Brexit 1) Hunt declares that leaving the EU in time to avoid Euro Elections is an “absolute priority”

“It is an “absolute priority” for the government to leave the EU by 23 May to avoid having to take part in European elections, Jeremy Hunt has said. The foreign secretary said the public would find it “hugely disappointing” to be asked to send MEPs to Brussels. Asked if it could be a disaster for the Tories, he told the BBC “in terms of polling it certainly looks that way”. Some local Tory activists have signalled they will not campaign and regard the polls as a “distraction”. Downing Street said that in order to avoid the need for elections, legislation implementing the Brexit withdrawal deal would have to be passed by Parliament by 22 May. Last week, the EU agreed a new Brexit deadline of 31 October. Talks between the government and Labour are set to continue over the Easter parliamentary recess in the hope of finding an agreement that will be acceptable to MPs.” – BBC


Brexit 2) Contingency planning “will continue” for “no deal”, insists May

“Theresa May has written to every civil servant to tell them no-deal Brexit preparations “must continue” after a  backlash over the Government’s decision to “wind down” its worst-case scenario planning. The Prime Minister sent the message to Whitehall workers on Monday morning to tell them the “necessary preparations” would carry on – but with a “sensibly adjusted” timetable. Mrs May also said that it would be up to permanent secretaries – the most senior civil servant in a department – to decide what to plan for and when. It emerged last week that the Government had shelved some of its no-deal planning “with immediate effect” after Mrs May agreed to a Brexit delay.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Secretive approach led to blunders, Institute for Government report concludes – The Scotsman

Brexit 3) UKIP MEPs defect, to join Farage

“Three UKIP MEPs have quit to join Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Margot Parker, Jill Seymour and Jane Collins joined eight other MEPs elected for UKIP who have defected to their former leader’s new group. Of the 24 UKIP MEPs elected in 2014 when the party came first in the British European elections, four remain. The Brexit Party now has 11, the third highest after Labour and the Tories. Ms Seymour said that under Gerard Batten’s leadership UKIP had moved to “the extreme right”. Ms Collins said that UKIP’s attitude to women was “disgusting”.” – The Times

Brexit 4) Germany’s Foreign Minister warns against assuming an extension would be agreed beyond October 31st

“Germany’s foreign minister has warned London that there will be no Brexit extension beyond October, sending out the strongest signal yet that Berlin’s patience with the UK’s deadlocked political system is starting to wear out. “They will have to decide what they want by October,” Heiko Maas told the Financial Times in an interview. “You cannot drag out Brexit for a decade.” Angela Merkel, German chancellor, fought hard to secure a six-month Brexit delay at last week’s European summit against French insistence that the UK should be given at most until the end of June to secure an orderly withdrawal from the EU. Mr Maas’s intervention suggests that Berlin will side with the harder French line should the new Brexit deadline of October 31 draw closer without progress on the UK side.” – Financial Times

  • A hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would prevent US-UK trade deal, warns Pelosi – Belfast Telegraph

Brexit 5) UK named as top investment destination

“Britain was today named as the world’s top investment destination for businesses despite Brexit, knocking the United States off the top spot for the first time in five years. The survey on corporate deal-making by consulting and accounting firm EY said Britain was the top investment destination in the world for the first time in the report’s 10-year history. The pound’s fall since the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union has made British assets cheaper, but Steve Krouskos, a global vice chair at EY, said Britain also remained an ‘open environment for foreign investors’ even in the midst of the Brexit chaos. That culture, he said, is reinforced by the English language, a skilled workforce, and a strong technology base.” – Daily Mail

Brexit 6) Change UK claims “enthusiastic response” for Euro Elections

“More than 3,000 people have applied to stand as Change UK candidates at the European parliament elections, overwhelming the fledgling centrist party. MPs from the Independent Group, the force behind the new organisation, are working through applications and will select from a shortlist of 100 this weekend. According to insiders, the enthusiastic response is in marked contrast to a Conservative campaign that is likely to be stripped to the bare minimum of funding… Brandon Lewis, the Conservative Party chairman, who has been in Chile for a meeting of the International Democrat Union of right-of-centre political parties, is expected to sign off the Tories’ slate this week.” – The Times

