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Brexit: May to urge EU to compromise in speech today…

“Theresa May will make a last-ditch attempt to persuade the EU to give her a better Brexit deal on Friday, as she struggles to hold her crumbling government together following a day of cabinet embarrassments in Westminster. The prime minister will plead with EU leaders to offer further concessions, as it became clear that talks in Brussels have stalled and hardline Eurosceptics in her party are likely to vote down the deal for a second time in parliament next week. Senior Tory critics of May expressed astonishment that her strategy was a refusal to change course in the face of defeat, with one cabinet source saying No 10 realised it was about to lose the meaningful vote but seemed unable to make a coherent case to MPs why they should vote for it.” – The Guardian

More:

  • Javid urges Cabinet to back ‘incendiary’ levy on EU workers – The Sun
  • Head of no-deal planning to retire early on March 31 – The Times

>Today:

…as Cox pulls out of visit to Brussels…

“The PM’s last ditch plea comes as her high stakes stand-off with Europe’s bosses over the Irish backstop rolls into a third day. With talks still stalled after Tuesday’s Brussels bust up, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox last night called off a new trip to the Belgian capital today – with only four days to go until a final Commons showdown. No10 aides privately admitted the situation was “pretty bleak”, and the PM may now need to press ahead with Tuesday’s vote without a new deal in the thin hope a majority for her hoped-for legal changes wins the EU round… During Tuesday night’s testy talks, Government legal chief Mr Cox put forward Britain’s plan for a new dispute system to allow the UK to leave the backstop. Under his blueprint, a panel could decide Britain was entitled to end the border fix if it had made good enough proposals for alternative arrangements to kick in.” – The Sun

  • Officials insist EU concession puts agreement within reach – The Times
  • Flights set to continue in no-deal scenario – FT

Ulster:

>Today: George Eustice in Comment: We have bungled this negotiation. The best means of putting matters right is to embrace No Deal if we have to.

…Gove urges free votes…

“If Mrs May loses Tuesday’s vote MPs will vote on whether or not to block no deal, followed by a vote on whether to delay Brexit. Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, is understood to have warned that the Government will collapse if MPs are not given a free vote on a no deal Brexit. The Telegraph has learned that at a meeting with Gavin Barwell, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Mr Gove said ministerial colleagues were prepared to quit if they were not allowed to vote with their conscience. Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, described Mrs May’s speech as “an admission of failure”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • May’s authority on the line as defeat looms – FT
  • Up to 30 Labour MPs who could yet save May’s Brexit deal – The Sun
  • Inquiry will see if MPs changed vote after threats – The Times

…and soft Brexit ministers press for indicative votes

“The prime minister is being warned by Remainers in the cabinet that she will lose control of Brexit next week unless she holds a series of humiliating votes on alternatives to her deal if it is defeated a second time. Theresa May is expected to lose the vote on Tuesday after failing so far to win concessions from Brussels on the Irish backstop… Remain-supporting cabinet ministers are pressing Mrs May to commit herself to a series of “indicative votes” to see whether there is a parliamentary majority for any other Brexit outcome. Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd and David Gauke are among those urging her to seize the initiative, which they say will otherwise be wrested from her by parliament. Mrs May fears that the votes could pave the way for a Brexit that does not honour the referendum result.” – The Times

  • Remainers ramp up plan to keep UK in the customs union – The Sun
  • Chancellor warns Eurosceptics over Brexit deal vote – FT
  • Grieve leads Remainers plotting second vote – The Sun

Comment:

  • Is Hammond’s plan to thwart a true Brexit about to come to fruition? – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • Young people must march for Brexit – Stephen Edginton, The Sun

Editorial:

  • Rejecting May’s deal would be a huge gamble for Brexiteers – The Sun

CCHQ fears ‘local elections meltdown’

“Tory party chiefs fear they could lose 1,000 councillors in a local elections meltdown, sealing Theresa May’s fate in No10. The Government’s ongoing Brexit turmoil and an impossibly high bar from 2015’s success will mean losses at the May 2 polls will stretch into “the high hundreds”, one senior figure has claimed. The PM’s allies suspect her mounting army of Tory MP critics will wait for the expected ballot box battering before demanding she resigns. In a final roll of the dice for Mrs May to cling to power, Cabinet loyalists are urging her to carry out an immediate and wide-ranging reshuffle immediately after the local polls to bring on a raft of younger Tory MPs. The council elections in eight weeks time across most of England except London were last contested on the same day as the 2015 general election.” – The Sun

Analysis:

  • Leadership candidates jostle for position – Sebastian Payne, FT

>Yesterday:

