Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Veronika Fikfak and Hayley J. Hooper: Whither the War Powers Convention? What Next for Parliamentary Control of Armed Conflict after Syria?

A. Introduction and Background

On Friday 13 April 2018 the Royal Air Force participated in air strikes (together with the United States and France) to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and to deter further chemical attacks. This intervention in Syria was not authorised by the UN Security Council, nor was the involvement of British troops approved by the House of Commons. Instead, the decision to send British forces to Syria was made by The Prime Minister Theresa in conjunction with the Cabinet. Readers can view her public statement from 14 April 2018 here. Events unfolded this way despite governmental acknowledgement of a War Powers Convention in the 2011 Cabinet Manual. It describes the Convention in the following terms:

‘before troops were committed the House of Commons should have an opportunity to debate the matter … except when there was an emergency and such action would not be appropriate’.

After increasing political pressure from all parties, two debates were held in the House of Commons. The first followed a statement by Theresa May on Monday 16 April 2018, and the second came on Tuesday 17 April as a result of an emergency Standing Order No. 24 Debate, granted at the discretion of the Speaker of the Commons pursuant to a motion moved by Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn. A substantive motion was moved in the following terms:

‘That this House has considered Parliament’s rights in relation to the approval of military action by British Forces overseas.’

Corbyn encouraged Labour to vote against the motion so as to send a signal that the Commons was inadequately consulted on the airstrikes. However, the motion carried by a 317 to 256 vote.

B. Exceptions to the Convention

On its face, the War Powers Convention is thought to create two exceptions to the prior consultation of the House of Commons. The first is where an emergency occurs making the timely consultation of politicians either inexpedient or impossible. The second is a public interest exception, which covers situations where parliamentary consultation would damage the public interest because it would require the disclosure of information prejudicial to national security. In our research, we have also found a further two exceptions related to types of military activity. Neither the deployment of Special Forces, nor strikes by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones) fall within the scope of the War Powers Convention.

In her statement to the Commons, the Prime Minister clarified the current Government’s interpretation of the convention, and put forward ‘four fundamental reasons’ for the British government’s view that the airstrikes in Syria constituted an exception to the convention. First, that debating the air strikes would have compromised the effectiveness of operations. Secondly, that a debate would have disclosed secret intelligence, compromising British national security. Thirdly, a debate would have required the disclosure of plans of allied forces, which may compromise both the security of the allied forces, and the expediency of operations. Fourthly, the British government argued that the intervention was legal as a matter of international law and that ‘the legal basis for UK action has previously been agreed by Parliament.’ (HC Deb 17 April 2018 vol 639 col 208).

These reasons, taken at face value, broadly sit within the public interest justification for non-consultation of the Commons. However, in her statement to the Commons on 17 April the Prime Minister went further and presented these arguments as effectively creating a third category of exception which does not currently exist on the text of the convention – that of exempting air strikes from prior parliamentary scrutiny. In reaffirming commitment to the Convention, Mrs May argued that:

[I]n a parliamentary democracy, elected representatives in this House should be able to debate the deployment of British military forces into combat. As I said yesterday, I am deeply conscious of the gravity of these decisions and the way in which they affect all Members of the House. There are situations—not least major deployments like the Iraq war—when the scale of the military build-up requires the movement of military assets over weeks, and when it is absolutely right and appropriate for Parliament to debate military action in advance, but that does not mean that that is always appropriate. This therefore cannot and should not be codified into a parliamentary right to debate every possible overseas mission in advance. (HC Deb 17 April 2018 vol 639 col 203)

This new exception, appears to relate to the nature and scale of the conflict. In this post we consider what the government’s threefold case for denying prior democratic scrutiny (based on legality, national security, and the nature and scope of the deployment) means for the status of and utility of the War Powers Convention.

