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Brexit 1) Remainers back away from plans for Valentine’s Day showdown

“Remainer MPs have abandoned their bid to force Theresa May to rule out a No Deal Brexit this week, it emerged tonight. Labour’s Yvette Cooper was expected to launch a second attempt to delay Brexit rather than leaving the EU without a deal. But tonight she announced her rebel group WON’T make its move this week – and will give Theresa May two more weeks to negotiate with Brussels. The revelation takes the sting out of a vote scheduled for Valentine’s Day which the PM feared would be a moment of truth for her Brexit plan. Ms Cooper is the ringleader of a cross-party group of Remainers desperate to block a No Deal outcome… The MPs had been planning to table their amendment again on Thursday, when the Commons will vote on the way forward for Brexit. This evening they announced an alternative proposal – but they won’t push it to a vote for another two weeks. They revealed they will trigger their plan if Mrs May hasn’t secured a final deal by February 26.” – The Sun

  • …but are preparing fresh attempt to block ‘no deal’ – Daily Express
  • Cooper sets out plans for new ‘high noon’ showdown – Daily Mail

More:

  • Man sent death threats to Soubry – The Times
  • Verhofstadt warns that Brexiteers could be consumed by their revolution – Daily Telegraph
  • MI6 chief in talks to extend term to prevent disruption – FT

Brexit 2) Robbins sparks ‘Brexiteer fury’ with claim that exit day could be delayed

“Theresa May is facing Brexiteer fury today after her EU envoy was overheard saying she will put off a vote on her deal until the last moment – and then threaten to delay the UK’s departure unless they approve it. Olly Robbins loudly told companions in a hotel bar that the ‘week beginning end of March’ would be critical, just days before the UK is due to leave the bloc. And he suggested MPs will be confronted with a ‘long extension’ to the Article 50 process if they do not give the plan the green light at that point. The private conversation, which happened within earshot of an ITV journalist on Monday night, sent Brexiteers into meltdown. Mrs May has repeatedly insisted that the UK will leave on schedule on March 29 – despite growing doubts among ministers over whether that is realistic even if her package was passed immediately.” – Daily Mail

  • …but May tells business that delay would serve no purpose – FT
  • Brussels to help May ‘drag out negotiations’ until crucial summit – The Sun

More:

  • Fury at suggestions of ‘permanent backstop’ – Daily Express
  • Government clears way to rush through last-minute deal – The Scotsman

Editorial:

  • May must not flinch and allow delay – The Sun

>Yesterday:

Brexit 3) Morgan warns May not to rely on Labour to deliver Brexit…

“Nicky Morgan urged Theresa May not to trust Labour’s front bench to enable Brexit yesterday, completing a striking change of tack from the former education secretary. Until last month Ms Morgan was a leading advocate for the so-called Norway option that Jeremy Corbyn suggests Labour could support. Ms Morgan, who has also previously backed moves to force Mrs May to delay Brexit, shocked pro-EU Tories by teaming up with Brexiteers last month. She is part of the so-called Malthouse compromise group of Tory MPs developing alternatives to the Irish backstop with figures such as Steve Baker, a vice-chairman of the hard-Brexit European Research Group. In an intervention that completes her switch of sides Ms Morgan said yesterday that Mrs May could only hope to get Brexit through the Commons if she kept the bulk of the party together and retained the support of the Democratic Unionists.” – The Times

  • Grayling under pressure to face MPs over ferry firm – Daily Telegraph
  • Think-tank claims Javid’s post-Brexit migration plans would see numbers soar – The Sun
  • Treasury Committee criticise Hammond’s ‘deal dividend’ claims – FT
  • Leadsom urges Tories not to be ‘purist’ on the backstop – The Guardian

Brexit 4) …as Carney ‘abandons Project Fear’

Britain could lead the world into a new era of democracy and free trade, using the Brexit revolt against the establishment as a springboard to making the global order more cooperative, accountable and prosperous, according to the Governor of the Bank of England. The current system of global trade has key flaws including wealth and income inequality, a lack of democracy and trust, and serious financial imbalances, Mark Carney warned on Tuesday. However, in a sharp departure from the Governor’s “project fear” warnings of the past three years, Mr Carney said Brexit has the potential to address these issues and provide the opportunity to create a new way of running the world. “In many respects, Brexit is the first test of a new global order and could prove the acid test of whether a way can be found to broaden the benefits of openness while enhancing democratic accountability,” he said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Channel Tunnel will stay open regardless, EU confirms – The Sun
  • Port operator ready to boost capacity – FT
  • Haulage firms face fines if they fail to answer surveys after no-deal exit – The Sun

Comment:

  • Business is still in the dark with only 44 days to go – Hannah Essex and Claire Walker, Times Red Box
  • Private capital is ready and able to build a better Britain – Daniel Mahoney, Daily Telegraph
  • I fear no-deal could destroy British farming – Nic Conner, Times Red Box

Editorial:

