Newslinks for Wednesday 20th February 2019

Growing speculation that one or more Conservative MPs could quit the Party today

‘Sources told The Sun yesterday that talks were taking place between Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie and a number of Tory backbenchers. And there were growing rumours last night that either Heidi Allen or Sarah Wollaston could announce they are leaving the Tories to join the ‘Independent Group’ as early as today before Prime Minister’s Questions. Neither would comment yesterday. Downing Street is understood to have axed a number of Ministerial speeches this week through fear of upsetting ‘Remainers’ who could quit the party to sit alongside the ‘Independents’.  One insider said: “No.10 is on high alert.”..Business Minister Richard Harrington – an ardent Europhile – yesterday said he “perfectly understands” why the Labour ‘Gang of Seven’ left.  Challenged whether he could join her said his battle was inside the Conservative Party.’ – The Sun

  • Soubry is one of the names rumoured to be set to go – Daily Mail
  • Sandbach says it won’t be her – The Sun
  • Altmann says she might sign up – Daily Telegraph
  • Beyond liking the EU and disliking their party leaders, they have little in common with the Labour Seven – FT
  • We Tories must not repeat Labour’s mistake by driving MPs out of our party – Bob Seely, Daily Telegraph
  • Could this be the end of two-party politics? – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
  • They could have got off to a strong start, if they hadn’t made it all about stopping Brexit – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph
  • Remainers want to trap us in an undemocratic behemoth – Sir Bill Cash, The Times
  • MPs fear a new party would tempt May into a snap election – The Guardian
  • Umunna wants one formalised by the end of the year – The Guardian
  • Farage’s Brexit Party has a better chance of disrupting the status quo – Daily Telegraph

Ryan becomes eighth Labour MP to join the Independent Group

‘An eighth Labour MP has quit the party to join an independent breakaway group, accusing Jeremy Corbyn of “presiding over a culture of antisemitism and hatred of Israel”. Joan Ryan said that she could not “be part of a party that allows racism to flourish”. In an interview with The Times she said that Mr Corbyn, the Labour leader, had introduced antisemitism to the party and was “a danger”, comparing him to President Trump. Shortly before submitting her formal notice of resignation last night Ms Ryan, 63, who joined Labour in 1983 and was first elected the MP for Enfield North in 1997, said she considered the move to be a duty. “It’s obviously not a delight, it’s painful,” she said. “But it is a duty.”‘ – The Times

  • Ryan: I couldn’t stand by – The Times
  • Umunna, a man of ambiguous views and abilities – FT
  • The numerous ideological dividing lines between these MPs and their former party – The Guardian
  • The Jewish Labour Movement is considering separating from the Labour Party – The Sun
  • Hatton’s Israel comments come to light – The Times
  • The return of the old Trot highlights the party’s moral descent – The Times Leader
  • Thousands protest against antisemitism in France – Daily Mail

Opinion

Under cover of the Labour split, May is off to Brussels to try to resolve the backstop

‘The Prime Minister will travel to Brussels on Wednesday to meet Jean Claude-Juncker, the President of the European Commission, where she hopes to secure a breakthrough on a new Brexit deal. Downing Street is now concentrating efforts on agreeing a new legal text stating that the backstop, which would tie Britain to a Customs Union with the EU, cannot be “indefinite”. The legal “codicil”, which is being drawn up by Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, would impose a time-limit on the customs backstop but stop short of demands by Tory Eurosceptics to scrap it entirely. Last night there was growing speculation that the deal could be signed off by European leaders at an EU-Arab summit in Egypt this weekend, which the Prime Minister is now expected to attend. The Telegraph understands that Mrs May has asked Mr Cox to write to MPs once a deal is secured informing them that he has changed his legal advice on the backstop.’ – Daily Telegraph

  • She has kept the ERG at bay, just, by holding out hope of Malthouse later on – The Times
  • Or she has ditched Malthouse entirely, depending on whom you believe – FT
  • Hunt tells Brussels that Labour’s split shows it cannot be relied upon – The Guardian
  • Major alleges that ‘extremists’ are taking over the Conservative Party – The Times
  • Sir John is wrong, Shapps argues – Daily Express
  • She should alienate Tory Eurosceptics in order to win the vote – Anand Menon and Katy Hayward, The Times
  • Barroso says Brussels can and should find a last minute compromise – Daily Mail
  • Dodds criticises hard border scaremongering – Belfast Newsletter
  • The UK must stand up for the City after Brexit – Jo Johnson, FT
  • Le Pen and her allies are expected to make sizeable gains in the EU elections – Daily Mail
  • Renzi says they won’t last – FT

Honda boss says plant closure ‘is is not a Brexit-related issue’

‘The move comes amid a fall in demand for diesel cars and tighter emissions rules, with the firm saying the closure is also linked to the need to launch electric vehicles. Honda is also reacting after the EU and Japan struck a trade deal removing car export tariffs for both, meaning there is little need to base manufacturing in the EU. Experts including TV business editors Ed Conway and Simon Jack suggested this was likely to be the biggest factor, or among the biggest factors, in the closure. Some residents in Swindon blamed Brexit for the closure, but Honda Europe senior vice president Ian Howells insisted: ‘This is not a Brexit related issue for us.’ Mr Howells told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘These other changes which are now coming at us globally we have to now respond to.” – Daily Mail

