A forum where readers can discuss today’s politics and share links to breaking news and to the most interesting politics stories, blogs and tweets on the web
I’m not writing my usual blog today but here, as an alternative, is the Politics Live readers’ edition. It is a place for you to discuss today’s politics, and to share links to breaking news and to the most interesting stories and blogs on the web.
Feel free to express your views robustly, but please treat others with respect and don’t resort to abuse. Guardian comment pages are supposed to be a haven from the Twitter/social media rant-orama, not an extension of it.
In Britain and America, the new right is cultivating a dangerous sense of victimhood and shifting blame for its failures elsewhere
The notion of personal responsibility was once such a linchpin of conservative thinking that almost every riposte to liberal ideology ran through it. Whether the right was making the case for longer prison sentences or against the welfare state, the argument generally rested on the principle that we must stand by the consequences of our actions. To cite the context that shaped how a decision was made, insist on the parallel importance of collective responsibility, or expect the state to cushion the blow, were all signs of whiny weakness. To think otherwise revealed not just a flawed political philosophy but a lack of moral fortitude.
The world of national sovereignty, racial purity and ethnic homogeneity is not coming back because it never existed
Scheme to tackle bullying and harassment in Westminster raises transparency concerns
Proposals to grant anonymity to MPs accused of harassment or expenses fraud, outlined in a new behaviour code, will be seen as politicians trying to cover up their misdoings, the chair of the standards committee has said.
Labour’s Sir Kevin Barron said he agreed that confidentiality was important to ensure people came forward, but he said publishing the name of an MP under investigation would not cause “irreparable damage”.
Watchdog highly critical of Treasury calculations that differ from DfE forecasts
A clash between the Department for Education and the Treasury over how to value the government’s student loans portfolio may have led to more than ?600m in income from future loan repayments being overlooked, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.
The watchdog also advised that the government should take “a comprehensive view” and carefully consider the potential impact on the government’s finances of future loan sales.
EU27 must ditch ‘unworkable’ plans and break impasse, PM tells Belfast summit
Theresa May is to tell the European Union it is time to drop what she feels is their inflexible view on an Irish border solution and “evolve” their position to break the impasse in Brexit talks.
In a speech in Belfast on Friday she is expected to brand the bloc’s calls for regulatory alignment north and south of the border as a “backstop” solution in the event of no deal as “unworkable”, and repeat her assertion that a border down the Irish Sea is unacceptable to any British prime minister.
Julian Smith made error in asking Tory MP to vote despite pact with Lib Dem, say party sources
The Conservatives have been forced to admit that their chief whip asked MPs to breach Commons voting conventions in knife-edge Brexit votes on Tuesday, as opposition parties demanded he quit and queried the accuracy of the prime minister’s account of events.
The new Brexit secretary is showing every sign of being as clueless as his predecessor
There is no sincerer form of flattery. It had been expected that the appointment of Dominic Raab to replace David Davis as Brexit secretary might raise the average IQ of the department by a few dozen points. After all, even appointing my dog – one of the dimmer creatures on this planet – would have been an improvement. But these hopes have been quickly dashed. Either there is something about the Brexit department that renders all ministers who work for it catatonically stupid or Raab is determined to live down to the standards of his predecessor. An act of kindness.
What Raab does have, however, that Davis doesn’t, is a limited amount of self-awareness. He realises that the whole purpose of his job is that it’s entirely cosmetic. He’s not there to actually do anything. He’s there to give the impression that he’s doing something. The Brexit negotiations are far too complex to be left to any of the halfwits in the Brexit department. They’re also way too tricky for the prime minister and the civil service, but it’s they who are calling the shots and Raab’s main function is to do the photocopying and make the tea. Jobs he can just about manage.
As EU negotiator meets Brexit secretary in Brussels, Raab calls for more ‘vim’ in talks
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has welcomed Dominic Raab to Brussels with a thinly veiled critique of Theresa May’s Chequers plan and a 13-week deadline in which to solve the problem of the Irish border.
Appearing with Barnier for the first time in the Belgian capital, the new Brexit secretary, clutching a copy of the UK’s recently published Brexit white paper, called for more “vim, vigour and energy” in the troubled negotiations.
