Former soldiers expected to face murder charges from Bloody Sunday

“Army veterans are expected to be charged with murder within a fortnight over the deaths of Bloody Sunday protesters during the Troubles 47 years ago, The Telegraph understands. Well-placed sources have suggested that four ex-paratroopers, now in their 60s and 70s, fear being told on March 14 they will face murder charges in connection with the notorious shootings in Londonderry in 1972. Fourteen civilians were killed and another 14 wounded when the soldiers from 1 Para opened fire on a civil rights demonstration in the city. Prosecutors in Northern Ireland will meet with victims’ families on March 14 before making the long-awaited announcement on whether former soldiers will stand trial. A press statement will be read out in the city at an event to which television news crews have been invited.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 1) Ellwood claims “no deal” will be stopped “whenever”

“The UK will not be allowed to leave the EU without a deal at any point, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood has suggested. He told the Political Thinking podcast he and like-minded colleagues will stop a no-deal exit “whenever” – even if Brexit is delayed until the summer. MPs will get the opportunity to vote on a no-deal exit if Parliament rejects Theresa May’s deal again next month. Mr Ellwood suggested the PM may have to pursue a “softer” Brexit to build a Commons majority for her deal. Asked by presenter Nick Robinson whether this could mean the UK ultimately staying in some form of customs union with the EU, he replied “possibly”.” – BBC

  • “We’ve become a walk-on-by society . . . good people need to step forward” – Interview with Tobias Ellwood, The Times

Brexit 2) Three more Tory MPs “face no confidence votes”

“The Daily Telegraph can disclose that three Tory MPs Dame Caroline Spelman, Dominic Grieve and Mark Pawsey are facing no confidence motions at their party’s annual meetings over the next four weeks. The votes are being forced on the local associations by party activists who are furious at the way some Tory MPs are trying to water down Brexit and betraying a manifesto promise to leave the single market and customs union….Tory party activists are expected to request a vote on Dame Caroline’s future at her party’s annual meeting next Friday, Mr Pawsey faces a vote on his future on March 20 and Mr Grieve has to win a vote of no confidence on March 29.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: MPsETC:

Brexit 3) Holiday prices cut due to fear of disruption

“Tour operators are offering “unprecedented” discounts on Easter holidays amid a slump in bookings caused by fears of Brexit travel chaos. Concern at the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU has helped to push down the price of trips to European destinations by a record 24 per cent. Analysis of more than 100,000 holidays during the school break from April 8 to April 22 found that week-long packages to destinations including Corfu, the Algarve, Mallorca and Ibiza are being cut to about £100 a person, including flights. Some operators are offering a seven-night trip with flights for as little as £108 a person, with some five-star deals as low as £124 per head.” – The Times

Brexit 4) May sees her mission as “damage limitation”

“Theresa May’s former chief of staff has told the BBC she always saw Brexit as a “damage limitation exercise”. In his first TV interview, Nick Timothy suggested the PM and other ministers’ attitude meant the government has “not been prepared to take the steps” needed to make the most of Brexit. And he warned the government’s mishandling of it risked “opening up space for a populist right wing party”. His comments are in forthcoming BBC Two documentary Inside the Brexit Storm.” – BBC

>Today: Columnist Nick Hargrave: A memo to the next Tory leader. How you govern will be no less important than why.

Brexit 5) Spain to protect the rights of British citizens under “no deal”

“The Spanish government has approved a series of unilateral contingency measures to protect the rights of Britons in Spain in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The package, set out in a royal decree that will go before parliament, will cover employment, social security, healthcare and education, and is designed to minimise disruption if the UK crashes out of the EU. The Spanish government estimates that there are at least 300,000 Britons officially registered as resident in Spain, and more than 150,000 Spaniards living in the UK.” – The Guardian

Brexit 6) Grayling urged to resign over £33m Eurotunnel bill

“The transport secretary faced calls to resign yesterday after his department paid £33 million to settle a legal action over no-deal Brexit preparations. Chris Grayling was condemned as incompetent after the payout to Eurotunnel, which was in the process of suing the government over the award of ferry contracts. The Channel tunnel operator had been angry at the decision to hand the contracts worth £103 million to three of its competitors without a comprehensive tendering exercise. One of the contracts was awarded to Seaborne Freight to provide additional ferries into Ramsgate, Kent, even though it did not own any vessels and had no agreement with the port. The Department for Transport (DfT) scrapped the £13.8 million deal last month.” – The Times

