Transport 1) HS2 will be given go-ahead but with attempt to find cost savings

“The government will give the go-ahead for the entire High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line to be built, the BBC can confirm. An announcement on the rail project linking London to Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds is expected by the prime minister on Tuesday. While the whole line will be built, the government will seek a review of the second phase covering the North. It hopes it will identify cost savings as well as integrating these lines into the existing railways. Supporters of the HS2 project say it will cut overcrowding on the railways and help to rebalance the UK’s economy. “We need a better backbone for our public transport services,” Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told the BBC. “The capacity HS2 is going to deliver is absolutely crucial.” But the project has faced criticism from both Labour and Conservative MPs for being over budget and behind schedule. Labour peer Lord Berkeley – who was deputy chairman of the independent review of the project – said HS2 would not ease problems for commuters in the North. He said the project would be good for people travelling between London and Birmingham.” – BBC

  • Building work to start in weeks – The Times

Transport 2) “Scoping work” for bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland

“Government officials have begun examining whether a bridge connecting Scotland and Northern Ireland is viable, Downing Street has confirmed. As part of Boris Johnson’s “ambitious” vision for major infrastructure projects, a “range of officials” are now looking at the possibilities for building a bridge spanning the Irish Sea. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said a “proper piece of work” was underway, after Mr Johnson repeatedly raised the idea in recent months. However, he is likely to face fierce resistance from opposition MPs over the plans, with experts warning that the depth of the Irish Sea and the presence of dumped munitions would cause problems for any project.” – Daily Telegraph

Transport 3) PM promises £5 billion boost to bus services and cycle routes

“Boris Johnson is poised to give the formal go-ahead to the HS2 project on Tuesday, with ministers promising an additional £5bn on buses and cycle routes to head off critics who fear the troubled high-speed rail line will suck cash from other priorities. Before the expected announcement giving the green light to the vast infrastructure project, Johnson will claim that his government will offer bus passengers outside London a more frequent service and simpler fares, as part of his agenda to “level up” the UK. Arguing that local transport could have a “truly transformative role to play in levelling up infrastructure across the country”, Downing Street claimed the investment package in bus transport of £5bn over five years would result in more frequent services, including on Sundays, a simpler fare structure, and new priority schemes to allow buses to skirt traffic jams.” – The Guardian

  • The government must invest in cycling. Here’s how to do it – Ruth Cadbury MP, The Guardian

Brexit 1) Continuing farm subsidies could constrain trade deals

“UK taxpayers could be forced to foot the bill to continue EU handouts for farmers for up to 25 years amid a furious Whitehall tug of war, The Sun can reveal. The Government has guaranteed farmers will continue receiving payments that they currently receive from the EU’s hated Common Agricultural Policy for at least the next five years. But there is a “live discussion” between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) over how long the subsidies should continue for. Remarkably, some in Defra want the payments gradually phased out over 25 years. But DIT wants the handouts to end within five years and have warned any longer could hinder Britain’s ability to strike new trade deals with the like of the US, Australia and New Zealand.” – The Sun

Brexit 2) Gove tells business to prepare for border checks

“The government has told businesses frictionless trade with the EU will end this year with the introduction of import checks at the UK border. EU trade will not be waved through with zero checks which had been the plan under a no-deal Brexit. Traders will not be able to use special arrangements to lodge new paperwork after a grace period at a later date. Officials said firms will have enough notice to prepare for changes in time for 1 January. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove told attendees at a Border Delivery Group event: “The UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union, so we will have to be ready for the customs procedures and regulatory checks that will inevitably follow.” – BBC

  • EU “seeks power to suspend any deals it makes with Britain” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 3) Ireland risks different time zones

“The island of Ireland risks having to cope with different times zones for half the year under EU plans to scrap changing the clocks every spring and autumn, a House of Lords committee has warned. For more than two decades the EU’s member states have all carried out seasonal time changes under a 1996 directive. But EU lawmakers voted last year to end the practice from 2021, at which point countries will have to choose whether to keep summer or winter time. That will complicate timekeeping across the bloc, which already has three time zones. The UK, however, is not bound by the decision now that it has left the EU.” – Financial Times

Brexit 4) Javid  to push for “permanent equivalence” regime for financial services

