Big two give green light to restoration of Stormont

“The Stormont institutions are set to be restored over the coming days with both the DUP and Sinn Féin endorsing the agreement tabled by the two governments. Assembly speaker Robin Newton last night wrote to the whips from each of the main parties outlining details of how the executive will be restored. MLAs could sit as early as today though last night it appeared more likely that devolution would be officially restored on Monday, a matter of hours before legislation giving civil servants decision-making powers expires. The DUP is expected to nominate Arlene Foster as first minister, while Sinn Féin confirmed to the Irish News that Michelle O’Neill will be its nominee for deputy first minster. Sinn Féin had previously stated that it would not re-enter the executive if the DUP leader was first minister, however, that condition fell away soon after the institutions collapsed. The New Decade New Approach deal was unveiled by the two governments on Thursday night, on the third anniversary of Martin McGuinness’s resignation as deputy first minister. Secretary of State Julian Smith last night welcomed the parties’ support, saying a devolved government “can now start delivering the reforms needed in our public services”. – Irish News

Sandringham showdown to decide the Sussexes’ future

“The Queen is to hold a summit with the Duke of Sussex, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge on Monday in the first face-to-face discussions since the royal family was plunged into crisis over Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s plans to ‘step back’ from royal duties. The 93-year-old monarch convened the urgent meeting at Sandringham to thrash out a deal that will provide a blueprint for the Sussex’s “progressive” new role which will see them spend more time in North America. It will be the first time Prince Harry has seen the Queen and the two direct heirs to the throne since the couple made the bombshell announcement that they wanted to step back from life as senior royals, leaving other senior members of the family “deeply disappointed”. Buckingham Palace sources said the Queen, her son and two grandsons, will have been presented with a range of draft written proposals – compiled by a team of aides and private secretaries – ahead of the crunch meeting. The Duchess of Sussex is expected to dial into the talks from Canada, having flown back to the country on Thursday evening to be reunited with her eight-month-old son Archie.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Duke and Duchess face backlash as Canadian taxpayers face prospect of paying millions for their security – Sunday Telegraph

British ambassador to Iran arrested

“Britain’s ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, has been arrested and held for several hours after attending a vigil for the victims of the Ukraine plane crash which turned into a demonstration. Details of his arrest were announced by the country’s semi-official Tasnim news agency and prompted an angry response from Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab. “The arrest of our Ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law,” he said. “The Iranian government is at a crossroads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to de-escalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards.” It is understood that the event which Mr Macaire attended had been advertised as a vigil at Amir Kabir University for the 176 victims of the Tehran plane crash last week. He and another member of the embassy staff left once the vigil turned into a protest. Mr Macaire was arrested on his way back to the embassy after getting a haircut. He was held for three hours before being released, following the intervention of the Iranian foreign ministry.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Iran must take full responsibility for ‘horrific’ act, says Trudeau – Observer
  • Corbyn: Iran has ‘no excuses’ for shooting down airliner – Observer
  • Protesters take to the streets over shooting down of Ukrainian airliner – Sunday Telegraph
  • Wallace warns that UK must fight wars without US – Sunday Times

Raab: It is time for Iran to come to the negotiating table

“A turbulent week in the Middle East brought Iran and the US close to the brink of war. Amid the most perilous regional climate for a decade, we have demonstrated the value of British diplomacy. Our objective throughout has been clear. We need to de-escalate the situation. But we must also stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. No one wants a Middle Eastern war. That would create the kind of chaos that terrorist groups like Isil thrive on. So the PM dispatched me to Brussels to discuss the situation with our EU partners, including France and Germany, and then on to the US and Canada. We agreed on the need to persuade all sides to de-escalate the tensions, and the PM engaged in an intensive round of international calls, drawing on the relationships he built up in the Middle East as foreign secretary to help defuse the crisis. Iran responded to Soleimani’s death by firing ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq – albeit with no loss of life. An uneasy lull followed, as the UK and our allies helped bring the Middle East back from the brink. The UK effort relied on the quiet professionalism of our diplomats. This was a moment for composure and focus, not megaphone diplomacy.” – Sunday Telegraph

Gove ‘to be de facto deputy PM’

