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Brexit 1) Davis: The EU is stalling talks in an attempt to extract more money from us

‘Britain on Tuesday accused the EU of deliberately stalling Brexit talks to try to squeeze more money out of the UK, raising tensions between the two sides ahead of Thursday’s European leaders summit in Brussels. UK Brexit secretary David Davis said British negotiators were running out of things to talk about, increasing the prospect of a crisis in November if the EU continued to block discussions on a future trade relationship. “They are using time pressure to see if they can get more money out of us,” Mr Davis told the Commons. “Bluntly that’s what is going on — it’s obvious to anybody.” The EU wants Britain to increase significantly its initial offer to pay €20bn as part of divorce talks before the bloc will move on to discuss a future trade relationship.’ – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: It’s breakthrough! No, it’s deadlock! Brexit talks latest.

Brexit 2) Rudd claims a no-deal Brexit is ‘unthinkable’

‘A cabinet split has emerged over whether the UK could walk away from the EU without any Brexit deal, as Amber Rudd said it was “unthinkable” but David Davis insisted it must remain an option. Rudd, the home secretary, appeared to undermine the government’s position that “no deal is better than a bad deal” on Tuesday as she dismissed the idea of not getting an agreement that at the very least covered security. “It is unthinkable there would be no deal. It is so much in their interest as well as ours … We will make sure there is something between them and us to maintain our security,” Rudd told parliament’s home affairs committee. An hour earlier, Davis had told the House of Commons that it was necessary to keep the option of no deal open.’ – The Guardian

Budget 1) Hammond hints at fuel duty freeze

‘The Chancellor is under intense pressure to cancel a 3p-a-litre rise in pump prices that is due to come in next April. The Treasury has declined to comment on the status of the rise, which would be the first since 2010. But, in a significant move, the Chancellor highlighted the seven-year freeze yesterday as he briefed the Cabinet on measures the government is taking to ease pressures caused by the rising cost of living. With inflation hitting three per cent last year, senior Tories now believe it would be unthinkable for Mr Hammond to press ahead with the increase. Charlie Elphicke, a Tory member of the Commons Treasury committee, said: ‘Freezing fuel duty would be the right thing for the Chancellor to do.’ – Daily Mail

Budget 2) Cabinet battle over tuition fee freeze

‘Theresa May is facing a toxic cabinet battle over the future of university funding after her £2 billion promise to freeze student tuition fees ran into opposition. The prime minister is set to clash with the education secretary and universities minister after announcing at the Tory party conference that the maximum cost for courses would stay at £9,250 a year. An investigation by The Times has revealed that a host of other cabinet ministers also have strongly differing views about how to fund universities, as the party tries to counter Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity among young voters. Conversations with dozens of ministers and experts for a series about the university sector reveal a fundamental divide over the purpose of higher education and a battle over what to do next.’ – The Times

>Today: Alex Wild on Comment: Build houses, abolish NICs for people under 30. How to win younger peoples’ votes.

>Yesterday: James Frayne’s column: To win over young voters, don’t make the mistake of assuming they’re all wealthy graduates

May meets backbenchers in the hope of staving off a Universal Credit rebellion

‘Theresa May met Tory backbenchers yesterday in an attempt to stave off a rebellion on universal credit. Three outspoken Conservative MPs — Heidi Allen, Johnny Mercer and Sarah Wollaston — went to Downing Street to discuss their concerns about the policy with the prime minister. The reform, which combines six means-tested benefits into a single payment, has been heavily criticised amid claims it pushes claimants into debt and rent arrears. The system pays out in arrears, to mirror the way wages are paid, but leaves claimants facing a six-week wait for their first instalment. The meeting came on the eve of an opposition day debate on the issue. Labour will seek to expose Tory divisions with a Commons vote demanding a pause to the roll-out of the scheme. Up to 25 Tory MPs are prepared to rebel.’ – The Times

  • She reportedly won’t budge over six-week payment delay – The Guardian
  • The reform is kind to taxpayers, to those seeking work, and those unable to work – David Gauke, The Sun
  • Some are driven into debt – The Guardian
  • Scottish MP will miss the vote as he is refereeing a football match – The Sun

>Today: Profile: David Gauke, today defending Universal Credit…later to be uncorked as Chancellor? Continue to all today’s Newslinks