Brexit

Looks like the Prime Minister is about to cave in to Brussels once again, says the Times.

Theresa May’s team has privately admitted she may have to accept permanent membership of a European customs union, after a secret wargaming exercise concluded that even Brexiteers such as Michael Gove and David Davis would not resign in protest.
The prime minister has insisted that the UK will leave the common tariff area so it can pursue free trade deals outside the EU. But one of May’s political team told a meeting on March 20 that she and senior aides “will not be crying into our beer” if parliament forces the government’s hand — a position that will enrage some Brexiteers.
The Lords voted last week to stay in a customs union and 10 Tory MPs are expected to do so in the Commons.

The Telegraph also reports the PM’s plans.

Theresa May is backing a plan for Britain’s future relationship with the European Union that would tie up firms in regulation and make trade deals with other countries “impossible”, senior Brexiteers have warned.
Well-placed sources told The Sunday Telegraph that Mrs May had signalled her support for a “hybrid” plan drawn up by senior civil servants under which a post-Brexit Britain would collect customs duties on the EU’s behalf for goods destined for the bloc.
The warnings came amid broader concerns about whether the Government could back down on its pledge to leave the customs union altogether, amid overwhelming opposition in the House of Lords.

But it seems that some of the top cabinet members aren’t concentrating on Brexit, says the Sun.

CABINET big guns risk wrecking Brexit because they are too busy plotting to succeed Theresa May, it was claimed last night.
Silent ministers have been accused of taking their eye off the ball – and giving Remainers a free rein to dictate the agenda.
Top Tories are furious after a disastrous few days in which the EU has gained the upper hand in divorce negotiation.
They believe Brexit champions Boris JohnsonMichael Gove and Andrea Leadsom
need to “get out and make the case”.
They had hoped last week would have been dominated with positive news about trade deals as 52
 Commonwealth leaders descended on London for a summit.
Instead, the talk was about a defeat in the Lords – and pressure from all sides for Mrs May to keep Britain in the EU customs union.
A senior figure said: “They key Brexiteers in Cabinet have been too busy plotting their own futures.
“They seem to be spending more time talking among themselves about leadership challenges instead of getting out there and making the case for Brexit.

And there could yet be a second referendum, says the Independent.

MPs will be able to force Theresa May to accept a fresh referendum on Brexit in a showdown vote as early as the autumn, a minister has conceded.
In a surprise admission, Steve Baker said the crucial vote on the exit deal would not – as expected – be a “take-it-or-leave-it” choice, because “parliament can always seek to amend motions”.
The Brexit minister agreed a possible amendment would be for parliament to only approve the withdrawal agreement struck with the EU “subject to a second referendum”.
It means MPs will have the chance to send the controversy back to voters before parliament has given its initial support and – crucially – with plenty of time before Britain leaves the EU, in March next year.
The revelation delighted supporters of a further referendum, who launched a high-profile cross-party campaign for the vote only days ago.
“Theresa May has tried to pretend that any vote in parliament on a Brexit deal would be a take-it-or-leave it proposition,” said Stephen Doughty, a Labour MP and People’s Vote campaign supporter.
“Now her own ministers have admitted that’s not true. Parliament can, if it chooses, let the people have their say on the deal, and with public support for a People’s Vote growing by the day, that’s exactly what parliament should do.”

The Times suggests allotment groups could be hit by a new law.

A new threat is hanging over the nation’s allotments — and it has nothing do with brassicas or peonies, but a piece of EU legislation called the general data protection regulation (GDPR).
The new law, which will come into force on May 25, is aimed at protecting individuals from having their personal details misused by big businesses.
It was directed at internet giants such as Google, Facebook and other large firms but has had the unexpected consequence of requiring every membership organisation to comply.
Organisations, be they local football teams, bowls clubs, the Women’s Institute or allotment societies, must abide by the new rules — that is, any place where people’s details are kept on computer.