“The British government is demanding the EU sign up to a “permanent equivalence” regime for financial services that will last for “decades to come” to ensure the City of London can maintain access to the European market after Brexit.  The UK’s “opening position” in the equivalence negotiations was revealed in a photograph taken by long-lens camera of an unreleased briefing paper carried into Downing Street on Monday.  The document said Sajid Javid, the chancellor, would seek as his opening position a full chapter on financial services in any free trade agreement, with “comprehensive, permanent equivalence decisions”. The negotiating stance appears to be a response to escalating fears among UK financial services executives that the EU could easily revoke equivalence agreements after Brexit, leaving them scrambling to service European clients.” – Financial Times

Court of Appeal orders reprieve for Jamaicans due to be deported

“The Court of Appeal last night handed an 11th-hour reprieve to a group of up to 50 Jamaicans due to be deported from the UK today for criminal offences. Priti Patel had defended the Home Office deportation plan, despite concerns that some of those on board had not lived in Jamaica since they were young children. More than 170 MPs had called on the government to stop the flight, which had been due to leave at 6.30am today. The High Court refused to stop the flight earlier yesterday, but an appeal was successful amid concerns that some of those due to be on board had not had access to legal advice. Lady Justice Simler granted the order without a court hearing after an urgent application on paper by the charity Detention Action, which argued that some of the detainees at Colnbrook and Harmondsworth detention centres did not have a functioning mobile phone because of issues with an O2 mast in the area, and therefore could not contact their lawyers.” – The Times


  • We’re deporting people who’ve only known Britain as home – David Lammy, The Guardian
  • Race to pass law blocking early release for terrorists – The Times

>Today: Andrew Green on Comment: The Conservatives’ new immigration policy risks the numbers running out of control

Long Bailey hit by devastating Ashcroft polling…

“Wannabe leader Rebecca Long Bailey is seen by voters as “Jeremy in a skirt”, a devastating analysis of Labour’s election defeat found. The Corbynista bombs with all-important floating voters who deserted the party to back the Tories or Lib Dems at the election, says a Diagnosis of Defeat report by Lord Ashcroft. Ms Long Bailey is commonly seen as “out of touch” and “out of depth”, the poll found. The results came in a wide-ranging review into the Labour election flop carried out by polling guru Lord Ashcroft. The report blames Labour’s catastrophic defeat on Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity and their muddled Brexit stance. Lord Ashcroft’s poll of over 10,000 voters found that 60 per cent of them thought Labour deserved to lose.” – The Sun

…while voters thought Corbyn was weak and unpatriotic

“Labour’s “impossible” policies, a leader who was “stuck in the past” and a sense that the party is for “middle-class radicals” are among the reasons for the party’s electoral annihilation, according to a damning new report. Jeremy Corbyn was the single biggest factor in causing voters to defect, resulting in Boris Johnson gaining an 80-seat majority in December, Lord Ashcroft’s ‘Diagnosis of Defeat’ claims. Contrary to Labour’s internal report, which was leaked last week, Corbyn was consistently viewed as weak, incompetent, unpatriotic, too left-wing and old-fashioned while Labour’s position on Brexit “further undermined the credibility of the leadership”. Voters also felt that Labour’s policies would take Britain back to the past in multiple areas, including industrial relations, the benefits system and nuclear disarmament.” – City AM

  • It’s time for Labour to wake up and smell the coffee – Christian May, City AM

Peers daily allowance increased to £323 tax-free

“Peers are handing themselves an inflation-busting 3.1 per cent pay rise in April — hiking their daily, tax-free pay to £323. The move comes after the House of Lords decided to link allowances to MPs’ pay increases.But in contrast to MPs, peers do not pay income tax or National Insurance. Critics also point out that MPs’ pay is linked to average weekly earnings in the public sector. Peers receive expenses on top of the allowance for every time they are in the upper chamber. The House of Lords is due to sit for around 150 days this year, so peers could get nearly £50,000.” – The Sun

  • A dumping ground for political failures – Leader, The Sun

MPs to be stripped of role in bullying investigations

“The system that allowed John Bercow to avoid an earlier investigation for alleged bullying is set to be scrapped by the House of Commons. Under current rules, MPs have the final say on what action is taken with regard to staff complaints. Yesterday the House of Commons Commission supported a fully independent “tribunal” process in which MPs’ punishment could be determined by a panel of HR experts. It is understood to have the backing of trade unions that represent Whitehall and Westminster employees and could be set up without legislation.” – The Times

