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The Government: May tries to win over Leavers with last-ditch warning that No Brexit is more likely than No Deal

‘In the speech to be given to factory workers in Stoke-on-Trent today, she says she believes that it is more likely that MPs will block Brexit than allow Britain to leave without an agreement. She adds: “I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy. “What if we found ourselves in a situation where parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a Remain vote? People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.” Cabinet ministers lined up to warn Brexiteers that they risked no Brexit after reports of Remainers’ plots. Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, who made the comments about the country facing a rise in extremism, said that it would be a “huge mistake” for MPs to attempt to take control of the Brexit process.’ – The Times

>Today: Nicky Morgan’s column: Imperfect, certainly. But May’s plan avoids the twin perils of No Deal and No Brexit. The Commons should back it.

>Yesterday: WATCH: Marr asks if Barclay misled the nation over the Withdrawal Agreement vote

The Leavers: These new threats are no more convincing than the old ones, writes Johnson

This deal is still the worst of both worlds, by which we somehow leave the EU but end up being run by the EU. It is still a complete stinker, and so no – I can’t tell exactly what will happen on Tuesday. But I cannot believe that it has much of a chance of getting past the House of Commons. As this reality has dawned on the supporters of the PM’s deal, they have started to change tack. They have come up with a last desperate scare story, designed to chivvy MPs through the lobbies. After spending much of the last few weeks warning of the perils of “no deal”, they have been dismayed to note that, if anything, their warnings have fortified the public – and MPs – in their determination not to be frightened…It is in the face of this outbreak of common sense that the scaremongers have changed their story. Throughout the past 48 hours, they have been ringing MPs and warning that unless they vote for the PM’s deal, the risk is not a no‑deal Brexit – the risk is that there will be no Brexit at all!’ – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph

>Today:

The Remainers: Alleged plan for Wollaston’s committee to take charge if May’s deal is rejected

‘The plan to seize control of Brexit is based on a draft Bill, which the Mail understands has been drawn up by former ministers Nick Boles, Sir Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan and is to be published today. All three backed Remain, but are expected to vote for Mrs May’s plan tomorrow. A source close to the move said the changes to the standing orders of the House of Commons would be temporary and would be reversed after Brexit. The source said: ‘We all want Brexit to happen on March 29, that is our first preference’… Under the plan, the Prime Minister would have 21 days to come up with an alternative Brexit deal. If none is found, responsibility for developing one would pass to the liaison committee which is made up of the chairmen of the 36 Commons select committees. It is chaired by Dr Sarah Wollaston, who is a leading campaigner for a second referendum. The committee’s proposal would have to be approved by MPs with ministers then ordered to reopen talks with Brussels. If time is short, Article 50 could be extended, meaning the UK would stay in the EU. If Brussels refused this, Article 50 would be revoked, in effect cancelling Brexit.’ – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: WATCH: Grayling repeats his warning about the threat of extremism if Brexit is halted

Gove to clamp down on open fires, woodburning stoves and scented candles

‘The Clean Air Strategy, which will be launched today, aims to reduce the estimated 36,000 annual deaths blamed on breathing toxic air. The Government said it would become the first major economy to adopt tough World Health Organisation standards. Proposals include a ban on the most polluting fuels – such as domestic coal – and ensuring only the cleanest stoves are sold. Woodburning stoves and open fires are now the biggest source of outdoor particulate emissions – 38 per cent, compared with 16 per cent from industrial processes, and 12 per cent from road transport. Much of the strategy will involve advice to families such as to haver fewer bonfires and buy in bulk to reduce the number of deliveries by van. Manufacturers will be told to reduce emissions from scented candles, carpets, laminate flooring and glues. These add to particulate pollution and can break down to create toxic gases.’ – Daily Mail

  • He reportedly wants a ban on all but the cleanest stoves by 2022 – The Sun
  • Toxic air kills – let’s work together to reduce the risk – Michael Gove and Matthew Hancock, Daily Telegraph
  • Estimated cost of air pollution is revised upwards – The Times
  • Strict limits on pollutants make good sense – The Times Leader
  • But campaigners are disappointed the plan includes no legally binding target – FT
  • Perry dismisses request to free up shale gas industry – FT

The Chancellor and Home Secretary team up against financial crime

‘The home secretary and chancellor are to launch a joint assault on fraud, bribery, corruption and money laundering. Sajid Javid and Philip Hammond will chair a new taskforce that will work with senior figures in the financial sector to tackle economic crime. This is a broad category covering a range of illegal activity, with the Home Office estimating its scale to be at least £14.4bn a year. Javid said: “We need to take action on all fronts to target the corrupt fraudsters who are lining their pockets with dirty money and living luxury lifestyles at the expense of law-abiding citizens. The government is already investing millions in the fight against economic crime, but it is crucial we work closely with our financial sector partners to win this battle. These criminals threaten the UK’s reputation as a world-leading place to do business and we have a joint responsibility to stop them.” The chancellor said the UK is leading the world in the fight against illicit finance.’ – The Guardian

