Newslinks for Thursday 22nd August 2019

Brexit 1) Merkel challenges Johnson to find an alternative to the backstop

“Angela Merkel suggested last night that it was still possible to avoid a no-deal Brexit, challenging Boris Johnson to come up with an alternative to the Irish backstop within 30 days. The German chancellor said that the time had come for Britain to put its proposals forward and pledged to “put our all” into solving the impasse. The prime minister praised the “blistering” pace of Mrs Merkel’s timetable at a joint appearance in Berlin before a working dinner and said that he was “glad you have said conversations can now begin”. He agreed that the “onus is on us to produce those solutions” and suggested that Theresa May, his predecessor, had failed to set out alternatives to the backstop.” – The Times

  • German Chancellor ‘holds out prospect of new Brexit deal’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Berlin ‘hopeful’ that deadlock can be overcome – FT
  • ‘Squiggle on map’ shows why backstop ‘won’t work’ – The Sun

>Yesterday:

Brexit 2) Peter Oborne: Many wanted him to fail, but Johnson triumphed in Berlin

“Last night’s meeting with Angela Merkel in Berlin was Boris Johnson’s first big test on the international stage. It was a test everybody expected him to fail. Many were hoping he would. From his days as a Brussels-based journalist whose motif was his relentless ridiculing of the Eurocracy and their policies, our new Prime Minister has long been a hate figure in Europe. But Mr Johnson passed with flying colours. More than that he pulled off a diplomatic triumph. He was charming, good-humoured, and got on far better than expected with the veteran German Chancellor. What is more important he looked and sounded statesmanlike, a striking contrast to his often bumbling performances as Foreign Secretary.” – Daily Mail

  • There are plenty of solutions to the Irish border problem – Shanker Singham, Daily Telegraph
  • Why meet to discuss something they can’t agree on? – William Cook, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Brexit 3) Prime Minister prepares for ‘showdown in Paris’

Boris Johnson is set for showdown Brexit talks in Paris as allies say his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron will be a “discussion”. Mr Johnson was buoyed on Wednesday after comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel which indicated that European leaders could be willing to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement in a bid to avoid a no-deal Brexit. As Mr Johnson travels to Paris today to meet with Mr Macron at 1pm Bruno Bonnell, the president’s friend and investor in his party, said the meeting would be a discussion in which Mr Macron will be “polite but firm”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • French President demands £39 billion even after No Deal – The Sun
  • EU hits out at ‘unelected’ Prime Minister – The Times

More Brexit:

  • ONS admits to missing 240,000 EU migrants – The Times
  • Home Office to assign Border Force roles to agency staff – The Guardian
  • Is business right to still fear No Deal? – FT
  • Cash for ports described as ‘too little, too late’ – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Is Patel’s pledge to “end freedom of movement” merely smoke and mirrors?

Brexit 4) Corbyn scraps overseas trip to convene anti-No Deal meeting

“Jeremy Corbyn has scrapped plans for a four-day trip to Africa so that he can hold urgent talks on blocking a no-deal Brexit with Tory Remainers and other opposition parties. The Labour leader called for a discussion of “all tactics” that could be used to stop Britain leaving the EU without an agreement with Brussels. Boris Johnson has pledged that the UK will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal. Mr Corbyn urged his fellow MPs to do everything they could to stop this resulting in a no-deal Brexit, which opponents warn would be disastrous for the economy. The Labour leader had been due to make what was described as a fact-finding visit to Ghana, west Africa, next week. Party sources said that he had changed his plans.” – The Times

  • All-party group to discuss ‘tactics’ for thwarting the Government – The Guardian
  • Public ‘dislike election pacts’ – The Times
  • Early election would ‘rip apart’ the Labour Party – Daily Express
  • Johnson delivers Tory poll surge – Daily Mail

Truss to sign continuity trade deal with Korea

“Despite the concerns issued by those associated with Project Fear, it has been reported that the UK will sign a “trade continuity” deal with the Republic of Korea. There had been fears that the UK would be unable to sign any trade deals with leading countries around the world. But this agreement marks a huge development in the UK’s post-Brexit future… The agreement with South Korea will allow businesses to keep trading freely until after the October 31 exit date. The new free trade agreement also allegedly replicates the parameters of the current EU-South Korea trade deal which was signed in 2011. Recently appointed Trade Secretary, Liz Truss will apparently sign the deal with Korean Minister of Trade, Yoo Myung-hee in London.” – Daily Express

