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Johnson squares up to Trump on taxes and trade…

“Boris Johnson is risking a post-Brexit rift with President Trump as he prepares to clash with the United States over tax, trade and foreign affairs. The prime minister is planning to push ahead with a levy on large technology companies despite the threat of a trade war with Washington. Downing Street says that it will introduce a 2 per cent sales duty on companies such as Facebook and Google from April amid concerns that they are “undermining trust and confidence in our international system”. Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Mr Trump intended to hit back with tariffs on Britain’s car industry if the digital services tax went ahead.” – The Times

  • Javid ignores threats over plan to tax tech giants – The Sun
  • Washington and Brussels put pressure on Brexit Britain – FT

Comment:

  • Tussle over Huawei won’t end well – Gerard Baker, The Times

Editorial:

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Johnson’s philosophy owes far more to Oakeshott than to Scruton

…amidst security concerns over his WhatsApp use…

“Boris Johnson has been speaking with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over WhatsApp, ex-government figures have claimed, raising potential security concerns following the alleged hack of Jeff Bezos’ phone using the platform. The prime minister would often hand out his private number to world leaders when he was foreign secretary, sources said, with one insisting they were ’99 per cent sure’ Mr Johnson had sent messages to the Saudi royal using the messaging service. It is alleged that bin Salman was involved in hacking Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ phone over WhatsApp, sending a corrupt video that granted access to his device… One British source, who had an overlap with Mr Johnson in government, said they remembered hearing he had talked about messaging the Saudi royal over WhatsApp.” – Daily Mail

  • British ambassador may also have used it to communicate with Saudis – Daily Telegraph

…and as Brussels ‘threatens sanctions’ over his Northern Ireland comments

“The European Union ratcheted up its threats against the UK, by warning Boris Johnson that Brussels was ready to slap sanctions on Britain if he fails to carry out custom checks on goods travelling between the UK and Northern Ireland after Brexit. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister last year, Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules on food and manufactured goods, while the rest of the UK will not. Northern Ireland will also continue to follow EU customs rules and will remain part of the UK’s customs territory. This will lead to customs checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain. However, in a speech he gave on Monday, while visiting Belfast, the Prime Minister denied that this would be the case.” – Daily Express

  • EU to demand tougher terms than those asked of other countries – The Sun

More:

  • Prime Minister hails the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – FT
  • All Lords amendments overturned – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Brexit is not ‘done’. We have to start talking about it again – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Waiting for the Remainers. Those people were a kind of solution.

>Yesterday: Daniel Hannan MEP’s column: I wave farewell to the EU in my last column for this site as an MEP

Ministers 1) No exemptions for low-skilled from new immigration system, says Patel

“Low-skilled workers in sectors such as construction and social care will not be exempt from new immigration rules after Brexit despite staff shortages, Priti Patel has told ministers. The home secretary made clear at cabinet on Tuesday that there would be no “carve-outs” under the points-based system. Although people in “shortage occupations” may be given more points under the Australian-style system, there will be no guarantee that they will be able to enter the UK. There have been warnings that Britain will face a shortage of social care workers if care homes are unable to recruit enough staff from overseas. Ministers have also said that foreign construction workers should be given special treatment to ensure that Boris Johnson’s pledge to “level up” the country with £100 billion of infrastructure investment can be met.” – The Times

  • Points system will replace controversial ‘salary floor’ – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Ryan Bourne’s column: The perils awaiting Conservatives who seek to reduce inequality

Ministers 2) Malthouse urges police to crack down on street violence

“Police chiefs need to “bring an end” to street violence and improve their performance in return for the biggest rise in funding for a decade, the policing minister has declared. In an exclusive article for The Daily Telegraph, Kit Malthouse who helped Boris Johnson slash knife crime in London said the public “need to see results” for the £1.1 billion extra that police have been awarded for 2020/21. He also demanded that they slash their backroom staff to put more officers on the frontline and improve their use of technology to combat the surge in violent crime. The £1.1 billion – comprising £700 million grant and £400 million from council tax and for pensions – is designed to deliver 6,000 extra police officers next year towards the target of 20,000 by 2023.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Forces to get cash injection worth over £1 billion – The Times

Ministers 3) Kit Malthouse: The police have the money – now they must deliver for the public

“This new investment supports the delivery of 6,000 more officers by the end of March 2021 across England and Wales. Putting us on track for 20,000 additional officers over the next three years. No previous Government has attempted such an ambitious police recruitment drive. This funding settlement will also provide £150 million to fight serious and organised criminals and £39 million to tackle serious violence including county lines drugs gangs who exploit our children. On top of that £8 million for science, technology and research and a new science advisor so we can be smarter about the mission too.” – Daily Telegraph

