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Civil servant accuses Government of ‘Project Fear III’ over no-deal preparations…

The Government is failing to be “frank” with the public about the extent of no-deal preparations because it wants to shore up support for Theresa May’s “disastrous” Brexit deal, a civil servant says. The official, who is involved in drawing up contingency plans, writes in The Telegraph that claims that Britain will “crash out” in the event of a no-deal Brexit are “absolutely untrue”. Describing the claims as “Project Fear Mark III”, the civil servant says that “very detailed plans” have been made are now being executed to ensure that a cliff-edge Brexit is “simply not going to be an option”. The civil servant writes: “If the Government was to be frank with Parliament and the country, what justification would be left for its disastrous Withdrawal Agreement? What would Remainers do without a Project Fear? They would need to think up convincing positive arguments for staying in the EU, something that has so far proved beyond them.” The official accuses Remainer Cabinet ministers of attempting to “scare us into swallowing the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal” while their “friends” campaign publicly for a second referendum.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Government charged with misleading public to win Withdrawal Agreement vote – Daily Express
  • Ministers buy £100 million of ferry capacity to cope with no-deal Brexit – The Times
  • Business backers of May’s deal win awards – FT
  • Hard Brexit will trigger rate cuts, warn 52 economists – The Times
  • BBC confirm Linekar is ‘above the law’ on impartiality rules – Daily Express

Editorial:

  • Economists agree on the risks of ‘no deal’ – The Times

…as Hunt talks up chances of May getting her deal passed…

“Theresa May will manage to push her Brexit deal through Parliament, Jeremy Hunt predicted today. In a boost for the under-fire PM, the Foreign Secretary insisted she has a good chance of success in next month’s Commons vote. Mr Hunt called on Brussels to fix the hated “Irish backstop” – saying that would be the key to getting the deal done. Dozens of MPs say they fear the backstop, meant to keep the Irish border open, will tie Britain to EU rules forever. Mrs May is scrambling to secure a time limit for the proposal to reassure Brexit rebels the UK will be able to leave it. Mr Hunt told the BBC: “The EU has agreed that the backstop is temporary and what we need them to do is define what temporary is. So my view is this is not the time to be talking about what other major changes we might be faced with making because actually we can get this through. We can get this through, absolutely can”… Mrs May had to call off the original vote, scheduled to take place before Christmas, because she was on course for a heavy defeat. But she is increasingly confident of winning this time around as nervous MPs worry about a No Deal outcome or a second referendum.” – The Sun

  • Anti-Brexit group urges Remainer MPs to ‘topple government’ – The Sun
  • EU should have ‘interfered’ in referendum, says presidential hopeful – Daily Express

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: A second referendum remains deeply unpopular among Conservative Party members

…and Redwood accepts knighthood, but still urges ‘no deal’ departure

“One of the Conservative Party’s longest-standing Eurosceptics will be knighted in the same year that Britain is expected to leave the European Union. John Redwood, part of the group of cabinet ministers labelled bastards by John Major in the early 1990s, has been appointed a knight in the honours list. On the same day of the announcement that one of her fiercest critics had been rewarded, Theresa May was accused of a “shameless use of patronage” for appointing three Tory MPs to the privy council. Sir Edward Leigh, the former public accounts committee chairman who has suggested that he will vote against her Brexit deal, will be styled the “right honourable” with two loyal MPs: Philip Dunne, a former health minister, and Sir Roger Gale. Sir John, who said that the knighthood was a great honour, shows no signs of softening his stance on Brexit. Yesterday he published 12 “big wins” if Britain left the EU on World Trade Organisation terms. The first was: “Far from crashing out, we will be cashing in. We will get our money back to spend on our priorities. We will be better off.” Sir Edward, 68, was an outspoken critic of Mrs May’s Brexit deal in parliament but after she postponed the vote he said that he would back the deal if she won concessions on the Irish backstop. The vote will be held next month.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister wielding ‘shameless patronage’ – Daily Mail
  • May accused of ‘desperation’ over honour – The Guardian

Anonymous: The Civil Service has prepared for Brexit. Why doesn’t the Government want you to know?

“A disorderly no-deal Brexit on 29 March 2019 is not compatible with the principles of good government in which the civil service takes justified pride. It handles seismic change in much the same way as it handles a decision on the design of a new online form or whether to allow pot plants in the staff kitchen – in a very deliberate, considered, consultative manner. So of course no-deal preparations have been made. Very detailed plans have been proposed, assessed, analysed to death and finally agreed by working groups and steering groups and directors’ boards and cross-Whitehall talking shops. They have then been sent to ministers for approval. And they are now being executed. To claim otherwise is to equate the United Kingdom with a tinpot dictatorship where officials tote machine guns and use dummies for target practice. And we would never allow that. It is even more ridiculous that this claim of unpreparedness is still being parroted across the media and by MPs when some of the most crucial elements of no-deal planning have now been made public. In a very surreptitious way, of course. Almost as though the Government didn’t want even its own backbenchers to know…” – Daily Telegraph

  • MPs must be brave and tell us we were wrong to vote Leave – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • Shameless MPs should apologise to Leave voters – Mark Wallace, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Three in five Party members expect a Conservative-led Government after the next election.