  • A Brexit agreement cannot come soon enough – The Times

Brexit 5) Fox ‘scrambling to sign promise letters’ over trade

“Trade boss Liam Fox is scrambling to sign promise letters for trade deals in the future as it emerges just six will be done in time for Brexit. The government has promised to rollover 40 current EU free trade deals with 70 different countries, so they will still apply to the UK under a no deal Brexit. But a secret tally leaked to The Sun has revealed that just a handful will be ready in time when the UK leaves on March 29. Instead, the International Trade Secretary is battling to persuade dozens of other countries to carry out an exchange of “letters of understanding”… The current tally drawn up by the Department for International Trade lists progress of the 40 deal rollovers in four colour-coded tables. Only six are in green table, signifying they will be done by March 29. They are the four already agreed, with Switzerland – signed on Monday – Chile, an Eastern and Southern African block, and the Faroe Islands.” – The Sun

  • Business leaders demand May answers 20 questions on trade – The Guardian

Brexit 6) Rafael Behr: This is still likely to split both major parties

“Labour pro-Europeans have been taken for a ride. Their Tory equivalents are now grasping the scale of their symmetrical defeat. Moderate Conservatives once predicted that Brexit bluster would be dispelled by diplomatic reality and that Commons arithmetic would impose a sensible settlement on May. There is still time for that to happen, but not much. Away from Westminster, the party is in an uncompromising mood. Earlier this week, Grantham Conservatives initiated the process to deselect Nick Boles, their local MP. His offence was to say he would renounce the Tory whip sooner than endorse a no-deal Brexit… These episodes are symptomatic of a purifying mania that will shrink the two broad churches of English politics into intolerant sects. One quivers in anticipation of Brexit rapture; the other hunts blasphemies against the supreme leader. Many Labour MPs see this process as irreversible.” – The Guardian

  • Unholy alliance of left and right could push May into a no-deal exit she does’t want – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
  • Look south, Prime Minister, it’s not just about northern Labour voters – Royston Smith, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Conservatives should take their Scottish colleagues’ fears about Johnson seriously

May praises campaigners as upskirting banned

Upskirting has finally been made a criminal offence as Theresa May praised the work of campaigners who highlighted the practice. People convicted of taking a photo or video underneath someone’s clothing without their permission now face up to two years in prison. They can also be placed on the sex offenders’ register. The Prime Minister said she was “very pleased to see the degrading practice of upskirting become a criminal offence after the tireless work of victims and campaigners”. The change in the law came after predators were seen to target females at festivals, on public transport and even in schools, with the photos then being shared online. Previously, laws only covered indecency and nudity. On Tuesday the bill received Royal assent in the House of Lords and police will be able to arrest people on suspicion of upskirting from April. The Government intervened last June to bring forward measures to tackle upskirting after a Private Member’s Bill was blocked by Sir Christopher Chope, the Tory MP.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister urged to review Green’s knighthood – The Sun

Comment:

  • We can do without hypocrite Brady’s plastic feminism – Ashley Armstrong, Daily Telegraph

Hancock tells GPs to replace patient letters with emails

“The NHS must stop sending letters to patients and use email like everyone else, the health secretary will insist. Matt Hancock says that email must be the default way of communicating for the health service by 2021, telling doctors that confidentiality concerns are no excuse for sticking with so-called snail mail. Half a million letters were lost in the post in five years and switching over could save lives, he says. Doctors welcomed the plans but expressed scepticism about shifting wholesale to email within two years. Patient leaders said that vulnerable people who do not use computers must not be left behind. Tens of millions of pounds are spent by hospitals and GPs on envelopes, paper and stamps and one NHS boss estimated last year that the cost could reach £100 million a year.” – The Times

Wright supports tax cut for online news publishers

“The culture secretary has promised to discuss tax relief for online news publishers as part of an effort to ease local newspapers’ transition to digital publishing. The move was recommended by a government-commissioned report and Jeremy Wright acknowledged yesterday that there was “passionate support within the publishing sector” for an extension of VAT exemptions. He said that he would raise the issue with colleagues responsible for tax policy. Print newspapers are already zero-rated for VAT purposes because of their social value in promoting literacy and democratic accountability. The Cairncross review, published yesterday, proposed extending this to online news publications. It also recommended tax relief for public-interest news providers… The minister, who is responsible for digital, media, culture and sport, also announced that his department would review online advertising regulations after the review said that the market had become complex.” – The Times

  • Culture Secretary ‘blasted by MPs’ as he plays down need for full BBC review – The Sun
  • Hunt condemns attack on Corporation cameraman – The Guardian
  • Social media firms face new restrictions on images ‘glamorising knife crime’ – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Responsibility must be the core of social media’s business model – Sam Gyimah, Daily Telegraph
  • BBC is a bastion of smugness which threatens democracy – Mick Hume, The Sun

>Today: Robert Halfon’s column: Thatcherism was wrong. We need to build social as well as economic capital. Including in our schools.

