Prime Minister faces Brussels showdown over fishing rights…

“Boris Johnson insisted the UK and the EU will forge a relationship as “friends and sovereign equals” after Brexit as he signed the document agreeing the terms of Britain’s departure. The Prime Minister and the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission all signed the Withdrawal Agreement in what Mr Johnson described as “a fantastic moment”. He added: “This signature heralds a new chapter in our nation’s history.”  But in a sign of the battles still to be fought, The Telegraph has learnt that France has insisted in closed door European Commission meetings that Britain must grant EU countries access to UK fishing waters for 25 years after Brexit if it wants a free trade agreement with Brussels.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK will ‘use high tariff threat to ramp up pressure’ – The Times
  • EU seeks power to sanction Britain for any breaches – FT

…as he signs the Withdrawal Agreement Act

“Boris Johnson has signed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that will bring the UK out of the EU on January 31. The bill has taken two Conservative governments under two different prime ministers and more than a year to pass in Parliament. Mr Johnson said it was a “fantastic moment” that “delivers the result of the 2016 referendum and brings to an end far too many years of argument and division”. The agreement concludes a process of negotiation between the UK and EU, and begins talks over the future relationship. “We can now move forward as one country – with a Government focused upon delivering better public services, greater opportunity and unleashing the potential of every corner of our brilliant United Kingdom, while building a strong new relationship with the EU as friends and sovereign equals,” Mr Johnson said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • London will only get ‘carbon copy’ of the deal – The Times


  • Ja, we Germans are jealous of Brexit – Alexander von Schoenberg, Daily Mail

Foreign Office ‘to take over overseas development spending’

Shield“The Foreign Office is set to swallow up the controversial aid office under a radical shake-up. Boris Johnson is likely to delight his backbenchers by putting the FCO in charge of aid spending and bringing it in line with foreign policy. It comes after the Department for International Development was repeatedly blasted after its budget swelled to £14.6billion. It has handed £151million to China and India even though both are wealthy enough to run space programmes. The PM’s own experience as Foreign Secretary has left him convinced that the two departments should become one… But even if the ministries join, the government will remain committed to spending 0.7 per cent of the nation’s annual cash income on foreign aid.” – The Sun

  • Downing Street wants aid cash ‘to benefit Britain too’ – The Times
  • Prime Minister orders review of how £14.6 billion is spent – Daily Mail

Johnson ‘preparing to sack five women’ from Cabinet

“Boris Johnson is preparing to sack five women from his cabinet but is planning promotions in the junior ranks to justify the claim that he is leading the most female government. The prime minister is pressing ahead with a clear-out of his top table as part of plans to move on from Brexit after Britain’s formal departure on Friday, No 10 figures confirmed yesterday. Downing Street is braced for accusations of sexism in the reshuffle because women will make up the bulk of those dismissed in the shake-up, pencilled in for the second week of next month. Those being targeted include Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary, Thérèse Coffey, the welfare secretary, Theresa Villiers, the environment secretary, and Esther McVey, who attends cabinet as a housing minister.” – The Times

  • Plan to promote female staffers to counter sexism allegations – Daily Mail

Javid to give tax cut to tens of thousands of pubs as part of high streets plan

“Sajid Javid is boosting 18,000 British boozers – slashing their tax bills by £1,000. Small local pubs will get the cash off business rates from April under the Chancellor’s plans. The break is part of PM Boris Johnson’s pledge to save high streets. They include proposals to raise the discount given to small shops, cafés, music venues and cinemas from a third to 50 per cent off. Some small pubs will get both discounts – giving them £13,500 off tax bills. And local newspapers will get £1,500 off their office space tax bill for another five years. Mr Javid said: “Thousands of pubs will get £1,000 off rates bills this April thanks to changes we are announcing today.”” – The Sun

  • Chancellor talks up the economy – FT

Duguid ‘savages’ Sturgeon over referendum demand

“Nicola Sturgeon has come under brutal attack for her demands to Boris Johnson for a second referendum on Scottish independence, with a Conservative MP warning of “fatal flaws” and accusing the SNP of “creating their own self-fulfilling prophecy”… A spokesman for the party’s leader insisted ministers are still committed to holding a referendum in 2020, adding SNP’s position was “endorsed” by voters in last month’s general election when it won 47 of the 59 seats available. But David Duguid, the Scottish Tory MP for Banff and Buchan has launched a scathing attack against Ms Sturgeon and the SNP. He claimed there are “fatal flaws” in the demands to stage a second referendum, and that the SNP’s success in the general election does not give them a mandate to push one through.” – Daily Express

HS2 will be the ‘biggest test’ of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ philosophy…

“Ryan Bourne… wrote last month on the ConservativeHome website: “The hard truth that we economic liberals must now face is that Britain is once again dominated by collectivist thinking. The Conservatives have been on a very, very slow drift away from market economics over a 25-year period.” It is an interesting argument. But it would have been more interesting if Mr Bourne had mentioned that similar trends are visible in France, Germany and the EU as a whole, partly because of the post-2008 financial crash and recession, and partly because of anxieties over the competitive threat of China and its state-assisted companies. An early example of the Johnson government’s interventionist instincts is the rescue this month of Flybe, a lossmaking regional airline.” – FT

