May faces Cabinet ‘showdown’ over customs union

‘David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson are to press the prime minister to abandon the plan as fears grow that she is paving the way for a compromise on the issue. They will confront her at a meeting of the cabinet’s Brexit sub-committee, scheduled for Wednesday. The ministers believe that the so-called customs partnership is unworkable and is encouraging Brussels to press for Britain to stay in a customs union after Brexit. Mrs May set out two options in her Mansion House speech last month for minimising friction to trade and avoiding a hard border with Ireland, while allowing Britain to strike its own trade deals. Under the first, which is thought to be Mrs May’s favoured option, Britain would collect EU import tariffs on behalf of Brussels. Its backers say that it would solve the Irish border issue “at a stroke”. The Brexiteers, however, will press Mrs May to focus on the second option, known in Whitehall as “max-fac” or “maximum facilitation”, which aims to minimise but not eliminate checks.’ – The Times

  • Downing Street insists the Prime Minister won’t break her pledge – The Sun
  • Conservative MPs plan to stay away from Labour’s non-binding vote – Daily Telegraph
  • The Lords are expected to defeat the Government in an ECJ vote today – Daily Telegraph
  • Project Fear calculations were wrong by £100 billion – The Sun
  • Brexit will not be a cure-all for the fishing industry – Sam Lowe, The Times
  • Lib Dems target EU nationals in local election – FT


  • Customs union is a red line that cannot be crossed – The Sun Says
  • The Prime Minister has done precious little to explain her position – The Times Leader


Samuel: Staying in the customs union would leave Britain a sitting duck

‘“If, as I believe, we will have to choose,” said one lord in a debate this year, “we must surely place a greater priority on being able to shape our own future than on preserving the status quo.” This lord was no diehard Brexiteer but the committed Europhile Lord Hill, who until 2016 was Britain’s commissioner in Brussels. Lord Hill is not alone. He is joined by prominent Remainers such as Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, and Lord Bridges, a Cameroon and former minister who quit David Davis’s Brexit department in despair at its indecision. All of them have concluded that it is untenable for Britain to hand control over such a large area of trade policy to a foreign power. Many civil servants privately agree. This is because our officials spend much of their time using the rights and powers granted by EU membership to ward off repeated attacks on British business by rival member states, who seek to use Brussels regulation to give their own companies an advantage. Within the customs union but without EU membership, Britain is a sitting duck.’ – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Nicky Morgan’s column: How Parliament should handle Brexit over the next few months – and how Ministers should listen to it

Windrush 1) Butler claims the scandal proves the Government is ‘institutionally racist’

‘Labour accused the Government of ‘institutional racism’ today amid mounting calls for Amber Rudd to quit over the Windrush scandal. Shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler said she had reached her conclusion with a ‘heavy heart’ but said the legislation behind the scandal was ‘racist’. The incendiary intervention came as Ms Rudd was defended by colleagues who insisted she should not resign over badly implemented but legitimate policy. Justice Secretary David Gauke said the Home Secretary was right to have apologised for ‘very significant failings’. Ministers have been condemned after it emerged hundreds of British citizens from the Windrush generation have faced deportation because they do not have paperwork to prove their status.’ – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Why an inquiry into the treatment of the Windrush children is needed (reprise)


Windrush 2) Hardman: Today’s problems stem from Cameron’s target and May’s dogged commitment to it

‘Ministers from the time say they noticed Cameron growing rather awkward when dragged into standoffs between the Home Office and other departments over the target. “May would say to him, ‘Well, you’ve given me this target to meet so why are all these ministers getting in the way’,” says one cabinet minister. “That’s what she’s like, what she’s always been like, if you give her something to do, she’ll keep at it even when it seems impossible.” This dogged determination once won May plaudits as a “bloody difficult woman” who focused on getting things done, rather than playing political games. But it can also lead to the sort of stubbornness that prevents pragmatism: many Tories would dearly love for their party to ditch the net migration target, as it serves largely as a quarterly reminder that the government is still failing to meet it. Unfortunately, one of the very few who would die in a ditch for the target is May. Amber Rudd, her successor, is known to be more liberal on immigration in private. But she has stuck to May’s imprint for the Home Office, something her allies now feel is a mistake.’ – Isabel Hardman, The Guardian

  • Pensioner who served the NHS for 30 years is not allowed to visit her great-grandchildren in the UK – Daily Mail
  • Wolverhampton council plans to hand thousands to migrants who aren’t eligible for benefits – The Sun
  • Border Force in trouble over ‘British only’ hiring policy – Belfast Telegraph


Ellwood warns that we may have to strike against Assad again

‘Britain may have to intervene again in Syria because President Assad may still be tempted to use chemical weapons, a Defence Minister warned. Tobias Ellwood said “we don’t know” if the recent airstrikes were enough to stop him in the future. He told Sunday Politics presenter Sarah Smith: “The wider point is, will this change behaviour? Of course we don’t know that. “The best organisation, person, country to do that is Russia and Putin. And again, we find that wanting.” Mr Ellwood said that “absolutely” Britain should intervene again if it was necessary.’ – The Sun

  • Merkel and Macron press Trump to preserve the Iran deal – Daily Mail
  • Can the French President convince the White House that he is Europe’s new leader? – Daily Telegraph Leader
  • Yulia Skripal’s fiancé, who is linked to Russian security services, has vanished – The Times
  • Hamas accuses Mossad of assassinating rocket scientist in Malaysia – The Times
  • The strength of May, like the strength of Thatcher, rests on being a woman – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: WATCH: Ellwood – Parliamentary votes on military action “give your game away”

