Newslinks for Monday 21st January 2019

May sticks with Plan A – she bids for support for her own party, rather than go cross-party

Theresa May is to set out her next steps to build a Commons majority for a Brexit deal amid signs she is still unwilling to give ground on her central demands. Following the crushing defeat last week of her agreement with Brussels, the Prime Minister will make oral and written statements to the House explaining how she intends to proceed. She will also table a “neutral” motion to be debated and voted on – along with any amendments tabled by MPs – on January 29. Government sources said she would be holding further talks with MPs, as well as business leaders and trade unionists, throughout the week in an attempt to find a way forward. But after she briefed the Cabinet in a conference call on Sunday about her first round of cross-party contacts last week, there was little expectation she was ready to offer concessions that could win over opposition MPs. Instead May is considering amending the Good Friday Agreement as part of a fresh attempt to unblock the Brexit logjam, The Daily Telegraph understands… However there were signs some Brexiteers could reluctantly back Mrs May’s deal amid concerns a cross-party grouping of MPs are plotting to impose a “softer” Brexit – or derail it altogether.” – Daily Telegraph

  • May on Brexit collision course with MPs… – FT
  • …but confident she can break deadlock with rebels’ support – Daily Express
  • Rees-Mogg could help win MPs round – The Sun

Ireland:

  • Leave plan as-is, says Irish deputy – The Times
  • Prime Minister mulls amendment to the Belfast Agreement in lieu of backstop – Daily Telegraph
  • Merkel indicates that the EU will compromise – The Sun

Comment:

  • Amending the Belfast Agreement would not work – Peter Foster, Daily Telegraph

…but Remain ministers dismiss her ploy as ‘mad’

“Theresa May halted the cross-party approach to Brexit last night as she told her cabinet that she would focus on securing changes from Brussels designed to win over rebel Conservatives and the DUP. The prime minister used an evening conference call to announce that she would seek changes to the backstop, the Northern Ireland insurance policy to avoid a hard border, or its removal despite repeated refusals by the European Union to budge on the issue. Mrs May blamed Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, for the collapse of the cross-party approach after he refused to meet for talks unless she ruled out a no-deal Brexit. The prime minister will try to use a vote in the Commons on January 29 to show that these changes could secure a majority among MPs. Under her plan, she will then go back to Brussels with what she hopes will be a mandate from the Commons… Mrs May’s decision last night dismayed several figures in her cabinet. One government source called it “mad”, while another said: “It’s astounding that she’s putting party before nation.” The plan will involve facing down a string of amendments being drawn up by Conservative rebels.” – The Times

  • Lammy says Labour could split if Corbyn doesn’t back a second referendum – Daily Telegraph
  • Starmer hints at softening position on ‘six tests’ – The Times

More:

  • Leave campaign mobilises for ‘inevitable’ second referendum… – Daily Telegraph
  • …but poll shows majority don’t want one – Daily Express
  • Hancock finds Navy ‘not ready’ to transport medicines post-Brexit – The Times

Meanwhile, Grieve and Boles press ahead with plan to hijack control (with a minority of votes)

Two senior Tory MPs seeking to wrest control of Brexit from Theresa May will meet today to plan their strategy after being accused by a Cabinet minister of subverting the EU referendum result. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve and ex-planning minister Nick Boles are planning to table amendments that would enable backbenchers to take control of the House of Commons and frustrate Mrs May’s Brexit plans. Mr Grieve’s proposal would temporarily suspend the Government’s historic right to dictate Commons business so that for one day MPs would be able to pass their own resolutions – and even laws – on the way forward on Brexit. Mr Boles’ amendment aims to force the government to give time to a bill that would make it legally impossible for the UK to leave the EU without a deal on March 29. Both the amendments have cross-party support, largely from Remain MPs, and the two MPs are due to meet today to discuss whether they should both go forward in tandem or join forces… Mr Grieve’s new plan would overturn centuries of constitutional rules that give Government business precedence in the Commons. If the amendment succeeds, it would allow a motion put forward by a minority of 300 MPs across five parties – including 10 MPs from the governing party – to stand as the first order of business.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Architect of amendments accused of ‘democratic abomination’ – Daily Express
  • Power grab ‘twisted and dangerous’, say Brexiteers – The Times
  • Fury as Commons official ‘secretly plots’ with Tory rebels – The Sun

More:

