Whips ‘surrender’ against non-binding Spelman-Dromey motion…

“Ministers have been warned that they will be unable to defeat a cross-party move to rule out a no-deal Brexit in the Commons next week. Senior government sources said they had all but given up trying to stop a crucial amendment to the government’s motion being passed on Tuesday. The move, which has the backing of more than 200 MPs, calls for Theresa May to rule out a no-deal Brexit. It is being proposed by the former Conservative cabinet minister Dame Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey. Whips are understood to be telling Tory opponents of a no-deal Brexit that they would rather they supported this amendment than a rival move by Labour’s Yvette Cooper that would hand parliament the power to demand an extension of Article 50. “Given where opinion is in the House no one really thinks we have a chance of defeating the Spelman amendment,” a senior government source said. “But we might be able to persuade enough of our people just to vote for that, and vote against Cooper, which is constitutionally far more significant.” The Spelman-Dromey motion, while a statement of parliament’s will, would not legally bind the government.” – The Times

  • Leadsom warns that exit day may be delayed – FT
  • Hammond won’t rule out quitting if it’s no deal – The Sun
  • Which amendments will Bercow select? – The Times
  • Plan to see off no deal hangs in the balance – The Guardian


  • May ‘close to majority’ for amended deal… but EU would need to accept it – The Sun
  • Unionists throw the Prime Minister a lifeline – Daily Express
  • Varadkar warns army presence might be needed on ‘no deal’ border – Daily Telegraph
  • Small band of DUP members always opposed Brexit – News Letter


  • Corbyn ally dents hopes of the party backing a second referendum – The Guardian
  • ‘Exodus’ from Labour as Corbyn dithers on re-run of 2016 – The Times


  • Why must the Speaker be so toe-curlingly annoying? – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • If nothing passes on Thursday, we get super-soft Brexit – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • The DUP has fewer options than it seems to think – David Shiels, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The Prime Minister could prorogue Parliament, but almost certainly won’t


…as Europhile bosses attack Fox…

“Europhile business leaders rounded on Liam Fox yesterday, saying that the international trade secretary’s credibility was “extremely low”. Sir Mike Rake, the former chairman of BT and Easyjet, argued that Eurosceptic ministers were “verging on criminal irresponsibility” by maintaining that leaving the EU without an agreement was a viable option. John Neill, boss of Unipart, which has 6,000 staff and is one of Britain’s largest manufacturers, said that Dr Fox had eroded his reputation by asserting that delaying Brexit would be worse than no deal. Dr Fox suggested that postponing or cancelling Brexit would be “calamitous” and accused MPs of seeking to “steal the result” of the 2016 vote. Mr Neill told Sky News: “Liam Fox’s credibility is extremely low. No-deal would create the risk of a cascade of failure in the supply chain and could risk the future of the UK car industry.” Sources close to Dr Fox questioned the reason for the public attacks. A friend said: “The people trying to discredit Liam need to accept that the UK voted to leave the EU in a democratic referendum and the result must be honoured.” The minister was confronted by Mr Neill at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday.” – The Times

  • Another gaffe at Grayling’s department – The Sun

…and Rees-Mogg claims Government invited Queen’s intervention

“The Queen’s intervention on Brexit would only have been made on the advice of Downing Street, a leading Brexiteer claimed yesterday. Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was inconceivable that the monarch would have been expressing her own private views on Brexit when she called for “common ground” in looking for “new answers”. However, he backed cabinet ministers and the leader of the opposition in welcoming the Queen’s intervention, which he described as sensible. “Constitutionally, the Queen can only speak on the advice of her ministers and could not have said this without the agreement of the government,” he said. “This is not the Queen’s point of view; it is Her Majesty’s Government speaking. There is not a private view of the Queen.” He added: “It is sensible for the government to encourage Her Majesty to intervene. It is perhaps a reminder to MPs to respect the constitutional norms and that nobody ever gets exactly what they want in politics. Calmness and goodwill is a better solution than endless rows.” The Queen made her comments 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.” – The Times

