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Brexit 1) Ministers have ‘agreed a new fallback position’ on the Irish border

“Theresa May and her Brexit “war cabinet” have agreed a new fallback position on the Irish border that could preserve elements of the customs union if Britain cannot strike a deal on its preferred post-Brexit trading plan. Ministers including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and David Lidington discussed the “backstop” plan for Northern Ireland that will come into force if Mrs May’s blueprint for customs arrangements collapses. Mrs May has rejected an EU version of the backstop that would have guaranteed no infrastructure on the Irish border and committed the UK to maintaining regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic. This would have meant that Northern Ireland and mainland Britain had different rules and raised the prospect of a border in the Irish Sea, a possibility greeted with horror by the DUP and many Tories.” – The Times

  • No new cameras on the border, says Bradley – The Guardian
  • Hoey accuses Government of pandering to IRA over infrastructure – The Sun

More:

  • Britain will tell EU it is prepared to stay tied to customs union ‘beyond 2021’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Manufacturers attack post-Brexit customs plan – FT
  • Trump would make NHS pay more for drugs in trade talks – The Times

>Today: Iain Mansfield in Comment: Five tests for a good Brexit deal

>Yesterday: Nick Boles in Comment: For a Brexit that works, we must stay in the Customs Union until early in 2022

Brexit 2) EU reportedly slowing the negotiations as it awaits fate of Lords amendments…

“Brussels is stalling in Brexit talks because of the unelected House of Lords’ attempt to wreck Theresa May’s flagship EU exit legislation, ministers have been warned. Front-line UK negotiators have reported back to Downing Street that their EU counterparts are stonewalling until they see how many of the peers’ 15 changes that rip up the UK’s Brexit policy are supported by MPs. One minister told The Sun: “As we warned, the EU are now negotiating with Parliament not us and they are playing for time while they see what MPs say.” They added that talks with Brussels “have slowed down” since the Lords began changing the bill, adding Brussels bosses had “all but admitted it”. Our revelation comes as the EU Withdrawal Bill finally cleared its stormy path through the House of Lords with nearly 200 tweaks made to it – 15 forced by opposition vote wins.” – The Sun

  • Tory peer savages Lords’ conduct over Brexit – Daily Mail
  • Academic admits that claim universities would slump post-Brexit has no evidence – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • The House of Lords has cooked its goose – Iain Martin, The Times

Editorial:

  • Rebels and peers are making May’s task impossible – The Sun

>Yesterday: Alex Morton’s column: Are you angry with the Lords? If so, don’t threaten to abolish or elect it. Here’s a better reform.

Brexit 3) …as Labour rebels hand Corbyn ultimatum over Brexit vote

“Jeremy Corbyn is facing a defining moment over Brexit, Labour rebels said yesterday as they intensified efforts to make him support keeping Britain in the European Economic Area. The Labour leader must decide within weeks whether he backs the so-called Norway option, the softest version of Brexit available, or sticks to his stance of calling for the UK to negotiate a bespoke customs union with the EU. At least 70 Labour MPs are prepared to defy Mr Corbyn if he orders them not to vote for a Lords amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill requiring the government to negotiate for EEA membership, a Labour source said. “This is the moment ‘constructive ambiguity’ has to come to an end, that we get to see what Jeremy really wants from Brexit,” said another well-placed figure, referring to Labour’s deliberately fluid stance on leaving the EU.” – The Times

  • MPs vote down Labour bid to reveal May’s customs strategy – Daily Express
  • McCluskey urges activists to oust ‘stale’ MPs – The Sun

Analysis:

  • Deliberate ambiguity is no longer an option – The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: May and Corbyn clash over Brexit policy at PMQs

Conservatives accuse Labour of ‘running up the white flag’ on immigration

“The Tories accused Labour of running up the white flag on immigration last night, after it pledged to scrap controls on illegal immigration. Diane Abbott said she would close two main detention centres, axe migration targets and force officials to prove suspects were in Britain without permission. The shadow home secretary also vowed to scrap the requirement for bosses and landlords to carry out checks on a worker or tenant’s right to be in the country. Miss Abbott said it was Jeremy Corbyn’s ambition to ‘reframe’ public debate on the issue. The Labour leader later tweeted his support for her speech. Tories said the proposals would wreck efforts to deal with the estimated million illegals in Britain.” – Daily Mail

  • Opposition pledge to shut two detention centres – The Times
  • Job hopes of four million Brits ‘hit by EU labour’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Brexit Britain is closed to foreigners – Philip Stephens, FT

May joins European leaders in bid to save Iran deal…

“European leaders have arrived at a summit in Sofia in a bid to save the Iran nuclear deal in the wake of Donald Trump’s decision to re-impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The 28 worried EU leaders are gathering in the Bulgarian capital for discussions over dinner on how to salvage the nuclear deal and European business dealings with Iran from Trump’s sanctions. They will also discuss measures for avoiding a trade war in an escalating steel tariff dispute with the United States. Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have all expressed their desire to see the deal continue but are faced with the prospect of US sanctions affecting the European countries ability to do business with Iran.” – Daily Mail