New SNP Finance Minister challenged over trans rights

“Scottish finance minister, Kate Forbes, is at the centre of an SNP social media row over the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, just days after she became the first woman to deliver a Scottish budget in Holyrood, in the wake of the Derek Mackay scandal. Ms Forbes, who was appointed public finance minister by Nicola Sturgeon 18 months ago, has been criticised by LGBT activists in her party claiming she has “questionable views” on equality because of her religious beliefs.” – The Scotsman

Global death toll from coronavirus passes 1,000

“The death toll for the coronavirus virus passed 1,000 on Tuesday morning as fears grow that China is struggling to control the deadly outbreak. On the deadliest day of the virus, the number of new deaths passed 100 for the first time yesterday, defying claims from experts in China that the virus was killing at a slower rate. In Britain, panic set in following as the number of coronavirus cases in the UK doubled within 24 hours. Police have been granted special powers to force infected patients into quarantine.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: We still do not understand Spanish flu – so no wonder the danger posed by the coronavirus is unquantifiable

Divisions among rivals helps Sanders

“Splits among moderate Democrats allowed Bernie Sanders to take a polling lead before today’s New Hampshire primary vote, amid signs that the party faces a months-long contest to whittle down its presidential candidates. Centrist voters shopped around as fears grew about the electability of Joe Biden, while leftwingers gravitated to Mr Sanders in the small northeastern state. It is traditionally the first ballot after the Iowa caucus, which this year was mired in organisational chaos. Mr Biden, 77, the former vice-president, lurched from scathing attacks on his rivals to bizarre outbursts as he sought to cling on to his appeal, which was badly damaged by a fourth-place finish in Iowa.” – The Times

Brummer: Tax rises on the rich would leave us all poorer

“Can it be true that a Tory government — with a thumping 80-seat majority — is considering a soak-the-rich, tax-raising Budget that could destroy at a stroke the vital qualities of enterprise and entrepreneurship we desperately need if Britain is to prosper post-Brexit? Yes, there are mitigating circumstances — we are in the season of pre-Budget leaks as the Chancellor limbers up to unveil his spending plans on March 11, and spin doctors in Downing Street and inside HM Treasury are floating ideas, some outrageous, to gauge the political temperature. But reports that Boris Johnson and his Chancellor Sajid Javid are considering a ‘mansion tax’ on higher priced homes as well as a further raid on the tax relief on pensions savings are still shocking…..far from levelling up, a Budget dominated by tax rises would be tantamount to levelling down, for it would devastate wealth creation.” – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

>Today: Tom McPhail on Comment: Successive governments have dodged tough choices on pension tax reform for too long

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The “Tory press” are keen to show they will provide the real opposition to the Government

Haldenby: Don’t run the NHS from Downing Street

“No 10 needs to keep its eye on the real prize, which is for the NHS to improve and be seen to do so. For that to happen, it needs to foster the initiative of the staff and leaders within the service and in allied services such as local government. The prime minister’s job is to lead rather than to manage. If he wants to devote some of his own time, giving his colleagues confidence to publish their ideas on social care would be a great way to do it. As he thinks about how best to improve the NHS, the tune he should be humming is not ‘I got the power’ but ‘Let it go’.” – Andrew Haldenby, The Times

Moore: How the British helped Sinn Fein to win

“Sinn Fein, the party of the IRA, laid aside violence as the price for its participation, but it never had to say its violence had been wrong. The process showed you could get to the negotiating table, and to power itself, by terror, so long as you knew when to stop…Then, along comes Brexit and in 2017 the new Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, forgets his modernising, liberal stance and puts on the old green jersey of Irish nationalism. It turned out that virulent nationalism had not gone away after all. So, if Brit-bashing is again the approved, mainstream sport in the republic’s politics, why not turn to Sinn Fein, the best qualified players in that nasty game?” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • A ‘united Ireland’ is still a long way off – Peter Foster, Daily Telegraph
  • Sinn Fein is still controlled by sinister shadowy figures from its terrorist past – Kevin Toolis, Daily Mail
  • It will make our relations with the EU harder – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Sinn Fein in government. What’s the fuss about?

News in brief

  • Sinn Fein’s surge in the Irish election was a cry of frustration – Alex Massie, The Spectator
  • As Starmer strides forward, Long-Bailey is panicking – James Bloodworth, CapX
  • We need a completely new immigration system – Rebecca Long Bailey, Independent
  • Universities need more intellectual and political diversity – Daniel Johnson, The Article
  • Sinn Féin’s triumph is a victory of forgetting- Jenny McCartney, Unherd