Gatwick re-opens amidst fears of copy-cat incidents

“Gatwick reopened its runway this morning after a drone forced a near 36-hour closure of Britain’s second-biggest airport. A “limited number of aircraft” were scheduled to take off and land, the airport said in a statement on its website at about 6am today. It was unclear how long the resumption would last and whether the drone’s operator had been captured. Passengers were warned to check with their airline before travelling the West Sussex airport. The army was called in last night as the police appeared powerless to stop the drone. Sussex police said there had been 50 reports of a device being flown near the airfield since Wednesday. More than 115,000 passengers have already been affected and last night it was thought that as many as 350,000 could have their travel plans disrupted in the days before Christmas after all flights were grounded or diverted. Ministers were accused of complacency amid claims that they had failed to heed warnings of the threat… Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, was absent for much for the day before making a statement late in the afternoon. He told The Times last night that he had been working throughout the day to try to resolve the situation.” – The Times

  • Army drafted in as police ‘lack kit’ – The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Grayling on the Gatwick drones shutdown. No suggestion this is a terrorist attack.

Prime Minister urges China to curb cyber-hacking campaign

“Theresa May yesterday “called out” Chinese spies for running one of the world’s biggest malicious cyberhacking campaigns after President Xi snubbed her plea to stop it. A group of hackers known as Stone Panda has been stealing business secrets to cause economic damage to Britain and its allies. In a co-ordinated announcement yesterday designed to maximise pressure on Mr Xi, US officials unsealed charges against two Chinese citizens they accuse of stealing hundreds of gigabytes of data. Mrs May met Mr Xi on a visit to Beijing in February and a senior Whitehall official made clear that the government has been pleading at the highest level for the Chinese to stop. Jeremy Hunt, foreign secretary, said: “This campaign is one of the most significant and widespread cyberintrusions against the UK and its allies uncovered to date, targeting trade secrets and economies around the world… The hackers, described by the Whitehall official as more like a corporation than a gang, break into managed service providers. These are organisations such as Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Dell and Cisco who provide internet services to businesses. The ultimate targets of the Chinese are likely to be these web services’ clients.” – The Times

Brexit: May ‘losing grip on Cabinet’ as ministers tout alternative plans…

Two of Theresa May’s most senior ministers have presented rival plans to her Brexit deal as Amber Rudd became the first member of the Cabinet to voice support for a second referendum. Mrs May was struggling to maintain Cabinet discipline as Ms Rudd, one of the most staunch Europhiles in the Government, said there would be a “plausible argument” for a second referendum if Mrs May’s deal was rejected by Parliament. Meanwhile Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, used a BBC interview to push her own agenda for a “managed no deal” exit from the EU. Mrs May was forced to deny that she had lost control of the Cabinet as she insisted all of her ministers were focused on getting her deal approved by MPs. Ms Leadsom announced that the “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal will be held on January 15, giving Mrs May a maximum of seven working days of Parliamentary time to persuade scores of Tory rebels to change their minds and back it. She is expected to return to Brussels at least once before then in an attempt to seek concessions over the Northern Irish backstop, which is the main roadblock to her deal being approved by MPs. However her ministers are clearly planning for what happens if, as expected, Mrs May loses the vote.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ministers ‘at odds’ over second referendum – FT
  • Gauke hints at quitting if Cabinet backs ‘no deal’ – Daily Telegraph
  • O’Shaughnessy resigns from the Government – Twitter


  • Rudd hasn’t gone rogue, she aims to scare Brexiteers into line – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph

…as she calls Rees-Mogg in for peace talks…

“Theresa May empathised with Jacob Rees-Mogg over his negative press coverage during a “peace” meeting at No 10 on Tuesday, The Times has learnt. The prime minister invited Mr Rees-Mogg, leader of the hard-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), along with nine other Conservative MPs six days after a failed coup attempt. Mrs May called the meeting to try to heal party divisions over Brexit. “She appealed to us as long-standing Conservatives to come together and find a way through,” one of those present said. The source claimed that Mr Rees-Mogg said it was nice of the prime minister to invite him so soon after the vote of no confidence. “Even the policeman on the door looked surprised,” he was said to have told the meeting. Mr Rees-Mogg indicated that the media coverage of the failed coup was not positive. Mrs May replied that if he thought his coverage in the past few days was bad, imagine what it had been like for her over two and a half years. “She was supremely relaxed,” one of the guests said. “We had an hour. It was an eclectic mix of people.” – The Times

