Brexit 1) Grayling warns that failing to leave the EU would boost extremists

“Britain will witness a surge in neo-Nazi extremist groups if MPs block or weaken Brexit, a Cabinet minister warns today. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the 17 million who voted to leave the EU would feel ‘cheated’ by any moves to water down Theresa May’s deal or thwart our exit entirely. This would have grave implications for our democracy, he said, ending centuries of moderate politics….In a chilling intervention, Mr Grayling said blocking Brexit could end the 350 years of ‘moderate’ politics Britain has enjoyed since the bloody English Civil War. Doing so would provoke more ‘nasty’ incidents such as this week’s ‘Nazi’ taunts at pro-Remain Tory MP Anna Soubry outside Parliament, he argued. It would also play into the hands of ‘disturbing’ extremists such as ex-English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, who has been tipped to take over UKIP.” – Daily Mail



Brexit 2) Grieve calls for delay on Article 50

“Conservative rebel Dominic Grieve has urged the prime minister to delay Brexit if her EU withdrawal deal is rejected by MPs next week. Mr Grieve, who backs calls for another referendum, said she could remove the 29 March date from UK legislation and ask the EU for more time. Cabinet ministers who oppose leaving the EU without a deal had a “duty to resign” if she refused to do so. Ministers warn the UK faces Brexit “paralysis” if the deal is rejected…He said, if MPs reject the deal, the government should act immediately to strike the 29 March Brexit date from UK legislation before going to the EU to ask for an extension of the Article 50 process.” – BBC

  • Plotters seek Commons rout to kill deal for good – The Times
  • “People’s Vote” backers bide their time – The Guardian
  • Juncker plans exchange of letters “to help May” – Financial Times

Brexit 3) Tory donors predict we will never leave

“Leading Conservative donors who spent millions on the Brexit campaign say they now believe that Britain may never leave the European Union at all. Crispin Odey, a hedge fund manager who has given more than £870,000 to pro-Leave groups, revealed yesterday that he was betting on the pound to strengthen after Brexit failed. “My view is that it ain’t going to happen,” Mr Odey said. “I just can’t see how it happens with that configuration of parliament.” Another two Tory donors, who between them gave £1.7 million to support the campaign to take Britain out of the EU, said they too believed that the eventual deal would not represent a real Brexit. Jeremy Hosking, a fund manager who donated £1.69 million to the Brexit campaign, said he was worried that the country would end up with something that was “not a Brexit deal at all”, while Terence Mordaunt, who donated £50,000 to the campaign, said he feared that “we may never get out.” – The Times

  • Hunt says Parliament could stop a “no deal” outcome – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 4) Oliver warns against a second referendum

“Craig Oliver admits that he watched Channel 4’s drama Brexit: the Uncivil War through “splayed fingers”, with Rory Kinnear playing him as he fought unsuccessfully to win the referendum and keep Britain in the European Union…Although Sir Craig still believes it is a mistake for Britain to leave the EU, with a “heavy heart” he says he would not advocate a second referendum. “I do think it would be unbelievably divisive. Rerunning the Leave campaign is the easiest campaign in the world. It is ‘Tell them again’ and ‘Can you believe the establishment is so up themselves they think your views don’t matter at all’.”…Sir Craig no longer works for Mr Cameron but talks to him regularly. He insists that the former prime minister still believes having a referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe was the right thing to do.” – The Times

Brexit 5) Forsyth: The deal could be made even worse, in order to win over Labour MPs

“May’s deal is flawed. How could it not be, given the ­failure to prepare properly for No Deal, which has so weakened the UK’s negotiating position, and the loss of the Tory ­majority in Parliament which has hobbled Mrs May? But the reality is that if this deal doesn’t pass, Brexit will only be weakened. The Government doesn’t want No Deal and doesn’t think it could get it through this ­Parliament even if it did.That means it will soften the deal to try to get Commons support for it. The danger for Brexiteers is that voting against this deal could make it worse, not better.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

  • Further concessions would be insane – Leader, The Sun 
  • Parliament must offer an alternative – Leader, Financial Times

Brexit 6) Parris: May’s “half-in, half-out” arrangement just adds to the poison

“I’ve been dispirited in recent days to read colleagues in the press, and hear friends in the Commons chamber, slipping into defeatist talk just as we approach a final fence which it lies within our power to clear. Too many who should know better, who see all too clearly the absurdity of moving from being a member of the EU to being a satellite of the EU, but who have been scared by nonsense about “no-deal”, are wriggling away from the only rational response to where we are in January 2019. The response is that we must try to stop Brexit. They talk instead about finding a compromise, a way to bring our politicians and our country “together” this year, a way to “heal wounds” and end the political civil war. Heal wounds? Come together? End the civil war? This year? Substitute “this decade” and it still defies likelihood.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Brexit 7) Moore: Only the PM – whether it’s May or Corbyn – can stop us from leaving

