Newslink for Tuesday 14 February 2023

EU 1) New deal on Northern Ireland “coming closer”

“A new Brexit deal is expected to be announced in the next fortnight after the UK watered down its hardline resistance to a ruling by European judges on the Northern Ireland issue. Sources close to the talks have indicated to The Telegraph that a deal to end the standoff over the Northern Ireland protocol is two weeks away. will be revealed in. Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, is due to speak to some European leaders later this week, with next week initially penciled in as the date for the announcement by UK negotiators. According to sources, the final sign-off is yet to come from No. 10.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • Brexiteers warn of ‘trouble’ if deal does not end supremacy of EU law – The Sun
  • EU still has whip hand over Britain – Ben Habib, Daily Express

EU 2) Sunak says he’s a ‘proud’ Brexiter as No 10 suggests he didn’t know Gove was attending ‘secret’ summit with Remainers

“Sage Sunak insisted he is a ‘proud’ Brexiteer today as No 10 suggested he was not aware Michael Gove was attending a ‘secret’ summit on how to improve relations with the EU. The Leveling Up Secretary was a participant in a two-day conference looking at ways to enhance cooperation with Brussels. Others in attendance included shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, Peter Mandelson and Theresa May’s Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins… Downing Street avoided criticism of Mr Gove for attending the workweek rally and fears from Eurosceptics trying to water down Brexit. . However, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson indicated that Mr. Sunak had no knowledge of the summit until the weekend report.” – Daily letter

  • Over the fine claret, Lord Mandelson sets out his vision for a better relationship with his beloved EU – Andrew Pearce, Daily Mail
  • Secret EU summit ‘deeply damaging’ – Daily Express
  • The ruling class is wrong to think we can return to the failed status quo – Sheryl Jacobs, Daily Telegraph

EU 3) Hannan: Why don’t we rejoin

“It’s true that opinion polls currently show a small pro-EU majority, but they did the same in the run-up to the 2016 referendum. An incoming Labor government will not want to spoil the whole parliament by trying to go back when it is likely to lose a referendum. Regardless, the vindictive EU is in no mood to make concessions. Rejoining would mean more budget payments than before and joining the euro.” – Daniel Hannan, The Sun

>Yesterday: Lee Rotherham in Commentary: Difficulties involved in detecting and eliminating Brussels red-tape exaggerated

Council tax will rise by five per cent for millions of households in April

“Millions of households are facing a rise in their council tax from April, as local authorities try to balance their books. Research by the County Council Network (CCN) found that three-quarters of English councils with social care responsibilities are planning a 5% increase. This is the maximum allowed without a local vote, and will add £100 a year to the average Band D property’s bills. The government said councils should consider the financial pressures on residents. It said the amount local authorities will be able to spend next year will increase by £5.1 billion, representing an average increase of 9% for local authorities.” – BBC

Wages are rising but lagging behind inflation

“Regular wages have grown at the fastest rate in more than 20 years, but are still failing to keep pace with rising prices, official figures show. Pay excluding bonuses grew at an annual pace of 6.7% between October and December 2022, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. The ONS said the increase was the strongest seen outside the Covid pandemic. However, when adjusted for inflation, regular pay fell by 2.5%.” – BBC

Defense 1) Sunak promises to do “whatever it takes” to stop the spy balloon

“Rishi Sunak said the UK would do “whatever it takes” to protect itself and that its air force was ready to shoot down any unidentified objects or suspected Chinese spy balloons that entered national airspace. A US fighter jet shot down an “unidentified object” over Lake Huron on Sunday. The Prime Minister’s comments on Monday after the launch of Defense Secretary Ben Wallace’s security review.- Financial Times

  • Chinese drone police use ‘risk to UK security’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Wallace to work with US to tackle potential threat – Daily Mail
  • Britain cannot leave its allies at the mercy of China – Robert Clarke, Daily Telegraph

Defense 2) Treasury challenges “wasteful” spending

“Treasury officials have identified billions of pounds of overspending and delays on major Ministry of Defense projects during increasingly tense talks ahead of the Budget. Ben Wallace, the defense secretary, is trying to secure an extra £8 billion to £11 billion in defense spending over the next two years to avoid deep cuts to the armed forces. The Defense Ministry wants to increase the defense budget by a fifth to cover inflation, foreign exchange fluctuations and the cost of financing NATO and Ukraine. However, the Treasury is reluctant to hand over more money to the MoD given the department’s recent history of wasteful spending. During discussions with opponents it identified a number of MoD projects that failed to deliver value for money.” – The Times

  • Planned four per cent reduction in troop numbers should be abandoned in light of Ukraine war, MPs and officials say – The Guardian
  • We need a large British army – our prosperity depends on it – Tobias Ellwood, I

