Published:

May’s talks with Labour ‘risk splitting the Cabinet’…

“Theresa May opened the door last night to a soft Brexit by engaging with Jeremy Corbyn on a customs union in a move that puts her at risk of losing the support of members of her cabinet. In a letter to the Labour leader, the prime minister suggested that their parties hold further talks on the issue of a permanent customs union in an attempt to win support from Labour MPs for her Brexit plan. She also offered guarantees on environmental and employment laws, addressing more of the opposition’s central demands. Mrs May was warned, however, that by reaching out to Labour, she could prompt an exodus of ministers. Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, failed to rule out quitting the government if Mrs May backed Labour’s customs union demands. Sources close to another cabinet minister said a core belief was that “a customs union was not Brexit”.” – The Times

  • May questions Labour’s commitment to ending free movement – Daily Express
  • Response stresses opposition to key elements of Corbyn’s proposals – The Guardian
  • Workers’ rights on the table, but customs union rejected – FT

More:

  • Barclay snubbed as Barnier rejects fresh talks – Daily Express
  • Eurosceptics take aim at Tory MPs not toeing the line – FT
  • Prime Minister pushes back do-or-die Commons vote – The Sun

>Today:

>Yesterday:

…as Bercow is accused of ‘plotting with pro-EU MPs’…

“Remainer Commons Speaker John Bercow was today accused of trying to stop Brexit by plotting with pro-EU MPs. He was spotted having dinner with veteran Tory Ken Clarke, a passionate opponent of Brexit. The pair shared a curry at a popular MPs’ watering hole – and reportedly discussed the tactics Remainers would use in coming days. Mr Bercow, who is supposed to be politically neutral, has been repeatedly criticised for sabotaging the Government’s Brexit policy. He has broken with convention to give Europhile MPs the chance to pass wrecking amendments which undermine Theresa May. The Speaker dined with Mr Clarke, the former Chancellor, at the Kennington Tandoori near Parliament on Wednesday night. An eyewitness told the Sunday Express that Mr Bercow asked, “Where do we go from here?” Mr Clarke reportedly replied: “I’m talking to Hilary Benn on Tuesday.” Mr Benn, the Labour chair of the Commons Brexit committee, has helped lead efforts for Parliament to take control of the process.” – The Sun

  • Watson defies Opposition policy with support for second vote – The Times
  • Labour launch fresh bid to block ‘no deal’ – The Sun

>Today: Nicky Morgan’s column: Country before Party? It’s a false choice. The country needs the governing party to deliver on Brexit.

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “It remains our policy” to keep the possibility of a second referendum in play, says Watson

…and Davis says fall in pound could have upsides

“A 20 per cent drop in the value of the pound might not be “such a bad thing”, David Davis has claimed as he called for a tax-cutting no-deal budget. The former Brexit secretary urged Philip Hammond, the chancellor, to draw up tax and spending changes to create a “pro-business, pro-trade, pro-environment” Brexit in the spring. Writing for The Times Red Box politics site, Mr Davis brushed aside “another doom-laden growth forecast” from Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, which downgraded predictions for this year from 1.7 per cent to 1.2 per cent. “If we must leave without a deal then so be it and we can cut our tariffs to zero to help manage short-term disruption,” Mr Davis said. He argued that a sharp fall in the value of the pound could be a good thing. “Analysts predict that in the event of no deal, sterling could fall by over 20 per cent,” he said.” – The Times

More:

  • Supply of medicines under threat, ministers admit – The Times
  • Brexit-hit Spanish nurses fuel NHS staffing crisis – FT
  • No-deal exit threatens 100,000 German jobs… – The Times
  • …and would make UK less safe, police chief warns – The Guardian
  • Blair talks of ‘devastating’ impact on Ulster peace – News Letter

Comment:

  • Free of the EU’s overwrought regulations, Britain can thrive – Roger Bootle, Daily Telegraph
  • Ignore the gloom, let’s make Brexit a success for business – David Davis, Times Red Box
  • Have MPs finally come up with a decent proposal? – Matthew d’Ancona, The Guardian
  • Brexit goes to the brink – Wolfgang Münchau, FT
  • Britain can be a global trading power again post-Brexit – George Brandis, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • If we’re heading for a no-deal Brexit, why is the Government not acting now? – Daily Telegraph
  • The Brexit brink – The Times

>Today: Shanker Singham in Comment: How British farming can flourish after we leave the EU

Prime Minister backs embattled Grayling

“The prime minister has full confidence in Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, after Tory MPs called for him to be sacked over the collapse of a controversial ferry contract, Downing Street said yesterday. A cabinet minister echoed Theresa May’s support, saying that Mr Grayling had done a “really tough” job. The transport secretary’s decision to award a start-up company called Seaborne Freight a £13.8 million contract to run services between Ramsgate and Ostend in the event of a no-deal Brexit had already attracted widespread criticism as the firm has no ferries. It was one of three companies given contracts worth £108 million in December for additional crossings to ease the pressure on Dover when Britain leaves the EU. The deal collapsed over the weekend, when the new firm’s main backer pulled out.” – The Times