Hammond blocks restrictions on betting machines

‘Philip Hammond has prevented a cut to the maximum stake for highly addictive betting machines as bookmakers prepare a backroom agreement. Moves to reduce permitted stakes on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are caught up in a Whitehall dispute over how to replace lost taxes that could amount to hundreds of millions of pounds. Now bookmakers, who make on average more than £50,000 a year from every machine, are poised to exploit the delay to see off a cut to £2. At present bets of £100 can be made every 20 seconds. Theresa May promised in January that stakes on FOBTs, known as the “crack cocaine of gambling”, would be cut. A government review late last year set out options ranging from a £50 stake down to £2, the maximum favoured by campaigners.’ – The Times

  • It’s a delay, not necessarily a permanent position – Daily Mail
  • Cameron faces scrutiny over Treasury meeting shortly before endorsement for his new China fund – FT
  • The former Prime Minister’s memoir is delayed – Daily Telegraph
  • Economy ‘chugging along’ so far in 2018 – The Guardian
  • Raising UK productivity to US levels would increase average incomes by £8,500 – The Times
  • GPs must go digital – Murray Ellender, The Times

Corbyn’s Twitter account (eventually) unfollows anti-semites

‘Mr Corbyn took action to clean up his Twitter feed in the wake of an investigation by The Sunday Times into the organisations and individuals the Labour leader follows on his account. The paper reported that they included Adnan Darwash. The account has described “Israeli Nazi Zionists” as a “disgrace to all Jews”. In one tweet on February 24 this year, Darwash wrote: “No matter how much weapons and support the US gives to Israeli Nazi Zionists, Arabs will never be led like Jewish sheep to gas chambers.” Another, Antifa Jerusalem (@antifa_jlm), last August accused “the Israeli regime” of adopting “Nazi tactics”, according to The Sunday Times. The account also tweeted in November 2016: “At this rate of adopting Nazi tactics, death camps for non-Jews in Israel are only a matter of time”…A spokesman said that Mr Corbyn had not seen the posts in question but would unfollow both accounts. “Jeremy is utterly committed to driving antisemitism out of the Labour Party,” he said. “He will be meeting the Board of Deputies [of British Jews] and the Jewish Leadership Council next week to listen to their concerns.”’ – The Times

  • Thornberry admits supporters have said ‘appalling’ things in her presence – Daily Mail
  • Watson still hasn’t returned Mosley’s money – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • Hodge ‘no long feels at home’ in the Labour Party – The Sun
  • Serial conspiracy theorist selected for marginal seat – The Sun
  • Business insures itself against a Labour election victory – The Times
  • The Left uses Western freedoms to undermine our civilisation – Robert Tombs, The Times

>Today: Neil O’Brien on Comment: We Conservatives need to refresh ourselves to stop Corbyn. That’s why Onward is being launched.

Rayner hopes to prevent the Office for Students getting regulatory powers

‘Labour is launching a last-ditch bid to stop MPs rubber-stamping the transfer of higher education regulatory powers to the controversial Office for Students. The new universities watchdog was at the centre of a row earlier this year when the rightwing commentator Toby Young stepped down from its board following anger over offensive tweets he had posted. Labour will use a procedural device in the Commons on Monday night to force one final debate and vote on the Office for Students (OfS), which is an important part of the government’s market-oriented higher education policy. If the government were to lose the vote, the watchdog would no longer have key powers enabling it regulate universities. Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, accused the government of ignoring concerns from students about the cost of living and rising debt because ministers were preoccupied with creating an institution that they could dominate.’ – The Guardian

>Today: John Bald on Local Government: Social mobility and education’s Angry Brigade

Cruddas report exposes Labour’s English problem

‘The English Labour Network report instructs activists to stop being ashamed of England – telling them “Englishness is not inherently right-wing”. The group-launched by senior Labour figures including Jon Cruddas, John Denham and Liam Byrne last year – was set up to ensure Labour promotes English patriotism. But it found many activists believe talking about English identity could strengthen far-right extremists – and many won’t even mention England. The draft report for consultation said: “If we are honest, some Labour activists are uncertain about celebrating St George’s Day or reflecting English identity in their campaigning. There may be misplaced fears that this will appeal to, or even strengthen, far right extremists…The report found one of Labour’s biggest problems was that they often “don’t mention England even when we are talking about England”.’ – The Sun

  • St George’s Day should be a Bank Holiday – Andrew Rosindell, The Times
  • Corbyn plans to offer all four Home Nations a Saint’s day bank holiday – Daily Mail
  • Four in ten people still use traditional county names to describe where they live – Daily Telegraph
  • Police warn England fans not to fly the flag at the Russia World Cup – Daily Mail
  • Jarvis battles apathy in South Yorkshire mayoral race – The Guardian

MoneySavingExpert sues Facebook over fraudulent adverts

‘The personal finance expert Martin Lewis is suing Facebook for allowing scammers to use his name and image in fake adverts on the social network. Mr Lewis will lodge an action for defamation against the company today, arguing that as a publisher it is responsible for the false ads. The case is thought to be the first of its kind. The broadcaster said that he had been deeply upset over cases in which people had lost up to £100,000. “It’s so distressing, when all my life I have campaigned against this kind of thing,” Mr Lewis said. Facebook has published more than 50 fake Martin Lewis adverts in the past year, seen by millions of people in Britain. The adverts are often scams and many have pictures of Mr Lewis and bear his name, alongside false promises or endorsements.’ – The Times

  • Another social media giant shirking its responsibilities – The Times Leader
  • Lewis is right to challenge this anarchy – The Sun Says
  • Hunt orders firms to up their game in protecting children – FT
  • He says they have a week or he will consider legislating – Daily Mail
  • Defence minister bans his family from going online on holiday – Daily Telegraph
  • Parents cannot expect Government to save their children from fatty foods or snooping tech – Daily Telegraph Leader

News in Brief