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Brexit 1) Trump offers trade boost

“Donald Trump last night gave Britain a massive boost by declaring that trade between the UK and the US will be “very substantially increased” after Brexit. The US President announced that the special relationship will be “strengthened further” following a new mutual trade arrangement agreed by both countries worth at least at least £12.8billion a year for trans-Atlantic trade. He also significantly raised hopes of a wide-ranging free trade deal between the UK and US by insisting he wanted to see Trans-Atlantic business significantly increased. UK and US officials signed a “Mutual Recognition Agreement” earlier this week which will mean current trade relations between the historic Western allies will be preserved after Britain quits the EU.” – Daily Express

>Today: Columnist Nick Hargrave: The capitalism of the future demands a bigger role for the state

Brexit 2) EU/Irish solidarity “will not diminish”

“Anyone believing the EU’s solidarity with Ireland may diminish is in for a “nasty surprise”, the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) has said. Leo Varadkar made the comments during the All-Island Civic Dialogue conference in Dublin Castle. The event aims to discuss the implications of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union on 29 March. Mr Varadkar added: “Ireland’s concerns have become the European Union’s concerns”.” – BBC

  • Merkel fears Ireland’s border stance is giving Brexiteers ammunition – Belfast Telegraph

Brexit 3) PM warned of “mass cabinet resignations”

“Theresa May has been warned of a mass walkout of up to seven Cabinet members if she fails to prevent a no deal Brexit, as a minister demanded a free vote on the issue. Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Justice Secretary David Gauke are among those said to be prepared to resign so they can vote to block no deal later this month. In total, more than 20 ministers of Cabinet level and below are “ready to stand up and be counted” according to one of those who is prepared to quit.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Minister is itching to thump ‘jaunty’ Brexiteer after vote – The Times
  • Sturgeon can end threat of no-deal if she wants to – Brian Wilson, The Scotsman

Brexit 4) Forsyth assesses chance of the Cooper/Boles amendment passing

“Another effect of Thursday night’s defeat for the Government is that it increases the chances of the Cooper amendment passing on February 27. This would compel the Government to seek an extension to Article 50 if Mrs May hasn’t won Parliament’s support for an exit deal by March 13. One Cabinet minister, with close links to several of the ministers who might quit to ensure this amendment goes through, tells me it is now “much more likely” to pass. This Secretary of State complains that the Government’s defeat “makes it harder to make the argument that we should hold our nerve” as “the best evidence for holding your nerve was that the outcome would be the same as when the Brady amendment went through”….Other Cabinet ministers aren’t so sure Cooper will pass. One tells me: “I don’t think the ministers will resign, and if they don’t resign, then it doesn’t pass.” If Cooper does go through, politics will enter into an even more unpredictable phase. One May Cabinet ally is predicting a general election if this happens.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

  • February 27th vote could be momentous – Leader, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Letwin’s wildcat executive would reduce ministers to marionettes

Brexit 5) Macron “backs” legally binding concessions to make the backstop temporary

“France and other European countries are ready to give Britain legally binding assurances that the Irish backstop is temporary. President Macron of France has softened his line in recent weeks to aid a last-ditch attempt by the EU to help get the withdrawal agreement across the line next month. Senior European diplomats said that the government would be given enough in the way of legal assurances to persuade Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, to change his legal advice. He has previously warned that the backstop could be used trap Britain in a customs union.” – The Times

  • Barnier says May’s strategy has “failed” – The Guardian

Brexit 6) Abuse forces female MPs to move house

“Female MPs have been forced to move house and hire bodyguards as tensions over Brexit fuel intimidation and abuse, The Times can reveal. Some MPs have been bullied into changing their position on crucial votes after being targeted by extremists, according to senior figures such as Harriet Harman, the former deputy Labour leader. One female parliamentarian has been advised by police not to travel at night on her own, another has been told not to drive herself and a third has been advised not to run in her local park. Several of those targeted say that police are failing to clamp down on the threats and in some cases are siding with the abusers.” – The Times

Brexit 7) Boles denounces “zealots” who want a new UKIP

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, says Nick Boles. Having twice almost died from cancer he is not afraid of attempts to deselect him by his Grantham & Stamford constituency where he has been an MP since 2010….The Conservative Party, he believes, is only successful when it’s pragmatic but “it’s got an ideology now and you either sign up to it or you are a traitor”. Jacob Rees-Mogg “may be polite and well dressed and good fun, but he’s a zealot. Steve Baker is a zealot. A bit of pepper in the soup is never a bad thing, but I’m not happy for my party to be run by zealots and at the moment Theresa is basically allowing them to run the party.” – Interview with Nick Boles, The Times

  • ‘Purple Momentum’ Tory activists planning deselection ambushes – Daily Telegraph
  • Soubry complains that ex-UKIP supporters are involved in deselections – Daily Mail
  • Democracy-hating Remainers are the true extremists – Michael Fabricant, Daily Telegraph
  • Hardline Brexiteers could trigger a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party – Tobias Ellwood, Daily Telegraph
  • Principled? No, the hard Brexit mob just want to burn the house down – Jack Doyle, Daily Mail

Brexit 8) EU may drop demand on Ireland to set up hard border if there is “no deal”

“The leaks from Brussels have begun. Unnamed EU “diplomats and officials” have floated the subject of a temporary opt-out for Ireland in a no-deal Brexit. Dublin will not have to erect customs infrastructure or police the outer limits of the single market immediately. There will be a transition. Officials told Reuters that Ireland will ultimately face checks on its own exports to Europe or face being kicked out of the EU customs union if it refuses to put up a trade border against Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal.” – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 9) Moore: A new centre party won’t succeed if it focuses on Remain

