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Brexit 1) The chance of a deal on the Irish border is 50/50, suggest EU officials

“The chances of Theresa May striking a deal with Brussels on the Irish border that she can sell to the cabinet and parliament are said by EU officials to be “50-50” as the fraught talks enter their final stretch. The British negotiating team and the European commission’s taskforce, led by Michel Barnier, are to enter a secretive phase known as the “tunnel” this week, but senior EU figures involved in the talks warned the competing red lines remain “incompatible” in key areas. The British government has set out its stall to make “decisive progress” on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop by Friday, in the hope that Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, could then call an extraordinary Brexit summit for the end of the month to seal the deal.” – The Guardian

  • Why hand over £40 billion for nothing in return? – Boris Johnson, The Sun
  • EU could impose extortionate vias charges if there is no deal – Daily Express
  • The PM’s duplicity – Brain Monteith, The Scotsman
  • Foster says any barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland would be “catastrophic” – Belfast Telegraph
  • French far right over take Macron in poll for European Parliament elections – Daily Telegraph

>Today:

Brexit 2) Raab “demands right to pull out of backstop after three months”

“Dominic Raab has privately demanded the right to pull Britain out of the EU’s Irish backstop after just three months, the Telegraph has learned, setting back the prospect of clinching a Brexit divorce deal this week. The hardline pitch by the Brexit Secretary to the Irish government early last week is understood to have “stunned” Irish officials and exposed the continued deep divisions in Cabinet over how to prosecute the Brexit talks.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 3) Banks denies being given Russian money

“The pro-Brexit tycoon who’s being probed by police today denied his money came from Russia. Arron Banks, the founder of Leave.EU, claimed his political donations were funded by his insurance businesses. In a fiery interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Banks also said he would now vote Remain because Brexit isn’t worth the political chaos that has taken place. The businessman is now under investigation from the National Crime Agency after the Electoral Commission raised questions about the £8 million he gave to the Brexit campaign. He told Mr Marr: “For the record, there was no Russian money and no interference of any type. I want to be absolutely clear about that.” Mr Banks said all the money he donated was “generated out of insurance business written in the UK”.” – The Sun

  • Mystery campaign funds – Financial Times
  • Banks is a malevolent chancer. But do the Lords demanding a ‘People’s Vote’ know how ridiculous they look? – Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail
  • Dark money harms our democracy – Matthew d’Ancona, The Guardian

>Yesterday:

Brexit 4) Lawyers call for a second referendum

“MPs have been urged to back another Brexit referendum by 1,400 of the UK’s top lawyers. They have written to Prime Minister Theresa May to say that Parliament should not be bound by the 2016 vote. “Democratic government is not frozen in time,” the letter said…Among the signatories of the letter are Labour peer Baroness Kennedy QC, former Court of Appeal judge Konrad Schiemann and David Edward, a former judge at the European Court of Justice.” – BBC

  • A new centre left party is needed, but it should be one that accepts the referendum result – Leader, Daily Express

Tributes to Jeremy Heywood

“Sir Jeremy Heywood, the former cabinet secretary and civil service head, has died of cancer aged 56, just two weeks after stepping down from government. Sir Jeremy was cabinet secretary from 2012 until 2018 and head of the civil service between 2014 and 2018. PM Theresa May said “he worked tirelessly to serve our country” and is a “huge loss to British public life”. His wife Suzanne paid tribute to a “wonderful father” who “crammed a huge amount into his 56 years”.” – BBC

  • The most brilliant and influential civil servant of his generation – Bob Kerslake, Daily Telegraph
  • An arch fixer but a true patriot – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

Hinds demands more school funding

“The Education Secretary is demanding billions more for schools following a Budget in which the Chancellor lavished more money on potholes than classrooms. Damian Hinds said education spending was a ‘special case’ that deserved more than the real-terms freeze currently on offer to all departments outside the NHS in next year’s spending review. Philip Hammond warned last week that a huge increase in health spending meant other departments would be left with an average zero per cent real-terms settlement in the three-year review.” – Daily Mail

  • Teachers are drowning in paperwork – The Times

Leadsom plans investigation of MPs who have bullied their staff

“MPs who are accused of historical abuse against their staff could be named in a new major investigation into bullying in their own private offices. A leading female barrister will be unveiled by Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons, as early as Tuesday to investigate abuse of MPs’ staff in their own offices. The new investigation comes after an earlier report by Dame Laura Cox into bullying of Parliamentary officials exposed “a shocking culture of fear and deference [that] is driven right from the top of the House of Commons, behaviour that we would not tolerate elsewhere”.” – Daily Telegraph

Women delay choosing a political career, admits Badenoch

“There are fewer female Conservative MPs because women take far longer than men to decide to enter politics, a senior party figure has admitted. Kemi Badenoch, 38, the Conservative party’s vice chairman in charge of selecting candidates, said women took up to two years to decide to become MPs – when men took the decision in as little as 48 hours. This meant that historically more men came forward offering to stand as MPs.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: WATCH: Badenoch says “yes and no” to whether the Conservatives have an “image problem”

Take responsibility for your own health, urges Hancock

“People need to take “greater responsibility” for taking the strain off the NHS by cutting down on how much they eat and drink, the Health secretary will say today. Matt Hancock will tell a health conference that taxpayers have a role to play in taking pressure off the National Health Service by focusing on the prevention rather than the cure. As part of a new focus on stopping unhealthy lifestyles, Public Health England will examine how to target health advice at people living in areas with there is a higher preponderance of unhealthy lifestyles.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Predictive technology to be boosted – The Sun
  • Firms cash in on psychiatric care crisis: NHS is charged millions for substandard mental health services – The Times