EU

Two papers have comment pieces by senior politicians. The Telegraph runs a column from Daniel Hannan.

This week, the European Union made clear that it was not interested in a mutually beneficial relationship with Britain. Repeated protestations by British ministers that they intend to be the EU’s closest friend have been rebuffed. The only arrangement on offer is a form of subjugation inferior to the deals offered to every other nearby state. Faced with such a diktat, Britain would have no choice but to walk away.
The talks had seemed to be progressing well enough. Unremarked and unreported, officials had reached agreement on outstanding liabilities, the status of each other’s citizens and the rolling over of a number of technical accords.

And former minister David Jones writes for the Mail.

So Brussels is determined to play hardball. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If it means we can now press on and deliver a real Brexit, all well and good.
As Theresa May has said many times, no deal is better than a bad deal – and what the EU is trying to bully us into is very much a bad deal.
However, nothing in these talks is ever straightforward. The complete derailment of Brexit is still a real possibility and it is an outcome some of Britain’s own negotiators, led by Olly Robbins, may be unwittingly assisting. Worse than that, those same negotiators may be dangerously close to winning the Prime Minister’s approval.
It’s why Tory MPs who are determined to honour the result of the 2016 referendum must now warn Mrs May that we could never support that outcome in the Commons
.
According to reports, EU negotiators have spurned all our proposals to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Those included a ‘customs partnership’ dreamt up by British officials to solve the impasse and ensure Mrs May keeps her promise to stay out of the customs union. The ingenious plan goes like this: the UK would indeed quit the customs union and be able to sign post-Brexit free-trade deals with countries around the globe.

Northern Ireland

A top Tory suggests the PM should call the EU’s bluff over the province’s border, says the Express.

LEADING Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has called on the Government to call the EU’s bluff over Northern Ireland and dare them to put up a hard border between north and south.
The chairman of the influential European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs said the EU’s refusal to accept either of Britain’s proposed new customs arrangements should only serve to strengthen preparations for a no deal.
On Friday, it was reported that the EU’s chef negotiator Michel Barnier was not willing to consider the UK either accepting tariffs on the EU’s behalf at the border or operating a technology-based “trusted trader” scheme to solve the ongoing issue.
Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Ireland has said it doesn’t want a hard border, the UK has said it doesn’t want a hard border and the EU itself has said it doesn’t want a hard border – so frankly it’s up to Brussels if it wants to start putting up border posts. We should call their bluff.
“It’s clear the EU is not going to accept anything short of us remaining in the customs union but we’re not going to split up the UK simply to help (Irish Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar at the next election.
“The EU is not only contradicting its own policy but jeopardising the economic future of the Republic of Ireland.

Local elections

Plans to fight electoral fraud are outlined in the Guardian.

Government plans that will force people to prove their identities at polling stations in May’s local elections risk disenfranchising members of ethnic minority communities, according to a leaked letter to ministers from the equality and human rights watchdog.
In a move that will fuel controversy over the treatment of migrants in the UK following the Windrush scandal, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, raising its serious concern that the checks will deter immigrants and others from participating in the democratic process.
The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the plan for compulsory checks was more evidence of the kind of “hostile environment” that Theresa May’s government wanted to create for people who had come to settle in Britain. In a speech on Sunday, Corbyn will claim that Theresa May’s determination to cut immigration at all costs was responsible for the Windrush scandal. He will say: “British citizens who came to our country to rebuild it after the war have faced deportation because they couldn’t clear the deliberately unreachable bar set by Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.”
Under the new government voting rules, being trialled in several local authorities at the 3 May local elections, people will be asked at polling stations to produce documents proving their identity – such as a passport or driving licence – before casting their vote. Currently, no such proof is required.

Cyber attack

The prospect of an attack on British computers is considered in the Telegraph.