Editorials

Javid strips Begum of her British citizenship

‘ISIS bride Shamima Begum has been stripped of her British citizenship after showing no remorse for joining the terror group. An official Home Office letter breaking the shock news was delivered to Begum’s “disappointed” family earlier today…It’s not yet known how the ban will affect her newborn son Jerah – who is half British and half Dutch. The schoolgirl’s family have said they are “disappointed” by the Home Office’s decision, said their lawyer Tasnime Akunjee. “We are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision,” he tweeted. Begum’s dual nationality – as both her parents are of Bangladeshi – reportedly cleared the way for today’s decision…Robert Halfon, who had spoken out against allowing Shamima to return, said in a tweet that Mr Javid had made “absolutely the right decision”.’ – The Sun

Employment, wages and job vacancies rise again

‘Household spending power has reached a two-year high – as the number of people in work hits a record, official figures revealed. Job figures defied the doom and gloom with average pay rising by 3.4 per cent last year. Crucially wages are growing 1.2 per cent higher than inflation – giving Brits their strongest disposable income since 2017. The number of jobless in the UK fell to 1.36 million – a rate of just 4 per cent and the lowest since 1975. Employment rate hit 75.8 per cent – the joint highest since 1971. Vacancies increased by 16,000 to a record of 870,000.’ – The Sun

Blackwood: To harness the power of AI for healthcare, the NHS needs firm ground rules

‘By 2030 algorithms will be able to detect the early indicators of disease years before patients would even think of going to their GP with symptoms. Drug discovery will have been made radically more efficient and affordable, with artificial intelligence able to catalogue, characterise and compare millions of compounds on a virtual database to help researchers find the best drug candidates for clinical trials… This is the future that’s possible if we get behind this technology now…But to get to that future we first have to lay down some ground rules. Any technology that runs on patient data requires public trust. People have to be confident that their data will be used safely and responsibly, for the public good and not just private gain, that their rights and privacy will never be compromised. We also have to ensure that the only the very best of this technology is supplied to the NHS, able to deliver real, quantifiable benefits to patients and clinicians.’ – Nicola Blackwood, The Times

  • NHS staff to be prioritised for mental healthcare – The Sun
  • GPs cost the NHS millions by prescribing more expensive drugs that return them a profit – The Times
  • Half of GP surgery buildings are outdated and ‘not fit for purpose’ – Daily Mail
  • British kids are the fattest in Europe – The Sun
  • Hinds urges parents to install educational apps on tablets – Daily Mail
  • New sepsis test could save lives – The Times
  • £500,000 lottery grant to controversial transgender charity – The Times
  • Cannabis farm licensed on Guernsey – The Times

New allegation of misconduct made against Thomson

‘A fresh allegation of misconduct against the Conservative MP Ross Thomson has been made by fellow Scottish parliamentarian, according to reports. Mr Thomson referred himself to an internal party disciplinary process following reports he harassed men while drinking in a Westminster bar. Police were called to reports of “sexual touching” in Strangers’ Bar and are understood to have spoken to Mr Thomson, but no arrests were made. The Aberdeen South MP has denied reports about the incident in January. Cloud Network Management Understanding Managed IT Promoted by Zyxel A complaint about the incident from an SNP staff member was not considered by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards because it came from a third party. The Daily Record reported that a Scottish MP had made a new report to the commissioner about an alleged incident of unwanted physical contact late last year.’ – The Scotsman

  • Sturgeon tells the French Parliament that Westminster ignores Scotland – The Herald

Maduro rejects US aid as ‘poisoned’ and turns to Moscow for help instead

‘President Maduro accepted 300 tonnes of food and medical supplies from Russia yesterday and dismissed calls by America to let its aid in, as the Venezuelan crisis became the latest battleground for the Cold War adversaries. Mr Maduro, 56, who has consistently dismissed US efforts to deliver aid and claimed that it is poisoned, announced on state television on Monday evening that his government would import aid from Moscow, which he said had been paid for. His opposition rival, Juan Guaidó, 35, who is recognised as the country’s legitimate president by dozens of western nations, is preparing to distribute hundreds of tonnes of US aid this weekend that has been stockpiled on the borders with Colombia and Brazil. President Trump had earlier pleaded with Venezuelan troops to abandon the regime and support Mr Guaidó and allow the much-needed US supplies into the country.’ – The Times

  • Venezuela on high alert, and claims that Cuba is sending soldiers – Daily Mail
  • Hunt protests to Germany over Saudi arms embargo – FT

Three-mile drone exclusion zones around airports

‘Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will announce new laws to extend the ‘no-fly zone’ to ban drones and model aircraft from coming close to runways. Anyone caught doing so faces a sliding scale of sanctions – from fines to life imprisonment if they endanger life. It comes as the Home Office confirms a new Bill will be laid later this year to give police powers to stop and search drone users – and access electronic data stored on the hi-tech devices. The Government is separately preparing to announce a partnership with high street chain Jessops to inform people about the need to “fly their drones safely”.’ – The Sun

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