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Brexit: May accused of putting ‘head in the sand’ over customs union showdown…

“Theresa May today faced claims she is ducking a potentially explosive Cabinet clash over the future trade relations with the EU. Brexit Secretary David Davis, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Trade Secretary Liam Fox are concerned that proposals for a so-called ‘customs partnership’ could compromise the commitment to a clean break from Brussels. A powerful Cabinet sub-committee had been expected to discuss the crucial issue tomorrow – but will now focus on security ties. The apparent delay comes with Brexiteers on high alert for concessions to Remainers, who say Britain must stay in a customs union with the EU to protect business and prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland. Significant numbers of Tory MPs have signed up to an amendment to the Trade Bill that would demand the ties are maintained. A vote is expected next month and defeat could force Mrs May’s hand.” – Daily Mail

  • May faces ‘stark consequences’ if UK stays in, Tory MP warns – Daily Express
  • Davis plays down prospects of quick deal on Irish border – Daily Mail
  • Ulster businesses claim that US trade deal would ‘guarantee’ border – Daily Telegraph
  • Customs battleground will decide the fate of Brexit – FT Big Read

More:

  • Sturgeon ‘utterly isolated’ as Welsh strike deal on Brexit Bill – Daily Telegraph
  • Vital computer systems needed for Brexit are ‘not in place’ – The Sun
  • Sinn Fein backs anti-Brexit ‘unionist candidate’ for Irish Seanad – Belfast Telegraph

Comment:

  • May should not wait for Tory rebels to set her customs plan – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph

>Today:

…as Gove is accused of going ‘behind May’s back’ to secure changes…

“Michael Gove has been accused of secretly supporting opposition politicians to secure legal changes that have been blocked by Theresa May. The environment secretary wants to use Brexit legislation that is going through the Lords to deliver on promises on animal sentience and green guarantees. No 10 has rejected his appeals, saying that the legislation is complex enough. The government has suffered defeats on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in recent days. Mr Gove is suspected of privately backing opposition peers to bring about the changes he wants… Critics say that they would let Mr Gove deliver on promises he has made that have been difficult to deliver. His pledge to enshrine animal sentience in law — made in response to a controversy over false claims that Tory MPs had rejected this — has been problematic. A draft bill was savaged by the relevant Commons committee as unworkable and dangerous.” – The Times

…and Rees-Mogg warns peers they are ‘playing with fire’ over Brexit

“Jacob Rees-Mogg today warned peers they are ‘playing with fire’ over Brexit and could ‘burn down their house’ if they defy the referendum. Labour’s Lords leader Angela Smith mocked Mr Rees-Mogg for getting ‘over excited’ and questioned why he was afraid of peers. The Brexit ringleader’s threat came as MPs are set to debate the future of the House of Lords after more than 100,000 people signed a petition demanding a referendum on abolition. The symbolic debate will come amid mounting anger at peers’ re-writing crucial Brexit laws. The Lords defeated the Government for a third time on the flagship European Union (Withdrawal) Bill last night and more bruising defeats are expected by ministers. Brexit cheerleader Jacob Rees-Mogg today warned peers not to interfere in Brexit.” – Daily Mail

  • Lords risk undermining UK law by protecting the EU’s over-powerful charter – Bryn Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Audio: The Moggcast. “Completely idiotic” customs partnership idea “should be knocked on the head”

Government to ‘hold back divorce cheque’ until trade details are settled

“Theresa May will hold back most of Britain’s Brexit divorce cheque until the full details of a new trade deal are thrashed out, No10 sources have revealed. The tough negotiating position emerged as Downing Street dismissed a warning by the boss of Whitehall’s spending watchdog. Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said the UK will be legally obliged to pay the full £39 billion bill even if no new trade agreement is reached… The divorce deal, to be concluded by October, will only contain a statement of agreed aspirations by EU leaders and Mrs May, with a full trade deal to be negotiated over the 21 month transition period. But No10 aides insisted Mrs May would insist on a safety mechanism in it to ensure Britain only pays the exit bill in full once it is satisfied with the full terms.” – The Sun