PM approved bonus of ?15,000 to ?20,000 for Oliver Robbins – a key adviser behind her softer Brexit strategy
Theresa May signed off a bonus of up to ?20,000 for her chief Brexit adviser, Oliver Robbins, while he was working as permanent secretary of the Department for Exiting the European Union last year, Number 10 confirmed.
The department’s annual report says that Robbins was paid a bonus of ?15,000 to ?20,000 for his work on top of an annual salary of around ?165,000, making him better paid than the prime minister, who earns ?152,819.
The Sun newspaper now claims Tory Chief Whip Julian Smith asked up to FIVE MPs to break their pairing promises. If this is proven it shows how duplicitous and shifty he is.
Someone is lying here. Either the Chief Whip resigns or the Prime Minister is tainted by his disgrace.
There are 13 weeks left before the October European council. During this short time we have two things to do. We must finalise the withdrawal agreement and we are not yet there. We must also prepare a political declaration on our future relationship. On the withdrawal agreement, it is a matter of urgency to agree a legally operative backstop for Ireland and Northern Ireland. We need an all-weather insurance policy.
The Brexit department (DExEU) has published its annual report today (pdf). It contains information about bonuses paid to senior officials and it reveals that Olly Robbins, who was permanent secretary until September last year, when he went to the Cabinet Office to be Theresa May’s chief Brexit adviser, got a bonus worth between ?15,000 and ?20,000.
This is from the Sun’s Steve Hawkes.
Olly Robbins - the man the PM has put in charge last year got a ?20,000 performance related bonus - it rather beautifully sums up the entire state of things just about now https://t.co/81zBvXVfWy
Even if Britain does leave the EU on WTO rules next March, life will still go on largely as normal
Now they are talking car crashes. From Brussels comes Project Fear Mk II, a “preparedness” guide for Europe if there is no deal on Brexit. It is Brussels-speak for a terrorism red alert. It covers such things as passports, air traffic control, financial transfers, military bases, data protection, medicines licensing and all the border clutter we have spent half a century removing. Unlike the remainers’ bloodcurdling Project Fear in 2016, this is not an economic fake forecast. It is frontline reality. It is Brexit as Grand Theft Auto.
New Brexit secretary holds first talks as EU27 set to get advice on consequences of breakdown
The new Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, has held his first meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, as the EU sent out its strongest warning yet to member states over the need to prepare for a no-deal scenario.
Following a round of talks in Brussels on the crunch issues, Raab dined with Barnier, with whom David Davis, Raab’s predecessor at the Department for Exiting the European Union, had a difficult relationship.
Business group says collapse of power-sharing and Brexit turmoil are taking their toll
Northern Ireland is edging towards recession, the Confederation of British Industry has warned as Theresa May arrives in Belfast for her first visit to the Irish border.
The CBI said the political vacuum left by the collapse of power-sharing in Stormont along with Brexit uncertainty were taking their toll in the region, which is already the poorest performing of the 12 UK regions.
Heather Stewart is joined by Jessica Elgot, Katy Balls and Jonathan Lis to discuss another febrile week of Brexit parliamentary standoffs. Plus David Smith on the now infamous Trump-Putin press conference
After the strained consensus of the Chequers cabinet summit, this week the hard Brexiters hit back.
As rebellions broke out on all sides of the party, the government caved in to the demands of Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Growth across Europe forecast to fall if UK adopted WTO rules, with Britain worst affected
Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal would inflict significant economic pain across Europe, leaving the region without any winners, the International Monetary Fund has warned.
As the new Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab warned Europe to prepare for a no-deal exit, the IMF said such an outcome would hurt the UK most but would also have damaging economic consequences for Ireland and other EU nations.
We are launching a consultation so that people can have their say on how compensation should work
The wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation shocked us all and since becoming home secretary I have made it my personal mission to rectify the injustices of the past. Over the past few months I have heard many sobering stories about the difficulties they have faced. These have struck a personal chord, particularly because the same thing could have easily happened to my parents, who came to this country from the Commonwealth in the 1960s.
The government has already announced a series of urgent measures to put things right. We have set up a taskforce that has helped more than 2,000 people get the documentation they need to demonstrate their right to be here and more than 500 people apply for citizenship for free. We have also introduced legislation to give a legal footing to our Windrush scheme, which outlines the support we are offering. On top of this, we have been proactively reaching out and engaging with those affected, both in the UK and overseas.
