May returns from Strasbourg with an ‘improved Brexit deal’

‘Theresa May last night urged warring MPs to back her Brexit deal today after winning “legally binding” changes from the EU. After an eleventh hour dash to Strasbourg, the PM hailed a vital breakthrough after securing three concessions to the deal rejected out of hand by the Commons in January. Sitting next to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Mrs May said she had secured a legal commitment that the ‘backstop’ designed to avoid a post-Brexit hard border in Ireland can only be temporary. The EU had also given a legal undertaking to turbo charge work on hi-tech “alternative agreements” such as smart cameras so they could be ready to replace the backstop by December 2020. And critically, the UK has won the backing of the EU to issue a ‘unilateral declaration’ whereby if talks over a trade deal break down, it can “disapply” the backstop. The third point – critical to winning over Theresa May’s Ulster Unionists partners in the DUP was only agreed at 10.40pm last night…Speaking at the European Parliament building in France, Mrs May said…”Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.”‘ – The Sun

  • Lidington declares it ‘a good deal’ in the Commons – The Sun
  • All eyes on whether Cox will change his advice – The Times
  • He attacks “bollocks” claim that he has already rejected it – Daily Express
  • Barnier felt the Attorney General was not negotiating in good faith – The Times
  • Whips circulate to Cabinet a list of MPs who need to be persuaded – The Sun
  • Sterling bounces ahead of the vote – FT
  • Juncker says the deal is in ‘spirit and letter’ the same as the original – The Guardian


  • It’s not great, or awful, and it’s certainly not idea, but it gets Brexit over the line. Vote for it. – The Sun Says
  • It’s far from perfect, but we urge MPs to support it – Daily Express Leader
  • Be careful about adding any instability to the Western alliance – The Times Leader
  • If MPs don’t approve the deal, Brexit as a whole could be delayed – Daily Telegraph Leader


>Today: Theresa May on Comment: Why the Commons should vote for this improved Brexit deal today

>Yesterday: MPsETC: Cox “endorses” the pro-Leave National Convention motion at his local Conservative Association AGM

The ERG withhold judgement

‘MPs stopped short of calling Theresa May’s Brexit deal a major breakthrough last night, with key factions saying they would study it in detail today before deciding whether to back it. Some, including Sir Mike Penning, a former Home Office minister and Brexiteer, said that the package was enough for them to abandon their opposition and vote for her deal minutes after details first emerged. However, key voting blocs in the Commons withheld a firm judgment. Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteer Tories, told Sky News: “It’s too early to tell definitively but it’s clearly a step in the right direction.” Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the ERG, was more negative, telling the BBC that the “government has put a very good gloss on something which falls short of what was expected”.’ – The Times

  • ‘It’s this deal or Brexit may not happen,’ Juncker warns – FT
  • ‘Make your mind up time,’ Gove tells his colleagues – Daily Telegraph
  • The ‘star chamber’ of eight lawyers will decide today – Daily Telegraph
  • France plans Smart Border at Calais – just like some said would be impossible for Northern Ireland – The Sun
  • Before the changes, YouGov found a majority of voters believe the deal does not honour the Leave vote – Daily Telegraph
  • Another shambolic day in Westminster – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail
  • The EU is undemocratic and the UK can thrive outside, says man tipped to succeed Carney at the Bank of England – The Times
  • Farage asked Trump to support No Deal – Daily Telegraph


Shrimsley: The backstop’s best feature is that  it will stop free marketeer Tories governing as they wish

‘The Conservative party has been captured by demagogues, economic illiterates, provincial nationalists and wild-eyed free marketeers. Power is passing to those who think diplomacy means shouting at foreigners. Their revolution is every bit as fervid as Jeremy Corbyn’s on the left. Personally cushioned from the economic impact, they admit they would see GDP fall as the price of “freedom”. The UK’s economy will always be second to their ideological fixations…And so, outrageous infringement to sovereignty that it is, we should be grateful for the backstop. If this deal ever passes, we may one day build statues to Mr Barnier. He will not only have saved Ireland from a hard border and Britain from the Tory zealots. He may ultimately have saved the Conservatives from themselves.’ – Robert Shrimsley, FT

>Yesterday: Henry Newman on Comment: Thirteen myths about the Prime Minister’s deal

CCHQ accused of ‘inertia’ over racism allegation

‘Tory chairman Brandon Lewis is facing a race storm over allegations he spent months ignoring Islamophobia complaints. Two local Tory Party chairmen have quit in fury at his failure to act against an activist who allegedly made anti Muslim remarks. Ajay Jagota, South Shields Tory chairman, and Gerard Leake, Jarrow association chairman, wrote to Mr Lewis last September to complain. But leaked emails seen by BuzzFeed reveal that six months later Mr Lewis has still not responded to their complaints. They both quit in disgust in January this year – prompting Theresa May’s team to issue a grovelling apology to the pair, the website reported.’ – The Sun

Raab on the leadership: “Never say never.”

