Leak shows Prime Minister furious at ‘plotting’ ministers…

“Furious Theresa May has accused her own Cabinet ministers of plotting to undermine her as she fights to save her Brexit deal, a bombshell secret No 10 memo has revealed. An email leaked to this newspaper lays bare the open warfare in the Cabinet as rival ministers jockey for position amid reports the Prime Minister could be forced to resign if her Brexit deal is defeated. The email, written by No 10 director of communications Robbie Gibb, slams rival Tory leadership contenders Sajid Javid, Amber Rudd and Liz Truss. He accuses them of trying to upstage Mrs May’s £20billion annual NHS boost unveiled last weekend by announcing their own initiatives at the same time. He says Mrs May was ‘frustrated’ by their actions; she had not approved them – and they had not even bothered to ask her permission. And in the email to Cabinet ‘special advisers’ – high powered spin doctors employed by senior ministers – he claims they are making her Brexit task even harder.” – Daily Mail

  • Ministers tell May ‘no deal’ could break up the UK – The Sun
  • Morgan urges May to abandon the DUP to work with Labour – Daily Telegraph
  • Ulster allies hold fast against the deal – FT
  • Gove warns no deal could ruin the Grand National – The Sun
  • Even more MPs now against the deal – Daily Express
  • May faces ‘biggest Commons defeat ever’ – Daily Mail


  • Brussels’ crowing about the Agreement shows why we should reject it – Owen Paterson, Daily Telegraph
  • With a heavy heart, I will back the Prime Minister’s deal – George Freeman MP, Times Red Box
  • Withdrawal Agreement poses a grave threat to national security – Sir Richard Dearlove, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: As they prepare to vote next Tuesday, here’s why Conservative MPs should back May’s deal


…as she ‘calls on union chiefs’ to save her deal…

“Theresa May was appealing to Britain’s biggest unions last night in an attempt to win Labour support for her Brexit deal. The prime minister called Len McCluskey, the head of Unite, as she intensified her efforts to build support across party lines. The call was Mrs May’s first conversation with Mr McCluskey, who has been a vociferous critic of the prime minister and her government. She also telephoned Tim Roache, head of the GMB, after meeting a small group of Labour MPs in Westminster on Monday. The efforts to build cross-party support came after it was claimed that the prime minister could be heading for a defeat by more than 200 in Tuesday’s meaningful vote on her Brexit deal. Unite declined to comment officially, but did not contradict No 10’s claim that the call had been constructive. “Len’s a dealmaker. He would have approached the call with an open mind,” a source said. Mr Roache was less positive but stopped short of rejecting the overture outright. Mrs May told the union leaders that she could back an amendment to strengthen the protection of workers’ rights that had been tabled by John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw.” – The Times

  • Election is Labour’s priority, says Corbyn… – The Times
  • …but he concedes holding one may delay Brexit – Daily Telegraph
  • Gove brands Labour’s plan ‘b*****ks’ in Parliament – The Sun
  • Rebels also in talks with Opposition over new Brexit plan – Daily Express


  • May is tormenting Tory MPs with doses of Corbynism – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour’s pro-Europe MPs are risking no deal – Philip Collins, The Times
  • Opposition must back a People’s Vote before the clock runs out – Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian
  • Trump, May, and the art of political brinkmanship – Tim Harford, FT
  • Trying to rejoin the EU is a lost cause, no matter how much Labour MPs want to – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph


>Yesterday: Left Watch: Corbyn’s lack of urgency on Brexit comes from the blunt fact that it isn’t his priority

…and Baker canvasses support for an alternative proposal…

“A leading Brexiter MP is planning to publish a blueprint explaining how Theresa May should employ tough negotiating tactics with the European Union. Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister, is collecting support for a suggested written ministerial statement for the government, which its backers believe would be a pathway to better withdrawal terms and an independent trade policy. It comes amid Tory expectations of a Commons defeat for May’s withdrawal deal in the vote on Tuesday. Another former minister told the Guardian that serving ministers could stand down to vote against the deal. Baker, a leading figure in the backbench European Research Group (ERG), said he is drawing up specific suggestions to force the EU to come to the table… Baker declined to offer further details on his plans. ERG members are keen to show that they have an alternative plan to May’s deal, which would be likely to involve challenging the EU to accept an amended withdrawal agreement while preparing for no deal.” – The Guardian

