May attacked on all sides in the Commons as she defends her deal…

“Theresa May warned MPs that the public wanted Brexit “settled” as she faced bitter opposition from her own party to her EU exit deal yesterday. The prime minister presented the draft agreement on a future relationship with Europe to a largely hostile Commons after closing a 17-month negotiation earlier than expected. Claiming that her deal delivered the referendum result while protecting jobs and security, she told opponents that she had the backing of a public weary of division and desperate to return to domestic issues. “The British people want Brexit settled,” she said… However, the scale of her task in forcing the deal through the Commons next month was exposed in a bruising debate of two and a half hours during which she was attacked from all sides. More than half of Tory backbenchers have spoken out against the draft agreement with only a few weeks to go before the crunch decision in parliament. Senior Tory Brexiteers dismissed her commitments yesterday to look again at their proposal for a technological solution to the Irish border, which were contained in a “political declaration” setting out Britain’s future relationship with the EU.” – The Times

  • Half of Tory backbenchers opposed as Prime Minister told to ‘junk’ the backstop – Daily Telegraph
  • Eurosceptics find only strained relations with May – FT
  • Scottish Tory MP says he’ll find it difficult to back the deal – Daily Telegraph
  • Raab and Johnson tear into plan as big beasts wade in – Daily Mail
  • Leavers say proposals amount to ‘total surrender’ to the EU – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister to appeal over the heads of MPs – FT
  • May demands mutinous MPs fall into line – Daily Mail


  • Hancock faces calls to quit over second referendum remarks – Daily Express
  • May vows there will never be another vote whilst she is Prime Minister – Daily Mail



…as Spain fights to re-insert Gibraltar into the Brexit negotiations…

“A senior Spanish diplomat shouted at his German counterpart as tensions over Brexit talks between European Union countries reached snapping point this week. Pablo García-Berdoy, the Spanish permanent representative to the EU, compared British sovereignty over Gibraltar to the Soviet Union’s creation of East Germany, according to diplomatic accounts. Yesterday Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish prime minister, further entrenched his country’s position when he said that having spoken to Theresa May, he would “veto Brexit” unless there were changes to the deal. “After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away,” he said. “My government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit.” Spanish anger is understood to have erupted during a meeting of EU ambassadors on Tuesday when Mr García-Berdoy raised his voice at Michael Clauss, Germany’s permanent representative to the EU, who had appealed to Spain not to derail the deal over the issue of Gibraltar.” – The Times

  • EU warns of threat to fish and chips if deal isn’t struck over access to waters – Daily Telegraph
  • May denies that fishermen are being ‘sold out’ for a deal – The Scotsman
  • Leaked political declaration fails to offer ‘frictionless trade’ – The Guardian
  • Tensions brew between Member States over Brexit – Daily Express


  • CBI humiliated over leaks showing what it really thinks of the deal – The Sun

>Today: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: My Brexit poll. It’s good for May… but bad for her deal


…and Hammond prepares to make last-ditch plea to Unionist allies at conference

“Chancellor Philip Hammond will make a last minute desperate plea to the Democratic Union Party to support the Brexit deal as the Prime Minister prepares for this weekend’s crunch EU summit. The Chancellor is expected to speak at the DUP conference in Northern Ireland to try and win over the party who have so far rejected Theresa May’s draft Brexit withdrawal agreement. However the Chancellor’s speech could be overshadowed by an appearance by arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson who will ask DUP MPs to vote down the deal. Mrs May is relying on DUP support to get the draft bill agreed by Parliament when MPs vote next month. Mr Hammond will arrive in Belfast on Friday afternoon before addressing members at the conference in the evening. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will also be in Northern Ireland today as he visits a business on the Irish border. The DUP is opposed to the Prime Minister’s negotiated deal over the backstop agreement.” – Daily Express

  • DUP activists to vent fury over ‘gross betrayal’ at conference – FT
  • May must ditch backstop to win back Northern Irish MPs – News Letter


  • Northern Ireland needs a deal to avoid a hard border – FT

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Hammond and Johnson set to appear at the DUP conference

Iain Martin: Tories are preparing for an emergency Prime Minister

“Tories are turning their attention to what happens if May’s deal is defeated. An emergency prime minister, chosen in a hurry with the leadership election rules tweaked, might be needed within weeks. Who would it be? The clear frontrunners are Sajid Javid, the home secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary. Dominic Raab, the recently-departed Brexit secretary, would run with the backing of Brexiteers. Michael Gove is the champion of those hoping at the last moment to switch to a Norway-style compromise deal. Amber Rudd believes the backing of 30 or so Tory wets would help her influence the outcome. Rudd said this week that no-deal won’t happen because MPs will stop it. But the legislation is hard to change, and without a front bench pledged to halt Brexit, we could end up leaving that way. If the deal fails and the Commons cannot agree on an alternative, it will be the job of an emergency prime minister to say that MPs can vote on as many contested combinations as they like, but look at the calendar. On March 29, Britain leaves the EU. Better get ready.” – The Times

