Johnson seeks one-to-one talks with Biden on Ukraine war settlement

“Boris Johnson is planning a one-to-one meeting with President Biden at a Nato summit next week as discussions begin about how to prepare for the “endgame” in Ukraine. President Zelensky of Ukraine is said to be increasingly hopeful that peace talks could be successful because Russia’s advance has stalled. During talks with Johnson, Zelensky is reported to have discussed how other countries could act as “guarantors of that peace” if a settlement is reached. The prime minister is also understood to be open to accepting an invitation to attend the European Council after the summit, though an invitation has not been extended yet.” – The Times

  • Zelensky tells Germany to stop dithering and ‘tear down this wall’ – The Times
  • Britain sends missile defences and 100 troops to protect Poland – The Times
  • Ukraine forces ‘counter-attack’ – The Times
  • Russia planning lightning advance to encircle Ukrainian army and claim victory – Daily Telegraph
  • America gathers evidence of war crimes – The Times
  • Fresh woe for Harris as another adviser quits – The Times

Wallace complains of dirty tricks after impostor’s call gets through

“The defence secretary condemned Russian “dirty tricks” after being targeted by an impostor posing as the Ukrainian prime minister. Ben Wallace told The Times that a man pretending to be Denys Shmyhal on a video call asked him a series of questions which “got wilder and wilder so I ended the call”. Priti Patel, the home secretary, has also been the target of a hoax call, but in her case it was unclear who that caller was pretending to be. One line of inquiry is that Wallace’s call was orchestrated by Russian intelligence to try to extract information or embarrass him.” – The Times


Putin lays out his demands in Turkish phone call

“Turkey has positioned itself with great care to be the go-between with Russia and Ukraine – and this seems to be paying off. On Thursday afternoon, President Vladimir Putin rang the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and told him what Russia’s precise demands were for a peace deal with Ukraine. Within half an hour of the ending of the phone call, I interviewed Mr Erdogan’s leading adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin. Mr Kalin was part of the small group of officials who had listened in on the call. The Russian demands fall into two categories. The first four demands are, according to Mr Kalin, not too difficult for Ukraine to meet. The second category is where the difficulty will lie, and in his phone call, Mr Putin said that it would need face-to-face negotiations between him and President Zelensky”. – BBC News

Foreign secretary ‘ready to trigger’ Article 16 before Northern Ireland elections

“Liz Truss has told officials to be ready to trigger Article 16 from next week, in an attempt to force a quick deal with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol. The foreign secretary has “lost faith” in negotiations with the EU and wants Boris Johnson to warn the European Commission that Britain is ready to suspend parts of the protocol if a deal is not struck before elections in Northern Ireland in May. The prime minister is understood to be ready to deliver such a warning, despite fears that a full-scale diplomatic row with the EU could fracture western unity against President Putin. Some in Whitehall are said to want to kick the dispute “into the long grass” while the world deals with the situation is Ukraine, but Truss is determined to force a resolution.” – The Times

  • Truss ‘ready’ to torpedo hated deal – Daily Express
  • UK failed to demonstrate benefit of post-Brexit trade deals, MPs warn – FT

Plot to oust PM ‘is over’

“The attempted Tory coup against Boris Johnson is over, allies of the Prime Minister said last night. Senior figures close to the PM believe his leadership during the Ukraine crisis has persuaded mutinous Tory MPs to think again about ousting him before the next election. Allies believe he will now survive even if he is fined by the police over Party-gate, which triggered the collapse in confidence in his leadership. Andrew Bridgen revealed yesterday that he had withdrawn his letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson because of the war in Ukraine. Yesterday Mr Bridgen said he remained ‘appalled’ by revelations about the events at No 10, but said that the ‘situation has changed’ as a result of the Ukraine crisis.” – Daily Mail

  • Truss ‘spending 24/7’ on Ukraine war and ‘not thinking’ about running to be next Tory leader – The Sun

Over 50 Tory MPs demand Sunak slashes fuel duty

“More than 50 Tory MPs today break cover to urge Rishi Sunak to cut fuel duty in next week’s mini Budget and help millions of struggling families. Political big beasts including ex Cabinet ministers David Davis and Robert Jenrick are backing The Sun’s campaign to slash the tax and cut prices at the pump. Senior Tory Robert Halfon, who organised the letter, said Britain is hurtling towards a “de facto lockdown” because families cannot afford to fill up the tank. Prices at the pump have rocketed to an eye-watering £2 per litre in some parts of the country. The letter to the Chancellor, signed by 53 Tory MPs, warns that just getting in the car is fast becoming “unaffordable for millions”. – The Sun