  • Refusal to believe no-deal could occur hindering trade deals, warns Fox – FT
  • Brexiteers to calm fears over leaving without agreement – The Sun
  • Smith ‘obstructing’ changes to how MPs vote – The Times

Clare Foges: The age of self-obsession has gripped MPs

“Yet overall, while the fashion for MPs to plough their own furrow may smell at first like heroism, the base note stinks of egotism. Though the breakdown of party discipline may have been accelerated by Brexit, it is symptomatic of something that has been brewing for a longer time. Alas, the age of self-obsession has captured Westminster. Beyond politics, the age of self-obsession stretches back decades… Little wonder, then, that these attitudes have infected politics. It used to be understood that MPs served their time in the political trenches, spending a decade or two quietly supporting their party before perhaps being entrusted with ministerial office. These days an ambitious young backbencher would find this far too dull and glacial. Who wants to be an unknown foot soldier in parliament — mere voting lobby fodder? Better to be outspoken on Twitter to make a name for yourself early on… This trend for going rogue augurs badly for effective government. If an administration can’t reliably march its troops through the lobbies, how will anything get done? Without discipline, effective government is impossible.” – The Times

  • No-deal Brexit is a self-fulfilling prophecy – Wolfgang Münchau, FT
  • The next German leader could help salvage May’s deal – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Government faces a tough call on no-deal laws – Nikki da Costa, Times Red Box
  • Whatever the UK decides about its place in the world, New Zealand is with you – Jacinda Ardern, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • We should welcome Parliament taking back control – The Times
  • A blue Monday for Theresa May – Daily Telegraph
  • Tory plotters need to understand what losing is – The Sun

Chairman starts raising funds for an election

“The Conservative Party has put out a fundraising appeal after calls for an election, but Tory MPs said it would be a mark of failure to go to the country three times in less than four years. Brandon Lewis, the party chairman, sent out mass emails yesterday declaring that Jeremy Corbyn was pushing for an election that “he admits no one wants”, and then appealed for donations. Theresa May is understood to be resistant to the idea of an early election, although aides in No 10 have conceded to allies that this may be the outcome. On Saturday The Times revealed that Commons officials were making discreet preparations for “washup” – working out which bills are pushed through parliament after an election is called but before it is dissolved. Yesterday The Mail on Sunday reported that James Johnson, Mrs May’s polling strategist, had been testing election narratives and messages in case of an election. James Marshall, the director of policy, has begun preliminary discussions about an “incredibly short and sharp” manifesto, and two policy advisers were reported to be involved in preparing to face voters again. No 10 has said that an election is not possible and there is not sufficient time before Brexit. Some MPs would want to try to oust Mrs May rather than have her fight another election as leader.” – The Times

  • Labour Brexit spokesman says election is ‘unrealistic’ – FT
  • Farage warns May he will step in with a new party – Daily Express

Comment:

  • The more Corbyn calls for an election, the less likely he is to win – James Bowley, Times Red Box

Bercow may stay on after threat to his peerage

“The Speaker of the Commons may abandon plans to step down this summer after warnings that ministers could deny him a peerage. Friends of John Bercow hit back at Tory briefing against him by revealing that he was “seriously reflecting” on whether to stay on, possibly until 2022. Last week a cabinet source told The Times: “It’s a good job that peerage nominations are in our gift — I’m sure we’ll be thinking carefully about which individuals we would choose to elevate… I can’t imagine we would look favourably on those who’ve cheated centuries of procedure.” One source, who is said to know Mr Bercow’s thinking, told The Observer that if the government was seeking to “punish” the Speaker for how he conducted parliamentary business, and themselves defy centuries of convention under which Speakers are granted peerages on retirement, he could exercise his right to remain in the Commons chair until the end of this parliament rather than leave soon after Brexit. A spokeswoman for Mr Bercow did not comment yesterday. The Speaker tore up years of precedent ten days ago to change Commons rules and allow MPs to control the business of the House, outraging some Tory MPs and ministers. When elected Speaker in 2009, Mr Bercow promised to serve no more than nine years. Last year he changed his mind, telling friends he planned to see through Brexit.” – The Times

  • Speaker is all about reform, except when it comes to himself – Jane Merrick, Times Red Box

