EU trade deal by the end of the year is “enormously likely”, insists Johnson, in BBC Breakfast interview

“The PM says it is ‘enormously, epicly likely’ there will be a comprehensive trade deal with the EU by the end of this year. He accepts that “you always have to budget for a complete failure of common sense”, but adds: “I’m very, very, very, confident – there’s three verys there – that we will get [it]. This is not about a deal, it’s about building a great new partnership,” he says. The key thing is that we’re coming out of the EU on January 31.” – BBC

  • PM says he wants to see county lines drug gangs ‘totally wound up’ – The Guardian

Javid willing to cut Air Passenger Duty to save Flybe

“The government is to consider cutting air passenger duty on all domestic flights as part of a plan to save regional airline Flybe from collapse. Chancellor Sajid Javid is to meet later with the business and transport departments to discuss lowering the levy, the BBC’s business editor says. The change would allow Flybe to defer a tax bill and implement a rescue plan. By applying the move to the whole industry, the government would avoid breaching EU state aid rules. It could also improved regional connectivity, a key Conservative manifesto pledge…Changes to air passenger duty could reduce the billions of pounds the charge generates for the government, which is expected to reach £3.7bn this financial year, according to Office for Budget Responsibility.” – BBC

Stormont 1) Northern Ireland veterans warn of betrayal

“Veterans of the Troubles in Northern Ireland have warned Boris Johnson not to betray them after the Government suggested “legacy issues” in the province could be reopened. The Prime Minister promised before the general election to end the “unfair trials” of those who served in Northern Ireland and give them legal protection to prevent them being prosecuted. But that pledge is at odds with an agreement reached to restore power-sharing at Stormont, which could see every death in the Troubles being reviewed. Government sources have admitted it will not be “easy” to marry up the “two different commitments”, leaving veterans facing more uncertainty about whether they could face prosecutions in future.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Duncan Smith warns that pledge must be honoured – The Times

Stormont 2) Complaints that the extra money “falls well short”

“The government’s offer for extra money as part of the deal to restore Stormont “falls way short” of what was promised, Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said. Mr Murphy was speaking after the Stormont parties met Secretary of State Julian Smith to discuss how much will be allocated. The finance minister refused to comment on how much exactly had been proposed. Earlier the prime minister said the government had made “huge commitments” as part of the deal. The British and Irish prime ministers were in Belfast on Monday to mark the return of devolution after a three-year impasse. Speaking to the media, Mr Johnson did not state how much money would be provided to support the deal, saying it was not about money but leadership.” – BBC

Fox urges Johnson to merge Foreign Office and DfID…

“Boris Johnson must “slaughter sacred cows” by merging the Foreign Office (FCO) and Department of International Development (DfID), the former international trade secretary Liam Fox is to say in a major speech pushing a proposed Whitehall shakeup. Ministers have been considering a merger of the FCO and DfID for months, but in recent weeks it was reported that the plans advocated by Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief strategist, had been put on hold. Fox, still influential in Conservative policy making, is to urge Johnson not to grant a last-minute reprieve to DfID in an attempt to buy political peace. In a speech to the Institute for Government on Tuesday he will argue “the Conservative victory has created a political moment which is as important as Mrs Thatcher’s victory in 1979”, and as a result the reshaping of Whitehall must be as radical.” – The Guardian

  • Former trade minister asks: ‘Do we really need an industrial strategy?’ – Daily Telegraph

…but Hague warns against Whitehall reorganisation

“Never underestimate the money and time that can be wasted by rearranging how government is run. As Welsh Secretary in the Nineties, I inherited a drastic reorganisation of local councils in Wales, and found myself having to set aside about £100 million to move everything around – money that could have gone directly into public services. The totally unnecessary destruction of traditional English counties and ridings in the Seventies was an even more scandalous waste of money. Nothing obscures accountability and performance more surely than starting a government office all over again. Suddenly, no records are available, no file can be found and no comparison is valid. Sometimes this might even be the deliberate intention – Tony Blair’s abolition of the Ministry of Agriculture in 2001 made inquiries into the terrible episode of foot and mouth disease that year much harder to pursue.” – William Hague, Daily Telegraph

