I’m leading today’s news with a story in the Mail which might interest Kippers.
Nigel Farage has struck a secret deal with embattled Ukip leader Henry Bolton designed to pave the way for his return to frontline politics, party sources have claimed.
Under the plan, Mr Bolton – who is refusing to resign over his relationship with glamour model Jo Marney – would rip up the party’s management structure before standing aside for Mr Farage to return.
In return, Mr Bolton would be rewarded with a senior job by Mr Farage, who would then rebrand the party as a pro- hard-Brexit ‘movement’ – potentially with a new name.
The plan, which sources say Mr Farage has confided to friends, would explain why Mr Bolton, 54, has stayed in his job despite a vote of no confidence being passed by Ukip’s ruling body last weekend and mass resignations by the party’s spokespeople.
The Telegraph claims the Brexit negotiations are now in the hands of the ‘Sir Humphreys’.
Mandarins opposed to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU have “taken control” of the Brexit agenda and are “forcing a weak Prime Minister” into a soft Brexit, senior government figures and MPs have warned.
In a dramatic intensification of the war within the Conservative Party, Eurosceptics said that Philip Hammond’s declaration last week that Brexit would be “very modest” appeared to articulate No 10’s “direction of travel” on negotiations.
A Cabinet source warned that Britain faced a “betrayal of Brexit” unless Theresa May reined in Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, and Oliver Robbins, the co-ordinator of negotiations with the EU. David Jones, the former Brexit minister, said: “It’s time No 10 indicated who’s boss.”
The Express is one of those papers quoting ardent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.
JACOB REES-MOGG has hit out at Brexit negotiators who are putting the UK on a path towards what he claims is ‘Brexit in name only’, which will likely hand the keys of Downing Street to Jeremy Corbyn.
The outcome, which Mr Rees-Mogg has dubbed Brino, issued a start warning to the Prime Minister saying: “The less of Brexit you get, the more likely you are to get Jeremy Corbyn.”
The MP for North East Somerset, who is now chairman of the influential European Research Group of backbench Tory Eurosceptics, told Theresa May “the leader is important, the party is more important”.
He added: “If you get a good, clean Brexit and get the advantages from it then the chances of getting Jeremy Corbyn are much diminished.
The backbencher is also quoted in the Mail.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned Theresa May she must deliver a ‘good, clean Brexit‘ that removes Britain from the clutches of the European Union – or risk the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming the next Prime Minister.
The newly-appointed leader of the eurosceptic European Reform Group, made up of 60 backbench Tory MPs, outlined his own vision for leaving the EU.
And now the man who is favourite among bookies to become the next Tory leader is hoping the Prime Minister backs the Brexit which Britons voted for – instead of ‘Brino’ – Brexit In Name Only.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘The less of Brexit you get, the more likely you are to get Jeremy Corbyn. If you get a good, clean Brexit and get the advantages from it then the chances of getting Jeremy Corbyn are much diminished.
And a former cabinet minister is also quoted on what Mr Rees-Mogg has christened ‘Brino’ – Brexit in name only – says BBC News.
The UK is heading towards “a dilution of Brexit”, former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers has said.
The Conservative MP, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, said there was “a real danger” the UK will sign up to an agreement with Brussels which could “keep us in the EU in all but name”.
Her comments come amid growing Tory party rifts over Brexit.
Backbenchers criticised Philip Hammond this week for saying changes to UK-EU relations could be “very modest”.
Ms Villiers, who campaigned for a Leave vote in the EU referendum, said she had long “made the case for compromise and moderation” in the government’s approach to negotiating Brexit.
But, she wrote, since the prime minister “set out a bold vision” a year ago, “the direction of travel seems to have gone in only one single direction: towards a dilution of Brexit”.
Pressure is growing on the Prime Minister, says the Express.
SENIOR Brexiteers have urged the Prime Minister to call the EU’s bluff and accept the “Canada-style deal” Brussels is said to be happy with.
Leave campaigners are calling on the Government to agree a similar deal to the CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) agreed between Canada and the EU.
A letter to the Prime Minister – backed by senior figures from politics, business, economics, academia and the military – warns “the clock is ticking and we are approaching the last moment at which business can properly prepare for Brexit”.
