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Brexit 1) May ‘trims manifesto commitments’ to prepare for no-deal Brexit…

“Theresa May is to start culling Tory manifesto commitments after her cabinet decided yesterday to accelerate planning for a no-deal Brexit. David Lidington, who is in effect the prime minister’s deputy, will start in “short order” to identify policies to be shelved to free resources for the no-deal, a senior figure said. Reforms to social care have been identified by one minister as a likely casualty of yesterday’s decision, which escalated preparations across Whitehall. A Department of Health aide confirmed that some staff had already been diverted from social care to prepare. With 100 days to go until Brexit day on March 29, businesses were told to start their own contingency plans. Households will be given further instructions on issues such as travel, medicines and banking in the coming weeks. HM Revenue & Customs will email 80,000 businesses this week to explain the impact and provide 100 pages of updated advice online on possible changes at borders. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, announced an extra £2 billion for no-deal planning, with the Home Office, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and HMRC receiving the lion’s share of the cash.” – The Times

  • Tensions break out in ‘marathon’ Cabinet – The Times
  • How ministers clashed over ‘unicorns’ and more – Daily Telegraph

Ministers:

  • Raab demands £39 billion is spent on business tax cuts – The Sun
  • Williamson puts troops on standby – Daily Telegraph
  • Hammond accused of ‘hoarding’ no-deal cash… – The Sun
  • …and of ‘sabotaging’ efforts to prepare – Daily Express

More:

  • Calls to cut taxes on banks amidst Brexit uncertainty – FT
  • Britain could take part in Euro elections if exit postponed – The Times
  • Immigration enforcement staff could be redeployed to borders – The Sun
  • Business watches political infighting ‘in horror’ – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Nick de Bois in Comment: What my government experience taught me about No Deal – and why planning must be stepped up

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: No deal planning. Hancock goes early, orders it – and sets an example.

…as MPs claim they’ll resign the whip to resist ‘crashing out’…

“Tory Remainer MPs Anna Soubry and Nick Boles today vowed to quit their party and try to topple Theresa May’s government if she presses ahead with a no deal Brexit. The two former ministers threatened to push the nuclear button and back Labour in a no confidence vote if this was the only way to stop the UK crashing out. Their threat comes as the Cabinet ramped up no deal planning amid mounting fears that political deadlock in Parliament could send the UK hurtling towards a no deal. Ministers have put thousands of troops on standby and reserved ferry space for emergency supplies as they pumped £2billion extra into no deal preparations. But as the flood of doomsday warnings emerged out of the Number Ten meeting, Mr Boles and Ms Soubry said they would do whatever it takes to stop a no deal… In bruising exchanges, the PM is said to have joined forces with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Commons leader Andrea Leadsom to ‘squash’ calls from Ms Rudd for MPs to vote on a range of Brexit options. And Brexiteer ministers including Mrs Leadsom urged a ‘managed’ no-deal if Mrs May’s package cannot be pushed through Parliament.” – Daily Mail

  • Remainers’ warning delights Brexiteers… – Daily Express
  • …who cut short rebellion in belief that UK is heading for ‘clean Brexit’ – The Sun

More:

  • Prime Minister urged to cut short Christmas break to debate options – Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers get ‘secret legal advice’ on keeping Britain in the EU – The Sun

>Yesterday: NIck Boles MP in Comment: Demolishing five myths about Norway Plus

….and winning over the Democratic Unionists is widely seen as the key to passing the Agreement

“Theresa May will be within 20 votes of winning a parliamentary majority for her Brexit deal if she can gain assurances from the EU that will persuade the Democratic Unionist party to back her deal, senior ministers and Tory MPs believe. One cabinet minister said they believed the success of the prime minister’s deal hinged entirely on a last bid to win round the DUP. Another MP said they saw the Northern Irish party as the “British standard” who would give them the reassurance they needed to fall in behind. “You unlock huge numbers of Tory MPs if you can get something the DUP can accept,” the cabinet minister said. “There’s no point at all in holding a vote until you win back the DUP. That is the absolute priority.” Several cabinet sources played down the prospect of any efforts to try to form a coalition of support with Labour MPs and said all efforts were focused on regaining the DUP’s support. “You cannot get this deal through only on the back of Labour votes because it would split the Tory party,” one official said. “That means one thing – bringing the DUP back on board.” Sources said they had also been encouraged in recent days by the more conciliatory noises being made by Eurosceptic Tories after Labour attempted to hold a no-confidence vote in the prime minister.” – The Guardian

