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Malthouse MPs meet with ministers and officials to thrash out a way ahead

‘An “alternative arrangements working group”, made up of Conservative backbenchers, ministers and civil servants will meet in Westminster. A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said the first meeting of the group, chaired by the Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, had been “detailed and constructive, and the first step of a process to find common ground on the issue of the backstop”. Attendees included the Treasury select committee chair, Nicky Morgan, the European Research Group’s Steve Baker and the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. The group was created after Tory MPs from the leave and remain camps came together to promote the Malthouse compromise, which involves a longer transition period while alternatives to the backstop are explored. Morgan said the government was “taking very seriously the desire of parliament to identify alternative arrangements”.’ – The Guardian

>Today:

>Yesterday:

Trimble launches Good Friday Agreement legal challenge against the backstop

‘One of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process is backing a legal challenge against Theresa May’s Brexit deal on the grounds that it undermines the Good Friday Agreement. Lord Trimble, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the agreement, is working on the plans to challenge the deal in the High Court in London. The news came as the Prime Minister flies to Belfast for two days of talks with local businesses today and meeting with local politicians tomorrow. A crowd-funding page is set to be launched this morning, with £5,000 already raised from private donors in Northern Ireland. The legal action is based on the argument that the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement “encroaches” in the Good Friday Agreement.’ – Daily Telegraph

  • The Prime Minister heads to Northern Ireland – The Sun
  • The NIO has not allocated funds to tackle No Deal – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Our survey. More than eight in ten Conservative members oppose extending Article 50.

Selmayr says May has not asked to reopen talks

‘Martin Selmayr, secretary-general of the European Commission, suggested to a delegation of British MPs that Mrs May had not even formally asked to reopen negotiations, according to one of those present. MPs on the Commons Brexit committee say Mr Selmayr asked whether some form of legal assurance on the temporary nature of the backstop would help a deal pass through parliament, but Tory Eurosceptics said it would not be enough. Mr Selmayr later tweeted that the idea was not on the agenda in Brussels in any event. “On the EU side, nobody is considering this. Asked whether any assurance would help to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons, the answers of MPs were . . . inconclusive . . . The meeting confirmed that the EU did well to start its no deal preparations in December 2017.”’ – FT

>Today: Interview. Raab on the great opportunities and imponderable risks that he sees in a No Deal Brexit

Business Secretary under fire as secret pledges to Nissan are revealed

‘Ministers last night revealed details of a secret deal to offer Nissan tens of millions of pounds after the Brexit vote to keep making cars in the UK. Business Secretary Greg Clark yesterday told the Japanese car maker it could lose out on a £61million support package after it axed plans to build a new model at its Sunderland plant. His warning came as he finally disclosed details of promises made to the firm in the months after the EU referendum. At the time, Downing Street said there was ‘no special deal’ and Mr Clark insisted ‘no chequebook’ was used to tempt Nissan into building its X-Trail SUV and a new version of its popular Qashqai in the UK.’ – Daily Mail

  • Clark made promises on the nation’s behalf – FT
  • It was a ‘bribe’ – The Sun
  • Accusations that he tried to exploit the issue in the Brexit debate – Daily Telegraph
  • The company must now reapply – FT
  • Construction growth slows – FT
  • Steelmakers warn of No Deal – FT
  • Tata optimistic – FT

Opinion and Editorials

>Yesterday: Ed Hall on Comment: We can win back car manufacturers if we adapt to the huge changes overtaking the industry

Francois commissioned to carry out review of forces retention crisis

‘A review of the armed forces’ retention crisis has been ordered by the prime minister to stem the flow of thousands quitting each year. Theresa May’s top military adviser has commissioned Mark Francois, a former defence minister and member of the Commons defence select committee, to lead a report into the problem, which is compounding the forces’ personnel shortage. It comes after 5.6 per cent — 7,500 personnel — quit the military in 2017, the latest year for which there are official figures, up from 3.8 per cent in 2010. The trend correlates with a decreasing proportion of personnel recording satisfaction with service life: from 60 per cent in 2010 to 41 per cent last year, according to the annual armed forces continuous attitude survey.’ – The Times

  • Field blames Russia for collapse of nuclear treaty – The Times
  • ‘Creeping’ Parliamentary convention on approving military action is dangerous, general warns – Daily Telegraph
  • Parliament has no right to approve action – Daily Telegraph Leader

