Brexit 1) May “to propose keeping the UK in a customs unions with the EU”

“Theresa May will on Thursday ask her Brexit “war Cabinet” to agree a backstop plan that would keep Britain in a customs union with Brussels until a permanent trade deal can be agreed. British and EU negotiators are understood to have agreed in principle to an all-UK backstop plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland that would remove the final major obstacle blocking a withdrawal agreement. Boris Johnson said the deal would turn the UK into a “permanent EU colony” and the DUP angrily threatened to break its confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives and potentially bring down the Government if the Prime Minister goes through with the plan, which it described as a “sell out”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Relying on backing from Labour MPs is a dangerous gamble – Leader, The Sun
  • The Prime Minister is still far from victory – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Blair warns of Chequers plan’s impact on services – Financial Times
  • Abandon free trade plans demands Barnier – City AM
  • Johnson’s tweets – Twitter

>Today:ToryDiary: May on the fence

>Yesterday: WATCH: Brexit Britain is an oasis of moderation even while populists rise elsewhere, notes Daniel Hannan

Brexit 2) Wilson: The DUP won’t prop up the Government if it gives into the EU

“When we entered into the confidence and supply arrangement with the Government, we did so to enable it to deliver on the fiscal elements of its domestic programme and the referendum result to leave the EU. If the Government decides in the face of EU belligerence to cut and run and leave part of the UK languishing in the stifling embrace of the EU, then that would be totally unacceptable to us and many others in the House of Commons. It would have implications not just for Brexit legislation – 50 per cent of which would not have passed without DUP support – but also for the Budget, welfare reform and other domestic legislation…The real danger is that we would forever be stuck in the customs union because the EU would always have the option of saying that no satisfactory arrangements were in place to avoid border checks between any part of the UK and the EU…The road which the leaks and briefings is outlining is the road to parliamentary defeat for any deal which the Prime Minister brings forward.” – Sammy Wilson, Daily Telegraph

  • Freeports would boost the north after Brexit – Frank Field and Simon Clarke, The Times

Brexit 3) EU forces us to have school uniform tax, says Gibb

“EU law prevents the government from cutting VAT on all school uniforms, Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb has said. But that could change when the UK left the EU, he suggested to MPs. He was responding to a call from Birkenhead MP Frank Field, who said some families were going short of food to pay for uniforms. Some of his constituents faced bills of £300 “plus the devastating cost of games kits”, he added. Under EU law, school uniforms for children under the age of 14 are VAT free. But those who are over 14 or do not fit “average size” children’s clothes attract a full VAT rate of 20%.” – BBC

Brexit 4) Whitehall falling behind on “no deal” planning

“Ministers have been warned that 25 of the most important plans for a no-deal Brexit are in trouble, 13 of which have been labelled “off track”, The Times has learnt. Civil servants have urged cabinet ministers to approve a significant acceleration of no-deal planning and the head of the National Audit Office, Sir Amyas Morse, said the government had put business in a “very difficult position”. There are just over 300 no-deal “workstreams” across government to try to prevent the worst in the event that the UK crashes out of the EU, with fewer than 100 of these categorised as high priority. The “off-track” plans have not been identified.” – The Times

Universal Credit problems could be another Poll Tax, warns Major

“Former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major has strongly criticised the government’s key welfare reform, saying it could cause the Tories the same problems as the poll tax in the 1980s. He expressed concern about the speed at which universal credit is being introduced and the levels of funding. He said voters would think it unfair that people were losing money, which could lead to “deep political trouble”. Theresa May has promised “transitional protections” during rollout.” – BBC

>Yesterday: WATCH: “They will be protected” – the Prime Minister’s pledge to people transitioning onto Universal Credit

The Government will force all companies to reveal the ethnicity pay gap of staff

“Private companies and public sector employers will be forced to reveal their ethnicity pay gap under plans to be outlined by Theresa May today. The proposals will oblige bosses to reveal how much employees from ethnic minorities are paid compared with their white counterparts in a move that will mirror the gender pay gap audit carried out last year. Some of the worst disparities are expected to be in the armed forces, police service, NHS and schools, where there are few ethnic minority chiefs.” – The Times

