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Queen urges country to ‘seek common ground’ on Brexit…

“The Queen has urged the country to “seek out the common ground” in a sign of royal nervousness over the divisions caused by Brexit. Delivering a rebuke to warring politicians, she urged them to respect, not attack, one another while “never losing sight of the bigger picture”. Her intervention came 64 days before Britain is due to leave the European Union, with no settled plan on how it will be achieved. There are expected to be more interventions with a similar tone and message from other members of the royal family in the coming days, suggesting a concerted attempt to narrow the divisions in politics and society. The Queen was speaking at the centenary of the Sandringham Women’s Institute, allowing her to draw a stark contrast between political behaviour today and that of the WI… As the head of state the Queen tends to keeps her views on political issues private, but there have been occasions when her remarks appear intended to have an impact on the political debate. The last major intervention into politics by the Queen came in 2014 before the Scottish independence referendum. She told a well-wisher at Balmoral: “Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.” It was widely seen as urging Scotland to vote to stay part of the UK.” – The Times

  • Online sales tax to save high street ‘falls foul of the EU’ – The Times
  • MPs back ‘passporting’ agreements for the City beyond Europe – FT

Backstop:

  • Rees-Mogg and Farage rally as Barnier floats border alternative – Daily Express
  • DUP prepared to support time-limited backstop in ‘breakthrough’ for May – The Sun
  • Varadkar admits no-deal is ‘existential threat’ – Daily Mail

EU:

  • Macron says Brexit promises ‘can’t be delivered’ and complaints about the EU are ‘rubbish’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Countries are urging Brussels to offer a better deal – Daily Express

>Today: ToryDiary: Barnier mounts, yes, a unicorn – and gallops off towards the backstop

…as Tory Remainers ‘go to war’ to prevent no-deal departure…

“More than 20 Tory rebels, including several ministers, are next week poised to vote for a Labour amendment that could force the Government to request an extension of Article 50, effectively blocking no deal. With feelings running high, the intervention by Mr Enders was followed by a succession of Remain ministers going public with their concerns about a no-deal Brexit. Shortly before midday Richard Harrington, a pro-European business minister, became the first to air his views during a panel event at the German embassy in London. Mr Harrington, a key member of the “hairshirt club” of nearly 20 ministers who meet regularly to discuss how to stop a no-deal Brexit, appeared to challenge the Prime Minister to sack him… Less than an hour later Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, made another incendiary intervention over no-deal at Davos summit of World leaders and executives in the Swiss Alps. Speaking at a lunch organised by the CBI group of business leaders at the 5 star Grandhotel Belvedere, Mr Hammond said that leaving the European Union without a deal would represent a “betrayal”. Many of the 150 business leaders present, who included the heads of HSBC, Centrica, BT, Barclays, Lloyds and BAE, are united in their concerns about Brexit and no deal.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ministers ‘team up’ with Grieve’s rebels – The Sun
  • Chancellor urges businesses to make case for EU immigration – FT
  • Rudd ‘could quit’ as May faces Cabinet revolt – The Times
  • EU ‘at odds with member states’ over no-deal planning – FT
  • Union bosses demand delay… – The Times
  • …but make no headway – FT

Editorial:

  • Ministers should not be talking down the economy – Daily Telegraph
  • Cabinet must keep no-deal alive so the EU will fix May’s plan – The Sun

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: We’re heading towards an application to extend Article 50. And if extension happens, will revocation follow?

>Yesterday: Chris White in Comment: The Cooper amendment threatens to damage the constitution in ways that would be very hard to repair

…but Mordaunt says the UK is moving towards that outcome

“A UK cabinet minister has said the British public is throwing its support behind a no-deal Brexit, suggesting that MPs will be thwarting democracy if they block such an outcome. Penny Mordaunt, the Eurosceptic international development secretary, said that the country’s stance was hardening on leaving the EU without a deal — in favour of the alternative of trading with the bloc on World Trade Organisation terms. “You see this shift to no-deal. It’s not because [voters] particularly want WTO terms, it’s because they want it done,” she told the Financial Times in an interview. “That’s not necessarily because that’s their preferred option. But I think the public want to send us a message that, end of March, we expect you to leave the EU, and that is the most important thing. To them, no Brexit is worse than no-deal.” Despite government warnings about economic and administrative disruption, a quarter of Britons now say that a no-deal Brexit is their preferred outcome, according to two recent polls. More than half of Conservative members say they would be “delighted”, “pleased” or “relieved” if it happened.” – FT

  • British emergency planning reaches ‘critical final stage’ – Daily Express

More:

  • Conservative peers urged to talk out Cooper’s bill – The Sun
  • MPs hold back second referendum amendment as they do not have the votes – The Times