Ministers 1) Javid ‘rules out extra resources’ to tackle Channel crossings

“Sajid Javid declared a “major incident” last night over the influx of migrants trying to reach Britain across the Channel but was poised to rule out extra resources to tackle the crisis. Pressure was mounting on the home secretary from Labour and his Conservative colleagues to explain how the government would tackle the situation as fears grew that there may soon be fatalities. The number of migrants saved in the Channel by British authorities since Christmas Day has reached 94. Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, urged the government to work with France to dissuade migrants from making the perilous crossing. Mr Javid, who has been on holiday in South Africa, has set up a “gold command” to deal with the situation and yesterday led a conference call with officials in Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and the National Crime Agency. He received the latest intelligence, will be given daily updates and has asked to speak to his French counterpart this weekend. Today Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, will visit Border Force officers in Dover with Charlie Elphicke, the town’s Tory MP, who has urged ministers to put out more high-speed patrols.” – The Times

  • Furious MPs urge Home Secretary to call in the Navy – The Sun

Comment:

  • Javid is a politician with guts – Brendan O’Neill, The Sun

Ministers 2) China accuses UK of prejudice over Williamson’s security concerns about Huawei

“China has accused the UK of harbouring “deep-rooted pride and prejudice” about the telecoms giant Huawei that have led to security fears about the company. The chairman of Huawei also complained about what he said had been “incredibly unfair treatment” of his company abroad. He said the experience would serve only to motivate it to become the global leader in the sector. The two complaints were made after Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, expressed grave concerns this week about Huawei being involved in the development of the superfast 5G mobile network in Britain. He accused President Xi’s regime of sometimes acting “in a malign way”, citing the announcement by British and American authorities last week that Chinese state hackers had been pinpointed as the culprits behind a malicious espionage campaign. Alex Younger, the head of MI6, and Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s technology chief, have also spoken recently of security risks linked to Huawei. Australia, New Zealand and the US – members of the Five Eyes intelligence network, with Britain and Canada — have banned the company from supplying the infrastructure for their mobile network upgrades. Washington has urged other western nations to follow suit.” – The Times

  • We need a tech truce, not a trade war, with Beijing – Anne McElvoy, The Guardian

Ministers 3) Hunt criticises Trump over withdrawal from Syria

“Jeremy Hunt has criticised President Trump’s declaration that Islamic State is defeated in Syria and insisted that Britain will not be “complacent about the Middle East”. The foreign secretary said that the war against Isis was not over despite the president’s claim that the group had been “largely defeated”. Mr Trump said that Turkey and other countries in the region should be able to “easily take care of whatever remains” as he announced that American troops would be withdrawn from Syria. Mr Hunt told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “President Trump makes a speciality out of talking in very black and white terms about what’s happening in the world. “The UK assessment is that we have made massive progress in the war against Daesh but it’s not over and, although they have lost nearly all the territory they held, they still hold some and there are still some real risks. “So we have to continue to be vigilant. We don’t believe we can be at all complacent in the situation we are in.” Told of reports that American troops were set to be pulled out of Afghanistan very soon, Mr Hunt said: “We will continue to do everything we need to do to make sure the streets of Britain are safe, and this is a security issue for the UK as well as Afghanistan.” – The Times

  • Foreign Secretary says Iran jailed dual national for ‘diplomatic leverage’ – The Guardian

Editorial:

>Today: Lord Ashcroft in International: America – the mid-terms and beyond

>Yesterday: Benedict Rogers in Comment: Hunt’s review of British policy on the persecution of Christians is crucial and courageous

Disgraced ex-Labour MP for Peterborough vows not to quit

“The Labour MP found guilty of lying to police to avoid a speeding charge has vowed to go on as Peterborough’s “representative in the corridors of power”. In an almost 500-word review of her year Fiona Onasanya did not mention her conviction once, but signalled her determination to continue in parliament, saying there “is still much more to be done”. Onasanya, 35, was suspended by the Labour Party, which also urged her to quit the Commons, after her conviction earlier this month for perverting the course of justice. The solicitor lied “persistently and deliberately” to police about who was driving her car in an attempt to avoid penalty points after it was recorded driving at 41mph in a 30mph zone near Thorney in her Peterborough constituency. By urging her to resign, Labour effectively called for a by-election in the seat that she won from the Conservatives last year by 607 votes, although the party cannot force Onasanya to stand down… MPs are disqualified from holding their seat if they are sentenced to more than a year in jail. Onasanya will be sentenced at the Old Bailey at a future date. Under laws introduced in 2015 any prison term, even a suspended one, can trigger a “recall” petition. This can force a by-election if signed by 10 per cent of voters in a constituency.” – The Times

  • Phillips calls on regulator to probe Green’s lawyers – Daily Telegraph

New centre party hope to create ‘volunteer army’

“A new centre party will be launched in the new year with a vow to win the next general election. United for Change, founded by the millionaire entrepreneur Simon Franks, wants to create a “true grassroots movement” that will practise politics without tribalism, confrontation, “yelling and finger pointing”. The party has been developed in secret for almost two years by businesspeople and political donors who want to take advantage of anti-political sentiment in Britain. In an 800-word message to early supporters sent before Christmas, the party declared: “It is as clear as ever that Britain can do better than this.” Ryan Wain, its new chief executive, wrote: “Britain deserves better than this. That is the message United for Change will launch with in 2019. We are committed to bringing together this divided nation and giving whatever it takes to unlock its potential.” … Mr Franks, the sole director of Project One Movement, the registered company underpinning United for Change, is a film producer who set up LoveFilm, the online rental service that was sold to Amazon. He donated to Labour under Mr Miliband. Leading Labour opponents of Jeremy Corbyn such as Chuka Umunna have distanced themselves from the party.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Why the Home Office cannot create a ‘hostile environment’ for EU nationals – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • The EU’s war on what makes the internet great – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • How have we let scientific study become hate speech? – Meghan Murphy, UnHerd

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