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Gibb calls for a ban on mobile phones in schools

“Mobile phones should be banned in schools to help pupils concentrate on learning, the schools minister has said. Nick Gibb is concerned that too many children are using mobile phones at night and arriving at school the next day tired. He said that the government would introduce lessons for pupils on how to limit their screen time. Evidence of the negative effect of phone use on children’s development and mental health is mounting. Guidance being drawn up by the Department for Education will require pupils to be taught about the dangers of excessive use. Teachers will also have to explain the benefits of imposing limits on screen time outside school hours and of not taking mobiles to bed at night. ” – The Times

>Yesterday: Mark Lehain on Comment: Gove was right to support headteachers over excluded pupils

Brexit 1) Raab casts doubt on Lidington’s role in the renegotiations

“Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, threatened a fragile Tory truce last night by casting doubt on the minister leading talks with Brussels. Mr Raab questioned whether David Lidington, appointed by Theresa May to lead the team of ministers seeking amendments to the Irish backstop, had “the kind of Brexiteer credentials to get this deal delivered in a way that is palatable back home”. He attacked Mrs May’s “grey and gloomy” approach and urged her to put a Brexiteer in charge of the talks to reassure Conservative MPs that she had fought “hard enough” with Brussels.” – The Times

  • The PM should supplement her negotiating team with people who actually know about trade negotiations – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The ‘Meaningful Vote’ is yet another backfiring constitutional innovation

Brexit 2) Extending Article 50 is “not impossible”, concedes Rees-Mogg

“Extending Article 50 is “not impossible” if a new Brexit deal has been agreed with the EU, Jacob Rees-Mogg says today, in a major shift of stance for the highly influential Eurosceptic MP. The leader of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers says for the first time that delaying Brexit for a “short” period would be acceptable to give Parliament the time for the necessary legislation to be passed. It came as Philip Hammond and Liam Fox became the latest Cabinet ministers to raise the prospect of a delay, in what was seen as a sign that the Government is preparing the public what many MPs regard as an inevitable postponement of Brexit.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 3) Leave.EU fined over data breach

“Leave.EU and an insurance company owned by its founder Arron Banks have been fined £120,000 over data law breaches. It represents a reduction in the £135,000 total previously announced by the Information Commissioner’s office. The pro-Brexit Leave.EU group’s £60,000 fine was reduced to £45,000 after “considering the company’s representations”, the ICO said. Leave.EU said it was a “politically motivated attack against our involvement in Brexit”. A spokesman said it was “disappointed but not surprised” and would be appealing against the fine in court.” – BBC

Brexit 4) EU calls Gibraltar a “British colony”

“The UK has objected to Gibraltar being described as a “colony” in European Union legislation allowing UK nationals to travel to the EU after Brexit. The EU proposed allowing visa-free travel for Britons in November. The Spanish government has since insisted a footnote be added describing Gibraltar as a “colony” and referring to “controversy” over its status. The UK’s ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, objected to it at a meeting in Brussels earlier.” – BBC

  • EU to give airline groups such as IAG, owner of British Airways and Iberia, a seven-month deadline to overhaul their shareholder make-up in order to retain full flying rights – Financial Times
  • Gibraltar’s Chief Minister denounces “bullying” – Daily Express

Brexit 5) Labour and the unions “unlikely” to endorse PM’s proposals on workers rights

“Labour and leading trade unions have said they are unlikely to endorse any proposals from Theresa May aimed at improving workers’ rights after Brexit, with one leading figure accusing the prime minister of trying to “divide and rule”. Trade unions involved in discussing a possible workers’ rights package, which the government hopes will help some Labour MPs support its Brexit deal, said they had yet to see anything from ministers they could support. Union sources said they would want to see the government commit to putting future protection for workers’ rights in the Brexit agreement struck with the European Union, rather than in UK legislation that could be repealed by a future government.” – The Guardian

Brexit 6) Fox: Eurozone weakness makes a deal more likely

“International trade secretary Liam Fox has suggested “weakness” in some of the EU’s largest members’ economies will push Brussels to renegotiate the Brexit deal with the UK as “quickly as possible”. Prime minister Theresa May is set to return to Brussels for negotiations with the EU as early as next week after securing parliamentary support for revising the Brexit deal that would change the measures designed to prevent a hard border on Ireland. “We are still aiming to get to the 29 March [departure] — that’s the date we promised the British people. The answer is to reach an agreement as quickly as possible. And I think there are factors frankly driving that process,” Mr Fox told an event hosted by the Policy Exchange think-tank on Friday.” – Financial Times

>Yesterday

Brexit 7) Business is right to warn against “no deal”, insists Clark

“The business secretary worries that Britain will squander the chance it has to capitalise on its expertise and experience. “At this miraculous moment in the industrial history of the world, whether it’s the future of mobility, artificial intelligence, clean energy or medical advances, all of these revolutions are best done in Britain so this is a massive opportunity. But my concern is that if we make what I think would be a mistake that we would regret for ever”…He is clear about what he means by this: “It would be to leave without a deal.” The warnings about the perils of crashing out are not in his view a rerun of Project Fear. “The prospects of a disorderly Brexit are very severe for every part of the country and I think it’s entirely reasonable for companies who know what they need and the consequences they face, who invest billions of pounds in this county and employ hundreds of thousands of people, to share that analysis.” – Interview with Greg Clark, The Times

  • UK manufacturers’ stockpiling hits record levels – The Guardian

Brexit 8) Others in Europe will “watch and wait” before pushing for their own referendums on EU membership

