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Fox warns that losing May’s deal risks losing Brexit…

“Brexit is on a knife edge and the chances of Britain leaving the European Union are “50-50” if MPs reject Theresa May’s deal, the international trade secretary says. Liam Fox, a leading Brexit supporter, believes the only way to be “100% certain” Britain will depart is if MPs vote for the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement, adding: “If we were not to vote for that, I’m not sure I would give it much more than 50-50.” His comments, in an interview with The Sunday Times, come amid claims that Julian Smith, the chief whip, has raised pressure on Conservative MPs over Christmas. Today Fox weighs in as he warns colleagues it is a “matter of honour” to back May. Failure would be “incendiary”. Parliament contracted out its sovereignty to the public by holding a referendum, Fox says… The cabinet minister insists he would rather accept a deal that falls short than risk “no Brexit”. Although he would “like to see more” EU concessions on the Irish backstop — the insurance policy to keep an open border on the island of Ireland — he adds: “If the choice is what I would regard as a very small risk of the backstop coming into existence or a much bigger risk of no Brexit, I’m very clear which way I would come down.”” – Sunday Times

  • Interview with the International Trade Secretary – Sunday Times
  • Smith warns of ‘internal threats’ to departure – Sunday Express

More:

  • Juncker tells UK to ‘get act together’ on Brexit – FT
  • Cross-party move to ‘stop clock’ on chaotic departure – The Observer

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Support for No Deal hardens as it becomes more likely.

…as Hunt sets out vision of UK as ‘invisible chain’ between democracies

“Brexit Britain must use its global position as an “invisible chain” between democratic nations, Jeremy Hunt will say this week. The Foreign Secretary will outline how the UK can promote the benefits of free trade and the rule of law. He will make the pitch on Wednesday — three months before Britain leaves the EU. Speaking to an audience in Singapore, he will say we must use our influence as the fifth biggest economy in the world, the second biggest military budget in NATO and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. But he will admit: “We are not a superpower and we do not have an empire”. Mr Hunt will say our new role should be to link “the democracies of the world, those countries who share our values and support our belief in free trade, the rule of law and open societies”. He will add: “We have some of the best connections of any country — whether through the Commonwealth, our alliance with the United States and our friendship with neighbours in Europe.” There is also an opportunity to use “immense reserves” of soft power with 450,000 international students in the UK, 39million visits by tourists last year and our media reaching hundreds of millions, he will insist.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Foreign Secretary sets out low-tax vision in style of ‘dynamic’ Singapore – Mail on Sunday
  • Cleverly attacks EU’s refusal to guarantee rights of British expats – Sunday Express

Editorial:

  • We back the Foreign Secretary’s drive to put Britain at the centre of global affairs – Sun on Sunday

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: ConservativeHome Awards: Rees-Mogg wins Brexiteer of the Year

Jeremy Hunt: Why I’m looking East for my blueprint of post-Brexit Britain

“When Singapore became an independent country in 1965, its leaders described it as the moment it ‘plugged into the international economic grid’. While the circumstances of Britain’s departure from the EU are different, there could be few better instructions for us as we make our post-Brexit future. So this year I will skip the last of the turkey sandwiches to fly east and strengthen Britain’s links with some of the most dynamic economies of the world. The remarkable transformation of Singapore, from a tiny territory devoid of natural resources into the world’s eighth-richest country, is a reminder of the tidal shifts that can exist within the ebb and flow of the changing world order… We may no longer be a superpower but we are still very much a global power. In my short time as Foreign Secretary, I have been constantly struck by how much more other countries respect us than we seem to respect ourselves. I travel to Asia as the Foreign Minister of the fifth-largest economy in the world, with the third-biggest overseas aid budget, the second-biggest military budget in Nato, and one of the globe’s two big financial centres.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Parliament is incapable of settling Brexit, we need a second referendum – Dominic Grieve, The Observer
  • Brexit may have dominated the headlines, but Britain had a lot to shout about this year – David Lidington, Sunday Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Our Survey: Grieve wins Remainer of the Year

Javid forced to abandon holiday over migrant crisis

“Sajid Javid was last night forced to abandon his family holiday at a luxury safari hideaway in South Africa’s Kruger National Park after a growing backlash over his handling of the migrant crisis. The home secretary came under fire after he declared a “major incident” over the surge in Channel boat migrants while he was staying at one of the most luxurious safari lodges in sub- Saharan Africa. Javid, his wife and children were staying over Christmas at Dulini, a lodge that charges £840 per person per night. It offers guests private plunge pools and in-room massages to relax after game drives spotting leopards, lions and elephants by the water hole. Last night he was on his way home after bowing to pressure to take control of the escalating crisis. He addressed criticism of his slow response in a statement: “After a rise in activity over Christmas I immediately stepped this up — declaring a major incident and returning to the UK to drive our continued and enhance response. I continue to keep the number of Border Force cutters in the Channel under close review, but there is no one easy answer to this complex problem.””  Sunday Times

  • Home Secretary admits department’s response has been ‘ineffective’ – Sunday Telegraph
  • Downturn in Iranian economy ‘fuelling migrant surge’ – FT
  • Calais migrants would ‘rather die at sea’ than return to France – Sunday Telegraph
  • Church of England urges ‘compassion’ for Channel migrants – The Observer

Comment:

  • You don’t stop thieves by leaving the door open – Charlie Elphicke MP, Mail on Sunday