  • Senior royals to join call for unity – The Sun
  • Tories praise monarch’s ‘Brexit speech’ – The Guardian


  • Her Majesty was wrong to get involved – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • There is ‘common ground’, but only if Remainers accept the result – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Matriarch trying to rein in a dysfunctional family – Janice Turner, The Times


  • The monarchy ought to be silent – The Times
  • Wreckers should listen to the Queen – The Sun

Andrew Murrison: My amendment offers the best hope for a good Brexit

“Last week’s huge defeat disguises the principal underlying issue – dislike of the so-called Northern Ireland backstop within the Withdrawal Agreement. My amendment means it would expire on 31 December 2021. The date could be flexible, a  secondary matter, the important thing is the principle – the introduction of a sunset on the backstop. Remember that international treaties of this type invariably allow contracting parties to walk with reasonable notice. This one is highly unusual. Hardly surprisingly, MPs are worried about the Withdrawal Agreement since its backstop potentially indefinitely both binds the UK into the EU customs union and separates Northern Ireland in important respects from Great Britain. That’s worse than the arrangement we’re in right now which has at least, through Article 50, permitted the UK to leave. The Withdrawal Agreement as drafted would not. The Attorney General argues that the backstop is so uncomfortable for the EU that it will either not invoke it or rescind it as soon as it can. Absolutely, says the EU, and what’s more you can trust us not to use it to hold you over a barrel. But why would they not?” – Daily Telegraph

  • Brexit is about sovereignty, and Parliament must respect that – Noel Malcolm, FT
  • Fight over Brexit is now battle to save western democracy – Sherelle Jacobs, Daily Telegraph
  • Will of the people was not fixed for all time in Jun 2016 – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
  • May’s inflexibility is weakening the Union – Anand Menon, The Scotsman

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Francois says he won’t submit “to bullying by any German” – and tears up Airbus CEO’s letter on live TV

CCHQ reportedly struggling to raise funds

Major Conservative donors are refusing to give money to the party because of “disgust” at Theresa May’s leadership and her handling of Brexit, The Daily Telegraph can reveal. The businessmen – who together have given millions of pounds to the party since Mrs May became Prime Minister – do not want to fund a potential snap general election with Mrs May still in post. Several said they were planning to stay away from next month’s glittering Black and White Ball, one of the party’s biggest annual fundraising events, when access to ministers is auctioned to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds. On Tuesday MPs will vote on a series of possible measures to break the Brexit deadlock, with Tory backbenchers and the DUP coalescing around a plan to remove the Northern Ireland backstop from Mrs May’s Brexit deal and replace it with “alternative arrangements” to avoid a hard border. If that fails, a snap election would be one possible option for breaking the Brexit deadlock, but a shortage of donations would make it more difficult to defeat Jeremy Corbyn’s union-backed Labour party. One Conservative source said the party had had no donations since Christmas. Among the organisations withholding money is the Midlands Industrial Council, whose 33 members gave £5 million to the Tories ahead of the 2017 election – roughly one fifth of Mrs May’s entire war chest.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Disquiet amongst donors grows – FT


  • Curious tale of Johnson’s flight with party backer – FT

>Today: Simon Marcus in Comment: Marxist ideology. Lax courts – and May’s legacy. All have helped to create the new era of gang crime.

Labour anti-Semitism row erupts in MP spat

“Labour’s bitter anti-Semitism row exploded again after a Jewish Labour MP publicly tore into Emily Thornberry for comparing the actions of Israel to Syria and Iran. Joan Ryan, head of the Labour Friends of Israel group, accused the Shadow Foreign Secretary of “completely misreading the facts” after she sent a letter to Jeremy Hunt demanding we sanction Israel in the same way as Iran and Syria. She said it was “beyond belief” that the Labour frontbench had chosen to “cast Israel as the villain” at the same time as staying silent about the war crimes committed by Iran and Russia on behalf of Syrian President Assad. In her letter to the Foreign Secretary on Thursday Ms Thornberry said Israel’s bombing of Iranian and Syrian targets last week had made the country “ever more dangerous”… But Jewish leaders in the UK have warned that Ms Thornberry’s comments suggest Labour opposes Israel’s right to defend itself and accused her of aiding Iran’s “state-backed anti-Semitism”. Ms Ryan, who faces being deselected as a Labour MP after leading criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to stamp out anti-Semitism, branded Ms Thornberry’s comments “absurd”.” – The Sun

