – Rob Crilly, Daily Telegraph
  • Confirmed: fake news travels faster than the truth – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: North Korea. Trump goes where the sainted Obama could never have gone.

News in Brief

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