EU warnings, Sunday hours, and Wetherspoon's roast

Michael Gove Image copyright AP

A number of Sunday papers carry interviews with senior politicians at the forefront of the UK's in-out referendum on membership of the European Union - and prominent among them is the Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who is campaigning for Britain to leave.

He is interviewed in the Sunday Times, where he reflects on breaking ranks with what the paper says are his "closest political friends", the prime minister and the chancellor, who want the UK to stay "in".

He tells the paper of "long hours and moments deep into the night" when he considered which side to take, and admits "it has been very difficult in terms of a relationship with friends and colleagues whom I deeply admire".

Mr Gove says a UK outside the EU would be in a "far stronger position than any other country" to negotiate trade and other terms and that there is "no way Britain would be outside" a free trade area "that extends from Iceland to Turkey".

In the Independent on Sunday, though, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan takes aim at her cabinet colleague, the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, after he alleged the government had produced a "dodgy dossier" aimed at keeping the UK in the EU.

Mrs Morgan tells the paper such phrases will alienate female voters, saying "aggression always appeals to a certain type of person in politics, but my experience is it doesn't appeal to women".

Elsewhere, the Sunday Express reports that leading Leave campaigner Boris Johnson believes the EU is "bust". The London mayor is quoted by the paper saying "only a vote to leave can reverse the increasingly prejudicial approach of the Brussels bureaucrats who seem set on subverting Britain's best interests".

But the London mayor is firmly in the sights of former Home Secretary David Blunkett. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Lord Blunkett calls on Mr Johnson to "account for his dramatic change of heart" following his decision to campaign for a "Brexit".

In the same paper, Tory MP Nicholas Soames and Labour peer Lord Mandelson write a joint column arguing for the UK to remain in the EU. "Britain can either be in the UK's free trade single market, with the regulatory influence and full market access this brings, or we can have zero influence and watch as money flows out of Britain's financial sector," they write.

Elsewhere, the Sun on Sunday runs a column written by UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage in which he argues that a vote to leave the EU would not see Britain "pull up the drawbridge" but would give the UK "the ability to decide who we want to walk across it".

Budget briefings begin

Chancellor George Osborne's Budget is 10 days away, and already the papers are being given titbits of what he is likely to announce when he addresses MPs on 16 March.

The Sunday Times reports the chancellor is "planning a tax giveaway for the middle classes" and wants to offer "an inflation-busting" rise in the threshold at which people being paying the 40p rate of tax. It quotes a government source saying Mr Osborne wants to "accelerate progress" towards a £50,000 higher rate threshold.

Image copyright Reuters

But the Sun on Sunday says Mr Osborne must "make tough decisions" to pay for increasing the tax threshold especially after his apparent change of heart on pensions tax relief.

The Independent on Sunday's Kate Hughes says the chancellor's decision not to change the way pensions are taxed is "merely a stay of execution", and that the tax relief on retirement contributions - £21bn - is "too unsustainable". "The days of generous tax relief are very definitely numbered," she says.

Writing in the Observer, columnist Will Hutton urges the chancellor to be "upfront" about raising taxes, in light of the move not to withdraw allowances for richer pension savers. "Taxes on alcohol and on fuel are too low; equally there should be a tax on sugar. Raise them and crucial public services can be saved," he writes.

Eye-catching headlines

  • Cripes! No exclamation allowed! According to the Sunday Times, "teachers are up in arms" because ministers want to cut use of the punctuation mark and this is reflected in the latest guidance for schools. "Sentences ending with an exclamation mark can be marked correct only if they begin with 'How' or 'What'," the paper says.
  • Hidden price rise in your Easter eggs - the Sunday Mirror is on the case of supermarkets which are "charging more for the chocolate in Easter eggs than in any other confectionery products", According to the paper, "the price per gram can be double that in a standard bar or box". Choc-ing, as a tabloid sub-editor might say.
  • Casper the ghost-like octopus makes waves - scientists have discovered what appears to be a new species of octopus in the Pacific, reports the Sunday Telegraph. "The creature has been nicknamed Casper, like the friendly ghost", the paper says, because of its ghostly appearance, which is caused by "being light coloured and 'not seeming very muscular'". Eight legs, but no six-pack, then.
  • Order! MPs want their own pub - the Sunday People reports MPs "have their eye on the Red Lion pub in Whitehall" as a possible location for a private pint while Parliament is being restored. The paper says their temporary accommodation is owned by Middle Eastern banks and subject to Islamic law, so no alcohol is allowed on the premises.

The Trump factor

The papers' fascination with the phenomenon that is would-be Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shows no sign of abating. The results of the primaries and caucuses being held in the US on Saturday came in too late for the papers.

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The Sunday Telegraph examines the Republican Party establishment's efforts to prevent Mr Trump becoming its candidate for November's presidential election. It quotes a Republican official saying that dethroning Mr Trump - who is currently the front-runner - "could splinter the party in a potentially irreparable fashion".

It may be "too late" to steer the party away from Mr Trump during the primary season, believes the Independent on Sunday. However, "his remaining rivals may be able to deprive him of the majority of 1,237 delegates required to sew-up the nomination", the paper says.

"An old-fashioned brokered (meaning manipulated) convention in Cleveland in July, fixed to deny him [Trump's] his party's crown, cannot be ruled out", says the Observer in its leader column.

The Sunday Times quotes Republican consultant Russ Schriefer saying that if the party went down the route of not choosing the front-runner from the primaries, "there would be riots in the streets of Cleveland", where the nominating convention will be held.

Will Sunday be like every day?

The case for reforming Sunday trading laws in England and Wales is made in the Sun on Sunday by communities minister Brandon Lewis.

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"If you stop to think about it," he writes, "the idea of shopping hours being determined by central government is ridiculous". Contrasting the retail experience of people in 1994 when the present laws came into force and now, when online shopping is available 24 hours a day, Mr Lewis says "we need to reform these laws."

But the Sunday Telegraph reports that such reform may not be easy, with a potential rebellion by Conservative MPs - including two ministers - over the plan to allow shops to open for longer than six hours on Sunday, which is due to be put to a vote on Wednesday.

One of the ministers considering their position over the issue tells the paper: "I worry that people who don't have an option over their job, because it's the only job they've got and want to spend time with their families, are going to find that difficult".

The Independent on Sunday reports on compromises being offered to stave off the rebellion, including changing the rules "only in zones needing an economic boost such as high streets".

Another amendment to the bill has been put forward by former cabinet minister Caroline Spelman, which would allow "cities with large numbers of tourists" to opt-out of Sunday trading laws.

Whither Wetherspoon's?

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon crops up in various papers as a result of its decision to stop serving roasts on Sunday - the last of which will be heading into the oven shortly.

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"The pub firm apologised for what it said was a 'commercial decision'", writes Camilla Tominey in her Sunday Express column, before singing the praises of the Toby Carvery: "four different meats on one plate with all the trimmings for as little as £5.99, is it any wonder the likes of Wetherspoon can no longer compete?" she says.

The Sunday Mirror says the firm denied the decision to stop serving Sunday roasts "was down to poor sales, describing it was 'just one of those things'".

Elsewhere, the Sunday People takes the chain to task for "quietly raising prices", detailing how the "prices on the firms Breakfast Club menu are up five to 10%". It says the firm's boss Tim Martin hinted at price hikes after warning the new National Living Wage of £7.20 could push up labour costs.

Simon Goodley in the Observer - as well as taking the mickey out of Wetherspoon's founder Mr Martin's "mullet" hair - says the boss "telegraphed this week's results by revealing profits will disappoint", adding that the weaker bottom line was being blamed on higher wages.

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