Boost in housing allowance to tackle homelessness

“Almost one million Brits will see a £120 a year boost to their housing benefits in April. Ministers revealed that 900,000 people across the country will see relief when the freeze on the Local Housing Allowance benefits rates is lifted later this year. DWP Minister Will Quince said: ‘This government is levelling up opportunity across the UK, and this will be a welcome increase for more than a million people as we provide more money to help pay for housing. We are committed to tackling all forms of homelessness – ending the freeze on housing benefits is just one part of achieving this.’ ” – The Sun

>Today: Alex Morton on Comment: Johnson’s electoral success rests on helping people move from renting to owning their home

Big Ben “will not bong” for Brexit

“Big Ben will not bong for Brexit, after projected costs spiralled to half a million pounds. The issue was discussed at a meeting of the House of Commons Commission on Monday morning, but it was dismissed over financial and logistical issues. A letter, signed by 60 MPs, had previously called on the Government to allow the 13-tonne bell to ring symbolically at 11pm on Jan 31 to mark our departure from the EU. However, the meeting was told that the cost had rocketed to £500,000 – from an original estimate of £120,000 – because the floor that supports the temporary equipment used to strike Big Ben had already been removed.” – Daily Telegraph

Wallace: Are the Conservatives ready to be unpopular?

“The big question is, having just scored a victory which long seemed impossible, how willing are the Conservatives to risk temporary unpopularity in order to make the most of their opportunity to make a lasting difference? They must draw on the rough, tough experience of the last few years to find the grit and discipline necessary. They have to remember all they went through in order to get here, and promise themselves that the sacrifice must not be allowed to be in vain. If they settle into their ministerial offices with a sigh of relief – even a feeling of “mission accomplished” – then they will come to regret it.” – Mark Wallace, The i

Five make it through to the Labour leadership contest

“Five candidates have made it through to the next round of the Labour leadership contest – Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry. The leadership hopefuls passed the first hurdle after gaining the nominations of 22 MP and MEP colleagues, with one candidate, Clive Lewis, dropping out in the process. All five candidates for the deputy leadership – Angela Rayner, Dawn Butler, Ian Murray, Richard Burgon and Rosena Allin-Khan – made it through to the next round of the competition. Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, was the clear favourite for the leadership among MPs, with 88 nominations, with Rebecca Long-Bailey, the favoured candidate of many Jeremy Corbyn allies, second on 33.” – The Guardian

  • Historic opportunity for a female leader – Daily Telegraph
  • Leadership hopefuls must lighten up – Rachel Sylvester, The Times
  • Thornberry is everything that is wrong with the middle-class, Remainer Labour Party – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

The Queen agrees to a “transition period” for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

“The Queen allowed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to quit as senior Royals following a private heart-to-heart with her grandson at yesterday’s crisis summit, it was revealed last night. After a Family meeting at Sandringham, Her Majesty released a historic and emotionally-charged statement regretting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to split their time between Canada and the UK as they wind down their Royal duties….In last night’s statement, her sincere regret was made clear, saying she ‘would have preferred them to remain full-time working members’. But after her one-to-one with Harry – followed by two hours of ‘calm’ discussions with him, Charles and William – Her Majesty agreed to a ‘transition period’ where the Duke and Duchess would step away from Royal engagements as they spend more time in Canada.” – Daily Mail

  • Security bill “spiralling out of control” – The Times
  • Her Majesty has taken a firm grip on the situation – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Surrender to selfish demands a big mistake – Leader, The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: How to leave the Royal Family – as working members of it, at least

US warns against “madness” of using Huawei

“The US has warned the British government it “would be madness” to use Huawei technology in the UK’s 5G network. A US delegation presented the UK with new evidence claiming to show security risks posed by using the Chinese firm. US President Donald Trump has sought to pressure Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the issue. A decision is expected this month on whether to allow Huawei to supply some “non-core” parts for the UK network.” – BBC