  • Deal threatens national security, warns ex-defence boss – The Sun
  • Abe says whole world wants the UK to avoid a no-deal departure – FT
  • Civil servants told to quit day jobs to plan for no deal – The Times
  • CBI boss claims it could see eight-point fall in GDP – Daily Mail
  • Police chief warns that it could lead to riots over food shortages – The Sun
  • Health department signs contract to store drugs under no-deal scenario – The Guardian
  • Coveney talks up prospects of deal getting approved – News Letter
  • Eight former Foreign Secretaries on Britain after Brexit – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: “No-one voted for Brexit to become poorer.” Really? We vote to deny ourselves money all the time.

Speaker accused of taking ‘kamikaze’ approach to Brexit as he prepares to step down

“John Bercow has been accused of taking a “kamikaze” approach to his role over Brexit because he is preparing to stand down. The Speaker ignored legal advice and parliamentary precedent to allow a vote that gives the Prime Minister just three days to present a “plan B” if her Brexit deal is voted down. One source said that Mr Bercow’s diary is empty from May, paving the way for him to leave after Brexit. “He is going out in a blaze of glory,” a source said. “It is kamikaze. He doesn’t care.” However James Duddridge, a Tory MP and prominent critic of John Bercow: “He has nothing else to go do. There will be a revolt against him going to the Lords. He loves the trappings of office. I can’t see him going.” Theresa May yesterday said she was “surprised” by Mr Bercow’s actions and said he should “explain” himself. She called for legal advice to be published… It came as the chief whip directly contradicted Downing Street yesterday after it suggested that MPs would be given just 90 minutes to debate a plan B for Brexit.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Abuse is ‘water off duck’s back’, says Bercow – The Times
  • May demands he explain his decision – Daily Mail
  • Speaker ‘vows to keep helping Remainer MPs’ – The Sun

>Yesterday: Chris White in Comment: The day the Speaker set fire to Erskine May

Quentin Letts: Bercow could ignite the petrol of British politics

“On the television news they sometimes report punch-ups in foreign parliaments – distant places such as Thailand and the Ukraine. It makes for terrific viewing, legislators whacking each other, biting, kicking and generally behaving worse than Tyson Fury in a mood. We laugh at such scenes, don’t we? We think ourselves superior, reckoning such mayhem could never occur in our House of Commons because, my dears, we’re British. We drink tea. We are far too ­civilised for such fisticuffs. After Tuesday’s extraordinary events at Westminster, when anger nearly boiled out of ­control, don’t count on it. Commons Speaker John ­Bercow, blatant as a bad ­shoplifter, bent the rules to help his mates who are trying to stop Brexit. Bercow ignored centuries of established procedure, over-rode his clerks and let hardline Remainer MP Dominic Grieve spring an amendment on an unamendable motion. I’ll spare you all the technicalities but it was like a judge, overseeing the trial of one of his golf club cronies, suddenly ­ripping up legal ­convention to give the defence a deadly advantage. When lawmakers start ­dishonouring the rules, why ?shouldn’t anyone else?” – The Sun

  • Biased Speaker has set the stage for the neutering of Parliament – Nikki da Costa, Daily Telegraph
  • Outrage shows the constitution is working – David Allen Green, FT
  • After Brexit, our politics needs an overhaul – Iain Martin, The Times


  • The Speaker was right to ignore convention – The Times
  • Remainer MPs pretended to honour Brexit whilst plotting to destroy it – The Sun

>Today: Lee Rowley MP in Comment: Brexit is big. But our politics is bigger – and I say that as a committed Leaver. Here are some ideas to boost it.