Elphicke calls for Channel to be monitored to save lives

“An MP has demanded 24-hour aerial surveillance of the Channel to save lives after a rise in attempted crossings by migrants over the weekend. Sixteen people claiming to be Iranians and Iraqis were being interviewed by immigration officials yesterday. One of the vessels, a tiny Rib (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) with eight passengers, was filmed being towed to the Kent shore by a Border Force patrol vessel. It coincided with an estimated 170 drownings of migrants after two dinghies sank in separate accidents off North Africa and has fuelled fears of deaths off England… Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover & Deal, said: “Crossing the English Channel in a small boat in the middle of winter is incredibly dangerous. Only yesterday we saw a terrible tragedy in the Mediterranean. It’s vital to do everything possible to protect life and prevent a tragedy in the English Channel. Much has been achieved in recent weeks: recalling Border Force cutters from overseas; the arrival of HMS Mersey; and deeper co-operation with the French. Yet greater action is needed.” – The Times

  • Home Office risking ‘next Windrush’ over EU migrant scheme – Daily Telegraph
  • Post-Brexit settlement ‘well on track’, UK insists – FT

Government plans new ‘domestic abuse ASBOs’

Men or women who mistreat their partners face up to five years in jail if they breach new domestic abuse ASBOs designed to change their behaviour. Councils, police, social workers and victims will be able to apply for the new court orders requiring an abusive partner to reform or face prison. The new orders, part of the first-ever Domestic Abuse Bill to be unveiled today by Theresa May, will force them to take courses to control their temper and behaviour, reduce their alcohol or drug intake, or undergo treatment for any mental health problems. Courts will also be able to issue orders to ensure they stay away from “exclusion zones” around their abused partners. New powers will be introduced to extend tagging to domestic abusers so their movements can be tracked by GPS and any attempts to enter the “exclusion zones” detected. Breaches of the new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (DAPOs) and Notices (DAPNs) will be a criminal offence subject to a maximum of five years in jail.  The orders aim to make the criminal law bear down more on abusers. Apart from the offence of “coercive control”, police and prosecutors have largely had  to rely on other criminal laws such as assault including sex crimes, stalking and harassment or civil actions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Men who abuse partners could face lie detector – The Times
  • Financial coercion to be classified as domestic abuse – FT
  • Women given right to check partner’s past – The Sun

Regulator hits out at charities who refuse to fund it

“The new head of a regulator set up after a series of fundraising scandals has criticised hundreds of charities for refusing to pay a levy to fund its work. Lord Harris of Haringey, who took over this month as chairman of the Fundraising Regulator, accused some charity chiefs and trustees of arrogance in thinking that moves to stamp out bad practices did not apply to them. Grange Park Opera, Whitechapel Gallery, Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund and the Professional Footballers’ Association Charity are among those that have not paid. The regulator was set up in 2016 amid the public outcry after Olive Cooke, a 92-year-old poppy seller, took her own life while feeling overwhelmed by charities asking her for donations. Charities that spend more than £100,000 a year on fundraising are expected to make a voluntary annual contribution to the regulator’s running costs. This varies from £150 to £15,000 depending on size. However, 246 charities out of 1,883 judged eligible had not paid by the end of last week… Lord Harris told The Times: “There are some charities that feel they are above this process because [they think] of course everyone recognises that they behave impeccably and so why on earth should they be required to do it?”” – The Times

Salmond promises end to ‘uncivil war’ with Sturgeon

Alex Salmond has pledged to end his “uncivil war” with Nicola Sturgeon, while at the same time telling her to concentrate “all her energies” on a new bid to break up Britain. The pair have been involved in a war of words since he won his civil case against the Scottish Government over its botched handling of two claims of sexual harassment made against him. As their relationship reached a new low, a spokesman for Ms Sturgeon accused his camp last week of launching a “smear” campaign. There were even claims that he had been “airbrushed” out of the SNP’s website, with less than a dozen mentions of his name, compared to 234 mentions of Ms Sturgeon. Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for the Western Isles, said he planned to write to Peter Murrell, the party’s chief executive and Ms Sturgeon’s husband, to have the former first minister “airbrushed back in”. In his first interview since the court case – in which the government was found to have acted unlawfully during its own inquiry – Mr Salmond said he wanted an end to the bitter exchanges… His comments came as one SNP veteran warned that having the current and former first ministers at daggers drawn was “incredibly damaging” to the party and anyone who thought otherwise was “living in cloud cuckoo land”.” – Daily Telegraph

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