UK and US continue to clash over Huawei

“The rift with the US over using Huawei in Britain’s 5G network widened yesterday as Washington was accused of failing to come up with any alternatives. Senior officials in London hit back at what they said was “extraordinary” last-ditch lobbying to try to pressure Boris Johnson into falling in behind the US ban on the Chinese company. Washington is meanwhile thought to have suggested that Mr Johnson and his ministers have prioritised cost over security and given in to commercial lobbying from telecoms providers, according to sources familiar with the row. That will increase what one British government source described as “considerable irritation” at Washington’s aggressive campaign against Huawei.” – The Times

  • Johnson set to give Chinese firm ‘limited’ role – Daily Mail
  • Brussels urges London to call Washington’s bluff – The Sun
  • A test for Brexit-era foreign policy – FT

>Yesterday: Tom Tugendhat MP in Comment: Huawei’s human rights record needs scrutiny before 5G contracts are signed

EU 1) Battle over Big Ben ‘descends into farce’

“The battle for Big Ben to bong on Brexit night has descended into farce after it emerged that a six-figure sum donated by Brexiteers cannot be used to fund the chiming of Parliament’s Great Bell. After Boris Johnson called on the public to “bung a bob” for Big Ben to sound the moment Britain leaves the EU, more than £150,000 was raised on the Go Fund Me crowdfunding site. But last night the House of Commons Commission – chaired by the Speaker – said the money could not be used because of parliamentary rules on financial donations. The ruling sparked an immediate blame game in Westminster, with Brexiteers pointing the finger at the Speaker and his Remain-heavy committee. However, the committee, which includes six MPs, hit back, blaming the Prime Minister for encouraging the public to donate without checking whether it was even possible to sound Big Ben, which is currently undergoing a multi-million pound restoration.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Crowd-funding plan backfires on the Prime Minister – The Times

EU 2) Johnson guilty of ‘brinkmanship’, says Brussels trade chief

“The EU’s trade chief has accused Boris Johnson of Brexit “brinkmanship”, complaining that the British prime minister’s approach to negotiations was creating uncertainty for business. Trade commissioner Phil Hogan said that Mr Johnson’s determination not to prolong Britain’s post-Brexit transition period beyond the end of this year had “unwisely” created an end of 2020 deadline for the EU and UK to broker a trade deal. Speaking at an event in Washington DC, he warned that the short timeframe “puts enormous pressure on the UK system, and then of course on the EU system” to meet the deadline.” – FT

  • Farmers ‘furious’ as Government backtracks on US chicken ban – The Sun
  • EU to mourn UK departure by marching flag out of the Parliament… – Daily Express
  • …but no ‘Union Jack-lowering ceremony’ – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Maximum flexibility – the Government’s starting assumption in post-Brexit negotiations

EU 3) Barclay accuses Verhofstadt of ‘scaremongering’ over citizens’ rights

“The Brexit Secretary has accused the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator of “scaremongering” after they clashed over the rights of EU citizens living in Britain. Steve Barclay told Guy Verhofstadt he was “feeding the anxiety” of migrants by tweeting demands they all be given identity cards, which the Government has already ruled out. During a meeting in Whitehall, Mr Verhofstadt also told Mr Barclay that EU citizens should not have to apply for settled status – effectively continuing freedom of movement. But Mr Barclay pointed out that the UK scheme for EU citizens is far more generous than the EU scheme for British citizens living abroad, who are still facing huge uncertainty about their future.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Lewis calls on Brussels to do more for British ex-pats – Daily Express
  • 900,000 EU citizens yet to apply for settled status – The Guardian

Hancock backs crackdown on online gambling

“Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday backed demands for betting firms to immediately end ‘shameful’ incentives that lure punters into a ‘vicious cycle’. Throwing down the gauntlet to bookies, he urged them to scrap aggressive tactics that are fuelling a mental health crisis. Mr Hancock said it was ‘absolutely right’ of the NHS to warn that taxpayers could no longer pick up the pieces of lives wrecked by gambling. He backed calls for a ban on ‘bet-to-view’ sports, pervasive advertising, free bets and VIP experiences for big spenders. The outcry comes a week after the Mail exposed how FA Cup games are streamed live on betting websites to any fan with an account as part of a £750million deal.” – Daily Mail

  • Hunt reveals scale of NHS mistakes – The Sun

Buckland: reforms will keep judges neutral

“The justice secretary has pledged to keep judges out of politics under plans for “constitutional plumbing”. Robert Buckland said the judiciary needed protection after a series of contentious cases about Brexit. Politicians have “contracted out” decision-making to judges and ought to preserve their independence, he said. Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that he would accelerate plans to limit the powers of campaigners to challenge ministers in court. He claimed that judicial review of government decisions was being used to “conduct politics by another means”. It was judicial review that led to the Supreme Court quashing the prime minister’s suspension of parliament in October. The Tory election manifesto said that this mechanism would be part of wider constitutional reform.” – The Times

Morgan calls on Oscars to ban all-male shortlists

Shield“Oscar bosses should abandon all-male shortlists, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan has said. Ms Morgan slammed the prestigious awards for not doing enough to promote diversity, and said something had gone wrong in the film industry. This year, no women made it to the shortlist for the top prize of best director, and only one female-directed film made it to the best picture category, sparking a row in Hollywood over diversity. Ms Morgan told The House magazine the film industry needed a very “strong nudge” to promote women and even said they should rule out all-male shortlists in the Academy Awards altogether.” – The Sun