  • Cabinet Brexiteers are gambling on managed no-deal – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • May has a record of winning votes against insurmountable odds – Macer Hall, Daily Express
  • The Prime Minister has only herself to blame for her dire position – Anna Soubry MP, Times Red Box
  • So what’s in the deal May got Brussels to agree? – Ian Drury, Daily Mail
  • EU protests show that this is no British capitulation – Henry Newman, Times Red Box
  • Believe it or not, that was the easy part of the talks – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph
  • We’re heading for a second vote, and maybe a third – Vernon Bogdanor, The Guardian
  • Britain needs an immigration policy fit for Brexit – Madeline Grant, The Times

>Yesterday: Dr Sheila Lawlor in Comment: This deal is a challenge to our historic freedoms

Ministers 1) Williamson announces that offshore patrol vessels are ‘saved’

“A fleet of Royal Navy ships dedicated to protecting British waters has been saved in a post-Brexit boost, it was yesterday announced. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed three offshore patrol vessels will not now get the chop, as they are needed more than ever to secure UK shorelines. Trusty HMS Tyne, HMS Mersey and HMS Severn, which were due to get axed, will now stay on. And the entire Fishery Protection Squadron will be boosted to eight when new patrol vessels enter service over the next two years… The Fishery Protection Squadron – the oldest squadron in the Royal Navy – is tasked with stopping illegal fishing, aiding sailors in distress and combating illegal smuggling of people, drugs and money. They have even shadowed Russian warships sailing in waters off the UK and taken part in counter terror missions. The current fleet was due to be decommissioned and replaced by a new fleet, but thanks to Williamson’s intervention, they will now be kept boosting the entire squadron.” – The Sun

  • Armed Forces need major cash boost to meet Russian and Chinese threats, claims Ellwood – Daily Express

Ministers 2) Hinds to push for primary pupils to get out of the classroom

“Primary school pupils will be taught to dam streams, make mud pies, play conkers, canoe and ride horses to build character rather than spending hours just on homework, under new measures revealed today. Education Secretary Damian Hinds will publish a series of extra-curricular goals for pupils to achieve every year – which could include cooking on campfires, knitting and growing vegetables – in order to toughen them up. He said: “Bluntly, it is about doing stuff that doesn’t involve looking at a screen. It’s about getting out and about.” Mr Hinds said he recognised formal qualifications “are obviously not the only thing. He said it was important to teach children how to “bounce back from the knocks that inevitably come to all of us”… The Education Secretary came across the idea on a visit to St Werburgh’s Primary School in Bristol, where pupils are given a “passport” of enrichment activities. Between arrival in reception and leaving in year six youngsters are given 15 goals to achieve each year.” – The Sun

  • Labour MP accused of sexism for ‘flounce’ jibe at Leadsom – The Times

MPs call for boycott of tech firms which aren’t tough on terror

“Technology groups such as Google and Facebook should be boycotted by advertisers unless they do more to tackle extremism, according to a report by British lawmakers which highlighted missed opportunities by MI5 to stop last year’s terror attacks. In a rare admission to parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), MI5, the domestic security service, said it should have placed one of the attackers – the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi – under closer travel surveillance before he carried out the attack which killed 22 people last May. The failure to monitor Abedi’s movements was one of 12 themes identified by the ISC in its long-awaited report on last year’s attacks which led to the deaths of 36 innocent people – the deadliest year for terrorism in Britain since the 7/7 bombings in 2005… But the ISC reserved some of its strongest criticism for technology groups over their handling of online extremist content and communications, urging the government to lobby marketing executives to pull advertising from the big online platforms unless they did more to remove extremist content online.” – FT

  • Web giants let terrorists plot attacks online – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • Why the bankers won’t bail out May’s Brexit deal – Matt Singh, CapX
  • The Withdrawal Agreement’s Northern Ireland Protocol is neither a “backstop” nor temporary – Martin Howe QC, Brexit Central
  • Why I cannot support May’s Brexit deal – Priti Patel MP, 1828
  • Quickest way for Labour to split and destroy the Tories? Vote for May’s Brexit – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • The Brexit political declaration confirms we are heading to a blind Brexit – Ross Clark, The Spectator

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