Halfon challenges universities to provide better value for money

“Universities must concentrate on value for money and improving access for poorer students, MPs say today. A report published by the Commons Education Committee calls for a sharper focus on the teaching of skills and more support for disadvantaged students.Committee chair Rob Halfon demanded an expansion of degree apprenticeships as well as a fresh look at excessive vice chancellor pay. He said: “The blunt reality is that too many universities are not providing value for money and that students are not getting good outcomes from the degrees for which so many of them rack up debt.” – The Sun

Commonwealth nationals to be allowed to join British armed forces

“Foreign nationals will be allowed to join the armed forces without having ever lived in Britain, ministers will announce on Monday, in a major move to address a deepening recruitment crisis. The Ministry of Defence will drop a requirement for applicants from Commonwealth countries to have resided in Britain for five years, The Telegraph has learned. Military leaders now hope to recruit 1,350 extra personnel from foreign countries every year to the navy, army and air force.” – Daily Telegraph

Scottish councils demand more money

“Councils must be given half a billions pounds extra in the Scottish budget next month to prevent further cuts to services, the Scottish Government has been told. The Council of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) warned there were “no options left” to save money without cutting core services after seeing funding reduced by 4 per cent over the past five years.  Ahead of budget negotiations between parties at Holyrood, the umbrella body for councils is demanding a funding increase of 2.4 per cent above inflation from Finance Secretary Derek Mackay “just to stand still”. As well as the £549m it says it needs to prevent further erosion of unprotected local services like roads and public safety, Cosla said the Scottish Government had to deliver on a promise of £325m to cover new initiatives like expanding childcare and free personal care.” – The Scotsman

Surge in early voting for US midterm elections

“It was raining all weekend but that did not dampen the determination of the Des Moines doorknockers. America is preparing to deliver its verdict on the first two years of President Trump. The results of tomorrow’s midterm elections will set the political weather for two years, returning a Congress that will either further embolden the president or seek to frustrate and investigate him. Bedraggled Democratic foot soldiers such as Beverly and Terry know that turning out city and suburban voters, who lean towards their party, will make all the difference. On the other side of this swing Iowa district, a microcosm of a divided country, Republican activists fitted their campaigning around the corn and soybean harvests. A surge in early voting has prompted predictions of the biggest midterm turnout since the height of the Vietnam War more than 50 years ago. At least 30 million Americans have cast their ballots, easily surpassing 2014.” – The Times

  • Altered States – Leader, The Times
  • Trump and Obama trade blows – The Guardian
  • Bloomberg spends $5 million on last-minute advertising in support of Democrats – Daily Express
  • Will Mitt Romney be a thorn in Trump’s side if he wins Utah Senate race? – The Guardian
  • US sanctions on Iran come into force – BBC
  • Blitz of text messages – Financial Times

>Today: Lord Ashcroft on International: “I was like, we must pick one of these? But I’m pleasantly surprised.” My pre-election focus groups from California.

Europe needs to follow Trump’s example, says Italian Deputy Prime Minister

“Italy’s deputy prime minister believes Rome’s controversial spending plans will become “a recipe” for reviving European growth and that the continent is ready to abandon austerity and embrace the deficit-busting approach of US president Donald Trump….“I believe that over the next 10 years, Europe will go in this direction because the United States is moving in this direction. The US economy is growing at 4 per cent with the expansive policies of Trump, which everyone said were wrong. He is expanding the deficit, lowering taxation and investing in infrastructure.” – Financial Times

Saatchi: Tax cuts are needed to make work pay

“The tax system should do everything possible to make work pay: first, by introducing a universal working income – a guarantee that the first £1,000 a month you earn will be not just clear of income tax, but also clear of National Insurance (which is just income tax by another name). This would be a tax cut of almost £500 for everyone on £12,000 a year or above – and would take more than 2 million low earners out of the tax system completely. Next, we should ensure that the tax system always lets you keep at least 51p in every £1 you earn from that point – which is not the case at many points today. This problem particularly affects those trying to move from welfare into work, so we can have a situation where a cleaner can end up losing more of her income than the CEO whose office she tidies.” – Maurice Saatchi, Daily Mail

Johnson: Free speech champions must take on the professionally offended

“I imagined that when people claimed “Je suis Charlie”, they were true Voltairean believers in free speech. I have to say that in the three years since the massacre, I have started to wonder what on earth we all thought we were saying. I have never known a time when people have been so terrified of speaking out of turn, or of causing offence, or else – perhaps even more frightening – of failing to react correctly when someone else has said or done something that might be deemed offensive…. it may sometimes be necessary for us all to grow a slightly thicker hide and take things a bit more in our stride – and instead of pandering to the professional offence-takers, we politicians should occasionally have the guts to say so.” – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Trade with the EU on WTO terms would be better than being a Brussels rule-taker – Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Brexit Central
  • The Tories can’t blame BBC bias for losing a Budget spin battle – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • Thank you, Tracey Crouch, for reminding us some ministers have principles – John Rentoul, Independent
  • Most voters want a Brexit compromise – Politico
  • Could you spot a tyrant in the making? – Douglas Murray, Unherd

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