The open letter also calls on the Government to prepare for global trade under WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules from March 2019, in case a Canada-style deal cannot be agreed by October.
Moving to Canada-style trade deal would cover 98 per cent of goods and 92 per cent of agriculture.
Crucially, it would remove the need for any “transition period”, meaning the UK could enjoy the benefits of Brexit from the end of March 2019.
And the Guardian reports that Mrs May has received a letter from some of her senior members.
Senior Tories have given Theresa May just three months to improve or face a renewed attempt to oust her, amid concerns she is leading the party towards “utter destruction”.
In a sign of the fragility of the prime minister’s leadership after another week of cabinet infighting, figures inside the party said that a disastrous performance in May’s local elections could trigger a no-confidence vote.
There are concerns they will produce a Tory meltdown in London. “There’s definitely been a further shift against her,” said one ex-minister. “If people could wave a magic wand tomorrow, she would be gone … if we get wiped out in London, then more will say things cannot get any better under her. The alternatives would be the utter destruction of the Tory party or a chaotic leadership election, which would at least offer some way out.”
Several of the media report a British proposal to extend the transition period. The Telegraph reports:
British officials are in discussions with Brussels about extending the Brexit transition period to almost three years, The Telegraph has learnt.
The official Government target for transition is “around two years” but many senior Whitehall officials remain privately concerned about the practicality of such a short transition, given potentially massive changes that would be required by a “hard” Brexit.
The Telegraph understands that although it is not formally Government policy, Britain has discreetly begun sounding out senior EU figures over whether transition could be extended amid growing disarray within the Cabinet over the ultimate terms of a long-term deal with the EU.
Theresa May has faced a series of challenges from senior Government figures in recent days and is braced for another testy Cabinet session on Monday over the Brexit strategy.
The Independent also has the story.
The UK’s Brexit negotiators are considering asking the EU for a longer transition period than the one they have been offered, amid concerns it will not be long enough to prepare the country for exit.
The possibility of a longer transition comes amid increasing discontent from the Tory right about the period as an EU “vassal state”, and with negotiations on the issue set to start in earnest in the coming weeks.
A Brussels source told The Independent that British officials had asked about the feasibility of extending the period in a recent meeting, while UK diplomats admitted that it might need to stretch beyond the start of 2021 and would not rule out pushing for a later date in upcoming talks.
Some experts and EU countries have called for the transition to be as long as five years. Ireland’s then foreign minister Simon Coveney said in November that a two-year transition period was “unrealistic” and that the duration should not be set “to meet some kind of political electoral cycle”. Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has also suggested “three or four years”.
And the Sun blames civil servants.
WHITEHALL’s EU-loving mandarins are plotting to extend Britain’s Brexit transition period by a year, government sources have warned.
Senior civil servants are said to be conspiring with their European counterparts to keep Britain bound by Brussels red tape until 2021 at the earliest.
Top Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg blasted: “Brexit is more important than anyone other than the Queen.
He told The Telegraph: “If everything is delayed for two years and then there’s high alignment you will find that by 2022 no-one will have noticed any difference from having left.
“Then what will be the point of voting for the party that’s implemented it? I’m against ‘Brino’ (Brexit in name only).”
But Westmonster reports a ‘categorical denial’ of such suggestions.
There are rumblings that the British government is already looking to extend the so-called ‘implementation/transition period’ that will see open borders, EU laws and an inability to enact trade deals go on until at least 2021 and possibly beyond.
That’s according to The Telegraph, with a push apparently to extend the period of basically no change in EU membership beyond 2021.
Now the British government are categorically denying that they have approached the European Union asking for an extension.
Some have described the story as “EU black ops”.
But it shows once again the dangers of dither and delay. 2021 easily becomes 2022…and the public actually never get what they voted for. Full control of borders, money and laws. Time for the government to get on with it.
The Times claims some former ministers are looking to jump on the gravy train.
Former cabinet ministers have been exposed attempting to profit from a new cash for Brexit gravy train in Westminster, following an undercover investigation.
