Cabinet committee explores ‘customs partnership’ as a solution for the Irish border

‘Theresa May is stepping up plans to tackle the Irish border question in Brexit talks through an audacious customs scheme once described as “magical thinking” in Brussels. The scheme, which will be discussed with EU officials this month, would see the UK act as the external frontier for the EU, collecting tariffs and carrying out other checks on imports, but it could take many years to introduce. A new ministerial group on Northern Ireland, including chancellor Philip Hammond, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington and Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley has been set up to oversee planning for the Irish border. The “customs partnership” plan is one of two customs options being proposed by Mrs May — but the only one that would remove the need for customs checks at the Irish border. However, border checks would be required if Britain departed from EU regulatory standards.’ – FT

  • Australia set to demand Britain accepts hormone-treated beef – The Times
  • Downing Street fears Cabinet ministers might pressure May to weaken immigration controls – The Sun
  • Be careful, Prime Minister – The Sun Says
  • Electoral Commission board members urged to resign over anti-Brexit bias – Daily Mail
  • The window to revoke Brexit has passed – Wolfgang Munchau, FT
  • IPO data shows the City is set to retain its world-leading position – Daily Telegraph
  • China retaliates against Trump’s tariffs – The Guardian

>Today: Rebecca Lowe’s column: As Brexit looms in less than a year, here’s how to approach devolving power

>Yesterday: Nicholas Mazzei on Comment: Why it’s unfair to tell us Diehard Remainers to “get over it”

New Children’s Funeral Fund established

‘The cost of children’s funerals is to be met in future by the taxpayer, the Prime Minister said yesterday. Theresa May said it was wrong for grieving parents to have to struggle with the difficulties of finding money to bury their son or daughter. The move follows a campaign by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who had to take out a loan to bury her eight-year-old son after he was killed in a car accident. Miss Harris, MP for Swansea East and Labour equality spokesman, had pressed the Government to cover the costs of burials and cremations to help parents who find it hard to pay. The Prime Minister said there will be a Children’s Funeral Fund which will cover for the costs of funerals, burials and cremations. The new fund follows a pattern already set up in Wales.’ – Daily Mail

  • Calls for Scottish councils to follow suit – The Scotsman

Foges: The NHS should be more judgmental towards patients who won’t improve their habits

‘Some would argue that when it comes to prioritising NHS treatment, all that matters is medical need. Seen through this lens, the chain smoker with lung cancer and the heavy drinker with liver disease are highly deserving of treatment; the transgendered person or the couple with infertility issues are not. Yet there is another lens we should be looking through when deciding who deserves treatment: behaviour. The main malady afflicting the NHS is a population that refuses to take responsibility for its choices. We have had education campaigns for years, enough leaflets, information and five-a-day guidance to make health freaks of us all, yet recklessness and greed has created an army of fat, guzzling, boozing, snacking, smoking, sedentary patients with multiple health conditions…This could mean a number of things, such as further rationing the non-urgent operations of those who will not lose weight or stop smoking. In Hertfordshire, they are already breathalysing smokers to ensure they have quit before being referred for surgery…A more judgmental NHS might charge those who turn up to A&E drunk or on drugs, and those who make the choice not to turn up to their GP appointment. There could also be increased taxes on sugar, fats and alcohol so it is those who are over-indulging who pay more.’ – Clare Foges, The Times

  • BMA predicts a ‘summer crisis’ – Daily Mail
  • Health chief has to repay bill for a helicopter lesson – The Times

Frazer launches review of restrictions on aggressive bailiffs

‘Bullying bailiffs face being stripped of their powers in a fresh government crackdown. Ministers will today begin an inquiry into claims that debt collectors are still being overly aggressive, four years after an initial overhaul of the sector…Vulnerable people subjected to ill-treatment are being urged to give evidence, the Ministry of Justice said. New laws were introduced in 2014, designed to bring an end to aggressive behaviour…But the MoJ said the review revealed “lingering concerns” about the behaviour of a minority of bailiffs. Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: “The majority of bailiffs act professionally and within the rules, but we have been told by those working on the front line that this may not always be the case. Aggressive tactics will not be tolerated.”‘ – The Sun

  • Javid gives permission for 1,800 houses on former Top Gear track – Daily Mail
  • Councillor pushed through sale of public property to a relative below market value – Daily Mail
  • Councils spend £1 million on celebrities while raising taxes – Daily Telegraph

Saunders stands down as Government ‘declines’ to extend her contract as DPP

‘The head of the Crown Prosecution Service will this week announce that she is standing down after the Government declined to extend her contract following a string of controversies. Alison Saunders will end her term as Director of Public Prosecutions in the Autumn after five years amid intense criticism from Tory MPs and ministers following the collapse of a series of rape trials. It comes as every rape case in the country is under review after the collapse of four rape trials in the space of two months when critical evidence was disclosed just days before cases were due to be heard in court. A Whitehall source told The Telegraph: “It was felt a clean break was needed. Alison’s tenure has been highly contentious, to say the least, and we want someone who can come into this job with a clear agenda. It was made clear that her contract would not be extended.” One senior lawyer said: “It has been a disastrous tenure, it has reduced the credibility of the role.”‘ – Daily Telegraph

  • The Met abandons its policy of automatically believing victims – The Times
  • Good – The Times Leader
  • Prosecutors told a Telford victim’s father they wouldn’t prosecute because 13-year-old had ‘consented’ – Daily Mail
  • Barristers go on strike – FT

