EU backs May’s tough stance on Russia

“EU leaders today hailed the ‘unprecedented’ action against Russia after the bloc announced it is pulling its ambassador out of Moscow in solidarity with Britain over Salisbury. While five other countries across the bloc are set kick out Kremlin spies on Monday as they back Theresa May’s tough stance. EU Council President Donald Tusk today said: ‘In these difficult circumstances I am especially pleased that, despite tough Brexit negotiations, the EU has demonstrated unanimity and solidarity with the UK in the face of this attack.’ Mr Tusk said he expects ‘more than one’ EU country to boot out Russian agents on Monday. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: ‘This is an extraordinary measure – we have never taken it before.'” – Daily Mail

  • How the Prime Minister persuaded the EU to unite against Russia – Daily Telegraph
  • Now 20 European nations could expel Moscow spies – Daily Mail
  • Thousands of Russian bots ‘spread confusion’ after attack – The Times
  • Johnson compares annexations of Crimea and the Sudetenland – Daily Telegraph
  • Expat Russians fear cold front in ‘Londongrad’ – FT


  • Germany ‘appeals for calm’ as Europe ‘defies Trump’s trade threats’ – The Times
  • EU accuses Trump of holding gun to its head with trade war threats – Daily Mail


  • UK must look to its world role post-Brexit – Daily Telegraph
  • Britain needs European allies more than ever – FT
  • EU cooperation with Russia will not extend to Brexit – The Sun

>Yesterday: Lord Risby in Comment: We must not forget the Tartars as Putin oppresses them in Crimea

Charles Moore: To Putin, the West are sticking hypocrites who disrespect Russia

“And we, the West, are the chief object of Russian resentment. In 1975, the Soviets signed the Helsinki Final Act, which upholds territorial borders, the peaceful settlements of disputes, human rights and so on. They also agreed later – and not under duress – that the Helsinki principles should organise post-Cold War Europe. But really they remained attached to the Yalta agreement of 1945 in which Stalin secured for the Soviets the virtually absolute control of Eastern Europe. So when we think we are advancing free markets, upholding democracy, and protecting the national aspirations of countries formerly under the Soviet heel, many Russians think of us as stinking hypocrites who are annexing their part of the world and trashing their civilisation.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Bolton may be a hawk, but the White House could do with a more robust foreign policy – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Can May turn a good foreign policy week into political advantage at home?

Prime Minister welcomes ‘eleventh hour’ reprieve from US tariffs

“Theresa May has welcomed the 11th-hour suspension of Donald Trump’s threatened US tariffs on British steel – which could have decimated the industry. The Prime Minister dropped plans to fly home from Brussels last night to stay on for discussions on the developments after the White House announced a temporary exemption for the EU. And she said afterwards she will be “working with my fellow EU leaders to see how we can secure a permanent exemption from these steel tariffs”. Mrs May said: “We have been working very hard to secure an EU-wide exemption to the steel tariffs that the Americans have announced.”” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: “We didn’t elect him to be a saint, we elected him to be a leader.” My latest American focus groups.

Brexit: Brussels opens ‘decisive phase’ of talks…

“European leaders opened a decisive new phase of Brexit talks on Friday, endorsing the start of negotiations on future relations and a transition that would extend the UK’s de facto membership of the EU until the end of 2020.  At a summit in Brussels, the other 27 EU countries took only a few minutes to sign off on the 21-month transition period and adopt guidelines on the bloc’s approach to a future relationship with the UK, covering trade, security and other issues. The transition will start on “Brexit Day” on March 29 2019, and last until the end of 2020 – if a full withdrawal treaty is agreed. Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister, hailed a “new dynamic” in the talks, while Michel Barnier, Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator, said the EU was “crossing a decisive point in this difficult and extraordinary negotiation”.” – FT

  • Britain must solve Irish border problem ‘within weeks’ to meet EU deadline – Daily Telegraph


  • May must be able to walk away if she has to – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • Food industry silent on benefits of Brexit – Stephen Jardine, The Scotsman

