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Brexit 1) May ‘unites Tories’ to secure Commons victory…

“Theresa May will return to Brussels to demand concessions on the Brexit divorce deal after uniting her warring party last night to secure a Commons victory. The prime minister defeated efforts by MPs to delay Brexit and won a vote on an amendment put forward by Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, to replace the Irish backstop guarantee with “alternative arrangements”. Mrs May won the reprieve two weeks after the Commons inflicted its historic defeat on her Brexit deal. She committed herself to seeking a time limit on the backstop, achieving a unilateral exit from it or persuading the European Union that technology could remove the need for a hard border. “If this house can come together, we can deliver the decision the British people took in June 2016, restore faith in our democracy and get on with building a country that works for everyone,” she said. “As prime minister I will work with members across the house to do just that.” The options were immediately and forcefully rejected by the EU as a chorus of national leaders and the bloc’s most senior officials said that there would be no renegotiation.” – The Times

  • Parliament sets May on collision course with Brussels – FT
  • Remainer hopes for a second vote dashed – The Sun
  • Dodds says House has ‘rallied to Unionist position’ – News Letter
  • How did your MP vote on each amendment? – Daily Telegraph
  • How did each amendment fare? – The Times

Analysis:

  • What happened last night? – Oliver Wright, The Times
  • Three dilemmas for Parliament – Simon Usherwood, Times Red Box

Editorial:

>Today: ToryDiary: May wins less a victory than a reprieve. And an extension to Article 50 is still likely.

Brexit 2) …but Brussels unwilling to re-open negotiations (but is that its final position?)

Theresa May is set for a showdown with the EU after MPs instructed her to reopen negotiations on the Brexit deal. Parliament voted by 317 to 301 to send Mrs May back to Brussels and renegotiate the Northern Ireland backstop, but EU leaders immediately told her she was wasting her time. Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, bluntly told Mrs May: “The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation.” Mrs May was given a similar message in a phone call with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, while the French President Emmanuel Macron said the current agreement was “the best deal possible and not renegotiable”. MPs also voted to block a no deal Brexit, weakening Mrs May’s hand in the negotiations. More MPs – 318 – voted to block no deal than to support Mrs May’s Brexit plan B, but Mrs May told them that “opposing no deal is not enough to stop it” and they must back an alternative… There were warnings from Europe that if Mrs May does manage to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement she will open a Pandora’s Box as other countries will want to change other aspects of it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • EU open to ‘legally binding assurances’ on the backstop – The Times
  • Renegotiation ruled out (for now) – FT
  • EU insists it won’t budge – Daily Express
  • Tusk and Macron shoot down May’s plan – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • May can now return to Brussels, but that doesn’t mean they’ll give an inch – Janet Daley, Daily Telegraph
  • The reality of Brexit will soon catch up with the Prime Minister again – Rafael Behr, The Guardian

>Yesterday:

Brexit 3) Remain ministers offered second chance to block ‘no deal’

“Theresa May bought off the immediate threat of multiple resignations from her government with private promises to ministers that they could vote to stop a no-deal Brexit in a little over two weeks. The prime minister had been warned that up to 40 ministers could quit if she forced them to vote against measures designed to minimise the chance of Britain leaving the EU without an agreement. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, and David Gauke, the justice secretary, were among those appealing for a free vote. While some ministers did break cover to oppose a no-deal exit, including Tobias Ellwood, a defence minister, and Richard Harrington, a business minister, Downing Street managed to contain the insurrection. It appeared to have all but fizzled out last night after Mrs May and Julian Smith, the chief whip, promised a vote by February 14. One of those who had threatened to quit warned Mrs May that she would be unable to defer a rebellion again. Mr Ellwood, meanwhile, said that Mrs May’s support for an amendment by Sir Graham Brady was a “step forward” because it “obliges the government to leave the EU with a deal”.” – The Times

  • Pound falls after vote sparks fresh wave of no-deal fears – The Guardian
  • UK making slow progress to replace EU’s global deals – FT
  • No deal could see travel insurance axed for millions – The Sun

Health:

  • Hancock reverses NHS decision to suspend blood donation near ports – The Times
  • UK retirees in EU would lose free healthcare under ‘no deal’ – The Guardian

Comment:

  • This uncertainty is toxic, and businesses are right to be angry – Adam Marshall, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 4) Corbyn offers to meet May after Spelman amendment passes

