Brexit 1) Johnson claims May will seek a “Freedom Clause” from the EU as a renegotiation of the backstop

“Theresa May is planning to fight for a “freedom clause” from Brussels in a move that will win the “full-throated” support of the entire nation if she succeeds, Boris Johnson says. Writing in The Telegraph, the former Foreign Secretary says he has heard “from the lips of very senior sources” that the Prime Minister is planning to go to Brussels and renegotiate the Northern Ireland customs backstop. Describing the plans as “unadulterated good Brexit news”, he says an exit mechanism or sunset clause will “defuse the booby trap” and give the UK a “way out” to negotiate a Canada-style trade deal with the EU.” – Daily Telegraph

  • If the PM is ready to fight back against Brussels then her deal could yet be fixed – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph
  • Rees-Mogg “woos MPs to back Johnson” – The Times
  • Bootle proposes a temporary deal between the EU and the UK not to impose tariffs on each other – Daily Express
  • Hancock praises Brady amendment – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: May needs a new offer to make to the EU. Paul Bew has one for her. She should take it up.


Brexit 2) It’s not a game of chicken, insists the Irish Deputy PM

“The Brexit deadlock is not a “game of chicken” between the UK and the EU, the Irish deputy prime minister has said. Simon Coveney said on Sunday that the UK and Irish governments needed to work together to reach a breakthrough. But he insisted that the backstop – the insurance policy aimed at avoiding a hard Irish border – had to remain a part of the withdrawal agreement. Theresa May is unlikely to get MPs to approve her Brexit deal unless changes to the backstop are made.” – BBC

>Yesterday: WATCH: “The backstop…isn’t going to change”, says Coveney

Brexit 3) “Loyalists” threaten to ditch PM and push for a “softer” deal if “no deal” is blocked

“Conservatives who backed Theresa May’s Brexit plan when it was heavily defeated this month are preparing to abandon her and push for a softer agreement if parliament blocks a no-deal exit tomorrow. MPs who are loyal at present to the prime minister will get behind alternative plans for leaving the European Union if a proposal by the former Labour cabinet minister Yvette Cooper results in a delay to the withdrawal date. One MP who voted for the deal two weeks ago said that they could not afford to wait for Mrs May to try to secure more concessions on the Irish backstop before mobilising behind a softer Brexit. “How long do we have to wait? People on the moderate and centre wing of the party are not going to wait until mid-March,” they said. “We’re just not.” – The Times

  • Philip May’s pivotal role – Daily Telegraph
  • May “has privately told Ministers we won’t leave without a deal” – The Sun

>Today: Columnist Nicky Morgan: This Brexit logjam is holding up positive politics. Now the Prime Minister must break it.


Brexit 4) Warning to Tory rebels not to agree a “blank cheque” for Parliament

“Theresa May fears rebel Tory MPs will this week write a ‘blank cheque’ to Parliament which could allow Brexit to be delayed for a year or longer – or even stopped entirely. The Commons is expected to vote tomorrow on various amendments – including one to seize power from ministers and hand it to backbench MPs so they can influence the timing of Britain’s departure. Supporters of the plan – led by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and former Tory minister Nick Boles – say the amendment is designed to stop a damaging No Deal exit, as it would postpone the March 29 leaving date by nine months if a deal is not secured by February 26.” – Daily Mail

Brexit 5) The EU would attach conditions before agreeing to any delay

“European capitals are bracing for Theresa May, the UK prime minister, to request an extension to Britain’s March 29 exit date from the EU within a matter of weeks. The EU’s precise response is far from certain. For Brussels, such a request to delay Brexit will be what Germans call Chefsache — a political matter so important it will only be settled by the bosses at Europe’s top table. Moving the exit date, after all, needs unanimous support from the 27 remaining EU leaders. Diplomats see an outright refusal of a UK request as almost inconceivable. One senior Brussels official said it would entail the EU “taking responsibility for no-deal” and breaking an important unwritten rule of the union’s Brexit strategy: avoiding blame. “Everyone’s instinct in that situation is to find time. Kicking the can down the road is what we do,” said one senior member state official handling Brexit. “They will find any reason to avoid a crash out.” But with any approval will come terms and conditions that are harder to predict. Granting an extension is not simply a yes or no answer.” – Financial Times

