Prime Minister braces for fresh confrontation with Brussels…

“Theresa May is braced for a bruising encounter with European leaders today after Donald Tusk declared that there will be “a special place in hell” for the leaders of the Brexit campaign. Downing Street believes that the prime minister will receive little sympathy from Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the commission, as they meet for the first time since her Brexit plan was defeated in the Commons. The prime minister is also meeting Mr Tusk, president of the European Council, and Antonio Tajani, president of the European parliament. Mrs May does not believe that the EU will give any additional help in time for next week’s Commons votes over her approach on Brexit. While Brussels may allow a change to the withdrawal agreement, in the form of a legally binding letter making clear that the backstop insurance policy is temporary, this will not emerge until much closer to the March 29 Brexit deadline, The Times understands.” – The Times

  • May ‘preparing to delay vote on deal’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister to ‘scrap unity plan’ once Brussels shoots it down – The Sun
  • May to get no help until March – Daily Express
  • MPs urge Government to ditch backstop and go for ‘Plan C’ – The Sun
  • UK won’t be trapped in the backstop, May insists – Daily Mail


  • Business fury at UK failure to roll over trade deals – FT
  • Tusk faces backlash from both Brexiteers and Brussels – The Times
  • Pressure mounts on Council President to apologise – Daily Mail
  • Irish opposition leader attacks ‘hell’ comments – FT
  • What German business thinks of the negotiations – Daily Telegraph
  • Europhile MPs hold fire on push for second vote – The Guardian


…as Clark and Fox start a ‘Cabinet trade war’ over tariffs…

“A Cabinet trade war erupted yesterday as Greg Clark rubbished calls to unilaterally scrap tariffs on post-Brexit imports. The Business Secretary said it was vital Britain kept some “defensive” tariffs in place to protect industries such as steelmaking and ceramics. The comments came 24 hours after claims Trade Secretary Liam Fox was considering a plan to slash tariffs on imports to zero to keep prices low for consumers. Union leaders immediately condemned the idea as the “ultimate Brexit betrayal”. Speaking to MPs yesterday Mr Clark said zero-tariffs was not an agreed government position… Speaking separately Mr Fox admitted a zero tariff approach was among a range of options being considered. But he insisted that was not “what I would propose and I have not actually heard anyone else in government propose it”.” – The Sun

  • Trade Secretary says zero tariffs is a ‘possibility’ – FT
  • Deadline for agreement is next week, says Clark… – The Times
  • …as he warns MPs that delay would only prolong uncertainty – FT


  • Brussels will cave at the 11th hour, Davis insists – The Sun
  • BBC faces bias accusations over £4 million EU funding – Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers attack EU over post-Brexit data threat – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Hunt loses pole position in our Cabinet League Table as overall ratings languish

…and Corbyn faces backlash over his EU demands

“Jeremy Corbyn is facing a backlash from pro-EU Labour figures after setting out five demands that need to be met in order for the Prime Minister to get his party’s support for a Brexit deal. In a letter to Theresa May, the Labour leader insisted the PM needs to get Labour’s priorities enshrined in the Political Declaration setting out future relations with the EU. Mr Corbyn said securing in law the demands, which include joining a customs union, is the only way of achieving Labour support and uniting the country. But the move, which came as Mrs May heads to Brussels for talks with EU leaders on Thursday, has angered prominent party members who have accused Mr Corbyn of putting the Brexit policy agreed at Labour’s conference “in the bin”. The Labour leader has told the PM that just seeking modifications to the Northern Irish backstop proposals is not enough to win widespread backing and that she must change tack on key red lines.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour leader offers May his support if she meets five tests – The Times
  • Tusk claims Labour leader has killed chance of a second referendum – Daily Express
  • ‘End of Corbynmania’ as 50,000 abandon Labour over Brexit shambles – The Sun
  • Leaked report says not opposing Brexit could cost party 45 seats – The Guardian

>Today: Alex Morton’s column: If Brexit is impossible, what is the point of politics?

