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Brexit 1) Brexiteers fear ‘secret deal’ as Downing Street plans ‘charm offensive’

Theresa May was tonight accused of secretly lining up a Brexit deal behind the backs of her Cabinet after a leaked memo revealed detailed plans for selling the deal to the public. A three-week strategy leading up to a parliamentary vote includes daily “themed” announcements, a major speech by the Prime Minister and a televised interview with David Dimbleby. The document, which was seen by the BBC and appears to have been written in the past week, proposes a vote on the deal on Nov 27, adding to suspicions from ministers that Mrs May, desperate for a deal before Christmas, was rushing into an agreement with Brussels. It came after a Cabinet meeting at which senior ministers warned Mrs May not to be panicked into signing a deal that would give Brussels the power to keep Britain in an EU customs union. The Cabinet was told the Brexit negotiations had moved a “major step” forward and Brussels was willing to discuss ways of ending the impasse over the Irish border. But Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, were among those who urged caution over any solution that would prevent Britain from unilaterally ending any “backstop” arrangement over Northern Ireland.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cabinet told deal is in sight after ‘major shift’ by the EU – The Sun
  • Prime Minister rebuked after deal notes leak – The Times
  • ‘Measured success is the narrative’ – The Guardian
  • Fury as Barnier says Britain could rejoin the EU – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Brexiteers are being betrayed by Number 10’s strategy – Rebecca Ryan, Times Red Box
  • Momentum want Labour MPs to reject May’s deal – Becky Boumelha, The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Project Fear Three. Coming your way soon, courtesy of Downing Street?

>Yesterday:

Brexit 2) Cox ‘holds the key’ as he urges compromise

“Not since Peter Goldsmith ruled that it was legal for the UK to go to war in Iraq has an attorney-general played such a contentious part in British politics. But Geoffrey Cox, Theresa May’s attorney-general, has assumed a critical role in determining whether the UK should sign up to a compromise with the EU on Northern Ireland that would break the impasse in the Brexit negotiations… Brexiter ministers have been hoping that Mr Cox — who voted Leave in the EU referendum — will stop Mrs May riding roughshod over their concerns about the terms on which the UK leaves the bloc. But at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting he warned of the need for compromise on a Brexit withdrawal treaty, according to people briefed on the discussions, and now appears to hold the key to the prime minister’s efforts to unlock a deal. He was asked by the cabinet to come up with a legal text to resolve the outstanding issue of the so-called Irish backstop: an arrangement that would avoid the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.” – FT

  • Minister hints that free movement could continue until 2021, minister hints – Daily Express

Ireland:

  • May says backstop plan won’t come ‘at any cost’… – The Sun
  • …but rumoured deal abandons unilateral exit – Daily Mail
  • Will the UK ever be able to quit the dreaded backstop? – Daily Telegraph
  • Varadkar criticised for Brexit ‘cock-up’ – Daily Express

>Today: Graham Gudgin in Comment: Are we inching nearer to an escape from the Northern Ireland backstop?

>Yesterday:

Brexit 3) ‘No evidence’ leave campaigns worked with Cambridge Analytica

Claims that the two Leave campaigns worked with the data harvesting firm Cambridge Analytica have been dismissed as baseless in an official investigation by the information watchdog. The Information Commissioner’s Office has knocked down a series of high-profile allegations levelled against the official and unofficial Brexit groups, confirming it has found “no evidence” to support allegations they used the company’s services. It comes months after Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based company, became embroiled in a global scandal when it was found to have harvested the personal data of 87 million Facebook users, many of whom had not consented. Amid a widespread backlash against the firm, which has since shut down, a string of allegations were made over its involvement in the Brexit campaign and association with prominent Leave supporters. But yesterday, in a wide-ranging report, the ICO confirmed that it had found “no evidence that… CA [Cambridge Analytica] were involved in any data analytics work with the EU Referendum campaigns.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Banks faces £135,000 fine for data breach – The Times

Brexit 4) Starmer warns against ‘blind Brexit’