Cabinet Minister Blunder 1) Bradley faces calls to resign over Troubles comment

“Theresa May suffered a string of gaffes by cabinet colleagues yesterday, including one by a close ally that harmed relations with Ireland. Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, was under mounting pressure to resign for suggesting that deaths caused by soldiers during the Troubles were not a crime. Her comments triggered a row with Ireland at a sensitive time in the relationship. Mrs Bradley said that she was “profoundly sorry” for her remarks, made in a Commons debate on Wednesday. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said her “comments were insensitive and wrong” and that it was a matter for the prime minister whether Ms Bradley could remain in post. His deputy, Simon Coveney, told Mrs Bradley that she had caused deep offence.” – The Times

  • Northern Irish Secretary has lost credibility, Labour insist – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Bradley faces fresh calls to resign as Williamson seeks to protect troops

Cabinet Minister Blunder 2) Leadsom under pressure for Islamophobia gaffe

“Separately Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom was slammed for saying MPs’ concerns about Islamophobia should be directed to the Foreign Office. Critics said it suggested British Muslims were “foreigners”. Ms Leadsom had been speaking to MPs in the Commons. Labour’s Naz Shah was asking for the chance of a debate about Islamophobia. Ms Leadsom said she should “discuss a way forward with the Foreign Office”. Ms Shah said it “horrifically alludes to British Muslims as foreigners”. A spokeswoman for the Commons Leader insisted Ms Leadsom thought the Labour MP was referring to a global definition of Islamaphobia. “Of course, any form of Islamaphobia in the UK would be dealt with swiftly by the Home Office or Communities Department as appropriate.”” – The Sun

  • Lewis accused of ‘repeatedly ignoring’ racism complaints – The Guardian

Cabinet Minister Blunder 3) Rudd apologises for referring to Abbott as ‘coloured’

“Amber Rudd apologised yesterday after describing Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, as “coloured” during a radio interview. Ms Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, was discussing the level of abuse and harassment female politicians suffered. She told BBC Radio 2: “It definitely is worse if you’re a woman and it’s worst of all if you’re a coloured woman. Diane Abbott gets a huge amount of abuse and I think that’s something we need to continue to call out.” Ms Abbott responded on Twitter: “The term ‘coloured’ is an outdated, offensive and revealing choice of words.”… Downing Street said that the apology should close the matter. A spokeswoman said: “She apologised very swiftly. She has described it herself as clumsy language. That was absolutely the right thing to do.”” – The Times

  • Why I refuse to join the outrage bandwagon – Angela Epstein, Daily Telegraph

Knife crime: Police ’round on Hammond’ over claim they need to make do on funding…

“Police chiefs rounded on the chancellor yesterday after he told them they would have to make do with current budgets despite forces’ pleas for emergency funds to tackle the knife crime epidemic. Senior officers reacted with outrage after Philip Hammond accused senior officers of failing to prioritise the staff and resources available. Labour called the suggestion “monstrous”… As a rift grew between Theresa May and Sajid Javid, the home secretary, over police budgets, Mr Hammond said of senior officers’ requests for emergency funding: “If your house is on fire, you stop painting it and you go and get a bucket and start pouring water on the fire.”” – The Times

  • Javid calls for £300 million to tackle epidemic – The Sun

Comment:

  • Police waste too much time over silly spats – Clare Foges, The Times

>Yesterday:

…as Hinds defends schools over exclusions

“The education secretary has criticised suggestions that schools are to blame for a spate of stabbings, insisting there is no “causal link” between exclusions and knife crime. In a column for The Times, Damian Hinds backs the right of head teachers to remove pupils permanently from their schools. By the time a child is excluded many have already been in serious trouble, and other pupils have the right to be educated in safety, he said. “It is right that a school has the ability to permanently exclude when that last resort is needed. Pupils need to know where they stand and who is in charge,” he said. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, is the latest public figure to blame schools for the surge in knife crime in London, Birmingham and elsewhere. He has co-signed a letter along with six police and crime commissioners to Theresa May calling on her to fix the “broken” system of school exclusions that he said set teenagers on a path to crime.” – The Times

  • London Mayor under fire after ‘admitting he can do no more’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Khan links Tories’ education reforms to knife surge – Daily Telegraph

Damian Hinds: Schools have a key role, but cannot do it alone

“Every child needs an education which is a safe and calm environment for learning. We have strengthened teachers’ powers so they can take action if they suspect a pupil has brought a prohibited item, including knives, into school. Any form of violence in a school is completely unacceptable. It is right that a school has the ability to permanently exclude when that last resort is needed. Pupils need to know where they stand and who is in charge. Obviously young people who have been excluded from mainstream education have problems – but an exclusion should not just be the end of something but be the start of something new and positive.” – The Times

  • Khan should take responsibility for stopping knife crime – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