British Jihadists could face jail under new laws

Around 350 British jihadists suspected to be in Syria could face up to 10 years in jail if they return to the UK under new anti-terror laws that ban travel to designated areas. Ministers will enact within months new powers to make it an offence to travel to or remain in an area overseas designated by the Home Secretary as necessary to protect the public from terrorism. Any person who stays in the area for a month after the power is enacted faces a maximum 10-year sentence unless they can show they had good reason to be in the area such as Government work, journalism or as part of armed services. More than 900 jihadists are estimated by the Government to have travelled to join the conflict in Syria, of which 20% have been killed and 40% have returned to the UK… The difficulty of securing evidence of involvement in terrorist activities overseas has hampered previous attempts to prosecute them. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, said the Act would give police the powers they needed not only to disrupt plots but also “punish those who seek to do us harm.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK extends control of troubled prison for six months – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: The most pro-intervention speech by a Defence Secretary since the Iraq War

Boles faces fight for seat after vote of local party

“The local Conservative association of Nick Boles, MP for Grantham & Stamford, voted unanimously on Monday night to start the process of selecting the constituency’s candidate for the next election. In a letter to members on Tuesday morning, constituency chairman Philip Sagar said many local members and supporters were “angry” with the former minister, who has threatened to quit the party if necessary to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Mr Boles, a former Remainer, supports Theresa May’s deal with Brussels but has also been advocating a softer “Norway Plus” form of Brexit involving membership of the European Economic Area. Grantham’s executive council voted to start the process of selecting the Parliamentary candidate for the next election and will send a letter to Mr Boles to ask him if he wishes to seek re-adoption. If he takes up that offer he will then need to seek the blessing of those members in order to stand again for Parliament.” – FT

Leadsom attacks Bercow over treatment of staff

“Andrea Leadsom has accused Speaker John Bercow of failing to treat his staff with “courtesy and respect”. The Commons Leader, who has repeatedly clashed with Mr Bercow since he admitted calling her a “stupid woman” last year, also questioned his “impartiality” over Brexit. It follows the controversy over his decision to break centuries of convention to allow a Brexit-wrecking motion to go ahead last month… Mrs Leadsom also revealed that she had been spoken to in a “patronising” way by people in Parliament, after her Cabinet colleague Liz Truss told a newspaper that she had been “mansplained” to in Cabinet… A spokeswoman for the Speaker’s Office said: “The Speaker absolutely shares the Leader’s ambition to develop a culture of courtesy and respect. Indeed, he can be heard every day of the working week encouraging members on both sides of the House to treat each other with respect.”” – The Sun

Criticism of Labour antisemitism ‘upsetting staff’, MPs told…

“Labour’s general secretary has warned MPs that public criticism of the way antisemitism allegations have been handled is “distressing” for party staff. Jennie Formby, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said that the party had received nearly 700 complaints linked to antisemitic abuse by party members since April last year and had expelled 12 people. Dame Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking, disputed this, saying that she had alone made complaints about 200 members. Ms Formby said this was not correct, claiming that Dame Margaret’s complaints related to 111 individuals, 20 of whom were Labour members. She said: “The constant and often public criticism of our dedicated and talented staff team is unacceptable and is causing them considerable distress.” Her comments provoked anger yesterday… Ms Formby, who had previously refused to publish the figures, released them only hours before a deadline set by MPs. It is understood that the Jewish Labour Movement, an affiliated party grouping, has submitted hundreds of complaints against members since last April.” – The Times

  • Formby denies Party are ignoring the problem – The Guardian

…as Opposition set out plan for ‘zero-carbon future’

“Labour is to set out how the UK can move swiftly to a decarbonised future to tackle the unfolding climate crisis and put “meat on the bones” of its promise to create hundreds of thousands of high-skilled, unionised green jobs. Trade unionists and industry leaders will come together with academics, engineers and public institutions to build detailed regional plans setting out the challenges and opportunities ahead. The proposal, due to be outlined on Wednesday by Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, will involve a national call for evidence and a series of regional events to build “a detailed action plan” to maximise the benefits of moving to a zero-carbon future… She said a future Labour government would oversee an economic revolution to tackle the climate crisis, using the full power of the state to decarbonise the economy and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in struggling towns and cities across the UK.” – The Guardian

  • Corbyn forced to pay taxman £6,000 after HMRC blunder – The Sun

Comment:

  • Young protesters talk more sense than most MPs – Alice Thomson, The Times

News in Brief:

  • Row brewing over Thursday’s motion opposing a no-deal Brexit – Jonathan Isaby, Brexit Central
  • May evades Valentine’s Day massacre of Brexit – Finn McRedmond, Reaction
  • What Olly Robbins has revealed about May’s Brexit plan – Robert Peston, The Spectator
  • A fake news quango would threaten free expression and democracy – Matthew Lesh, CapX
  • Time’s up for Greece’s populist demagogue – David Patrikarakos, UnHerd

5 comments for: Newslinks for Wednesday 13th February 2019

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