Hammond faces revolt over VAT

“Philip Hammond was facing a backlash last night over plans for a £2billion Budget tax raid on small business. The Chancellor is examining controversial proposals to drag hundreds of thousands of firms into the VAT system as he looks for ways to balance the books this month. Similar plans were abandoned in the run-up to last year’s Budget following warnings they would be politically toxic….At present, traders only have to charge VAT if their turnover tops £85,000 a year.” – Daily Mail

UK Government debt level among the highest in the world

“Britain’s hidden debt mountain is among the worst in the world, it emerged yesterday. A major report by the IMF reassessed 31 major nations’ net worth, balancing how much each owns to each owes.Only Portugal fared worse than the UK, as it emerges the Government now has eye-watering liabilities of more than £2 trillion – which is more than 100% of our entire annual GDP.” – The Sun

Prospect of Scottish independence is “appalling”, says Heseltine

“Lord Heseltine has described the prospect of Scottish independence as “appalling”, questioning whether it “will really change anything very much” north of the border….He said independence would result in Whitehall being “substituted” by Edinburgh, arguing that greater autonomy should be given to cities such as Glasgow and Dundee….”If I look at the record of the British Empire and the British Commonwealth, and the incredible strengths which Scotland has contributed to this 200, 300-year human achievement, the idea of fracturing it, I find unbelievable.” – The Scotsman

>Yesterday: Craig Hoy: In the wake of the SNP’s conference, here’s how we Conservatives can beat them

Tory councillor resigns over hospitality and gifts

“A leading Conservative councillor criticised for receiving hospitality or gifts 893 times over six years, frequently from property developers seeking planning permission, has resigned after an internal investigation found he breached the authority’s code of conduct. The Guardian revealed in February the extent of the hospitality lavished on Robert Davis, who was the deputy leader of Westminster city council and until last year the chair of its planning committee, overseeing billions of pounds’ worth of new property developments.” – The Guardian

Extra NHS funds “could be wasted”

“The extra £20.5 billion for the NHS will be wasted without proper funding for social care, the Care Quality Commission has warned. Almost half of A&E departments were failing because of deep-rooted problems with health and social care services in their area, the watchdog said in its annual report, adding that there were blackspots where patients face “care injustice” and struggle to access good services. In June Theresa May promised an extra £20.5 billion a year of NHS funding by 2023-24, saying that the health service needed to plan how the money would transform services.” – The Times

>Today: Ben Spencer on Comment: I’m an NHS consultant psychiatrist. And can tell you that this talk of a mental health epidemic is doing real harm.

Christians win gay cake battle

“The Christian owners of a bakery today won an appeal at Britain’s highest court over a finding that they discriminated against a customer by refusing to make a £36.50 ‘Support Gay Marriage’ cake. Five Supreme Court justices allowed a challenge by the McArthur family in a unanimous ruling in London today in what is known as the ‘gay cake case’…The legal battle has now lasted four-and-a-half years, costing around £500,000. The Equality Commission of Northern Ireland has spent £251,000 of public money on this case, while the £250,000 of costs for the bakers has been paid by a charity called The Christian Institute.” – Daily Mail

Another Labour councillor found to have made anti-semitic Facebook posts

“A rising Labour star has been spreading anti-semitic conspiracy theories to children in a troubled community where some school pupils have joined Islamic State, The Times can reveal. Mohammed Pappu, 26, appeared with Jeremy Corbyn at last month’s Labour conference where the leader praised his local party for helping to create a “fair, just and decent society”. Mr Pappu shared messages on Facebook that accused Britain of attacking Syria “to install a Rothschild bank”. He also shared posts claiming that Israel had staged 9/11, the London bombings and the Paris terrorist attacks…Mr Pappu had been placed by Labour in charge of governance scrutiny at Tower Hamlets council, whose children’s services have been formally rated as inadequate. His extra responsibility boosted his council income to £19,000.” – The Times