  • Audit chief suggests ‘Brexit bill’ will need to be paid either way – The Times
  • City watchdog slams Brussels for its determination to cut London out – Daily Mail

More:

  • UK to rival EU’s Galileo programme with own satellite system – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • When will the Chancellor tell us the true cost of Brexit? – Meg Hillier, Times Red Box

Johnson and May ‘clash over Windrush’

“Boris Johnson became “very agitated and annoyed” at Theresa May in a bad-tempered Cabinet clash over immigration policy after the Windrush fiasco. The foreign secretary challenged the prime minister to agree to a wider amnesty for Caribbean immigrants from the Windrush generation. According to The Spectator magazine, the amnesty demand was designed to stop other long-standing Caribbean migrants having to produce onerous amounts of evidence to prove they had been living here for years. It goes further than measures outlined yesterday by Amber Rudd, the home secretary, to defuse the Windrush row. Mrs May then remarked, “rather acidly” according to the magazine, that Mr Johnson had previously called for an amnesty for all immigrants, which he did first in 2008 and again in 2016, when he privately proposed one for people who had been here for more than a decade.” – The Times

  • Foreign Secretary wants amnesty for long-resident illegal immigrants – Daily Telegraph
  • Rudd’s residency app won’t work on iphones, Home Office admits – The Times
  • Scandal spreads to other Commonwealth countries – FT
  • Shock as 27,000 illegal immigrants arrested in four years – The Sun

Editorial:

  • Britain must take back control of our borders – The Sun

>Yesterday: Andrew Green in Comment: We need to see the Government’s planned post-Brexit immigration framework

Opposition parties support May in new crackdown on ‘junk food’

“Buy-one-get-one-free deals on junk food are set to be banned after opposition parties gave Theresa May their backing to tackle the obesity crisis. Stringent action to combat unhealthy lifestyles is due to be announced within weeks, sources said, reflecting a shift in public opinion in favour of measures such as banning junk food advertising before 9pm and preventing celebrities from endorsing fatty or sugary products. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party are warning Mrs May that she must not backtrack on measures being drawn up in Downing Street that could reshape the country’s relationship with junk food… They call for 13 measures, including taxes on unhealthy food that could apply in supermarkets or restaurants. Last night government sources said that many of the measures were due to be announced before the end of June.” – The Times

  • Saving the NHS means putting health at the heart of all our policies – Luciana Berger MP, Times Red Box

Editorial:

  • Parents can’t expect the state to save their children from fast food – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: James Frayne’s column: To contest big state ideas, small state conservatives need to get to grips with the detail

Downing Street and White House in ongoing talks about Presidential visit

“Discussions between Downing Street and the White House to arrange Donald Trump’s first presidential visit to the UK are still “ongoing”, according to Whitehall officials. The US President is expected to come to Britain for a brief “working visit” including talks with Theresa May at Number 10 later this year. Both leaders agreed to the London visit when they met at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, in January. Mrs May’s spokesman said: “When the Prime Minister met with the President at Davos earlier this year, the Trump administration set out that there will be a working visit later this year. The visit was suggested soon after Mr Trump scrapped plans to attend the official opening of the new US Embassy building in London in January. He claimed he was snubbing the event because he disapproved of the “bad deal” made by his predecessor Barak Obama’s administration to build the new embassy in south east London.” – Daily Express

Ministers 1) Hunt appeals to Tory MPs for ideas on NHS funding

“Jeremy Hunt today appealed to Tory MPs for their help in solving funding problems in the NHS. The Health Secretary warned after the ‘most challenging’ winter for many years there is ‘no doubt’ about the pressures the service is under. In a letter to all Conservative MPs, Mr Hunt said he has already begun meeting small groups to talk about reforms but appealed for others to come forward with ideas. In March, Theresa May announced that a long-term financial plan to stop the NHS being hit by funding crises would be put in place this year. The Prime Minister admitted the health service ‘can’t afford to wait’ until the planned review of public spending in 2019 and said the Government needed to get away from annual top-ups of its budget. Mr Hunt said health and social care must be ‘properly joined up’ and cannot be dealt with in isolation.” – Daily Mail

  • Health Secretary ‘open’ to NHS tax, says cross-party group – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit blamed as record number of nurses leave Britain – The Guardian

Comment:

  • A separate NHS tax would only further its fragmentation – Caroline Lucas MP, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Robin Gywnn in Comment: The Conservative Party needs to reset the NHS funding debate

Ministers 2) Clark urged to review takeover rules after ‘giving green light’ to GKN sale

“Business Secretary Greg Clark was under intense pressure to review takeover rules last night after he gave the green light to the controversial £8 billion sale of engineering giant GKN. Mr Clark faced calls from MPs on all sides to look again at rules that allow ruthless hedge funds to snap up shares at the last minute to force through a hostile takeover. He confirmed that he will not intervene in the sale of the 259-year-old firm to asset-stripper Melrose. But he also confirmed that Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has secured a veto on the sale of sensitive parts of the business by Melrose to protect Britain’s national security… Whitehall sources acknowledged the deal ‘would have just gone through on the nod if no one had kicked up a fuss’. An ally of Mr Williamson said he had to ‘dig his heels in’ to secure concessions, with both Mr Clark and the Cabinet keen to wave the deal through.” – Daily Mail

  • Ministers approve Melrose bid – The Times

Ministers 3) Hammond praises public as Treasury runs a surplus for the first time since 2002

“Government day-to-day spending is back in the black for the first time in 16 years, official figures have revealed. Yesterday’s latest public finance figures revealed the Treasury ran a surplus of £112m last year for the first time since 2002. The numbers – which exclude borrowing for investment – are a major boost to the Chancellor’s ongoing fight to bring down the nation’s huge deficit. Mr Hammond heaped praise on “the hard work of the British people” for agreeing to spending cuts and tax rises for the last eight years. He added: “Our economy is at a turning point with debt starting to fall and people’s wages rising, as we build an economy that truly works for everyone”. Public borrowing in March 2018 came in at £1.3bn, the lowest it has been in any March since 2004.” – The Sun

Ministers 4) Gyimah says he’ll do ‘everything he can’ to save the Open University

“A minister yesterday pledged to do ‘everything he could’ to save the Open University. Giving evidence to MPs, Sam Gyimah said ensuring its survival was a matter of social justice because of the support it provides for disadvantaged students. The universities minister is to meet OU leaders to discuss a rescue package. His comments are the strongest indication so far of Government backing for an institution hit by falling numbers. Earlier this month, Mr Gyimah joined Theresa May in pledging the OU would be a priority in a review of higher education due to be published next year… He added that the OU had received £48million in the last year from the Government and more support was in the pipeline. And he revealed he had arranged to meet Peter Horrocks, who resigned as OU chief a fortnight ago, as well as his replacement.” – Daily Mail

Ministers 5) Penny Mordaunt: How the UK is working to alleviate extreme suffering in Syria

“We are not fighting in this war. The UK is pushing for peace, for Mr Assad to meet with his opposition who have already agreed to negotiate. This month’s targeted airstrikes by the UK, US and France have reduced his ability to use chemical weapons. And we are at the forefront of the humanitarian response in the region. Britain is providing lifesaving support to millions of people in desperate need, helping families and children who left everything behind as they ran for their lives in the face of shelling and starvation. And we are helping protect those still in the firing line through the deployment of protective equipment and medical support.Since 2012 the British people have helped to provide 27 million food rations, 12 million health consultations in 175 medical facilities and 10 million vaccinations so that people don’t fall victim to deadly diseases.” – Times Red Box

MPs 1) Morgan demands answers from TSB

“MPs have demanded information about problems at TSB that have left customers without banking services for four days after an IT switchover. Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the Treasury select committee, has written to Paul Pester, TSB’s chief executive, requesting answers to questions about the difficulties customers began to report on Sunday evening and that had still not been resolved late last night. Ms Morgan also signalled displeasure with how TSB had dealt with the problem, inviting Mr Pester to “revisit TSB’s original description of the IT failures as ‘intermittent’ ”. There were reports of further problems in TSB branches and over the phone, she added. TSB has 1.9 million users registered for its app and online services, which were taken down on Friday evening in a planned migration of its IT system that was supposed to be completed by Sunday.” – The Times

