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May and Rudd clash over No Deal vote

‘Theresa May has told ministers they will be expected to vote next week to keep open the option of a no-deal Brexit, in a move that dismayed senior cabinet figures and business leaders. The British prime minister told her cabinet that collective responsibility would apply in a crucial Commons vote next week, as she tries to head off a move by pro-Europeans  to rule out a no-deal exit on March 29. Her tough stance provoked a clash with Amber Rudd, work and pensions secretary, who wants ministers to have a free vote, while business leaders on Tuesday warned Mrs May on a conference call that a no-deal exit would be “a disaster”. The prime minister insisted she had a “duty” to deliver Brexit, but Ms Rudd argued that the whole cabinet had a duty to avoid a no-deal exit.’ – FT

  • The Chief Whip is minded to ignore warning of resignations – Daily Mail
  • Taking No Deal ‘off the table’ would leave us at the EU’s mercy – Peter Lilley, The Guardian
  • Union leaders defy Corbyn and go to Downing Street for talks – The Times
  • Labour frontbenchers say they will resign if forced to vote
  • Fishermen ponder a No Deal future – The Guardian
  • Martin Lewis becomes exasperated at Skidmore’s refusal to answer his questions – Daily Mail
  • Remainers attack Dyson for moving HQ (but only two jobs) to Singapore – Daily Mail
  • It’s six years since Cameron’s Bloomberg speech – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

The DUP would back May’s deal if she secures a time limit on the backstop

‘DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said the price of his party’s support would be changing the Withdrawal Agreement to insert a legally binding end date to the mechanism. It comes 24 hours after Poland became the first EU member state to back the idea of limiting the backstop – suggesting a five-year deadline. In a significant softening of their position until now, a string of Tory rebels also signalled they would back an amendment tabled by Tory MP Andrew Murrison last night that demands a sunset clause to the backstop. And they said a “growing consensus” of Eurosceptics were now ready to back the PM’s deal to stop “kamikaze” pro-EU MPs blocking Brexit altogether.’ – The Sun

  • There are signs that Tory rebels might be changing their minds, too – Seb Payne, FT
  • Concern over possible delays to Brexit are troubling them – The Guardian
  • But some ministers fear this is a con trick to run down the clock – The Times
  • Varadkar says Ireland will still need a side deal even if there’s no wider agreement – Daily Mail
  • The EU Commission contradicts him and says it will insist on a hard border – FT
  • Sack Olly Robbins – The Sun Says
  • The EU Army that we were told was a ‘fantasy’ is becoming real – Daily Telegraph Leader
  • Dear Germany, We love you, too, but we still want to leave the EU – The Sun
  • Panic in Davos – The Guardian
  • They can feel the creep of irrelevance – Daily Telegraph Leader

>Today: 

Labour frontbenchers warn Corbyn they will resign if whipped to vote for a second referendum

‘More than a dozen Labour frontbenchers have been to see the chief whip, Nick Brown, to issue a warning about the scale of opposition to the idea of a second Brexit referendum. The shadow housing minister, Melanie Onn, and the shadow justice minister, Gloria De Piero, both of whom represent constituencies that voted leave in 2016, were among a delegation who went to urge Brown not to whip Labour MPs to back a “people’s vote”…Onn said: “It was a meeting for frontbenchers who would find it very difficult to vote for a people’s vote if it was whipped that way. We have been supportive of the party’s policy so far to keep us as a strong and united opposition. We have not been as free in our views as some other colleagues, whose views we absolutely respect, but we didn’t want that to be seen as the only set of views that exist.”’ – The Guardian

>Today: Jonathan Clark on Comment: Representative democracy is waning, direct democracy is waxing. So its MPs themselves who will “come to heel”

>Yesterday: James Frayne’s column: The angry stereotype of Leave voters was false – but blocking Brexit risks making it true

Brummer: Britain’s economy is thriving, contrary to all the gloom about Brexit

‘Listen to the Brexit doom-mongers talking Britain down and you’d think the world’s sixth richest country was on its last legs, about to commit economic hara-kiri. While Tories squabble over the EU, the Left howls that hundreds of thousands of people are on the breadline. But claims that Britain is impoverished and dysfunctional simply ignore the facts. At Davos in Switzerland, where the global elite are gathered this week, the International Monetary Fund conceded that contrary to earlier downbeat projections, Britain’s growth rate was on course to be at least as robust as those of Germany and France..The latest output and jobs figures show employment jumped by 141,000 in the past three months and the jobless rate fell to just 4 per cent – the lowest in four decades. Contrast this with the eurozone, where it’s almost twice that, at 7.9 per cent. Even more encouraging for Britain, competition for jobs and the high number of vacancies have pushed wages up by 3.4 per cent, meaning real earnings growth, after taking inflation into account, has hit more than 1 per cent year on year. So much for Labour’s whines that wages are still stagnating.’ – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

  • Wages grow at the fastest rate in a decade – The Times
  • So we should hold our nerve – The Sun Says
  • OECD says ‘the whole world is running by WTO rules these days’ – The Sun
  • CBI forecasts the cost to GDP of No Deal to be £193 billion – Daily Mail
  • Why is it that robots are yet to destroy jobs? – FT
  • Watchdog warns accountancy firms not to subvert EU rules – FT
  • Government advisers believe fracking limits are too strict – The Times

Internal report warns that the Conservative Party is unprepared for an election

‘The Tories will lose a snap general election because they are woefully underprepared to fight one, party chiefs have concluded. Senior Conservative officials have privately warned Theresa May that she could face disaster if she calls a new nationwide poll to try to unblock the Brexit logjam. Secret party projections instead put Jeremy Corbyn in No10, at the helm of a rainbow coalition government including the SNP and the Lib Dems… The alarm-bell internal Conservative Party assessment reveals: The Tories’ data base of voters nationwide is badly out of date and now far behind Labour’s, having seen little update since 2015. The party’s grass roots membership is badly demoralised, after many months of infighting with CCHQ over money and structural reforms. The Tories currently don’t even have an opinion polling firm under contract.’ – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: A snap election and a Tory nightmare. Losing seats in London without gaining them elsewhere.