Public spending on management consultants quadrupled to £2.8 billion

“The Home Office and the Ministry of Defense have led an increase in government spending on management consultants, including the most recent £4 million contract awarded to Deloitte to manage small boat arrivals. As ministers scrapped controls on spending, contracts with consultants quadrupled to £2.8 billion in six years, prompting accusations of waste. Last year alone six companies were handed deals of £100m or more, led by Deloitte, which signed contracts worth a total of an estimated £278m.” – The Times

  • Treasury officials charge taxpayers £25,000 for acting school classes – The Sun
  • Rainer left red-faced after Tories lecture on public waste – while using his expenses-funded iPad – The Sun
  • Truss oversees rise in credit card spending at Foreign Office – The Guardian

Duncan Smith accuses the Chinese governor of Xinjiang of murder

“Iain Duncan Smith has accused the Chinese governor of Xinjiang of murdering him because he joined Uighur activists protesting his alleged visit to Britain. Protesters gathered outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on Monday after it emerged that Erkin Tuniyaz, chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, could meet with UK officials, a move Duncan Smith described as “unacceptable”. Tuniyaz was expected to arrive in the UK this week, according to reports, with some suggesting he has already arrived.” – Guardian

  • Stop sending foreign aid to China before next election, Tory MPs tell government – Daily Telegraph
  • We should stop giving China foreign aid – Leader, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Peter Goulds on local government: East End takes over from Chinese government

>Yesterday: Columnist Benedict Rogers: State Department has no business hosting architects of China’s Xinjiang genocide

Labor wants to know which “flattening” schemes the Treasury has scrapped

“The UK Treasury is under increasing pressure to identify local economic regeneration projects which will be delayed by Michael Gove’s crackdown on leveling department spending. Gove has been banned from signing off on any new capital spending without Treasury approval in an unusual move that signals concerns over the ministry’s finances. On Monday, the opposition Labor Party wrote to Treasury Chief Secretary John Glenn asking what housing and regeneration schemes could flow as a result of the ban.” – Financial Bar

Prime Minister refuses to declare confidence in BBC chairman

“Rishi Sunak refused to say whether he had confidence in the BBC chairman, saying he could not speculate while the investigation into his appointment was ongoing. Richard Sharp is being investigated after it emerged he acted as a go-between for loan guarantees for then-prime minister Boris Johnson. A committee of MPs said Mr Sharp had made a “significant error of judgement” when applying for the BBC job. – BBC

Support for Scottish independence plummets

“Nicola Sturgeon has been hit with a new hammer blow as new polling suggests support for Scottish independence and the SNP as a whole are in decline. Lord Ashcroft’s latest poll of 2,100 Scots for Holyrood magazine indicated the country would vote 56 per cent to 44 per cent to remain in the UK. This is almost identical to the failed Scottish independence referendum from 2014, in which Scots voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent against splitting from Britain.” – Daily Express

>Today: Lord Ashcroft in comments: My new poll shows Sturgeon waging a losing constitutional battle against Westminster over her gender reforms

A Plaid Cymru MP spoke of a “toxic culture” within the party

“There is a real split in Plaid Cymru after allegations of a toxic culture within the party, one of its MPs has claimed. Hyel Williams praised leader Adam Price but said a team should be led by a team rather than an individual. “To run a team that is successful and that achieves its goals – individually and as a team in general – requires discipline,” said Arfon MP Mr Williams. Plaid Cymru said it was focused on “building up” the party. – BBC

Far-right groups ‘exploiting asylum tensions’

“Britain’s fast-growing far-right group distributed hundreds of leaflets attacking migrants’ homes days before rioting outside a hotel housing asylum seekers in Merseyside, it can be revealed. Patriotic Alternative has denied involvement in Friday night’s disorder in Knowsley where a police riot van was set on fire. However, The Times has uncovered a video filmed by one of its staffers, James Costello, during the riots, in which he accuses the police of deliberately stoking the tension.” – The Times

>Today: Poppy Coburn comments: Failure to act on migrant hotel crisis not sympathetic. This is pathological altruism.

Other political news

  • England’s worst A&E waiting hospitals revealed – BBC
  • Unions back plan to bar MPs arrested for violent or sexual offenses – The Guardian
  • Tavistock Clinic ‘overlooked’ link between autism and transgender children – The Daily Telegraph
  • Anderson faces defamation claim from food bank director – The Times

Brief news

  • What lies behind the secret Brexit summit? – Katy Ball, The Spectator
  • Nimby campaigners added a zero to a key stat and no one noticed (until now) – Robert Colville, CapX
  • Strike bill will put UK at odds with much of Europe – Catherine Barnard, House
  • The War on the Family – Frank Wright, Conservative Woman