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Prime Minister says there will be ‘no alignment’ with the EU post-Brexit

“Boris Johnson insisted that Britain would not follow any EU rules after Brexit as he set up a showdown with Brussels over a trade deal. The Prime Minister made clear that he would pursue a hard Brexit by saying there would be “no alignment” between the two sides, defying the EU’s claim that it was a “must” for any future relationship. On a historic day for Britain’s relationship with the rest of Europe, the Brexit “divorce” Bill sailed through the Commons with a majority of 124 on Friday, and will become law on Jan 9, enabling a Jan 31 exit and for trade negotiations to begin in earnest. It brought an end to three and a half years of indecision in Parliament, and “means we are one step closer to getting Brexit done”, Mr Johnson said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He pledges to reunite the country as MPs pass the deal – The Times
  • Johnson on ‘collision course’ with Varadkar – Daily Mail
  • Why the North believes Johnson will deliver – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Stop calling each other Leavers and Remainers, urges the Prime Minister – Daily Telegraph
  • Victory breaks the gridlock – FT
  • ERG are now ‘manifesto support group’, says Jenkin – Daily Telegraph
  • Javid orders Royal Mint to strike Brexit coins – Daily Telegraph

Hoyle rejects opposition amendments to Brexit Bill

“Remainers plotting to sabotage the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal have seen their plan flop as House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle refused to select any of their amendments and instead waved through a second reading. It is expected to pass thanks to the Prime Minister victory in the election, which saw him come away with a 80-strong majority, and the fact that all Tory election candidates backed the agreement. But opposition parties have tabled four amendments in a bid to stall the Brexit momentum… But the days of knife-edge votes on amendments look to be over for now following the Tories’ large gains in the pre-festive poll.” – Daily Express

  • Speaker says diabetes diagnosis won’t interfere with his job – Daily Mail

Opposition:

  • Six Labour MPs defy whip to vote for deal – The Guardian
  • Liberal Democrats mocked for vow to still block Brexit – Daily Express
  • Brexit position ‘set Labour up to fail’, says Nandy – The Guardian

Comment:

James Forsyth: Now Boris must get the rest done too

“Boris Johnson is delivering on his central election promise – to Get Brexit Done. Earlier today, the new House of Commons voted for his deal and the UK will leave on ­January 31. But this sums up the ­remarkable position that this Government is in. It will have done the main thing that it was put in power to do within two months of taking office. The danger for the Tories is that their new electoral ­coalition was held together by a desire to Get Brexit Done and fear of Jeremy Corbyn, and both of those issues will soon be resolved. As the party’s campaign director, Isaac Levido, pointed out to Tory MPs on Wednesday afternoon, Brexit and Corbyn won this election for the Tories and both of them will be gone by the time of the next ­election, so the Tories have to deliver for their new voters or risk defeat.” – The Sun

  • Sorting social care can be Johnson’s legacy – Janice Turner, The Times

Whitehall fears ‘Valentine’s massacre’

“For ministers and officials, however, Christmas is likely to be a particularly anxious time. Mr Cummings spent much of the election campaign planning one of the most ambitious shake-ups of Whitehall in history to deliver on Boris Johnson’s vision for post-Brexit Britain. The cabinet of 33 includes ten ministers who attend but are not full cabinet ministers. It is so big that an extra leaf has to be added to the table to accommodate the additional ministers. Mr Cummings is considering slashing the size of the Cabinet to about 20 as part of a reconfiguration of Whitehall. Ministers have heard it referred to as the “Valentine’s Day massacre”. “We’ve been left in no doubt that it will be radical,” one said.” – The Times

  • Cummings’ salary revealed as special adviser numbers rise – The Guardian

Comment:

  • The real challenge to this Government lies in standing up to unelected power – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • The BBC should stop digging its own grave – Trevor Phillips, The Times