“Keir Starmer will step up warnings about the risks of a “blind Brexit” in Brussels on Wednesday, as Labour seeks to shift the debate from the Irish backstop to Britain’s future trading relationship in a bid to win over wavering MPs. The shadow Brexit secretary is keen to underline Labour’s continuing objections to Theresa May’s Brexit deal, even if she secures agreement with Brussels over the Irish backstop – the key remaining sticking point in the withdrawal agreement. He will stress the party’s concerns that the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the UK and the EU will be too vague to reassure businesses or win over sceptical MPs. “A blind Brexit could prolong business uncertainty and provide insufficient guarantees to protect jobs, the economy and rights. Whether you voted leave or remain, nobody voted for the purgatory of permanent negotiations,” he said.” – The Guardian

Comment:

  • What’s the point of the Liberal Democrats? – Martha Gill, The Guardian

Ministers 1) Williamson rejects call to fly jihadis back to Britain for trial

“Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has rejected calls for British jihadis to be flown back from Syria and Iraq to face trial in the UK. Mr Williamson said he did not want troops having to deal with Islamic State extremists who had been the cause of so many deaths. Speaking in the Middle East, where he is announcing a new British training base in Oman, he said: ‘Do I want to see our Royal Air Force flying these people back to our country? Never.’… Mr Williamson has been watching joint Omani-British military exercises in the desert ahead of the opening of the base in March. His comments come after officials examined the possibility of extraditing a British citizen suspected of fighting for IS from a jail in Iraq last year. Ministers blocked the plan, fearing it would ‘open the floodgates’. Since then the Government has come under pressure from the US and Kurdish leaders in Syria to take responsibility for its own citizens.” – Daily Mail

Ministers 2) Javid warns that companies are ‘funding child abuse’

“Large companies are funding child abuse by allowing their adverts to run on sick paedophile websites, the Home Secretary warned today. Sajid Javid has launched a new investigation into how abuse sites get the money they use to spread their vile filth online. He said well-known household brands are unknowingly funnelling advertising cash towards websites which host pictures and videos of children being abused. Speaking ahead of meetings with US tech bosses today, Mr Javid said: “Keeping our children safe is my mission as Home Secretary and it is vital tech companies take their responsibility seriously… The Internet Watch Foundation will carry out the probe into the scale of the problem. Mr Javid will also chair a new taskforce including ad agencies, trade bodies and brands.” – The Sun

Ministers 3) Gyimah hits out at student ‘monoculture’ stifling debate

“Debate among students is being stifled because white people are not allowed to talk about race, the universities minister has warned. Sam Gyimah, whose parents are from Ghana, condemned the belief that white people cannot have ‘an opinion worth sharing’ because they do not know ‘what it means to be black’. He said people are also finding themselves unable to voice views on transgender issues ‘unless they are trans themselves’. The minister stressed these are symptoms of a student ‘monoculture’ which assigns people an ‘identity’ and tells them they cannot comment on anything else. He insisted labelling people and putting them in ‘silos’ is damaging because it stops them speaking freely. Mr Gyimah, an Oxford graduate, delivered his damning verdict on student politics in a speech at the ‘Wonkfest’ higher education ideas conference in London. He said: ‘When I talk about monoculture, what I mean is having a culture where dissenting views – whatever they are – are unwelcome.'” – Daily Mail

Cabinet ‘packed with unknowns’ but May is least unpopular living prime minister

“In politics there are known knowns, there are known unknowns, and then there are members of the cabinet. While ministers talk up their importance and threaten to resign, most of the country have no idea who they are. Polling by YouGov asked the public to rate senior politicians but the majority had never heard of most of the cabinet. All had heard of Theresa May, while Jeremy Hunt, Philip Hammond, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid were recognised by most, although all were rated more negatively than positively. Less than 20 per cent had heard of David Gauke, the justice secretary, David Mundell, the Scottish secretary, or Brandon Lewis, the Tory chairman. Only 15 per cent were aware of Alun Cairns, the Welsh secretary. Things were worse for Labour. Only Jeremy Corbyn, on 98 per cent, and Diane Abbott, 86 per cent, were known by most. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, was unknown to 51 per cent. The polling also showed that Mrs May is the most popular – or least unpopular – living prime minister.” – The Times