  • MPs demand loan cap is extended to other high-cost credit aimed at the poor – The Sun

Comment:

  • Did the high cost of further delay make TSB upgrade too soon? – Nils Pratley, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Nick King in Comment: We must demonstrate that capitalism is inherently fair and works in all our interests

MPs 2) Blunt leads calls for Parliamentary oversight of Special Forces

“Political pressure is building for the UK’s special forces to be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny for the first time – bringing them into line with rest of the military and the intelligence services. The SAS and other elite units that make up the UK’s special forces are usually deployed on covert operations. Any questions in parliament about them are met by the Ministry of Defence with “no comment”, even when their presence in conflict zones has been established by the media. But MPs are now pushing for the special forces to be subjected to parliamentary oversight. At a Westminster meeting organised by the Oxford Research Group, a thinktank, the Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, former chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “It is my view there is a gaping hole in parliamentary oversight.”” – The Guardian

Jewish groups say Corbyn meeting was a ‘disappointing missed opportunity’

“The leaders of the British Jewish community have branded a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn a ‘missed opportunity’ to deal with anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Mr Corbyn was praised by leaders of the British Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council for his ‘change in tone’ following talks in Parliament. However they condemned his failure to take the necessary action to stamp out anti-Semitism within the Labour party. Leaders, Jonathan Goldstein and Jonathan Arkush said that Mr Corbyn’s proposals fell below the minimum that they expected… In his own statement, Mr Corbyn said it had been a ‘positive and constructive meeting’ and reiterated his commitment to ‘rooting out anti-Semitism from Labour. He warned his own supporters the claims were not ‘smears’ and vowed not to fail the Jewish community.” – Daily Mail

  • Imagine Prime Minister Corbyn advising King Charles? – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Why the Jewish people became a class enemy

Blair ‘snubbed’ over highest honour

“Tony Blair has again been snubbed by the Queen – after she refused to hand him one of the country’s highest honours. The Order of the Garter, which is in the personal gift of Her Majesty, is usually awarded to former Prime Ministers. But Mr Blair has still not got the honour – and yesterday the Queen passed him over again as she appointed two more people to the prestigious order. The new members are Viscount Brookesborough, an aristocratic Army veteran and long-standing royal aide, and Lady Mary Fagan, who was previously the Queen’s representative in Hampshire. Mr Blair’s five predecessors in No 10, from Ted Heath to John Major, were all given the Order of the Garter. But the controversial former Labour PM has never got the gong.” – The Sun

  • Major the only British politician invited to Barbara Bush’s funeral – Sebastian Shakespeare, Daily Mail

Cambridge Analytica say SNP were ‘keen’ to work with them

The SNP was “very keen” to start working with Cambridge Analytica and the firm has phone and email records of their talks, the controversial firm at the centre of the data harvesting scandal has said. Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for the company, said at least two SNP representatives met the firm in London and the talks were followed up with further phone calls and emails “with a view to a business relationship.” He said the Nationalists wanted the company to develop a digital “platform to help them manage their data” but the EU referendum put the talks on hold indefinitely. His outspoken intervention came the day after Kirk Torrance, the SNP’s former digital guru, admitted he met the company on behalf of the party in February 2016, four months before the Brexit vote.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Nationalists brand Westminster offer of welfare help ‘ridiculous’ – The Scotsman

News in Brief:

  • On diversity, Conservatives are losing the generation game – Andrew Cooper, CapX
  • Slaying dragons – the stifling British green belt – Ian Birrell, UnHerd
  • Russia is winning the disinformation war on Syria and Salisbury – Robert Fox, Reaction
  • The baseless claims that Brexit will damage LGBT rights are ludicrous and offensive – Darren Grimes, Brexit Central
  • May and Boris in Cabinet clash over immigration amnesty – James Forsyth, The Spectator

5 comments for: Newslinks for Wednesday 25th April 2018

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