Brexit 6) A second vote would be a failure, declares Rayner

“A leading shadow cabinet member has toughened Labour’s stance against a second referendum, saying that another vote would mean that MPs had failed the public. Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said she would be “really worried” about a fresh referendum and that a “very narrow” victory for Remain would be the worst possible outcome. “I think if we end up with a second referendum then us as politicians have failed the public, we have failed to be able to do our job,” she told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday. “I don’t think that people want to see a delay in Article 50, I don’t think that people want to see a second referendum. They want to see parliamentarians working together to carry out what happened as a result of the referendum.” – The Times

  • Survey “shows Britons becoming more intolerant, politically disillusioned and disunited” – The Guardian

>Today: Stella Creasy & Debbie Abrahams on Comment: A referendum got us here. Now let a Citizens’ Assembly – and more direct democracy – take us forward.


Brexit 7) Fear of Corbyn the real reason for Dyson’s move

“Brexiteer James Dyson moved his multi-billion pound empire out of Britain because of his fears about a Jeremy Corbyn government, insiders have claimed. The vacuum cleaner announced last week he’s planning to move parts of his empire over to Asia for “commercial reasons”.But the vocal Leave supporter was said to have been worried about the Labour boss’s views on business.” – The Sun

  • Sir James is the UK’s third biggest taxpayer, handing over £128 million a year – The Times
  • Dyson’s move is not hypocrisy – it’s shrewd – Christian May, City AM

Brexit 8) Davis: Respect centuries of Parliamentary tradition, or face a “toxic legacy”

“Muddying the waters is wrong and will leave a toxic legacy. Under the Westminster system Her Majesty’s Government controls the Parliamentary agenda. Backbenchers should not arbitrarily be able to take away that power. How does this affect the national interest at a time when the Government is negotiating with the EU? Where does power lie? Who controls the legislative agenda? Who is accountable and how? These are all fundamental questions for our democracy, not playthings for anti-Brexit MPs to tinker with. Some of the present machinations bring our unwritten constitution and Parliamentary system into disrepute. They threaten the viability and integrity of the House of Commons as whole. This must stop, and it must stop now.” – David Davis, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 9) d’Ancona: The worst demons in the Conservative psyche have been summoned

“Brexit has summoned the very worst demons that lurk in the Conservative psyche, liberating Tories to bellow nonsense about the second world war, the blitz spirit and pseudo-Churchillian defiance. It has fatally compounded the party’s demented fixation with immigration and distracted it from the true challenges of the 21st century…To be clear: I haven’t undergone a conversion. My values have not changed. But the Conservative party is morphing into something I find alien and repellent. Like a listing galleon, holed below the waterline, it sails away stubbornly; dragging the nation towards a storm of unknown adversity, peril and pain.” – Matthew d’Ancona, The Guardian

Other comment

  • The PM must seize her moment – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • MPs should take ‘no-deal’ Brexit option off the table – Leader, Financial Times
  • Time to deliver for the people – Owen Paterson, Daily Express
  • Here’s how we can get the deal through – Sir Graham Brady, Daily Mail
  • The Government must bear responsibility for it running so close to the wire – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • 650,000 British businesses registered last year – each one a vote of confidence in the future – Michael Hayman, City AM

North of England “is worst hit by spending cuts”

“Austerity cuts have fallen hardest on deprived communities in the north of England, which are enduring the highest poverty rates and weakest economies, according to a study. The Centre for Cities think tank study shows that the poorest areas have borne the brunt of council spending cuts. Local authority spending has fallen nationally by half since 2010, with areas such as Liverpool, Blackburn and Barnsley facing average cuts twice that of their counterparts in the more affluent south, according to the think tank. The report suggests there is a “city and country” divide, with urban council areas having shouldered cuts to services such as street cleaning, road repairs and libraries, which, are, on average, twice as deep as those borne by leafier authorities.” – The Guardian

