May preparing for Britain to join assault on Syria, Times claims

“Theresa May has cleared the way for Britain to join a US-led military attack on Syria within days after national security advisers presented new evidence blaming President Assad for the “barbaric” gas attack in Douma. The prime minister is recalling cabinet ministers from their Easter break to seek approval today. She is set to defy calls, including from Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, to follow recent convention and allow MPs a vote. Polling for The Times indicates that only a fifth of voters believe that Britain should launch missiles on Syrian military targets. More than two fifths oppose action, with the remainder undecided. Senior ministers summoned to this afternoon’s emergency cabinet will be asked to “consider the next steps”, according to a Downing Street source. Mrs May is likely to make the case for military action on the basis that it is necessary to deter future gas attacks.” – The Times

  • Submarines ‘move within range of Syria’ – Daily Mail


  • Outrage as Trudeau rules out Canadian support – Daily Express
  • Strike could put airbase in Moscow’s sights – The Times
  • Ministry of Defence denies Iranian claims that Special Forces have been captured – Daily Mail
  • Could Russia’s air defences stop America’s missiles? – Daily Telegraph
  • Fury as Corbyn ‘plays into Kremlin’s hands’ by demanding peace talks – Daily Express
  • SNP call for Parliamentary vote on Syria – The Scotsman


  • Syria is life or death for Putin, but will his oligarchs stand by him? – Mark Almond, Daily Telegraph
  • Action or inaction: what are May’s options? – James Strong, Times Red Box
  • Russia’s economy can’t match its power posturing – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph


  • Trump needs to use mature judgement, not Twitter threats – The Times



Brexit means a better trade deal for Britain, says Trudeau…

“Canada’s prime minister says Britain can negotiate an ‘even better or larger’ trade deal after Brexit. Justin Trudeau said he would be happy to open talks with Britain ‘the day after’ Brexit next year and said he believed ‘the best trade deals are the win-win trade deals’. Speaking to the Times, he said the EU’s free trade agreement with Canada should be seen as the starting point for negotiations with the UK. He said: ‘The rolled-over or specific Ceta arrangement between Canada and the UK is just the floor, or the first step. ‘After that, we very much look forward to negotiating an even better or larger or more impactful deal to encourage the deepening of trade ties between Canada and the UK. Canada is firmly of the opinion that the best trade deals are the win-win trade deals.'” – Daily Mail

  • Doubts grow over deal with India – The Times


  • German banking boss says London will remain financial hub – Daily Mail
  • Brexit fear over ‘vulnerable’ EU citizens – The Times
  • EU Parliament seeks clarity on future relations – Daily Telegraph
  • Exports of goods and services soar by ten per cent – The Sun

>Yesterday: Priti Patel MP in Comment: A post-Brexit immigration system can support Britain’s global ambitions

…as Remainers launch new £1 million campaign to block it

Pro-Remain groups are launching a £1million campaign to stop Brexit this weekend, The Telegraph can reveal. The campaign will call on Parliament to give the public a vote on the terms of the final deal, with the chance to stay in the EU if they vote against it. MPs from all three major political parties, including Anna Soubry, a Tory, and Chuka Umunna, from Labour, will join forces with anti-Brexit campaigners to demand the chance to remain – branded The People’s Vote. Richard Reed, a businessman and the vice-president of the National Union of Students, is also expected to speak at a rally in central London to launch the campaign on Sunday. The Telegraph understands £1million has been raised by nine pro-Remain groups to fund the campaign, which already has a logo and poster.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tory MPs tell Barnier to stop ‘meddling’ in British politics… – The Sun
  • …as he says the UK has one year to reverse Brexit – Daily Express
  • Britons in France grill ambassador over future rights – The Guardian


  • Why I quit my Foreign Office job to found a new centrist party – Chris Coghlan, Times Red Box

Ministers 1) Mordaunt signals ‘big shift’ in aid strategy

“The UK’s £13.9bn aid budget is set for its biggest overhaul in years, with plans to use development spending to push British exporters and pension funds to invest in poorer parts of Africa and Asia. Penny Mordaunt, the International Development secretary, said her department would experience a “big shift”. It has faced political pressure to justify its growing budget at a time when other ministries face sizeable cuts. Under the new strategy, aid money will be used to help African companies raise debt in local currencies through the City of London, and to facilitate British companies selling and directly investing in less familiar markets. Dfid’s aim is to facilitate pension funds’ investment in emerging countries, by helping to smooth regulations and to make companies creditworthy.” – FT

