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May’s chicken game with MPs. As the Commons returns, who will squawk first?

1) Her deal. Will she seek a future vote? A written assurance?

“Officials are reportedly drawing up a possible Commons amendment to the Brexit vote which would give Parliament the right to serve notice to the EU of an intention to quit the backstop after one year if Brussels fails to agree a trade deal with the UK that would resolve the issue. Meanwhile, Mrs May is also seeking a written guarantee from the EU that a trade deal can be agreed within 12 months of the transition period ending. But former Brexit minister Steve Baker rejected the proposals, saying they were a “tedious and desperate attempt to rescue an salvageable deal”.” – Sun on Sunday

2) Will she gamble on Blairite and Brownite Labour MPs eventually abstaining?

“This newspaper understands that senior Tory figures were in contact with Labour MPs over the Christmas period, with begging calls even being made late on Christmas Eve in some cases. Concessions on ‘workers’ rights’ are believed to have been offered in an attempt to garner Labour backing…Tory whips are plotting a backbench amendment to the vote – pencilled in for January 15 or 16 – which would order yet more talks between Mrs May and the EU. That would further delay the main vote on Mrs May’s deal.” – Mail on Sunday

3) The “Alan Partridge strategy”. Will Barwell and Gibb hold secret trysts with friendly MPs in budget hotels?

“With that in mind they are meeting up to 60 Midlands MPs on Tuesday, including the Tory Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey, who have urged the government to rule out a no-deal Brexit amid concerns about the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull.In what one insider has dubbed “the Alan Partridge strategy”, the prime minister’s team is considering holding meetings outside Westminster to build trust — in motorway hideaway hotels like the one where the fictional radio presenter once lived. “There are a lot of motels and [budget hotels] where you could meet anonymously,” a source said.” – Sunday Times

4) Will the Commission concede? Will Varadkar fold?…

“The Sunday Times has learnt that Ireland’s ambassador had approached a senior cabinet minister before Christmas and said the EU would offer a “prize” on the backstop if it was convinced that May would actually win the vote. Irish political grandees are now said to be telling Varadkar that his approach risks causing economic disaster because most of Ireland’s trade goes through the UK. “The message is, ‘Well done, you’ve driven a hard bargain but you need to be careful because if this goes wrong it will be a disaster for Ireland,’” a British source revealed.” – Sunday Times

5) …Or will she simply take the path of least resistance and postpone the vote?

“Theresa May is poised to play for time by further postponing a final vote on her Brexit deal next week. The Prime Minister’s aides are believed to be drawing up a plan to make MPs’ approval of the deal conditional on the European Union providing further concessions. The move is intended to help limit the scale of opposition to the vote, while buying time amid ongoing negotiations with European Union leaders.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • No Deal 1) Cooper, Cable Finance Bill bids to block Treasury spending on it – Sunday Times
  • No Deal 2) Turning Manston Airport into a giant lorry park – Mail on Sunday
  • No Deal 3): British security officials “will be ejected from Europol” – Sunday Times
  • No Deal 4) Epilepsy patients exempted from plans – Sunday Times
  • No Deal 5) Where are the detailed plans? – Jeremy Warner, Sunday Telegraph
  • No Deal 6) “While we’re scurrying from corner shop to corner shop for one last Mars bar, flaming chunks of satellites will fall on our heads and kill us. That’s according to the EU’s Space Surveillance and Tracking Programme, as reported in George Osborne’s Evening Standard. Isolated Britain will have no protection against falling space debris” – Rod Liddle, Sunday Times
  • Eustice is up for a Norway-type solution – Sunday Telegraph
  • Brits in Italy given full residency rights – Sunday Express
  • Barclay: A second referendum would worsen political division – Sunday Express
  • Brexit drama author James Graham doesn’t want a second EU referendum that’s like the 2016 EU referendum – Mail on Sunday
  • Carswell: Cummings for PM – Sunday Telegraph
  • Who is Carswell? – Sun on Sunday
  • New Party prepares to Break Mould, Episode 94 – Sunday Times
  • What happens next? – Sunday Times

Theresa May: My deal is best for Britain and will help boost the NHS

“MPs must ask themselves three things. Does the deal I have negotiated deliver on the result of the EU referendum by taking us out of the EU and restoring sovereign control over our borders, laws and money? Does it protect the jobs our constituents rely on to put food on the table for their families and the security co-operation that keeps each one of us safe? Does it provide the certainty that citizens and businesses have every right to expect from those who govern and represent them? I believe my deal does all of those things.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Mentally ill people to be helped to find and keep jobs under May’s £20 billion NHS package to be announced tomorrow – The Sun on Sunday
  • Mothers and fathers to be offered mental health support – Sunday Telegraph
  • Who’s afraid of the Big Bad No Deal? 1) – Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sunday Express
  • Who’s afraid of the Big Bad No Deal 2) Iain Duncan Smith, Mail on Sunday
  • Yes, we need a second referendum – Peter Mandelson, Sunday Times
  • No, we don’t need a second referendum – Shailesh Vara, Sunday Times
  • The Leave movement is broken in two – John Rentoul, The Independent
  • When Thatcher slapped Christopher Hitchens’ bottom with a rolled-up Order Paper – Nick Cohen, Observer
  • May is running down the clock – Norman Lamont, Sun on Sunday
  • This deal is monstrous – Bill Cash, Sunday Telegraph
  • “As things stand, Mrs May’s chances of securing a Commons vote in favour of her agreement are less than the proverbial snowball’s in hell.” – Sunday Times Editorial

Meanwhile, Corbyn runs the clock down too. And the Observer has its weekly pro-Second Referendum push.

“A Labour spokesperson said: “As unanimously agreed at conference, if Theresa May’s botched Brexit deal is voted down in parliament then a general election should be called. In line with the policy agreed at conference, if the Conservatives block a general election then we will keep all options on the table, including the option of campaigning for a public vote.” There is huge pressure on Jeremy Corbyn and the PM as MPs prepare to return after the Christmas break, with the crucial vote on May’s deal scheduled for a week on Tuesday.” – Observer

  • Yes, Corbyn will lose if doesn’t back a second referendum – Peter Kellner, Observer
  • No, Corbyn will lose if he backs a second referendum – Stephen Bush, Sunday Times
  • Labour Chair Lavery opposes a second referendum – Sunday Telegraph
  • Jenrick claims that McDonnell ’wants to put up levies on flying and increase rates on alcohol in the departure lounge’ – Mail on Sunday

> Today: Richard Ritchie on Comment: Brexit. Four great Commons debates that show how we got here – and what’s at stake.

Rudd to pause Universal Credit rollout and overhaul the scheme

“Amber Rudd, work and pensions secretary, is to scrap plans for an imminent parliamentary vote allowing 3 million existing welfare claimants to be transferred to the controversial universal credit system. The move is expected to be part of a major rethink designed to quell concerns about the programme’s roll-out and avoid a damaging Tory rebellion. Rudd will now seek approval from MPs only for a pilot scheme that transfers just 10,000 people from the old to the new system – a system that has been blamed for pushing some to the brink of destitution. Only after the pilot has been assessed will MPs be asked to approve the full roll-out.” – Observer

Truss latest: she hints at HS2 review

“Liz Truss, who is leading a major review of Government spending this year, says she will examine “all major investment projects” funded by Whitehall to judge their contribution to prosperity. The announcement is likely to be welcomed by Tory MPs opposed to controversial projects such as the £56 billion HS2 rail line. In an article hailing The Telegraph’s “bold” campaign for a greater defence of free markets, Ms Truss, seen as a possible contender for the Tory leadership, says Brexit should be used as an opportunity to give voters more control over their lives.” – Sunday Telegraph

Next Tory Leader shocker: YouGov Poll suggests Party members are even more Brexit-focused than does ConHome’s survey. Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Davis top the list.

“It has also emerged that Tory party members are favouring leading Brexiters as their preferred candidates to replace May. Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davis are top of the party’s grassroots list. The next leader is likely to take the lead role in negotiating Britain’s long-term trading relationship with the EU…The cluster of Brexiters at the top of members’ wishlist is the latest sign of pressure May faces from the right. After May pledged not to fight the next election as leader, Tory members were asked to name their preferred successor by the Party Members Project, run by Queen Mary University, London, and Sussex University.” – Observer

> Today: ToryDiary – Testing our survey against the latest polling of Party members. New evidence on Next Tory Leader.

Javid wants to toughen asylum rules

“The Home Secretary has asked officials to examine how existing rules could be toughened to turn away individuals who failed to claim asylum in the first safe country they entered after leaving their home states. The move, which is expected to be announced this week, is likely to be welcomed by Conservative MPs who praised comments by Mr Javid last week in which he questioned whether scores of migrants crossing the English Channel were “genuine” asylum seekers. But it is likely to further anger the Home Secretary’s critics, including the Labour front bench, who claimed his comments suggested he wanted to send away genuine refugees.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Javid: well-placed in the ConHome survey, under fire from fellow Ministers – Adam Boulton, Sunday Times
  • Number Ten hates the Home Secretary – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday
  • Ridiculous Tory leadership class war story: The Comprehensive-educated Saj v The Etonian Johnson v the Carthusian Hunt v The Dominic Grammar-schooled Raab V Andrea Tonbridge Girls School Leadsom v…[we just can’t bear to quote any more] – Mail on Sunday
  • Javid v Williamson v Hunt v selfish May who undermines them all – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph
  • Who is Javid? – Sun on Sunday
  • The difference between legal and illegal migration matters – Dia Chakravarty, Sunday Telegraph

Hancock nanny state halfway house

“Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has ordered an end to “nanny state” nagging of the entire population because the messages do not work and irritate people who live healthy lifestyles. Public Health England will instead be told to target those who are obese, smokers and people who drink to excess. In an interview with The Sunday Times he revealed he had ordered the Whitehall behavioural insights team — known as the “nudge unit” — to advise on ways of persuading people to live more healthily.” – Sunday Times

Other Ministers and news:

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – May must ensure that increases in NHS spending are tied to outcomes

“The Speaker is on his last warning”

“They will debate changes recommended in a report by ex-judge Dame Laura Cox. Some MPs are ready to back calls for parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Stone to probe complaints dating back over seven years — without the standards committee’s approval. This could mean an investigation into Mr Bercow if a complaint is made. A source said: “The Speaker is on his last warning. One false move and we’ll have him.” Mr Bercow has denied bullying allegations.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Norman Scott says that Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and May together with 18 Home Secretaries and eight Metropolitan Police Commissioners have all helped to cover up the truth behind his attempted murder – Sun on Sunday

And finally…Official estimate says People’s Vote march was attended by 250,000 people, not 700,000 as the organisation claimed

“The People’s Vote website states: “On October 20th, over 700,000 people marched from Park Lane to Parliament, demanding their future back.” But following a request under the Freedom of Information Act, Scotland Yard has now told The Sunday Telegraph: “The Greater London Authority (GLA) has included an estimated attendance figure of 250,000 in a debrief document.” It added: “Please note this is not a Metropolitan Police Service estimate as we have not recorded an estimated attendance figure for the march.” – Sunday Telegraph

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