A US-backed deal to bring ‘peace’ to the Middle East would just legitimise Israeli aggression – and oppress my people further
President Donald Trump and his administration have been promising to announce what has been called, ironically, the “ultimate deal” for Israel and Palestine. It is a proposition for “peace” that violates the most basic requirements for a just and sustainable solution, flouts international law, contradicts the global consensus on peace (which in itself constitutes a major compromise by the Palestinians), and even departs from the declared policies of several previous US administrations.
Brexit chaos could bring a shock election. Corbyn’s team should waste no more energy on internal strife but get ready to fight
The country stands on the brink. Both the EU and Brexit secretary Dominic Raab send out warnings to prepare for a volcanic no-deal, tantamount to preparing for war. The unthinkable is being prepared for. The Tories are falling apart, incapable of governing, and a constitutional crisis looms if parliament can never agree any deal. A general election might well be the only resolution: there never was a riper time for a strong opposition to seize the day.
Candidates reject jobs because of low rates in problem that extends to embassies
The Foreign Office has become Britain’s worst government department for pay, and the situation is becoming unsustainable, it has admitted in evidence to parliament’s foreign affairs select committee.
It also says staff are rejecting jobs because of the uncompetitive rates, and in only 55% of 554 filled postings requiring a foreign language does the occupant meet the expected level of language skill. A further 154 posts remain vacant.
The trade secretary is busy pitching Britain into a global race to the bottom after Brexit. But there’s still time to stop him
This week’s narrow votes on the trade bill was a major victory for the hard Brexiteers. Theresa May’s government has effectively killed off its own Chequers plan and laid the road for a Brexit based on deregulation and liberalisation. And while they were at it, they stamped on attempts to give parliament sovereignty over trade policy, just to make sure no pesky MP could get in the way of their plans for a free-market “Singapore-on-Thames”.
The next day the trade secretary, Liam Fox, lost no time in launching consultations on joining the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) as well as a trade deal with the US. Britain’s distance from the Pacific is apparently no obstacle. Both the TPP and a US trade deal would lower standards, undermine public services like the NHS and make it more difficult for us to protect the environment. They are incompatible with the frictionless trade in goods with the EU May promised at Chequers. Donald Trump told the government as much last weekend.
Party preparing about 35 pieces of legislation to be ready to go should it win power
Labour is privately ramping up preparations for government, holding an away day on Monday where shadow cabinet members will present plans for a leftwing populist legislative programme so the party is ready for a snap general election.
The event in London will lay out plans for draft Queen’s speech of up to 35 bills and a budget intended to focus on living standards and workers’ rights.
Last week’s demonstrations showed that to tackle the far right, the traditional left has to give way to grassroots activism
When a quarter of a million people march together, the ground and the establishment shakes. That’s what happened in London, Scotland and across the UK as people from all walks of life took action in more than 50 towns and cities.
Post offices could need to issue up to 7m international driving permits in first year
The government has no business plan if post offices are forced to issue up to 7m international driving permits in a single year in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has disclosed.
A National Audit Office report examining the Department for Transport’s readiness for leaving the EU also expresses concern that plans to manage traffic flow at Dover without a deal are behind schedule.
Efforts to water down parliament’s code of behaviour will not stop it dragging British politics into the 21st century
The news that John Woodcock MP has resigned from the Labour party, protesting about the handling of a sexual misconduct allegation against him (which he strenuously denies), is yet more evidence – were any needed – that the political party system still doesn’t understand bullying and sexual harassment. And it makes the work of the steering group set up to create a new independent complaints system even more important.
As well as securing justice for individuals, designing a framework to better protect all those working in and around politics is a vital part of how we move beyond #MeToo and #TimesUp and help to dismantle male privilege and male-dominated hierarchies. That’s why I was so determined to play an active role in the cross-party group driving forward change in parliament – a process that has meant being prepared to question everything that is apparently unquestionable about how Westminster works, from parliamentary privilege to the power of the whip system.