Britain’s spy agencies cannot offer “absolute protection” against Russian cyber attacks and are instead focused on preventing assaults that would “most impact on our way of life”, in the wake of  the Salisbury poisoningGCHQ is warning.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Ciaran Martin, the head of the agency’s cyber defence unit, says it is a matter of “when, not if” Britain faces a “serious cyber attack”.
He added that its focus was now on building “resilience” in “the systems we care about the most”, believed to be Britain’s power and water supplies, internet and transport networks, and health service.
The Sunday Telegraph understands that senior representatives of utility, transport
and internet firms and the NHS have attended intelligence briefings at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the specific methods – known as “attack vectors” – being used by Russia to target Britain’s critical national infrastructure, following the nerve agent attack in Salisbury last month.
Separately, the NCSC is understood to have written to the Government setting out urgent actions that departments and individual officials should take to protect Whitehall from cyber assaults.

Labour Party

Just how secure is Jeremy Corbyn’s place at the head of the Labour Party? The Mail reports.

This weekend the Corbynites are thinking the unthinkable. They are beginning to actively discuss among themselves whether their leader has now taken them as far as he can go, and whether there is a way of recasting Corbynism so that it does not include Jeremy Corbyn.
The catalyst for this sacrilegious introspection has been seven days that have seen the implosion of Corbyn’s moral, political and – crucially – parliamentary authority. What happens in the House of Commons chamber is meant to be of interest to only a small, self-obsessed Westminster clique. Maybe it is. But that clique contains some of the Labour leader’s most loyal supporters. And last week they were rubbed emotionally raw by the repeated obligation to stand by their man.
Corbyn appeared in the House on five major occasions. Each one was a personal catastrophe, and a tortuous trial for his allies. Twice he took to the Dispatch Box to try to hold Theresa May to account over the bombing of Syria. She destroyed him in two of her strongest performances since becoming Prime Minister. A day later he returned, to try to outflank her on her decision not to seek parliamentary support for the bombing. But in the process he tied himself in procedural knots, sowed confusion among his own MPs over which way they should vote, ended up whipping against his own motion, and still managed to lose the debate.

Windrush

The Windrush scandal is being compared to European immigration in the Telegraph.

The Windrush scandal has arisen out of a belief among Europhiles that Britain should be “the sort of country that demands to see your papers”, Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.
The MP, who is the head of the 60-strong European Research Group of Tory backbenchers, said the Home Office was suffering from “deep-rooted failures”.
Linking the Government’s threats to deport members of the Windrush generation with concern among Brexiteers that the Home Office has yet to produce a draft post-Brexit immigration policy, Mr Rees-Mogg said the department was “failing to manage policy properly”.
It follows a week of pressure on Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, and Theresa May, her predecessor at the department. 

And the Times claims the PM knew about the problem years ago.

Theresa May knew of the plight of the “Windrush generation” of Britons at least four years ago and failed to act, The Sunday Times has established.
The prime minister claimed last week that the government was “swift in responding” as soon as it realised that elderly British citizens from Commonwealth countries were being dismissed from jobs, evicted from their homes, refused medical treatment and even imprisoned as they could not prove their nationality.
A London MP, however, said he had been raising cases with ministers, including May, since at least 2014 when she was home secretary.
Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith, wrote to May that year about a 60-year-old constituent, Lasith, who arrived aged nine in 1964 from Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

England flag

On the day before St George’s Day, the Times reports that football fans have been warned not to fly their Cross of St George banners.

England football fans could be denied some of their greatest pleasures at this summer’s World Cup. Supporters who enjoy draping the St George’s Cross over public spaces in other people’s countries while singing Ten German Bombers are being told: “Don’t!”
Police chiefs have warned travelling fans not to sing provocative songs or display the national flag at this summer’s tournament in Russia.
Mark Roberts, the national lead for football policing, says the deterioration in relations between the West and Russia means risqué songs are more likely than usual to trigger violence.
The deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire police, who is in charge of security for the England football team and its fans, said there was “very strong nationalistic, patriotic sense running throughout society.

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