Mass coronavirus testing to be launched in Britain

“Thousands of Britons will be tested by GPs for coronavirus, amid fears that the explosion of cases in Europe means there could be far more cases in the UK than are known about. Mass surveillance will be introduced, as Britain ramps up its response to the growing threat, with health planners considering school closures and transport restrictions if the danger spreads. The virus has now killed more than 2,600 people and infected almost 80,000 others, in more than 30 countries –  including 11 countries in Europe. On Tuesday the number of cases in Italy rose by almost 100, with a total of 322 cases – up from just three on Friday – including 11 deaths.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Thousands of Britons will be seen at GPs – Daily Mail
  • Schools face closure in action plan – The Times
  • WHO expert warns world ‘not ready’ for pandemic – The Guardian
  • ‘Doomsday scenario’ could see 80 per cent infection rate – The Sun
  • First US coronavirus treatment trial begins testing with patients – Daily Mail


  • Singapore shows how to stop coronavirus without bringing the world to a halt – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph

Johnson demands ‘respect’ ahead of Brexit negotiations

“Boris Johnson has told the EU to show Britain “respect” after accusing Brussels of offering the UK a more “onerous” trade deal than it has other countries. Downing Street also said Britain’s fishing waters were off-limits in the trade negotiations, which will begin next week, as clear battle lines were drawn between the two sides. Brussels published its mandate for the negotiations on Tuesday, in which it demanded that Britain sign up to EU rules and standards – overseen by the European Court of Justice – in return for a free trade agreement. Mr Johnson will set out his own “red lines” on Thursday, but has already made it clear that the EU has woefully misjudged what Britain is prepared to accept.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister rejects Brussels’ trade demands in just four hours – The Sun
  • Give way or we’ll walk out, say both sides – The Times
  • Johnson rules out any compromise over EU access to British fishing waters – Daily Express
  • New small business group aims to ‘shrug off Brexit gloom’ – FT

More EU:

  • Von der Leyen ordered to keep out of Poland’s court reforms row – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Barnier – We are ready to begin the EU/UK trade negotiation next Monday

Baker resigns as Chair of the European Research Group

“Steve Baker has resigned as the chairman of the European Research Group, saying he wants to “start bringing the country together now we have left the EU”. The Wycombe MP has been one of the most prominent Brexit-supporting politicians over the last four years and took a leading role in the 2016 referendum. However, he said it was time to focus on other issues as “UK has now left the EU and the PM has the policy, the mandate and the majority necessary to make a success of it”. Mr Baker vociferously campaigned against Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. He led the group of eurosceptic MPs who struck down the deal a total of three times, which led to Mrs May’s resignation.” – Daily Express

  • Davis: France wedded to ‘lunatic mythology’ – FT


  • Brokenshire suggests he’d have no problem eating US acid-washed chicken – The Sun
  • EU trade chief believes ‘mini deal’ with US is within reach – FT

>Today: Profiles: Robert Buckland, the Lord Chancellor who stands between the judges…and the wrath of the Brexiteers


Johnson criticised for still not visiting flood victims

“Boris Johnson has still not visited the flooded regions that voted him into power 11 days after storms and torrential downpours ruined homes and devastated businesses. Flood-hit communities have lashed out at the government for its response to the severe weather conditions that have blitzed the country, and criticised the PM for his no-show in areas such as Yorkshire, South Wales and the South West, who have been battling the deluge. Storm Dennis hit on Saturday February 15, causing transport chaos as high-winds cancelled flights and rain lashed the sodden ground. Just 12 hours later, and after torrential downpours overnight, various parts of the country were flooded, and 11 days later have still not been visited by Mr Johnson.” – Daily Mail

Chancellor to cut red diesel subsidy…

“Rishi Sunak is expected to cut subsidies for a type of diesel used by off-road vehicles and machinery as he backs away from ending the freeze for fuel duty paid by motorists. The chancellor is shifting more of the cost of meeting climate change targets from consumers to business as he finalises the budget, say allies. They suggest that he is cooling on ending the ten-year freeze on fuel duty amid a mounting backlash from Tory MPs. Instead, he is preparing new environmental taxes, including heavy restrictions on the use of so-called red diesel. Eighteen Tory MPs in mostly northern constituencies wrote to the chancellor to say that raising fuel duty would “hit our blue collar communities the hardest”.” – The Times

  • Sunak warned by ‘Red wall’ Tory MPs not to ‘clobber’ working classes – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Sam Bowman in Comment: The Budget offers an opportunity for Sunak to move on road pricing. He should take it.

…and ‘claw back £1bn from well-off inheritance tax dodgers’

“Rishi Sunak is looking at clawing back nearly £1 billion from the well-off who dodge inheritance tax to raise cash for Boris Johnson’s infrastructure splurge in the Budget. The Sun understands the Chancellor is mulling closing two tax reliefs rich families use to funnel money through ghost companies and farmland before they die. Rich Brits cut down the amount of inheritance tax they have to pay by setting up a business or buying land, which can be passed on to their family after death. Agricultural Relief and Business Property Relief can protect between 50 per cent and 100 per cent of money invested from inheritance tax.” – The Sun

  • Weak economy and coronavirus threaten UK spending pledges – FT


Cummings wins fight for ‘widest security review since Cold War’