“We keep being told that Parliament is “overwhelmingly against” a no-deal Brexit. It may be so, but we still do not know how it proposes to overwhelm it. If MPs refuse to honour the referendum result, they must agree among themselves a way that actually prevents Britain leaving. The actual proposal must be smoked out. One clear way to stop Mrs May, of course, is to defeat her in a vote of confidence in the House. But that only stops Brexit if the next Prime Minister agrees to do so. In yet another interestingly boring speech this week, Jeremy Corbyn has carefully avoided committing himself. The way the law stands, it could be Brexit with Mrs May or Brexit with Jeremy Corbyn, but it would still be Brexit.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Stewart: Scrap jail sentences of under six months

“Jail sentences under six months should be scrapped for most crimes because they are “too short to heal” offenders, says the prisons’ minister Rory Stewart. Burglars and nearly all shoplifters would be among up to 30,000 offenders a year who would be spared jail if the change is enacted. Only offenders convicted of violence or sex crimes would be excluded. In an interview with Saturday’s Daily Telegraph magazine, Mr Stewart said the Ministry of Justice was “looking very carefully” at imposing a new legal presumption on English and Welsh courts against sentences under six months – and potentially longer.” – Daily Telegraph

  • More children sent to referral units where gang leaders can target them – The Times

Crosby “faces axe” as Tory election guru

“The Conservative party is preparing to distance itself from the Australian strategist Sir Lynton Crosby, who masterminded David Cameron’s 2015 election victory but failed to repeat the trick for Theresa May. James Cleverly, the Conservative Party’s deputy chairman, said that a review of last year’s snap election had highlighted the weaknesses of bringing in outside consultants to run general election campaigns for the party. He added that the Tories were building up their own in-house campaigning team instead, to make them less reliant on external consultants which they believed would be a more effective way to win elections in the longer term.” – The Times

  • Johnson given interest free loan by Crosby – The Guardian

Wright wants restrictions on credit card gambling

“The Culture Secretary today warns bookies and banks to crack down on credit card gambling or face seeing it banned. Jeremy Wright will call in industry leaders for a dressing down next week.It comes ahead of a major Gambling Commission review next month on whether using credit cards to make online deposits deepens debt and addictions. Mr Wright said last night: “Protecting people from the risks of gambling related harm is vital and all businesses with connections to gambling – be that bookmakers, social media platforms or banks – must be socially responsible.” – The Sun

Major welcomes Universal Credit changes

“Sir John Major, one of the most vehement Conservative critics of universal credit, has backed Amber Rudd’s changes to the welfare policy but warned they don’t go far enough. Yesterday Ms Rudd, who was made work and pensions secretary in November, announced a set of reforms, saying the system was not as “effective” or “compassionate” as she wanted. Sir John told The Times: “I welcome Amber Rudd’s measured approach to reforming this benefit. Her latest changes — especially ending the retrospective penalty for families with more than two children — are very welcome. More incremental changes are still necessary and it is more important to get these right than to rush them through.” – The Times

>Yesterday: Gareth Streeter on Comment: Three facts which suggest a rise in food bank use is not just down to Universal Credit

Javid boasts of increase in stop and search

“Sajid Javid has opened up a new rift with Theresa May by suggesting her landmark policy of restricting stop and search powers was responsible for a rise in crime. In a discussion about the alarming increase in violent attacks in Britain, the Home Secretary told a private meeting of Tory MPs on Wednesday night: “Sadly, we’ve seen a drop in stop and search.” He then boasted of how its use was increasing again under his watch…Since he began to loosen rules on stop and search last year, the number of knife attacks on youngsters has dramatically reduced. Met Police chief Cressida Dick said knife attacks on under-25’s went down 31 per cent during the three months between September and the end of November, with 176 fewer stabbing victims compared to the same period last year.” – The Sun

Brokenshire challenges Legal Aid payments for fugitive

“Speedboat killer Jack Shepherd should have his legal aid cut off until he returns to face justice, a Cabinet minister said last night. James Brokenshire said it was ‘astonishing’ that fugitive Shepherd is receiving legal aid in order to lodge an appeal against a six-year sentence for killing 24-year-old Charlotte Brown. The Housing Secretary’s dramatic intervention comes a day after Theresa May told the runaway to give himself up to police and called the case ‘shocking’.” – Daily Mail

SNP “split by personality cults”

“The SNP is embroiled in a war between two personality cults that is jeopardising the party’s grip on power, its former deputy leader has warned after a senior MP appeared to back Alex Salmond’s return as leader. Jim Sillars told the Telegraph that the party was paying a “high price” for allowing Mr Salmond then Nicola Sturgeon to dominate the top of the party with little external input except from a small “fan club” of advisers. He said a cult of personality had been allowed to form around each, with the two camps now at loggerheads over Ms Sturgeon’s handling of the sexual misconduct claims against Mr Salmond.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Why is the Brexit Deal so unpopular? – Stephen Fisher and Tim Bale, What UK thinks
  • Has Speaker Bercow outstayed his welcome? – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • Universal Credit can still be a game-changing policy – Patrick Spencer, CapX
  • Brexit can only take off on world trade terms – Ian Herbert, Brexit Central
  • Tories draw up a contingency plan to fight the Euro Elections – Alex Wickham, Buzzfeed