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Spy chiefs demand investigation after leak from National Security Council

“An unprecedented leak from highly confidential talks with senior ministers about the Chinese telecoms company Huawei has caused outrage among spy chiefs. There were calls for an inquiry after reports emerged of a meeting at which Theresa May was said to have given Huawei approval to supply technology for the next-generation 5G network despite warnings that it could compromise national security. Sajid Javid, the home secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, and Penny Mordaunt, the aid secretary, all raised concerns during a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday.” – The Times

  • Decision risks eroding trust between Five Eyes allies – Daily Telegraph
  • Soames demands leak inquiry – BBC
  • ‘Politician with leadership ambition’ blamed – Daily Mail

More:

  • Hammond seeks UK deals in China’s Belt and Road – FT
  • GCHQ blasts Trump over spying allegation – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Ben Roback in International: Trump’s state visit. Problems abound. But interests – trade, defence, the Special Relationship – endure.

Tom Tugendhat: Britain should heed our allies’ fears about Huawei

“China’s interest in the possibilities of communications technology is therefore clear. And 5G offers an exponential leap ahead. The next generation wireless network will allow a level of connectivity between internet-enabled devices that is currently inconceivable. Domestically, 5G presents China with a worrying opportunity for near-total surveillance – to harness any gadget connected to the web to enable continual, 360-degree appraisal of its subjects. And for firms operating in China, cyber laws require technology companies to cooperate with the state. That’s not their fault but it is a factor we have to consider when one of them wants to help build our own 5G network. To avoid breaking Chinese law, they may be asked to do Beijing’s bidding, and not just at home.” – Daily Telegraph

  • We can’t trust the tech arm of the Chinese state – Bob Seely and John Hemmings, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Britain cannot become reliant on Chinese technology – Daily Telegraph
  • UK should think again about long-term security risks – The Times
  • We cannot ignore our allies in the race for 5G – The Sun

Senior Tories demand ‘roadmap’ from May as 1922 decide not to change the rules

Another Brexiteer coup against Theresa May fizzled out as the party’s senior backbenchers decided not to change the party’s rules to allow an early leadership challenge against her. However, Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the party’s 1922 committee, said that it was time Mrs May set a date for her departure by giving a “clear roadmap” for her exit from 10 Downing Street. Under the party’s rules, Mrs May cannot be challenged until December after winning a no confidence vote last December by 200 votes to 117. Some members the party’s ruling 1922 committee had sought to change the rules to allow another vote after just six months. But in a meeting on Wednesday senior members of the executive of the 1922 committee decided not to change the rules to allow an early vote of no confidence in Mrs May.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Force her out, Tory historian tells MPs – The Times

More:

  • Johnson brings in Crosby for leadership campaignThe Times
  • Stewart’s bid to become the next Prime Minister – The Sun

>Today: Greg Hands MP in Comment: The Party Leader must be far more accountable to Conservative MPs

>Yesterday:

Prime Minister urged to abandon Labour talks and push vote on Withdrawal Agreement

“Cabinet ministers are urging Theresa May to abandon Labour talks and force a fourth Commons showdown on her Brexit deal next week instead. Time is running out for the PM to avoid having to hold euro elections, with the poll to elect MEP on May 23 – four weeks tomorrow… No10 is considering trying to speed up the process by asking Parliament to ratify the Brussels deal anyway by introducing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that enshrines it in law. Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom were among several senior ministers who lobbied the PM for the emergency move during a meeting of her top table yesterday.” – The Sun

  • May floats customs ‘arrangement’ as negotiations resume – Daily Express
  • Arch-Remainer Adonis now backs Labour’s plan – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • The dangerous allure of a fudged Brexit – Philip Stephens, FT
  • It’s now no-deal or another vote – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Chris White in Comment: Brexit. What will happen next now that Parliament has returned?