Lord Lansley, the former health secretary, was secretly filmed offering to use his knowledge and connections from within Westminster to provide “intelligence” on Brexit to a Chinese company offering him tens of thousands of pounds.
The peer, who has previously been accused of “ripping the heart” out of a bill to regulate lobbying, showed he was willing to pick up information from a key Brexit cabinet minister. He advised how the deal could be kept secret from the authorities by employing him through his wife’s company.
Child refugees are highlighted in the Mail.
An agreement between Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron has sparked optimism among charities working to move child refugees to safer locations.
The prime minister and French president struck a deal that means children fleeing wars who arrived in Europe before last Friday may have their cases considered under the Dubs amendment, which could give youngsters travelling alone a legal route into the UK.
Before the agreement reached at last week’s summit in Sandhurst, child refugees had to have arrived in Europe prior to March last year in order to be accepted under the Dubs scheme, according to the Guardian.
This meant many who fled conflict for a better life in France, Germany or Italy were ineligible for consideration.
It seems the bloc is preparing for ‘no deal’, says the Telegraph.
The European Union is beefing up its preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit, more than doubling the number of officials devoted to preparing for a breakdown in the talks, the Sunday Telegraph has learned.
EU sources said the number of officials in the European Commission secretariat focussing on preparations for either a ‘no deal’ scenario or a ‘hard Brexit’ would expand from eight to 20 as concerns mount in Europe over whether Theresa May can deliver.
The decision to grow the unit was in part a reflection of growing anxiety in Brussels that political divisions in the UK may make a deal impossible, EU sources said, particularly given the UK’s commitments to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
And the truth about Barnier comes out in the Express.
MICHEL Barnier has no interest in securing a good Brexit deal with the UK and is instead determined to punish the country for daring to quit the bloc, a German MEP has warned.
Hans-Olaf Henkel said a bad deal for Britain, or even a no deal situation, is Mr Barnier’s “best tool” for avoiding another EU exit.
And Mr Henkel warned Mr Barnier had “tactical and strategic” reasons for wanting to avoid a good deal, a day after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator sent Britain a warning.
Earlier this week Mr Barnier gloatingly told the Spanish parliament every single EU member state, along with several other regional parliaments, could veto the final Brexit deal.
The following day Mr Henkel told Express.co.uk he believed Mr Barnier was tricking the UK into thinking it could ever secure a good exit deal.
Mrs May faces continuing problems with her leadership, says the Times.
The battle to succeed Theresa May erupted into fresh acrimony last night as top Tories traded blows over whether Gavin Williamson leaked intelligence last week to distract attention from an extramarital “flirtation”.
Security chiefs attacked the defence secretary as “alarmist” for claiming Russia could kill thousands of British citizens in a cyber-attack and accused him of using secret information provided by American spies to cover himself.
However, the allegations sparked an extraordinary row in which Williamson accused his rivals for the Tory leadership of black ops to derail his campaign to succeed May as prime minister.
And the Independent reports a prediction that the Tories will lose heavily in this year’s locals.
Theresa May will hold talks with her top team on how to head off major losses in the upcoming local elections, as one of the country’s top pollsters warned Brexit could hit Tory electoral chances.
Elections expert Sir John Curtice, who predicted last year’s shock election result, said the Conservatives could lose more than half of their London boroughs in the May elections, which are being fought mostly in Labour heartlands or Remain-voting areas like the capital.
Cabinet ministers will meet on Tuesday to discuss how to avoid a poor showing at the polls, The Independent understands, in a sign of mounting fears that a disastrous set of results could cost Ms May her job.
It comes amid growing disillusionment over the Prime Minister’s leadership among backbenchers after a chaotic reshuffle and continued shifts on Brexit policy, with reports that a string of MPs are gearing up to topple her.
The Tories could lose at least half of their London boroughs, as its young population and pro-European views leave it vulnerable to Labour, Sir John told The Independent.
Labour is faring little better, says the Times.
Most Labour council leaders in England and Wales have signed a joint letter fiercely attacking the Momentum-controlled committee that runs their own party.
In the letter, published exclusively in today’s Sunday Times, leaders of almost 70 councils, including Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and many London boroughs, say the actions of Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) are “dangerous and alarming”, “uncomradely and disrespectful” and “an affront to the basic principles of democracy”.