Wallace says Armed Forces face funding shortfall

“Ben Wallace, defence secretary, has confirmed that the British armed forces face a funding crisis that threatens to create a critical shortfall in next year’s budget for his department. Earlier this week, the Financial Times reported that the heads of the army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy held an urgent meeting at the Ministry of Defence to discuss the shortfall, which one military official said was equivalent to £1bn in the next financial year. Asked about the FT report on the BBC’s Political Thinking with Nick Robinson programme, Mr Wallace said: “There is a shortfall of money based on the baseline of where we were.” He refrained from putting a figure on how big the gap was but said: “It isn’t a surprise. It’s widely accepted that the SDSR [Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015] was not correctly funded.”” – FT

  • Johnson to serve Christmas lunch to troops in Estonia – The Sun

Treasury backs down over ‘loan charge’ row

“The government has been forced to back down over its “loan charge”, rewinding plans to force tens of thousands of taxpayers to pay up to 20 years’ tax in a single year from January 2020. The Treasury said on Friday it accepted an independent review’s verdict that its loan charge had gone “too far” and would implement all but one of the report’s recommendations. The onerous levies affected about 50,000 people who had used loan-based tax avoidance schemes. The government-commissioned review followed an outcry from MPs, peers, professional bodies and campaigners over the extreme distress the policy was causing, including several reported suicides.” – FT

  • HMRC will ‘return billions to freelancers’ – The Times

Cairns cleared of ‘brazenly lying’ over rape trial

“Ex-Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has been cleared of “brazenly lying” about a collapsed rape trial. The Tory MP quit the Cabinet on the first day of the election campaign after being accused of “brazenly lying” about when he found out his ex-aide had “sabotaged” a rape trial. e insisted he did not know Ross England made claims about a victim’s sexual history causing the trial to be ditched in 2018. A Cabinet Office probe cleared him of breaching the ministerial code, with Sir Alex Allan finding it “unlikely” he was told of Mr England’s role. The report by Sir Alex Allan, the PM’s independent adviser, found there was no proof that he had lied… Mr Cairns was replaced as Welsh Secretary by Simon Hart after the Tory election landslide.” – The Sun

Long-Bailey appoints Stalinist to run her leadership campaign

“The frontrunner in the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn has appointed a self-proclaimed Stalinist to organise her campaign for the leadership. Rebecca Long Bailey, the shadow business secretary, has turned to Alex Halligan, who was instrumental in Mr Corbyn’s successful leadership campaign in 2015. Her move is understood to have infuriated the shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Mr McDonnell expressed concern; Mr Halligan attempted to confront him. Now the shadow chancellor, who had been expected to back Ms Long Bailey, 40, is understood to have made a “conscious decision to have no involvement in the leadership election” even though she is widely seen as his protégée.” – The Times

  • Missing link in contender’s CV – The Times

Comment:

  • It will take a leader of extraordinary charisma to deliver a Labour victory – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

Sturgeon condemned for letters to press

“Nicola Sturgeon has been condemned for sending correspondence out telling journalists how she wants them to interview and interrogate Boris Johnson’s Tory Party. Reporters north and south of the Scottish border hit back at a flurry of emails they received from the SNP telling them how to interview the Conservative Party. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) also snapped back and told the SNP that “journalists don’t need advice on how to do their jobs from political parties”. Journalists also flocked to Twitter to slap down the call. The emails came from SNP spin doctors who issued advice one how to ensure journalists across the nation collude to get the Tories “tied in knots” over their opposition to a second go at a Scottish independence referendum…” – Daily Express

  • Middle classes will hold key in future referendum – The Times

DUP blamed as Stormont talks ‘paused’

“London and Dublin have “paused” talks to restore Northern Ireland’s regional government, according to a senior Irish official, after the pro-British Democratic Unionists were blamed for blocking a pre-Christmas deal to end a three-year stand-off with the Irish nationalist Sinn Féin party. Efforts to revive the power-sharing executive will resume after next week’s holiday as Julian Smith, Northern Ireland minister in the UK government, threatens new regional elections if agreement is not reached by January 13, when laws allowing civil servants to run Northern Ireland expire. A new election to the regional assembly at Stormont, outside Belfast, would be an unappealing prospect for both the DUP and Sinn Féin since each lost a share of the overall vote in the UK general election eight days ago.” – FT

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