Hands vs Selmayr Day 3) Fallout from his ConHome piece continues

“This week I found myself in dispute with the chief official of the European Union, Martin Selmayr, Jean-Claude Juncker’s right-hand man, nicknamed the “monster”. It’s good practice in the UK civil service for senior officials not to give interviews, but Selmayr gave one to his local paper. In it, he boasted about how good the Withdrawal Agreement was for the EU, and how bad for Britain. He proclaimed that the agreement proved that leaving the EU “doesn’t work”… I put together 17 examples of Selmayr and his colleagues boasting how good the Withdrawal Agreement is for the EU, and how bad for Britain. Selmayr took to Twitter to claim my account was “false”, but every single quote came from reputable media outlets. The point is this. There are many views in this country on Brexit. But is there any wonder that only 19 per cent of Britons support Theresa May’s deal, when so many Remainers and Leavers see it as against UK interests? The reminder from indiscreet EU Commission officials as to how much they think the agreement works against the UK should also be a wake-up call.” – Greg Hands, Evening Standard

Ministers 1) Eurotunnel accuses Grayling of breaking rules with ferry contract

“Chris Grayling faced fresh humiliation yesterday after Eurotunnel said his £103 million Brexit contracts with ferry firms broke state aid rules. And the Le Shuttle operator said the deals were also a “unilateral breach” of Britain’s concession agreement with the firm. In a leaked letter, Eurotunnel chief Jacques Gounon storms: “It is with serious concern that we have read details of agreements between HMG and certain ferry operators. I must bring to your attention the distortionary and anti-competitive effects of such an action.” He separately revealed the Department for Transport had been in talks with the business about “running additional rail freight trains”. The Sun revealed on Wednesday that the DfT had been in negotiations with foreign-owned freight firms DB Cargo and GB Railfreight about running extra services at night to relieve pressure on Dover. The DfT has denied it could hit commuters who use the Southeastern high-speed line. In a blistering letter Mr Gounon says: “Our staff are ready to operate additional missions, assuming that HMG will bear any additional costs. Another option we are working on – as you know – is running additional freight trains.”” – The Sun

  • How EU rules let Slovakia offer Jaguar Land Rover state-aid sweetener – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Ben Houchen in Local Government: Free Ports would allow leaving the EU to boost the most deprived regions of the UK

Ministers 2) Javid under pressure as Home Office’s deportation failures criticised

“More than 50,000 failed asylum seekers have stayed in Britain because the Home Office is removing less than half of migrants whose applications fail, a report says today. Many of those in the country illegally are thought to work in the black economy and others have simply disappeared from the Home Office’s radar. David Wood, a former director-general of immigration enforcement at the Home Office, said in his report for the think tank Civitas that many asylum applications were made not by refugees but by economic migrants exploiting the system to stay. Sajid Javid, the home secretary, was criticised last week for questioning whether people who had crossed the Channel in small boats were “genuine asylum seekers”. The Civitas report said that of 80,800 applications refused or withdrawn in the seven years to the end of 2016 only 29,600 people were removed, leaving 51,100 still in the UK. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people applying per year had no valid claim, the report said, and less than half were removed. Applications that waited more than six months for a decision rose from 4,000 in 2010 to 14,300 last year. Removals fell from about 15,000 a year in the 2000s to 5,000 last year.” – The Times

Ministers 3) Rudd scraps proposals to extend two-child Universal Credit limit

“Amber Rudd will on Friday scrap plans to extend the two-child limit on Universal to an extra 15,000 families because the existing Conservative policy is “not right”. Ms Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will reverse plans to extend the cap to families with children born before the policy was introduced in April 2017 at a cost of £250 million. In a speech in London today she will say: “These parents made decisions about the size of the family when the previous system was the only system in place. So I can today announce that I am going to scrap the extension of the two-child limit on Universal Credit for children born before April 2017. All children born before that date will continue to be supported by Universal Credit. This will help approximately 15,000 families a year.” The two-child cap limits support for families through tax credits, housing benefit and Universal Credit to the first two children. Subsequent children, except in special cases, are not entitled to the “child element”, which is currently £2,780 a year.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Benefits freeze likely to end in 2020, Secretary of State suggests – The Guardian
  • Seven thousand disabled Brits face months of waiting to get benefits back – The Sun