  • Cross-party MPs table amendments against ‘no deal’ – FT
  • Soubry accosted by Brexit supporters – The Guardian
  • Boles threatened with deselection – Daily Mail



…and Varadkar ‘casts doubt on backstop’

“Leo Varadkar has suggested Ireland would seek to maintain an open border with the UK even in the case of a no-deal Brexit, in comments seemingly at odds with his campaign to include contentious backstop provisions in Britain’s exit treaty. Eurosceptics said the Irish prime minister’s comments showed the backstop – the most controversial element of Britain’s withdrawal treaty – would not be needed if the UK did not deviate from the EU’s customs and regulatory regime. The backstop, which seeks to prevent a hard border between the two countries, has become the focus of opposition within the UK parliament. But Mr Varadkar said on Thursday Dublin would seek to ensure no hard border, even without a deal. In such circumstances the exit treaty would not take force and there would consequently be no backstop. “If the UK crashed out of the EU at the end of March, they would still be aligned on customs and regulations,” Mr Varadkar said at a pre-Christmas press conference. “So the problem would only arise if they decided in some way to change their customs and regulations. That’s where it could get difficult.” He added that the Irish government would have to discuss such issues with London and Brussels in the event of no-deal.” – FT

  • Ireland warns that no deal risks severe economic damage – The Sun
  • DUP claim threat of hard border has been exposed as a con – News Letter
  • Rees-Mogg ‘shuts down’ border row with plan – Daily Express
  • Pledge of no extra checks for agricultural produce welcomed – News Letter
  • 600 Whitehall staff to be redeployed ahead of ‘no deal’ – Daily Mail


  • Unionist opposition to the deal is completely reasonable – Owen Polley, Irish Times


Fraser Nelson: WTO Brexit might be the best option left for Britain

“You need the passion of a Brexit warrior – which I lack – to be convinced that no-deal would end either in economic disaster or a magical turbo-charge. But the Cabinet members who sit through the key meetings, some twice a week, think it’s manageable – in a way they didn’t a month ago. At least a dozen of them are now ready to pursue no-deal, and it’s by no means the diehard Brexiteers. Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, is emerging as perhaps the leading voice in the Cabinet backing what he calls a World Trade Brexit. So it’s the least bad option, but still a gamble. Better than the certain entrapment offered by Mrs May’s deal, or the Norway option variety of that deal. It’s better than the pointlessness of a new referendum that would have no clearer information on what Brexit would look like, and which Leave would win by an even greater margin. Yes, there is a risk of a Tory civil war and a general election. But there’s just as great a risk of this under Mrs May’s deal. And if we do prepare to leave without a deal, might the EU offer a better one? Perhaps. But it would be mad, at this stage, to count on it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No-deal Brexit is not the end of the world – Iain Martin, The Times
  • It could be the deal-making opportunity of a generation – Radomir Tylecote, Daily Telegraph
  • All that’s certain is that nobody knows anything – Henry Mance, FT
  • British prosperity post-Brexit depends on small family businesses – Anthony Bamford, The Sun
  • London will remain a powerhouse for business – Nikhil Rathi, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour’s Brexit confusion would be comic if it weren’t so serious – Henry Newman, Times Red Box

ConservativeHome breaks the news that Johnson has been cleared over his burka column

“Boris Johnson has been cleared of breaking the Conservative party’s code of conduct over his comments about veiled Muslim women. An independent panel investigated the former foreign secretary’s comments after he used his Daily Telegraph column to suggest women wearing the burqa looked like letter boxes or bank robbers. His comments triggered a furious response from senior Tories, with demands for an apology from party chairman Brandon Lewis. The panel is understood to have found he was “respectful and tolerant” and was fully entitled to use “satire” to make his point in his column in August. In the article, Johnson said he felt “fully entitled” to expect women to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP’s surgery. He said schools and universities should be able to take the same approach if a student “turns up … looking like a bank robber”. Johnson said the burqa was “oppressive” and it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes”. The investigation into whether he broke party rules was triggered automatically after the receipt of a number of complaints over the column.” – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Exclusive. “In a timely manner”. The best part of six months on, the Party’s inquiry clears Johnson over his burka column.

