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May urged to delay Brexit vote as efforts to win round rebels ‘fail’…

Theresa May has been urged to delay the “meaningful vote” on her Brexit deal for a second time after Government whips failed over Christmas to persuade enough MPs to back it. David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, says time is Mrs May’s “friend” as Brexit day looms, because “the more we prepare to leave the EU without a deal, the more likely a good deal becomes”. Writing in The Telegraph, he insists a deal will be reached “at the eleventh hour” because the EU is worried about losing the £39bn “divorce payment” that would come with a Brexit deal. The vote, which was delayed at the last minute in December, is currently scheduled for the week beginning January 14. Mrs May will begin a charm offensive next week by inviting every Tory MP to Downing Street for drinks parties that will take place on Monday and Wednesday, in the hope that she can win over those who doubt her Brexit deal. Whips have been hard at work over the Christmas break contacting Tory rebels individually to discuss their specific concerns about the deal, but senior Brexiteers said nothing had changed since Parliament went into recess last month.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Downing Street cools talk of backstop breakthrough – The Times
  • Prime Minister’s ‘begging calls’ – The Sun
  • May to press EU leaders for concessions – FT
  • Brussels warned UK it could ‘go it alone’ – Daily Express

More:

  • No government would willingly choose ‘no deal’, says Hunt – Daily Telegraph
  • Foreign Secretary warns against ‘devastating’ second referendum – FT
  • Clarke hits out at ‘hardcore Remainers’ causing chaos – The Sun
  • Corbyn defies calls for a second referendum – The Guardian
  • Ireland opens new embassies as it braces for ‘trade war’ – Daily Express
  • Factories boosted as stockpiling surges – FT

…as Hunt’s Singapore visit risks ‘souring Brexit trade talks’

Jeremy Hunt’s visit to Singapore risks infuriating Brussels and stiffening the EU’s resolve to demand strict safeguards to prevent Britain slashing taxes and red tape after Brexit. The foreign secretary said that low-tax Singapore’s transformation into the world’s eighth richest country was a good example for Brexit Britain before arriving in the country on Wednesday. Leading Brexiteers have touted Singapore’s low regulation policies as a model for the UK but Brussels is keenly aware of the risk of the UK undercutting EU standards and poaching investment from the bloc. As a result, Theresa May’s Brexit deal contains a string of “level playing field” guarantees in areas such as tax, environmental and social standards. Multiple EU sources told the Telegraph that the bloc would demand further safeguards as the price for agreeing a trade deal with Britain and that Mr Hunt’s comments would make the negotiations tougher. UK-EU trade negotiations will start, if the Brexit deal is ultimately struck, after the deadline of 29 March 2019. Sir Jonathan Faull was the most senior British EU civil servant in the European Commission until he retired after a long and distinguished career during which he was responsible for EU financial services regulation and competition policy. He said that access to the EU market would be conditional on fair competition.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Foreign Secretary’s Singapore praise needles Labour – The Times

More:

  • Britain would prosper if we could mimic Singapore’s dynamism – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Philip Booth in Comment: It’s time to remember that there’s more to politics than Brexit

David Davis: The better our preparations for no deal, the more likely we are to get a good one

“So this is the moment to be hard-nosed about these issues. The more we prepare to leave the EU without a deal, the more likely a good deal becomes. But getting there means ignoring the distractions, such as the briefings that Continuity Remain elements will seek to extend Article 50 or force a second referendum. It is not going to happen without a General Election. Instead, Tory MPs must remain committed to delivering the referendum result, as repeated in our manifesto, which pledged to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market and which said that no deal is better than a bad deal. To do otherwise would frankly throw our democracy’s credibility into chaos. And let’s be clear: the Withdrawal Agreement does not respect the referendum result. That is why the meaningful vote had to be delayed and one wonders if even the January vote will go ahead. Attempts to frighten MPs into supporting it are unlikely to work, because voting down this substandard deal will not result in no Brexit. How could it? There is no mechanism for that to happen. The UK will leave the EU on 29 March. That is nailed down in primary legislation and international treaty commitments. There is no wriggle room.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Back May’s deal, or put Corbyn in Downing Street – Rod Liddle, The Sun
  • Labour’s ambiguous Brexit stance is now untenable – John McTernan, FT
  • May has run down the Brexit clock and must be stopped – Chi Onwurah, The Guardian

More:

  • The Euro has failed and should be abolished – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph
  • Single currency destined to doom Europe to further disaster – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Alex King in Comment: The Remainers’ notion that Brexit is founded on dreams of empire is a tired fantasy

Cabinet ministers plot super-‘Ministry of Infrastructure’

“Cabinet ministers are drawing up plans for a new jumbo Ministry of Infrastructure as part of a major Whitehall shake up. Under the proposal, three different departments – Business and Energy, Culture Media and Sport and Transport – will all be merged to create one new super ministry. A second merger being looked at would also see Department for International Development subsumed back into the Foreign Office. Reducing the overall number of Whitehall ministries by three will slash backroom costs to save hundreds of millions as well as streamline their work to make them more effective, the ministers argue. The project is being championed by Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss, who is in talks about it with Theresa May’s de facto deputy, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington. It would be implemented at the time of the Government-wide Spending Review in the autumn, to set ministries’ budgets for the next four years. But the plan has not been approved by the PM, who opposes any substantial Whitehall reorganisation as gimmicky and disruptive. One Cabinet minister who backs the move told The Sun: “We need to be really bold to solve the nation’s longterm productivity problem, which means turbo charging everything we’re doing on connectivity. Money also needs to be found to pay for an uplift in defence and the police, and that can only come from other departments.”” – The Sun

  • Departments for overseas development and Brexit could be merged with the Foreign Office – Daily Mail

Javid deploys Navy to counter Channel migrant surge

“The Royal Navy has been sent to help counter the surge of migrants crossing the Channel after Sajid Javid made a formal request for military assistance. HMS Mersey, an offshore patrol vessel, is ready to begin work as soon as today with other assets, including aerial surveillance, set to follow. Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, dispatched the vessel within hours of receiving a letter from Mr Javid, the home secretary. However, the Whitehall departments are squabbling over who should pay for the deployment. The River-class vessel, launched in 2003, has two rigid inflatable boats and a radar system to help it to spot small craft that may be carrying asylum seekers across the Channel. A 33-year-old Iranian and a 24-year-old British man were arrested in Manchester yesterday on suspicion of arranging the illegal movement of migrants across the Channel. The National Crime Agency said that it could not give further details while its investigation was in progress. Mr Javid faced a backlash yesterday for “normalising anti-refugee rhetoric” after he suggested that people making the journey to Britain in this way were not “genuine” asylum seekers. During a visit to Dover to meet Border Force staff, he said: “A question has to be asked: if you are a genuine asylum seeker, why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country you arrived in?”” – The Times

  • RAF take to the skies to provide aerial surveillance – Daily Mail

More immigration:

  • MPs warn that gardeners may be in short supply after Brexit – Daily Telegraph
  • Rival ministers accuse Javid of letting power go to his head – The Sun

More defence:

  • Nuclear submarines threaten to ‘sink’ UK defence budget – FT

Comment:

  • Gunboat diplomacy won’t solve immigration – David Aaronovitch, The Times
  • Javid’s bluster has an ugly Australian precedent – Russell Cunningham, The Guardian
  • If the Tories fail to challenge the liberal consensus, voters will punish them – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Javid is right about illegal immigration across the Channel – and his critics help to underline his point

Hunt vows to ‘get to the bottom’ of Foreign Office’s treatment of forced marriage victims

“Jeremy Hunt said he wants to “get to the bottom” of revelations the Foreign Office has made women sent abroad for forced marriage pay for their own rescue. The Foreign Secretary said Britain should always act with “compassion and humanity” after MPs attacked the policy of recouping the cost of helping British citizens return home. Victims have had to pay hundreds of pounds for plane tickets, basic food and shelter or, if they are over 18, take out emergency loans with the department, an investigation by The Times has shown. Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the foreign affairs select committee, said he is “deeply concerned” by the revelations and called on Mr Hunt to publish the data on the number of women charged in the last five years. The Foreign Office, which jointly runs a Forced Marriage Unit with the Home Office, said it has an obligation to recover money spent on repatriating victims when public money is involved. However, women’s rights campaigners accused the government from profiteering from the protection of victims. The Foreign Office helped 27 victims of forced marriage return to the UK in 2017 and 55 in 2016, according to figures acquired by The Times under freedom of information laws.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Police failed women sent to Somalia – The Times

Comment:

  • The Government is treating victims like drunk holidaymakers – Jess Phillips, Daily Telegraph
  • Charging victims to bring them home is all the more shocking – Nazir Afzal, Times Red Box

Grayling defends contract with ‘start-up’ ferry firm…

“Chris Grayling was mocked yesterday after he defended handing a £14 million ferry contract to a company without any ships as an example of the government backing “new business”. The department for transport struck an agreement with Seaborne Freight, despite it never having run a Channel service. It was one of three companies awarded contracts totalling £108 million last week to supply additional crossings to ease pressure on Dover when Britain pulls out of the European Union. Mr Grayling, the transport secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Todayprogramme that Seaborne had been properly vetted by a team of civil servants before being chosen, after concerns were raised over its ability to fulfil the contract. “It’s a new start-up business, government is supporting new business and there is nothing wrong with that,” he said. “We have looked very carefully at this business and have put in place a tight contract that makes sure they can deliver for us.” Seaborne is aiming to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate in Kent to the Belgian port of Ostend, beginning with two ships in late March and increasing to four by the end of the summer.” – The Times

  • Government to dredge historic Ramsgate harbour so it can be ‘second Dover’ – The Sun

…and blames ‘greedy unions’ for rail fare rise

“The transport secretary sought to blame rail unions’ pay demands for the scale of fare rises introduced yesterday to widespread passenger anger. Chris Grayling’s comments were made as an average 3.1 per cent rise in fares was implemented, despite criticism over delays and the chaotic implementation of new timetables. Passenger groups had called for the fares rise to be scrapped in light of the recent chaos on the network. However, Mr Grayling said greedy rail unions were largely to blame for the rise by refusing to lower wage demands. Regulated fare rises, set by the government, are pegged to July’s retail prices index (RPI) rate. This year rises were in line with RPI for the sixth year in a row. Mr Grayling insisted the government wanted to set fares at the lower consumer prices index (CPI) rate of inflation but were blocked because workers’ pay, a big outlay for train companies, was set using the higher rate. Rail unions including the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and Aslef, the drivers’ union, attacked Mr Grayling’s suggestion to peg pay to CPI. According to Aslef, drivers earn a basic salary of £65,520 on Virgin Trains, £63,112 on CrossCountry, £62,306 on LNER and will be paid £59,231 on the Crossrail line through London.” – The Times

  • Labour activists accused of hypocrisy over fare hike – Daily Mail
  • Overcrowded train services operating near double capacity – Daily Telegraph
  • Millenials left waiting for digital platform for travelcard – The Times

Editorial:

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Let’s turn Railways Day into Scrap HS2 Day

Miller calls for better access to medical care for trans people

“Transgender people do not have sufficient access to basic healthcare, a senior Tory MP has said, accusing the government of  “mishandling” its approach to trans issues. Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities select committee, said ministers should focus more on improving service provision, not just reforming the legal recognition system. The former Cabinet minister said the government has failed to fully implement the recommendations made by her committee on transgender equality three years ago. The MPs’ report said the NHS is “letting down” trans people and too often has a “discriminatory approach”. They described “serious deficiencies in the quality and capacity of NHS Gender Identity Services” and said waiting times for surgery were “completely unacceptable”. In an interview with the Press Association, Mrs Miller said: “Many trans people simply don’t have access to the basic healthcare that the rest of us take for granted – things like cervical smears are often things that trans men are not able to access.” The government’s announcement of the Gender Recognition Act, which was only one of 33 recommendations made by MPs, has “eclipsed” efforts to provide healthcare to trans people.” – Daily Telegraph

MPs demand fuel ‘kitemark’ to advertise fair pricing

Petrol stations which offer motorists “fair” prices at the pumps could display a Kitemark-style symbol on their forecourts as part of a push to set up a new fuel watchdog. MPs want the Government to establish an independent body to monitor prices at the pumps to ensure motorists do not get ripped off when they fill up. The new body, provisionally called “PumpWatch”, would be tasked with coming up with a transparent formula for the setting of fuel prices which would link the wholesale price to that paid at the pump. Retailers would be faced with the option of complying with the recommended fuel prices or risk motorists boycotting their stations. Those that comply could display a symbol, like the Kitemark of quality used in other industries, so that motorists could be “safe in the knowledge they are being treated fairly”. It comes amid growing concerns that pump prices do not fall swiftly enough when the cost of oil drops while motorists have no idea how prices are actually calculated. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Fair Fuel for UK Motorists and UK Hauliers, is behind the call for the introduction of an independent pump price monitoring body. The APPG is supporting an online petition created by the FairFuelUK campaign group which demands an end to “excessive” fuel prices and the creation of “PumpWatch”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Higher than necessary pricing leads to £600 million in extra profits – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • Londoners deserve better than Sadiq Khan’s empty gestures – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • Why liberal-Left paternalism led to Brexit – James Bloodworth, UnHerd
  • A populist surge in the 2019 elections could change the face of the EU forever – Fredrik Erixon, The Spectator
  • Delivering Brexit gives MPs a once-in-a-generation chance to reconnect with voters – Rebecca Ryan, Brexit Central

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