Published:

MPs return to parliament to debate May’s deal ahead of next week’s vote. May to decide whether they will have to work weekends and forgo February break…

“Theresa May will decide on Monday whether to cancel MPs’ February break and make them work at weekends as time runs out to pass Brexit legislation before Britain leaves the EU. The Prime Minister will summon the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and the Chief Whip Julian Smith to an emergency meeting to carve out the necessary parliamentary time in the three months left before the March exit date. Aides have already warned Mrs May she is likely to end up with “bad legislation” because she has delayed the meaningful vote on the deal for so long that there is little time left to scrutinise new arrangements, whether she ends up with a deal or no deal. Mrs May resisted pressure from Labour to shorten MPs’ Christmas holiday, but Whitehall sources said she is now giving serious consideration to making MPs sit through a 10-day break scheduled to run from February 15 to 25 inclusive.” – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • May’s deal is still dreadful – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph
  • No, it’s great for science – Chris Skidmore, The Times
  • We still need a second referendum – Caroline Lucas in interview, Guardian

…She says “we will be holding the vote”… but refuses to say whether it’ll be postponed again…

“Theresa May says the UK will be in “uncharted territory” if her deal fails to go through Parliament, as she insists the Brexit vote will go ahead this month. The Prime Minister refused to rule out bringing her deal back to Parliament if it is voted down. She said she is “still working on” seeking assurances from European leaders as well as ways the government can “involve Parliament in a greater way”. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mrs May  insisted “we will be holding the vote” but four times declined to say whether it might be postponed again. “I’ve been talking to European leaders. We have got some changes, some assurances from the December European Council. I have been talking to EU leaders over the last few days.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Or whether there could be multiple votes – FT
  • She will reveal “private demands” she’s asked from Brussels, including 2021 deadline – The Times
  • And offer “hat-trick of pledges” – The Sun
  • She’s pleading for help from Europe – Guardian
  • But claims to have “got some changes” from Europe, while seeking some more, and from NI and Parliament, too – Daily Telegraph
  • She says a second referendum would “disrespect the vote of the people”… but doesn’t rule one out The Times

>Yesterday:

>Today: Chloe Westley in comment: As a migrant to Britain, I say: what’s wrong with patriotism, borders and control?

…Rudd and other ministers “confront” May, as Smith says vote could be lost by 200…

“Cabinet ministers told Theresa May on Thursday night that she must come up with an 11th hour plan to get her Brexit deal through the Commons as the Chief Whip admitted she will lose Tuesday’s vote. The Prime Minister was confronted in Downing Street by Amber Rudd and other senior ministers who demanded to know what she intends to do to salvage the vote, and her Brexit deal with it. During a crisis meeting in Downing Street called by Mrs May they offered her four options – including a postponement of the vote – but came away exasperated when she refused to commit to any of them. At one point a frustrated Ms Rudd asked her: “What do you want to do, Prime Minister?” only to receive a “non-committal” reply. Julian Smith, the Chief Whip, conceded for the first time that the Government is heading for defeat, and the ministers warned Mrs May that a defeat by 200 votes was not impossible. Mrs May is understood to have agreed with them that such a catastrophic defeat had to be avoided at all costs.” – Daily Telegraph 

…Meanwhile, Cooper and Morgan lead united attempt to block “no deal” with finance bill amendment…

“A cross-party effort to prevent a no-deal Brexit began in earnest last night as senior Labour and Tory MPs launched an attempt to deny the Treasury powers to change taxes after a chaotic departure from the EU. MPs including Yvette Cooper and Nicky Morgan tabled an amendment to the finance bill that would allow ministers to implement tax changes after Brexit only if parliament has backed a deal, endorsed a no-deal departure or during an extension to Article 50. The MPs say that the move is intended to remove the threat of a no-deal Brexit by making clear no government could function effectively in such a scenario.” – The Times 

  • They’re accused of “sabotage” – Daily Express
  • Over 200 MPs expected to tell May they won’t accept “no deal” – Daily Mail 

Comment:

  • Wait. Here’s the big benefit of “no deal” – Matt Ridley, The Times

…and Halfon sets out “Common Market 2.0” plan building on Boles’ “Norway Plus”

“A former Conservative minister has launched a new Norway-style plan for Brexit saying freedom of movement can be controlled even if the UK retains access to the Single Market. It is the most detailed Norway-style proposal backed by MPs to date, and builds on the “Norway Plus” model set out by Nick Boles last year. Called “Common Market 2.0”, the arrangement would see the UK follow Single Market rules, including allowing continued freedom of movement, while making greater use of existing mechanisms to limit migration. It would end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and take the UK out of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. The plan, co-authored by Robert Halfon, the Tory former education minister, and prominent Labour MP Lucy Powell, has been supported by Oliver Letwin, Mr Boles, Nicky Morgan and Stephen Kinnock.” – Daily Telegraph