“A reduction in the size of the army is being considered as part of the government’s foreign policy and defence review, which is set to end by the autumn in a victory for Dominic Cummings. Today Boris Johnson will announce plans to overhaul the approach to foreign policy through the cross-Whitehall exercise, which he has pledged will be the most sweeping review of defence and security since the Cold War. The Ministry of Defence is in line for a funding increase after No 10 sources said that the review would not be “cost-neutral”. While some of the extra cash is likely to fund investment in cutting-edge weapons, cybercapabilities and space technology, the department’s multibillion-pound funding black hole in its ten-year equipment plan will have to be addressed.” – The Times

  • Johnson signals increase in defence spending – Daily Telegraph
  • The Prime Minister warns that ‘as the world changes we must move with it’ – Daily Mail


  • Britain’s submarines to use US technology for nuclear warheads – FT
  • Let us read suspect messages, MI5 chief urges tech companies – The Times

Bailey attacks Khan for putting PR ahead of policing

“Sadiq Khan was warned to stop focusing on his image rather than “making life easier for Londoners” amid the ongoing knife crime crisis plaguing the city. Sadiq Khan should stop focusing on PR and deliver on the demands of Londoners concerned about growing crime across the Capital, mayoral election candidate Shaun Bailey claimed. Mr Bailey, a long-time critic of the Mayor of London, insisted Mr Khan should stop “talking” to ensure the needs of local residents are met as he renewed his pledge to increase Police numbers to tackle knife crime… Mr Khan’s PR machine came under fire again at the weekend after another mayoral candidate, the Greens’ Sian Berry, accused the Mayor of London of having his campaigns “advertise him” instead of environmentally-friendly public transport.” – Daily Express

Calls to block Watson peerage as paedophile ring claims debunked

“Tom Watson should be blocked from getting a peerage, MPs and campaigners said yesterday after an investigation dismissed his “sensational allegations” of a Westminster paedophile conspiracy. The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse said that Mr Watson’s 2012 claim in parliament of a powerful paedophile network at the heart of political life had been a significant factor in Theresa May’s decision to set up the investigation. The former Labour deputy leader also exerted influence on police inquiries, including Operation Midland, which pursued false claims against innocent public figures. The main conclusion of the 172-page report into claims of abuse at Westminster pointedly used his own words to reject his central claim.” – The Times

  • Labour ministers ‘led group’ that backed Paedophile Information Exchange – The Times
  • Dead paedophile MPs should be stripped of honours and gongs, report demands – The Sun

Other parties:

  • Steel quits Lords after criticism for turning blind eye to Cyril Smith… – The Times
  • …and he’s leaving the Liberal Democrats too – FT
  • Smith’s accuser calls for Steel to face prosecution – The Guardian
  • Morrison backed by Thatcher despite claims against him – The Times
  • MPs ‘turned blind eye’ to child abuse and covered up horrific claims, says report – The Sun


  • Has the inquiry been worth the £120m it has cost taxpayers? – Sean O’Neill, The Times
  • He wrecked so many lives like mine – how can he get a peerage? – Paul Settle, Daily Mail


  • Watson must never set foot in the Lords – The Sun
  • Abuse of Power – The Times
  • Political overreach turned a historic child abuse inquiry into moral panic – Daily Telegraph

Labour ‘stitch-up’ as members get McDonnell email urging them to vote for Long-Bailey

“The Labour leadership has been accused of orchestrating another “stitch-up” after the party sent members an email from John McDonnell urging them to vote for Rebecca Long-Bailey. In a move that has reignited allegations of internal bias, thousands of Labour members received the endorsement just 24 hours after receiving their ballots for the final round of the leadership contest. Whilst Labour has sent several emails on behalf of candidates in recent weeks, the messages have until now included a disclaimer making clear they are not official party endorsements. But at 7.40am on Tuesday morning, a message written by Mr McDonnell was sent without the disclaimer, stating that electing Ms Long-Bailey would be an “historic” moment in the party’s history.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Starmer comes under fire from Long-Bailey and Nandy over Brexit… – The Guardian
  • …as he says he’d welcome back Alastair Campbell to Labour – The Times

Daniel Finkelstein: Why Blair’s silence on Brexit matters

“No credible account, however, can fail to mention it at all. So why did Mr Blair make such a obvious omission? One perhaps unkind explanation is that it was the only policy area in which Labour broadly took Mr Blair’s advice – and it proved a fiasco. But I think a better explanation is a more complicated one. If you believe that the future for Labour, or indeed the Tories or any party, is to capture the centre, then what was, is, or will be the centre position on Brexit? What was in the centre between leaving and not leaving? Between having a second referendum and not having one? The word centre is meaningless here.” – The Times

Robertson pledges to support Sturgeon, not replace her, if he wins Holyrood seat battle

“Angus Robertson has pledged to support Nicola Sturgeon rather than try and replace her if he wins a bitter fight with a key Alex Salmond ally for a Scottish Parliament seat. The SNP’s former deputy leader admitted his battle with Joanna Cherry to be the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central is being viewed as a “proxy contest about the future leadership” of the SNP. But he cited his “long track record” of working closely with Ms Sturgeon and said he wanted to make “absolutely clear that I am running to support her leadership.” In another dig at 53-year-old Ms Cherry, the Edinburgh South West MP, he predicted that the First Minister’s successor would be one of a “range of younger talents” in the Scottish Parliament.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scotland’s war on drugs hit by political schism – FT

News in Brief:

  • Why Boris has his eye on a Union-boosting bridge – Eilis O’Hanlon, UnHerd
  • Black’s drag queen stunt has backfired spectacularly – Joanna Williams, The Spectator
  • Why the SNP is at war with itself – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • Reflections of a conservative historian on the BBC – Jeremy Black, The Critic
  • Beware claims that ‘austerity has decreased life expectancy’ – Julian Jessop, CapX