  • Labour leader’s support for Venezuela attacked – Daily Express

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

Ministers take NHS into DNA testing

“The NHS is to charge healthy people to map their genetic code under controversial plans to amass data on millions of Britons. Ministers are to compete in the fast-growing market for DNA testing by offering to sequence a person’s whole genome for an estimated few hundred pounds. The test promises to predict the risk of cancer, dementia and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It is offered free to seriously ill patients but the government intends to open the scheme to paying customers within a year. Each will receive a personalised health report but will have to share their genetic data with researchers in the hope that it will improve understanding of diseases. Some doctors are alarmed about the plans, which they say could overwhelm hospitals and surgeries with an influx of people worried by analyses that will not necessarily be accurate. They also questioned whether the NHS could be trusted to store sensitive data securely after previous scandals, including a doomed plan to share GP records with private companies.” – The Times

Lawyers insist legal system is ‘robust enough’ to ensure fair trial for Salmond

“Lawyers have said Scotland’s legal system will be “robust” enough to ensure Alex Salmond gets a fair trial. The former First Minister has been charged with a total of 14 offences, including two counts of attempted rape and nine of sexual assault, pledging to defend himself to the “utmost” and stating that he is “innocent of any criminality”. No date has been set for the next hearing, but it is expected that a jury trial will take place later this year. Concerns have been raised that Mr Salmond’s high-profile political career, including leading the SNP during the 2014 independence referendum, will make it more difficult to find jurors without prior bias. While some countries, including the United States, use the system of voir dire – allowing lawyers and the judge to question individual jurors ahead of a trial – Scotland does not. Niall McCluskey QC said the question posed of jurors before trials about their ability to sit impartially might have to be explored “more rigorously” in Salmond’s case. But he said there was no reason why the composition of the jury or the amount of pre-trial media coverage would undermine a fair trial.” – The Scotsman

  • Reversal of fortune for Scotland’s independence champion – FT
  • Case sparks outbreak of contempt – John McLellan, The Scotsman

‘Fast track’ tax hotline for MPs and civil servants criticised

“MPs and senior civil servants have a private “fast track” hotline to the taxman which avoids the long delays faced by the public. An office in Wales staffs four special phone lines to assist politicians and other “VIPs” with their tax queries. The calls were picked up immediately when tested. It is understood members of the royal family also have access to the line, which is available during working hours Monday to Friday. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said the staff answering these calls require special security clearance, which is why they are separated out from the public helpline. However, the taxman faces heavy criticism for offering a special service for VIPs while ordinary taxpayers can spend up to 30 minutes listening to recorded messages and answering computerised questions while waiting to speak to an HMRC official. James Daley, founder of the consumer campaign group Fairer Finance, said: “There is something fundamentally wrong for having such a fast track system in a public body. It would not be acceptable if an NHS hospital had a separate door for the most important people in the community. Most people would understandably be pretty appalled MPs are fast tracked while the rest of us have to wait for 30 minute to get on a call.”” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • The surprising truth about how voters see public spending – Matt Singh, CapX
  • Norway-ish Common Market 2.0 Brexit scheme is a waste of time – Ben Kelly, Reaction
  • Macron’s fight with Europe’s populists is backfiring – John Keiger, The Spectator
  • Time for courage and a greater sense of the national interest from our leaders – Austin Mitchell, Brexit Central
  • The thought police are here – Libby T, Harry’s Place