Meanwhile, Labour on Brexit

  • Gardiner speaks of putting party’s deal to public as Thornberry criticises supporters of another vote – The Times 
  • Khan calls for end to Brexit if May loses vote – Daily Express 

Comment:

  • Corbyn’s position isn’t all bad… – Charles Moore – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

>Today: Murad Gassanly in Comment:  Why I left the Labour Party

NHS 1) Stevens sets out ten-year plan to aim to provide May’s promised “world-class care” in face of funding fears

“More than 80,000 lives a year will be saved by an NHS budget boost, the chief of the health service is to promise today, despite warnings that it is already £1 billion short for the coming year. All children with cancer will have their genetic code sequenced to guide treatment under the new ten-year plan for the future of the NHS. It is one of a series of commitments on cancer, heart disease, mental health and GPs contained in the proposals drawn up by Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England. Theresa May said that the extra £20 billion the NHS will get by 2023 would allow for “world-class care”. She refused, however, to guarantee that the funding would mean waiting-time targets would be met.” – The Times

  • Details of the plan – Daily Mail
  • It includes “biggest ever investment in mental health” – FT
  • £700m will be saved on “office waste” – The Sun
  • But staffing crisis will get in way – Guardian
  • Meanwhile, Hancock argues against nanny state – The Sun

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Hancock on the NHS – “Money alone is not enough.”

NHS 2) Hancock: this “long-term plan” will “prevent rather than cure”

“The NHS is rightly one of this country’s proudest achievements. Over a million people rely on its services every day. Yet the numbers are rising and our ageing population presents a challenge. We’re rising to that challenge with £20.5 billion and a plan to get the most from it. Today’s NHS Long-Term Plan is focused on the idea that prevention is better than cure. It is a comprehensive set of proposals to ensure the NHS does not just meet this challenge but secures the NHS for future generations. The plan is the product of thousands of conversations with clinicians, patients and the public right across the country to focus on the priorities that matter to us all.” – The Times

May claims Universal Credit will “be fully rolled out by 2023 as was originally intended”, despite Rudd “putting on the brakes”

“The full rollout of Universal Credit will be completed by the 2023 deadline, Theresa May has insisted, despite Amber Rudd putting the brakes on the current timetable following a series of controversies. The Work and Pensions Secretary has decided to postpone a parliamentary vote that would have given her permission to transfer all 3 million people still using the old benefits system onto UC. …  Mrs May was asked on Sunday whether Ms Rudd’s decision to pause the rollout would mean a delay to the full implementation of the Tories’ flagship welfare policy. She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “Throughout the introduction of Universal Credit we’ve been clear that we would roll it out as a sort of process, learn as we were going along. “We’ve done that, we’ve made changes to Universal Credit as we’ve been going on. We’ll be saying more about the future in the coming weeks. But it will be fully rolled out by 2023 as was originally intended.” – Daily Telegraph

Rudd to stop extension of UC by canceling upcoming vote and aiming to carry out test on 10,000 claimants instead

“Amber Rudd is to shelve the extension of universal credit to all benefit claimants because she is convinced it would be a disaster. The work and pensions secretary is to cancel an imminent Commons vote on allowing all existing claimants of relevant benefits to be moved to the all-in-one payment and will instead seek approval to move just 10,000 claimants on to universal credit to test it further. Committees in both houses of parliament had raised concerns about the plan to move about three million claimants on to the combined payment and the government might have lost the Commons vote on the “managed migration” programme.” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Universal Credit. Noble aim, thorny problems – and Rudd’s decision. If the scheme is to work properly, it must be paid for.

Greening, Willetts, and Jo Johnson warn against potential tuition fees cut

“Senior Tories are warning Theresa May not to cut university tuition fees because the poorest students would be the worst hit. A review by Philip Augar, commissioned by the prime minister, is due to report imminently. The Times revealed in November that its panel could recommend cutting the maximum annual fees from £9,250 to £6,500. Three senior Conservatives, all former ministers within the Department for Education, have criticised the proposals, saying that it would benefit the wealthy and put some universities out of business. Justine Greening, the former education secretary, and Jo Johnson and Lord Willetts, both former university ministers, all warned against a headline cut, which would help richer students who were more likely to repay in full.” – The Times

  • Onward proposes new rules to prevent students studying subjects that aren’t “economically worthwhile” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Will Tanner and Guy Miscampbell in Comment: A graduate tax cut would put money back in the pockets of young people

More Conservatives

  • Truss to focus on green projects in “white elephant” justification project… – The Times
  • …including investment bank – FT
  • Webb speaks of pension rights – Daily Telegraph
  • Patten comes out for second referendum – Guardian
  • Bailey accused of misogyny – Guardian

News in Brief

  • The Brexit witching hour – David Runciman, LRB
  • Watch out for the far right – Paul Mason, New Statesman
  • What’s the future of democracy? – Eliane Glaser, TLS
  • Thoughts on Trump on Wall – Masha Gessen, New Yorker

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