A round-up of the latest political headlines, including Penny Mordaunt’s appointment, the Brexit date, Northern Ireland’s status in the customs union and David Cameron’s lobbying.
Penny Mordaunt appointed as International Development Secretary
Penny Mordaunt, previously minister for disabled people, has been appointed as the new International Development Secretary, following Priti Patel’s resignation. The Times says the appointment keeps the balance between leave and remain supporters in the cabinet, and suggests that it was a ‘consolation prize’ after Mordaunt emerged as a front-runner for the post of Defence Secretary last week.
European Commission calls for Northern Ireland to remain in customs union
The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times break the story that a European Commission document shows that Ireland wants ‘concrete reassurance’ on the issue of the Irish border before the next EU leaders’ summit in December. It appears to require that the UK remains in a customs union with the EU, or that Northern Ireland has a special status and remains in a customs union, creating a trade border between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland. A negotiator quoted in the Financial Times described Ireland’s stance as a ‘wild card’ factor.
Brexit date to be set in law
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Theresa May has announced an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, setting the date and time of the UK’s departure from the European Union as March 29, 2019 at 11pm GMT. Looking ahead to the next stage of the bill’s scrutiny in the House of Commons, she promises to listen to MPs who suggest improvements.
Budget news: Hammond refuses to loosen the purse springs, plans NHS spending increase and taxes on diesel cars
According to the Daily Mail, the Chancellor is refusing release billions of pounds for investment and won’t compromise on plans to eliminate the budget deficit by 2025, causing frustration for the Prime Minister. The Times reports that Hammond is planning to include more funding for the NHS in the budget. It says that the Chancellor is considering both ‘a cash injection’ and a pay boost for frontline workers. The Financial Times says that higher taxes will be placed on sales of new diesel vehicles, either by increasing VAT or creating a new levy.
Calls for cabinet reshuffle, amid ‘fierce debate’ in Downing Street
A story in The Guardian claims that senior figures in the Conservative party are calling for a ‘bold reshuffle’ of Theresa May’s cabinet, arguing that a ‘new generation’ of Conservative MPs need to be promoted. Others, including civil servants and whips, are warning that this might cause instability.
David Cameron lobbied China over planned investment fund
The Times reveals that David Cameron discussed a ‘UK-China fund’ being set up by figures including Lord Chadlington, a Conservative peer, with Chinese vice-premier Ma Kai during a visit to the country. If the fund is set up, the paper reports that Cameron is considering taking a role. As the fund does not currently exist, he did not need to seek official clearance.
Carwyn Jones may face investigation over handling of harassment allegations
The Guardian says that Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister, may face an investigation over his handling of the allegations against Carl Sargeant, who was found dead after being sacked last week. Separately, The Daily Telegraph reports that John Bercow, the Commons speaker, has said that Charlie Elphicke, the suspended Tory MP, should be given the details of the allegations against him.
Metropolitan police chief calls for tougher sentences for young offenders
The Daily Mail carries remarks made by Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, in which she called for tougher sentences for young offenders, which would ‘actually deter people’. She was speaking to the Howard league for Penal Reform, whose Chief Executive, Frances Crook said that ‘it is unusual for a police officer to comment on areas outside their expertise, like sentencing’.
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