Cabinet resigned to defeat on deal as talks stall in Europe…

Theresa May’s Cabinet is resigned to her Brexit deal being defeated by up to 100 votes next week after talks in Brussels collapsed without progress on Wednesday. Downing Street is already making plans for a third “meaningful vote” on the deal on the assumption that Tuesday’s vote is lost, and Mrs May is considering making a major speech on Friday to plead for support from MPs. One minister said it appeared “certain” that the Commons vote on the Brexit deal will be lost, and that Mrs May’s next move would depend on the scale of the defeat. Meanwhile the Chief Whip, Julian Smith, has warned MPs their Easter break could be cancelled if Brexit is delayed, adding to the growing sense of inevitability that the Government will lose the vote. If Brexit is delayed until June, the most likely date, MPs would only have three months to find a new way forward and could ill afford their 18-day holiday.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Impasse raises fears May is losing control – FT
  • Spain blocking compromise over Gibraltar ‘land grab’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexiteers warn May they will kill off the deal – The Sun
  • Remainers blamed for deadlock – Daily Express


  • Fox calls for MPs to be told no-deal tariff plans – The Times
  • Cabinet row over claims import tariffs will be cut – The Sun
  • Bombardier pressure DUP to back the deal – FT
  • TUV leader says PSNI chief is ‘playing politics’ on Brexit – News Letter


…as Corbyn opens talks with ‘soft Brexit’ Tories…

“Jeremy Corbyn opened talks yesterday with Conservatives backing a Norway-style soft Brexit as peers voted to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU. To the anger of some Labour MPs, Mr Corbyn spent more than an hour with Sir Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles who back Brexit but support remaining in the single market. The discussions coincided with the House of Lords vote in which peers voted by 207 to 141 to demand that MPs “think again” about forming a tariff-free trade bloc with Brussels. This amendment to the Trade Bill creates fresh problems for ministers who must now take it back to the Commons to try to overturn the change. With all opposition parties supporting a customs union, a few Conservative rebels could defeat the government. If Theresa May’s deal with the EU has not passed, the Trade Bill, which is needed to prepare the UK for a no-deal scenario, could become a flashpoint for rebellion. Staying in a customs union would hinder free trade deals.” – The Times

  • Remainer lords defeat Government in customs union vote – The Sun
  • Lavery warns Corbyn ‘will never be Prime Minister’ if he backs second vote – The Sun

>Today: Profiles: Nimble, eager to please, unembarrassable. The inconstant Gardiner, capable of demolishing Labour’s Brexit policy in seconds.

…Grieve holds private talks with the French…

“Dominic Grieve will meet with senior members of the French government to discuss an extension of Article 50 and a second referendum, according to reports. Mr Grieve will meet with France’s Europe minister, Nathalie Loiseau, as well as pro-EU French politicians in his office, according to The Daily Telegraph. News of the meeting follows Tory MPs, Nick Boles and Oliver Letwin, who had a meeting with Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to discuss a softer Brexit. The Conservative MPs are pushing a Norway-style Brexit branded as “Common Market 2.0” where Britain would stay inside the European Economic Area after leaving. France is reportedly keen for a 21-month Brexit delay in order to help finish the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. But Mr Grieve, along with other Remain Tory MPs, want a much longer extension so they can spark a second referendum.” – Daily Express

  • Britain should make new proposal, says France’s Europe minister – The Guardian


  • After Brexit, Britain will be a rule-taker – Philip Stephens, FT
  • It’s a myth that no-deal could cripple the British economy – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • For leavers, it’s not about the economy – Simon Kuper, FT
  • Adrift from Europe, I fear Britain may sink – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Esther McVey in Comment: A loss of trust over Brexit could break our politics. And I shudder to think of the consequences.

…and Tory ministers clash with SNP over ‘towns fund’

“Tory Ministers face a furious row with Nicola Sturgeon after demanding they control a near £100 million Scottish ‘Towns Fund’. The Government is putting the finishing touches to a post-Brexit fund for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after the £1.6 billion ‘Stronger Towns’ programme for England. Scotland is expected to receive almost £100 million – equivalent to the West Midlands. And sources claim Communities Secretary James Brokenshire is insisting he gets a say over where the money goes – rather than allow the Scottish Government to treat it as a devolved matter. One insider pointed out that the SNP had failed to pass a £40 million Brexit package to the police to prepare for a possible No Deal – with some of the money going to the Forestry Commission. Another said there was a precedent for Westminster managing money destined for Scotland.” – The Sun