Our earliest memory can shape our lives, but new research suggests that many are false. Here, writers and readers reflect on their earliest recollections
It starts as a dreamy state of dizzying vertigo, and then I rattle, headfirst, down the wooden stairs. Falling down the white-painted (I think), definitely uncarpeted stairs of our first house is my first memory, and I must have been around two. But is it real? A new study suggests not, and if you can remember lying in your pram/taking your first steps/having your nappy changed, then you are almost certainly wrong, too.
In a survey of more than 6,600 people, published in Psychological Science, researchers found that 40% of people believe they have a first memory from when they were two or even younger, even though evidence suggests it is not possible for memories from this age to be retained. Around three to three-and-a-half seems to be the agreed age of a first memory, although Martin Conway, the study’s co-author and director of the Centre for Memory and Law at City, University of London, has said it’s “not until we’re five or six that we form adult-like memories due to the way that the brain develops and due to our maturing understanding of the world”.
The Labour party descended into open conflict as it launched disciplinary action against Margaret Hodge after an angry public confrontation in which the veteran MP branded Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite.
The MP for Barking, a secular Jew, defended her decision to confront the Labour leader in the Commons to share her “anger and outrage” over the party’s refusal to ditch a controversial new code of conduct on antisemitism.
The former foreign secretary’s farewell speech was typical: long on bombast, but short on content
His departure became his time in office. Long on bombast, short on content. Long on grandiosity, short on self-awareness. In public and in private, Boris Johnson is a disappointment. Not least to himself. Cut through the fragile narcissism and there is a ball of self-loathing and insecurity. No one understands his own failure better than him. A man of little courage and fewer principles. The lion that keeps forgetting to roar.
Never one to pass up an opportunity to manoeuvre himself into the history books, Boris had chosen almost the identical seat in the Commons to make his resignation speech as Geoffrey Howe had taken for his in 1990. There the comparisons ended.
Former foreign secretary urged PM to change tack on Brexit but what does he actually want?
Boris Johnson’s resignation speech on Wednesday was uncharacteristically short on jokes, and stopped short of calling for the prime minister to step aside and make way for a more enthusiastic proponent of Brexit – such as himself. But there was plenty of material for his remaining fans in the Conservative party to seize on. We read between the lines...
I’m very proud that we have rallied the world against Russia’s barbaric use of chemical weapons, with an unprecedented 28 countries joining together to expel 153 spies in protest at what happened in Salisbury. We have rejuvenated the Commonwealth with a superb summit, that saw Zimbabwe back on the path to membership and Angola now wanting to join.
And as I leave we are leading global campaigns against illegal wildlife trade and in favour of 12 years of quality education for every girl.
Europe’s officials lay into PM’s plan, with top diplomat saying it will not be basis of talks
The EU gave the British negotiating team a torrid time at the first presentation of the UK’s white paper on the future relationship during this week’s talks, the Guardian has learned.
Led by Michel Barnier’s deputy, Sabine Weyand, the EU’s team of officials picked apart the most contentious parts of the paper as it was presented by Olly Robbins, Theresa May’s chief Brexit adviser, leading to increased concerns on both sides that a no-deal scenario is moving from possible to likely.
Reliance on EU butter, cheese and yoghurt means sharp price rises, says milk producer Arla
Everyday dairy products such as butter, yoghurt and cheese could become luxury items in Britain after Brexit, with price rises being caused by the slightest delay in the journey from farm to table, a report by the London School of Economics finds.
The LSE research, commissioned by the company behind Lurpak, Anchor and Arla brands, also found that speciality cheeses could become scarce after Brexit, with escalating costs whatever the outcome of the exit negotiations.
Leaders agree vision for future trade deal but say UK must provide solution for Ireland
Theresa May has been warned that she has less than three months to resolve the problem of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland as EU leaders formally endorsed the terms of the transition period and its vision of a future trade deal.
Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, said he hoped agreement struck between negotiators on 75% of a draft withdrawal agreement would propel the talks, before setting a June summit of leaders as a potential make or break moment.
Leo Varadkar says US-Canada style border ‘not a solution we could possibly entertain’
Ireland’s prime minister has dismissed as a non-starter Theresa May’s suggestion that the Canada-US border could be a model for the Irish border problem.
Leo Varadkar told reporters on Monday evening that it was out of the question. “I visited the Canada/US border back in August and saw physical infrastructure with customs posts, people in uniforms with arms and dogs and that is definitely not a solution that we could possibly entertain,” he said.