  • Small fine for pro-Brexit group over DUP donation – News Letter

More:

  • Sturgeon makes second referendum her top priority – Daily Telegraph
  • Nationalists claim ‘ship has sailed’ on soft Brexit compromise – The Scotsman

>Today: ToryDiary: Brexit, the backstop, Anglo-Irish relations – and learning from Burke

Dominic Raab: How the Government should best prepare for ‘no deal’

“The Government should now focus on three top priorities. First, managing the risk that EU border checks add costs to UK businesses. The UK will adopt a ‘continuity’ approach, recognising EU regulatory standards on day 1 of Brexit, and taking an intelligence-led approach to enforcement rather than checking every truck from Europe. Likewise, on exit, UK goods will comply with EU standards. Xavier Bertrand, President of the northern region of France, has said that the Calais authorities would facilitate the flow of lorries arriving from the UK. French officials say checks would take 2 minutes per lorry, not 10 minutes as Whitehall planners (inexplicably) assume… Second, we need interim tariff liberalisation to protect UK consumers, if the EU applies tariffs on UK exports, and take immediate advantage of the opportunity to reduce the price of goods from the rest of the world… Third, the Treasury must prepare a Brexit budget to identify businesses – including ‘just in time’ manufacturers – most at risk from a departure on WTO terms. We should cut business taxes to boost them as they transition, and offset the cost from the £39 billion the UK would have paid the EU.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Is it really possible to extend Article 50? – Matt Bevington, Times Red Box
  • What happens under ‘managed no deal’? – Peter Foster, Daily Telegraph
  • Plans to soften cliff-edge, but not by much – Alex Barker, FT
  • Back-up plans for no-deal departure – Oliver Wright and Henry Zeffman, The Times

Labour: MPs vent anger over Corbyn’s ‘idiotic’ Commons challenge…

“Labour MPs have used an internal WhatsApp group to denounce the tactics of their leadership after Theresa May appeared to call their bluff over a confidence vote. The party’s front bench was accused of “idiotic” decisions and missing an opportunity to damage Mrs May after not challenging the government with a full vote in parliament. A number of Labour MPs are also understood to have expressed their frustration to the party whips. The row erupted after Mrs May threw down the gauntlet to Mr Corbyn to call a vote of confidence in her government on Monday night. Earlier the Labour leader had announced that he would table a confidence vote, but only in Mrs May’s leadership, rather than in the government. Labour had hoped to tempt Tory Brexiteers and possibly even the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to vote for a “censure motion”, which is short of a full confidence vote under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. But after she secured the backing of Conservative Brexiteers and the DUP, Mrs May said she would guarantee time in the Commons but only for a full confidence vote in her government.” – The Times

  • SNP and Lib dems demand vote after Opposition ‘bottle’ challenge – The Sun

Editorial:

  • A lack of regard for the national interest – The Times

>Yesterday: Audio: The Moggcast. Why British “fair play” could lead the Queen to send for Corbyn if the Government loses a confidence vote.