New child protection regulations threatened for social media platforms

‘Social media firms face new laws to force them to protect vulnerable users, the Digital Minister will declare today. Margot James will tear into tech giants for behaving as if they are “above the law”. Speaking at a Safer Internet Day conference, she will put the ­companies on notice that tougher regulations are on the way. Her comments come after 14-year-old Molly Russell killed herself after looking at self-harm images on Instagram. Miss James will say: “Her tragic death is the latest consequence of a social media world that behaves as if it is above the law. In America and Europe these companies have legal protection from liability for user-generated content. Too many have milked this privilege for all its worth. We will introduce laws that force social media platforms to prioritise the protection of users beyond their commercial interests.”’ – The Sun

  • At last, protection for our kids online – Daily Mail
  • Lessons to combat grooming – Daily Telegraph
  • Academies ordered to cut ‘excessive’ pay for heads – The Times
  • Gender identity row engulfs Cambridge pool – The Times
  • FGM ‘being performed on babies’ – The Times
  • The Pope’s ambassador refuses to give evidence to independent child abuse inquiry – The Times

Opinion

>Today: Anna Firth on Local Government: How we are helping to protect children in Sevenoaks from digital harm

Anderson: Thatcher’s business reforms have failed, just look at the becalmed stock market

‘At the dawn of the Thatcher era, it was believed that British business could and should thrive once the state and unions were rolled back. The fervour surrounding privatisations was seen as supportive evidence of nascent capitalist high spirits. Colleagues constantly told me that we should have more invested in the UK because of the supply-side miracle and the ensuing corporate virtuosity. We’ve now had 40 years of corporate-friendly government. Yet we have an entire stock market that is frozen in time and returns. We were promised entrepreneurial efflorescence. What we got was investment bankers and hedge funds.’ – James Anderson, Daily Telegraph

Lewis attack over Twitter pic backfires

‘The Tory party chairman faced a major backlash yesterday for shaming a Labour parliamentary candidate after she accidentally ‘liked’ a picture of a man’s penis on Twitter. Brandon Lewis even called on Jeremy Corbyn to sack Sally Keeble, Labour’s candidate for the Northampton North seat, over the picture. And he refused to delete the tweets despite Ms Keeble stating that her Twitter account had been hacked. Twitter appeared to back her up by revealing her account had been accessed from three difference locations. Ms Keeble referred the matter to the police.’ – The Sun

Labour’s General Secretary says it is ‘impossible’ to stamp out anti-semitism

‘At a stormy meeting in Parliament, Jennie Formby – a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn – rejected MPs’ demands to say how many cases of anti-Semitism Labour is still dealing with… The meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) unanimously passed a motion demanding details within a week of how officials are dealing with complaints. MPs asked to know how many outstanding cases of anti-Semitism Labour still needs to investigate and how many are due to be considered by its ruling National Executive Committee (NEC). They asked how many Labour officials are investigating complaints, the names of organisations lined up to provide anti-Semitism training, and how many members who have been through the disciplinary process are waiting to start such training. But Mrs Formby rejected the call, saying the NEC had decided not to publish the data. She said: ‘I don’t answer to the PLP. I answer to the NEC.’ And she added: ‘It is impossible to eradicate anti-Semitism and it would be dishonest to claim to be able to do so.’’ – Daily Mail

  • Anglican lay preacher claims Jews oppose Corbyn because he wouldn’t be obedient to them – The Times
  • A Labour split has been inevitable since Corbyn took over – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • Khan gives crime gig to ‘crony’ – The Sun

>Today: Mohammed Amin on Comment: It is time to abandon the word “Islamophobia”

Italy and Greece break ranks by refusing to endorse Maduro’s opponent

‘European divisions over the Maduro regime in Venezuela were laid bare yesterday when Italy and Greece refused to back an EU declaration recognising Juan Guaidó as the country’s rightful leader. Britain joined at least 16 EU member states in supporting Mr Guaidó. Greece continues to support President Maduro and Italy’s populist coalition is split. Mr Maduro is widely blamed for destroying the Venezuelan economy and installing a dictatorship when it became apparent he could never win a fair vote. The US recognised Mr Guaidó, 35, as interim president on January 23, the day he swore himself in before hundreds of thousands of anti-Maduro protesters in Caracas. The main countries in South America followed suit.’ – The Times

News in Brief

  • Cryptocurrency exchange boss took password to customers’ $190 million to the grave – Business Insider
  • Tax the super-rich – Unherd
  • Can anyone trust Chinese tech? – The Spectator
  • The fall of the political class – New Statesman
  • Protectionism versus progress – 1828

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