Eustice resigns over Brexit delay…

“A Eurosceptic minister resigned yesterday after a confrontation with Theresa May about delaying Brexit. George Eustice, the agriculture, food and fisheries minister, quit three days after expressing his dismay to the prime minister. He became the 14th minister in Mrs May’s government to resign over Brexit and wrote to her to criticise a “series of rather undignified retreats” by the government. On Tuesday night he gave the prime minister “both barrels” at a meeting attended by 15 Brexiteer colleagues after Mrs May presented her plan to parliament. A source said: “George was the first one up and was pressing the point that it would be up to the EU to decide how long the Brexit extension would be, potentially making it two years”. Yesterday in his resignation letter he said that delaying Brexit day would be the “final humiliation of our country” by Brussels.” – The Times


  • US takes tough line with UK on post-Brexit trade – FT
  • Europe faces major economic hit from no deal – The Sun


  • MPs determined to avoid no deal make a better Brexit harder to reach – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: The motion backing Leave that every Conservative Association should pass during this AGM season


…amidst speculation that May is planning a ‘surprise vote’ next week…

Speculation is rife in Westminster that the Prime Minister is planning to force MPs to vote on her Brexit deal on Wednesday next week. Whips have told MPs that they can be away from Parliament on Monday and Tuesday and be ready for the vote on Wednesday, The Daily Telegraph has been told. This would leave time for another possible vote on Tuesday March 12 – the deadline she has set herself for getting her deal through Parliament. The whips’ plans are contingent on Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, approving a legal codicil which – The Telegraph understands – will say the controversial Northern Ireland backstop can be brought to an end by the UK or European Union by an independent arbiter. If on March 12 the House of Commons once again rejects her EU Withdrawal Bill, Mrs May will be forced to hold votes on a no-deal Brexit or delaying Brexit, as she agreed to allow this week.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Downing Street sources claim this is extremely unlikely – The Guardian


  • Rees-Mogg indicates that he does want to back the deal – The Sun
  • Whittingdale becomes latest Brexiteer to say he’ll vote for the Withdrawal Agreement – Daily Mail
  • ‘Star chamber’ of Eurosceptics will assess Cox’s concessions – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexiteers suggest they’ll back deal if May gives departure timetable – The Sun


>Yesterday: ToryDiary: May walks a red tape tightrope on workers’ rights and regulations

…whilst Costa seeks meeting with Tusk…

“The Conservative backbencher who stunned his own colleagues with a cross-party victory for a no-deal Brexit amendment on EU citizens’ rights is seeking an urgent meeting with Donald Tusk. He is writing to the president of the European council over a new instruction to Michel Barnier’s team in Brussels to start working on ringfencing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in the rest of the EU in the event of no deal. Alberto Costa, who was forced to resign even though his 11th-hour parliamentary amendment was accepted by the government, said: “Last night was an amazing moment. I’m totally proud that a little lowly backbench MP like me has been able to unite the House of Commons on this contentious Brexit issue over one of the least contentious subjects and bring the government to the dispatch box and vote in favour.”… Campaign groups British in Europe and the3million in the UK who had met Costa just a few weeks ago to press their case said they were delighted with the amendment.” – The Guardian

  • EU refuses ‘mini-deal’ on citizens’ rights – The Sun

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: The Costa conscience

…and Labour insiders ‘cast doubt on referendum shift’

“Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to call for a second Brexit referendum has energised supporters of a so-called People’s Vote — but senior Labour officials acknowledge that at present there is little chance of winning House of Commons backing for the initiative. Some pro-Remain Labour MPs suggest that Mr Corbyn, a veteran Eurosceptic, is a halfhearted convert to the referendum cause ahead of a climactic Commons vote to be held by March 12. Others depict the Labour leader’s switch as a cynical move to assuage the concerns of the pro-EU wing of the party made in the full knowledge that most MPs do not back another referendum “There aren’t enough votes for a second referendum in the Commons, it’s as simple as that,” said one member of the shadow cabinet. “It was just important for the Labour party for the membership to see the leadership stand up and support it.”” – FT

  • Opposition will try to force through second vote next week – The Sun
  • Labour could let May’s deal pass in return for referendum rematch – The Guardian
  • Two-thirds of Corbyn’s top team break election pledges to thwart Brexit – Daily Express


  • It takes a special sort of blindness to believe there will now be a vote – Stephen Bush, The i
  • For Remain to win, old guard must step aside – Anthony Barnett, The Guardian

Mark Wallace: Norway’s £750 billion investment shows we have a strong post-Brexit future

