Published:

Russia 1) UK steps up chemical warfare preparations after expelling diplomats

“Britain is at a profound moment in its history and cannot “sit back” and let events overtake it, the Defence Secretary will warn today as he unveils new measures to tackle chemical and biological warfare. Gavin Williamson will use his first major speech to outline how Britain must modernise its defences to tackle growing threats as he warns the Salisbury spy poisoning should remove any doubt over the danger Russia poses to the UK. Thousands of soldiers will be vaccinated against anthrax while a new chemical weapon defence centre will protect Britain from further attacks, Mr Williamson will announce. His keynote speech comes after Theresa May yesterday kicked out 23 Russian diplomats in the biggest expulsion since the Cold War, after Moscow failed to explain how Col Sergei Skripal and his daughter were attacked with a rare, military-grade Russian nerve agent.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Thousands of troops to get anthrax jabs – Daily Mail
  • Porton Down laboratory to recieve £48 million boost – FT

More:

  • Fears Russia could name British spies in tit-for-tat reprisals – Daily Mail
  • Putin criticis warn he will see current response as weak – FT
  • Cold snap means Britain needs Russian gas for heating – The Sun
  • Sturgeon backs May as diplomats expelled – The Scotsman

Comment:

  • May has shown that Britain won’t be pushed around by Russia – Julie Lenarz, Daily Telegraph
  • If this wicked acts jolts us out of complacency on defence it will serve a great purpose – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Why Salmond must now quit his RT show – Tom Peterkin, The Scotsman

Editorial:

  • May’s response was strong, but she must be ready to do more – The Times
  • The Prime Minister rises to the Russian challenge – The Sun

>Yesterday:

Russia 2) Macron’s spokesman ‘breaks ranks’ over attack. But France solid at the UN. America stands with Britain.

“France yesterday undermined Theresa May’s attempts to encourage mass action against Russia – demanding solid proof of Moscow’s involvement before it would act in solidarity with the British Government. In contrast to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump – who both assured the Prime Minister that they were backing her views on possible Russian involvement in the Salisbury attack – President Emmanuel Macron and senior French officials declined to take such a solid stance. After France initially condemned the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter on Tuesday, and expressed solidarity with Britain, French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux yesterday said it was too early for Paris to decide whether action should be taken against Russia.” – Daily Mail

  • Paris says London may have punished Moscow ‘too soon’ – The Sun
  • US blames Russia for nerve agent attack – FT
  • Johnson urges allies to rally behind Britain – The Guardian
  • Foreign Office warns UK nationals in Russia over ‘anti-British sentiment’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Forget NATO, we need a world alliance against China and Russia – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • May can’t rely on Europe or America, and Putin knows it – Simon Tisdall, The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Poor Russia

Russia 3) Labour MPs round on Corbyn over failure to condemn Putin

“Jeremy Corbyn was today branded a ‘disgrace’ after he failed to condemn the Kremlin and suggested Russia might not be behind the Salisbury poisoning. The Labour leader was jeered and met with cries of ‘shame’ as he stood up in the Commons and failed to back Theresa May’s tough stance against Russia. He prompted gasps of disbelief as he parroted the Russian line calling for Britain to share samples of the poison used against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Moscow to run their own tests. And he used the assassination attempt to blast Government cuts to diplomats and call for a ‘robust dialogue’ with Vladimir Putin. He sparked fresh fury after his official spokesman said MI5 could be wrong in blaming Russia because they were wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” – Daily Mail

  • Mutinous MPs accuse leader of ‘appeasement’ – Daily Mail
  • Bryant reveals abuse received after challenging Russia – The Sun
  • Calls for Corbyn to sack Milne – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Corbyn should listen to British experts, not the Kremlin – Ben Bradshaw MP, Times Red Box
  • Tawdry response shows that he wouldn’t defend us – Ian Birrell, Daily Mail
  • How long can the Corbynite tribes ruling Labour co-exist? – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • Refusal to stand against aggression shows Corbyn is unfit for office – Daily Telegraph

Brexit: UK will be able to negotiate trade deals during transition

“Britain will be free to sign trade deals during the Brexit transition period without permission from the European Union after a climbdown by Brussels, The Times has learnt. EU negotiators have accepted the UK’s demand that it should be able to pursue an independent trade policy while remaining inside the customs union and single market. Publicly, the EU’s negotiating guidelines still state that Britain will not be able to implement trade deals “unless authorised to do so by the union”. Behind closed doors the position taken by Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, is understood to have softened significantly. The latest draft of a potential transition deal says that Britain will be able to both negotiate and sign trade deals during the period.” – The Times

  • Meet the Brexit negotiators: Davis and Barnier – FT
  • Labour MEPs accused of betrayal after voting down bid to protect UK fishing waters – Daily Express

More:

  • First Ministers predict deal will be struck on devolved powers – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit threatens the Belfast Agreement, Varadkar warns – The Guardian

Comment:

  • At last, Verhofstadt is trying to help the Brexit process – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph
  • Mutineers could reject hard Brexit without letting in Corbyn – Alan Wagner, Times Red Box
  • Sturgeon still struggling to find a starring role in Brexit – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Daniel Hannan MEP’s column: Brexit will be a success, but swivel-eyed Remainers make the process more costly than it needs to be

Javid’s integration drive is panned for lack of funding…

“A drive to integrate migrants was yesterday panned after ministers pledged just a quarter of the money demanded. No 10’s former integration czar Dame Louise Casey had called for at least £200million to be spent implementing her recommendations. She said the £50 million allotted by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid was not enough to deliver the “seismic” shift outlined in her hard-hitting report. Her year-long study slammed consecutive governments for failing to handle the downsides of mass immigration. he strategy sets out plans for a series of “conversation clubs” across the country for migrants to practice their English but charities said these couldn’t make up for the “huge shortfall” in funding for classes.” – The Sun

  • People in Britain should learn English, but need free lessons to do so – Amina Lone, The Guardian

>Yesterday:

…as Hammond is warned of £40 billion shortfall

“Philip Hammond will have to raise taxes by as much as £40 billion to eliminate the deficit by the middle of the next decade, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said yesterday. Cabinet ministers have warned Tory MPs not to expect a bonanza for public services in next year’s spending review. Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, said that the headroom outlined by the chancellor was being reduced by other calls on the exchequer. Ministers are pointing to the decision by the government not to contest a court ruling against it in January which could mean that about 220,000 people who receive Personal Independence Payments will have their claim reviewed. This could cost £3.7 billion by 2023 and is only one item restricting the chancellor’s room for manoeuvre.” – The Times

>Today: Julian Jessop in Comment: Which taxes should Tories cut? 3) Reduce sin taxes and property taxes to give the economy a fillip

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Hammond’s seriousness, professionalism and – yes – dullness make Labour look lightweight

Labour may block bullying enquiring to prop up Bercow

“Labour may stop an investigation into allegations that Commons staff were harassed, in a bid to shore up support for the Speaker, John Bercow. Andrea Leadsom said that claims of mistreatment should be subject to a “short, independently led inquiry”. Her recommendation follows allegations last week that Mr Bercow, Paul Farrelly, a Labour MP, and Mark Pritchard, a Conservative MP, bullied Commons clerks. They deny the claims. Ms Leadsom is due to present the plan to the House of Commons Commission, the group of MPs, house staff and experts who are responsible for administration, on Monday. A Labour source indicated that the party’s representatives on the commission, Valerie Vaz, the shadow leader of the Commons, and Dame Rosie Winterton, a deputy speaker, are considering voting against the inquiry.” – The Times

  • Speaker to step aside from committee probing bullying claims – Daily Telegraph

Vaz accused of being well enough to face investigation

“Labour MP Keith Vaz has been spotted out and about at a Bollywood gala and a Polish folklore festival – but is still deemed too sick to be investigated over his liaison with Romanian male prostitutes. A parliamentary inquiry into the veteran politician was suspended in December ‘for medical reasons’, but he has continued to take part in engagements in the UK and around the world. Last month the Mail revealed that questions have been asked about exactly how ill Mr Vaz is. Since the investigation into his conduct was halted by the standards commissioner, the Leicester East MP has opened a new swimming pool in the city, attended planning meetings, travelled nearly 5,000 miles to India and took a trip to Saudi Arabia.” – Daily Mail

MPs demand anti-pollution charges for town centres

“Local councils should be able to speed up the introduction of charging zones for motorists in town centres to combat pollution, according to a report backed by more than 50 MPs. Four parliamentary committees have today delivered a damning verdict on the government’s plans to clean up the air, describing it as a ‘box-ticking exercise’. Their report said the Government’s proposed ban on the sale of new conventional diesel and petrol cars from 2040 ‘lacks sufficient ambition’ and should be brought forward. Car makers should also be forced to pay into a ‘clean air fund’ under the ‘polluter pays principle’. But MPs also attacked the Government for ‘failing to provide clear messaging and national leadership on the issue of Clean Air Zones’.” – Daily Mail

  • Ban on diesel and petrol from 2040 doesn’t go far enough, say MPs – Daily Telegraph
  • Union warns of jobs risk from shift to electric cars – FT

Editorial:

Astonishment at claims Ulster civil service covered for ministers

“There was astonishment at comments from the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service who said meetings with ministers were not properly recorded to save embarrassment of their political taskmasters. David Sterling, speaking at the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, described it as a “feature” of government in Northern Ireland that minutes would not properly be made in case they were later subject to Freedom of Information requests which would put the information in the public domain. “It is a feature of devolved administration here were there have been two main parties that have been sensitive to criticism,” he told the inquiry… The DUP said it could not comment given the ongoing RHI inquiry while Sinn Fein said its ministers would not have ordered minutes not to be taken.” – Belfast Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Could today be the beginning of the end for Corbyn? – Olivia Utley, Reaction
  • Putin’s toxic power – Owen Matthews, The Spectator
  • Auction visas to build a better immigration system – Daniel Pryor, CapX
  • Sturgeon and the SNP should stop their irresponsible games – Graham Simpson, Brexit Central

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