  • Cabinet revolt threatens to sink HS2 rail link – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • From ferries to trains, the Transport Secretary is making a mess – Andy McDonald, Times Red Box

May under pressure to intervene on Green’s knighthood

Theresa May is facing mounting pressure to intervene over Sir Philip Green’s knighthood after members of her Cabinet said it was a “disgrace”. The Government is under pressure to ask the forfeiture committee to examine whether he should lose his knighthood, awarded by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2006. One Cabinet minister told The Daily Telegraph: “It is clearly the case that he is beyond the pale and shouldn’t have been honoured for his contribution in the first place.” Another said: “It’s a complete disgrace, he should be stripped of his knighthood.” The forfeiture committee looks into cases where an individual has brought the honours system into disrepute. People who have lost their honours include Fred Goodwin, the disgraced bank chief, and the entertainer Rolf Harris, convicted of sex offences.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Williamson deploys carrier to illustrate UK’s hard power

“Britain’s new aircraft carrier will be sent to China’s backyard in a show of strength as President Xi’s government increasingly disputes Pacific waters. Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, will say today that Britain must be ready “to use hard power” to protect its interests. He will warn that Russia and China are blurring the boundaries between peace and war and declare that Britain must stand up to those who “flout international law”, a principle that “may lead to us intervene ourselves”. He will announce details of a global tour that the new aircraft carrier, one of two costing a combined £6.2 billion, will undertake, carrying two squadrons of British and American F-35 multirole stealth fighter jets. HMS Queen Elizabeth, the country’s largest warship, will be sent to the Middle East and Mediterranean, as well as the Pacific, where the Royal Navy narrowly avoided a clash with the Chinese.” – The Times

  • Defence Secretary heats up Britain’s rhetoric – FT
  • ‘Ready to strike back against Russia and China’ – Daily Mail
  • UK must increase ‘mass and lethality’ of the Armed Forces – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit could boost Britain’s military standing, Williamson suggests – The Guardian

More:

  • MoD under fire for £1 billion support vessels tender – FT
  • Crosby offered to scupper Qatar world cup – The Times

Rudd plans prison terms for pension abuses

“Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has set out plans to jail company bosses for up to seven years if they fall foul of a new offence of “wilfully or recklessly” mismanaging employee pensions schemes. The proposals mark a toughening up of the current powers whereby only certain offences — such as obstructing or providing false information to the pensions regulator — carry a prison sentence capped at a maximum of two years. The much broader offence would mean courts could not only impose longer prison sentences of up to seven years but also levy unlimited fines for pensions mismanagement. That marks a tougher approach to the original idea set out last year in a government consultation which proposed fines of up to £1m or more modest prison terms.” – FT

  • Universal Credit bosses snub call to protect single parents and the sick – The Sun

Sajid Javid: Collective action will help stem the rise of serious street violence

“As home secretary I am determined to prevent violent crime scarring our society, terrorising our communities and, most devastatingly, destroying the lives of our next generation. We cannot wait a decade for this violent cycle to end and I will do everything in my power to give those on the front line of the fight the tools they need to end the bloodshed. The causes of violent crime are complex, and while I wish there was just one solution to end this, there is no magic wand we can wave. What I can do is listen and support the dedicated police officers tackling the issue on the front line. I have seen first-hand the pressures they are under and that’s why I announced a brand-new deterrent of knife crime prevention orders. They have been requested by the police which is why they have been added to the Offensive Weapons Bill before parliament.” – Times Red Box

  • Why do the police waste time on Twitter instead of tackling knife crime? – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph

Government accused of ‘killing fracking revolution’

“The Government has been accused of killing the fracking revolution by forcing drilling firms to suspend work over tiny tremors. It comes after a group of 49 scientists urged ministers to urgently review the fracking earthquake limit. Current rules force fracking firms to stop drilling if tremors reach 0.5 on the Richter scale. But a report last year showed that tremors of that magnitude are comparable to a football being bounced on the floor. Professor Quentin Fisher, of Leeds University, joined calls to loosen the current threshold in a letter published by The Times on Saturday. Yesterday he hit out against Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth for spreading “nonsense” claims about the industry… Ministers have refused to loosen up the current limits amid a wave of protests from anti-fracking campaigners.” – The Sun