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

Lancaster unveils pension boost for Gurkhas

“Gurkha soldiers will be rewarded with a bumper new pension deal, it was yesterday announced. Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster confirmed a new support package for 22,000 Gurkha veterans and their families. Under the new deal, they will get a £15m increase in the Gurkha Pension Scheme. And some veterans could receive increases of up to 34 per cent extra in their pensions – depending on service – with the increases being backdated to 1 January 2016. Alongside the upped pensions, the MoD also announced a new £25m injection over the next decade for medical support for veterans living in Nepal… The announcement comes after Lancaster recently visited Nepal, where he met with the President Bidya Devi Bhandari, to present the annual report of the Brigade of Gurkhas.” – The Sun

  • Claim of one civilian death in RAF’s raids on ISIS ridiculed – The Guardian

Hunt says May would refuse calls for second Scottish referendum

“Theresa May would “of course” refuse the Scottish Government permission to hold a second independence referendum, Jeremy Hunt has warned. The Foreign Secretary has made clear the Prime Minister would reject any attempt from Nicola Sturgeon to hold another legally binding vote on the issue. Asked what Theresa May’s answer would be if the First Minister asked for a section 30 order be granted to allow this, Mr Hunt stood firm on the possibility. He said during a visit to the University of Glasgow: “The answer of course would be no for the very simple reason that we think the Scottish Government should be focusing on the concerns of Scottish voters.” The latest rejection came as the SNP’s deputy leader Keith Brown insisted such a move “should not prevent” a fresh vote on breaking up the UK from taking place.” – Daily Express

  • Foreign Secretary criticises Salmond over Russian network show – Daily Telegraph
  • Sturgeon slaps down deputy over illegal referendum – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit row hits Scottish Labour ahead of conference – FT

Comment:

  • First Minister faces a furious internal row – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

Jenrick urges banks to tackle ‘gender funding gap’

Banks will be compelled to publish regular updates on how much they invest in businesses run by women as part of a series of new measures to help female entrepreneurs, in a victory for The Telegraph’s Women Mean Business campaign. The Treasury on Friday launches its Investing in Women Code, which will force financial institutions that sign up to commit to distributing funding with gender balance in mind. Lloyds, RBS and UK Finance, the banking trade body, have already committed to the code, which will require annual updates on progress… Robert Jenrick, the Treasury minister who commissioned Alison Rose, an RBS executive, to carry out the review, said its findings “confirmed my worst fears” and has called on banks to “raise their game”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Special report: women in business – FT
  • Female MPs read out abusive tweets – The Sun

More:

  • UK productivity growth ‘accelerating’, says Bank policymaker – FT

Comment:

  • FGM is abhorrent, but we’re stamping it out – Penny Mordaunt, Times Red Box

Corbyn ally calls for EHRC to be scrapped

“A member of Labour’s ruling body called for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to be shut down yesterday after it said that the party may have discriminated against Jewish people. The EHRC was responding to complaints about antisemitism and said that Labour may have “unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs”. The commission is now setting out its concerns to the party and if Labour’s response is found to be unsatisfactory it could open a formal inquiry and impose fines. The announcement is highly embarassing for Mr Corbyn, who has previously suggested that politicians should “listen to” the EHRC. Under a statutory investigation the commission will be able to use its legal powers to compel Labour to reveal details of its handling of antisemitism in recent years, including internal communications such as text messages and emails.” – The Times

  • How did the Opposition end up being probed for institutional racism? – Julie Lenarz, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour’s problem is institutional – Adam Wagner, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • Labour is rotting from the top – The Times

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

MPs call for database of people linked to ‘dirty money’

“MPs have called on the government to create a database of politicians, public officials and others linked to corruption in an effort to reduce the amount of “dirty money” tainting the UK’s financial system. In the week when ministers announced stricter rules on so-called golden visas for wealthy foreign investors, the Commons Treasury committee gave its support to a centralised list of “politically exposed persons” (PEPs) – individuals with prominent public functions, plus their families and close associates – suspected of activity such as money laundering and fraud… Under Britain’s 2017 money laundering regulations, however, the definition of a PEP extends to individuals in the UK as well as overseas.” – FT

  • UK vulnerable to money laundering on a ‘massive scale’ – The Guardian
  • Tories criticised for tax haven donations – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Trudeau has fallen from grace – and he has no one to blame but himself – Leah McLaren, The Spectator
  • A good Brexit deal is within grasp, but MPs risk throwing it away – Henry Newman, Reaction
  • How to survive – and thrive – after a No Deal Brexit – Caroline Elsom, CapX
  • Why Titania is perfect for our times – Douglas Murray, UnHerd
  • Interview with Dr Phillip Lee – The House

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