The 17 pro-European Tory MPs who voted for the Spelman amendment included a dozen former ministers. Just three sitting Labour MPs opposed it. However the Government succeeded in defeating another amendment that would have forced it to request an extension of Article 50 in the event that Theresa May failed to strike a deal. Mr Corbyn supported the amendment, tabled by senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper, effectively making extending Article 50 in the event that a deal cannot be reached the party’s official policy. A total of 14 Labour MPs opposed the plans and a significant number abstained in a direct challenge to Mr Corbyn’s authority. Ms Cooper’s cross-party amendment would have forced the Government to request an extension of Article 50 in the event that the Prime Minister failed to reach a deal by February 26. Mr Corbyn decided to back Ms Cooper’s amendment despite warnings from Labour MPs and members of the shadow cabinet that it will alienate Leave voting Labour supporters.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour MPs defy leadership over delay to Brexit – The Times
  • May owes triumph to 14 Opposition MPs – Daily Mail
  • Furious supporters urge Corbyn to ‘get off the fence’ – Daily Express
  • Blair urges MPs to tell public they don’t know enough about politics – The Sun
  • Umunna ‘deeply disappointed’ – Twitter

Comment:

  • What I wanted to tell Corbyn in yesterday’s debate – Angela Smith, Times Red Box
  • Labour leader was ‘astoundingly bad’ – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

>Today: MPs Etc.: Which Labour MPs defied their party on key amendments – including latest abstention news

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Commons sketch: Corbyn digs himself into a hole as the Prime Minister starts to unite her party

Brexit 5) How rival Tories came together to ‘take back control’ from the Prime Minister

“Not so long ago it would have been unthinkable: Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the hard-Brexit European Research Group, sitting in a room with the arch Remainer Nicky Morgan thrashing out a plan to save the Tory party and Britain’s exit from the European Union. Despite knowing each other for more than 25 years since they met at Oxford University, the pair represent the Conservative Party’s two irreconcilable wings. Yet in “countless” meetings over eight days Mr Rees-Mogg and Mrs Morgan, with four colleagues on opposing sides of the Brexit debate, hammered out their own proposal to take back control from Theresa May. Their alternative plan, which may yet be rejected by Brussels, nevertheless acted as a shot of adrenaline into a dispirited and divided party. Mrs Morgan was joined by two fellow Remainers: the health minister Stephen Hammond and Robert Buckland, the solicitor-general. Alongside Mr Rees-Mogg was his colleague Steve Baker. They had been brought together by Kit Malthouse, a housing minister and Brexiteer who was a one-time lieutenant to Boris Johnson in City Hall. “We had all been mulling over the Christmas period the potential for the Tory party splitting and the governing party incapable of reaching agreement,” one of those involved said. “We knew we needed to do something. It started as a chat but things moved pretty quickly.”” – The Times

  • How plan was brokered despite Conservative divisions – The Guardian
  • May welcomes ‘Plan C’ – Daily Mail
  • DUP also threw weight behind alternative plan – FT
  • Malthouse was seen as an honest broker – The Times
  • Cash accuses Grieve of ‘constitutional homicide’ – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Why the ‘Malthouse Compromise’ is dead in the water – David Henig, The Guardian
  • Conservatives need to decide who they really are – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
  • May’s best night of her leadership – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
  • This crisis was made by the country, but the Tories’ incompetence could destroy them – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

>Today:

>Yesterday:

Brexit 6) Steve Baker and Nicky Morgan: Time for Leavers and Remainers to unite and deliver Brexit

“We each campaigned on different sides during the referendum and we have been playing our part in trying to ensure that we agree a Brexit deal that is in the best interests of our constituents. But we’ve decided to come together with our colleagues Jacob Rees-Mogg, Stephen Hammond and Robert Buckland – convened by Kit Malthouse – to publish a plan. It allows us to leave the EU at the end of March, end the stalemate, and restore government unity and direction. For those who voted Leave, the backstop drove a stake through the heart of their dream of an independent trade and regulatory policy for the UK. So our plan replaces it with a new backstop protocol. It would solve people’s concerns about a hard border in Northern Ireland without pre-empting negotiations on our future relationship or putting in danger our precious Union. In fact, it would incentivise us all to agree a trade deal with the EU more quickly. And for those who voted Remain, the Implementation Period is key. If we left without a deal at the end of March, there might not be one and our colleagues are not reassured that World Trade Organisation rules provide all the answers. So our plan will deliver a smooth transition with an additional year of the Implementation Period, making it last until no later than the end of December 2021.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK can flourish if we work together – Jacob Rees-Mogg and Damian Green, The Sun
  • How to keep the Conservatives united – Owen Meredith, Times Red Box
  • Respite for May comes at the price of appeasing the ultras – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • Another day of debate where nothing happened – Philip Collins, The Times
  • We’re now closer to ‘no deal’ than ever – Anand Menon, The Guardian
  • The backstop is a threat to the Belfast Agreement – Paul Bew, Daily Telegraph