Teach children about the “grave injustices” of the British Empire, demands Corbyn

“School children should be taught about the “grave injustices” of the British Empire, Jeremy Corbyn will say on Thursday, prompting a furious response from Tory politicians. The Labour leader will announce plans to improve the teaching of black British history and the history of the British Empire, colonialism and slavery “to help ensure their legacy is more widely understood across the country”…Conservative ministers and MPs accused Mr Corbyn of being “ashamed” of Britain and said he should “stop hating what this country stands for”.” – Daily Telegraph

Welsh Government refusing to halt dumping of “nuclear mud”

“The Labour-led Welsh government has been heavily criticised after refusing to halt the dumping of “nuclear mud” from a power station project in the sea off Cardiff. It insisted that the debris from the Hinkley Point C construction site in Somerset was safe and argued that it would be breaking the law if it suspended the disposal licence.” – The Guardian

Baker: Deranged critics boost Trump

“Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad, we are told by the ancients. Donald Trump is no one’s idea of a god but his ability to reduce his opponents to wailing, gibbering husks, like demented characters in a Greek tragedy, seems increasingly Olympian in its reach. Last weekend, as Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s Supreme Court nominee, was finally being confirmed in the Senate, the Furies were unleashed and the Republicans’ foes took flight from the asylum….Republicans are galvanised in a way they haven’t been since Mr Trump came to office.” – Gerard Baker, The Times

  • US President demands answers on missing Saudi – BBC

>Yesterday: Andrew Mitchell on Comment: If Trump’s America can hold the Saudis to account for their actions in Yemen, then so can we

Timothy: We also need to “take back control” from the Quangos

“There are several ways in which, in Britain, the balance between democracy and its constraints has gone wrong. Undemocratic institutions are not only used to prevent the tyranny of the majority but to govern without proper democratic oversight…There is the European Convention on Human Rights, to which we will remain signatories after Brexit. Through the rulings of the European Court in Strasbourg and the Human Rights Act, which instructs British judges to adhere to the European Court’s jurisprudence, the Convention has become our unofficial constitution….We have over a thousand technocratic quangos that exercise power over us without scrutiny. We have hundreds of thousands of civil servants making policy and operational decisions daily without proper oversight. We have laws that bind future parliaments and delegate policy-making to unaccountable entities like the Committee on Climate Change.” – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

Glover: Exaggerated claims about global warming only boosts the sceptics

“In 2005 the WWF — formerly the World Wildlife Fund — exceeded even the IPCC’s pessimism at the time, and suggested that all Arctic ice might melt within five years. It’s still there. In the same year, the United Nations Environmental Programme forecast that within five years some 50 million ‘climate refugees’ would be fleeing large areas of the globe which would have been rendered uninhabitable by the effects of climate change. This hasn’t happened yet…. I suggest that the public would respond more favourably to warnings about climate change if they were balanced and measured, and avoided sensational and unprovable claims.” – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

Heath: The Tories don’t have a God given right to exist

“The biggest vacant space is for a new centre-Right agenda: either the Tories will seize it, or somebody else will give it a go. The British Macron would not be a Chuka Umunna or an Anna Soubry: it would be a populist figure from the Right, albeit one who straddles the traditional divide. Jeremy Hosking, a City financier and major Tory donor, has carried out private polling in a number of seats that shows “clear support” for a new party that would help achieve “what the electorate thought it would be getting”. Others are thinking carefully about similar options if May decides to keep us permanently in the customs union.” – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Theresa May’s Brexit backstop breakthrough – Robert Peston, The Spectator
  • If Theresa May truly admired free markets she would embrace Canada+ – Alexander C. R. Hammond, CapX
  • The Norway option would be even worse than Chequers – Hjörtur J. Guðmundsson, Brexit Central
  • Hammond has been left with little to reveal in his Budget – Andrew Grice, Independent
  • The “gay cake” judgement protects vital freedoms – Louis Staples, New Statesman