Brexit 7) Braverman: A message to Lammy – disagreeing with you on EU membership does not allow you to compare me to a Nazi

“On free movement, meanwhile, simply because I wish the UK Government – not Brussels – to determine our migration policy does not make me a racist. Just as my parents emigrated to this country in the Sixties and have made a valuable contribution here, so I want the UK to welcome migrants after we leave the EU. The change I seek is for UK politicians, not the EU, to decide…David, just because I disagree with you on Brexit does not allow you to compare me to a Nazi. Casual and ill-informed usage of such language diminishes the reality of its tragedy. We all need to feel free to express ourselves and vilifying us with abuse in an attempt to silence will not work. The majority of British people voted in good faith for the UK to leave the EU. By smearing them, you denigrate a nation of tolerant, open-minded and generous people. You’re better than that.” – Suela Braverman, Daily Telegraph

  • Shame on you, for comparing Brexiteer MPs to the Nazis, who killed millions of my people – Stephen Pollard, Daily Mail

Brexit 8) Hague: Labour doesn’t want to negotiate a solution

“When you are conducting a negotiation, as leading Conservative and Labour figures are now doing over Brexit, it is essential to understand what the people on the other side of the table really want….Now think what it is that the Tory and Labour leaderships really want from the effort to find a jointly acceptable solution to the Brexit conundrum. For the Cabinet, this is a negotiation they have been forced into by the refusal of a small section of their own party to pass the deal on the table. They genuinely want to solve the problem threatening to overwhelm the Conservative Party and the entire body politic, but their room for manoeuvre without bringing themselves down is very limited. For the Labour leadership, their objective is completely different. Brutally put, they want to destroy the people on the other side of the table. If Brexit assists them in accomplishing that, so much the better, but it is not in their view the main issue facing the country.” – William Hague, Daily Telegraph

  • It’s like a parody of student politics – Interview with Ken Clarke, The Guardian

Javid says as a schoolboy he was told shoplifting and drug dealing offer “easy money”

“Sajid Javid has disclosed he could have been drawn into a life of crime, as he admitted the surge in knife crime had left him fearing the streets were no longer safe for his children. Describing how he was brought up on “the most dangerous street in Britain,” the Home Secretary told how shoplifting and drug dealing pupils at his school invited him to join them to make easy money. In a speech setting out his vision for tackling the roots of crime, he cited his own experience as the way he wanted to shift the “mindset” of government to “stop the violence before it begins.” “By the time a person becomes a problem for the police, it’s often too late,” he said. “It’s not so difficult to see how, instead of being in the Cabinet, I could have actually turned out to have a life of crime myself. There were the pupils at school that shoplifted, and asked if I wanted to help. “There were the drug dealers who stood near my school gates and told me that if joined in, I too could make some easy money. But I was lucky. I had loving and supporting parents, who despite their own circumstances gave me security. I had some brilliant teachers who motivated me.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Home Secretary ‘ignored’ police warning of gun loophole – The Times
  • Tackling crime means upholding what is right and decent – Leader, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPsETC: Javid’s speech on knife crime: “We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.” Full text.

