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May dismisses claims of novichok assassins…

“Theresa May today blasted Russia’s novichok assassins after they claimed to be tourists stuck in Salisbury and called their story ‘lies and blatant fabrication’. The Prime Minister said the suspects, who used the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov to get into Britain, had ‘insulted the public’s intelligence’ and had been ‘deeply offensive to victims’. Today the suspected GRU agents, believed to be from Siberia, told state TV station RT they were only wandering around Salisbury after failing to get to Stonehenge because of snow. In the ‘absurd’ interview the men even admitted they may have ended up at Sergei Skripal’s suburban home by accident while looking for the cathedral, which has a 400ft spire and is 25 minutes in the other direction.” – Daily Mail

  • Crime agency steps up assault on Russian dirty money – FT

Comment:

  • Not even the Kremlin believes this tale – Roger Boyes, The Times

…and tells Tory MEPs to distance themselves from Hungary

“Downing Street has privately told Conservative MEPs to distance themselves from Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister after they did not oppose him in a crucial vote. Leaked Whatsapp messages appear to show Number 10 intervening after Conservative MEPs were accused of “giving bigotry a free pass” by backing Viktor Orban’s government in the European Parliament. Downing Street instructed MEPs to share a tweet saying they do not support Mr Orban and warned them not to comment further on the matter. In an unprecedented vote this week, the European Parliament ruled in favour of launching disciplinary action against Hungary, after Mr Orban’s government was accused a crackdown on NGOs, the media and universities. Mr Orban has been criticised for his rhetoric about “Muslim invaders” and calling migrants “poison”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Conservatives’ refusal to censor Orban is a disgrace – Philip Collins, The Times

Cable has talked to six Tory MPs about ‘new centre-left party’

“The Liberal Democrat party could change its name to attract Tory and Labour MPs to join it under a new centre left political movement, Sir Vince Cable has said – although he is against the idea. The LibDem leader said he has held informal talks with 18 MPs – six Conservative MPs and 12 Labour MPs – about creating a new centre-left party. There has been widespread speculation about a new centrist party if voters are faced with the choice between Jeremy Corbyn and a Brexiteer like Boris Johnson at the next election. Sir Vince will set out his plans to change the party’s rules so it can be led by a non-MP and non-members can vote in leadership contests at the party’s conference next week. Sir Vince – who is not expecting to fight the next election if it is held in 2022 – said “good relationships have been developed should the tectonic plates move” with “half a dozen” Tories and “a dozen-plus” Labour MPs.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Bigger is not better for Britain’s parties – Henry Mance, FT

Editorial:

  • The Liberal Democrats are missing their moment – The Guardian

>Today: Jessica Studdert in Local Government: Our national politics is broken. Renewal after Brexit needs to be built from the ground up.

Carney warns that ‘no deal’ would lead to a crash

“Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has claimed that leaving the European Union without a deal could be as big a disaster as the 2008 financial crash. Today at a cabinet meeting on Brexit preparations, he told Prime Minister Theresa May that leaving on bad terms means dire consequences for the UK. Sources told The Guardian that Mr Carney suggested a no-deal outcome would slash house prices by 25-30 per cent over a three-year period. He is also said to have claimed that unemployment will climb into double figures in terms of percentage… One cabinet minister told the newspaper that Mr Carney wasn’t saying that everything he mentioned was going to happen but simply recognising the need to consider the worst-case scenario.” – Daily Mail

  • Moody’s agrees – Daily Mail
  • House prices would fall ‘by a third’ – The Times
  • Ministers promise that Irish in Britain won’t be affected – Daily Mail
  • UK passport holders could be banned from EU – Daily Express

Raab urges businesses to stop using Brexit as an excuse

“Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, clashed with British business leaders on Thursday after he warned them to stop using the UK’s looming departure from the EU as an “easy” excuse for poor company results. Mr Raab, who later published 28 documents about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on various industries and activities, admitted that a disorderly exit by Britain from the EU was a possibility. But he said underperforming companies were blaming the uncertainty over the Brexit talks for their commercial difficulties. “I don’t doubt that some of the uncertainty around these negotiations will have an impact on business — that’s why we are putting all our energy into getting the good deal we want with our EU friends and partners,” Mr Raab told the BBC.” – FT

  • Brexit Secretary clashes with John Lewis boss over ‘blame game’ – Daily Mail
  • Thornberry: Britain has disappeared down ‘black hole’ – FT
  • Local groups want vote on Brexit at Labour conference – The Guardian

More:

  • Peers to mount fresh bid to keep UK in the Customs Union – Daily Express
  • Drivers will need to buy new licences – Daily Mail
  • Brussels insists UK must pay divorce bill – The Times
  • UK and EU set for legal fight over commodities trading – FT
  • Eurostars will be stopped, warn French – The Guardian