Ministers 4) South Western Railway is ‘not sustainable’, warns Shapps

“South Western Railway is facing renationalisation after transport secretary Grant Shapps said the operator of one of the UK’s biggest train franchises was financially “not sustainable”. Mr Shapps used a written ministerial statement to warn that the transport department was preparing “suitable contingency measures” because the company was making “significantly” less money than anticipated and would therefore not be able to continue in its current form. The state of the operator is part of a wider crisis in the rail franchising system and comes just days after Mr Shapps announced that the Northern franchise was close to running out of money and could be nationalised within weeks.” – FT

Phillips backs Nandy for Labour leader

“Jess Phillips has endorsed Lisa Nandy in the Labour leadership race, saying she was the best placed candidate to “win back the trust of the electorate”. Ms Nandy, the MP for Wigan, has cleared the threshold to get on the ballot paper after receiving the support of the Chinese For Labour group. Ms Phillips, who pulled out of the leadership race on Tuesday, said she would make Ms Nandy her first preference, followed by Sir Keir Starmer, 57. “Jess will be backing the candidates who she thinks can bring the party together and win back the trust of the electorate,” a spokesman said. Chinese For Labour, while a small group, secures Ms Nandy’s place on the ballot as she has been backed by three affiliates of the party. She was endorsed by the GMB this week and the National Union of Mineworkers last week.” – The Times

  • Nandy ‘angers moderates’ by accusing Blair of continuing ‘Thatcher’s consensus’ – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Thornberry vows to make the rich pay more tax – The Guardian
  • Long-Bailey ‘has no Tory friends’ – Daily Express
  • Senior figures in ‘red wall’ seats back Starmer or Nandy – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Labour won’t escape the wilderness until it abandons its ideological obsession with losers – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Today:

>Yesterday: Left Watch: Jess Phillips, Masked Singer?

Bercow accused of bullying by ‘former top aide’

“John Bercow’s hopes of a peerage have suffered a potentially fatal blow after his most senior former official filed a formal bullying complaint. Lord Lisvane, who served as the chief clerk of the House of Commons for the early part of Mr Bercow’s time as Speaker, has passed a dossier of allegations to the parliamentary commissioner for standards. It is understood to detail incidents in which Mr Bercow was alleged to have bullied and humiliated staff, including some in which he was said to have used inappropriate language. The former Speaker has been nominated for a peerage by Jeremy Corbyn after he was passed over by the government in a break with precedent.” – The Times

Editorial:

  • Peerage must be blocked – The Sun

Foster braced for ‘cash for ash’ findings

“Arlene Foster’s return to power as Northern Ireland’s first minister has given a boost to the Democratic Unionist leader after her party’s losses in the December general election. But now she faces another test: potentially damaging findings from an inquiry into the spending scandal that toppled the region’s last government three years ago. The “cash-for-ash” affair was a botched green energy scheme designed to incentivise businesses to switch from fossil fuels. But the renewable heat incentive, or RHI, offered a far higher public subsidy for using wood pellets than the fuel actually cost. And unlike the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland did not impose a cap on how much each participant could receive, leading to claims that some were heating empty premises in order to collect subsidies.” – FT

Civil Service chief to step down

“The chief executive of the civil service is to step down ahead of an expected overhaul of Whitehall. Sir John Manzoni, a former BP executive, will leave this year, which the government said had been planned for “some time”. However, his departure is expected to coincide with a wider shake-up of government priorities being led by Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings. Mr Cummings has long been a critic of Whitehall’s ability to complete big projects and attract staff with science and data skills into senior roles. Sir John was brought into government by David Cameron in 2014 to shake up project management and prioritise commercial skills in Whitehall, but that project fell down the political agenda after the EU referendum as ministers prioritised preparations for Brexit.” – The Times

  • Officials insist move is unrelated to Cummings’ shake-up – FT

News in Brief:

  • The state of the Unionists – Henry Hill, The Critic
  • Blueprint for razing red wall can topple SNP tartan wall too – Graham Grant, Medium
  • Demise of the Bristol Pound shows the folly of local currencies – Christoper Snowdon, CapX
  • Trump’s farcical impeachment is turning into a Republican win – David Waywell, Reaction
  • Why the mummy wars are really class wars – Mary Harrington, UnHerd

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