  • Fears of number of female ministers if Cabinet is trimmed – FT

Williamson pledges to ‘stamp out’ grade inflation at universities

“University grade inflation will be stamped out to end the devaluation of first class degrees, the Education Secretary vowed yesterday. More than one in four undergraduates (28.4 per cent) achieved the top honour last year. This is double the percentage who gained a first in 2008/09 (14 per cent), and up slightly on 2017/18 (27.8 per cent). The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) figures show almost half of students (48 per cent) graduated with a 2.1 last year, meaning 76 per cent gained one of the two top honours – up from only 50 per cent in 2000. Critics say universities are watering down standards to keep students happy and artificially boost their position on league tables. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has now promised to clamp down on the practice.” – Daily Mail

Independent pensions body needed, says Opperman

“The pensions minister wants an Office for Budget Responsibility-style commission to oversee saving for old age after think tanks argued that it could avoid problems such as the doctors’ tax crisis affecting the NHS. Guy Opperman said that an independent pensions commission to scrutinise policy and forecast how much people need to save would help to maintain consensus over changes such as raising the retirement age. He was backing a report by Bright Blue and the Fabian Society, think tanks on the centre-right and centre-left respectively, which argues that an independent body could pave the way for essential but potentially painful changes.” – The Times

Philip Collins: Tories will need bold reforms to revive the North

“None of the usual clichés will quite do. The north is not “left behind”; plenty of places are thriving. It has not been “forgotten”; policy initiatives have been expensive and constant, albeit not very successful. Employment levels are largely good, certainly higher than during the blighted 1980s. The aggregate income, employment and wealth numbers do not betray the story. The problem is a sense of frailty. Life in once-proud towns feels fragile and insecure. Work comes without a guarantee of durability or pension entitlement. It all feels precarious; it is life on the edge.” – The Times

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: The time has come to dig up Cameron’s green tree

>Yesterday: Robert Alden in Comment: CCHQ should be relocated to Birmingham

Long-Bailey ‘dragged into abortion row’…

“The Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long Bailey has said that the threshold for abortion on the grounds of disability should be changed. The shadow business secretary, a leftwinger and a practising Catholic, said that this was a personal view, not a policy position. Abortions can be carried out up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. They can be carried out after this in certain circumstances, such as if the child would be born severely disabled. Ms Long Bailey, 40, told representatives of Salford Cathedral during the election campaign that she disagreed with these different limits.” – The Times

  • Argument risks derailing her leadership bid – Daily Telegraph
  • Phillips amongst opponents attacking stance –


  • Left-wing candidate wins Momentum backing – FT
  • Opposition must stir up a ‘democratic revolution’ – The Guardian


  • Giving power to the people is Labour’s path back to power – Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, The Guardian
  • If Long-Bailey wins, Labour could finally split – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

…as Starmer fears Nandy could profit from ‘far-left surge’

“Leadership frontrunner Sir Keir Starmer’s backers fear Lisa Nandy is about to benefit from a hard-left surge that makes her his top rival. The shadow Brexit secretary’s team believes the Corbynista candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey’s bid is imploding because she “doesn’t really want the job”. They believe many of her supporters are ready to switch to Miss Nandy, whose campaign is picking up steam after an eye-catching prime time interview with BBC interrogator Andrew Neil. Sir Keir is out in front and his camp believes he will benefit from the second preference votes from Jess Phillips, who is languishing behind in the polls, in the final ballot.” – Daily Express

  • Murray tells hopefuls not to visit Scotland until they ‘understand’ it – The Guardian

Sturgeon bows to pressure from MSPs for education review

“Nicola Sturgeon has capitulated to opposition MSPs’ demand for a full review of Scotland’s education system only hours after her Education Minister refused to concede one. The First Minister said her administration would abide by the Scottish Parliament’s vote for a comprehensive investigation, which was opposed by SNP MSPs. But her concession came barely four hours after John Swinney, the Education Minister, told a radio interview he would “take time to think carefully” before deciding whether to comply with the demand… Ms Sturgeon agreed to a second review after being challenged at First Minister’s Questions by Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Tories’ interim leader.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson hasn’t got long to save the Union – Iain Martin, The Times

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: New decade, old story? Smith’s Stormont deal under fire from Tory MPs and Ulster parties

News in Brief:

  • Carney and the Bank should keep quiet and do nothing – George Trefgarne, CapX
  • What has the New York Times got against Britain? – Douglas Murray, UnHerd
  • Can Varadkar defy the odds to win another term as Taoiseach? – Liam Halligan, The Spectator
  • Labour leadership: The smart money is on Nandy – Joseph Rachman, Reaction
  • Democracy is like a sausage – Clay R Fuller, 1828

And finally… Ryanair threatens to sue over Flybe bailout

“Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has threatened to sue the Government over its £106million plan to bailout struggling airline Flybe. Mr O’Leary said Ryanair, easyJet and other budget airlines could ‘step in’ to cover routes to regional destinations including Exeter and Southampton if Flybe goes bust. He said the Government’s multi-million pound plan to rescue the air carrier ‘breaches state aid and competition law’ before branding it a ‘nasty cover up’. Describing Flybe as a ‘subsidised billionaire boys club’ he urged Chancellor Sajid Javid to give Ryanair and other rival airlines the same tax holidays as them. The Government’s plan has been met with staunch opposition from other UK airlines, with British Airways submitting a formal complaint to the EU’s competition watchdog over what it calls a ‘blatant misuse of public funds’.” – Daily Mail