Rebel Tory MPs to push dog meat ban

“Rebel Tory MPs are to enforce a groundbreaking ban on eating dogs in Britain after ministers refused. Fifteen Tory backbenchers have tabled changes to the upcoming Brexit Agriculture Bill to enact the new law. The ban on consuming dog meat would also extend to cats, and follows the US Congress making the sick practice illegal two months ago. The action, being repeated by a series of other Western states, is intended to send a powerful moral message to Far East countries where it is popular. The bid is lead by Tory MP and ex-Bread actor Giles Watling and has the backing of two former ministers, Sir Robert Syms and Tracey Crouch, former London mayor candidate Zac Goldsmith as well some opposition MPs. It could also be formally supported by Labour too – ensuring its victory.” – The Sun

Halfon calls for GCSEs to be scrapped

“GCSE exams in England should be scrapped and replaced with a baccalaureate for school leavers that includes vocational skills and personal development, as part of a radical overhaul proposed by an influential Conservative MP. Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow who chairs the House of Commons education select committee, is the first Conservative policymaker to break ranks over the future of GCSE exams, after the government’s efforts to improve their status by making them more difficult. Halfon, who has campaigned to improve perceptions of technical education and apprenticeships, will argue on Monday that the emphasis on 16-year-olds taking GCSEs has led to a narrow focus on academic attainment and rote learning, and that a well-rounded education requires more breadth.” – The Guardian

Blair urges Labour to be ‘more robust’ on antisemitism

“Tony Blair believes that his party’s leadership has not been sufficiently robust in tackling antisemitism. The former prime minister also backed calls for a local Labour party to be suspended amid allegations that a pregnant Jewish MP is being bullied. On Friday local members cancelled a no-confidence vote in Luciana Berger, the Liverpool Wavertree MP, who starts maternity leave in a few weeks. Mr Blair told the Sky News programme Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “Of course we should eradicate antisemitism from the Labour Party. We are supposed to be a progressive political party. How can we say it’s tolerable to have a certain level of antisemitism in the party?” Asked about the Labour leadership’s response, Mr Blair replied: “It hasn’t been robust enough. The fact that someone like Luciana Berger, who is a smart, capable, active MP doing her best for her constituents, [can] even be subject to a no-confidence motion with this type of allegation swirling around is shameful for the Labour Party.”” – The Times

  • Countdown star attended meeting about breakaway party – The Times
  • Hard-left critics of Berger have close ties to Shadow Cabinet – Daily Telegraph
  • Labour investigates Liverpool branch over bullying of MP – The Guardian
  • Watson claims MP changed their voting position out of fear – The Times

Comment:

  • Even Corbynites are rejecting the Dear Leader – Alex Massie, The Times
  • Labour rebels doing the right thing, but wrong to blame Brexit – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Why our sickly parties deserve to split – Andrew Rawnsley, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “The fact that Berger should even be subject to a no confidence motion is shameful”, says Blair

Scots may have to pay VAT on SNP’s new tax

“Scots face having to pay VAT on the SNP’s planned work parking levy in a double tax blow that could cost them almost £500 a year, it has emerged. The Scottish Tories pointed out that the levy in Nottingham – the only place in the UK to operate a similar scheme – is liable for 20 per cent VAT if employers pass on the cost to their workers. This adds a further £83 to the £415 annual cost of the levy in 2019/20, taking the total burden to £498. Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Tories’ Shadow Finance Minster, said the disclosure showed how the levy had been “cobbled together” by the SNP government so they could get a Budget deal with the Greens. It came after Adam McVey, the SNP leader of Edinburgh City Council, said employers should pass on the cost of the levy to their workers. HM Revenue & Customs said it could not comment on the specific tax arrangements for a particular scheme, but confirmed VAT is levied on “services employers provide to employees.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Why parking tax isn’t real solution to air pollution – Christine Jardine, The Scotsman

SDLP leader warned members are unhappy with Fianna Fail link

“SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has been warned that a group of party members are “considering options” after a link-up with Fianna Fail was confirmed on Saturday. The SDLP leadership’s proposed partnership with the Dublin-based party was backed by a substantial majority of members – almost 70% – at a special conference held in Newry. But former Irish Labour Senator Mairia Cahill told the News Letter on Sunday she has now contacted Mr Eastwood about the concerns of a “number of people” in the party who are now considering their options following Saturday’s vote. This follows the resignation from the party of a former Belfast City councillor, Niall Kelly, who said in a statement that he accepts the decision made on Saturday but does not support it.” – News Letter

News in Brief:

  • Strong reasons why the EU ought to accept the Malthouse Compromise – Dr Graham Gudgin, Brexit Central
  • Here’s what a UK-EU trade deal could look like – Shanker Singham, CapX
  • Is the financial logic behind HS2 collapsing? – Liam Halligan, The Spectator
  • How to solve the housing crisis – Peter Franklin, UnHerd
  • The war on drugs has failed – it’s time to pursue legalisation – Norman Lamb, 1828

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