  • Ditching it could mean ‘years of weekend closures’ – The Times

…as ‘Red Wall’ MPs outline what else they could spend the cash on

“New ‘Red Wall’ MPs have appeared in a Youtube video telling the Prime Minister where they can spend cash saved from HS2 in their constituencies. 14 MPs including many recently elected northern politicians outline what needs to be spent in their own constituencies as they pile pressure on the PM to scrap the 250mph train line. The video includes Red Wall MPs including Bishop Aukland’s Dehenna Davison, Ashfield’s Lee Anderson and Alexander Stafford the MP for Rother Valley. Their plea comes a day after it emerged that bungling transport officials are responsible for HS2’s spiralling bill by woefully underestimating the project’s complexity, a bombshell new report reveals. And a leaked copy of the soon to be published Oakervee report revealed the cost could rise to £106bn.” – The Sun

  • Their areas ‘could lose millions’ in council funding review – The Guardian


  • We owe it to the next generation to build the new line – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • The folly of HS2 is a modern telling of the Seven Deadly Sins – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph
  • Commitment to it could keep new Tory voters on board – James Forsyth, The Spectator


More than 35,000 applicants have apparently heeded Cummings’ call

“More than 35,000 self-styled ‘weirdos’ and ‘misfits’ have applied to work in Downing Street, Dominic Cummings revealed last night. Addressing a meeting of government advisers, Boris Johnson’s chief adviser said he had been overwhelmed with replies to his unconventional job advert. Mr Cummings also encouraged ministers to think outside the box and look to recruit staff from outside the traditional civil service routes. He said the Cabinet Office, which has jealously guarded the civil service in the past, was now being ‘cooperative’ about recruiting from outside. In an extraordinary blog post this month, Mr Cummings said he wanted to shake up recruitment to No 10, adding: ‘We need some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole.'” – Daily Mail

>Today: Asheem Singh in Comment: Here’s how the Government can meet the challenge of mass worker automation

Charles Moore: It should be possible, in the 21st Century, to imagine life without the BBC

“The BBC is such a huge bureaucracy that no D-G can give it an editorial character. There are no “Hallian” values. Nowadays, its executives are entirely ensnared in their own processes. Look at the comical row about its rates of pay for women – for which the BBC’s only solution is spending much more licence-payers’ money. The bigger change is technological, and therefore competitive. Satellite and cable television, deregulation of radio, and then the internet and all its works have meant that you can watch or listen to British media all day, all your life, without ever having to use the BBC. Millions under the age of 40 do exactly that. But if you have any form of live terrestrial television on any device, you must pay the BBC £154.50 a year for a TV licence.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The Corporation must go back to doing what it does best – Camilla Cavendish, FT
  • Without the BBC we could be facing a post-truth dystopia – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: The next BBC Chairman. Andrew Neil, anyone? Robbie Gibb? Michael Portillo?

Watchdog criticised for ‘dragging feet’ on Arcuri investigation

“The police watchdog is facing accusations that it is dragging its feet on a decision about whether to investigate Boris Johnson for possible criminal misconduct over his friendship with the US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri when he was London mayor. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) insists it has received no pressure from the government over the decision, which had been expected before last month’s general election, or its timing. In October the IOPC indicated it would take about a month to decide whether Johnson had a case to answer. But the watchdog now says it is still conducting a “scoping exercise” on the decision. It has also continued to request new information from the mayor’s promotion agency, London and Partners (L&P), this month.” – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Bailey has three months to persuade Londoners he can cut crime

Long-Bailey won’t back Momentum’s mayoral pick

“Rebecca Long Bailey has moved to distance herself from a controversial Corbynite candidate being lined up by the left to become Labour’s first mayor of the West Midlands. The shadow business secretary and Labour leadership candidate yesterday received the backing of the powerful Unite union that helped propel Jeremy Corbyn to power five years ago. Amid further signs of division in her campaign, Ms Long Bailey declined to endorse Salma Yaqoob as the party’s candidate in the May election. The failure to back Ms Yaqoob is a significant snub as she is being backed by the Corbynite grassroots group Momentum as well as Unite, both of which are also backing Ms Long Bailey.” – The Times

  • Major boost as Unite votes ‘overwhelmingly’ to endorse her – Daily Telegraph


  • How Phillips dropping out changes the shape of the Labour race – Sienne Rodgers, The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Are the new intake of Tory MPs really pushing the party to the centre? – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • Everything you know about Europe is wrong – Ed West, UnHerd
  • No way to Huawei: Britain can find its own route to 5G – Declan Ganley, Reaction
  • Le bromance: Macron has fallen under Boris’s spell – Jonathan Miller, The Spectator
  • Our prisons are a mess – we should learn from Norway – Torrin Wilkins, 1828