Hancock warns social media firms to remove harmful content, or face legislation

“Social media firms could be banned if they fail to remove harmful content, the health secretary has warned. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Matt Hancock said: “If we think they need to do things they are refusing to do, then we can and we must legislate.” But he added: “It’s not where I’d like to end up.” The minister earlier called on social media giants to “purge” material promoting self-harm and suicide in the wake of links to a teenager’s suicide.” – BBC

  • Antisocial media – Leader, The Times
  • Web firms think they are untouchable – Leader, The Sun

Strategist being hired “to break Stormont logjam”

“The Northern Ireland Office is seeking a senior strategist who will work to restore devolved government here. The incoming deputy political strategy director will lead efforts to resolve the two-year impasse. A job advert for the post, which carries a salary of up to £117,000, says applicants must be able to work in a “politically charged environment”. The successful candidate will be based in Stormont House or the NIO’s London office. They will replace the current deputy director, who is moving to another position within the department. The Stormont administration has not functioned since January 2017.” – Belfast Telegraph

Sturgeon insists Salmond’s arrest won’t stop push for a second Scottish independence referendum

“The criminal charges against Alex Salmond will not dent the chances of a second independence referendum, according to Nicola Sturgeon. The former first minister faces 14 charges, which include attempted rape and sexual assault. He vehemently denies the charges and said he would defend himself “to the utmost”. His successor told the BBC: “The case for independence is bigger than one man, it’s bigger than one woman.” “It’s not about individual personalities,” Ms Sturgeon added.” – BBC

US warns Venezuela regime of a “significant response”, if diplomats and opposition leaders are threatened

“The US has warned Venezuela that any threats against American diplomats or opposition leader Juan Guaidó will be met with “a significant response”. National Security Adviser John Bolton said any such “intimidation” would be “a grave assault on the rule of law”. His warning comes days after the US and more than 20 other countries recognised Mr Guaidó as interim president. Meanwhile, Mr Guaidó has called for anti-government protests on Wednesday and Saturday. The political crisis in Venezuela now appears to be reaching boiling point amid growing efforts by the opposition to unseat Mr Maduro.” – BBC

  • Maduro regime in disarray as Venezuelan military envoy to US defects – The Times
  • The way forward is the call for dialogue from the Mexican and Bolivian presidents – John McDonnell MP, Diane Abbott MP and others, Letters, The Guardian

Lawson: Fight this misguided push for assisted suicide

“It has always been and remains the case that patients can refuse any and all procedures. For example, when in the Eighties my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer, she decided she wanted no treatment, beyond pain relief. She came under no pressure from doctors to allow surgery or chemotherapy, even though she was only in her 40s. They recognised that her condition was terminal — as it would be today. Our time-honoured system of medical care should not be radically changed at the behest of activists for euthanasia, no matter if they are ex-Archbishops or TV stars motivated by compassion. As Christopher de Bellaigue warned, after his investigations in the Netherlands and Belgium: ‘Euthanasia won’t be an occasion for empathy, ethics or compassion, but a bludgeon swinging through people’s lives, whose handiwork can’t be undone.’ ” – Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail

News in brief

  • £15,000-a-table Tory fundraiser in turmoil as donors and activists turn on ‘toxic’ Theresa May – Politics Home
  • Most of my Brexit Select Committee colleagues hate the referendum result and simply want to frustrate it – Craig Mackinlay MP, Brexit Central
  • UK to warn of Brexit backstop’s threat to Irish peace treaty – Tom McTague, Politico
  • Corbynistas intervene on Venezuela – Steerpike, The Spectator
  • Ten point fall in Labour’s backing among students – Independent