  • Sunak warns UK faces £70bn hit from EU ban on Russia oil and gas – FT
  • Taxpayers face further Bulb losses due to government hedging block – FT

Rebellion plot over Patel’s ‘immoral’ plan to process migrants offshore

“As many as 50 Conservative MPs will next week try to force the Home Office to drop plans to process asylum seekers’ claims outside of the UK. David Davis and Andrew Mitchell, former Conservative Cabinet ministers, are leading a group hoping to stop the Government overturning amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill, passed in the House of Lords. Ministers have pledged to overturn the amendments, tabled by Lord Kirkhope, a former Tory minister, which will halt the Home Office’s plans. More than 50 Tory MPs are said to be ready to rebel, sources told The Telegraph – enough to overturn the Government’s majority. A “Dear Colleague” letter sent to all Conservative MPs by Mr Mitchell said that the Government’s plans would be “a moral, financial and practical failure”. – Daily Telegraph

  • Patel’s plans to process asylum seekers abroad facing Tory rebellion – The Guardian

Madeline Grant: Have the Tories found their star to knock Labour off its anti-racism high horse?

“Unveiling the Government’s plan for tackling race inequality was never going to be a cakewalk for Kemi Badenoch. When the Sewell Report was first published, Labour’s Clive Lewis, with his usual subtlety, had tweeted a photo of the Ku Klux Klan. The University of Nottingham had already stripped Dr Tony Sewell of his planned honorary degree – a penance they had failed to inflict on two former Chinese ambassadors or the jailbird ex-prime minister of Malaysia. But if the equalities minister was anticipating an onslaught, she gave no sign of it. She cheerily thanked the report’s authors and the officials supporting the Government’s race disparity unit and pledged to return to the House in 12 months to report on its progress. Replying for Labour was Taiwo Owatemi, the Coventry North West MP, armed with prim schoolmarmish tones and a seemingly endless litany of complaints.” – Daily Telegraph


P&O fires ‘all UK crew’ and replaces them with foreign labour

“Former British special forces staff boarded P&O ferries to remove crew members yesterday as the company fired 800 people without notice to replace them with cheaper overseas workers. Long-serving employees were sacked on a Microsoft Teams video call in which they were told that yesterday would be their “final day of employment”. Security staff equipped with handcuffs and wearing balaclavas came to remove them from ships as passengers and businesses were warned to expect sailings to be suspended for at least a week and up to ten days, prompting fears of chaos at the UK’s ports. Boris Johnson’s spokesman condemned the “completely unacceptable” way that P&O workers had been treated”. – The Times

  • The sheikh, the unions and the battle for P&O – Daily Telegraph
  • DVLA staff off work on full pay amid application backlog crisis – The Times

Publishing their expenses is like ‘bullying’, say MPs

“MPs have complained that the publication of their expenses is equivalent “to bullying”, that their accommodation budget is too small, and that they should have more control over how much money is available. The statements were made in anonymous submissions to the House of Commons Standards Committee, which is reviewing the Code of Conduct for MPs. It is not addressing expenses claims. One MP, who appears to have joined Parliament in 2019, said the publication of their expenses claims was equivalent “to bullying”. – Insider

  • Johnson ‘broke promise’ over crackdown on MPs’ second jobs – FT

Rayner burst into tears after trolls blamed her for killing of Sir David Amess

“Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner “burst into tears” and was left “scared out of her wits” after being blamed over the alleged murder of Sir David Amess, a court heard. Stuart Kelly, 53, and Michael McGrath, 70, on Thursday both admitted to sending offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages to the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, Tameside. Both men linked her comments at the Labour Party conference, calling Conservatives “scum”, in September last year to Sir David, 69, being stabbed to death at a surgery in his Leigh-on-Sea constituency in Essex, Westminster magistrates’ court heard. On the day of his death, Kelly left three voicemail messages for Ms Rayner, 41, at her constituency office within 30 minutes.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour MP pulls out of Farage’s anti-net zero rally – Daily Telegraph

Prisoner left behind in Iran is being used as pawn, say family

“The family of a British prisoner in Iran found out he would not be returning with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori from media reports. Relatives of Morad Tahbaz, 66, said after the two British-Iranians landed in Britain early on Thursday that he had been abandoned by ministers. His sister Tarane Ahbaz, 67, said: “We were in touch with them right up until two days before when they told us there was great hope that all three were coming together. There was this build-up and then suddenly silence. The big conundrum now is that they have paid this debt and where does that leave my brother? What card do they have to play? You get a feeling after all this that he is a pawn.” – The Times

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