“Populist parties across Europe are targeting May’s European Parliament election as their chance to wrest control of the European Union away from Brussels. As a result, many of them have shelved plans to hold their own Brexit-style referendums in favour of reforming or destroying the EU from within. The Sweden Democrats this week abandoned their pledge to renegotiate Sweden’s place in the EU and hold a ‘Swexit’ referendum, saying they will now instead “watch and wait” for the impact of Brexit…The nationalist Alternative for Germany party (AfD) earlier this month backed away from plans to put a call for German ‘Dexit’ withdrawal at the centre of its manifesto for this May’s European Elections…Sampo Terho, co-founder of Finland’s Blue Reform party called for a ‘Fixit’ referendum in 2017, when he was a member of The Finns. Now Minister of European Affairs, he argues that Finland should instead “fight for a better EU, not to get out of the EU.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 9) Parris: Remainers must not give up

“Amid all the madness of the hour I still believe in logic. After the 2016 plebiscite I wrote here that if it made sense to leave the EU at all, we’d have to be freed from Brussels’ rules: a freedom Brexiteers had advertised as the reason for leaving. To stop halfway, I wrote, remaining bound by EU rules, was implicitly to admit we should never have started the journey. I hold to that still. “Norway” is silly: a national humiliation. Mrs May’s deal is a blank space that hardline Brexiteers will quickly exploit, leading us back to post-Brexit deadlock with the EU. Years of deadlock will bring terrible economic harm. It’s a pity we ever started down the Brexit road: an understanding that I believe is already rooting itself in the unconscious mind of the nation. Gradually it must surface into the conscious mind, too. Our job as Remainers is to make sure it does not surface too late. We don’t have long.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Other comment

  • The Prime Minister’s Tory truce will shatter if her MPs don’t wake up to the gravity of this crisis – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
  • May is not going to get much out of Brussels until after Valentine’s Day – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • BBC bias is still skewing the Brexit debate – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph
  • It’s wrong to call government support for Leave constituencies like mine a bribe – John Mann MP, Daily Mail
  • Second referendum campaigners don’t know their beaten – Leader, The Sun
  • Parliament is ill-equipped to deal with Brexit – Steve Richards, Financial Times
  • Why do MPs seek to betray the UK? – Frederick Forsyth, Daily Express

>Today: Columnist Nick Hargrave: Conservative moderates need to help change our Party. Here’s how to start doing it.

Gove offers signed copies of his speeches to boost Tory fundraising

“Michael Gove has asked Conservative Party members for £600 a year in return for a signed copy of one of his speeches to help fund activists to fight elections. With the May local elections less than 90 days away, the Tories are concerned that they will be outgunned on the nation’s doorsteps by Labour, which has far more campaigners. Brandon Lewis, the Conservative Party chairman, summoned ministerial advisers to a crisis meeting in Downing Street on Friday to discuss strategy for the local elections. The party fears that its election machine could be seriously undermined if it loses councillors in May, as councillors and their families form the backbone of its network of activists and they may cease to campaign for the party if they are defeated.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour MPs challenge Party’s failings over anti-semitism

“Two Labour MPs have put down a motion at next week’s meeting of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) calling on the leadership to “adequately tackle cases of antisemitism”, reigniting a long-running row within the party. MPs supporting the motion accuse the party’s ruling NEC of leniency and call on the leadership to intervene, but the party hierarchy rejects this, saying its disciplinary process is effective and independent. The motion, submitted by Catherine McKinnell and Ruth Smeeth, will be debated at the meeting in Westminster on Monday night and is almost certain to be put to a vote. It calls on the party leadership “to adequately tackle cases of antisemitism, as failure to do so seriously risks antisemitism in the party appearing normalised and the party seeming to be institutionally antisemitic.” – The Guardian

  • Labour activists in Scotland “have their head in their hands” – Ayesha Hazarika, The Scotsman

Corbyn attacks sanctions on Venezuela

“Jeremy Corbyn sparked fury last night after he slammed the government’s call for sanctions on Venezuela’s hard-left tyrant Nicolas Maduro. The Labour leader condemned “outside interference” against the despot, who has launched a brutal crackdown on his own people as he refuses to relinquish his grip on power. And he has called for “dialogue” with Maduro – even though he stubbornly refused to sit down for Brexit talks with Theresa May.” – The Sun

  • Inside the hell of ‘communist heaven’ – Robert Hardman, Daily Mail
  • Maduro thugs to confront ‘biggest march in history’ – The Times
  • Labour leader’s popularity sinks to all-time low – Daily Telegraph

Increase in drug crime, for the first time in ten years

“A surge in county lines gangs has seen the number of children convicted of drugs offences rise for the first time in a decade, official figures show. Just days after it was revealed the number of county lines drug networks had almost tripled to 2,000, Ministry of Justice figures revealed a 2% rise in drug offences to 6,000 in 2018. This is the first increase since 2008/09 and reverses a steady 55% decline in drug offences over the past decade. The number of robberies and public order offences committed by children have also risen for the first time in years, according to the Ministry of Justice data.” – Daily Telegraph

Trump cancels arms control treaty with Russia

“The US will withdraw from a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia, Donald Trump announced on Friday – ending an agreement that has been a cornerstone of superpower arms control since the Cold War. The Trump administration’s move, which has been expected for months, follows years of unresolved dispute over Russian compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty. The announcement begins a six-month countdown that could lead to a permanent US withdrawal from the accord. During that time, Washington could choose not to pull out of it, if Russia comes into compliance with the treaty. However, experts say that is not likely.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • The EU’s desire to punish Britain is risking a no-deal Brexit – Owen Polley, The Article
  • A ‘global Britain’ is only possible if we leave the customs union – Kai Weiss, 1828
  • The Foreign Office’s toothless review into Christian persecution – Luke de Pulford, The Spectator
  •  I am not going to stockpile anything – John Redwood
  • Behind Closed Doors – the EU has abolished the little democratic oversight it had – Radomir Tylecote, Brexit Central

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