Civil servants ordered to stand down no-deal planning

No deal Brexit plans have been shelved by the Government “with immediate effect” as Theresa May faced mounting pressure from Cabinet ministers, Tory Eurosceptics and the DUP to name a date for her departure. Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, told the civil service to “wind down” worst-case scenario no-deal planning after the European Union imposed a further six-month Brexit delay on Theresa May. Crispin Blunt, a Eurosceptic Tory MP, said the end of no-deal planning represented a “complete betrayal” of the referendum and described the move as a “dereliction of duty”. A Government source said that while Operation Yellowhammer, which involves “doomsday” contingencies for a no-deal Brexit, is being wound down other plans remain in place.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Some 6,000 no-deal staff return to normal duties – The Guardian
  • Carney says ‘managed no-deal’ less costly than ‘crashing out’ – FT


  • May could bring forward bill to break Brexit deadlock… – The Times
  • …as she tells EU to ignore Rees-Mogg – The Guardian
  • Cox says Government is ‘prepared to listen’ on second referendum – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister doubles down on Labour talks – FT
  • May and Corbyn have ‘more agreement’ on customs union – Daily Mail


  • Pressure exposes cracks in Franco-German partnership – FT
  • EU leaders subdue Macron – The Times


  • Britain has more time, but few options – Oliver Wright, The Times
  • Macron might have rescued both Brexit and the EU – Tim Wallace, Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit is like a slow puncture in the British economy – Chris Giles, FT
  • A general election is probably coming, and will unlock Brexit – Anand Menon, The Guardian
  • Window open for flights of unicorns – Henry Newman, Times Red Box


  • Delay offers respite for the UK – FT



Party chiefs ‘preparing’ for leadership contest in the summer

“Tory Party chiefs are gearing up for a summer leadership contest in preparation for Theresa May quitting, the Daily Mail has learned. Senior officials have drawn up detailed plans for hustings between leadership candidates, including scouting locations across the country, sources said. Details of the preparations come as a string of Eurosceptic Tory MPs called for Mrs May to resign after she agreed to delay Brexit further. For a comment piece it might be worth doing either Nick Timothy or the Telegraph editorial calling on May to go (again). But in the Commons, loyalist MPs rallied behind Mrs May, telling her to ‘ignore the bullies’ and stay on to get Brexit through.” – Daily Mail

  • May faces renewed calls to resign – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister is warned of Cabinet bid to oust her – Daily Express
  • Eurosceptics vent fury – FT


  • Johnson’s team in talks with the Democratic Unionists… – The Times
  • …who demand May uses time to fix backstop – The Sun
  • Wilson clashes with the Prime Minister in the Chamber – News Letter


  • Britain is held hostage by party members – Philip Collins, The Times


>Today: Profiles: Amber Rudd – moderation-preaching, whip-defying, No Deal-opposing. And sought by leadership contenders for support.


Donations flood in to the Brexit Party ahead of launch on Saturday

“Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party has reportedly received £750,000 in small donations in the last 10 days, as the fledgeling party prepares for the European Parliament elections next month. Prominent Brexiteer Mr Farage vowed to lead a fightback against the establishment, which he said has betrayed the trust of the British people. Mr Farage will launch his party’s campaign for the elections in Coventry today, after Theresa May agreed to a six-month delay to Brexit. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he described the extension as “nothing short of a national humiliation”. He added that the UK is governed by a “ruling class” and that Brexit now represents a “battle between the people and the politicians”.” – Daily Express

  • Tories could lose half their 18 MEPs – Daily Telegraph
  • MPs may boycott the Euros campaign – The Guardian
  • Bloodbath anticipated at local elections too – The Sun
  • Change UK asks to see social media posts of would-be MEPs – The Times
  • Taxpayers face £109 million bill – Daily Telegraph


  • My party will give people a chance to change politics – Nigel Farage, Daily Telegraph
  • Don’t let apathy give extremists victory – Vicky Ford MP, Times Red Box
  • Pampered life of British MEPs is about to get cushier – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Polls, Brexit postponed – and the slump of the Conservative vote


Fraser Nelson: If anything, the chaos has only stiffened my resolve over Brexit

Yet of the many strange things we are seeing during this debacle, one of the strangest is how few have changed their mind – in spite of seeing the Brexit process turn into a top-to-bottom horror show. The mayhem has not put them off. And why? Because mayhem was expected. The leader of every political party in Parliament, business groups, trade unions, scientists, actors, spy chiefs – all urged the country to vote Remain. Those who declined to do so knew that they were capsizing the boat and expected to see important people splashing around for quite a while. The language and tactics used by Donald Tusk and others has also reminded people like me how I was naïve to think the EU would ever reform.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Die-hards must wake from no-deal dreams – Iain Martin, The Times
  • The nationalist right has lost the battle for Brexit – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • Britain can now change its mind – Philip Stephens, FT

Ministers 1) Javid brings in tougher sentences for visiting terror hotspots

“British citizens who travel to overseas terrorism hotspots face up to ten years in jail under new laws which come into force today. Under the legislation targeting potential foreign fighters, it becomes an offence to enter or remain in a “designated area”. Sajid Javid, the home secretary, announced the measure last year as part of a government drive to tackle the threat of people going overseas to fight. The Counter Terrorism and Border Security Act gives the home secretary the power to designate an area and if someone enters or remains there a ten-year jail term could be imposed. Mr Javid has to be satisfied that it is necessary to designate an area in order to restrict UK nationals and residents from travelling to or remaining in the area as a way of protecting the public from a risk of terrorism.” – The Times

