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Tory rebels against ‘no deal’ inflict Government defeat on finance bill…

“Senior Conservatives vowed last night to fight a guerrilla campaign to stop a “disastrous” no-deal Brexit after inflicting the first Commons defeat on a government finance bill in more than 40 years. Twenty Tory MPs, including seven former cabinet ministers, broke a three-line whip to restrict the Treasury’s powers to prepare for leaving the European Union without a deal in March. The rebels, who included the former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon and the former Cabinet Office minister Sir Oliver Letwin, warned that they would continue to sabotage all no-deal Brexit legislation until Theresa May ruled out the option. “I want to make it abundantly clear that a majority in this house will not allow a no-deal exit to occur at the end of March,” Sir Oliver told MPs. Significantly, the Tory rebellion brought together the supporters of a second referendum and former Remainers who now back Mrs May’s deal or a Norway-style soft Brexit. They said that they would amend all government Brexit legislation until March to try to make a no-deal departure from the EU impossible. “I will vote on any motion, on any amendment, on any piece of legislation, proposed by whomsoever in this house, to ensure that we leave the EU on 29 March with a deal or not at all,” the former minister Nick Boles said.” – The Times

  • What does this amendment mean for Brexit? – Daily Telegraph
  • Cross-party alliance tells May it will block no-deal – The Guardian
  • Remainers plot to force Government to ‘fast track’ a Plan B – Daily Express
  • Cabinet faces up to prospect of defeat on key vote – FT

More:

  • Perfect Brexit ‘not available’, warns Gove in Cabinet – The Times
  • Exodus of Downing Street advisers predicted post-Brexit – Daily Express
  • Murrison challenges warning about upsurge in Ulster smuggling – News Letter
  • Corbyn reiterates his commitment to delivering Brexit – The Sun
  • Trump administration demotes EU ambassador’s status – Daily Telegraph
  • Macron threatens to block UK TV industry from trade deal – The Sun
  • Sinn Fein leader says Stormont veto on trade rules ‘unacceptable’ – News Letter

>Today: ToryDiary: Our guide to how the Government can deliver its Brexit deal in Parliament. Or No Deal. And whether MPs can block the latter.

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: The 20 Conservative MPs who voted for Cooper’s anti-No Deal Finance Bill amendment

…as London and Brussels deny claims that extending Article 50 is under discussion

“Claims that UK officials had secret talks to try to extend the Brexit deadline were denied in Brussels and London yesterday. Theresa May also moved to reassure her cabinet that she remained opposed to any extension of Article 50 beyond March 29. Margot James, a junior business minister, alarmed Brexiteers by publicly announcing what some government figures have said — that the exit date may have to be delayed. A business intelligence consultancy report that UK and EU officials were already informally discussing a “technical extension” prompted further alarm. Denying that there had been talks on the issue, Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, said that an extension would need to be agreed by all the other 27 countries in the EU. Nathalie Loiseau, the French European affairs minister, also rejected the claim that British officials had raised the possibility of a delay… In fact the EU has had internal discussions over what circumstances it would allow Britain to postpone the exit date set down by Article 50. A short “technical extension” to allow parliament to complete the legislative process of departure could last as long as the end of June, some Brussels officials admitted.” – The Times

  • May wrestles with the prospect of delayed departure – FT
  • Germany tells MPs to be ‘responsible’ and back the deal – Daily Telegraph
  • Irish Government says time for ‘wishful thinking’ is over – The Scotsman

Transport:

  • Ferry company and Ramsgate service won’t be ready until April – FT
  • Hampshire motorway ‘may become lorry park’ – The Guardian

Analysis:

  • Why an extension of Article 50 now looks inevitable – Peter Foster, Daily Telegraph

>Today: MPs Etc.: “We have never said this.” Selmayr tweets a response to Hand’s ConHome article about him and Weyand.

>Yesterday:

Daniel Finkelstein: These tactics will not prevent no deal, just make it worse

“The Tory Nicky Morgan and Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn joined forces yesterday to make it harder for the government to let Britain leave the EU without a deal. Their motion was backed by a majority of MPs in the Commons. But it still has three fairly obvious shortcomings. First, the government isn’t in favour of leaving the EU without a deal. It agrees there shouldn’t be “no deal”. It has a deal. It is in favour of passing its deal. Second, the government doesn’t need to be reminded about the damaging consequences of leaving without a deal. It knows what they are. Making it harder to prepare doesn’t make the government keener to avoid no deal, because it’s keen already. The third point is the most important one. Among those who argue that no deal must be avoided there appears little agreement on what the alternative might be. The main sponsors of yesterday’s footling motion in the Commons are admirably open-minded but appear to have no idea how to win the majority of MPs around to their open-mindedness. I suppose these anti-no-dealers think they are warning Theresa May that if her deal is defeated next week she has to come up with something else. But this advice is only sensible if there is an obvious alternative that stands a better chance of passing the Commons. Come on, really, what is that?” – The Times