Ministers 1) Cox warns that judges might force embassies to handle asylum cases

“British embassies will be swamped with migrants and refugees if the European Court of Human Rights forces consulates abroad to accept asylum requests for the UK,  the Attorney General has warned. “Anyone in the world could appear at any contracting states embassy or consulate and claim asylum,” Geoffrey Cox QC, representing Britain, Norway and Latvia, told the Grand Chamber of the court on Wednesday. Judges in Strasbourg will rule on whether obligations stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights should apply on embassy and consulate grounds as well as on the national territory of members of the Council of Europe… Asylum seekers would make multiple applications to any number of embassies at the same time, he added.” – Daily Telegraph

Ministers 2) Hammond warns that Brexit logjam threatens the economy

“Philip Hammond has warned the Brexit logjam threatens to slam the brakes on the economy – and slash business investment. The Chancellor said that his planned three-year Spending Review, which allocates cash to Government departments, may have to be binned entirely if MPs still haven’t passed an EU deal by the start of the summer. And he reiterated that an estimated £27 billion Brexit “dividend” – fuelled by the lowest borrowing for 17 years – could only be pumped into the economy if No Deal is taken off the table. It came as he told MPs business investment is thought to be 20 per cent lower than forecast at the time of the EU Referendum in 2016.” – The Sun

  • Fall in public borrowing gives Chancellor breathing space – The Times

Ministers 3) Norman admits local roads are ‘poor’

“Local roads are “not in great shape” because they are seen as the poor relation of Britain’s transport infrastructure, MPs were told yesterday. Jesse Norman, the transport minister, said the government would need to up its game because the network’s condition might hold back the development of self-driving cars, which needed “better marked” roads to operate. He told the Commons transport committee that the government would have to make further improvements to roads and streets. Autonomous vehicles rely on cameras to monitor road markings to help to navigate the car safely. Markings that are worn away can fail to register on the sensors. Mr Norman admitted that many markings on local roads were “inadequate”.” – The Times

Ministers 4) Hancock calls for overhaul of NHS working culture

“Matt Hancock has said the NHS must end the gender pay gap and overhaul its working culture to free doctors from punishing shift uncertainty, in a speech that will burnish the Conservative leadership hopeful’s liberal credentials. The health secretary called for the NHS to have “a more caring and compassionate culture” towards its own staff, speaking of his shock at the story of one doctor who worked long shifts while going through a severe and traumatic miscarriage. Writing for the Guardian, he said it was “the uncomfortable truth that women are paid less, promoted less and systematically under-represented among the top jobs … This has to change – and I won’t rest until it has.”” – The Guardian

  • I want a diverse, gender-equal, and family-friendly Health Service – Matt Hancock MP, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Andrew Allum in Think Tanks: New technology can save the NHS and social care system billions and improve patients’ lives

Mercer and Smith clash over ‘dirt hunt’ allegations

A Tory MP has accused Government enforcers of conducting a smear campaign against him during an explosive meeting with Theresa May’s Chief Whip, The Daily Telegraph has learned. Johnny Mercer, a former Army captain, is locked in a furious row with the Government Whips’ Office over allegations that the deputy chief whip secretly contacted former servicemen in order to gather “dirt” on him. Allies of Mr Mercer have told this newspaper that he confronted Julian Smith, the Chief Whip, over the controversy at a meeting on Tuesday evening, where he was accompanied by a lawyer. He is said to have accused Chris Pincher, Mr Smith’s deputy, of attempting to gather intelligence on him which could be used to force him into backing Theresa May’s Brexit deal.” – Daily Telegraph

Ministers accused of inaction over Northern Irish abortion

“Ministers must act urgently to address human rights breaches faced by women in Northern Ireland who seek an abortion, according to a damning report from a cross-party committee of MPs. The women and equalities committee accuses the government of failing to tackle challenges identified by a UN committee on women’s rights last year, which found “systematic violations”. Abortion is legal in Northern Ireland only in a narrow set of circumstances, which do not include rape or fatal foetal abnormality. While abortion is a devolved issue, the cross-party assembly at Stormont has been suspended for two years and there are growing calls for the government in Westminster to act.” – The Guardian

