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Brexit 1) Backbenchers call for end to Cabinet ‘squabbling’

“Squabbling ministers were last night told to ‘put a sock in it’ or risk undermining efforts to secure a good Brexit deal. Senior backbenchers spoke out following a string of public spats involving Cabinet ministers in recent days. The Government has been rocked by a series of squabbles over Brexit, public spending and tax. Chancellor Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Business Secretary Greg Clark have all spoken out on Brexit in recent days as they jockey for position ahead of a crunch summit at Chequers next week. Yesterday the Justice Secretary David Gauke joined in by criticising Mr Johnson for attacking big corporations. Senior Tory MP Nigel Evans said voters were ‘exasperated’ by the lack of discipline in the Government and warned it could threaten the party’s election prospects.” – Daily Mail

  • May ‘berates ministers’ as infighting grips the Government – The Times
  • Rees-Mogg accuses Remainer ministers of colluding with ‘politicised’ businesses – Daily Mail
  • Hammond urged to approve £100,000 for Galileo rival – FT

More:

  • May to promise support and cash to EU over migrant crisis – The Sun
  • Carney criticises Brussels for failing to prepare for Brexit – Daily Mail
  • EU steps up ‘no deal’ planning – FT
  • Varadkar warns that ‘time is running out’ in Brexit talks – Daily Express
  • Doctors accused of ignoring the ‘will of their patients’ over second vote – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • From Thatcher to the Euro, our business bosses always got it wrong – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Mail
  • Establishment is a revolving door between government and business – Jon Trickett, Times Red Box
  • Only way to escape a debacle is to rip down trade barriers – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: “When each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground”

Brexit 2) Blair dismisses suggestion he allowed ‘uncontrolled immigration’

“Tony Blair today dismissed accusations he allowed  uncontrolled EU immigration into Britain – branding it a ‘huge myth’. He was challenged over whether he was out of touch with the British people by letting people from new EU states work in Britain without restrictions when he was PM. BBC Radio 4 Today Programme presenter John Humphrys quizzed him on whether it was his intention to allow ‘unbridled uncontrolled immigration’ when in No10. But Mr Blair dismissed the accusation insisting it was a ‘huge myth’ about his time in office… In a separate speech made today, Mr Blair also called for Brexit to be delayed due to the political impasse over future trade ties, according to Tony Blair. The former Prime Minister is urging an extension of the March 2019 deadline as he ramps up his bid to head off the UK’s departure from the bloc.” – Daily Mail

  • ‘Catastrophic’ departure must be delayed, pleads ex-Prime Minister – The Times
  • Blair is ‘bored that people are bored by Brexit’ – FT

Comment:

  • Both Clegg and Blair have seen the light too late – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Chaotic handling of Brexit is the only reason people want a second vote – Lord Mandelson, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: May’s meaningless tautology about Brexit baffles her critics

Brexit 3) Nick Timothy: Britain’s good faith is being exploited by the EU

“Britain repeatedly says we want the EU to prosper; they repeatedly say they want us to fail. Theresa May respects the “duty of sincere cooperation”, but the EU refuses to reciprocate. Under Enda Kenny, Irish officials were working on technological solutions for the Northern Ireland border. Last July, Leo Varadkar, the new Taoiseach, pulled the plug. “It’s not my job to help the United Kingdom,” he says. There is little point complaining, but we should listen, and our strategy should change. The Prime Minister started with a sensible plan. She sought a bespoke deal between Britain and the EU. She would respect the EU’s mantra: the rights and obligations of both sides would remain “in balance”. But she also said “no deal is better than a bad deal”, and ministers should prepare accordingly.” – Daily Telegraph

Welsh Conservative leader forced out over Airbus remarks

“The leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh assembly has quit after a row about a manufacturer’s threat to leave the UK amid Brexit uncertainty. Andrew RT Davies, who campaigned to leave the EU, criticised Airbus for warning that it could move some of its production overseas. He said that the aerospace firm had done its workers a disservice with an intervention he dismissed as “hyperbole”. His comments drew a sharp rebuke from Guto Bebb, the defence minister and Aberconwy MP. “Shooting the messenger is an unworthy position for a politician to take, not least when that politician aspires to lead a government in Wales,” Mr Bebb said. Mr Davies said in a statement that he had tendered his resignation “with deep regret” after a meeting of all Tory assembly members this morning.” – The Times

>Today: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: Special Report – Malta makes a strong case to host the EU outposts of British companies after Brexit

>Yesterday:

Ministers 1) May faces ‘pincer movement’ from Trump and Williamson over defence spending…

