Newslinks for Monday 20th January 2020

Johnson’s ‘global Britain’ sets sights on Africa…

“It was conceived as a coming-out party for “Global Britain” — a signal of new trading ambitions as the UK sails free of the EU and takes advantage of commercial opportunity further afield. In the event, Monday’s first UK-Africa summit in London finds prime minister Boris Johnson’s government still in Brexit limbo, constrained by protracted divorce proceedings with Brussels and uncertainty over the extent to which the UK will remain aligned with Europe. African officials are nonetheless intrigued as to how Britain will set out its pitch after a decade in which the former colonial power has been slow to adapt to the continent’s rapidly changing fortunes.” – FT

  • British foreign aid to coal and coal-fired power plants ‘will end’ – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Africa must not squander this golden chance for an investment boom – David Malpass, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Theo Clarke MP in Comment: Investing in Africa will be key to achieving a Global Britain

…as he announces that British troops could be sent to Libya…

“Boris Johnson has revealed Britain could help peace keep in Libya if a lasting ceasefire in the bitter civil war is struck. The PM made the offer as he joined 11 other world leaders at an emergency summit in Berlin to try to halt a new massacre in the North African country. While there, Mr Johnson also warned Russian leader Vladmir Putin that relations will remain frozen while his country remains a threat. The talks were called by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a bid to strike a peace deal and halt the war-torn nation’s capital being overrun by Russian-backed rebel leader General Khalifa Haftar… But No10 officials insisted the effort would be lead by stabilisation teams from the Foreign Office and the number of UK troops would be low.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Sharma says that ‘more scrutiny’ is needed over aid spending

…and warns Putin there will be ‘no thaw’ in relations

“Boris Johnson has warned Vladimir Putin there will be no thaw in the countries’ relations in the wake of the chemical attack in Salisbury. In his first face-to-face meeting with the Russian President, he told him there would “no normalisation” in relations until Russia ended “the destabilising activity that threatens the UK and our allies and undermines the safety of our citizens and our collective security.” In what was described as a terse meeting, a Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister “was clear there had been no change in the UK’s position on Salisbury.” It was a “reckless” use of chemical weapon, a “brazen attempt to murder innocent people” on UK soil and an attack that must not be repeated, said Mr Johnson.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson urged to publish report on Russian meddling in Britain – The Guardian
  • Russian President ‘grandstands’ after changing constitution – Daily Mail

More:

  • Crackdown on US diplomats’ dangerous driving – The Times

Defence meeting ‘called off’ after divisions over strategy

“Boris Johnson cancelled a National Security Council meeting at short notice last week after disagreement at the heart of government over the scope of a major defence review, intended to shape Britain’s priorities until 2030. One senior defence official said the NSC meeting was shelved because of tensions between the Cabinet Office and Downing Street over the direction the defence review was taking. The official cited particular concerns over the paper’s focus on how Britain could use “soft power” to boost the UK’s global presence after Brexit, neglecting conventional military forces… Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, has pushed for a shift in defence strategy focused on the use of advanced technology, drones and artificial intelligence, but officials said that he was not behind the cancellation of the meeting.” – FT

Clash with business looms over Patel’s plans to curb low-skilled immigration

“New restrictions on low-skilled migrants coming to Britain would be introduced at the end of this year under plans being drawn up by ministers. The reforms would come into effect when the Brexit transition period ends in December, two years earlier than had been planned previously and scrapping a temporary extension of existing rules that was promised by Theresa May amid pressure from business groups. Priti Patel, the home secretary, is expected to present the proposals to the cabinet this week. However, the changes risk bringing Boris Johnson into conflict with groups such as the CBI, which has said that companies need “at least two years to adapt to any new immigration system”.” – The Times

  • Johnson prepares to ‘drop’ pledge to delay restrictions – FT
  • Plan to be in place ‘by the end of 2020’… – Daily Express
  • …and to kick in when the transition period ends – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Johnny Leavesley in Comment: What Johnson should do to help boost business

Report warns that HS2 bill could hit £106 billion

“The cost of Britain’s new HS2 high-speed rail project could rise to as much as £106bn, according to an official government review which gives only lukewarm backing to the project. The review, seen by the Financial Times, says there is “considerable risk” that the scheme’s price will rise as much as 20 per cent beyond the £81-£88bn range set out in a report by the current HS2 chairman Allan Cook last September. The review led by Doug Oakervee, a former chairman of HS2, also recommends that work on phase 2b of the project from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds be paused for six months for a study into whether it could comprise a mix of conventional and high speed lines instead.” – FT