£20 million of British taxpayers’ money goes towards hate education in Palestine

‘A government minister has admitted that more than £20 million of British aid money is being spent on schools in Palestine that teach children about jihad and martyrdom. A report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education reveals that the Palestinian Authority school curriculum ‘utilizes a variety of tools to convince children—mostly boys—to risk their lives and die as martyrs’. Alistair Burt, the aid minister, admitted in parliamentary answers that British taxpayers are funding the salaries of 33,000 teachers who follow the curriculum that also promotes violence against Israel.’ – Daily Mail

  • RAF Tornadoes to be axed – Daily Mail
  • Disgraced lawyers’ firm got £2.3 million from the MoD – Daily Mail
  • SAS sergeant dies fighting ISIS – The Times
  • Libor funds earmarked for military charities were used on core functions like doing up Army bases – The Sun
  • UK torture guidance is being rewritten – The Guardian

Teaching union attacks Ofsted head for suggesting inspectors ask girls why they wear the hijab

‘The head of Ofsted has been accused of Islamophobia by teachers over remarks she made about young girls wearing the hijab in the classroom. Amanda Spielman was criticised by the teaching union for suggesting school inspectors will ask girls why they are wearing the head covering. Members of the National Union of Teachers section of the National Education Union accused the schools’ watchdog of taking an ‘unwarranted and typically draconian stance’ on the issue. Delegates at the union’s conference in Brighton said it was ‘wholly inappropriate’ for inspectors to question primary-age pupils on their choice of dress.’ – Daily Mail

  • National Education Union says teaching has become a ‘secondary consideration’ after tackling poverty – Daily Mail
  • Teachers wash the clothes of poor pupils – The Times
  • Government struggles to fill Social Mobility Commission posts – FT
  • Why I am going to work with May on equality – Simon Woolley, The Guardian
  • Waiting list of children with special needs grows – Daily Mail
  • University vice-chancellors’ pay rises again – The Sun
  • There’s more to life than revision – Libby Purves, The Times
  • The opinions of the young aren’t that different from those of their elders – Matt Singh, FT


Leaked emails expose Russian disinformation campaigns

‘Russian attempts to fuel dissent and spread disinformation have been exposed by a cache of leaked documents that show what the Kremlin is prepared to pay for hacking, propaganda and rent-a-mob rallies. Hacked emails sent by Moscow-linked figures outline a dirty-tricks campaign in Ukraine, which was invaded on the orders of President Putin in 2014. Experts said that they exposed the dangers faced by Britain and its allies because Russia used the same weapons of disinformation, bribery and distortion to attack the West. Bob Seely, a Tory MP and expert on Russian warfare, said his analysis of the leaks, which comprise thousands of emails and a password-protected document related to the conflict in Ukraine, revealed a “shopping list of subversion”. “There is overwhelming evidence that the tools and techniques of Russian covert conflict are being used in and against the UK, the US and the EU,” he added. “In the wake of the Skripal poisoning it’s more important than ever that we understand these methods.”’ – The Times

Labour loses 17,000 members, seeing a fall in all regions since January

‘More than 17,000 Labour members have quit the party in the past three months as disputes over antisemitism and Russia erode Jeremy Corbyn’s support base. The Times understands that internal membership figures show the party has lost about 3 per cent of its paying supporters since the start of the year. Last week hundreds of members resigned from the party and more than 3,000 did not renew their direct debits, insiders said. After the general election last year membership grew to record levels of about 570,000, up from 530,000 before the campaign. But the latest figures suggest many of these gains have been wiped out, with the decline coinciding with Mr Corbyn’s failure to blame Russia for the chemical weapons attack in Salisbury and his handling of the antisemitism allegations. The drop is understood to have caused alarm at the highest levels in the party, who fear it has damaged the Labour leader’s appeal, particularly among younger voters. The most recent figures show that not a single English region has reported a rise in membership since the start of the year. London has now lost more than 3,500 members and a further 2,000 have gone from the northwest.’ – The Times

  • Corbyn deletes ‘too toxic’ personal Facebook account – The Sun
  • Byrne urges him to speed up expulsions – The Times
  • Donor quits as Labour ‘no longer exists’ – Daily Mail
  • Triesman compares failure to confront racism to the 1930s – The Times
  • Former Speaker Michael Martin urges action – The Guardian
  • Bristol Labour members seek to censure Thangam Debbonaire for attending protest against anti-semitism – Bristol Post
  • Council candidate edited anti-semitic ‘newspaper’ – Daily Mail
  • Domestic abuse allegations against unnamed MP – The Sun



>Today: ToryDiary: Low expectations could make the local election results seem like a Conservative triumph

London is now more dangerous than New York

‘A teenager is fighting for his life after being stabbed on the streets of London as the British capital’s murder rate soared above that of New York. The 16-year-old boy is the latest victim of violent crime after an incident in Bow, east London, at about 6.05pm last night. It is thought the teen was stabbed near a parade of shops just off the A12 and witnesses described seeing two people being stretchered away from the scene. The teenage victim was in a critical condition last night and two men were arrested…It comes as the past two months of bloodshed in London has seen the city overtake New York’s murder rate, official police figures show, as Scotland Yard battles a 38 per cent surge in killings since 2014. Fifteen people were killed in London in February, compared to 14 in New York. And the trend looks set to continue, with 22 killings in London in March – one more than the city on the other side of the Atlantic, where urban violence has long been prevalent.’ – Daily Mail

News in Brief