  • Scottish Labour accused of censoring ‘people’s vote’ support – The Scotsman

Javid authorises police ‘surge’ to tackle knife crime

“Police chiefs are drawing up £10m plans for a “surge” of extra officers to tackle knife crime in target areas across the UK after a crisis meeting with Sajid Javid. The move comes as another man died in a stabbing in east London – the 21st person killed in London this year. The emergency package will be submitted to the Home Secretary by Friday with approval for at least £10m extra funding to be sought from Philip Hammond, the Chancellor. Mr Javid is also proposing a rule change to make it easier for police to introduce emergency S60 stop and searches, enabling them to search suspects without specific grounds over longer periods in hotspots where knife crime has surged. Apparently contradicting Theresa May’s claim this week that there is “no direct correlation” between crimes and police numbers, Mr Javid said: “I think police resources are very important to deal with this. We have to listen to the police when they talk about resources.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • May set to u-turn on stop-and-search… – The Times
  • …hold emergency summit with police chiefs – Daily Express
  • Knife thugs ‘to be treated like jihadis’ – The Sun
  • Thousands of offenders ‘escaping justice’ – Daily Telegraph
  • May praises Scotland’s approach – The Scotsman


  • What went wrong at Britain’s prison of the future? – FT
  • Home Office accused of complacency over Windrush – FT

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: At PMQs, May says a “growing number” of young people are dying as a result of a “cycle of mindless violence”.

Nick Timothy: Knee-jerk demands for more stop and search won’t help

Every life lost to knife crime is a terrible tragedy, but the victims and their families deserve more than the platitudes and politics we have seen this week. They deserve justice, and action to end the violence. This is more than a moral panic. Last year, there were more fatal stabbings than at any time since records began. Knife crime is at its highest since 2011, before when we have no comparable data. Hospital admissions for stabbings – a measure more reliable than police recorded crime – are the highest in a decade. In response, knees are jerking. Keen to increase their budgets again, the police demand more money and officers to fight back. Senior Conservatives, anticipating a leadership election, demand more stop-and-search. Others demand tougher prison sentences.The problem is far more complex.” – Daily Telegraph

  • What happened to the party of law and order? -Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Nick de Bois in Comment: The evidence and expertise exists to drive down knife crime – we need the political will to use it

Bradley faces calls to resign over killings comments

“The Northern Ireland secretary is facing calls to resign after appearing to suggest that no deaths caused by soldiers and police during the Troubles were crimes. Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Karen Bradley said: “Over 90 per cent of the killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists, every single one of those was a crime. The fewer than 10 per cent that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes. They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way.” The comments provoked furious criticism in the province… Mrs Bradley returned to the Commons to say that “where there is evidence of wrongdoing, it should always be investigated whoever is responsible”.” – The Times

  • DUP MPs back NIO proposals to slash RHI tariffs – News Letter

>Today: Alex Morton’s column: The left want to make it illegitimate to be right-wing, and the state is helping them to do it

>Yesterday: Daniel Hannan MEP’s column: The rule of law is our system’s foundation. Which is why there should be Bloody Sunday trials.

Hunt warns against cyber-attacks delegitimising elections…

“Democratic elections will remain vulnerable to cyber attacks by hostile states, Jeremy Hunt will warn today. The Foreign Secretary will say that authoritarian regimes risk turning elections in the West into “tainted exercises”, although he will stress that there is no evidence of successful interference in UK polls. Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have already been named as being behind various hacks and online campaigns in recent years. Mr Hunt will also say that as well as publicly shaming states involved in cyber attacks, economic and diplomatic sanctions should also be part of the response… The Foreign Secretary will say that a “doctrine of deterrence” is needed to show states running cyber campaigns that they run a “credible risk of additional counter-measures – economic and diplomatic – over and above public embarrassment”. He will also highlight the UK’s own offensive cyber capabilities, which have been used against Islamic State militants in the Middle East.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Foreign Secretary threatens consequences if Moscow meddles in Britain – The Sun


  • The West is failing to meet the resurgent Russian threat – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: This Lent, we will be ‘shining a spotlight on a number of cases of persecuted Christians thought the world,” says Hunt

…as UK cracks down on ‘golden visas’

“Wealthy investors from countries such as Russia who want to settle in Britain face stricter rules on so-called golden visas following the Skripal nerve agent attack. However, transparency campaigners have attacked the shake-up to the visa scheme, which has seen rich overseas investors such as billionaire Roman Abramovich set up home in the UK, as not going far enough. In an attempted crackdown on money-laundering, new Home Office rules that take effect in April will require visa applicants to prove they have had control of more than £2m for at least two years, rather than 90 days. The investments will also need to be made in UK businesses, while investing in gilts will be excluded, in an attempt to increase the benefit to the British economy. The tier-one visa route has in the past attracted many wealthy Chinese and Russian investors who have resettled in the UK. But the scheme has been under review since the UK’s relations with Russia deteriorated after the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last year.” – FT

  • Tories accepted more than £1 million from tax-haven Britons – The Times

Mercer calls for May to make way for ‘new generation’