Trade 1) Brussels ‘alarmed’ by Javid’s plans to diverge

“The UK’s pledge to diverge from EU rules after Brexit has provoked alarm in Brussels, with officials warning of an economically damaging split at the end of this year. European diplomats and trade experts spent the weekend trying to make sense of comments made by Sajid Javid, UK chancellor, in an interview with the Financial Times on Friday. He urged businesses to “adjust” to a future where Britain no longer adhered to EU rules and regulations. “The main conclusion for the real economy is: prepare for the worst. Anything agreed will be a bonus,” one EU official said. A European diplomat warned that the kind of loose relationship outlined by Mr Javid would cause economic damage.” – FT

  • Business must be prepared, warns the Chancellor – The Sun
  • Ministers re-open no-deal planning – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Cleverly says that bonging Big Ben on Brexit Day ‘is not the focus of the Government’

Trade 2) Fox calls for trade deals with individual US states

“Britain should negotiate trade deals with individual US states as a backstop while Boris Johnson tries to seal a post-Brexit free trade agreement with America, a former trade secretary will say on Monday. Liam Fox will point out that four US states – California, Texas, Florida and New York – would be members of the G20 if they were independent nations, and that many deals could be struck with states, rather than the US as a whole. While tariffs on goods can only be negotiated by Washington, deals on services, which account for the majority of Britain’s transatlantic trade, can be sealed on a state level, unlocking billions of pounds of business for the UK economy. Dr Fox will tell a conference in Geneva that free trade agreements are not “the only mechanism” to generate huge volumes of business between countries such as the UK and the US.” – Daily Telegraph

  • White House accuses Johnson of ‘dragging his feet’ over deal – The Sun

Peers attack ‘absurd’ plans to move them to York

“Boris Johnson’s plan to move the House of Lords to York shows “complete contempt for the constitution”, peers have warned. The Government is considering permanently relocating the second chamber to the North, with the Prime Minister ordering detailed work on the practicalities of a move. Lord Forsyth of Drumlean described the relocation as a “completely ridiculous idea that would cost a fortune” and claimed it could only have come from “someone who has no clue” about how Parliament operates. “I can only assume this is the first fruit of the weirdos that Dominic Cummings said he wanted to recruit to No 10,” the former Scottish Secretary said. He pointed to the practicalities of governing with ministers based at different ends of the country and the “vital” role Lords play in scrutinising Government bills.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Even Brown thinks moving the Lords would be a ‘PR gesture’ – The Times
  • Idea ‘would cost billions’, say critics – The Sun

Comment:

  • A great idea, let’s send the MPs as well – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

Editorial:

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Queen’s Speech in York, Cummings-style

Andrew Rawnsley: Pleasing Johnson’s new friends in the North will be a challenge

“His new friends from the north speak in different accents to their more southerly colleagues. They often think differently as well. And they represent areas of the country with needs and concerns that have been alien to the Tory party over many decades. Neil O’Brien, the Conservative MP for Harborough, points out that Tories represented just 14 seats in the most deprived half of England in 2001. Now Conservative MPs sit for 116 of them. This could give them a lot of clout if they get organised. There are signs that they are. More than 120 Tory MPs have signed up to the Blue Collar Conservatism caucus that will have its first meeting tomorrow evening.” – The Guardian

>Today: Local Government: Building the Blue Wall: Walsall North

Liberal Democrats’ election failure was Corbyn’s fault, says Davey

“The acting Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, has claimed the “toxicity” of Jeremy Corbyn was a big factor in the Lib Dems’ poor performance in last month’s general election, saying voters backed the Tories rather than risk a “hard left” government. Davey was defeated by Jo Swinson in last year’s Lib Dem leadership contest and is expected to stand again after Swinson lost her East Dunbartonshire seat and resigned. He conceded that his party “didn’t fight a great election,” but said the Lib Dems had also been hit by voters’ fears about giving Corbyn’s Labour the keys to Downing Street… His party had hoped to make significant gains in Conservative-held remain constituencies but in the event gained only a couple – St Albans and Richmond Park.” – The Guardian

Long-Bailey criticises Corbyn’s decision to elevate Bercow…

“Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to elevate former speaker John Bercow to the House of Lords has been dealt a blow by his favoured successor Rebecca Long-Bailey. The Labour leadership candidate indicated she did not support the decision, with a spokesperson saying she was instead in favour of “abolishing” the second chamber and replacing it with a “democratically elected Senate outside of London”. Mr Bercow was accused of bullying by former staffers while in office and became the first holder of his role in 230 years not to be offered a peerage upon resigning last year. The House of Lords Appointments Commission, which vets nominees, is still able to intervene and sources suggested that Mr Bercow’s elevation may yet be blocked.” – Daily Telegraph

  • His pick of Murphy for the peerage also comes under fire – The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “What I do know is she’s currently being investigated by the EHRC”. Allin-Khan on Murphy.