  • Far from stopping a no-deal exit, Remainers are whipping up more chaos – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph
  • It’s time for May to pull the emergency brake and extend article 50 – Jonathan Powell, The Guardian
  • A frenzy at the heart of the Government – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
  • Norway-style Brexit would allow the UK to shape rules on finance – Nicky Morgan, FT
  • No-deal Brexit is best for Britain – Sir Rocco Forte, The Sun
  • What MPs really think will happen after a no-deal Brexit – Alan Wager, Times Red Box
  • It’s Germany, not Britain, most likely to suffer a recession – Larry Elliott, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • Remainers’ wrecking clauses could make everything worse – The Sun

>Yesterday: Henry Newman’s column: An end to free movement and forced payments to Brussels. Is the backstop really so bad?

Police urged to intervene to prevent MPs being abused outside Parliament

The police are being urged to intervene to stop MPs being abused as John Bercow writes to the Met Commissioner demanding officers do more to tackle thuggish protesters. The Commons Speaker has written to Cressida Dick claiming politicians are being subjected to “toxic attacks” and “aggressive, threatening and intimidating behaviour” from a hardcore of demonstrators in Parliament Square. The letter comes as the Metropolitan Police announced it will boost operations around the Palace of Westminster in the run up to next week’s Brexit deal vote. Police have been criticised for appearing to fail to challenge those demonstrators who may have strayed from exercising their freedom of speech to committing offences of harassment. The force was assessing whether any crime was committed by those who hurled abuse at Anna Soubry, the Conservative MP who wants the UK to remain in the EU, who was called a “Nazi” and “traitor” and pursued to the Commons entrance. No one has been arrested in connection with the incident. But officers have now been told to intervene if someone is being prevented from going about their normal day, even if no crime has technically been committed.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Broadcasters pull stars from College Green – The Sun
  • Facebook takes down homepage of ‘yellow vest’ activist – The Guardian
  • One yob is a privately-educated ex-Corbyn supporter – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Calling Soubry a Nazi is rude, stupid, and weak – Jacob Rees-Mogg, The Times
  • Remember that Leavers have been targeted too – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph
  • The murder of my wife is being used to cow MPs – Brendan Cox, The Guardian
  • Politicians should be protected from violence, not free speech – Nigel Farage, Daily Telegraph
  • Why I now fear another parliamentarian could be killed – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail
  • Hate laws have left police in a quandary over free speech – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • This sort of abuse cannot be tolerated – The Times

>Today: Nadine Dorries MP in Comment: Thuggery. Abuse. Threats. Unacceptable everywhere. But no-one came to Brexiteers’ defence when we were victims.

Brokenshire announces new housing help for ex-servicemen

“Veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues will be given priority for social housing under new plans. Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced measures that will ensure current and former troops who have mental health problems will get the same treatment as those with physical problems when they apply for homes. It means they will get to jump the queue for council houses even if they don’t live in the area. The rule changes – which will be put out for consultation from today – will also make it easier for partners of armed forces personnel to find social housing if they divorce or separate. The overhaul will mean all applicants for social housing are asked if they have served in the military in order to make sure veterans get the help they are entitled to. Announcing the plans last night Mr Brokenshire hailed The Sun for campaigning on the issue. He said: “I am a huge supporter of The Sun’s tireless campaigning for our heroic military servicemen and women. I want our military heroes and their families to get the priority they deserve when applying for social housing so we are looking to bring in new rules for councils. It’s right that troops suffering from PTSD and other mental health conditions should get the same priority as those who have suffered physical injuries.”” – The Sun

  • Cross-party commission urges more social housebuilding – FT
  • Miliband urges Corbyn to act on the housing crisis – The Guardian
  • Over a million families trapped renting forever – The Sun

Comment:

  • The state created the housing crisis, it’s wrong to think it can be relied on to solve it – Matt Kilcoyne, Daily Telegraph