“Their national wealth fund is one of the world’s biggest investors and owns shares in 9,158 companies spread across 73 ­different countries. So it’s great news that the latest ­decision taken by the fund’s managers is to increase its investment right here, in the UK. The fund has already put ­serious cash into this country. It owns half of the Meadowhall ­shopping centre in Sheffield, and chunks of Regent Street and Oxford Street in ­London. It is a shareholder in hundreds of ­companies, from Greggs and ­Wetherspoons through to Superdry and Moneysupermarket. The UK is already the third-largest destination for this Norwegian investment, and now they’re putting in more. It seems almost surprising, given the endless choruses of woe about Brexit and the pathetic state of our political class in Westminster. Who would want to bet on a country where the job of economic cheerleader is held by Philip Hammond, and the ­alternative is an out-and-out Marxist like John McDonnell? The answer is that the Norwegians can see what we sometimes miss about our own country: The UK is a fantastic place to do business.” – The Sun

  • May could yet triumph on her deal – Philip Collins, The Times
  • Britain’s economy is set to boom… because of Brexit – Liam Halligan, Daily Telegraph
  • Britain is not doomed to become a backwater – Iain Martin, The Times

Probation reform fails to cut reoffending

“The government’s partial privatisation of the probation service has failed to meet targets to cut reoffending, a damning spending watchdog report published today finds. Under a £3.7 billion reform intended to cut reoffending, 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) were created to monitor low and medium-risk offenders, with the state-run National Probation Service overseeing high-risk criminals. Only six of those CRCs have achieved significant reductions in the number of reoffenders. The average number of offences committed per reoffender has risen in 19 of them. The Ministry of Justice is to pay at least an extra £460 million on efforts to stabilise the companies amid fears of multiple insolvencies as they face collective losses of £300 million. A highly critical National Audit Office report says that the ministry set itself up to fail by rushing the implementation of Chris Grayling’s decision to semi-privatise the probation service.” – The Times

  • Ministers unveil crackdown on ‘snob landlords’ who won’t let to those on housing benefit – The Sun


  • McLoughlin calls for investigation into ‘Thatcher Centre’ – The Times

>Today: David Hare in Comment: Why ministers would be wrong to scrap NHS targets

Leadsom says Government is ‘concerned’ by ‘Momo Challenge’

“Ministers are “extremely concerned” about the disturbing Momo challenge game, Andrea Leadsom has said. The Commons boss said the weird new craze, which has spread on social media sites, was “appalling” but she claimed there is no current risk to British kids. Ms Leadsom warned that the Momo challenge, an apparent game in which players are threatened to follow ‘orders’ from a scary-looking avatar, was worrying. Police and schools have been raising concerns about the eerie face which has been spliced into kids videos and circulated on platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp and YouTube. But oddly, charities have said there’s no evidence that anyone has come to physical harm, and YouTube claimed they found no evidence of Momo on their platform. Today Ms Leadsom was asked about how ministers could stop the “scourge of online dangers” by Tory MP Douglas Ross.” – The Sun

Watson distances himself from Corbyn over antisemitism

“Tom Watson declared “I am not Jeremy’s deputy” yesterday as he sought to distance himself further from the Labour leader. Mr Watson emphasised that he had his own mandate and a responsibility to protect Labour members from the taint of racism. The party’s deputy leader also evaded an invitation to say he believed that Jeremy Corbyn was fit to be prime minister. Adding pressure on Mr Corbyn to tackle the party’s antisemitism issue, he described the departure of Luciana Berger as a “badge of shame”. The MP for Liverpool Wavertree left the party last week to form the Independent Group. She had faced a vote of no confidence by party members in her con-stituency after she had criticised Mr Corbyn but the motion was withdrawn. Mr Watson said that he was seeking to hold a meeting with Mr Corbyn to discuss what he said was the “number one issue” facing Labour and defended his right to speak out after the suspension of Chris Williamson, the MP for Derby North and a close ally of Mr Corbyn, over his claim that the party had been “too apologetic” about antisemitism.” – The Times

  • Williamson sends message to supporters after suspension – The Sun
  • MP claims Corbyn ‘did all he could’ to save ally – Daily Mail
  • Outrage as Gardiner suggests antisemitism row is ‘entertainment’ – Daily Express


  • Watson is urged to monitor sexual harassment cases – The Guardian
  • MP who threatened journalist signs Hacked Off letter against ‘press hatred’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Thornberry gives talk to extremist-linked Muslim Brotherhood group – The Sun
  • Former Labour peer to face trial for sexual assault – Daily Mail


  • Deputy using party splits to shore up his position – Francis Elliott, The Times

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Corbyn’s party sinks deeper into anti-semitism