  • UN officials consider ban on fast food giants’ charity work – The Sun

Ministers 2) Hancock ‘hauls in’ Facebook executives

“Culture Secretary Matt Hancock today hauled in Facebook executives to warn them the social network is ‘not above law’. Mr Hancock told US-based Vice President of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert, and Global Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Stephen Deadman he would hold ‘their feet to the fire’ over the privacy of British users. The Whitehall summit comes in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal and coincided with Mark Zuckerberg’s second day of evidence to the US Congress. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said pressed Facebook on accountability, transparency, micro-targeting and data protection.” – Daily Mail

  • Zuckerberg refuses to curb data collection from Facebook users – The Times

More media:

  • Watson says EU commission raid puts Sky merger in doubt – Daily Mail

Nick Timothy: It’s time to cut social media giants down to size

“It was not quite the emperor’s new clothes, but the Zuckerberg cushion is a perfect metaphor for the ways in which Facebook – and other tech companies – dodge taxes, avoid regulation and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. They have convinced us all, politicians especially, that they are bigger than they really are: too big for nation states to handle, too complex to understand, and too virtuous for us to worry about. There is a lot to worry us. Because these companies are different to anything we have known before, and governments have been slow to react to the changes they bring. Many of these changes are complex, but they are serious and cannot be ignored.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The legal vultures are circling for Facebook – Iain Martin, The Times

Tyrie appointed to head Competition & Markets Authority

“Andrew Tyrie, the former chair of the UK Treasury select committee, has been appointed as the new chair of the Competition and Markets Authority to lead the organisation through a major expansion in its responsibilities after Brexit… The CMA’s role will be substantially beefed up after Brexit when the European Commission ceases in its role as the leading competition regulator for the UK. The vacancy at the top of the organisation arose last September because David Currie, the current chair, said he wanted to leave his post early to allow a successor to prepare for Brexit. The business department made the nomination of the former Conservative MP, which must still be confirmed by parliament, as part of a package of measures to improve competition and strengthen consumer rights.” – FT

Majority of voters ‘back NHS tax rise’

“Most voters now back tax rises to fund the NHS after a significant swing in favour of the policy among Conservative supporters, a survey has revealed. For the first time in more than a decade, a majority of Britons say that they are personally willing to pay more to increase spending, according to the respected British Social Attitudes survey. They are increasingly dissatisfied with the state of the NHS, with almost three times as many saying that it has got worse as say it has improved, a gap not recorded since the late 1990s. Theresa May has promised to set out a long-term plan for the NHS within months and the evidence that voters are willing to pay more will strengthen the case of those pushing her to commit to frequent budget increases.” – The Times

  • Taxpayers seem willing to pay a bit more – The Times

Labour woo under-25s by pledging to spend billions on free bus passes

“Jeremy Corbyn will today launch another bid to woo young voters by promising them free bus travel. He will pledge to offer up to 13million under-25s free bus passes at an estimated cost of £1.4billion. Mr Corbyn will say that young people ‘deserve a break’ and the offer will allow them to ‘travel to work, to study and to visit friends’. But last night the Tories called the offer a ‘bribe’ and claimed it would cost up to £13billion. The money will initially come from the budget used to maintain Britain’s roads, which have been described as being in the worst condition for years and riddled with potholes after the winter storms and snow.” – Daily Mail

  • Corbynista councillor ‘backpedals’ on claim that Tories are starving kids – The Sun
  • Opposition MPs back call to save Open University – Daily Mail


  • We will help young people suffering from loneliness – Tracey Crouch, The Sun
  • Ignoring millenials has been the Tories’ big mistake – Robert Colvile, Daily Telegraph
  • It’s far too risky for Labour to assume May will fail – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

New figures show council bosses getting huge payouts

“A town hall boss got a redundancy pay off of £450,000 last year, new figures laying bare the sheer scale of bumper town hall salaries today reveal. Chris West was given the bumper retirement pot when he stepped down as executive director of resources at Coventry Council last year. He was one of 26 town hall fat cats who were given severance payments of £100,000 or more in the financial year ending in March last year. Over 2,000 council workers earn £100,000 or over, according to the town hall rich list, compiled by the Taxpayers’ Alliance. The bumper salaries are still being dished out even though local authorities have seen their budgets squeezed after seven years of austerity.” – Daily Mail

  • Local authorities put £4 billion on property to save towns – The Times
  • Government tells councils not to fine for recycling errors – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Harry Fone in Comment: Local councils “cut to the bone?” Not if our Town Hall Rich List is anything to go by.

News in Brief:

  • What’s the point of gesture bombing in Syria without a wider strategy? – Ian Birrell, CapX
  • The conflict in Syria will flow across the region – Robert Fox, Reaction
  • The fall of Milo Yiannopoulos – Tanya Gold, The Spectator
  • The CBI’s joint push with Barnier for regulatory alignment is shameless – John Longworth, Brexit Central
  • U OK Hun(gary)? – Peter Franklin, UnHerd