Ellwood urges the Government to substantially increase defence spending

“A defence minister is urging Theresa May to up military spending by at least £8 billion a year – or see Britain lose its place as a world power. Tobias Ellwood said France was on course to replace Britain as the European nation with the biggest military budget next year. And he revealed China’s navy is growing by the size of our navy each year. He wants the PM to up the military budget from 2 per cent of the UK’s economic output to between 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent. The current budget is £36 billion – compared with America’s £470 billion… The blast comes after Mr Ellwood – who served as a captain in the Royal Green Jackets – risked the ire of No.10 by criticising Donald Trump for pulling out of the Syrian conflict. On Twitter he said the President was wrong to assume the war against Da’esh was “won”. The Minister – who memorably tried to save PC Keith Palmer in the Westminster terror attack – said Britain had to adjust its military capability to reflect the changing threat from the “grey zone”.” – The Sun

  • Call for armed police at every Westminster gate after terror attack – The Times

Labour 1) Whately presses attack on Corbyn over ‘stupid woman’ remark

“Only 12 per cent of people believe Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that he did not call Theresa May a “stupid woman” during prime minister’s questions this week, a poll found, as the Labour leader accused the media of being “obsessed” with the issue at the expense of other problems facing the country. Sixty per cent of those surveyed by Sky Data said they thought Mr Corbyn had used the phrase. But more than half – 56 per cent – concluded that it was not a sexist term. In the Commons on Wednesday, Conservative MPs demanded that the Speaker summon Mr Corbyn to apologise after he mouthed words at the prime minister that looked like “stupid woman”. He returned to the chamber insisting that he had said “stupid people”, referring to Tory MPs. Helen Whately, the Conservative vice-chairwoman for women, subsequently said in an email to party members that Mr Corbyn’s comment was part of a “long line” of misogynistic behaviour, citing his “mansplaining” of International Women’s Day to Mrs May in March… John Bercow, the Speaker, was also criticised. It was alleged that he had used the phrase to refer to the MPs Andrea Leadsom and Vicky Ford. He did not deny saying it about Mrs Leadsom but said the matter had been dealt with months ago. He denied Ms Ford’s claim.” – The Times

  • May backs Leadsom in sexism row – The Sun
  • Labour leader hits back at ‘stupid’ Tory MPs – Daily Telegraph
  • Corbyn rages at ‘utterly obsessed’ media – The Sun


  • Corbyn’s denial over jibe is a denial of just how big Labour’s women problem is – Claire Cohen, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour leader’s real failing is his refusal to lead – Philip Collins, The Times
  • Why has out-and-out sexism become acceptable in politics? – Christina Odone, Daily Telegraph
  • Is this how parliament ends – not with a bang but a row about a whisper? – Jonathan Jones, The Guardian
  • Furore embodies the hard Left’s hypocritical attitude to misogyny – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Rosalind Beck in Comment: Corbyn shows how much still needs to be done to stamp out sexism in politics

Labour 2) Opposition lose another MP as Lewis resigns the whip

“A former minister has quit the Labour Party, citing Jeremy Corbyn’s “anti-western world view”. Ivan Lewis, the MP for Bury South since 1997, has been suspended from the party since November last year after allegations of sexual harassment, which he denies. In his resignation letter, Mr Lewis said he “could no longer reconcile my Jewish identity and current Labour politics” and criticised Mr Corbyn and Seumas Milne, his communications chief, for their attitude towards Jews and Israel. “It is for others to decide whether you are antisemitic, but what is absolutely clear is that you and Seumas Milne do not believe in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their own state,” Mr Lewis, 51, wrote to Mr Corbyn. “This is different to your view on the right to self-determination for every other minority community.” He added: “All too often you have been unwilling to condemn those whose hatred of Israel becomes Jew hatred, this is incompatible with being a lifelong campaigner against racism.” Mr Lewis, who served continuously as a junior minister from 2001 to 2010 and then spent five years in the shadow cabinet, said the Labour leader had an “anti-western world view” which means “it is no wonder that so many British people are uncomfortable at the prospect of you becoming prime minister”. He will remain as an independent MP.” – The Times