  • It will need to be renegotiated within two years – FT

Leadsom next to step into controversial sale of defence firm

“Investment bankers, lawyers and accountants working on the £4 billion takeover of one of Britain’s biggest defence and aerospace companies could earn almost £220 million from the controversial deal. The takeover of Cobham is being opposed by the family that founded it. Yesterday Lady Cobham, 76, whose late husband previously led the business, called the fees “ridiculous”… The deal has raised concerns that one of the country’s leading industrial assets is being sold off. It marks the first serious test of the appetite of Boris Johnson’s government for overseas takeovers of strategic businesses. The government disclosed yesterday that Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary, recently met David Lockwood, 57, the chief executive of Cobham, to discuss the deal.” – The Times

McVey urges pupils to take up careers as bricklayers

“Esther McVey today calls on pupils getting their GCSE results to become brickies — as she trumpets their average salaries topping £42,000 a year. In a bid to boost Britain’s capacity to build “homes for the future”, the Housing Minister urged school leavers to go down the construction route… Her remarks echo a report by the Federation of Master Builders which shows the highest-paid bricklayers in London earned £90,000 a year. The latest figures show the average earning for brick layers has eclipsed £42,000- way above the national average salary of around £29,000.” – The Sun

  • Our GCSE reforms are rolling back the effect of grade inflation – Gavin Williamson, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Local Government: Free schools must be set free

Cummings described HS2 as ‘disaster zone’

“Boris Johnson’s most senior aide described HS2 as a “disaster zone” only days before the prime minister announced a review into whether it should be scaled back or scrapped entirely. Dominic Cummings, former head of Vote Leave, raised concerns about the multibillion-pound high-speed rail project on Friday as he asked government advisers to highlight wasteful policies that could be cut. A review into the scheme was announced yesterday and Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said that ministers needed “clear evidence” before deciding whether it was “go or no go”. The review will consider the direct cost of “reprioritising, cancelling or descoping” HS2, which would link London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.” – The Times

  • Government suggests it could be scrapped as it launches independent review – Daily Telegraph
  • Critic of project is given review role – The Guardian

Comment:

  • I smell a rat in this voter-friendly ‘review’ – Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Britain needs to overhaul our creaking infrastructure – The Sun
  • Government right to see if HS2’s benefits still justify its costs – Daily Telegraph

Scots receive ‘Union dividend’ of almost £2,000 each

“Scots have each received a £1,968 “Union dividend” for staying in the United Kingdom, new figures reveal. Scotland’s national fiscal deficit, if separated from the rest of the UK, would be 7 per cent of total economic output — the largest shortfall anywhere in Europe. Despite the gap reducing year-on-year, £12.6 billion more was spent than was received in revenues north of the border last year. The annual Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (Gers) report, which estimates the level of public revenue raised in Scotland and the level of public spending under the current constitutional arrangements, has been key to the economic battleground over the question of Scottish independence.” – The Times

  • Deficit highlights independence challenge – FT
  • Compared to GDP, deficit is seven times higher than the UK’s – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • The government risks over-promising on immigration, again – Sunder Katwala, CapX
  • What is the UK Single Market? – Sam Taylor, Reaction
  • A key driver for Scots voting intentions is not Brexit, but Iraq – Mev Brown, Brexit Central
  • Trump’s Greenland bid is good business – Mary Dejevsky, UnHerd
  • We need the monarchy more than ever – William Shawcross, The Spectator

And finally… Cameron prepares to publish memoirs

“Cameron and family are following the recent trend of holidaying at home, taking a break in Rock, Cornwall. It comes as Cameron, 52, is preparing to start publicising his memoirs, For The Record. The long-awaited book is due out on September 19, days before the annual Tory conference. He has repeatedly delayed publishing the book after promising Theresa May he would not “rock the boat” while she was trying to negotiate Brexit. Publishers have said it will reveal in “intimate and frank” detail what really went on in No10 when Cameron decided to call the EU referendum. Harper Collins said: “He will provide, for the first time, his perspective on the EU referendum and his views on the future of Britain’s place in the world in the light of Brexit.”” – The Sun

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