Earlier this month, the NEC acquired a secure pro-Corbyn and Momentum majority after three members of the hard-left group, including its leader, Jon Lansman, won seats on the body.
In an attempt to win votes, Labour has announced plans to tackle homelessness, says the Mirror.
Plans for thousands of new homes to tackle the crisis of homelessness have been announced by Labour.
Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010 and is up 73 per cent in the last three years alone, say Government figures released this week.
The number of children in temporary accommodation has risen 70 per cent to over 120,000.
Labour is announcing it will make 8,000 affordable homes available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets – double the number previously promised.
Under the proposal, an incoming Labour government would strike a deal with housing associations to make the homes available immediately as they fall vacant.
In this way, the homes for rough sleepers will become available much more quickly than if they were built from scratch.
Away from politics, the Mail has a story about a taxpayer-subsidised jolly for doctors.
Hundreds of senior NHS doctors enjoyed a taxpayer-subsidised conference at a luxury Alpine ski resort last week – while the health service was in the grip of its worst winter crisis in years.
As thousands of patients had their operations cancelled and A&E departments overflowed, the doctors competed in a slalom race and knocked back champagne and cocktails at a gala reception.
The 400 specialists, including anaesthetists, surgeons and radiologists, were in the high-class French resort of Val d’Isere for a medical conference as part of their ‘continuing professional development’. But after attending breakfast lectures from 8am until 9.30am, they had seven hours free each day to explore the expansive pistes and breathtaking mountain views.
At 4.45pm they returned for two-and-a-half hours of lectures on anaesthesia, radiology, general practice, orthopaedics, plastic surgery and dermatology before heading out to savour the delights of the resort’s famous apres-ski.
With the cap on council tax rises scrapped, the Telegraph claims we’ll all be paying more this year.
The majority of households face council tax rises this year, the country’s most senior local authority leader warns today, as councils across the country prepare to capitalise on the Conservatives’ relaxation of a cap on bills.
Writing for telegraph.co.uk, Lord Porter, the Tory peer who chairs the Local Government Association, says he expects that “the majority will have little choice” but to increase bills in April to protect services amid a £2.3 billion “funding gap” in the social care system.
Research by The Sunday Telegraph shows that a series of local authorities have already decided to increase bills by a new maximum amount of six per cent, with hikes of up to £80, after ministers lifted the cap from 5 per cent in December Lord Porter warns ministers to invest more in social care instead of “skewing” funding towards the NHS.
Domestic nuclear power
The Times has an interesting story about local nuclear reactors.
Britons could be taking showers and warming homes with hot water piped directly from a nuclear reactor, under proposals to build small atomic power stations in cities.
Urban nuclear reactors, similar in size to those in nuclear submarines, could generate not only electricity but also hot water, suggests a report by Policy Exchange, a think tank.
The paper reflects government thinking, as the National Nuclear Laboratory has already drawn up plans for a first “small modular reactor” at Trawsfynydd in north Wales. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has also supported the idea.
Police dog Finn
And the Mail has a heartwarming story about a hero police dog, written by his handler.
The target raced into view, running full pelt from the alley. Was this the suspected armed robber we were searching for? ‘Police!’ I yelled. ‘Stop!’ He ignored me – but my eight-year-old German shepherd Finn now had him in his sights.
The suspect was a young man, slim and athletic, with his right arm hanging oddly, which I realised was because he was holding something – it looked suspiciously like a police baton. He was armed.
‘Police officer with a dog! Stop! Stop or I’ll send the dog!’ Again my warning was ignored. I let Finn go. As the man tried to scramble over a fence, Finn took hold of his lower leg in his mouth and pulled until the suspect was face-down on the grass.
The man then suddenly flipped on to his back. I took hold of Finn’s collar and told the suspect: ‘You need to listen to me. You need to stop fighting my dog.’
Suddenly, something caught my eye. It was a massive piece of dark metal which he appeared to be pulling from Finn’s chest. It was covered in blood. It was a knife – as thick as a ruler. It was ridiculously huge, like a hunting knife – the blade alone must have been 10in long.