…as Corbyn sacks Smith for calling for a second EU referendum…

“Jeremy Corbyn has sacked shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith after he called for a second EU referendum in an article earlier today. Mr Smith, who challenged Mr Corbyn for leadership of the party in 2016, was brought into the shadow cabinet front bench after the general election last year. He has been replaced by the shadow housing minister Tony Lloyd. In a statement, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Tony is a highly experienced former Government Minister who is committed to ensuring that peace in Northern Ireland is maintained and helping to steer the devolution deal back on track.’ Mr Smith responded to the sacking by tweeting: ‘Just been sacked by @jeremycorbyn for my long held views on the damage #Brexit will do to the Good Friday Agreement & the economy of the entire U.K. ‘Those views are shared by Labour members & supporters and I will continue to speak up for them, and in the interest of our country.’ The tweet has racked up nearly 11,000 likes and more than 4,750 retweets.” – Daily Mail

  • Lords split on Labour plan to scrap hereditary peers – FT


  • Why May and Corbyn are at war with their own parties – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

…and Clegg brands the transition period a ‘national humiliation’

“With 12 months to go before the UK is due to leave the EU, Sir Nick is still not reconciled to Brexit. “I want to stop it – yes, absolutely. The transition period is just a euphemism for delay. I think it is the most undignified act of humiliation that I can remember in my lifetime. It means the UK is willingly now saying we will do all the hard bits of the negotiation after we have forfeited any means of leverage. One of President Macron’s advisers said to me, ‘Do they realise how weak they will be?’ No self-respecting French politician would put their country in that situation.” The political class is in his view driven by “narcissisms and self-absorption” rather than the national interest. “Theresa May couldn’t face down her party and say she was going to do what was right for her country. After the referendum… some quite senior [EU] officials attempted to work up ways of giving Britain an emergency brake on free movement… They were gobsmacked when No 10 closed the door.”” – The Times

  • Fishermen ‘feel used’ over Brexit – The Guardian
  • Anger as Parliament ‘stops bid to block EU benefit tourism’ – Daily Express
  • Think again on passports, peers urge – The Times


  • May has her bridge, but Brussels wants to dictate what lies over it – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph
  • There’s a brutish jingoism afoot in Britain – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • Does the UK have the pride to reject May’s tail-between-the-legs Brexit? – Hugo Dixon, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Will the price of an EU deal be French-made blue passports and Spanish boats in British waters?

Ministers 1) Javid threatens to ‘take over’ councils over housebuilding delays

“Housing Secretary Sajid Javid last night threatened to take over three councils in fury at delays to the Tories’ house-building aims. The Cabinet Minister last night said it was sending “a team of experts” into Castle Point, Thanet and Wirral to assess if the Government needs to step in and produce their ‘local plans’. The Goverment gave 15 councils until January 31 to produce a detail strategy to build homes in their patch. Last night Mr Javid accused the town halls of letting down their local population. And he said: “Whilst most councils rightly recognise their responsibilities and most have worked hard to meet the housing challenge, some have failed. I expect those authorities we identified in November to continue to make progress. I’m also stepping it up with three councils in particular, sending in a team of experts to make a direct assessment, ensuring they plan properly for the future or we’ll have to do it for them.”” – The Sun

  • Housing Secretary faces battle over affordable homes target – The Guardian

Ministers 2) Grayling gives timetable for Heathrow third runway

“Work on a third runway at Heathrow will be ready to start in a little over two years, the Transport Secretary said yesterday. Chris Grayling said that if Parliament backs the expansion, the project will begin around December 2020, when the Brexit transition period ends. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this would follow outline planning consent being given by the time the UK formally leaves the EU in March 2019, saying:’ By the time that we leave the European Union… if all goes according to plan, it will have outline planning consent. ‘By the time we finish the transition period the construction work will be about to start.’ Mr Grayling said Parliamentary approval was the equivalent of giving the airport outline planning consent.” – Daily Mail

  • British transport policy is in danger of missing the bus – David Brown, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Heathrow’s engines rev up

Ministers 3) Gove to unveil bottle deposit scheme

“A deposit scheme for plastic bottles will be unveiled in days. The move is part of plans from Environment Secretary Michael Gove to drive up recycling rates and reduce litter. His officials are looking at ways of introducing a small charge on drinks cans and plastic bottles. This deposit would be refunded to customers who took their empties to a new network of ‘reverse vending machines’. It is another victory for the Mail’s ten-year campaign against plastic pollution, which secured a major breakthrough with the levy on supermarket bags. A leaked report shows that adopting the scheme would boost the collection rates for plastic bottles from around 60 per cent to more than 85 per cent. The move could also reduce the litter resulting from bottles and cans by at least 70 per cent, the report said.” – Daily Mail