Freeman calls for May to stand down after Brexit

“Theresa May’s former policy adviser has called on her to step aside after Brexit day next year to give a “new generation” the chance to shape the country’s future. George Freeman, who was chairman of the prime minister’s policy board for over a year after she entered No 10, said that she should be given space to negotiate the divorce deal with Brussels then go with “gratitude”. The party would then need to hold a leadership contest to find a candidate with the best vision for the second stage of Brexit, meaning a contest next summer culminating at the Tory conference… The intervention is designed to deflect calls from a handful of hard Brexiteers that Mrs May ought to be ousted if she does not “chuck Chequers”, her blueprint for Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Last week, one member of the European Research Group predicted that Boris Johnson could be prime minister by Christmas.” – The Times

  • ERG being investigated over ‘secret bank account’ – Daily Mail
  • Daily Mail brands anti-Chequers rebels ‘traitors’ – The Guardian

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Will May challenge her critics to put up or shut up – and herself get a confidence ballot staged?

Owen Paterson: Ministers must accept that the Irish border is no barrier to a proper Brexit

“The key obstacle is the EU’s concern over the possibility that goods could enter the EU single market through the border without being compliant with EU standards or tariffs. The paper which the ERG published today addresses this issue. It demonstrates that there are no threats to the integrity of the EU’s single market and customs union on the border which cannot be resolved with the use of existing technologies and procedures which conform with existing UK and EU law. There is no need for new physical infrastructure at the border and there is no reason for this issue to hold up a Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the EU. Cross-border trade on the island of Ireland is mostly comprised of regular shipments of the same goods, with little third-country traffic. This repetitive trade is well suited to established technical solutions and simplified customs procedures already available in the Union Customs Code.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The perfect Brexit does not exist – Simon Hart MP, Times Red Box
  • Latest no-deal papers could finally crush the hard Brexiteers – Katy Balls, The Guardian

>Yesterday:

Javid dismisses plans for ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics

“The home secretary has ruled out calls to bring in “buffer zones” outside abortion clinics to prevent protests. Sajid Javid said that the move was not necessary because protests took place at a small number of facilities. The decision prompted anger from women’s groups and MPs, who have said that patients and staff are being harassed and intimidated across the country. Amber Rudd, the former home secretary, began a review last year into protests outside clinics in England and Wales. Mr Javid said in a statement that it found examples of damaging behaviour such as displaying graphic images and blocking patients’ paths but these tactics were not common… About 36 of the 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales reported demonstrations outside their facilities.” – The Times

Hammond may extend ‘latte levy’ to fast food chains

“McDonald’s and fast food giants face a Budget Day plastics tax clobbering from the Chancellor – the Sun can reveal. Treasury officials are preparing to extend a planned “latte levy” on coffee cups to include burger chain soft drinks and shakes. Stunned industry insiders have been told that “nothing is off the table” as Philip Hammond lines up a Budget Day grab. Furious campaigners last night said the move would be “slap in the face” for people struggling to get by. Tory MP Rob Halfon added: “The Prime Minister vowed to tackle burning injustices in modern day Britain. She shouldn’t be charging people more for a milkshake at Burger King.” Ministers earlier this year proposed a 25p latte levy on disposable coffee cups to tackle plastic waste from Starbucks and Costa Coffee.” – The Sun

Gyimah unveils new scholarship scheme

“Youngsters from Britain’s poorest communities will go to Harvard and Yale under a scholarship scheme unveiled yesterday. Sam Gyimah, the Universities Minister, said he wanted a ‘fair crack of the whip’ for those from deprived schools, and to break the stranglehold of the ultra-wealthy on the US’s top Ivy League colleges. The bursaries will be funded with £400,000 of government cash each year. They will be run by the Fulbright Commission, an elite scholarship programme, which will explicitly target deprived youngsters for the first time in its 70-year history. Mr Gyimah said he wants to target ‘those who never dreamed’ of attending US universities, which too often are ‘playgrounds’ for Britain’s ‘super-rich’.” – Daily Mail

  • Science can make our lives better, so don’t be scared of it – Sam Gyimah MP, Daily Telegraph
  • Work to prepare young for the future drowned out by Brexit – David Blunkett, Times Red Box

Morgan accuses banker of misleading MPs

“Ross McEwan, the Royal Bank of Scotland’s chief executive, has been accused of deliberately misleading MPs in order to avoid disclosing a police investigation into an alleged bribery scandal at the bank’s restructuring unit. Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the Treasury select committee, said that Mr McEwan had purposefully “withheld information of relevance and interest” when he was questioned by the committee in January about the bank’s disgraced Global Restructuring Group. At the time, the boss of the taxpayer-owned bank told MPs that he was not aware of any allegations of criminal activity within the bank. n fact, only months previously, the bank had alerted police to claims that a former GRG banker had taken a bribe from the owner of a small business in return for showing leniency towards his company.” – The Times

  • The last thing we need is Labour taking over RBS – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph

Stewart calls for tougher knife-crime sentences

“Knife crime has surged to a seven-year high amid police fears of an epidemic of violence on the streets. And use of blades among children has rocketed to its highest level this decade. Courts dealt with more than 21,101 knife cases last year – the highest number since 2010 – according to official figures. It is equivalent to one attack every 25 minutes and a 5 per cent increase on 2016… Knives and other sharp weapons have killed at least 64 people in London alone this year. Justice minister Rory Stewart said: ‘Knife crime is horrifying, it causes catastrophic damage to families with tragic consequences. We need sentences that punish anyone who commits knife crime and deters anyone from doing it in the future.’” – Daily Mail

  • Surge in probation offences since ‘privatisation’ – The Sun

Davidson attacks SNP over school performance measures

“Parents are “left in the dark” when it comes to school performance with only a handful of secondaries making information on attainment and curriculum readily available, it has been claimed. At First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson quoted new research suggesting just seven per cent of schools in Scotland abide by regulations governing what information they are required to make public. Ms Davidson said research by Professor Jim Scott of Dundee University will next week reveal how many schools comply with the Education (Schools and Placing Information) regulations introduced by SNP ministers six years ago. The regulations state information should be accessible on a host of matters including the subjects available to pupils and the performance of the school at local and national level. Ms Davidson said Professor Scott’s analysis would show only seven per cent of schools make information on curriculum and attainment readily available while 20 per cent do not meet any of the requirements outlined in the regulations.” – The Scotsman

Jewish Labour MP threatened with deselection

“A Jewish Labour MP has been threatened with deselection by a local activist after she spoke out on anti-Semitism, it was today reported. Dame Louise Ellman, who has been an MP since 1997, has been criticised by left-wing activists for speaking out on the scandal. And the chairman of her local Constituency Labour Party (CLP) called for her to be ousted by activists, the Jewish Chronicle reports. Tim Hayden reportedly called for her to go at a meeting of Liverpool Momentum group on July 31. He said: ‘It’s time for a change. MPs shouldn’t have a job for life — because there are MPs in this city campaigning to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. These MPs think they can ignore the membership. In Riverside we’ve seen that happen time and time again.'” – Daily Mail

  • Abbott walks away from teenager questioning her comments about Orthodox Jews – The Sun
  • Union boss faces calls to resign after blaming Israel for antisemitism row – Daily Mail
  • Canterbury MP considers her future – The Guardian

Comment:

  • The hard left’s tactics always backfire – Charlotte Leslie, Daily Telegraph

Abbott ‘sparks outcry’ by comparing Tory policies to African tyrant

“Diane Abbott sparked anger by linking the Government’s immigration policies to those of murderous African dictator Idi Amin. The Shadow Home Secretary claimed Tory ministers were failing to treat migrants as humans – and drew comparison with the racist Ugandan tyrant who expelled all Asians from his country. The Labour MP also suggested the Conservative stance could lead to children being detained in ‘cages’ like on the US-Mexican border. Last night opponents blasted the comments – inserted at the last minute into a keynote address – as ‘outrageous’. Idi Amin, who died in exile in Saudi Arabia in August 2003 aged 78, ‘ethnically cleansed’ up to 500,000 people in mass executions and tribal purges in eight bloody years in the 1970s.” – Daily Mail

  • UK eyes post-Brexit migration regime based on trade deals – FT

Welby criticised for ‘hypocritical’ TUC speech

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is facing accusations of hypocrisy after it emerged that the Church of England uses zero-hours contracts and invests in Amazon despite his attack on both in a speech this week. The Most Rev Justin Welby was told to “practise what he preaches” after The Times found that the church advises its parishes to issue zero-hours contracts to workers and is advertising for roles that use them. Archbishop Welby told the TUC conference this week that “the gig economy, zero-hours contracts, is simply the reincarnation of an ancient evil”. The official church website run by the Archbishops’ Council, of which Archbishop Welby is the joint president, includes guidance that tells parishes to use zero-hours contracts when employing staff on “variable” hours.” – The Times

  • God aside, for whom does Welby speak? – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • Dabbling in politics will hasten the Church’s decline – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Welby’s next stop should be a small business conference

SNP minister apologises over cancer scans

“The SNP’s new Health Minister has apologised to almost 1,800 elderly women after a computer blunder meant they were not invited for their final breast cancer scan. Jeane Freeman said it would be a “worrying time” for the the 1,761 women affected after a review of the Scottish Breast Screening programme discovered they had not received their final appointments. However, the total she cited does not include women who have since died. The mistake means the checks will have been delayed by up to three years. All females in Scotland are supposed to be invited for routine breast screening between the ages of 50 and 70. But an error meant a total of 1,761 women, now aged over 71, were not contacted before their 70th birthday because of computer “delays”.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • The Tories are conspiring to chuck the Chequers plan – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Ministers should seize the EU’s offer of zero tariffs on goods – Alastair MacMillan, Brexit Central
  • Carping about Amazon’s tax bill misses the point – Tom Westgarth, CapX
  • Brexit is an opportunity to fix our crumbling institutions – Mark Fox, Reaction
  • On immigration, the UK has failed to use its wiggle room for years – Sophie Jarvis, 1828

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