  • Corbyn and May lead armistice service – The Sun

Government accused of ‘gagging’ Grenfell experts

“Experts hired by the government to test cladding 12 days after the Grenfell Tower fire were banned from criticising Theresa May or doing anything to embarrass her, The Times can reveal. The engineering company WSP agreed to the terms when it was appointed to analyse the safety of government buildings in the days after the disaster. WSP’s contract stated that it must not create “adverse publicity” about the Cabinet Office or other Crown bodies, a group of organisations that includes the prime minister’s office. The agreement was made while Mrs May faced criticism for her response to the death of 72 people in the fire. An investigation by this newspaper into gagging clauses used by the government found that cabinet ministers had banned 40 charities and more than 300 companies from publicly criticising them, their departments or the prime minister, as part of deals costing the taxpayer £25 billion.” – The Times

  • Grayling ‘silenced justice charities’ – The Times

Ministers careless with public money, says audit chief

“The government’s chief auditor has accused ministers of backing multibillion-pound vanity projects that cost the taxpayer more than they should. In a highly critical assessment of Whitehall spending, the head of the National Audit Office told MPs that far too many projects were over-ambitious and ended up under-delivering. Sir Amyas Morse also claimed that in some cases ministers and officials deliberately underestimated the cost of programmes to get them approved by the Treasury. He urged Whitehall mandarins to be more “hard-nosed” in scrutinising projects before giving them the go-ahead and not to be afraid to pull the plug early in their development if things were going wrong. Sir Amyas, the comptroller and auditor general, was giving evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee before he retires at the end of the year. He said that civil servants needed to become more skilful to challenge ministers on “risky” elements to projects.” – The Times

  • Public confidence in the police damaged by cuts, report warns – The Guardian

Prime Minister urged to sack Scruton from housing post

“Theresa May was last night urged to sack her new housing guru over historic rants that Islam and homosexuality emerged. Tory writer Roger Scruton was appointed on Saturday to lead a home building charge. But furious critics demanded he quit over claims last year “Islamophobia” is a “wholly imaginary enemy”. In a book he said: “In a society devoted to ‘inclusion’ the only ‘phobia’ permitted is that of which conservatives are the target.” He also said homosexuality was not “normal” in a 2007 newspaper article where he outlined his opposition to gay adoption. Labour’s Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne told Buzzfeed nobody holding the views “has a place in modern democracy”. And he said: “The prime minister needs to finally show some leadership and sack Scruton with an investigation into how he was appointed in the first place.” The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government declined to comment.” – The Sun

  • Labour MPs also zero in on Soros comments – The Guardian

Andy Street and Andy Burnham: Forget our differences, Westminster must hand us more powers

“As mayors we are taking action and have drawn up further plans to meet these challenges but we do not have all the powers we need to clean up our air and tackle the road and rail issues we face. We need greater power over the running of the local and strategic road network to allow coordination of roadworks. Currently we don’t have the ability to introduce civil enforcement of yellow box junctions or the power to introduce London-style lane rental schemes for roadworks by utility companies. Devolution to the English regions has led to the transfer of some budgets, powers and responsibilities. However, more needs to be done now to accelerate this pace of change. Devolution is a reality, and there is evidence that our cities and towns are feeling the benefit, with wide support among our residents and improving outcomes. It has had a profoundly positive effect on the culture of our city-regions and created a new energy and wider a sense of possibility.” – The Times