  • May accused of ‘betraying’ diesel drivers by abandoning scrappage scheme – The Sun

Ministers 4) Government to expose ‘rip-off’ airline fees

“Airlines are to be prevented from ripping off passengers with last-minute “hidden” fees under a government crackdown, The Times has learnt. Ministers are drawing up measures to stop passengers being hit by unexpected charges of up to £160 to change the names on a booking, print boarding passes or check in luggage. An aviation strategy due to be published by the Department for Transport (DfT) will contain plans to ensure that fees are clearly visible at the time of booking. It could require airlines to present fees in the same transparent way when tickets are purchased, allowing travellers to make easy comparisons between airlines. The move is designed to ensure that the price you see is the price you pay. Airlines could be asked to review their own charges if they are deemed excessive.” – The Times

>Today: Book Reviews: Graham and Rowley try to answer the big question “Why are you a Conservative?”

Labour fury that Corbyn ‘defended anti-Semitic public mural’

“Jeremy Corbyn has admitted defending an artist who painted an anti-Semitic mural. The Labour leader criticised the decision to remove the painting, which depicts a group of ‘hook-nosed’ men around a Monopoly board, from a wall in east London. When the artist complained on Facebook that it was being painted over, Mr Corbyn replied: ‘Why?’, before going on to condemn previous destruction of controversial political art. Jewish groups condemned the image, saying it contained ‘vile anti-Semitic tropes’ such as the idea that Jewish people controlled the world. After Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger demanded a response from Mr Corbyn yesterday, he admitted writing the Facebook post six years ago – and agreed that the mural was anti-Semitic.” – Daily Mail

  • Leader criticised for backing graffiti artist – The Guardian

Jarvis wins Sheffield mayoral nomination

“Dan Jarvis, the former paratrooper tipped as a future leader of the Labour party, is poised to leave parliament to become mayor of Sheffield city region. The Barnsley MP, seen by many moderate party members as the biggest threat to leftwing leader Jeremy Corbyn, won the party’s mayoral nomination on Friday with 58 per cent of the vote. He beat Ben Curran, a Sheffield city councillor who was endorsed by Unite, the union, and Momentum, the campaign group backing Mr Corbyn. With Labour in control of all the region’s councils and parliamentary seats, Mr Jarvis is almost certain to win the contest on May 3. He hopes to use the mayoralty to build a national profile.” – FT

  • Moderate can no longer be an MP under new Labour rules – The Guardian

More Labour:

  • Union criticised over donation to Labour MP – The Scotsman

DUP to move ahead with plans for ‘shadow Assembly’

“Arlene Foster is set to indicate today that the DUP will work with the UK Government on plans for a shadow Assembly to sit at Stormont while power-sharing is suspended. The DUP leader will confirm that the prospects of a return to devolution in the near future “don’t look promising”. She will outline her ideas for an Assembly that would scrutinise legislation and Westminster ministerial actions. In a speech at the DUP spring policy conference in Ballymena, Mrs Foster will say: “Ministerial decisions being made by the Secretary of State is in no way our preferred outcome, but it is far better than no decisions being taken at all. “We will continue to work closely with Karen Bradley as she makes good on her commitment to do whatever is necessary to fulfil her majesty’s Government’s responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland, including working with her on ways for the Assembly that the people elected last year to have an input.”” – Belfast Telegraph

Academic hired to assess ‘sugar tax’ claims God told him to push for one

“A top academic hired by the Government to judge the success of the Sugar Tax claims God asked him to push for the soft drinks levy. Furious campaigners hit out last night over a blog where Professor Rev. Mike Rayner said the Almighty was “calling me to work towards the introduction of soft drink taxes in this country”. He has also previously published papers claiming a levy pushing up the price of popular fizz will cut obesity. Drink bosses are mulling an official complaint, claiming the blog by the Professor in 2012 showed there is no chance of a fair and independent assessment of the tax. Professor Rayner is one of a nine-strong team hired by the Department of Health last year to study its impact.” – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • Practical and technical solutions can resolve the Irish border – David Campbell Bannerman MEP, Brexit Central
  • Is Owen Smith’s sacking an attempt to distract from Labour’s anti-Semitism row? – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • Europe’s technophobic technocrats – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • We need to stop rewarding Church leaders for failure – Mark Fox, Reaction
  • The Trump temptation that Evangelicals can’t resist – David French, UnHerd