“When Tony Blair, Andrew Adonis, Ben Bradshaw, Chris Leslie, etc. run round shouting for Remain their eyes swivel and they start shouting like that crazy German who runs Airbus and thinks he ought to be running Britain’s trade policy. They speak all the time, but they have nothing to say about the post-crash problems of our age. People nowadays think of Mr Blair as untruthful, but the fundamental message with which he won three times was true. Under me, he was saying, Labour is non-tribal, centrist, pro-markets, open to all classes, open to the future. In their rage against Brexit, his heirs (and he himself) neglect that future completely.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 10) Parris: It’s the EU that is running down the clock

“Now to that quieter clock-watcher: a creature of my imagination, representing our EU fellow members and their negotiating team. His sardonic smile broadened a little at Thursday’s news from the Commons division lobbies. He knows what we British tend to forget: that it is not within Britain’s power to “rule out” a no-deal Brexit. Not unless we’re saying we would in the end submit to whatever our fellow members dictate. Hence the smile. If (as I believe, and as the rest of the EU probably suspects) no-deal is unthinkable to us, and if MPs cannot accept the draft deal that Downing Street has concluded, and if the clock is ticking, then when’s the best moment (from Brussels’ viewpoint) to turn the screw? Now or at the eleventh hour?” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Grayling under fire, as probation firm becomes insolvent

“Chris Grayling was under fire on Friday night as a private firm to whom he awarded a probation contract to monitor thousands of offenders went into administration after warnings it put the public at risk. Working Links, a company charged with supervising the rehabilitation of 20,000 offenders, announced its insolvency on Friday, three months after an investigation by inspectors uncovered serious failings in its operation. It was awarded the contract in 2014 when Mr Grayling was Justice Secretary as part of his reforms to privatise the probation of low and medium risk offenders. Its work will now be taken over by another private contractor Seetec.” – Daily Telegraph

Harper “planning leadership bid”

“Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper is gearing up to run for the party leadership when Theresa May quits, The Sun can reveal. Friends of the MP, who was sacked by Mrs May when she moved into No10, have been trying to drum up support for his leadership bid, according to Sun columnist James Forsyth. And privately the MP for the Forest of Dean has not denied that he is eyeing up the top job. A former loyalist, Mr Harper voted against the Brexit deal and tore into the PM for “misleading” MPs over it.” – The Sun

Skidmore backs social media “kitemark” to protect children

“Chris Skidmore, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, is clutching a plasma ball, in which tendrils of light radiate out from a central electrode to meet his fingertips….He has also spent time at UCL’s Educate Centre where researchers are establishing a kitemark-style system for technology that has been properly peer-reviewed and rigorously tested. Skidmore believes such a system may be the future to avoid overly bureaucratic regulation which could stifle innovation, and drive tech companies abroad.” – Daily Telegraph

SNP MP backs “softest possible” independence

“A leading SNP MP has criticised a key adviser to Nicola Sturgeon for proposing the “softest possible” form of independence in order to win the backing of voters. Andrew Wilson, who chaired the party’s Growth Commission, the economic blueprint for an independent Scotland, said a soft end to the Union would recognise the “level of integration and all the ties that have bound us for centuries”. He also dismissed Yes campaigners seeking an overnight revolution, saying: “Some (a very small number) would rather move immediately and overnight to a Marxist revolutionary state. That is their right, but they won’t win the chance to try.”…Joanna Cherry MP said you did not have to be a “Marxist revolutionary” to disagree with his softly softly approach.”- Daily Telegraph

Schoolchildren go on “strike” against climate change

“Pupils from around the UK went “on strike” on Friday as part of a global campaign for action on climate change. Students around the country walked out of schools to call on the government to declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem. Organisers Youth Strike 4 Climate said protests took place in more than 60 towns and cities, with an estimated 15,000 taking part.” – BBC

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Cleverly calls on unions to take down hugely influential ‘school cuts’ site that uses ‘misleading’ statistics

Huge shale gas supply found in the East Midlands

“Theresa May is today urged to back the fracking revolution as new tests signal the East Midlands is sitting on “30-years’ worth of gas”. Ineos, Britain’s biggest private company, claims drilling results from its field in Nottinghamshire suggest “US levels” of shale gas under the soil.Tests found an average level of 60.7 standard cubic feet per tonne of gas – compared with an average 39 (scf) at a vast shale field in Texas. Ineos Shale chief operating officer Tom Pickering claimed it was the most significant drilling result so far in the short history of Britain’s shale industry. Geologists believe there could be 436 trillion cubic feet of gas in this part of the Bowland Basin. This test is consistent with that….With a recovery rate of 20 per cent that’s equivalent to 30 years’ worth of gas for the country.” – The Sun

>Today: Wilf Lytton on Comment: Our dependency on natural gas will cost us if we don’t act swiftly

Trump using emergency powers to build wall

“Donald Trump has defied fierce criticism to announce that he is using emergency powers to bypass Congress and pursue the building of a wall on the US-Mexico border. At a combative, rambling and at times incoherent press conference in the White House, the US president insisted he had no choice but to declare a national emergency to stop illegal immigrants spreading crime and drugs. Yet Trump admitted that he did not “need” to take the step now and was only doing so for speed. Opponents seized on the remark to accuse him of falsehoods and fear mongering for political ends, describing the move as “unlawful” and a violation of the US constitution.” – The Guardian

News in brief

  • Boles is fighting for his political life – New York Times
  • Child climate change protestors aren’t truants, they’re traumatised – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • There is nothing to fear from leaving the EU, and trading with it, under WTO rules – Helen Davies, Brexit Central
  • The Cairncross report threatens more state control of the media – Charlotte Henry, The Article
  • What Britain must do to defeat the Islamist threat – Ghanem Nuseibeh, Conservative Woman

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