Mercer accuses controversial Iraq lawyer of dishonesty

“The senior partner of a controversial law firm that pursued claims for Iraqis against the British military has been branded “dishonest” by a Conservative MP. The MP, Johnny Mercer, used parliamentary privilege to make the allegation against the founder of Leigh Day solicitors during a session of the Commons defence select committee yesterday. Mr Mercer, who is a former captain in the British army, said to Martyn Day: “You’ve been very publicly shown to have made a lot – at least been lied to – but made a lot of this stuff up… You’ve been dishonest.” Mr Day appeared taken aback and challenged Mr Mercer “to go and repeat that outside this building” where he would not be protected under parliamentary privilege. “No problem whatsoever,” Mr Mercer replied. The MP went on to make reference to false claims made against British troops by members of an Iraqi militia who had falsely posed as civilians, a case in which Leigh Day was involved. “You’ve known for a long time those individuals in the al-Sweady case were part of the Mahdi army. That documentation [proving it] was found in your possession,” Mr Mercer said… In 2017 Mr Day was cleared of misconduct by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in relation to the al-Sweady claims. He had not been accused of dishonesty by the regulator.” – The Times

DfT faces fresh scrutiny after second drone attack

“Fears were raised over security at British airports yesterday after Heathrow grounded flights for almost an hour over a suspected drone sighting. Critics demanded to know why Europe’s busiest airport was without permanent drone defences almost three weeks after a similar incident led to a shutdown at Gatwick. Heathrow, which handles 214,000 passengers a day, suspended all departures shortly after 5pm following reports of a device being flown to the north of the airfield. Its northern runway was completely shut down, although incoming flights continued to land on the southern runway. At least 100 flights were believed to have been delayed by the incident before take-offs resumed at about 6pm. Knock-on delays were reported into the evening. The Department for Transport said that the same military equipment deployed at Gatwick was on standby and was about to be sent to Heathrow, before the airport was given the all-clear… Baroness Sugg, the aviation minister, will host a roundtable session with the chiefs of the main British airports tomorrow to discuss their resilience against drone attacks. The latest incident will raise further concerns about why detection and blocking devices have not already been permanently deployed to prevent a repeat of the Gatwick shutdown.” – The Times

  • Another chance to beat fifty shades out of Grayling – Patrick Kidd, The Times

Sturgeon issues ‘humiliating’ apology as Salmond wins legal challenge

Nicola Sturgeon has been forced to issue a humiliating apology after Alex Salmond won a legal case against her government over its investigation into complaints of sexual harassment against him. The First Minister said sorry to Mr Salmond and his two accusers after her government admitted at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that the inquiry into their claims was unlawful. The judge Lord Pentland ruled the inquiry was “procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had “prior involvement” with the women before they complained. He awarded expenses to Mr Salmond, who said the case would cost the taxpayer more than £500,000 following the Scottish Government’s “abject surrender.” Speaking outside court following his victory, he demanded three times that Leslie Evans, Ms Sturgeon’s most senior mandarin, resign for presiding over the “botched mess.” Mr Salmond also said there had been a “systematic leaking” of confidential information about the complaints from the Scottish Government with the aim of inflicting “the maximum damage to my reputation”. Although he refused to directly criticise Ms Sturgeon, in a barbed aside he said should she should instead focus her time and efforts on winning Scottish independence.” – The Sun

  • Scottish Government concedes Salmond probe was unfair – FT
  • Sturgeon backs civil servant despite collapse of case – The Scotsman
  • Nationalist leader defends handling of harassment case – The Guardian
  • Salmond’s statement in full – The Scotsman

Comment:

  • Nats ‘at war’ as former First Minister wins case – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

Labour peeress loses another tribunal amidst cronyism claims

“The Commonwealth’s secretary-general has lost a second tribunal claim over employment practices amid continued allegations of cronyism. Baroness Scotland of Asthal, a former attorney-general, heads the Commonwealth Secretariat that was found to have breached its obligations to her former deputy. The ruling is likely to result in significant damages and costs to the secretariat, which will be paid by member countries. Josephine Ojiambo, a Kenyan, was recruited in 2015 by the Commonwealth from her role as chief of external relations at the UN in New York to be the London-based organisation’s deputy secretary-general. Her contract was for three years, renewable “subject to satisfactory performance and the organisation’s requirements at that time”. The tribunal heard that Dr Ojiambo was recruited by Lady Scotland’s predecessor, Kamalesh Sharma, who told her that the majority of staff in posts at that senior level normally served two three-year terms. Lady Scotland implemented a round of cost-cutting in 2016, including not renewing the contracts of three deputies. Lady Scotland said that the roles would be retained but would be kept vacant until the review was completed and the secretariat’s financial position was resolved.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Can Parliament stop a no-deal Brexit? – Joe Marshall, CapX
  • What the Government’s ‘no-deal’ defeat in the Commons actually means – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Tory MPs will lost activists if they ignore their members on the deal – Greig Baker, Brexit Central
  • Chaos is the new order in Macron’s France – Walter Ellis, Reaction
  • The politics of the Patreon purge – Douglas Murray, UnHerd

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