  • Jihadi brides could face ten years in jail – The Sun

Ministers 2) Wright hints at crackdown on online gambling

“The Government may ban gambling with credit cards, a minister hinted yesterday. Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said it intends to take action on the back of recommendations from the Gambling Commission on the issue. He told MPs he has “a good deal of sympathy” with Labour calls to prevent credit card gambling. His remarks came after Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson raised the case of a woman who racked up a debt of more than £100,000 using nine credit cards in just two days gambling online.” – The Sun

Mercer attacks apparent attempt to dig up dirt on him

“A Tory MP has accused the Conservative whips’ office of contacting his former military colleagues in a bid to dig up “dirt” on him. Johnny Mercer, 37, a former army officer, said that he had been contacted by a serving friend telling him of attempts by other Tory MPs to find out damaging information about his past. Westminster folklore has long maintained that whips, the MPs responsible for maintaining party discipline, seek to obtain awkward secrets about their colleagues in order to leverage the information in exchange for loyalty in votes. Mr Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View, yesterday shared a text message on social media from a former army comrade.” – The Times

Willetts speaks out against May’s university reforms

“A university shake-up ordered by Theresa May could lead to a two-tier system in which the rich buy places on degree courses, a former minister has warned. Students with poor A level grades, such as three Ds or below, could be banned from applying for loans in an attempt to raise degree standards. A government-commissioned review, conducted by Philip Augar, is believed to be considering the proposal. Lord Willetts, the former universities minister, said that this would create a system that allowed rich parents of low-achieving pupils to pay their tuition fees. Poorer students with low grades would be unable to afford to go to university. He suggested lowering the salary threshold for repaying tuition fees, as a way to save taxpayer money.” – The Times

Labour mulls automatic registration to raise voter turnout

“Labour is to consider adopting automatic voter registration as a policy if it came into power in order to increase election turnout. The party, which timed its announcement on Friday to coincide with the last day that people can register to vote in local elections on 2 May, said it would examine different options used internationally, including where automatic voter registration had successfully increased overall registration levels. Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement, has been tasked with examining systems in Canada, Belgium and a number of other countries where an automatic voter registration system has been successfully introduced. An estimated seven million people in the UK are not on the electoral register.” – The Guardian

Speaker candidates prepare for campaign

“Mr Bercow, 56, is still expected to step down in June despite Wednesday night’s decision to delay the Brexit date until the end of October… A friend of Ms Harman said that she was “certain to run” as “there is an absolute crisis of confidence in public trust in parliament so in addition to competent chairing, we need someone who can speak out nationally for parliament and who is a moderniser”. Ms Harman, 68, set up the cross-party Wright commission that led to elections for select committee chairmen and chairwomen. There is also a cross-party alliance for a woman Speaker. Dame Eleanor Laing, a deputy speaker, has already confirmed in the House magazine that she will run. Lindsay Hoyle, also a deputy speaker, is also expected by many to run but his office declined to comment.” – The Times

Sturgeon muddies waters over independence vote

Nicola Sturgeon has created further confusion over her position on a new independence referendum by saying she said will spell out her views after Easter, while at the same time demanding a second vote on Brexit. In a letter to Theresa May she said the extension to Brexit must be used constructively and called on the Prime Minister to drop her “red lines” and stage a so-called People’s Vote. However, she is also facing a split in her party over the timing of indyref2, with prominent Nationalists demanding a new vote on breaking-up Britain in the next six months. Angus MacNeil, the veteran Western Isles MP, tweeted that the Brexit can had been kicked down the road and the party should not follow suit by “kicking indyref2 behind it”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • She vows to address the question after Easter – The Scotsman


  • First Minister under pressure as Brexit fails to hasten separation – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Support for independence slumps in latest Scottish polling

Assange faces years in prison

“Julian Assange is facing decades in a US prison for espionage after he was dragged ranting from the Ecuadorean embassy in London nearly seven years since seeking protection inside. The Wikileaks founder was hauled into a police van yesterday morning after Ecuador revoked his asylum and allowed officers from Scotland Yard to storm the premises in Knightsbridge. Looking pallid, with an unkempt white beard and long hair, Assange, 47, shouted: “Resist this attempt by the Trump administration. The UK must resist.” The US Department of Justice swiftly unsealed an indictment calling for his extradition in connection with “one of the largest compromises of classified information in US history”.” – The Times

  • Corbyn demands Government opposes US extradition demands – Daily Telegraph


  • He risked the lives of countless agents – Anthony Glees, Daily Mail


News in Brief:

  • The strange death of Tory economic thinking – Stian Westlake, Medium
  • How to cope with the death of Brexit – Philip Patrick, Reaction
  • Assange is no free speech hero – Oliver Kamm, CapX
  • Javid’s new internet rules will have a chilling effect on free speech – Toby Young, The Spectator
  • How do you solve a problem like Theresa? – Polly Mackenzie, UnHerd