  • The Government needs to clear out the incompetent ministers – Leader, The Sun
  • Losing Control – Leader, The Times

Brexit 7) Forsyth: Voting for delay would mean weaker negotiating position

“If Mrs May’s deal hasn’t won a Commons vote by March 12, the Commons will vote on whether to proceed with No Deal. The Parliamentary arithmetic is such that No Deal will be defeated. The next day, Parliament will then vote on whether to request an extension from the EU. This vote will almost certainly pass. At this point, the UK would be in the weakest position it has ever been in this negotiation. Whether to grant an extension or not would be up to the EU and would require all 27 member states to agree. Any extension would almost certainly come with conditions.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

  • “If the DUP are happy then the ERG will be happy.” – Daily Telegraph
  • Barnier ‘working on legal add-on’ to Brexit deal to help May – The Guardian
  • Negotiations will shift in the UK’s favour – Daily Express

Brexit 8) Eustice: The EU can smell our fear

“The reason the EU have not acted in good faith during these negotiations is that they do not think we are serious about leaving or at least they think we are too scared to leave without a deal. They can smell fear. They see in the body language of our negotiators a sense that we will only ever do what the EU grants us permission to do. They see us continuing to respect their trite and ostensible legal impediments and procedures even though we are leaving. See how readily we accepted that it would be unlawful to negotiate a future partnership until after we have left or how it would be unlawful for us to commence formal trade negotiations with third countries until we have left. They do not see steely resolve or us wielding our power. Instead, we look biddable and the craven actions of those in Parliament who want to thwart Brexit are mainly to blame.” – George Eustice, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 9) Parris: Many of the ERG would rather be martyrs than victors

“Without Britain, I am fearful for the future of the EU. We owe it to our continent to be in the room. In the deepest recesses of the Brexiteer mind lies a fear of winning, of being tested. Buried in their psyche is the ache for martyrdom. The divide between those who will vote for May’s deal in the days ahead, and those who won’t, is just a difference of opinion about when to cry foul. Betrayal is their unconscious dream. Our job as Remainers will be to help them fulfil it.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Brexit 10) Oborne: It’s going the PM’s way

“With ten days to go, Theresa May has, I believe, at the very least a fighting chance of making it into the winner’s enclosure. And if she does, we can forget the gossip now circulating in Westminster that the PM will immediately resign. History will judge whether Brexit has — or has not — been a good thing for Britain. But Mrs May will have delivered on her promise. She will be the heroine of the hour.” – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

  • Eurosceptics “offer to vote for the deal if May will give a date when she will stand down as PM” – Financial Times
  • Workers Rights Bill “could persuade up to 70 Labour MPs to back May’s deal – Daily Mail

Lewis announces a scheme to sign up Conservative voters as “registered supporters”

“Tory voters will be able to join the party for free as a ‘registered supporter’. The move to bring in more activists comes amid talk that the Brexit deadlock could lead to a general election. The Tories were outgunned in the 2017 election by Labour, which has more than four times as many members.The new ‘Conservative Community Network’ will give non-paying activists access to campaign materials to share on social media and a role in drawing up party policies. They will not be able to take part in leadership ballots. Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said: ‘There are people all over the country who vote for us, support us, tweet about us, knock on doors with us, deliver leaflets for us, but are not necessarily ready or looking to become full paid-up members.’ ” – Daily Mail

Gove says he would like independent schools to be unnecessary

“Michael Gove has said he would like to see the end of private education because it creates a “fundamental inequality in society”. The Environment Secretary said he would like Britain to become a country where it was “an eccentric choice” for parents to pay for their children’s education, and that he would like to remove tax perks from independent schools. Asked if he would like to get rid of private schools by stealth, he replied: “Well, yes.” Mr Gove’s comments, which will prove controversial with many Conservative voters, go further than his previous criticisms of private education, and come as he and other ministers gear up for a potential Tory leadership contest over the summer.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cameron sends his son to a £30,000-a-year school – The Sun

