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Syria: Times says May is resisting calls to intervene…

“Theresa May told President Trump yesterday that Britain would need more evidence of a suspected chemical attack by the Assad regime before joining a military strike against Syria. The prime minister rejected a swift retaliation as inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) prepared to visit the Damascus suburb where at least 40 people were reported to have been killed by chlorine gas on Saturday. Mr Trump had promised on Monday that he would decide the US response within 48 hours. As that deadline approached, it appeared that he too was drawing back from an imminent strike. The US president cancelled weekend travel plans amid reports that Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria had complicated White House calculations about the response to a US-led attack.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister ‘made to wait’ as Trump-Macron ‘bromance’ blossoms – The Times

Comment:

  • This must be about Syrian lives, not Britain’s status – Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Let’s suppose missile strikes target the Assad regime. But afterwards chemical weapons are used again in Syria. What then?

…but the Telegraph claims she stands behind the President…

“Theresa May has given her strongest signal yet that Britain would support President Donald Trump in military action against the Syrian regime as the two leaders resolved “not to allow the use of chemical weapons to continue”. The Prime Minister spoke to both Mr Trump and the French President Emmanuel Macron by telephone during which all three agreed that President Bashar al-Assad had shown “total disregard” for international laws against the use of such weapons. A Trump official upped the diplomatic tension by describing the chemical attack on Douma, Syria, as “genocide” and saying a military response was “appropriate”… Russia urged the US to avoid taking military action, warning Washington that it will “bear responsibility” for any “illegal military adventure” it carries out.” – Daily Telegraph

  • RAF ‘on standby to strike Assad’ – The Sun
  • US, France, and UK ‘agree to respond’ to chemical strike – The Guardian

Comment:

  • We must show America that we remain her closest ally – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Memories of Iraq must not paralyse us forever – The Sun

…as MPs urge May not to intervene in Syria without Commons approval

“Theresa May was last night warned not to press ahead with a strike on Bashar Al Assad’s troops without a Commons vote. MPs said it would be a ‘huge mistake’ for the PM to bow to pressure from the US and intervene in the Syrian conflict without their backing. It came as Mrs May and Donald Trump vowed to put an end to chemical weapon attacks in Syria – in a sign the allies could be just days away from striking… Since the Iraq War a precedent has been set that all military action abroad is first approved by Parliament. Last night it remained unclear if Britain would join France and the US with air strikes without recalling MPs from recess. They are due to return on Monday. Despite many MPs and ministers backing the PM to act without a vote, others warned doing so could trigger a row. But it appears Mrs May might be resigned to taking responsibility along with her cabinet, rather than waiting for MPs to return from the Easter recess.” – Daily Mail

  • Tugendhat urges May to act – FT
  • Blair says that the Government doesn’t need Parliamentary authorisation – Daily Telegraph
  • Ex-Prime Minister accused of using Syria crisis to justify Iraq – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Britain has a duty to protect the children of Syria – Ruth Smeeth MP, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: James Gray MP in Comment: Syria – and why May should act without a Commons vote

Brexit: Davis ‘wins battle’ over negotiation strategy…

“David Davis is to send hundreds of civil servants to Brussels to begin negotiations on the UK’s future partnership with the EU after winning the first stage of a fraught internal battle over how to conduct the next stage of Brexit. The Brexit secretary and Oliver Robbins, Theresa May’s chief Brexit negotiator, had a “significant” disagreement last week over how much Britain could realistically agree with Brussels between now and October… Mr Robbins wanted to resist a “big bang” negotiation in the coming months and was suggesting that Britain could sensibly aim for a broad, high-level document agreeing the principles for the future EU-UK relationship. This would leave much of the detail to be resolved in fresh negotiations after Brexit in March next year. Mr Robbins’ plan was similar to the approach and timetable put forward by the European Commission’s negotiating team, fuelling fears among ministers of an official level stitch-up. It left Mr Davis “furious”, according to a source.” – The Times

  • Barnier demands UK signs ‘non-regression clause’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Gove says UK could ban live animal exports post-Brexit – The Guardian

More:

  • Businesses are happy with Brussels red tape, claims CBI – The Times
  • Ford boss says company is ‘sticking with Britain’ – Daily Mail
  • EU gives a million more migrants the right to settle here – The Sun

Comment:

  • Ditching EU rules will mean more costs than opportunities – Carolyn Fairbairn, Times Red Box
  • Global Britain must not forget Europe as it woos the world – Allie Renison, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Interviews: Ben Houchen – Teesside will show how Britain can thrive after Brexit

>Yesterday: John Ashworth in Comment: The Government must not betray fishermen and coastal communities in the Brexit talks

…as Blair and Clinton mark 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement with border warning

“Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and the remaining living architects of the treaty that ended conflict in Northern Ireland 20 years ago yesterday returned to Belfast to warn that continued peace could not be taken for granted. Mr Clinton called the Good Friday agreement a “precious gift” and warned it was incumbent on the politicians of today to “make the most of it”. Mr Clinton shared an hour-long panel discussion with Mr Blair and Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister at the time of the deal, along with other key players who helped to broker the agreement. Mr Blair warned that Brexit could easily challenge the basis of the agreement, adding that it would require “real focus and hard work” to avoid a hard border that would be a “disaster for the relationship between the Republic and the UK”.” – The Times

  • Clinton wades into Brexit row over Northern Ireland – Daily Express
  • Former Prime Minister says nothing must derail the peace process – Daily Mail
  • Clinton calls for Ulster compromise in Dublin address – Daily Express
  • DUP MP says Sinn Fein exploited ‘fundamental flaws’ in the Agreement – News Letter
  • Reunion lacks euphoria of 1998 – Belfast Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Bertie Ahern, the former Irish Taoiseach, dismisses the ramp about a hard border on the island of Ireland

Karen Bradley: Nobody should doubt that the Government stands firm behind the Agreement

The UK Government’s commitment to the Agreement and its successors remains steadfast. We will continue to uphold its provisions in full: the principle that there can be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority of its people; inclusive devolved government; North-South co-operation and the strongest bilateral relationship between the UK and Ireland; and those matters relating to people’s rights, culture and identity. Nobody should be in any doubt. This Conservative Government will stand firm behind an Agreement which, along with its successors, has been the bedrock of all that has been achieved over the past 20 years. Everything we do will have as its core aims the protection and implementation of the Agreement, including, of course, as we leave the European Union.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Remainers don’t care about Ireland, they just want to block Brexit – Daniel Hannan MEP, The Sun
  • The Agreement has nothing to fear from Brexit – David Campbell-Bannerman MEP, Daily Telegraph
  • Belfast Agreement is much more than a ‘shibboleth’ – Fintan O’Toole, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • The Treaty must be protected after Brexit – The Times

Rudd to launch ‘blitz’ on dark web cyber criminals

“Amber Rudd will today launch a blitz on cyber criminals who try to hide their ‘horrifying’ illegal activity on the so-called ‘dark web’. The Home Secretary will announce a multi-million-pound crackdown on offenders who exploit the internet underworld to trade in drugs, guns and child abuse images or plot terror attacks. The anonymity of the ‘dark web’, which mirrors the normal internet but allows users to hide their identity, has attracted criminals seeking to avoid detection by the law enforcement agencies. The online currency Bitcoin provides a means of payment which makes transactions untraceable – meaning it is difficult for law enforcement agencies to track them down. Speaking at the Cyber UK security conference in Manchester, Miss Rudd will also unveil new measures to help police forces tackle the growing threat of cyber crime, including fraud and hacking.” – Daily Mail

  • Drug dealers ‘sell openly’ on Facebook – The Times

More Home Office:

Perry attacks British Gas for ‘unjustified’ price rises

“Ministers have slammed British Gas for its ‘unjustified’ price hikes and urged customers to switch suppliers, after the firm announced an energy bill increase. British Gas is set to increase bills for 4.1 million dual fuel customers by an average of 5.5 per cent, or £60 a year, and blamed rising wholesale energy and Government policy costs for the move. Energy minister Claire Perry described the move as ‘unjustified’ and encouraged customers to switch suppliers… The criticism came after the company’s owner Centrica said the price of British Gas’s standard variable tariff will rise to £1,161 a year for a typical dual fuel customer. British Gas cited increased wholesale gas and electricity costs and the price of Tory policies as being behind its latest hike.” – Daily Mail

  • Water regulator asks Gove for more powers – The Sun
  • Power firms use dirty tricks to pressure people into adopting digital meters – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Vicky Ford MP in Comment: There are easy wins available in environmental policy

Lee ‘investigating case for chemical castration’ to reduce prisoner numbers

“The Daily Express has learnt that Justice Minister Phillip Lee asked officials to look at ways of increasing the use of the medical treatment to stop sexual urges because international evidence suggests it is the best way to stop reoffending. It is understood that Dr Lee, a practising GP, has said that there needs to be “an evidence-based approach” to making offenders safe enough to release in society. The work by officials has come in the wake of the John Worboys scandal after the High Court overturned a decision by the parole board to release the former taxi driver and convicted rapist… It was revealed last year that chemical castration – the administration of regular medical treatment to suppress sexual urges – was introduced into six prisons last year. Currently around 120 serious sexual offenders are understood to be on the treatment voluntarily but department officials have said that it could be increased more than tenfold to 1,500.” – Daily Express

Big Read: The Conservatives’ house building challenge

“The emergence of such protest parties is one reflection of the ferocious politics that surround the issue of housing in the UK and which is hugely divisive for the ruling Conservatives. A decade after the financial crisis, house prices have risen thanks to a combination of record-low interest rates and sluggish housebuilding volumes. For many, property has simply become unaffordable. Guildford is one of the towns on the front line in a battle taking place across the UK between a Conservative government desperate to tackle a housing crisis and thousands of worried residents, many of whom are natural Conservative voters, who are opposed to mass housebuilding on their doorsteps. They are fighting over the future of the so-called greenbelts – the extensive doughnuts of open land that surround London and other English cities, which were designed to prevent suburban sprawl.” – FT

