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Johnson’s call for tanks a ‘red line’ that Nato won’t cross, says Macron

“Boris Johnson is trying to persuade Nato allies to supply tanks to Ukraine in a move that has put him at odds with President Macron. President Zelensky asked Nato yesterday for hundreds of tanks and jets during a video address to the Nato summit in Brussels, saying his country needed them to survive. He said he wanted only 1 per cent of Nato’s tanks and jets and said “we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who has sold us out and betrayed us”. Johnson said that while Britain wanted to help there were “logistical” problems. He wants allies nearer Ukraine to provide armoured vehicles. However, Macron ruled out supplying tanks and planes because of concerns that doing so could drag Nato into direct conflict with Russia.” – The Times

  • Chemical weapon use would be ‘catastrophic’ for Russia, says Prime Minister – The Guardian
  • Zelensky urges EU to do more against Russia as leaders debate energy curbs – FT

More:

  • Sturgeon uses Ukraine war to make ‘tasteless’ new case for Scottish independence – Daily Telegraph
  • She said that Vladimir Putin’s invasion ‘cast new light on the realities of Brexit’ – Daily Mail

>Today: Daniel Kawczynski MP in Comment: Russia’s expulsion from Europe leaves our Commonwealth allies vulnerable

>Yesterday:

Around 40,000 have applied to take in a Ukrainian refugee, according to Johnson

“Around 40,000 people have so far applied to take at least one Ukrainian refugee into their home under the Government’s sponsorship scheme. Boris Johnson revealed that 40,000 of the 150,000 people who registered an interest had applied, suggesting that just over a quarter may have been able to match with a Ukrainian refugee. Britons seeking to give refuge to Ukrainians with no family links to the UK have had to find a match under their own steam – through social media sites such as Facebook, newly-created websites connecting people with refugees, charitable organisations and other bodies… Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary, said last week that he expected the first refugees to arrive as early as last Sunday or Monday this week, and forecast potentially thousands coming through the scheme.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Transport Secretary will host Ukrainian refugee family of three and Max the dog – The Times

Sunak not a tax-cutter, say Tories in Spring Statement backlash…

“Rishi Sunak “is not a tax-cutting chancellor”, Conservative MPs have said amid a backlash over his Spring Statement. MPs from across the party criticised Mr Sunak over the increasing tax burden, his failure to protect families from rising inflation and his decision to spend no extra money on defence after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Wednesday’s Spring Statement increased the repayment thresholds for National Insurance Contributions (NICs), but did not scrap the 1.25 percentage point rate rise announced at the October Budget to pay for spending on the NHS and social care. “I think he should have completely scrapped the NICs levy,” one former Cabinet minister told The Telegraph on Thursday night.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor dubbed ‘the illusionist’ claims to cut taxes as burden increases – The Times
  • Tax savings offset by changes to student loan repayments – FT
  • Sunak’s ‘tax cuts’ set to cost wealthy £3,000 a year – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Sunak’s mini-Budget. A response to war and poverty? Or a reaction to criticism over tax?

…as he faces Cabinet revolt over spending levels…

“Rishi Sunak has been hit by a huge Cabinet revolt over bloated Government spending levels. Senior figures demand action to curb inflation and warn the Chancellor he risks a return to the 1970s if the crisis is not addressed. Mr Sunak, at a heated Cabinet meeting on Wednesday to sign off his Spring Statement plans, was confronted with demands to ditch last October’s three-year Spending Review. The massive cash hike saw the NHS budget rocket to £180billion a year, with an additional £150billion of spending across Whitehall. Policing Minister Kit Malthouse led the charge this week, suggesting the Spending Review be “reopened” in light of the fallout from the Ukraine war and soaring inflation.” – The Sun

…and promises more cost of living support after backlash

“Rishi Sunak has suggested he will bring forward more measures to tackle the cost of living crisis after he faced accusations of not doing enough to help struggling families in his Spring Statement. The Chancellor said in the immediate aftermath of his fiscal address on Wednesday that he could not “solve every problem”. But speaking to Sky News late last night, Mr Sunak said he has “always been responsive to the situation” and “will continue to be responsive to the situation” amid fears the pressure on household finances will only grow in the coming months. Mr Sunak used his Spring Statement to raise the threshold at which people start paying National Insurance and to pledge a 1p cut on the basic rate of income tax by 2024.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Downing Street denies rumours of Treasury rift over help for families – Daily Mail
  • Sunak slammed over rising costs as over 1.3m to be forced into ‘absolute poverty’ – Daily Express

>Today: ToryDiary: Education, healthcare’s poor relation. And Zahawi’s three-part plan to improve it.