Hinds urges schools to shield teachers from excessive emails from parents

‘Schools should tell teachers to ignore their emails when they leave work to avoid being pestered by parents, the education secretary says. Damian Hinds believes the internet has ‘revolutionised’ communication between parents and teachers, but warns that at many schools it has gone too far. He is concerned too many teachers are replying to complaints or concerns late at night on top of marking and lesson preparation. Teaching unions have highlighted how teachers’ lives are being made hell by pushy parents contacting them at all hours of the day. In some cases, teachers are even being bullied on social media by parents. In a speech today at the Bett Show in London, Mr Hinds will say schools must help ease the workload by allowing parental contact only during the working day.’ – Daily Mail

  • Call for better governance of academies – FT
  • NAO warns on children’s services – Daily Telegraph

Police reveal there are 700 terrorist plots currently under investigation

‘A record 700 live investigations into terror plots are being carried out at present, Britain’s most senior counter terrorism officer said last night. Neil Basu also revealed that a total of 18 potentially deadly plots had been thwarted since March 2017 – almost one a month. Mr Basu, the head of UK counter-terrorism policing, said he was ‘incredibly concerned’ that a no-deal Brexit could weaken efforts to tackle terrorism and leave the country in ‘a very bad place’. It came as MI5 director general Andrew Parker yesterday warned Theresa May and her Cabinet that the threat was being driven by Islamic State, including lone-wolfs inspired by the terror group.’ – Daily Mail

  • Security minister announces independent study of Prevent programme – Daily Mail
  • Government accused of watering down restrictions on jihadis travelling abroad – The Sun
  • National IT breakdown hits courts – The Times
  • Vandalising war memorials is a disgrace – Leo McKinstry, Daily Mail
  • Academic calls Bomber Command heroes war criminals and equates them with terrorists – Daily Mail
  • Loathsome vandals know nothing of history – Andrew Roberts, The Sun
  • Military recruitment crisis continues – The Times
  • Javid says police will ‘strain every sinew’ to catch on-the-run speedboat killer – Daily Mail

Tech start-ups respond to call for new NHS innovation

‘A new plan from the NHS has radically ramped up the health system’s digital ambitions as it grapples with a shortage of doctors, squeezed resources and rising demand from an ageing population. In four new commitments presented in a long-term plan this month, the NHS promised to take new technologies “mainstream” by offering all Britons “digital” consultations that include video and telephone appointments. The other three commitments include plans to trial devices such as “smart inhalers” to monitor patients remotely, the “potential” use of artificial intelligence to interpret CT and MRI scans, and a project to offer children with cancer the chance to sequence their genomes. Start-ups developing technology in these four areas of medicine have attracted huge investment in recent years, and are now, perhaps unsurprisingly, targeting lucrative NHS contracts.’ – FT

MPs call for the BBC to close a transparency loophole concealing stars’ salaries

‘The BBC must abandon a technical ‘loophole’ which hides the salaries of many of its biggest stars, MPs warned last night. They called on the broadcaster to come clean over how much executives and celebrities paid through its TV production unit or independent television companies receive. At the moment, its annual ‘rich list’ of highest-paid earners only includes those it pays directly – meaning the stars of hit shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Casualty can all keep their pay deals secret. And it allows top executives working for production unit BBC Studios to escape public scrutiny over their six-figure salaries. And it allows top executives working for production unit BBC Studios to escape public scrutiny over their six-figure salaries.’ – Daily Mail

  • The committee cites ‘ongoing concerns’ among female staff about unequal pay at the Corporation – FT
  • The BBC claims it does not know how much some of its stars receive – Daily Telegraph
  • Abbott gets booed because she’s useless, not because of her race – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour Police Commissioner hired Cleveland chief without a reference – The Times
  • MP should face ethics probe after pleading clemency for her son using Commons position – The Times

Wave of violence engulfs Zimbabwe

‘Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has called for “national dialogue” and promised an investigation into widespread violence by security forces in recent days, after cutting short an overseas trip. The brutal crackdown followed protests last week against the doubling of the fuel price, which led to rioting and sporadic looting. The military and police appear to have targeted officials and supporters of mainstream opposition parties, as well as union officials and high-profile civil society activists, rather than alleged thieves. At least 12 people were killed and 78 treated for gunshot wounds, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, which recorded more than 240 incidents of assault and torture.’ – The Guardian

News in Brief

  • ‘People’s Vote’ campaign riven with in-fighting, self-promotion and factionalism – Buzzfeed
  • MPs on paternity or maternity leave will be allowed to vote by proxy – Huffington Post
  • What have think tanks got to hide? – Unherd
  • The Universal Credit A to Z – New Statesman
  • Royals go green – The Spectator

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