  • Why we’ll keep paying housing benefit for an extra two weeks – Esther McVey MP, Times Red Box

Greening urges ministers to save the Open University

“Justine Greening has urged ministers to rescue the Open University just as Margaret Thatcher did more than four decades ago in a bid to help society’s poorest. The former education secretary pointed out that Lady Thatcher had saved the newly opened OU from closure when leading the education department in the early 1970s. She said the former prime minister had championed the institution because she knew ‘Britain’s biggest asset is our people’ – and called on the Government to do the same. The Tory MP added that the OU should be instrumental in making the UK more meritocratic and ‘a place where there is equality of opportunity for the first time’… A Daily Mail campaign launched at the weekend highlighted how OU student numbers have dropped by 28 per cent in the last five years.” – Daily Mail

  • We need the Open University more than ever – Alice Thomson, The Times

>Today: Rob Halfon MP’s column: Ministers should value the Open University no less than Oxbridge. And the latter should open up to apprenticeships.

Israeli Labour cuts ties with Corbyn

“Labour’s sister party in Israel has suspended ties with Jeremy Corbyn and his office, accusing him of hostility towards the Jewish community and of allowing antisemitism to fester. Avi Gabbay, the Labor chairman, informed Mr Corbyn on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day today that his party could no longer co-operate with him. Also known as Avoda, the party holds 19 out of 120 seats in the Knesset. Mr Corbyn will try to contain the fallout from the row over his handling of anti-Jewish behaviour in Labour’s ranks in a meeting with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council in the coming days. Mr Gabbay said Israel’s Labor would retain close ties with other parts of UK Labour aside from the leader’s office. He condemned antisemitic statements and actions he said Mr Corbyn had allowed as party leader, as well as his “very public hatred of the policies of the government of the state of Israel”.” – The Times

  • Opposition suspend councillor over anti-Semitic tweets – The Sun
  • Griffin backs Labour leader over Syria stance – The Sun

Gardiner under pressure over policy gaffe

“Labour’s shadow trade secretary was under pressure last night after he dismissed one of the party’s key Brexit policies and claimed that the Good Friday Agreement was obsolete. The party was forced to issue a statement saying that Barry Gardiner “fully supported” Labour’s six Brexit tests after he was recorded at an event in Brussels describing one of them as “bollocks”. He was also rebuked for claiming the 1998 peace deal as a shibboleth, a Hebrew term that has come to mean a long-held custom that is outdated. Senior Labour sources said that there was a lot of anger at Mr Gardiner within the shadow cabinet but that he was so far being protected by Jeremy Corbyn. “Who knows if he will be forced to go. That’s up to Jeremy but he doesn’t have many supporters in the parliamentary party. There is huge anger at the way he has behaved.” The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw suggested that Mr Gardiner should have been sacked.” – The Times

>Yesterday: Left Watch: The nine most Barry Gardiner things that Barry Gardiner has ever done

Blair’s son possibly linked to new centrist party

“Britain’s nascent centrist party has said it has links to Tony Blair and his son Euan as it seeks to win over potential recruits, the Guardian has been told. Simon Franks, who founded the LoveFilm movie-streaming business, has been working for more than a year with former Labour donors and senior members to create an organisation that could back candidates in a future general election. The Observer revealed on Sunday that Franks established Project One Movement UK Ltd last summer and the company is expected to be a vehicle for the new party. One person who was approached to join the fledgling organisation was told Euan Blair was on its board, and his father, the former Labour prime minister, had been helpful in recommending potential donors. Other sources confirmed Euan Blair’s name had been associated with the project.” – The Guardian

Nationalist MP wants independence referendum in 18 months

“A senior Nationalist MP has said he backs a second referendum on independence being staged inside the next 18 months. Angus MacNeil who represents the Western Isles spoke out after a social media poll he ran on Twitter found 66 per cent of those who took part backed referendum in the next 18 months, and a further 22 per cent before the next Holyrood elections in 2021… It comes after The Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart complained of online abuse he has endured after calling for a more pragmatic approach to the timing of a second vote. A majority of MSPs have already voted in favour of a second referendum in this Parliament. Wishart issued a call for respect among independence supporters after being branded an “Etonian boot licker” and having his lifestyle “questioned” over his proposed rethink on the timing of another vote on leaving the UK.” – The Scotsman

News in Brief:

  • The West’s defeat in Syria is complete – Dominic Green, The Spectator
  • Sticking with the deal is the best way to encourage Iran – Nick King, CapX
  • It’s time to preserve the story of the decades-long campaign for British independence – Dr Lee Rotherham, Brexit Central
  • Is the Belfast Agreement worth the paper its written on? – Walter Ellis, Reaction

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