May urges EU leaders to join the UK in a mass expulsion of Russian spies

‘Theresa May will tell EU leaders they must all toughen up on Russia – or put all of Europe at threat. Vladimir Putin’s alarming aggression will last “for years”, the PM will also warn at a Brussels summit. And she will insist that his refusal to respect international laws and borders means the whole continent is now at risk. It emerged tonight that she has also began to urge the 27 other member states to order their own Russian spy expulsions to send a strong joint message to the Kremlin over the Salisbury nerve agent outrage. Mrs May will tell leaders over the summit dinner on Thursday: “The challenge of Russia is one that will endure for years to come. As a European democracy the United Kingdom will stand shoulder to shoulder with the European Union and with NATO to face these threats together.’ – The Sun


Brussels presses for progress on the Irish border, as fishing row continues

‘Theresa May has been warned that Britain has three months to solve the Irish border dilemma or Brexit trade talks may stall. European leaders meeting in Brussels tomorrow are expected to sign a transition deal and move on to trade talks. The prime minister will be told, however, that the government must come up with a concrete solution to the issue by the next EU summit in June or sign off on a legally binding backstop to keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union. Failure to do so could result in a suspension of talks on the future relationship. A senior EU diplomat said yesterday that the other 27 countries expected to see a “solution to all matters relevant to the backstop” in good time for the June summit.’ – The Times

>Yesterday: Ray Bassett on Comment: It is time for political game-playing over the Irish border to be stopped

Evans-Pritchard: A global downturn during Brexit transition will throw Leavers and Remainers into turmoil

‘A cyclical recession will change the chemistry of Brexit talks. The relative attractions of the British and eurozone polities – the beauty contest that so shaped perceptions in the euro crisis of 2010 to 2014 – will take on enormous salience. It is not hard to imagine the vitriolic debate within the UK. Those who wish to blame Brexit for all that goes wrong will seize on the chance, claiming vindication as unemployment surges by a million and the budget deficit spirals to 8pc of GDP. It is an open goal for them since the UK has a famously “high beta” economy, leveraged to the global and commodity cycle, naturally prone to boom and bust. Yet the eurozone is even more vulnerable. It cannot plausibly withstand the political consequences of a second great crisis. Austerity fatigue is endemic in the South. Bail-out fatigue is equally endemic in the North.’ – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph

Forsyth: The Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister clash in Cabinet over stop and search

‘Theresa May’s Home Office record is normally off limits at cabinet. But when ministers discussed the government’s strategy for reducing violent crime on Tuesday, Boris Johnson took issue with what the Prime Minister regards as one of her key legacies: the dramatic reduction in stop and search. He argued that more stop and search was needed to deal with a spike in crime. What went unsaid — but what every-one around the cabinet table was acutely aware of — was that this was the opposite of Mrs May’s approach as Home Secretary. The exchange was pointed. ‘They irritate each other,’ one cabinet minister observed to me afterwards…One secretary of state half-jokingly described the cabinet as a ‘water cannons retrospective’, a reference to Johnson’s irritation when May barred the Metropolitan police from using the ones he had bought after the 2011 London riots. But this wasn’t just a clash of egos. Rather, it was a profound disagreement on how best to prevent crime. As one of those present put it to me: ‘Boris thinks stop and search is the answer; she thinks she stopped a national scandal.’’ – James Forsyth, The Spectator

  • On policing, on housing, and on fighting Momentum, Sadiq Khan is letting London down – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph
  • Durham police discover that challenging low-level crime reduces more serious offending – FT
  • Some 999 callers have to wait weeks for any response in some areas – Daily Mail

Mercer calls for troops to get the same pay rise as nurses

‘Theresa May sparked uproar yesterday as the Government said cash-strapped squaddies would have to wait months for a pay rise that matches the £4 billion deal for nurses. Downing Street and Treasury sources yesterday said the NHS was a “clear priority” and warned soldiers, police, teachers and other public sector workers not to expect a similar deal. Furious peers and MPs let rip and said it summed up fears that the Government only thinks about Our Boys when they have to fight to protect UK interests around the world. Soldiers in junior ranks have seen their real earnings shrink by £1,000 a year since 2010…Tory backbencher Johnny Mercer told The Sun: “Nurses deserve a better deal but of course I want to see that replicated across the military. The offer to our servicemen and women has unacceptably declined of late; pay is an important part of that and I want to see it addressed.” The row came as official figures revealed the 12-month squeeze on pay across the UK was finally at an end. Total pay rose 2.8 per cent in the three months to January – and by 2.6 per cent excluding bonuses.’ – The Sun