“A rising star MP will call on Theresa May and her ageing Government to make way for a new generation of Tories to take over. Outspoken Johnny Mercer will issue the direct challenge on the embattled PM by insisting ordinary Brits are “crying out” for fresh leadership to match the fast changing times. Mapping out an ambitious and ever more impatient group of younger Conservatives’ thinking in a major speech, the Army officer-turned- MP will insist the Tory boss and her administration are failing today’s digital generation of impassioned voters. And he will also risk igniting a new party row by mounting a withering attack on more senior Tory MPs for being “career politicians”… Blasting today’s political leaders as “a profession of insincerity”, Mr Mercer will also insist all MPs must be more honest and upfront with voters to win back their trust.” – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Crisis, what crisis? Three in four Party members expect the Conservatives to lead the Government after the next election

Corbyn backtracks on new appointee to oversee antisemitism claims

“Jeremy Corbyn was on Wednesday forced to make a hurried about-turn over the appointment of the daughter of a key adviser to handle complaints about anti-Semitism in the party. Laura Murray, the daughter of his close ally Andrew Murray – who is also chief of staff to Unite leader Len McCluskey – was announced as interim head of complaints, prompting an outcry and a hasty retreat. The news came ahead of a meeting of the Jewish Labour Movement to discuss whether to disaffiliate from the Labour party over the row. A final decision will be made at the body’s annual meeting on April 7. Labour MPs were appalled that the party’s leadership had apparently considered giving the job to Ms Murray given her father’s close relationship to Mr Corbyn. The appointment was confirmed by party figures to The Telegraph, moments before the party said the appointment had been an “error” by a member of staff.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Votes overwhelmingly suggest Jewish affiliate does not want to secede – The Times
  • Labour chief wrote character reference for man who slurred Jews – The Sun
  • Equality watchdog to decide if party broke law over antisemitism – The Guardian

London Tories criticise Khan over staffing

“Sadiq Khan has been accused of profligacy after his spending on staff was projected to be £25.8 million more than that of his predecessor Boris Johnson. The Greater London Authority (GLA) staffing bill was £36 million in 2015-16, the year before Mr Khan took office. It will reach £57.2 million in 2019-20 and be £61.8 million by 2022-23. There has been a 27 per cent increase in the number of posts since Mr Khan took office, rising from 897 full-time equivalent roles in 2016 to 1,140 in October last year, documents show. Gareth Bacon, the leader of the Conservative group on the London Assembly, said: “Londoners will rightly question how the mayor can splurge nearly £20 million on City Hall bureaucrats while simultaneously claiming that he can’t afford to put more cops on our streets. That £20 million could have paid for over 300 police officers.”” – The Times

  • Below-inflation pay rises for Corbyn’s team – The Times

Momentum fined £17,000 for breaking electoral law

“Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left Momentum army was today fined £17,000 for breaking multiple election laws. The campaign group failed to declare two bumper donations from union bosses, the Electoral Commission found. The fine is the biggest penalty ever slapped on a campaigning organisation by the elections watchdog. Momentum received £18,000 in two grants from the TSSA union but didn’t report the donations within the 30-day deadline. They were found guilty of failing to submit a “complete and accurate” spending return from the 2017 General Election. The group of young left-wing activists was crucial to Labour’s strong showing in the snap election where Theresa May lost her majority… Momentum vowed to raise extra cash from supporters to pay the cost of its £16,700 fine. And they dismissed the findings – saying they only broke the rules because they were such a small organisation.” – The Sun

SNP abandons attempt to devolve benefit

“The Scottish Government has quietly abandoned attempts to devolve one of 11 welfare benefits that were due to be handed over by the UK Government, it has emerged. Administration of Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) will now continue to be handled by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) indefinitely. It follows the Scottish Government’s announcement that the full package of devolved benefits will continue to be administered by the DWP for an additional three years, until 2024, because its own social security agency is not ready to manage them. In a letter to Scottish Conservative MPs seen by the Scotsman on Tuesday, the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd was scathing about the Scottish Government’s preparations for devolution of benefits, saying SNP ministers underestimated the scale of the job.” – The Scotsman

MPs cry foul over loan charge review

“A promised review into the contentious loan charge will be limited to a “report” and will offer no change to the tax demands on thousands of individual contractors, it emerged on Wednesday, prompting accusations of a whitewash. From April, the charge will tax up to 20 years of income received via “disguised remuneration schemes” in one year, handing huge tax bills to tens of thousands of people who were paid via loans. The move has been heavily criticised by MPs and peers for being retrospective and potentially leading to mass bankruptcies. In January, an amendment to the Finance Bill made by Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat MP, forced the government to agree to what Theresa May described in parliament as a review. However, a cross-party group of MPs were told this week by Treasury officials that the review would not examine the human impact of the policy as expected, or result in any changes to the law.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • Will Britbox spell the end of the BBC’s licence fee? – Amy Horscroft, CapX
  • There is no longer a moral case for remaining in Corbyn’s Labour – James Bickerton, Reaction
  • How campus madness entered the workplace – Toby Young, The Spectator
  • Macron’s cunning European plan – John Lichfield, UnHerd
  • MPs must not now be allowed to overrule the people – Alastair MacMillan, Brexit Central