Labour criticised for inviting extremist preacher to anti-racism event

“Labour were today blasted for inviting an extremist Muslim preacher to an anti-racism event. Imam Shakeel Begg is due to appear at the Lewisham Labour Against Racism public meeting tonight alongside Labour MPs Janet Daby and Vicky Foxcroft. Begg, who is head of the Lewisham Islamic Centre attended by Lee Rigby’s killers, lost a libel action in 2016 against the BBC after it called him an “extremist”. He has previously called for Muslims to wage “jihad against the Jews”. Anti-extremism experts said there was “no excuse” for Labour to give a platform to Begg given his history of extreme views. The Lewisham Labour Against Racism event in South East London was organised by the local party with the help of trade union activists. David Toube from the think-tank Quilliam told The Sun: “The presence of a Labour MP on a platform which includes a cleric who has been found by a British court to be an extremist plays into the hands of anti-Muslim bigots.” – The Sun

SNP accused of ‘manipulating evidence’ over support for independence

“The SNP has been accused of “manipulating” polling figures after claiming Brexit will deliver a majority in favour of Scottish independence. Pro-union campaigners hit out after the Nationalists said a survey showed 51.39 per cent would now back Yes. The interpretation was dismissed by Survation, the company which carried out the research questioning 1,725 people in Scotland as part of a wider Brexit survey. Keith Brown, the SNP’s deputy leader, said the “chaos and despair” of Brexit had resulted in a “significant swell in support for Scotland taking all decisions over our future for ourselves”. Meanwhile, party strategist Ross Colquhoun tweeted the “figures would mean a majority of 51.39% for independence, with 48.61% against”. However Survation appeared to take issue with this. It responded: “Sorry to disappoint @rosscolquhoun, but there isn’t a headline Scotland voting intention in tonight’s tables (Scotland was not weighted separately, so calculating the Westminster crossbreak for Scotland does not get you there). There is also no Scottish independence referendum voting intention.”” – The Herald

  • Salmond claims to have been denied information on allegations – The Times

DUP and Sinn Fein clash over alleged bomber’s arrest

“DUP leader Arlene Foster has accused Sinn Fein of being “more interested in defending the PIRA than in innocent victims” after a senior party member was arrested in relation to the murders of two soldiers. Ms Foster was reacting to comments from Gerry Kelly MLA, who claimed the arrest of John Downey in connection with the murders of the two UDR officers in 1972 was “a gross act of bad faith” by the British Government. The political row erupted after Downey (66) was remanded in custody in a Dublin court yesterday. It came after he was detained by gardai on Monday evening under a European Arrest Warrant as part of a joint operation with the PSNI. In 2013, Downey was charged with murdering four Royal Household Cavalrymen in an IRA bomb in London’s Hyde Park in 1982. He stood trial at the Old Bailey, but the case dramatically collapsed after it was revealed he had received a written assurance from former prime minister Tony Blair’s government that he was not actively wanted by the authorities.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • The midterms usher in a new, uneasy status quo in Washington – Tom Rogan, CapX
  • How long can Trump hang on to the evangelicals? – Frances Fitzgerald, UnHerd
  • Democrats’ dismal failure to stamp out anti-Semitism – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator
  • People’s Vote hokum shows the British system is not built for referendums – Alastair Benn, Reaction
  • Brexit will allow us to write a tailor-made agriculture policy – Chris Sherwood, Brexit Central

Voters deliver ‘mixed verdict’ on Trump in mid-term elections

“Donald Trump claimed “tremendous success” despite his party losing control of the House of Representatives in midterm elections last night after mixed results saw Republicans strengthen their grip on the Senate. The results were hailed as a turning point by Democrats in elections billed as a verdict on the first two years of Mr Trump’s divisive presidency but fell short of a “blue wave” of sweeping victories. President Trump’s relentless focus on immigration as his main campaigning issue was rewarded with victories over Democrat senators in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri – all states which backed him in 2016 – but it was also blamed for turning off support in suburban areas and among women voters. This left the Democrats on course to pick up more than 30 House seats, exceeding the 23 they needed for a majority in the lower chamber, with notable successes in suburban areas of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The closely-watched challenge by a black Democratic candidate for governor in Florida failed, however, and the much-hyped challenge to Senator Ted Cruz in Texas by Beto O’Rourke petered out despite the vast sums poured into the contest.” – The Times

  • Macron claims US is as big a threat as China or Russia – The Sun

5 comments for: Newslinks for Wednesday 7th November 2018

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