Iain Martin: Brussels would be well advised to offer May some concessions

“The fabled referendum rerun is no answer for the EU either. The so-called People’s Vote looks increasingly unlikely. MPs campaigning for it yesterday acknowledged that without Jeremy Corbyn’s support they do not have the votes. Imagine they magically find the required backing among MPs and agree a set of questions to be put to the electorate. A new referendum is only a route to more disruption for both sides. Perhaps Leave wins by a mile, meaning Britain will be out, messily, before Tony Blair can say “shall we make it the best of five?” If Remain wins that creates a new tribe of even angrier Leavers who will smash the traditional party system into pieces in search of a third and deciding referendum in the next decade. Does the EU want that unpleasant, disputatious version of Britain back in the EU?… On Wednesday Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator for the EU, moved to calm the Irish. He said: “We will have to find an operational way of carrying out checks and controls without putting back in place a border.” Hold on. Fudging a system of checks away from the border, in the event of a no-deal outcome, is what was deemed impossible by Barnier only a few months ago. If it is now thought possible, isn’t it better to fudge a bit today in order to avoid the calamity of no deal?” – The Times

  • Why won’t MPs take Remain off the table? – Caroline Flint MP, Daily Telegraph
  • Ignoring the will of the people puts us on the road to anarchy – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail
  • The risks of a second referendum must now be run – Martin Wolf, FT
  • Take the Airbus chief’s no-deal warning seriously – Nils Pratley, The Guardian
  • No-deal is no fast track to Global Britain – David Henig, Times Red Box
  • If Brexit Britain wants Europe to listen, it must speak European – Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian
  • Britain should take a lesson from Australia on trade – Matthew Lesh, The Times

May considers new employment protections for parents

“New parents returning to work could receive greater protection from redundancy under government proposals. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will launch a consultation on Friday which will look at extending the legal protection against redundancy for pregnant and new mothers so it continues for up to six months after they return to work. It will also consult on affording the same protections to parents returning from adoption leave or shared parental leave. The Equality Act of 2010 currently sets out a “protected period” during which women who are pregnant or have recently given birth are explicitly protected from discrimination. The period runs from the start of a pregnancy until the woman returns to work after maternity leave, or two weeks after the end of the pregnancy if she is not entitled to maternity leave. There are currently no such protections for parents adopting children, or those taking shared parental leave. Research commissioned by BEIS in collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2016 found that one in nine women had been fired or made redundant when they returned to work after having a child, or were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job.” – The Guardian

Ministers 1) Hunt takes ‘swipe at Corbyn’ over Venezuela

“The foreign secretary has followed the US in declaring Venezuela’s opposition leader the country’s legitimate ruler and condemned Jeremy Corbyn for his support of the socialist government. Jeremy Hunt said that Juan Guaidó, who is leading protests against President Maduro, was “the right person to take Venezuela forward”. It followed a similar move by the US on Wednesday. Mr Maduro has led Venezuela, once South America’s richest country, to the brink of economic ruin. Mr Hunt said in Washington: “It is clear that Nicolás Maduro is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela. The election on May 20 was deeply flawed; ballot boxes were stuffed, there were counting irregularities and the opposition was banned.” After a meeting with Mike Pence, the US vice-president, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, he accused the Maduro regime of doing “untold damage” to its people. Inflation has exceeded 1 million per cent this year and three million Venezuelans, a tenth of the population, have fled the country in the past four years. Millions of those who stayed have no running water. Blackouts are common and food is scarce, with half of the children malnourished.” – The Times

  • Trump might just be the man to topple Maduro and save Venezuela – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • The country that shows Corbyn’s socialism in action – Philip Collins, The Times

>Today: Alastair Thompson in Comment: Corbyn – an apologist for the tyrant who rules Venezuela by fear. Let a Commons vote put him on the spot.

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Hunt – “It is clear that Nicolas Maduro is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela”

Ministers 2) Javid pledges another £3 million to Channel protection

“A further £3 million is to be spent on security to prevent migrants crossing the Channel under an Anglo-French plan agreed yesterday. The two governments have also committed to return migrants from Britain under regulations that say asylum applications should be dealt with at the point of arrival. The Home Office said that a group of fewer than five migrants who crossed the Channel last month were returned to France yesterday. Sajid Javid, the home secretary, said: “It is vital we continue to work closely with our French partners to stop vulnerable migrants making these treacherous crossings and tackle the people smugglers who are putting their lives in danger. The joint action plan strengthens our already strong relationship and increases joint action around keeping our borders secure and discouraging these dangerous journeys.” More than £6 million is to be spent supporting France to increase surveillance under the deal agreed in London between Mr Javid and Christophe Castaner, his French counterpart. About £3.2 million is new funding that will be spent on CCTV, night goggles and number plate recognition technology to bolster joint teams working to detect illegal activity. The rest of the money will come from funds already allocated under a previous border security agreement.” – The Times

  • UK begins deporting illegal migrants to France to ward off crossings – The Sun

More Home Office:

  • Inside Prevent, the UK’s controversial anti-terrorism programme – FT
  • Crime figures paint bleak picture for Home Secretary – Richard Ford, The Times

Ministers 3) Truss urges Tories to woo ‘Generation Z’