“Theresa May is under huge pressure from Donald Trump and her own Defence Secretary to ramp up spending on the military. The Prime Minister is facing a pincer movement from the US and Gavin WIlliamson demanding a big cash boost. Mr Williamson is set to confront Mrs May with calls for £4billion a year more funding at a showdown meeting next week. Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton laid down a marker at talks with his UK counterpart Mark Sedwill earlier this week, apparently making it ‘abundantly clear’ that he expected Britain to do more. It comes as the PM again refused to commit to keeping Britain a ‘Tier 1’ military force in a move which has sent shock waves through the defence community.” – Daily Mail

  • ‘Rift deepens’ as Prime Minister rebuffs Defence Secretary’s vision – FT

More:

  • Johnson ‘deals blow to Russia’ with vote at chemical weapons organisation – The Sun
  • Fears grow over prospect of Russo-American ‘peace deal’ – The Times
  • UK to lift arms embargo on Argentina – The Sun

>Today: Alex Morton’s column: A win for those spending Ministers would be a defeat for the taxpayer – not just Hammond and Truss

>Yesterday:

Ministers 2) …as Mordaunt plans to use aid budget to support ex-servicemen

“The UK aid budget will be used to support thousands of war veterans living in poverty in Commonwealth countries, Penny Mordaunt will announce today. The International Development secretary will also set out plans to work with the Ministry of Defence to help Commonwealth islands devastated by hurricanes. Strict international rules meant ministers were not allowed to spend aid money last year on helping its overseas territories devastated by Hurricane Irma. The plans are the first attempts to fulfil a pledge made by the Conservatives at last year’s general election to try to change the rules to widen the definition of how aid money can be spent. There are an estimated 8,500 veterans in Commonwealth countries including Kenya, Bangladesh and Malawi who fought for the British Armed Forces and are now living in poverty – which is normally defined on a income of less than $2 a day. Some fought with British forces in the Second World War.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Harnessing the power of the Armed Forces and aid – Penny Mordaunt, Times Red Box

Ministers 3) Grayling attacked by motorists’ groups over fuel prices

“Driving groups have hit out at the Transport Secretary’s failure to tackle rip-off fuel prices at motorway service stations. Chris Grayling had vowed to get tough after saying millions of motorists were being ‘exploited’. But his call for an official probe into pump prices has been soundly rejected by competition watchdogs. In a letter, the Competition and Markets Authority told him the fastest way to help drivers was a plan to display fuel price comparisons on the side of motorways – even though a pilot scheme has been dismissed by Government experts. Mr Grayling responded that a ‘further rollout of these trials would not be worthwhile’. Instead, he said the CMA should examine how smartphone apps could be used to ‘increase [price] transparency’.” – Daily Mail

  • Chinese firm becomes favourite to operate HS2 trains – The Sun
  • Climbdown on electric trains ‘will make pollution worse’ – The Times

Ministers 4) McDonnell attacks Hammond over share sales

“A claim by Philip Hammond that the government profited by selling off Lloyds Banking Group shares has been questioned by Whitehall’s spending watchdog, which has calculated a loss to taxpayers of nearly £6bn. During last year’s general election, the chancellor claimed the government had recovered its losses and received £900m more than it had spent on bailing out the bank. But the National Audit Office has examined the sale of the bank’s shares and believes that the government lost up to £5.9bn, according to a report quietly released last Friday. The revelation has prompted John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, to demand that Hammond explains why the true costs were hidden and why the government appears to have sold off the shares “on the cheap”… Whitehall slowly sold its stake in Lloyds over five years until May last year when, during the general election campaign, it was announced that the final shares had been sold off by the government. At the time, Hammond said the government was “not in the business of owning banks” and on the brink of selling off the last of its stake.” – The Guardian

Ministers 5) Hancock calls for support for the press

“Britain’s ‘fearless and independent’ Press is one of the ‘foundations’ of democracy and must be protected, the Culture Secretary has warned. Matt Hancock has spoken out in defence of journalism as figures released today reveal that more than 300 local and regional titles have closed since 2007 – meaning some large towns are left without a local newspaper. There are also 25 per cent fewer full-time journalism jobs than there were in 2007, while a quarter of all regional and local publications have closed. The Cairncross Review, which is carrying out an investigation into the state of the news media industry, has published the figures as part of its call for evidence on the problem. The review will look at threats to financial sustainability, the role and impact of search engines and social media and how advertising revenues have been hit by the rise of web platforms such as Google and Facebook.” – Daily Mail

  • Journalism gives us the facts we need to be citizens – Matt Hancock, Times Red Box

Leadership hopefuls ‘canvassing to replace May’

“In the corridors of Westminster, the race to be the next leader of the Conservative party has started. Ambitious ministers have begun to jockey for position ahead of the summer break, as Theresa May struggles to hold together a fractious cabinet. While Mrs May has said she intends to fight the next general election, many Conservatives are beginning to wonder how long the prime minister will last after next March, when Britain leaves the EU. Invitations to private drinks parties and dinners have been issued by leadership hopefuls as they begin to assess their likely support. “People are being very discreet. Plans are being made under the bedclothes, but be in no doubt there’s lots of planning going on and people are counting their friends,” said one senior Tory MP. “Everything that you would expect to be happening at this early stage is happening,” said a more junior colleague.” – FT