  • Tusk attacks Trump for diplomatic stance – Daily Mail

…and says the Government will pay the full bill for scrapping Grenfell-style cladding

“Theresa May pledged £400 million yesterday to remove all dangerous Grenfell-style cladding from high rises. The PM said councils’ maintenance budgets should not be raided for the cash and agreed the Government would pay. It came ahead of the publication today of a report into last June’s tragedy, which killed 72 and left hundreds homeless. Fire inspectors visited more than 1,250 council tower blocks in England following the inferno and found 158 where the cladding failed safety tests. Mrs May said the Government would meet the total replacement bill, which ministers previously refused to pay. She urged councils and housing associations to remove it quickly, but added: “These works must not undermine their ability to do important maintenance and repair work.”” – The Sun

Javid ‘demands answers’ from Brussels on how Brits in Europe will fare

“Sajid Javid has turned the table on EU bosses and demanded answers over how Brits on the continent will be treated after Brexit. The new Home Secretary has voiced “concern” that member states have not made the same guarantees on citizens’ rights as the UK. And he vowed to push European leaders on how they intend to offer residency rights to expats, saying most had been “unclear” about their intentions. Mr Javid made the remarks in a letter he sent to the EU Parliament’s negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, who he met yesterday in Brussels. The Home Secretary dodged questions from reporters following the behind closed doors talks, only saying they were “constructive” before being bundled into a lift by panicked advisers. But The Sun understands that in his letter sent this week he raised a series of concerns in it about the uncertainty facing the 1.3 million Brits living on the continent.” – The Sun

Ellwood says UK defence spending should match the NHS budget

Britain should spend as much on its Armed Forces as it does on the NHS, the defence minister has suggested, warning we are taking our “security for granted”. In an interview with the Telegraph, Tobias Ellwood said it would be “absolutely right” to send a signal that spending on defence is as important as it is on healthcare. He issued a stark warning that once Britain’s military capability is reduced, “you never get it back”, adding that the Armed Forces are more important than ever at such a “dangerous” time. The minister said that during the Cold War the Government gave equal weight to both budgets. Health spending now makes up 9.8 per cent of the UK’s national income, while spending on defence counts for about 2 per cent.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK could opt for cheaper European aircraft over US alternatives – Daily Express

Clark accused of spreading confusion over diesel cars…

“The Business Secretary was last night accused of sowing confusion after claiming diesels ‘still have a place’ on Britain’s roads. Despite the Government’s intention to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2040, Greg Clark urged drivers to trade in their old diesels for a new, cleaner one… Mr Clark’s comments, at the Financial Times’ Future of the Car summit, appear at odds with those made by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in February last year. Mr Grayling said drivers should think twice before driving a diesel, particularly if they mainly drive it in a town or city. Asked whether motorists should hesitate before buying a diesel, Mr Grayling also stressed that diesels would not disappear but said: ‘People should have a long, hard think about what they need, about where they’re going to be driving, and should make best endeavours to buy the least polluting vehicle they can.’” – Daily Mail

…as Grayling comes under pressure over more rail lines

“The transport secretary was under pressure to act over at least four struggling rail operators last night after announcing plans to renationalise services on the east coast main line. Chris Grayling was warned that other companies were in trouble after failing to improve rail services or attract enough passengers, amid suggestions that the entire privatised system must be overhauled. Those in the firing line include Northern Rail, South Western, Transpennine Express and Greater Anglia. Mr Grayling announced yesterday that Virgin Trains East Coast would be stripped of its franchise next month, the third time in little over a decade the operator on the line has collapsed. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has repeatedly pledged to renationalise the railways by bringing franchises back into public hands when they expire.” – The TImes

  • ‘Millennial railcard’ on hold as ministers row over the bill – The Sun

Comment:

  • East Coast collapse boosts nationalisation – Sebastian Payne, FT
  • With our railways, you need a sense of humour – Ben Marlow, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • The Government is as much to blame for the East Coast mess – The Times
  • Answer is more privatisation, not less – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: How nationalisation helped to bring about the failure of the East Coast rail franchise

>Yesterday: Chris Grayling MP’s column: The solution for Britain’s railways is partnership, not nationalisation

Green wants pensioners to use equity release to pay for social care

Pensioners who own homes without mortgages should draw down money from their property to invest in new National Care Fund, Theresa May’s former deputy has said. Damian Green, the former First Secretary of State, said that the key to tackling the social care crisis lies in unlocking £1.7trillion worth of “housing equity”. He proposed that over-65s should use equity release schemes to pay a compulsory “Care Insurance Fee” of around £30,000. National Insurance contributions of those aged over 40 would also go into the fund. Those who are unemployed or still have substantial mortgages on their properties would have their fee met by the taxpayer. Mr Green said the approach will lead to a “fairer” care system which will stop people’s care costs from wiping out their inheritance.” – Daily Telegraph

Have the Tories found a candidate to take on Khan for City Hall?