…as she struggles to win trades union support

“Rebecca Long Bailey’s leadership campaign suffered a blow last night after a trade union that twice backed Jeremy Corbyn suggested that it could support another candidate. Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers’ union, said he was “not sure yet” when asked who his union would recommend. The union will meet the five contenders over the next few days before making its choice. Ms Long Bailey, 40, has been accused of being the “continuity Corbyn” candidate but has struggled to secure the backing of his supporters. Last week it was reported that one of Ms Long Bailey’s rivals, Lisa Nandy, had impressed Len McCluskey, the leader of the powerful Unite union.” – The Times

  • She brands the press racist over treatment of the Sussexes – Daily Mail

More:

  • Phillips vows to ‘stop acting statesmanlike’ – The Guardian
  • Actors’ union at war over Fox – The Times

Comment:

  • Hustings are a bad way to decide who’d be a good leader – Jess Phillips, The Guardian
  • Surprisingly, I’m feeling sympathy for Corbyn’s acolyte – Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Phillips – “I’m definitely open to different models around decriminalisation.”

Champion calls for police to be investigated over child abuse

“The MP for a town at the centre of a sex abuse scandal criticised a police force yesterday for being unable to identify an officer who investigated a complaint by a child victim. Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, also called for “dramatic changes” at South Yorkshire police after an investigation by the official police watchdog. Ms Champion said she found it difficult to believe that a police officer mentioned in the report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) could not be identified. The report, which comes after a five-year investigation, said that police had failed to protect the complainant, exposing her to abuse. It added that an officer — whose identity has not been revealed — had said that the force ignored the sexual abuse of girls by Pakistani gangs because it was afraid of increasing racial tensions.” – The Times

  • Those responsible must be ‘named and shamed’, says MP – Daily Mail

SNP politician calls for ‘wildcat’ referendum

“Nicola Sturgeon should claim the victory of a ‘wildcat’ independence referendum even if the majority of voters and political parties boycott it, a former SNP minister has suggested. Alex Neil MSP, the former health minister, called for a ‘consultative’ referendum on whether Scotland remains part of the Union if it can be legally approved without permission from the UK government. Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused Ms Sturgeon’s request for a second referendum, telling the House of Commons that the SNP needs to “change the record”. The rebuttal was followed by suggestions that Scottish Parliament could bring another vote legally without Mr Johnson’s permission, with top lawyer Aidan O’Neil QC saying there were “good arguments” to be made for holding a referendum without UK government approval.” – Daily Telegraph

Varadkar trails in first Irish polls

“Leo Varadkar’s ruling Fine Gael party look to be set for an Irish election wipeout after an opinion poll revealed a 12-point gap behind opposition contenders Fianna Fáil. The Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar admitted there was now a “real risk, a real danger” of Fine Gael losing power to Fianna Fáil, with a senior Fine Gael campaign source admitting the planned strikes by secondary teachers and childcare workers in the days leading up to the election on February 8 could further imperil the party’s chances of securing a historic third term. A Behaviour and Attitudes poll for The Sunday Times put Fianna Fáil on 32 percent and Fine Gael on 20 percent.” – Daily Express

Prince Harry ‘breaks silence’ on royal split

“The Duke of Sussex has described his “great sadness” over his split from the Royal Family but said he had “no other option.” In his first personal comments about his decision to step back from public life, the Duke expressed disappointment with the conclusions reached about his future. He revealed he had hoped to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and his military associations without public funding, but added: “Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.” The heartfelt speech was delivered at a private dinner for Sentebale, the charity he co-founded in 2006, in London, barely 24 hours after Buckingham Palace announced that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were to give up their HRH titles and would no longer formally represent the 93-year-old monarch.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He may need to cash in some investments to meet new bills – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Sussexes – out. Not half in and half out. The Queen acts swiftly and effectively.

News in Brief:

  • How Sir Graham protected May – David Scullion, The Critic
  • Boris’ opponents must get real about his true political ambitions – Alan Lockey, CapX
  • PM’s biggest call – whether to make Gove Deputy Prime Minister – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • How Brexit broke up the ‘special relationship’ – Mike Martin, UnHerd
  • Labour’s real women issue – Kate Andrews, The Spectator

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