Greg Hands: I voted Remain, but Tusk and friends aren’t helping find a compromise

As someone who voted Remain in 2016, I find European Council President Donald Tusk’s comments today that Brexiteers deserve a “special place in Hell” unworthy and unhelpful. What we need from President Tusk and the whole of the Brussels machine is a spirit of compromise, not words of devilish condemnation. Tusk should have stronger feelings towards Britain. He was Deputy Speaker of the Sejm, the Polish Parliament, in 2004, when Poland joined the European Union. Ironically given Brexit, Britain was the principle advocate of Polish accession to the European Union. Poland might not be in the EU – and therefore Tusk in his job – if the UK hadn’t been such an early and forceful arguer for enlargement in the 1990s. But this is part of a pattern: top EU politicians and officials have moved the negotiations away from finding a reasonable compromise with Britain, towards complete intransigence, straining relations with many of the member states, who want to maintain good relations with Britain.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Comment shows exactly why we need to leave – Jacob Rees-Mogg, The Sun
  • Furore over ‘hell’ jibe obscured two key points – Henry Newman, Times Red Box
  • Tusk didn’t go far enough – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • It’s our EU overlords who deserve that place in hell – Stewart Jackson, Times Red Box
  • Ignore the insults, we’ll get a deal if the ultras don’t sabotage it – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail


  • Here’s why Trump and Brexit turned out so similar – Simon Kuper, FT
  • We must break free from Brussels on trade – Greg Hands, The Sun
  • Politics has rarely been in greater need of experts – James Kirkup, Daily Telegraph
  • May’s plan is doomed: here’s one which will work – Gina Miller, The Guardian
  • Brexit is testing, but no apocalypse – Bill Jamieson, The Scotsman


  • What was the real motivation for this provocative outburst? – Daily Telegraph
  • Tantrum shows a disregard for democracy – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: To Hell with Tusk

>Yesterday: Richard Graham MP in Comment: Brexit with Muskets – or, lessons from our past about the essential art of compromise

Mordaunt unveils new ‘back to work fund’ for homeless and abuse victims

“Victims of domestic abuse and homelessness struggling to return to work are to be supported by a new £500,000 UK government fund, Penny Mordaunt has announced. Her Women and Equalities department said the money would be targeted at domestic abuse victims, those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, as well as people with mental or physical health issues. The funding will also be available to help men, but the focus will be on women who face greater barriers returning to work. Ms Mordaunt has said improving opportunities for the 1.8m women who are economically inactive because they are carers is also one of her department’s priorities… The new funds come on top of a £1.5m so-called Returners Fund set up last year to support parents and carers back to work through refreshing skills and training. The Government Equalities Office, which collects gender pay gap data for all companies with more than 250 employees, estimates that 91 per cent of potential “returners” in the UK are female.” – FT

Hinds wants to give all pupils shot at ‘public school swagger’

“A public school swagger should not be the preserve of the wealthy, the education secretary will say today as he unveils “five foundations” for building character and resilience. Damian Hinds says that confidence and self-esteem are as important for future success as GCSEs and that no child should be denied access to the activities that help them to develop these attributes. Independent schools have for years marketed themselves on the wealth of character-building activities they offer, including sport, drama and debating. Ministers fear that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are missing out… The five foundations are sport, including “purposeful recreational activities”, such as rock climbing or yoga; creativity; performing; volunteering or membership of an organisation such as the Scouts, and work experience. For primary age children work experience may involve meeting people from different jobs.” – The Times

  • Hobbies as important as GCSE results, claims Education Secretary – The Sun
  • Parents told to ban smartphones from mealtimes and bed – Daily Telegraph


  • The Government will move against social media firms who fail children – Matt Hancock, Daily Telegraph
  • Companies like these must grow up and take responsibility – Ross Clark, The Sun
  • Tories need to be more than the party of freedom – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Soutiam Goodarzi in Comment: The Conservative Party must up its game online – where its attacks on Labour aren’t working