Umunna named Independent Group figurehead

“Chuka Umunna has been named as the chief spokesman for the Independent Group of breakaway MPs. The grouping has resisted pressure to appoint a formal leader, but Mr Umunna, a former shadow business secretary who briefly stood for the Labour leadership in 2015, will be TIG’s main face. In a sign that the 11-strong group is determined to procure more defectors it has given the former Tory MP Sarah Wollaston responsibility for “new colleagues”. This week the group announced that Gavin Shuker, the former Labour MP for Luton South, would be the group convener, organising regular meetings and co-ordinating the group’s agenda. In addition to his role as group spokesman, Mr Umunna will cover the Cabinet Office brief. Anna Soubry, the former Conservative cabinet minister, will shadow justice and Brexit — like all TIG MPs she is a passionate proponent of another referendum.” – The Times

  • Almost a third of Labour voters could defect to the new party – Daily Express
  • Cable says Liberal Democrats are open to a pact with independent MPs – FT
  • Labour accused of ‘vengeful’ action against husband of TIG MP – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The Independent Group. A problem for the Conservatives but a danger for Labour.

MPs attack ‘abysmal’ Army recruitment…

“Capita’s handling of army recruitment has been described by MPs as “abysmal” and unacceptable. The outsourcing company has missed its hiring target for the force every year since it won a £495 million, ten-year contract in 2012, with the shortfall in enlistments ranging from 21 per cent to 45 per cent. A Commons public accounts committee report published today says that Capita accepted the contract without understanding its complexity. Part of the problem arose from the introduction of a centralised online system without trials being put in place first, it said, demonstrating a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the importance of face-to-face contact with applicants. The army had hoped to make savings of £267 million by outsourcing its hiring process but has lowered its forecasts to £180 million. MPs on the committee said they were sceptical this would be achieved by the end of the contract.” – The Times

  • Top brass and private contractor blamed – The Sun

…whilst their staff call for pay calculation rethink

“MPs’ staff are calling for a review of how their pay is calculated after it emerged that parliamentarians will receive almost double their raise in the next financial year. Since 2010 the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has reviewed MPs’ salaries and staffing budgets annually and, in addition, allowed for a staff salary boost that is in line with average increases for public sector workers. Both MPs’ salaries and their annual staff budgets were increased by 1.8 per cent at the start of the current financial year in April. But next year MPs will be awarded a 2.7 per cent raise, it was announced on Thursday, while staff budgets will increase by just 1.5 per cent. IPSA chair Ruth Evans said in January: “The board thought about this very hard. Last year we created a parity, which was the first time that had happened, because at that point it was a 1.8 per cent increase.”” – FT

  • Fury as MPs get another rise – The Sun

Alliance leader hits back at suggestion her party is effectively ‘nationalist’

“Alliance leader Naomi Long has hit back at claims that her party is increasingly aligning itself with nationalism, stating that nationalism “does not appeal” to her. In an interview with the News Letter at her office in Stormont on an unusually warm February afternoon, the East Belfast MLA urged her critics to “take the blinders off”, adding: “We do not approach politics through the lens of sectarianism”. It has become a commonly-held view among unionists that Alliance is now a nationalist party in all but name. To many, this theory was supported by the party standing shoulder to shoulder with Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Green Party to present a united front against Brexit, or sidling up to these parties in a bid to drum up support for the introduction of an Irish language act… Elsewhere, the website Unionist Voice has claimed that Alliance was more than three times as likely to issue press statements attacking unionism than they are to issue criticism of the nationalist community.” – News Letter

SNP slammed for hypocrisy as they delay devolution of welfare

“The devolution in full of welfare benefits to Scotland promised after the independence referendum have been delayed until 2024 amid claims the Scottish Government has “betrayed” Scots. Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville told MSPs the delay to the Scottish successor to personal independence payments (PIP) was to make sure the transfer of cases happens “effectively and securely”. The SNP government had pledged the benefits would be fully devolved by the end of this Parliament in 2021. Opponents last night hit out at the delay, claiming the eight-year wait for the Smith Commission benefits to be devolved made a mockery of SNP pledges during the referendum to deliver independence in 18 months. Tory social security spokeswoman Michelle Ballantyne said the delay exposed the “utter hypocrisy” of SNP ministers on the issue.” – The Scotsman

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: New report says Scottish independence negotiations will be ‘tougher than Brexit’

News in Brief:

  • The European Research Group are not English nationalists – Henry Hill, Reaction
  • Is there light at the end of the Brexit tunnel? – David Shiels, CapX
  • No deal? No problem – Tony Abbott, The Spectator
  • Customs union would create worse problems than it would ‘solve’ – David Paton, Brexit Central
  • The dangerous power of the anti-vaxxer brigade – Imogen Shaw, UnHerd