“Liz Truss will today urge the Tories to invest a fortune in super-speed internet and housing in a land grab for “Generation Z”. In a battle cry, the Treasury Chief Secretary will insist Britain’s 18 to 24 year-olds are not all “sandal wearing Corbynistas”. And she will use a speech in Leeds to claim the Conservatives should forget trying to match “Labour bribes” such as free bus passes and instead focus on giving today’s youngsters the “tools to succeed”. The number of young entrepreneurs has nearly doubled since 2015 and entrepreneurial activity among 18- 24 year-olds is much higher than France in Germany. And Ms Truss will claim Labour’s own pollsters are worried that young voters in towns and cities are the “least loyal” to Mr Corbyn. The Cabinet Minister will say: “Young people are going off Jeremy Corbyn even faster than his own MPs are. This is the most self-starting, business minded generation ever, and all Corbyn offers is high taxes and more state control… The intervention comes just weeks after the Treasury’s secretary hinted she believed HS2 should be scrapped so billions could be invested elsewhere. She has told allies Britain needs to spend much more on faster web connections across all corners of Britain. So far the Government has only committed to promises 15million full fibre connections by 2025.” – The Sun

Salmond charged with two attempted rapes

“Alex Salmond, the former first minister of Scotland, was charged yesterday with two attempted rapes and multiple sexual assaults. Mr Salmond, 64, faces 14 charges, including two of indecent assault, nine of sexual assault and one of breach of the peace. The former Scottish National Party leader made no plea during a hearing at Edinburgh sheriff court, which lasted less than five minutes. Outside court, Mr Salmond said: “I refute absolutely the allegation of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court. I have got great faith in the court system of Scotland. I have got recent cause to have great faith in the court system of Scotland; that is where I will state my case.” He added that he would “like to say a great deal more” but had to abide by the law. His successor as first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that the charges “would come as a shock to many people”. It is understood that she has not spoken to her former mentor since July last year. There is speculation that senior Scottish government figures could be called as witnesses in the court case.” – The Times

  • Former leader defiant as he faces his darkest day – The Scotsman
  • Architect of the SNP’s rise to power – The Guardian

Comment:

  • From the brink of realising his political dream, to this – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
  • A street fighter whose words came back to haunt him – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • Moments that are already defining for the SNP – Paris Gourtsoyannis, The Scotsman

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Salmond arrested as ministers get tough with Sturgeon

Creagh warns of illegal low pay in textile industry

“Payment of illegally low wages is “rife” in the UK’s textile industry and goes hand in hand with a “culture of fear and intimidation”, a senior MP has warned. Mary Creagh, chair of the Commons environmental audit committee, was speaking after her panel received evidence from HM Revenue & Customs about its investigations into non-payment of the national minimum wage to textile workers. The evidence was part of the committee’s inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, driven partly by Financial Times’ reporting on abuses in factories serving the “fast fashion” sector in Leicester. In a letter to the committee published on Friday, Janet Alexander, HMRC’s director of Individuals and Small Business Compliance, said that over the six tax years to 2017-18, her organisation had started 93 investigations over failure to pay the minimum wage in textile factories. It had identified arrears totalling £87,158 owed to 126 workers for pay levels below the minimum wage in 24 of those investigations. Nearly half the arrears identified – £42,787 – were identified in the 2017-18 tax year alone.” – FT

Londonderry councillors condemn car bombing… by one vote

“Derry City and Strabane District Council has passed a motion condemning Saturday’s car bomb attack on Londonderry’s courthouse – by a single vote. It took the intervention of the mayor, SDLP man John Boyle, to get the vote over the line in the face of republican opposition in the chamber on Thursday. The meeting of the full council had initially been scheduled to about rates and was set to be closed to the public. However the nature of the gathering was changed to allow councillors to discuss the bombing instead, and the public and press were permitted in. Sinn Fein (which has 15 members on the 40-strong council, more than any other party) put forward a motion stating that the council does “oppose” what happened, and that attacks should cease. However independent councillor Sean Carr (formerly of the SDLP) proposed an amendment to the motion which included the word “condemn”. He told the News Letter that his amendment read as follows: that the council “unambiguously says violence is wrong whether that be carried out by the state or those opposed to the state, past or present, and that must be condemned”. He said that he had put this forward because he found Sinn Fein’s motion to be “very, very weak”. According to his account, which is supported by two unionist councillors the News Letter spoke to, his amendment passed by 19 votes to 18 – with unionists and the SDLP joining forces to support it against Sinn Fein and republican independents.” – News Letter

News in Brief:

  • MPs will be to blame for a no-deal Brexit – Alan Lockey, CapX
  • Failure to deliver Brexit would consign the Conservative Party to the history books – Bob Perry, Brexit Central
  • Why a great country like Japan gets such boring Prime Ministers – Philip Patrick, Reaction
  • Britain might run out of top-class judges – Michael Beloff QC, The Spectator
  • How the gilets jaunes could save Macron’s skin – John Lichfield, UnHerd

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