Ministers 4) Williamson announces readiness of next-generation F-35 fighter

“The UK’s next-generation fighter jet, the F-35, has been declared ready for combat and could fly its first strike missions against Isis terrorists in Syria and Iraq by the summer. Announcing the milestone on Thursday, during a visit to RAF Marham, defence secretary Gavin Williamson signalled the UK’s intent to keep up the pressure on remaining Isis fighters in the east of Syria, even as US President Donald Trump has signalled plans to withdraw troops from the country. The UK has so far taken delivery of 17 of its initial order of 48 F-35s from US manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Although the majority of the jets will be deployed on Britain’s two new aircraft carriers, nine have now been cleared to fly missions from land bases. According to one defence official, some of the first nine jets will be sent to the RAF’s air base at Akrotiri in Cyprus to complete final training missions in the spring before potential deployment in Iraq and Syria later this year. “We have very clear ideas of how we want to use the F-35s operationally and we have now the capability with having nine ready to fly, nine ready to fight,” Mr Williamson said.” – FT

Sturgeon accused of breaking ministerial rules as Salmond crisis deepens

Nicola Sturgeon is embroiled in a major leadership crisis over allegations she broke ministerial rules during five discussions she held with Alex Salmond about the sexual misconduct claims he faces. The First Minister was under intense pressure to accede to a Labour request to refer herself for investigation under the ministerial code of conduct over three meetings, including two at her home, and two phone calls she held with her former mentor. She admitted no minutes were kept of their secret discussions about the Scottish Government’s inquiry into the misconduct allegations, despite the code specifying that a record should be made if government business was significantly mentioned. In a series of astonishing omissions, she said she failed to tell Leslie Evans, her most senior mandarin, about the first meeting for more than two months and no officials were present for any of the discussions… The First Minister’s denial that she interfered in the inquiry was undermined by an admission that she wrote to Ms Evans the day before her third discussion with Mr Salmond outlining his plans to take legal action.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Salmond refers Scottish Government to watchdog after leaks – The Guardian
  • First Minister under fire for ‘astounding lapse in judgement’ – The Scotsman


  • Does the ‘S’ in ‘SNP’ stand for Sturgeon, or Salmond? – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Sturgeon under fire after Salmond wins case against her government

Prosecutors to decide if protesters harassed MPs

“Three cases of alleged abuse and harassment outside parliament have been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. It has been asked to consider whether the behaviour, including the heckling of the Tory MP Anna Soubry, went beyond lawful protest. Scotland Yard also said that online comments by far-right protesters were being examined. John Bercow, the Speaker, and more than 115 other MPs wrote letters to Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, calling on her to tackle the verbal abuse of Remainer MPs and commentators. Ms Soubry was surrounded by male protesters who called her a “Nazi”, which lawyers said amounted to an offence under the Public Order Act. Sir Stephen House, the Met’s deputy commissioner, told the London Assembly yesterday that three cases had been referred to the CPS. He said: “There’s a very fine judgment to be made about allowing [protesters] lawful expression of their views whilst not stopping other people going about their lawful business. People have got an absolute right to go about their lives without impediment. That’s clearly a balance, and clearly outside parliament we’re seeing it being tested to the extreme limit.” A group of pro-Brexit men have targeted specific politicians, journalists and commentators on College Green, the area opposite parliament used by broadcasters.” – The Times

  • We must ensure that politicians are not at risk – Harriet Harman, Times Red Box

News in Brief:

  • Don’t be fooled: this Brexit deal creates a triple lock to shackle the UK to Brussels forever – A Civil Servant, Brexit Central
  • Competition and procurement are key to making a success of the NHS – David Hare, CapX
  • How Britain became the world’s largest expert in medical marijuana – Robert Jackman, The Spectator
  • Weak Macron and fading Merkel in no position to forge further integration – Walter Ellis, Reaction
  • How to stop the mis-selling of education – Peter Franklin, UnHerd