  • “It would be like putting Russia in charge of anti-doping of world athletes” – Financial Times

Bercow’s farewell spending spree

“John Bercow took a £1,000 taxi from Westminster to Nottingham and back during a spending spree in his last few months as Speaker. Mr Bercow made the trip to deliver a speech at Nottingham Trent University about how Parliament should respond to the ‘anti-politics age’. Aides said he was advised to take a taxi due to ‘heightened security concerns’. But critics said Mr Bercow’s costs defied ‘common sense’. Details of the Speaker’s official expenses obtained by MailOnline under FOI rules show that a ‘farewell tour’ of trips by Mr Bercow included a £7,000 visit to the US in May – where he gave a speech insisting MPs could still block No Deal Brexit. Some £1,400 went on a single dinner with fellow presiding officers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. He also splurged more than £12,000 on retirement parties for four senior Commons staff who had worked with him.” – Daily Mail

  • Time to demolish Bercow-backed shanty town outside Parliament – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

SNP renews demand for a second independence referendum

“Boris Johnson and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack have been accused of “abandoning” an agreement made between all political parties after the result of the 2014 independence referendum…The Smith Commission met in the aftermath of the 2014 vote to thrash out new powers for the Scottish Parliament, which were later set out in the Scotland Act 2016. However, the cross-party agreement also stated that “nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.” Now Linda Fabiani has written to Alister Jack after his announcement yesterday that there would be no indyref2 even if the SNP is returned with a majority at next year’s Holyrood elections – demanding the UK government recommit to the Smith Commission agreement.” – The Scotsman

Ranger: Close the regional digital divide

“We must address the level of regional inequality when it comes to digital investment. Between 2015 and 2018, London received £9bn in tech investment. The second closest UK city was Cambridge, receiving just £583m. This is an unacceptably large gap. Britain is home to technologies which are addressing some of society’s biggest challenges, from the ageing population to climate change, but too many are housed in and around the capital. More funding to develop world-class digital clusters outside London, and tax and regulatory incentives for businesses within them, will support innovation while creating local jobs and attracting the best global talent beyond the M25.” – Kulveer Ranger, City AM

Shrimsley: The Government must safeguard the BBC

“The BBC is, for all its flaws, one of the UK’s best brand ambassadors. The rise of RT and Al Jazeera should be proof enough of the soft-power value of a globally respected broadcaster. Mr Johnson must get past his gripes and move on to future-proofing a precious asset. The danger is that the temporary swagger gives way to the carelessness for which Mr Johnson has long been known and a great and valuable institution is lost or broken, just when the UK needs its global brands more than ever.” – Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times

Phillips: Scruton knew the precious value of freedom

“In How to Be a Conservative, he wrote that ordinary people were trying to “live by their lights, raising families, enjoying communities, worshipping their gods and adopting a settled and affirmative culture — these attempts are scorned and ridiculed by the Guardian class.” As a result, he wrote, conservatives now had to “move quietly and discreetly… known only to each other as they move in disguise”. At the same time, he realised that many of them no longer understood what they needed to conserve. So his Conservative Philosophy Group tried to restore conservatism to the Conservative Party. As someone who occasionally attended its meetings, I felt we resembled a small flotilla of ships from another age, buffeted by tempests and mountainous seas and relying for our perilous navigation on Sir Roger’s north star.” – Melanie Phillips, The Times

  • He kept the light of conservative philosophy burning in dark times. We owe it to him to follow his example – Douglas Murray, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Roger Scruton on Comment: The ten principles that should form the foundation of a modern Conservative policy.


News in brief

  • The strategy behind Boris Johnson’s incoming government shake-up – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • Roger Scruton: Conservative lodestar – Danny Kruger, Unherd
  • Labour is in denial about its core vote – James Bloodworth, CapX
  • The Divided States of Transgenderism – Caroline ffiske, Conservative Woman
  • UK economy slowed too much by domestic policy – John Redwood
  • 2020 is proving Brexit was never the problem of the last three years. The problem was politicians – Tom Harwood, Free Market Conservatives