Thousands join the Conservatives, to vote in leadership elections

“Senior Tories fear they are being infiltrated by thousands of Brexit activists joining to pick a new PM after the party’s membership swelled by a fifth. The Sun can reveal that a fresh surge of 30,000 have joined the Conservatives within the last 12 months.The influx boosted its overall numbers to more than 150,000 – at least a seven year high. While CCHQ insiders insist some of the rise is from a new recruitment drive, other party chiefs say the prospect of having a say on Theresa May’s successor is now being heavily exploited. Under party rules designed to block leadership contests from being influenced, new joiners can only vote in them if they have been members for three months…New joiners are thought to be both new arrivals from UKIP – dubbed ‘Blukippers’ – as well as a new wave of Remainers signing up to try to stop a new hard Brexit leader.” – The Sun

Labour council candidate suspended for anti semitism

“A Labour council candidate was suspended from the party last night for spreading a series of ‘abhorrent’ conspiracy theories about Israel. Alex Braithwaite shared a post suggesting Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis was being whipped up by Israel to discredit leader Jeremy Corbyn. Last night she apologised and was suspended by Labour. But she remains a candidate for Brighton and Hove Council because it is too late to withdraw. If she wins she will sit as an independent.” – Daily Mail

Begum will get legal aid to help fund her fight to return to Britain

“A row erupted last night after the Mail revealed Shamima Begum will get legal aid to help fund her fight to return to Britain. The families of IRA victims, who had to battle for years to get taxpayer help with their legal bills, said it was an ‘outrage’ that the jihadi bride was in line for public funding. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted he was ‘very uncomfortable’ with the idea of Begum receiving public funds to fight Sajid Javid’s decision to remove her British citizenship. However, ministers insisted the decision was a matter for the Independent Legal Aid Agency (LAA) and they could not intervene – while Jeremy Corbyn defended Begum’s right to get funding. It is thought the Government is facing a string of other legal challenges to citizenship deprivation orders, which could ultimately land the taxpayer with a substantial bill if all are granted legal aid.” – Daily Mail

  • Yes, Shamima Begum does deserve legal aid – Melanie Phillips, The Times
  • Keep her out – Leader, The Sun

100,000 pupils sent to failing primaries

“Almost 100,000 children will be allocated places in weak or failing primary schools when they receive their offers today, according to research. Some 12,500 of these children will be forced to attend a school that has been rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement” for more than ten years. Ofsted data show that 2,223 primary schools in England have the lowest two of four ratings. This means that around 95,000 four and five-year-olds will be starting their school days in institutions that are not good enough. It is almost certain that these will not be the family’s first or even second choice…The research was conducted by the New Schools Network (NSN), a charity that helps parents set up free schools.” – The Times

New EU copyright laws approved

“A revamp of the EU’s copyright rules has passed its final hurdle and will now come into law. The rules include a section known as Article 13. It says that if users upload infringing content to a service, the tech firm involved must either make a “best effort” to get permission from the rights holders or quickly remove it. The UK was among 19 nations that supported the law in its European Council vote. But Poland was one of those that objected on the grounds that it could pave the way to internet censorship. EU sources say that five other countries also opposed the rules – Italy, Finland, Sweden, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – while Belgium, Estonia and Slovenia abstained.” – BBC

Trump to face a challenger for the Republican nomination

“US President Donald Trump is facing a longshot challenge from within his own party ahead of next year’s White House election. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld has become the first Republican to challenge Mr Trump in 2020. Mr Weld, 73, has released a campaign video contrasting his style with the current president’s. But he faces an uphill battle to take over a Republican party that has been refashioned in Mr Trump’s image. Mr Weld was governor of Massachusetts from 1991-97 after serving in the justice department under President Ronald Reagan. He was running mate on the Libertarian ticket during the 2016 presidential election.” – BBC

PM on walking holiday – but not planning a General Election

“Theresa May is spending part of her Easter break on a walking holiday in Wales, Downing Street has said. But – stand down everyone – Number 10 has insisted the prime minister is not considering calling a general election. Mrs May famously decided to call a snap election during a walking holiday in Snowdonia in 2017 and went on to see her Commons majority wiped out. She has previously said she loves going to north Wales with her husband Philip “because the scenery’s great”. The parliamentary Easter recess comes at a turbulent time in politics, with Brexit deadlocked in Parliament and no resolution – yet – from talks between the government and Labour.” – BBC