…as activists call for emergency conference on Brexit

“Anti-Brexit Labour activists and MPs are calling on Jeremy Corbyn to convene a special conference as soon as possible to set out the party’s plans for the next few critical weeks. With Theresa May’s Brexit deal now due to come back to parliament for a vote in the week beginning 14 January, campaigners are keen to ensure Corbyn consults Labour members about the next steps. Many would like him to shift immediately to a policy of supporting a second referendum. Labour for a People’s Vote, the group that was instrumental in ensuring Brexit was discussed at Labour’s annual conference in September, is calling for a half-day recall for members to endorse a policy of backing a second referendum. It has the support of Labour MPs including Alex Sobel, Paul Williams and Anna McMorrin… The carefully worded composite motion passed at Labour’s conference in Liverpool in September under the chairmanship of the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said the party should first vote against the prime minister’s deal, then push for a general election, and if that failed, consider a “public vote”. Labour for a People’s Vote, which helped organise more than 100 local constituency Labour parties (CLPs) to submit motions to conference calling for a referendum, is now encouraging them to adopt a statement demanding a special conference.” – The Guardian

  • It’s a wonderful life for Corbyn, but not Labour moderates – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • Fear of Corbyn is the real cause of capital flight – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

Daniel Finkelstein: The Conservative Party is having a nervous breakdown

“As has happened repeatedly in Conservative history, when the party goes through periods of uncertainty it fractures in the same way. It has, as it were, an inherited biological flaw. The Conservative Party is the home of those who believe in an open trading economy, offering people pragmatic government and limited state control. It also adapts to social change, and it is often Tories who legislate to reflect the nation’s liberal mood, such as making laws to introduce equal votes for women or to institute gay marriage. Yet the party also has a romantic, nationalist streak. This can tempt it into dreamy ideas about Britain and our role in the world. It can give itself up to nostalgia about the nation and empire. And it tends towards protectionism. At moments of Conservative strength these two elements, the pragmatic and the dreamy, the trader and the nationalist, coexist peacefully within the party, each bringing new voters to the other. At moments of weakness, they clash and can tear the party asunder.” – The Times

  • Tory leavers must be prepared to bring down this train-wreck of a government – Sherelle Jacobs, Daily Telegraph
  • A year of Brexit vs Westminster, with only one winner – Rafael Behr, The Guardian
  • Parliament may yet save the deal – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Robert Halfon’s column: A new, magical Conservative leader with presents for all? Sorry – I don’t believe in Santa Claus.

Ministers 1) Cap on skilled migrants ‘to be scrapped’ by Javid

“Theresa May’s cap on the number of skilled migrants who can enter the UK is to be scrapped under proposals to be published today. A visa route for skilled workers would be introduced with no cap on the number of highly skilled professionals such as engineers and doctors who can come to the UK to work. Mrs May introduced a limit of 20,700 on skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area in 2011 but companies said that it resulted in the UK being closed to the brightest and best workers from around the world. A single benefits system would apply to EU and non-EEA migrants, ensuring that those from the EU no longer had access to welfare entitlements. At present most people arriving from outside the EU have only limited leave to be in the UK and are barred from access to public funds until they have been here for about five years. Sajid Javid, the home secretary, will outline plans for a post-Brexit immigration system to MPs today after last-minute Whitehall wrangling over whether medium-skilled migrants would have to earn £30,000 a year to enter the UK. There was concern that such a threshold could hinder start-up and technology companies.” – The Times

  • …but EU migrants won’t get privileged access – The Sun
  • White Paper to set out ‘tough’ UK regime – The Guardian
  • No mention of promise to cut number of unskilled – Daily Mail
  • Prime Minister insisted on tough restrictions on unskilled immigration – FT
  • Feud between Hammond and May plunges plan into ‘chaos’ – The Sun

Editorial:

  • Misguided ministers must not delay new controls – The Sun

Ministers 2) Labour brand Williamson’s overhaul of the Armed Forces ‘waffle’

“Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s landmark plan to overhaul the Armed Forces was branded yesterday “waffle.” The Modernising Defence Programme had been touted as a turning point for defence and its failing budget. But yesterday it was roundly mocked as “thin”, “underwhelming” and a “busted flush” after finally being published after months of delays. The highly anticipated document – which should have been a new blueprint for defence – was just 28 pages long, including 10 which were pictures or graphics. Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith, said: “Given his commitment in the summer that this would lead to a major programme of top down transformative reform, it is staggering that the end result is so underwhelming.”… Williamson announced the MDP in parliament before it was published online. The MoD were due to be subjected to a Government wide cuts plan – but Defence was hauled out and allowed to conduct its own plan. It was supposed to be unveiled this summer but was delayed amid rows over cash. Insiders confirmed it was used to identify horror cuts which have now been avoided thanks to a £1.8bn windfall from the Treasury.” – The Sun