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Exclusive: Conservative candidate selections open for first tranche of target seats

Labour 1) Councillors vow to resist Corbyn’s rule change

“Senior Labour councillors have commissioned legal advice about challenging a proposed change to party rules that would undermine their authority. One of the key proposals of Jeremy Corbyn’s “democracy review” into Labour’s structure and selection processes is to allow local party members to elect Labour council leaders, removing control from councillors. A council leader, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the proposals, which were outlined to union leaders last Monday by Ian Lavery, the party chairman, would cost millions of pounds a year. Nick Forbes, the Newcastle council leader who heads the Labour group in the Local Government Association, said on Twitter that the proposal was “a seriously backward step — and probably illegal”. He later said that the plan was unworkable and added: “I will fight this ridiculous proposal tooth and nail.”” – The Times

  • Proposal for directly-elected council leaders ‘unworkable’ – The Guardian

More:

  • Hard-left activists take control of Harman’s CLP – Daily Mail

Labour 2) Party received call for candidates to undergo criminal records checks

“An internal call for candidates to undergo criminal records checks was made in the Labour party, just nine months before an MP accused of domestic abuse was elected into parliament. If an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check had been requested before the MP stood last year, it should have flagged any police involvement in the case — as well as any child protection issues. A review of Labour’s disciplinary and complaints procedures, commissioned by a local group and obtained by the Financial Times, urged the national Labour party to lobby for mandatory DBS checks in October 2016. The report was commissioned after numerous concerns surrounding sexual harassment and allegations of domestic abuse against councillors in the local group.” – FT

  • Opposition accused of betraying expats over voting rights bill – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Labour cares more about purity than votes – Lucy Fisher, The Times

Sturgeon appoints ‘rising stars’ in sweeping reshuffle

“A tranche of rising stars of the SNP have today been appointed as junior ministers by  Nicola Sturgeon as she completed her cabinet reshuffle. Seven MSPs who were only elected in the 2016 Holyrood election have been promoted to Government posts, including one new minister in her 20s and two in their early thirties. There have been another two appointments from the backbenches to ministerial portfolios. 
Among the younger talent being handed new roles are 28-year-old Kate Forbes who becomes public finance and digital economy minister, while Angus North and Mearns MSP Mairi Gougeon, 33, becomes minister for Rural Affairs and the Environment. Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP Ben Macpherson, 34, takes Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, while Edinburgh Eastern MSP Ash Denham, 44, takes over as community safety minister replacing Annabelle Ewing.” – The Scotsman

MPs criticise spy agencies over torture

“All three British spy agencies will today be bitterly criticised by MPs for failing to stop terror suspects from being tortured after 9/11. After a five year long investigation, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee will deliver the findings of two detailed inquiries into detainees’ mistreatment. But The Sun has also learned that their “brutal” verdicts have already sparked a bitter backlash in the intelligence community, some who feel “sold out”. No UK personnel will be accused of carrying out torture themselves by the MPs. But the committee will single out MI6 officers for the toughest criticism over not doing enough to halt the US and other allies from abusing al Qaeda suspects around them. It will also hammer the foreign spy agency’s chiefs at the time, as well as lawyers, for failing to train field officers on what to do in the difficult situations.” – The Sun

Bercow faces jibes over failure to honour resignation pledge

“John Bercow faced jibes at PMQs today over his failure to keep his promise to quit by this month. Tory former minister Greg Hands pointedly told the Commons Speaker that ‘we all need to keep our election pledges’ during the weekly session. Mr Bercow has voiced defiance despite mounting calls from Tory MPs for him to stand down. He vowed on becoming Speaker in 2009 that he would only serve nine years in the chair. However, he has since reneged and insisted this week that he was not ‘going anywhere’. At PMQs today, Mr Hands – who resigned on principle last week so he could oppose Heathrow airport expansion plans – delivered a barely-veiled swipe at Mr Bercow.  ‘Mr Speaker, we all need to keep our election pledges, and that, Mr Speaker, applies whether we made those pledges one year ago or nine years ago,’ he said. Mr Bercow simply ignored the barb and moved on. The fresh pressure came after the Commons standards watchdog hit out at rules that stopped her investigating bullying claims against Mr Bercow – which he denies.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • What role for Brexit Britain in NATO? – James Rogers, CapX
  • Liz Truss sparks latest bout of cabinet disunity – Alastair Benn, Reaction
  • Merkel’s grand project is crumbling – Fredrik Erixon, The Spectator
  • Threats will only strengthen people’s resolve to leave the EU’s Single Market – Fawzi Ibrahim, Brexit Central
  • Activist journalism is feeding us fake news – James Bloodworth, UnHerd

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