  • The Forces have a case for a similar rise. The rest of the public sector must wait. – The Sun Says
  • MoD chief threatens ‘sacred cows’ – The Times
  • Teachers campaign for five per cent more – Daily Mail
  • Doctors want extra – The Times
  • The whole economy is still awaiting a healthy pay rise – FT Leader
  • Don’t write off the high street just yet – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • IFS warns of the rising cost of social care – FT
  • We need an NHS tax – The Times Leader
  • Delay to the care cap affects 60,000 pensioners, Labour claims – Daily Mail
  • Reform council tax and make the wealthy pay more – Martin Wolf, FT

Lords complain that DEFRA is too focused on farming

‘The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is too preoccupied with farming and the environment to tackle chronic deprivation and social mobility “cold spots”, which have become endemic in rural areas, a report by the natural environment and rural communities select committee found. Lord Cameron of Dillington, committee chairman, said: “There is real poverty and deprivation in the countryside but because it is mixed up with chocolate box villages it tends to get ignored.” “Defra has never really got the fact that agriculture, forestry and fisheries represent around 7.5 per cent of rural employment and the other 90 per cent have problems — problems like deprivation and transport,” Lord Cameron added. “Defra seems to regularly ignore the needs of 93 per cent of its constituents.”’ – The Times

  • Pursglove accidentally propositions the Prime Minister – Daily Mail

Zuckerberg apologises, and warns of further attempts to meddle in US elections

‘Mark Zuckerberg says he’s “sure someone’s trying” to meddle with elections using Facebook. Speaking to CNN, the Facebook CEO apologised again for the Cambridge Analytica data breach and said he WOULD testify in front of Congress, and even backed regulation for the social network. Asked if he thought “bad actors” were using Facebook to mess with the US mid-terms, he said: “I’m sure someone’s trying and I’m sure there’s a version two of whatever the Russian effort was in 2016, and there’s going to be some new tactics we have to get in front of. We have some sense of the things we need to get in front of.” He described the Cambridge Analytica scandal as a “major breach of trust” adding “I’m so sorry.”’ – The Sun

One year since the Westminster Bridge attack

‘The widow of the American man killed in the Westminster Bridge terror attack in London says she will be remembering him with ‘forgiveness and peace’ one year on. Melissa Cochran, 47, will honor husband Kurt Cochran by ‘advocating love’ on the first anniversary of the March 22 attack. Speaking to, the Utah resident said that she still grieves for her husband and wants to express her ‘deepest sympathies’ to the families of the three other people who died and 49 who were injured…Kurt and Melissa, who have two sons in their 20s, were visiting the UK on a trip to mark the 25th anniversary of their wedding when they were struck by terrorist Khalid Masood in a 4×4 on Westminster Bridge near Parliament. Masood killed Kurt, 54, and seriously injured Melissa, leaving her with a broken rib and badly injured leg, before stopping and stabbing to death British police officer Keith Palmer. Masood was shot dead at the scene by an armed policeman – most British officers do no carry guns – who was hailed a hero for stopping further carnage.’ – Daily Mail

Aaronovitch: Corbynism is Britain’s first personality cult

‘The Corbyn cult is just about the first I can recall from British political history; unique in Labour, almost unprecedented in any party. Never mind Eden, Macmillan or Heath, even Churchill did not receive such uncategorical support from his activists. The nearest equivalent is the treatment Tories handed out to Margaret Thatcher, but only after victory in the Falklands war. I didn’t enjoy the Thatcher Supremacy, but most of the time the attitude even of party members towards leaders has been one of friendly scepticism. Not any more. It is enough today in many Labour gatherings simply to invoke the name of the leader to banish opposition or rally support. Over in America, where I’ve been recently, a similar cult of personality has hijacked another great party. And ironically it was also illustrated in the matter of Russia. Donald Trump, we learnt from a leak this week, ignored advice from his security advisers and congratulated Mr Putin on his “re-election” as president and neglected to mention either Russian meddling in US affairs or the Skripal attack.’ – David Aaronovitch, The Times

  • Vaz investigation resumes – The Sun

>Yesterday: UKIPWatch: It’s time the pollsters stopped prompting UKIP as a major party

Welby speaks of his ‘shame’ at how the Church of England let down abuse victims

‘Justin Welby has said he is “ashamed” of the Church of England as he admitted he had a “sense of failure” over the Church’s treatment of abuse victims. Giving evidence at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the Archbishop of Canterbury said the Church’s discipline process for accused priests was “not fit for purpose” and needed reform. “The damage it does to victims and survivors, the damage it does to people against whom a complaint is made, is extraordinary,” he said. Asked about the lack of responsibility taken by individuals for failings in the church, he warned that tribalism in the Church of England had allowed paedophile clerics to thrive.’ – Daily Telegraph

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