Mitchell calls for stricter rules on tax havens

“Tax havens under UK jurisdiction could be forced to be more open about who owns assets held there if a group of MPs get their way next week. A group led by Tory MP Andrew Mitchell and Labour’s Margaret Hodge want UK overseas territories (OTs) to introduce a beneficial ownership register. This, they hope, will shine a light on money laundering and the proceeds of people trafficking and other crimes. The UK created its own publicly accessible register in 2016. But the government failed in its efforts to persuade many overseas territories to follow suit.” – BBC

Watson challenged over anti-Semitism investigation

“Two of Labour’s most senior figures have clashed over how to handle anti-Semitism within the party. General secretary Jennie Formby accused deputy leader Tom Watson of “completely unacceptable” behaviour for asking complaints about anti-Semitism to be forwarded to him for monitoring. She said his approach would “undermine” and “pollute” existing party processes. Mr Watson stood by his request, saying “opacity and delay” by the party had led to “a complete loss of trust”. The Labour Party has been dealing with complaints of anti-Semitism over the last two years. Mr Watson’s original intervention came after nine MPs quit the Labour Party last month citing the party’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism as one of the reasons.” – BBC

  • Jewish Labour Movement members turned away from meetings – The Guardian
  • Abbott’s Labour branch dragged into anti-Semitism row – The Sun
  • Up to 50 may join rebel group – The Times
  • Top Corbynistas at war – Daily Mail
  • Labour’s mistake is to believe there are no enemies to the left – John McTernan, Financial Times
  • Chuka Umunna: I never felt totally comfortable in the Labour party – The Guardian

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

SNP aim for an independent Scotland to establish its own currency within a “few years”

“Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “losing touch” after it emerged that an independent Scotland could aim to establish its own currency within the first few years after leaving the UK. Under a new policy set to be introduced by the SNP, a separate Scotland would keep the pound during a transition period after a Yes vote. Keith Brown, the party’s deputy leader, said it should now be party policy to establish an “independent currency” much quicker than previously suggested. The proposal marks a major shift on the party’s position before the 2014 independence referendum when Alex Salmond, the then first minister, insisted Scotland would continue to use the pound in a currency union.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Craig Hoy on Comment: The middle ground is where elections are won and lost in Scotland

Security guards in Parliament threaten to go on strike

“Parliament could be thrown into chaos later this month after security guards voted to go on strike in a row about conditions. Some 250 guards who are members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are preparing to stage a walk-out on March 20. Visitors have to go through airport-style security checks to be allowed into the Palace of Westminster – meaning a walkout could spell chaos.” – The Sun

Trudeau reshuffles his cabinet amidst his biggest crisis

“Justin Trudeau is facing the biggest crisis of his political career as pressure mounts on the Canadian prime minister over allegations that he interfered improperly in a corruption case involving a Montreal engineering company. News of a slowing Canadian economy compounded Mr Trudeau’s challenges on Friday as he reshuffled his cabinet, less than eight months before federal elections in which polls show the opposition Conservatives as an increasing threat to his re-election.” – Financial Times

>Today: ToryDiary: How Trudeau destroyed his political brand

Moore: Teaching children about relationships is too important to be decided by politicians

“The Government is keen that relationship education be “non-judgmental”, but in fact it is highly judgmental about world views which conflict with its own. It is pointless to deny, for example, that the effect of officialdom’s compulsory celebration, especially in schools, of being gay or transgender makes state education more hostile for many Muslim, Jewish and Christian parents. Good character, says the Department for Education, involves “honesty, integrity, courage, humility, kindness, generosity, trustworthiness and a sense of justice”. How true, how very true. But why must children be told this by edict from a government building in Great Smith Street, SW1, rather than being brought up by the autonomous decisions of their teachers and parents, or by reading 1 Corinthians, 13? Given the state of the culture wars in the West, who believes that our politicians can, or should, hold a moral magisterium over us?” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • How an Irish observer warned in 2013 that the pro-EU elite would seek to block Brexit – M.E. Synon, Brexit Central
  • When it comes to vaccines, the science that matters is persuasion – John Ashmore, Capx
  • The myth of the ‘millennial’ Corbyn project – Tom Harwood, The Spectator
  • No confidence bid launched against Sam Gyimah MP – Guido Fawkes
  • The book no socialist dares read – Paul T Horgan, Conservative Woman