The stage is set for a backstop showdown

‘At cabinet on Tuesday, Theresa May told ministers that she would have to “come back with a changed backstop”. After a week in which she had reached out to Labour MPs and union leaders, this was the first time that most ministers knew for certain that the prime minister’s priority was to win back the Eurosceptics…rather than construct a cross-party alliance to agree a compromise. Earlier that morning May and her “core team” had a meeting at which it had seemed she might allow a free vote on an amendment from Caroline Spelman, a former cabinet minister, in which MPs are expected to vote to say Britain should not leave the EU without a deal. May and her team were under pressure from a group of 20 remainer ministers who have threatened to resign unless the prime minister rules out a no-deal departure. Her chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, and her deputy, David Lidington, have urged a conciliatory approach. Instead, May decided to support a group of advisers who have warned that the Conservative Party will split unless she tries to get her deal approved. This group includes the chief whip, Julian Smith, the party chairman, Brandon Lewis, and May’s communications chief, Robbie Gibb.’ – Sunday Times

  • She could triumph if she ditches it, IDS argues – The Sun on Sunday
  • Barwell accuses Philip May of ‘scuppering’ efforts to strike a deal with Labour – Sunday Times
  • Downing Street plans to extend Commons sittings and provide childcare for MPs – Sunday Telegraph
  • Battle of the Brexit blockers – Mail on Sunday
  • Police and security experts dismiss Varadkar’s warnings – Sunday Telegraph
  • New Irish Republican party speaks of ‘unfinished revolution’ – Sunday Telegraph
  • Government accused of obstructing equalised abortion rights to keep the DUP sweet – Sunday Times

Editorial and Opinion

>Today: ToryDiary: If May wants a revised plan to pass the Commons, she must take the lead herself

Herbert: MPs trying to delay Brexit should be honest that they are really trying to stop it

‘Others appear to have changed their mind, and now want a second referendum so as to stop Brexit altogether. They should say so openly. Passing clever legislation so as to delay the date of leaving won’t rule out no-deal: it will merely postpone the problem. In fact it will make the situation worse. Delaying our departure will prolong uncertainty. It will break the promise we made. It will provoke an angry response from many voters who already believe that politicians are trying to frustrate their will. And it will lessen the pressure on the EU to make concessions. Brussels needs to know that if they move to address concerns about the backstop the deal will go through… I led the ‘Conservatives In’ campaign, but I immediately accepted the result of the referendum, believing that it should be honoured. If I can compromise, voting for a withdrawal deal I would not have chosen, so can Brexiteers, who currently risk losing Brexit altogether. And so can MPs who voted for the referendum, who claimed they would respect the result.’ – Nick Herbert, Sunday Telegraph

Ellwood: We must rule out the very possibility of No Deal

‘This clarion call to honour the strict two-year deadline and crash out of the EU by default means the timetable itself trumps the quality of the result. Conservatives choosing this course risk inflaming a dangerous battle for the soul of the Conservative Party — the outcome of which could determine our prospects in the next general election. With only 61 days to go and with “no deal” written into statute, were the current gridlock to continue, we could blunder there by accident or indecision, or simply by our own stubbornness to try to make a point. The legal mechanisms to avoid this scenario require time to implement and that deadline is fast approaching. Until then, real and costly strategic business decisions are being taken, from stockpiling to relocating assets to mainland Europe. It is simply wrong for government and business to invest any more time and money in a no-deal outcome that will make us poorer, weaker and smaller in the eyes of the world. It is time for clarity, flexibility and focus. It is now time to rule out the very possibility of no deal.’ – Tobias Ellwood, Sunday Times

>Today: Richard Kemp and Lee Rotherham on Comment: The backstop’s not the only danger in May’s deal. Its defence plans will undermine NATO.

Chambers of Commerce warns firms are planning to move jobs abroad

‘Thousands of British companies have already triggered emergency plans to cope with a no-deal Brexit, with many gearing up to move operations abroad if the UK crashes out of the EU, according to the British Chambers of Commerce. Before a crucial week in parliament, in which MPs will try to wrest control from Theresa May’s government in order to delay Brexit and avoid a no-deal outcome, the BCC said it believed companies that had already gone ahead with their plans represented the “tip of the iceberg” and that many of its 75,000 members were already spending vital funds to prepare for a disorderly exit. It said that in recent days alone, it had been told that 35 firms had activated plans to move operations out of the UK, or were stockpiling goods to combat the worst effects of Brexit. Matt Griffith, director of policy at the BCC’s west of England branch, said that many more companies had acted to protect themselves since May’s Brexit deal was decisively rejected by MPs in the Commons.’ – The Observer

McVey gains support in the ERG as a ‘true believer’

‘Tory arch-Brexiteers are backing Esther McVey as Leave’s ‘true believer’ to succeed Theresa May, it was claimed last night. The move by members of the party’s European Research Group comes amid fears that its chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg has ‘gone soft’ on a genuine exit from the EU. Ex-Work and Pensions Secretary Ms McVey has emerged as the champion of Leave-voting Tories after joining the ‘Stand up for Brexit’ campaign, which aims to sink Mrs May’s deal with Brussels. Now leading ERG member Steve Baker has signalled his backing for Ms McVey by writing on the ERG’s private WhatsApp group: ‘Please support Esther. Great job and well done #StandUp4Brexit!’ One Tory insider said: ‘We’ve taken that as a signal that when it comes to having a real Brexiteer once May’s gone, it’s got to be a true believer like Esther.’ – Mail on Sunday

Bereaved parents raise concerns about social media platforms encouraging youth suicides

‘Thirty families have accused technology giants of abetting their children’s suicides in the wake of the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell, as the health secretary told social media sites to take responsibility for their effect on young lives. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Molly’s father, Ian, criticised the online scrapbook site Pinterest, as well as Instagram, for hosting disturbing content that he believes played a part in his daughter’s death. “The more I looked [into Molly’s online accounts], the more there was that chill horror that I was getting a glimpse into something that had such profound effects on my lovely daughter,” he said. “Pinterest has a huge amount to answer for.”’ – Sunday Times

HS2 could involve wind farms being built along the route

‘An official strategy document seen by The Sunday Telegraph proposes powering the controversial rail line using lucrative onshore wind farms spanning the equivalent of 19,000 football fields. For some stretches of the line the majority of electricity would come from solar or wind farms built “on or near” the track, according to the plans. The document indicates that the move would require more land being purchased by developers along the route of the line, and could tip the scheme over its £56 billion budget. The plan is likely to spark fury among MPs and residents who already fear the line will blight landscape. The strategy sets out prices that would be pre-agreed with energy firms, at rates experts claimed would lead to passengers or taxpayers effectively paying a new “hidden subsidy” for wind farms.’ – Sunday Telegraph

Labour tries to ‘wreck’ US data-sharing treaty aimed at bringing online criminals to justice

‘Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott were last night accused of putting their ‘loony Left’ politics before the victims of paedophilia. The attack came after Labour’s Home Affairs team, led by Ms Abbott, put down a ‘wrecking amendment’ to a new child protection law, which is due to be debated by MPs on Wednesday. The Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill would pave the way for the UK to be able to directly order American tech giants such as Google and Facebook to hand over data needed to convict British paedophiles within days. But it requires a new international treaty with the United States as more than 90 per cent of online child abuse in the UK is linked to US-based software firms. Currently, UK law enforcement officials have to apply to the US Department of Justice to get data held in America, but this process can take two years – allowing paedophiles to continue their abuse. However, Labour is demanding that Britain write in special assurances to the new accord that no data we may theoretically share in return could ever be used to sentence a criminal to death. Washington has warned the Home Office that any attempt to ‘attach strings’ to the treaty would kill it dead.’ – Mail on Sunday

UK College of Policing trains hundreds of Saudi police, despite continued torture and executions

‘Hundreds of Saudi police officers were trained in Britain last year, despite claims the skills they acquire could help the regime commit torture, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose. The College of Policing, which sets the standards for UK police forces, has increased its work with a desert kingdom that faces global condemnation for alleged state-sponsored brutality. The Telegraph investigation has found 268 Saudi police officers attended British training sessions between January and October last year. The figure dwarfs the number sent by other countries at the same time and comes as the regime faces accusations it arrested and tortured children, including some who were sentenced to death, according to a human rights charity. Execution is still practised in the Gulf state, with beheading, stoning and crucifixion meted out for offences as obscure as witchcraft.’ – Sunday Telegraph

  • Johnson declares travel paid for by Saudis – Sunday Times
  • Donor fails to prevent prostitution in building he owns – Sunday Times
  • Victims of violent crime have to wait up to nine days for their 999 response – Sunday Times
  • Police investigate man for Liking a limerick about trans women still being men – Mail on Sunday
  • Muggers target boys in wealthy suburbs – Sunday Telegraph
  • Ex-BBC DJ Westwood accused of making money from promotion of violent music – Mail on Sunday

Trump ends longest-ever Government shutdown

‘Donald Trump signed a bill on Friday to reopen the government for three weeks, ending the longest shutdown in US history without any funding for his proposed border wall. The 35-day shutdown has seen 800,000 government workers being sent home or working without pay since before Christmas. Mr Trump agreed to the three-week re-opening of government departments and to leave the issue of wall funding to future negotiations. The decision came as government workers faced increasing hardship, many missing mortgage and car payments, airports suffered chaos, and the head of the FBI lambasted the shutdown. Speaking in the rose garden at the White House, Mr Trump said: “I’m proud to announce we have reached a deal to reopen the federal government.”‘ – Sunday Telegraph

>Yesterday: Book Review: Sanders is a refreshing change from the careerists who infest American as well as British politics.