  • Security team close down ladies lavatories on the M54 – Daily Mail

Spence: Mercer should not have joined the left wing outrage mob in hounding Scruton

“The smearing of Sir Roger Scruton exemplifies the current wretched state of politics in this country…George Eaton’s own reputation has certainly taken a hit, and the New Statesman can expect a barrage of ill-will when requesting interviews in future from anyone to the right of Richard Burgon. But Eaton’s biggest scalp may not be the one he intended. Rather than Sir Roger, it is the Tories who threw in their lot with the outrage mob who have lost the most — specifically Johnny Mercer…‘His [Sir Roger’s] comments’ said Mercer on Twitter, ‘in my view – and I am allowed one – are not acceptable in public life, to which he accepted a role.’ …In taking this stance, and in his readiness to side with the Left-wing outrage mob from the outset, without looking properly into the matter, he has shown his true colours to those desperate to see an end to the creeping censorship of thought and speech in the UK. Mercer has made it clear to these people that if their views don’t align with his own, he has no problem with that leading to their condemnation, hounding and even costing them their jobs.” – Benedict Spence, Daily Telegraph

Eco activists threaten two weeks of disruption

“Environmental protesters are intent on causing two weeks of traffic chaos in London by continuously blocking main roads and junctions. The activists were surprised to meet no resistance from police yesterday as they set up stages on Waterloo Bridge and at Oxford Circus and Marble Arch. They also blocked Piccadilly Circus and Parliament Square. The protests in London are part of a wider campaign, which will see demonstrations take place in at least 80 cities and more than 33 countries. The protest group Extinction Rebellion claimed it was committed to “non-violent civil disobedience” but announced that five of its members had vandalised Shell’s headquarters and caused more than £5,000 of damage — the figure that ensures a jury trial.” – The Times

Bryant’s pitch to succeed Bercow

“Labour’s Chris Bryant has said he hopes to replace John Bercow as the Speaker of the House of Commons when he leaves the role, promising not to “belittle or diminish or lecture MPs from the chair”. Bryant, a friend and supporter of Bercow, who has been at the heart of multiple rows over parliamentary protocol during the Brexit debates, said he hoped to engender a more respectful and tolerant atmosphere. Bercow had suggested he would step down after nine years in post but has shown no sign of resigning, with the Brexit process in parliament still to be finalised. The Speaker has championed backbenchers and sometimes controversial procedures including allowing amendments to give MPs control over parliamentary business, but has also been the subject of multiple serious bullying allegations, which he denies.” – The Guardian

Macron seeks international help to rebuild Notre-Dame

“French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame after a major fire partially destroyed the Paris landmark. Firefighters managed to save the 850-year-old Gothic building’s main stone structure, including its two towers, but the spire and roof collapsed. The fire was declared under control almost nine hours after it started. The cause is not yet clear but officials say it could be linked to extensive renovation works under way. Paris prosecutor’s office said it was currently being investigated as an accident. A firefighter was seriously injured while tackling the blaze. Visiting the site on Monday night, Mr Macron said the “worst had been avoided” with the preservation of the cathedral’s main structure as he pledged to launch an international fundraising scheme for the reconstruction.” – BBC

  • PM’s message of sympathy over the “terrible blaze” – Daily Express
  • Paris needs another Hugo to champion its gothic survivor – Jonathan Glancey, Daily Telegraph
  • Notre-Dame can and must rise again – Leader, Daily Telegraph

News in Brief

  • The Battle Lines for 2020, what my polling says about the next Presidential election – Lord Ashcroft, Lord Ashcroft Polls
  • Notre Dame’s loss is too much to bear – Douglas Murray, The Spectator
  • Securing Brexit is the latest chapter in a centuries-old constitutional battle – Sheila Lawlor, Brexit Central
  • Extinction Rebellion are wasting our time – and their own – Ben Ramanauskas, CapX
  • The Agreement to delay our exit is not one the UK should have signed – John Redwood