James Forsyth: Tories should be terrified of high inflation

“On Wednesday, ahead of the spring statement, cabinet discussed the cost of living squeeze. As this paper revealed, both Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, and Jacob Rees-Mogg… argued for tighter spending to avoid fuelling inflation further. The prime minister was uncomfortable with this analysis: he’s acutely aware of how many big spending initiatives he has committed to, with bills yet to arrive. After that meeting, one minister observed that it was all right for Rees-Mogg to argue for spending restraint: he has no department to run. It’s harder for health, education, levelling up and other departments facing huge cost crunches. They have been told that there will be no more money to cope with inflation: if they face rising costs (or wage demands) they’ll have to make savings elsewhere.” – The Times

  • Alas poor Rishi, in charge of fixing the unfixable – Merryn Somerset Webb, FT

Shapps calls for ‘brazen’ P&O Ferries boss to quit ‘right now’

“Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today demanded that the millionaire boss of P&O Ferries resign after his ‘brazen’, ‘arrogant’ and ‘breathtaking’ admission in Parliament yesterday that he broke the law by sacking 800 workers without notice. Peter Hebblethwaite, who is paid £325,000 to run the firm and lives in a plush £1.5million Cotswold farmhouse, told Members of Parliament during a dramatic joint evidence session that he ‘would do it again’ and called the new workers’ £5.50 hourly wage ‘competitive’. Outraged MPs branded the disgraced boss a ‘shameless criminal’ and called on him to quit, calling his position ‘untenable’, and fuelled calls for a criminal prosecution. Boris Johnson has repeatedly threatened to impose potentially unlimited fines ‘running into millions of pounds’ if the operator were found to have broken any British laws.” – Daily Mail

  • Boss admits firm broke law by sacking staff without consultation – The Guardian

Government preparing to override Northern Ireland on abortion services

“The UK government is taking legal steps to override the Northern Ireland executive and directly instruct the nation’s health trusts to provide abortion services, saying it will “take the necessary powers” to directly commission services if urgent progress is not made. The secretary for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, set out the UK government’s legislative options in strong language on Thursday, after it became “increasingly clear” that the Northern Ireland Department of Health (NI DoH) will miss the end of March deadline to fully commission abortion services in the country. Lewis said in a written ministerial statement that planned regulations would “remove the need for executive committee approval before services can be commissioned”, which has been a major obstacle to the provision of abortions.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Without progress on the Protocol, ministers must be more sensitive to unionist concerns

Grade appointed Ofcom chair after lengthy search

Shield“Boris Johnson has turned to broadcasting veteran Lord Michael Grade to chair UK media regulator Ofcom, capping a protracted appointments process marred by hold-ups and claims of political interference. Grade, who has run ITV and Channel 4 and also chaired the BBC, was announced as the government’s preferred choice for the £142,000-a-year job on Thursday. The announcement comes months after former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, the prime minister’s favoured candidate, pulled out of the running. Grade will now face a pre-appointment hearing with the House of Commons culture committee. The appointment, initially recommended by culture secretary Nadine Dorries, was approved by Johnson.” – FT

  • Charity Commission chair candidate says he will not be dragged into ‘culture wars’ – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Sunak’s focus on investment more important than tax cuts – James Heywood, CapX
  • The tragedy of Hancock – Will Lloyd, UnHerd
  • Time to end the grievance-industrial complex – Rakib Ehsan, The Critic
  • The SNP’s ferry mess – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator