Monday briefing: Boris and the 'Orwellian' Brexit manual
Top story: Unlikely tag team pushes May on EU withdrawal
Good morning to you all, itâs Graham Russell here with the news at the start of the week.
The letter was marked âFor your and Gavinâs eyes onlyâ, but that seems to be a stretch in Westminsterâs febrile atmosphere. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have been accused of listing out an âOrwellianâ set of demands in their secret letter to push Theresa May towards a hard Brexit. In it the pair â" who appear to have settled their differences â" call on the prime minister to ensure everyone falls in behind their Brexit plans by âclarifying their mindsâ and making them âinternalise the logicâ. One cabinet minister told the Guardian: âIt is not surprising that they [Gove and Johnson] would express their view. But what is surprising is that they would write this down and use this kind of language in a letter to the prime minister.â Another minister said: âI doubt they thought this would ever come out. It stinks to high heaven.â
The PM, who meets EU business leaders today and then faces the real possibility of defeat on the EU withdrawal bill on Tuesday, must now decide whether to take action against the two senior figures or risk looking weak.
Michel Barnier, the EUâs chief negotiator, further heightened concerns over the prospect of a hard Brexit by saying the bloc was drawing up contingency plans for the possible collapse of Britainâs departure talks.
Further reading: do you really know what Orwellian means?
Pain of Johnson Iran gaffeâ" A British woman held in an Iranian jail has said Boris Johnson has helped create a âshamblesâ by wrongly stating why she was in Tehran. The foreign secretary told a select committee that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was there to train journalists, when she was in fact on holiday (the UK governmentâs official position). Husband Richard Ratcliffe said the blunder had brought his wife â" who also fears she is on the verge of a breakdown â" to tears during a phone call. Michael Gove was accused yesterday of backing Johnson rather than helping a stricken British citizen by claiming on the Andrew Marr Show he had no idea what Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran. Johnsonâs remarks have been seized upon as a confession in the Iranian media and are believed to have left her facing five more years in prison.
âThe building was just dancing in the airâ â" More than 200 people have been killed in Iran and Iraq after a magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit on Sunday evening. More than 1,650 were injured, and the death toll is expected to rise after the earthquake, which was felt as far west as the coast of the Mediterranean. An Iraqi official said the epicentre was in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region close to the main border crossing with Iran . Fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out on to the streets and parks in cold weather. Residents in Baghdad rushed out in panic. âSuddenly the building was just dancing in the air,â said Majida Ameer, who ran out of her building with her three children. âI thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: âEarthquake!ââ
Let children explore â" Nursery and primary school-age children should be free to âtry out the many cloaks of identityâ and should not be criticised if they want to wear tiaras or heels, a toolbelt or firefighterâs helmet, the Church of England has said in new anti-bullying guidance issued to its schools. âThey are in a âtrying onâ stage of life, and not yet adult and so no labels need to be fixed. This should inform the language teachers use when they comment, praise or give instructions,â it says. Charity Stonewall welcomed the guidance. On the tone of exploration, a New Zealand study tracked a group of 11- to 13-year-olds via GPS and found they spent more than half of their non-school time within 500 metres of home. The data also suggested they were less independent and active than previous generations.
Trump/Russia peril â" Donald Trump is vulnerable to being âplayedâ by Russia and thus poses a danger to the US, two former US intelligence chiefs have said. The presidentâs acceptance of Vladimir Putinâs denial of Russian interference in the 2016 election showed he âcan be played by foreign leaders who are going to be appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecuritiesâ, said former CIA director John Brennan. He and former director of national intelligence James Clapper spoke out after Trump called them âpolitical hacksâ for saying Russia meddled in the campaign.
New weapon of mass destruction â" Drones hovering nearby can be annoying, but what about a tiny one that is programmed to scour your neighbourhood looking for your face in order to detonate an explosive on your forehead? That is the bleak picture painted by experts calling for a pre-emptive ban on so-called âautonomousâ weapons that kill without human supervision. The technology âis not science fiction. In fact, it is easier to achieve than self-driving cars,â said Stuart Russell, a leading AI scientist who will show this disturbing short film today at the UN.
Red breasts, eh? â" Facebook has been accused of trying to influence Christmas after it banned an artist from selling cards featuring her picture of a robin. It told Jackie Charley the item was of a âsexualâ and âadultâ nature. The artist, from the Scottish Borders, said she âcould not stop laughingâ. You can decide for yourself below if this animal looks like it is offering adult services.
Lunchtime read: the life and times of the posh burger
It went from being a scapegoat for the obesity crisis to a symbol of a dining revolution that created a new kind of restaurant: inspired by simple street food, led by untrained chefs and advertised via Twitter. Here, Tim Walker chews the fat with the key figures behind the rise and rise of the burgerâs fortunes in the UK, through Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Byron to MEATeasy and Five Guys. Beyond the burgerâs healthier ingredients and side dishes, the rumbling belly of recession-era UK might have played a part. Yianni Papoutsis of MEATeasy said: âWe set up in the only places we could afford or arrange. All our sites have been abandoned and unloved for some time and weâve gone in and salvaged them. We had to decorate MEATeasy with pages from my old books because we didnât have enough money for paint. I think it worked because it was true to itself. It wasnât a piece of scenery; it was what it was.â
Warning: reading this article may significantly increase your lunchtime appetite.
British Gymnastics is facing a crisis with its biggest stars, including the double Olympic champion Max Whitlock, refusing to sign World Class Performance Programme contracts and being threatened with having their funding w ithdrawn. Gareth Southgate might put England through a mock penalty shootout in front of a Wembley crowd as he sets about trying to make sure his team is fully prepared from 12 yards in the World Cup. Southgateâs Northern Irish counterpart, Michael OâNeill, condemned the âcrueltyâ of his teamâs World Cup play-off defeat by Switzerland after they were ultimately denied a place in Russia by the controversial first-leg penalty.
In rugby union, Australia can be stopped at Twickenham at the weekend only if a reshuffle by England brings dynamism to a team that was so ponderous against Argentina. And three NFL players took a knee during the national anthem before the New York Giantsâ game at the San Francisco 49ers, as the rest of the league stood during Veterans Day weekend.
Doubts about Theresa Mayâs grip on power meant the pound was under pressure on the foreign exchange markets overnight. Sterling slipped 0.55% to $1.312 in the Asian sessio n, a sharp fall from an eight-day peak of $1.323 reached on Friday on the back of better industry data. It was buying â¬1.126. The FTSE100, whose many multinationals benefit from a weaker pound, is expected to open up 0.4%.
A tearful Queen watching from a distance as her son laid a Remembrance Day wreath on her behalf is the picture story of the day, while most focused on the plight of the Briton jailed in Iran.
The Guardian goes with the reaction to Johnson and Goveâs âOrwellianâ set of Brexit demands, the failure of a government scheme to tackle the winter fuel poverty crisis and a dispatch from Yemen, where millions ar e on the brink of a famine.
The Times splashes Michael Gove casting further doubt on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffeâs reason for being in Iran, taking in a chunk of her husbandâs criticism of Boris Johnsonâs handling of the situation. It also reports on claims of sexual harassment and âinstitutional failingsâ at Matrix Chambers.
The Telegraph turns the Iran shambles into a plus for Johnson by zeroing in on Zaghari-Ratcliffeâs husband saying he should not be sacked because it would only create more instability. It also has a piece from its Better Broadband campaign, with a report saying a lack of decent connectivity is among the factors driving young people away from rural areas.
The i goes with the headline: âNow Gove criticised over Briton in Iran jailâ and adds in the familyâs criticism of Johnson and Zaghari-Ratcliffeâs health fears. It also raises our hopes again of a Spice Girls reunion.
The FT puts the frighteners on us with GCHQâs fears that Kaspersky anti-virus software handed out free by Barclays is being used by Russia to gather intelligence. Plus it reveals the âstop gapâ plans of some major US banks to avoid shifting jobs out of London after Brexit (for the time being).
The Mail gives its front page to the new Church of England school anti-bullying guidelines which include recommendations that boys should be allowed to wear tiaras without being criticised.
The Sun says toddlers are getting lessons in gender fluidity from drag queens, and follows the Telegraph in saying Johnson has the support of Zaghari-Ratcliffeâs family. âBoris is backed on Naz,â says the headline.
The Mirror commiserates with Britainâs most frequently married man who has apparently been left by his girlfriend and intended wife #9.
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