Ministers 3) Brokenshire denies Government’s responsibility for rise in homelessness

“Rising rough sleeping in Britain is not the result of government policy but is being driven by factors including the spread of psychoactive drugs such as spice, growth in non-UK nationals on the streets and family breakdown, the housing secretary, James Brokenshire, has claimed. The number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled since 2010 to 4,751 according to the government’s own figures. The homelessness charity Crisis believes that this is a fivefold underestimate and that 24,000 people will spend this Christmas sleeping on the streets, in cars or sofa-surfing. But Brokenshire insisted the growing problem is not a political failure, even though charities which run hostels and advice lines believe that caps on housing benefit and welfare sanctions introduced as part of austerity policies have been key factors driving rises in homelessness every year since the Conservatives took office in 2010… Highly visible increases in tents in shop doorways in towns and cities and hidden rural homelessness mean this year’s government figures, taken during a census last month, are likely to show an eighth consecutive annual rise in homelessness in England.” – The Guardian

  • Tory MSP says there’s ‘no such thing’ as a ‘rape clause’ – The Scotsman
  • MPs urge pause in the next phase of Universal Credit – The Guardian

Ministers 4) Gove wants to drive return of repair-and-refurbish culture

Electrical repair shops – once a familiar sight on Britain’s high streets – could make a return as part Michael Gove’s new waste strategy. The Environment Secretary wants people to stop throwing away items that can be easily mended and see more shops to refurbish broken electronic items. Each year Britons are estimated to throw away around two million tonnes of electronics waste. One idea is to encourage the growth of “reverse logistics” a term used to describe how items are repaired, recycled and refurbished. Mr Gove’s 147-page long strategy says ministers will examine how this form of “reverse logistics can be incentivised”. The strategy says ministers want to “make sure business models are designed around ‘circularity’ and keeping products in use for longer. “This means adopting more resource efficient models which generate less waste, fewer returns, and make better use of reverse logistics to capture value”. Mr Gove said the Government would encourage manufacturers “to design and manufacture products that last longer and will support re-use and repair activities”. Ministers will also consult before the end of 2020 on how the existing rules on “waste electricals can be amended to encourage better designed products”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Environment Secretary accelerated badger cull to fight TB – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • A bold new strategy to tackle the throwaway society – Michael Gove, Daily Telegraph

Scottish Conservatives point to by-election vote share as proof of progress

“The Conservatives have pointed to their vote share in by-elections across Scotland in 2018 as proof the party is gaining ground on the SNP. The party said that of 10 local authority votes held this year, it had received 32.6 per cent of the vote compared to 32.1 per cent for the SNP and 14.2 per cent for Labour. But the Nationalists laughed off the claims, claiming the analysis was “embarrassing” and pointing to SNP successes at the last council elections in 2017. Policy co-odinator Donald Cameron said the results showed Scotland was ready to elect Ruth Davidson as First Minister in 2021. Mr Cameron said: “This isn’t based on opinion surveys or voter intentions – these are actual votes cast in actual elections. “They show Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives were the most popular party in Scotland, and that leaves us in good shape to make her First Minister in 2021. The results across 2018 also prove again it’s a two-horse race. Labour are way back, and completely incapable of standing up to the nationalists. It’s also proof that the Holyrood election wasn’t a flash in the pan. Scots are now putting their faith in Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives to prioritise Scotland’s place in the UK and take on the SNP.”” – The Scotsman

News in Brief:

  • A no deal Brexit is exactly the wrong kind of gamble – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • The logic of Brexit leads to no deal – David Butterfield, Reaction
  • EU’s hard Brexit is going to hurt, a lot – David M Herszenhorn, Politico
  • The Cabinet steps-up planning for no deal – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • May’s premiership will be defined by Brexit – Andrew RT Davies AM, Brexit Central

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