“Stephen Lawrence’s close pal who was with him when he was murdered is being lined up to be the next Tory Mayor of London, The Sun can reveal. Speaking exclusively to The Sun, gang crime campaigner Duwayne Brooks branded Labour’s Sadiq Khan “the worst Mayor ever” as he revealed he has joined Theresa May’s party. He said: “I’ve made the decision to join the party in Government – because I want to be able give young black men a voice, across not just London but across the country.” Mr Brooks, who was with the slain teen when he was stabbed by racist thugs in 1993, last night slammed Labour for letting black community down with “poor houses, poor education and high crime”. And he urged Mr Khan to get a grip on rising violence in the capital or quit.” – The Sun

>Today: Joel Davidson and Amir Sadjady in Comment: Blaming Khan for the London crime wave is not enough

Nick Timothy: The future of the Tory Party is revealed in new policy groups

“In addition to Onward, there is Freer, a campaign group set up by the Cabinet minister Liz Truss, which makes the case for free markets and individual liberty. The Centre for Policy Studies, Mrs Thatcher’s favourite think tank, is showing new life under its director, Rob Colvile. Young MPs, including Bim Afolami, Chris Philp and Rishi Sunak, have generated new policy ideas on housing, corporate governance and trade. Some young talent has already been sucked into government, making it harder for the likes of Oliver Dowden, Lucy Frazer and Sunak to contribute to the debate, but many others are doing so. The Prime Minister recognises the party’s need to renew, and has appointed Chris Skidmore, a former Cabinet Office minister, to oversee future policy development in Conservative Central Office. And she has given her blessing to Freer and Onward, the two organisations that encapsulate the choices the Tories face about their future.” – Daily Telegraph

Thornberry criticised for Assad comments

“Emily Thornberry has been accused of pandering to a brutal dictator after suggesting that Bashar al-Assad’s popularity in Syria had been underestimated. The shadow foreign secretary said in an interview with Prospect magazine that Assad would not have been president if he had been as “overwhelmingly unpopular as the rebels told the West at the outset” of the Syrian civil war. She also called on foreign forces to leave the Middle Eastern nation, saying: “They’re not fighting for the sake of the Syrian people. Any of them.” Chris Bryant, a Labour MP on the foreign affairs committee, said that Assad’s violence had driven dissenting voices from Syria. “Assad is not a good man and pandering to brutal dictators is not what we [Labour] should be about,” he said.” – The Times

SNP divided over when to push for independence

“If Theresa May imposes the bill’s post-Brexit power-sharing plans on Scotland, overturning 20 years of precedent, then Sturgeon’s calls for a second independence referendum are unarguably bolstered. But polling consistently shows a majority across the country opposed both to independence and to holding another vote in the near future. While Scotland’s constitutional divide remains entrenched, a more recent breach has emerged among independence activists over the timing of a second referendum. In recent months, there have been public skirmishes about whether Sturgeon should deploy the mandate for a new referendum that she claims from the 2016 Holyrood elections before the parliamentary term ends in 2021, or delay until an unarguable economic case for independence has been built and public opinion is more favourable.” – The Guardian

  • Labour and Lib Dems accused of being ‘midwives of independence’ – The Scotsman

More:

  • Scottish Government challenged M&S’ British branding for whisky – The Scotsman

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The ‘crisis’ between Westminster and Holyrood is political, not constitutional

MPs block inquiry into Bercow’s conduct

“MPs sparked fury last night after voting to block an inquiry into John Bercow’s conduct. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson, had asked for permission to investigate allegations of bullying against the Commons Speaker. But the Commons committee on standards voted to reject her plea, because the claims against him are more than seven years old. Members of the public who sit on the committee were barred from voting under Commons rules. Last night, one senior MP said: ‘The standards committee has let everyone down badly.’ The Speaker had faced calls to quit after his former private secretary accused him of foul-mouthed tirades and attempts at physical intimidation. Angus Sinclair said he was forced into early retirement in 2010 with an £86,250 pay-off on condition he did not make any complaints. Mr Bercow has strenuously denied the claims.” – Daily Mail

Pressure mounts for direct rule in Northern Ireland

“Pressure is mounting on Westminster to take control in Northern Ireland as Stormont’s top civil servant said it was unclear what decisions departments here can make without ministers. David Sterling warned that ongoing uncertainty could put events like this weekend’s North West 200 at risk. Fears have grown that the A5 road project and redevelopment plans for Casement Park could be in jeopardy. The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) yesterday announced it was appealing a High Court decision that its permanent secretary Peter May had no power to give the go-ahead to a controversial incinerator project in Mallusk. As chaos and confusion reigns over who is running Northern Ireland, unionist politicians said the current state of political limbo could not continue.” – Belfast Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Why public services need the private sector – John Redwood MP, CapX
  • SNP Brexit power grab constitutional crisis is confected Nat hokum – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • Will Italy become the first country to fall to populism? – Nicholas Farrell, The Spectator
  • Whatever happens after Brexit it’s very bad news for the Labour Party – Austin Mitchell, Brexit Central

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