Labour 3) Khan promises council tax hike to fight knife crime

“Sadiq Khan has said he will increase council tax for Londoners by the maximum amount within his power as he attempts to tackle the “brutal reality” of violent crime in the capital. An average band D council tax payer will pay an extra £26.28 under plans to boost the mayor of London’s share of the levy, with £84.8 million in extra funding to be handed to the Metropolitan Police. Money from increased council tax and from business rates will provide £6.8 million to be invested in the capital’s “violence reduction unit”, which has been set up to treat knife crime as a public health issue. Mr Khan’s critics have said that he could have raised extra money for policing by cutting waste within City Hall. The mayor faced criticism last month for allocating £1.7 million to be spent on drinking fountains. There has also been a £9 million increase in staffing costs during his tenure. Under a police funding settlement announced last week, local authorities can raise the policing element of council tax by a maximum of £24 for the average band D property… Shaun Bailey, Mr Khan’s Conservative rival for the 2020 London mayoral election, claimed yesterday that Mr Khan spent £9.3 million per year on public relations and said: “If the mayor is going to increase taxes he should have the courtesy to first cut all of his waste at City Hall.”” – The Times

  • Northern Line extension to Battersea delayed – FT

>Today: Local Government: Kevin Davis in Local Government: Each London borough should have its own directly elected mayor

Scottish Government calls for devolution of immigration

“The Scottish Government has stepped up calls for control over immigration to be devolved north of he Border amid widespread criticism of the post-Brexit proposals outlined at Westminster. Scotland’s Brexit Secretary Mike Russell said the long-held policy’s “time has come” and would provide a “short-term solution” prior to independence. The proposed curbs on EU workers coming to the UK after 2021, when freedom of movement ends, will mean workers from the EU must have some form of permission, and EU visitors will need to take part in an Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme. The number of EU nationals coming to work in the UK will fall by an estimated 85 per cent, seen as particularly acute for Scotland which needs migration to maintain the workforce and keep the population growing. The Scottish Government has already published “catastrophic” estimates about the impact of a 50 per cent drop, Mr Russell said… CBI Scotland has already hit out at the prospect of “draconian” blocks on overseas workers, while the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Institute of Directors, National Farmer’s Union, Federation of Small Businesses and Universities Scotland have also hit out at the plans.” – The Scotsman

Trump’s Defence Secretary resigns

“Jim Mattis has resigned as US defence secretary to protest against the way Donald Trump has treated allies and dealt with adversaries such as China and Russia, in a dramatic exit that came a day after the president said he would withdraw forces from Syria. Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday that Mr Mattis would be “retiring”. But in a resignation letter, Mr Mattis made clear he was leaving because he disagreed with the commander-in-chief over a wide range of policies and suggested that the president was putting the nation at risk. Mr Mattis and other officials opposed withdrawing troops out of Syria. “Because you have the right to have a secretary of defence whose views are better aligned with yours… I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mr Mattis wrote in the letter, which was released shortly after a meeting with Mr Trump. In the letter, Mr Mattis said US strength was “inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships”. He said the US should be “resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours”, including China and Russia.” – FT

  • President orders withdrawal of up to half US presence in Afghanistan – Daily Mail


  • Republican backlash should ring alarm bells for Trump – David Millward, Daily Telegraph


  • The President is undermining America’s allies – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Rebels plot Parliamentary ambush to halt no-deal Brexit in New Year – Paul Waugh, Huffington Post
  • Government’s immigration reforms are bad for business and for Britain – Sam Dumitriu, CapX
  • Second referendum would be a betrayal of democracy – Gerald Warner, Reaction
  • Will there ever be an end to Venezuela’s misery? – Joanna Rossiter, The Spectator
  • Seeing the funny side of censorship – Andrew Watts, UnHerd