Replace aid with private donations, urges Mordaunt

“Britain’s aid goal is unsustainable, the international development secretary has said in a call for her department to shift from spending to fundraising. Penny Mordaunt told the cabinet yesterday that the Department for International Development (Dfid) should do more to help fund projects in other departments, and that the government needed to make overseas development ambitions more sustainable and less reliant on the public purse. Ms Mordaunt, a longstanding critic of the aid system she has inherited, denounced the existing commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) on international development in a discussion about the spending review, according to a cabinet source. The aid budget was £13.4 billion in 2016 and £13.9 billion in 2017. The minister also told colleagues that she believed there was a need for a “national conversation” including philanthropists, financial services and the public about using more private funding and getting better investment returns for UK savers and pensioners. Her plan before the spending review this year involves a number of changes to the way aid money is used.” – The Times

  • Target is ‘unsustainable’, warns International Development Secretary – The Sun

Crouch attacks delays to new sporting sex law

“New laws to make illegal for sports coaches to have sexual relations with 16 and 17 year-olds have been delayed for over a year. The ex-Sports Minister slammed her own Government yesterday for failing to push ahead with the crackdown. Tracey Crouch promised in November 2017 to extend the Sexual Offences Act that covers teachers and carers to sports coaches in the wake of horrific revelations about abuse at top football clubs. She said the policy was “bogged down in bureaucracy” at the Ministry of Justice. The department would only say the law continued to be kept “under review”. But the NSPCC said it was “absolutely outrageous” the law had yet to come in. Ms Crouch – who resigned in November 2018 – said she would look to change the legislation herself through a backbench private members bill if the Government didn’t act. She described the law as a “no brainer”. And she said: “It is about protecting vulnerable people from an abuse of power. “Frustratingly it seems to have got bogged down in bureaucracy at the Ministry of Justice, the department that owns the legislation.”” – The Sun

Jailed Labour MP to receive £77,000 salary

“Fiona Onasanya has become the first female MP to be jailed after she lied about a speeding ticket but is refusing to quit parliament because she wants to keep her salary, a court was told. The disgraced former Labour MP, who now stands as the independent member for Peterborough, was yesterday sentenced to three months for perverting the course of justice. She will continue to receive her salary of more than £77,000 while in prison. MPs are automatically forced to step down only if they receive a jail sentence of more than 12 months. However, under laws introduced in 2015, any prison term can trigger a recall petition which can force a by-election if signed by 10 per cent of voters in a constituency. Onasanya, 35, is appealing against her conviction and the recall petition cannot start until the appeals process has been exhausted, which could take several months. It is believed she has received about £9,000 in wages since her conviction in December. Christine Agnew, QC, defending, told the Old Bailey that “she continues to stand as an independent MP and her only reason for that is because it is her only source of income”.” – The Times

Criticism as SNP politician appointed to head inquiry into Salmond investigation

“An SNP politician is poised to head up an inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched handling of complaints against former First Minister Alex Salmond. Opposition parties have hit out after the Nationalists declined to hand over the convenorship of an ad hoc Holyrood committee which will look into the issue. The taxpayer was left with a legal bill of £500,000 after Salmond successfully won a judicial review at the Court of Session into the procedures used by the Government he once led to investigate complaints made against him. A series of private meetings between Nicola Sturgeon and Mr Salmond while the probe was underway will be at the heart of the deliberations and opposition parties had suggested that the SNP should not head it up. But a meeting of the Scottish Parliament business bureau today saw the SNP hold firm on the issue… Labour Business Manager Neil Findlay had argued against the SNP chairing the committee during the meeting, but said he did not want to block the committee being established.” – The Scotsman

  • Nationalists urged to hike taxes to win Green support – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Parliamentary drama is a distraction from the real choice facing MPs – Stephen Booth, CapX
  • The Tory tribe is finally trying to get its act together – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • May’s Brexit deal has come back from the dead – Alex Massie, The Spectator
  • The truth about the ‘techlash’ – Carl Miller, UnHerd
  • Establishment’s sense of entitlement has overtaken their sense of democracy – Graham Stringer, BrexitCentral

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