Williamson claims new bases will make Britain a ‘global player’ post-Brexit

Britain will open two new military bases in the Caribbean and South East Asia as the country looks to step up its military presence overseas after Brexit, Gavin Williamson has revealed. The Defence secretary urges Britons to stop downplaying the country’s influence internationally and recognise that the UK will stand tall on the world stage after leaving the European Union. In an interview with The Telegraph in his Ministry of Defence office, Mr Williamson says: “We have got to be so much more optimistic about our future as we exit the European Union. This is our biggest moment as a nation since the end of the Second World War, when we can recast ourselves in a different way, we can actually play the role on the world stage that the world expects us to play. For so long – literally for decades – so much of our national view point has actually been coloured by a discussion about the European Union. This is our moment to be that true global player once more – and I think the Armed Forces play a really important role as part of that.” Britain will turn its back on the 1968 “East of Suez” strategy, which led to Britain withdrawing from military bases in Malaysia, Singapore, the Persian Gulf and the Maldives, he says.” – Sunday Telegraph

>Today: Bob Seely MP in Comment: Williamson is right. China and Huawei are threats to our security.

Hancock unveils new programme to tackle stillbirths

“The health secretary will today pledge to make the NHS the “best place in the world to give birth” as he unveils a comprehensive new maternity package aimed at saving the lives of 4,000 babies and mothers a year. Matt Hancock said losing a child was an “unimaginable tragedy” and that he hoped a range of initiatives would improve safety and reverse the UK’s shameful record by halving the number of stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious brain injuries in newborns by 2025. Hancock’s plan comes after a two-year Safer Births campaign by The Sunday Times, which called for a 60% reduction in stillbirths through the application of basic care guidelines on monitoring and intervention. Hancock, who has three young children, said: “Having a baby is one of the best moments of our lives, so I want our NHS to be the best place in the world to give birth. Great care also means safe care, but sadly too many women are still suffering the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child. We are committed to saving 4,000 lives by 2025 by halving stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious brain injuries in newborns.”” – Sunday Times

  • Tories’ ten-year pledge on maternity services – The Observer

More:

  • British should take grandparents on holiday, urges Loneliness Minister – Sunday Telegraph

Berry orders councils to promote traditional county links

Councils should fly county flags and put up signs to indicate where historic municipal boundaries lay to encourage families to find out more about their history, a Government minister has said. Jake Berry, who describes himself as a “proud Lancastrian”, has ordered his civil servants in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to draft new guidance for English local authorities on promoting their traditional county links. The Northern Powerhouse minister complained that the “English lion has been reduced to the Cheshire Cat by wet civic adherence to local government reorganisations”, adding “with Brexit just around the corner it’s time it’s time he roared again across England”. The Government changed Whitehall rules to allow local and county flags to be flown without planning permission in 2012. Then it issued planning guidance in 2014 allowing councils to put up traditional counties boundary signs. But Mr Berry said not enough has been done and he is ordering fresh guidance to assist councils in how they can “boost community pride and tourism”… The British Counties Campaign, launched in 2017 to push for legislation to change the law to bring back traditional county names, welcomed the minister’s initiative.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Cooper calls for ‘Town of Culture’ award – The Observer

Corbyn and Channel 4 humiliated over making sex offender public face of campaign

“Jeremy Corbyn and Channel 4 have been left red-faced after championing a homeless veteran who turned out to be a convicted sex offender who had tried to rape a pensioner. The Labour leader pounced on a report from Channel 4 News featuring a sobbing ex-serviceman struggling to find somewhere to sleep for the night. Mr Corbyn shared the video with his 1.9 million Twitter followers and wrote: ‘Time and again this Government fails those who have given so much to our country.’ In the video that was shared online thousands of times, a ‘former British soldier’ – identified as ‘Steven’ – was seen complaining that he was unable to get into a homeless shelter because ‘you have to fit the criteria’. However, it quickly emerged that the rough-sleeper was Stephen Rowe, who was convicted of the attempted rape of an 87-year-old woman. He was jailed for eight years and put on the sex offenders’ register for life… Mr Corbyn’s video and tweet were hastily deleted, but not before a social media storm erupted over the gaffe – resulting in a fundraising effort to help Rowe being abandoned. Last night, Tory Party chairman James Cleverly accused the Labour leader of game-playing with tragedy, saying: ‘Homelessness is both heartbreaking and complicated. Best not to try to make cheap political points from someone’s suffering.’” – Mail on Sunday

Westminster to get ‘booze-free zones’ to challenge drinking culture

“Booze-free zones will be marked out in the Commons to help curb the drinking culture, we can reveal. Strict new controls on drinking within the Westminster estate will be rolled out after agreement among senior MPs. The powerful House of Commons Commission will implement “alcohol-free” areas which should be “encouraged and expanded”. There will also be a marked rise in the range of non-alcoholic drinks and lower strength beers for sale. The restrictions follow Commons Speaker John Bercow allegedly demanding a prohibition-style drink ban during the day. The move comes just over a year since the so-called Pestminster scandal that led to the resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. He stood accused of “lunging” at a female journalist and kissing her on the lips after a boozy lunch. It also follows the Dame Laura Cox report into bullying and harassment culture on the Parliamentary estate. Abuse of staff may have been made worse by the “ready access” to alcohol across bars and restaurants on the premises. In her report, Dame Laura said: “The steps taken so far to restrict access to alcohol during working hours may need to be revisited.” Changes to the availability of alcohol will also include adverts promoting alcohol in bars will be banned.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Why are we allowing the state to put us on a diet? – Daniel Hannan MEP, Sunday Telegraph

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