Williamson proposed paintballing Spanish ships to deter Gibraltar incursions

‘The Cabinet minister made the extraordinary suggestion during a recent MoD meeting with top brass. It came after Mr Williamson had initially proposed an even more incendiary idea, to send a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer to the Spanish territory of Ceuta on the Moroccan coast. The Defence Secretary – nicknamed Private Pike after the dithering Dad’s Army character – then proposed arming locals on the Rock with paintball guns to splat Spanish Navy and police vessels whenever they illegally entered British waters in a bid to humiliate them. The order came during 42 year-old Mr Williamson’s regular Monday afternoon meeting with Britain’s military chiefs just before Christmas…“Nick Carter just rolled his eyes and said, ‘We’ll come up with some options minister”, but everybody knew he wouldn’t. It’s properly potty.”… Mr Williamson’s aides last night confirmed he had made both proposals. But they insisted the paintball suggestion was just meant as a joke and he had no serious intention that they actually carry it out. An MoD spokesman said: “While the Defence Secretary was speaking in jest about paintballing Spanish ships, he is in favour of the Royal Navy taking a strong stand against Spanish incursions into sovereign British waters”.’ – The Sun

  • Paxman says MPs who object to being shouted at are ‘snowflakes’ – Daily Telegraph

To try to stick to its budget, HS2 considers…slower trains

‘HS2 may have to run slower and less frequent trains to slash costs, its chief executive has admitted. The state-backed firm overseeing the high-speed line is mulling over plans to limit the speed of trains by 30mph. It is also considering reducing the number of services per hour by a fifth, from 18 to 14 each way, which would cut the capacity of the line by the equivalent of around 8,800 passengers per hour during peak times. Last night one campaigner warned that it is ‘quite conceivable’ that some journeys to Birmingham on the high-speed line may be slower than at the moment. The plans were revealed by HS2 Ltd’s chief executive, Mark Thurston, at a meeting with MPs towards the end of last year. Trains were due to hit a maximum speed of 225mph, but he warned that they may have to be slowed down, at times, by around 30mph in order to have any chance of sticking to its £56billion budget. This would have to be done, in particular, when going through some tunnels because otherwise extra, and more expensive, engineering work would be needed on the tunnels to cope with the high speed.’ – Daily Mail

  • And fewer trains – The Times
  • Why does the Transport Secretary still have no answer on the drones problem? – The Sun Says

Royal College to poll doctors on assisted dying

‘Doctors are to be asked if they think the law against helping terminally ill patients to die should be changed. The Royal College of Physicians will poll its 35,000 medics next month — and also ask if they would “actively participate” in assisted dying if it became legal. RCP president Prof Andrew Goddard said the organisation needed an “up-to-date understanding” of medical opinion. He added the RCP is “frequently asked for its stance on this high profile issue”. But he said it would stay neutral until a two-thirds majority voted in favour of a change. Doctors now face up to 14 years’ jail if they help a patient to die. A similar survey five years ago found the majority did not want to change the law.’ – The Sun

Prominent voices on the British left participate in Kremlin ‘disinformation’ films

‘Viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, the slick films, fronted by British presenters, appear to be the work of grassroots campaigners seeking to raise awareness of social ills. They feature interviews with trade union leaders, Labour politicians and prominent left-wing activists. What viewers may not realise is that the documentaries are the work of an enigmatic new media organisation funded by the Russian state. The organisation, Redfish, is based in Berlin and specialises in creating youth-friendly films highlighting political and social instability in western European democracies…The goal is to strengthen Moscow’s power by spreading discontent in Britain and portraying the West as a basket case, experts in disinformation say. “A nationalistic rage has swept over Britain and Islamophobia is rampant,” is the introduction to one video. In another the presenter says: “We are living in an increasingly divided and unequal society.” Despite the revelation of Redfish’s ties to the Russian state the company has not struggled to attract contributors from the left of British politics.’ – The Times

  • Europe must decide between Russian money or protecting its security – Edward Lucas, The Times
  • Trump on defensive over new Putin claims – FT
  • Give Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic immunity – Daily Telegraph Leader
  • Employment tribunal rules academic has no right to be anti-PC – The Times
  • DNA discoverer Watson stripped of honours over his views on intelligence and race – The Guardian

News in Brief

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