‘Asked if he’d like to be Prime Minister after making a major speech on social mobility, the senior Tory Brexiteer said: “Never say never”… It comes amid a rapidly-rising belief among Tory MPs that the PM will be forced out within weeks. In his speech to Tory think tank Onward Mr Raab made a highly-personalised speech – telling how his Jewish refugee father battled to get him into a grammar school, how he reads the Gruffalo kids book to his two sons and boasting about his karate skills. He also laid out radical new policies to tackle inequality and halt Britain’s decline in social mobility. In a sign of the detailed planning he is already putting into a future leadership challenge he called for radical new policies such as paying high-performing teachers bumper salaries to teach in Britain’s roughest schools. He said the policy should be a priority, saying: “If there’s one change I’d like to see, having sat on the Education Select Committee between 2013 and 2014, it’s to pay teachers more for teaching in our tougher schools.”’ – The Sun

  • He lays out his vision for a ‘second chance society’ of greater social mobility – The Times

>Yesterday: MPsETC: “Making those dreams come true: that should be our calling as Conservatives.” Raab’s speech to Onward – full text

Samuel: Britain has become a nightmare location for any investor trying to build things

‘If there is so much cash looking for a home, though, why is the UK is struggling to fund all the projects it wants to build? Britain is still the top destination in Europe for foreign direct investment. But infrastructure investors, from funds to corporates, are never short of a gripe about investing here. Top of the list is the endlessly chopping and changing regulatory environment, especially the way regulators are pushing down prices for consumers and thereby returns…Heathrow might be an unusually bad case, but it’s also an instructive one for British infrastructure. Building things in the UK has become a total nightmare. Planning laws, endless rounds of consultation and legal battles and the ever-expending rights awarded to Nimbys mean that big capital projects now take decades and often face ever-rising bills to pay off their detractors. HS2 is another example.’ – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph

  • Legal challenge to Heathrow expansion, backed by Khan, begins – The Times
  • Five things the Chancellor must do to fix the tax system, but won’t – Daily Telegraph
  • Why is the Government piling ever more petty regulation onto us? – Ross Clark, Daily Telegraph
  • Hammond has a chance to build homes for the homeless – Jon Sparkes, The Times
  • London commercial property investment appears to be wobbling – FT

Field leads attack on welfare cap

‘British MPs have strongly criticised a government cap on household benefits payments designed to push claimants into work after finding that four-fifths of the affected people were exempt from having to seek employment. Frank Field, who chairs the Commons work and pensions select committee, said it would be “difficult to think of a more cruel cut” to claimants’ welfare than the cap, which was introduced in 2013. The committee said in a report published on Tuesday that 82 per cent of claimants affected by the cap were exempt from seeking work, the aim of the policy, because of health, disability or other circumstances. The cap limits the total annual benefits payments to any given household at £20,000 for most of the UK and £23,000 in London. It was intended to restore fairness between out-of-work claimants and people in work, save money and provide extra incentives to work.’ – FT

  • The working poor increasingly rely on charities for the basics – FT
  • Low-paid work has become a trap, not an opportunity – Paul Johnson, The Guardian
  • School governors’ letter expresses concern about budget cuts – The Guardian
  • McDonnell welcomes plan to scrap tax allowance and replace it with weekly £48 payment for all – The Guardian
  • Comprehensive Higher Education would have a mandate for full taxpayer-funding – Nick Hillman, The Guardian
  • A rise in the number of Scottish pupils leaving school with no qualifications – Daily Telegraph
  • Scotland’s new curriculum ‘narrows choices’ – The Scotsman

Watson’s ‘party within a party’ attracts almost a third of Labour MPs

‘Almost a third of Labour MPs attended the first meeting of Tom Watson’s rebel group yesterday in a show of defiance to Jeremy Corbyn. About 80 of the party’s 245 MPs watched as the deputy leader warned that Labour faced its biggest split unless “pluralism and tolerance” was restored. In a sign that leading Labour figures are uniting in common cause against Mr Corbyn and his supporters, the meeting was also addressed by Lord Mandelson and Lord Kinnock. Fears in the Labour high command that Mr Watson is in effect establishing a party within a party will only intensify after he told the 150 people present, including about 70 peers, that the group would make policy in at least nine different areas and that he wanted to find a way for Labour members and councillors to get involved.’ – The Times

The US is set to overtake Saudi as the largest oil and gas exporter, thanks to shale

‘The United States is about to supplant Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest exporter of oil and petroleum products — an economic powerplay that has seismic geopolitical implications. The shift, which overturns 70 years of precedent and appeared unthinkable until very recently, is expected to take place this year, according to the research company Rystad Energy. Saudi Arabia has led the global market since it began selling oil overseas in the 1950s but a technology-driven shale boom in Texas has positioned the US to embark on its own era of worldwide energy dominance.’ – The Times

  • Russia’s new pipeline is an attempt to undermine Ukraine – Nick Butler, FT
  • American businesses threaten to boycott economic forum over Moscow’s detention of investor – FT
  • The US loses to Russia and China in WW3 simulations – Daily Mail
  • Washington will limit intelligence sharing if allies use Huawei technology – Daily Mail

MI5 apologises for the service failing to pass child abuse allegations about MP to the police

‘MI5 warned the cabinet secretary in the 1980s about rumours that a minister had a “penchant for small boys” but did not inform the police or launch an investigation into the allegations, according to a member of the security services. Giving evidence anonymously to the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA), a lawyer with the security service apologised for it having taken a “narrow, security-related view” of the accusations against Sir Peter Morrison. “With hindsight,” the lawyer, whose voice was heard via remote video link, said “it was a matter of deep regret” that MI5 had not cooperated with police or made inquiries into the activities of the former MP for Chester, who died in 1995. The official said the security service did not investigate people merely because they had a public profile but only when there was reason to suspect they posed a threat to national security.’ – The Guardian

News in Brief

  • The death of Begum’s baby is a tragedy, but it isn’t Javid’s fault – Spectator
  • Hipsters cannot help copying one another – Unherd
  • How to win an argument online – New Statesman
  • The first person on Mars is likely to be a woman – Huffington Post
  • Wetherspoon’s and the pinnacle of human progress – 1828