  • Voters’ support for the Democratic Unionists holds firm – FT

Comment:

  • Westminster must stop ignoring human rights in Ulster – Maria Miller MP, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: May’s deputy rejects Thornberry’s attempt to draw a link between Brexit and ‘New IRA’ violence

Left-wing academics to launch pro-Corbyn think-tank

Academics supporting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will on Thursday launch a think-tank designed to flesh out the bones of the UK opposition party’s economic agenda. The new group, Common Wealth, said it wanted to design new “ownership models” for a more sustainable future economy. This would involve not only the nationalisation of utility companies including water, power distribution and the Royal Mail, but also greater use of co-operatives and more public involvement in ownership models. Ed Miliband, who was leader of the Labour party before Mr Corbyn, will sit on the new group’s advisory board. Its founder, Mathew Lawrence, an influential figure in leftwing Labour circles, was the co-author of the “inclusive ownership fund” idea, which has since been adopted by shadow chancellor John McDonnell.” – FT

  • Labour leader to snatch £1.3 billion a year from motorists – The Sun

>Yesterday: Robert Halfon MP’s column: Stop calling Corbyn a Marxist

Change UK lose a second Euro candidate

“Change UK has lost its second European elections candidate within a day of the new party’s campaign launch. Joseph Russo, who was the lead candidate in Scotland, stood down after offensive tweets he sent about black women and Gary Glitter were uncovered. One message, posted in 2012, said: “Black women scare me. I put this down to be[ing] chased through Amsterdam by a crazy black whore.”… Mr Russo’s resignation will intensify grumblings among Remainers about the new party’s performance after a slightly chaotic launch. At the launch event on Tuesday — where the journalist Rachel Johnson, ex-BBC broadcaster Gavin Esler and the former Conservative health secretary Stephen Dorrell were unveiled as candidates — Change UK MPs used a variety of names for their party, including “The Independent Group”, “the TIGgers” and the “Remain alliance”.” – The Times

  • Meet their pro-EU chancers – The Sun

More:

  • People should be free to watch extreme content online, Brexit Party candidate says – Daily Telegraph
  • Farage’s party could be heading for a landslide – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Why new parties are always a little off-colour – Janice Turner, The Times
  • Farage is using what he’s learned to thrash Remainers again – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph
  • Leave voters feel insulted and ignored – James Glancy, The Sun
  • Shadowy past of Farage’s motley crew – David Aaronovitch, The Times
  • Tories must reinvent themselves as the National Party – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Scruton – and the gulf between Conservatives in Parliament and conservatives outside it

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Widdecombe to top the Brexit Party’s South-West region list

Sturgeon fights shy of committing to an independence vote

“Scotland’s first minister on Wednesday insisted the country must be ready to hold a second independence referendum by 2021 if Brexit goes ahead, but stopped well short of committing to such a vote. In a statement to the Scottish parliament, Nicola Sturgeon hedged her constitutional bets by also calling for pro-union parties to help push for devolution of more powers from Westminster and by promising the creation of a “citizens’ assembly” to consider “what kind of country we are seeking to build”. The statement came ahead of the spring conference of Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish National party this weekend and appeared intended to reassure its more impatient members that the drive for independence had not stalled.” – FT

  • Downing Street slaps down call for second referendum – The Sun
  • Ex-SNP MP embezzled tens of thousands from independence campaign – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • First Minister’s words unlikely to satisfy ‘ultras’ – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
  • Uncomfortable for Sturgeon to find she doesn’t speak for Scotland – Jackson Carlaw, Times Red Box

News in Brief:

  • A customs union is not the answer to the Brexit deadlock – Shanker Singham, Brexit Central
  • Sturgeon’s referendum wheeze designed to distract from SNP’s failures – Gerald Warner, Reaction
  • Beware the anti-humanism of the green movement – Marian L Tupy, CapX
  • The Scruton tapes: an anatomy of a modern hit job – Douglas Murray, The Spectator
  • Why politicians are wrong to declare war on big tech – Aria D Babu, 1828

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