“Michael Gove looks set to be given a wide ranging role running the entire Cabinet Office and Brexit talks after next month’s expected ministerial reshuffle. Whitehall sources say Mr Gove’s new role is likely to make him the “de facto” deputy Prime Minister, despite the fact that Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, is the official “first secretary of state”. Mr Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was given a major role ensuring that the UK was ready for a no-deal exit from the EU in the run-up to the last deadline, October 31. The elevation of Mr Gove could distract from what is known as Mr Johnson’s “women problem” at next month’s expected reshuffle. Talk is widespread of Boris Johnson having to sack female Cabinet ministers who are seen as underperforming and replace them with male colleagues. Business secretary Andrea Leadsom and Environment secretary Theresa Villiers and even Liz Truss, the Trade secretary, are being mentioned as candidates in next month’s cull.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Could Gove become CEO of Government? – Mail on Sunday
  • Cracks appear in cabinet over No 10’s ‘war against civil service’ – Sunday Times
  • Northern Tory women at front of queue for promotion – Mail on Sunday
  • Race to replace Grieve as chairman of Intelligence and Security Committee hots up – Mail on Sunday
  • BBC received more than 60,000 complaints over General Election coverage – Mail on Sunday

PM could address both houses of Congress

“Allies of US President Donald Trump are weighing up the offer to Mr Johnson as a way of cementing the links between the UK and US just days after Britain leaves the European Union on Jan 31. Sources in London and Washington said that the visit is scheduled for the second or third week of February before Mr Trump starts his campaign for this November’s Presidential election in earnest. Mr Johnson would become only the sixth British Prime Minister to be given the honour, matching Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who gave speeches to Congress in 2003 and 2009. Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher also addresses both houses while Prime Minister. The event sees elected members from both chambers of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives – gather in a single room where they are addressed by the visiting foreign leader. Invitations are usually issued in consultation with the White House but ultimately the decision lies with Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, who is a Democrat, and so a political opponent of MrTrump.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • US delegation flies to UK in last-ditch bid to stop Huawei – Sunday Telegraph

Starmer vows to build on Corbyn’s work

“Labour leadership contender Sir Keir Starmer has declared that “factionalism has to go” as the left-wing grassroots Momentum group urged its members to back his rival, Rebecca Long Bailey. Speaking at the launch of his campaign at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester, birthplace of the Trades Union Congress, the shadow Brexit secretary issued a call for unity as he promised not to “trash” the last Labour government nor the party’s current leader. “Jeremy Corbyn was right to make us the party to fight austerity,” Starmer said. “We build on that, we don’t trash it going forward.” He said Labour should treat the 2017 manifesto as its foundation and that a future manifesto must “give hope to people that the next 20 years can be better with a Labour government”. Responding to the divisions within Labour, Starmer, who is one of six candidates running to succeed Corbyn, said “factionalism has to go” for the party to succeed as he warned: “We can’t fight the Tories if we are fighting each other.” Yesterday, in a boost to Rebecca Long-Bailey’s campaign, the pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum said she was “the only viable candidate” to continue the Labour leader’s “socialist agenda”. – Sunday Times

  • And favourite’s team confident but expect rivals’ surge – Observer
  • Long-Bailey under fire for CV ‘discrepancies’ – Sunday Times
  • Corbyn loyalist determined to keep Labour on the far left – FT
  • Phillips forced to suspend aide – Mail on Sunday
  • And she wanted to be ‘world queen’ – Sunday Times
  • Labour urges delay to Bailey becoming BoE governor – FT
  • French PM makes major concession to unions over pension age – Observer

And finally, Tory MPs stage last-ditch attempt for Big Ben to mark Brexit

“Dozens of Tory MPs are staging a last-ditch attempt to persuade Parliament to allow Big Ben to ‘bong’ at the moment Britain leaves the European Union later this month. In a letter to today’s Sunday Telegraph, 60 MPs say that the Great Bell must sound at 11pm on January 31 to provide Remainers and Leavers with “closure” after three years of Brexit bitterness. The decision could be made as early as tomorrow when MPs and officials on the House of Commons Commission which meet for its last scheduled meeting before Brexit day. However, the Commission was reluctant to allow Big Ben to sound when Brexit was mooted on two previous occasions – March 29 and October 31 – and signs were not hopeful last night. A spokesman told The Telegraph last night that it could cost at least £120,000 to prepare the Great Bell to chime while contractors needed 14 days to carry out the work ahead of January 31. Nevertheless Brexiteer MPs are desperate for Big Ben – which has been silenced since 2017 due to refurbishment work – to chime to mark the UK’s exit. Today’s letter, signed by MPs including Mark Francois, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Sir Bill Cash and Sir John Redwood, urges the Commission to reverse its a previous ruling that Big Ben will not sound.” – Sunday Telegraph