Javid outlines radical new plans to curb traveller trespassing

“Travellers who set up unauthorised camps could be jailed for the first time under radical plans unveiled by ministers yesterday. Currently they can only be dealt with through trespassing laws, which is a civil matter. But Home Secretary Sajid Javid has now launched a review that will consider making it a criminal offence to set up illegal camps. And police will also be given sweeping new powers to close traveller sites. Mr Javid said unauthorised camps can cause settled communities “significant distress”. As of July last year there were 22,662 traveller caravans in England, according to government figures. Some 86 per cent were on authorised land, while the remaining 3,000 are on unauthorised sites. Currently police can only step in to ask travellers to move on if there are at least six vehicles on the site. But under the new plans this threshold will lower to just two vehicles.” – The Sun

Labour helps push antisemitic incidents to record high

Anti-semitism in Labour accounted for almost one in 10 anti-Semitic hate incidents reported last year, helping push the figures to a record high. Some 148 incidents of verbal or physical abuse or damage were linked to the anti-semitic rows in Labour out of a total of 1,652, according to the Community Security Trust (CST). The total for 2018 – the highest on record and a rise of 16% on the previous year- also represented the first time there has been more than 100 anti-Semitic incidents in every month of a year. It is also the first time that the CST charity, which provides security and advice to the Jewish community, has separated out an analysis of the impact Labour has had on anti-semitism incidents in the UK. David Richards, CST head of policy, said: “The incidents were both internal arguments between people in the Labour party but also people expressing their concern about anti-semitism in the party who then received abuse in response to that.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Record smashed for third year in a row – The Times


  • Thornberry right to challenge Corbyn’s foreign policy – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph


Mackay insists SNP is not divided over parking tax

Scotland’s Finance Minister has insisted the SNP is not divided over introducing a tax on parking at work as a senior Nationalist MSP who opposed it performed a spectacular about-turn. Derek Mackay denied most SNP MSPs oppose his Budget deal with the Greens to approve the workplace parking levy, saying it has the “full support of the Scottish Government and members of my own party”. Richard Lyle, the SNP MSP for Uddingston, told a Holyrood inquiry in November that he opposed the scheme and “I speak on behalf of thousands of motorists who have been taxed enough.” But Mr Lyle said he would vote for the plan and sought clarity that employers rather than their workers would be forced to pay the charge in the first instance. However, nearly half of affected firms in the only English local authority area to introduce such a tax pass the cost onto their employees and Mr Mackay failed to rule out that happening in Scotland.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Finance Secretary hits out at ‘scaremongering’ – The Scotsman


  • Scottish Labour oppose SNP-led inquiry into Salmond – The Guardian

‘Surge’ in support for Trimble’s legal challenge to the backstop

“A “surge” of support for Lord Trimble’s legal action against the Brexit backstop has seen him raise almost £10,000 in two days. At the start of this week the informal group supporting the former first minister’s judicial review made an urgent appeal to prospective supporters to donate money so that the case can get into court and there has been a significant response through an online crowdfunding effort. The Conservative peer’s legal action is being taken in conjunction with the veteran gay rights campaigner Jeffrey Dudgeon, now Ulster Unionist councillor, and the journalist Ruth Dudley Edwards. Mr Dudgeon said he was pleased at the “surge” in support and said he was also seeking “significant single larger donations” from wealthy individuals. It is understood that a letter of claim is to be sent to the government within days.” – News Letter

  • Experts warn that ‘trusted trader status’ won’t solve backstop… – FT
  • …as DUP vow to vote against any version of it – News Letter
  • Ulster Unionists urge May to reintroduce direct rule – News Letter

News in Brief:

  • Labour foreign policy cannot escape Corbyn’s amoral dogma – Oliver Kamm, CapX
  • Ocasio-Cortez dissing Corbyn shows he’s on a downward curve – Finn McRedmond, Reaction
  • Europeans can’t understand the existential drive behind Brexit – Thomas Kielinger, The Spectator
  • Tusk reminded us the EU is anti-democratic – Jonathan Isaby, Brexit Central
  • The five elections to watch in 2019 – Henry Olsen, UnHerd

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