  1. The Weakness of the Legality Argument

In her statement to explain Saturday’s action, Mrs May argued that the intervention was legal and correct in order to alleviate further humanitarian suffering. She argued that previous British governments had invoked the same reasons for intervening in Kosovo and elsewhere. Under international law, which is the sole body of law to regulate the use of force, military action is only legal if it is used in self-defence or if authorised by the Security Council. The argument that the legal basis for the use of force is humanitarian intervention ‘is not an accurate reflection of international law as it currently stands’ (Akande). Since 1999 when humanitarian intervention was argued in relation to Kosovo, only a handful of states appeared to accept a right of humanitarian intervention. In contrast, in the past 20 years more than 130 states have explicitly rejected this legal position. Even if the Government was seeking to exercise its responsibility to protect the victims of chemical attacks, such action should have taken place through the Security Council, i.e. with an authorisation from the United Nations. For most international lawyers, air strikes in Syria were clearly not legal, and in light of overwhelming rejection by countries of such an argument, previous practice by the UK or other countries does not make them so.  Since 2003 the UK Parliament has been strategically used to provide ratification of military action in cases where no Security Council authorisation was provided. This occurred in relation to Iraq and to Syria. Nevertheless, such parliamentary approval cannot fill the legal vacuum left by the  lack of Security Council authorisation.

  1. The Public Interest Exception: Secret Intelligence

In respect of the role of secret intelligence, the government departed from David Cameron’s policy of offering public summaries of the positon of the Joint Intelligence Committee to all MPs during the Commons’ debate. This is to be welcomed, as de-contextualising such information often leads to its misunderstanding. Instead, Mrs May continued the longstanding practice of offering confidential briefings (this time after the airstrikes) regarding secret intelligence to leaders of the Opposition parties on ‘Privy Council Terms.’ These briefings are confidential, and their content cannot be discussed in public debate. Their effect is that two classes of parliamentarians are created, and an information asymmetry persists not only between government and MPs, but among classes of MPs. The result is that parliamentary scrutiny is not significantly advanced.

Concerns about the use or misuse of the government’s intelligence case came from across the political spectrum in the Commons, but the strongest challenge came from Kenneth Clarke MP, a member of the Prime Ministers’ own party:

We all accept that the sources of intelligence should never be disclosed to the House of Commons, but surely these are essentially political and foreign policy judgments about whether to use force to defend the national interest. These arguments could be applied to health, education and lots of other areas. The concept that the gentlemen in Whitehall know best has never been allowed to overrule Parliament in any other area of policy, certainly not in modern times. (HC Deb 17 April 2018 vol 639 col 232)

The inherent danger in the exception to the Convention meant to protect intelligence information is that it risks being over-claimed. This is the force of Clarke’s objection. Although the Standing Orders of the House of Commons contain the power to sit in private (no. 163) such a power has not been used to consider sensitive information since World War II. Members of the House of Commons are at a significant disadvantage vis-à-vis their counterparts in the United States’ Congress, and the EU Parliament when it comes to having sight of such information related to key decisions. Although the sources of intelligence could never be revealed to parliamentarians, they could be allowed to consider the reports of the Joint Intelligence Committee in secure premises, and if thought necessary, spend part of an otherwise open debate forcing the government to justify its reading of the intelligence case for armed conflict. In the wake of Iraq, the position that ‘Whitehall knows best’ is constitutionally untenable.

  1. Narrowing the Scope: Nature and Scale

In addition to labelling Syria as an exception on loosely defined existing grounds within the Convention’s agreed text, the Prime Minister yesterday qualified its field of application. Compared to the 2011 Manual, which contains the phrase ‘before troops were committed’ the qualification appears in the following statement: ‘In a parliamentary democracy, the elected representatives in this House should be able to debate the deployment of British military forces into combat’ (emphasis added). The key distinction between the two readings is that the Government now clearly understands the convention as applying exclusively to combat situations. Moreover, during the course of the emergency debate, Mrs May referred to ‘not least major deployments like the Iraq war’. Whilst the nature of conventions makes them dynamic as opposed to static, and therefore difficult to accurately capture in written rules, this twofold narrowing of the field of application significantly circumscribes the situations in which the Commons may be consulted. In addition to the non-application of the convention to Special Forces deployments, the embedding of British forces in foreign countries’ armies, and the use of drones (noted above) there is now room for significant doubt as to whether the War Powers Convention applies to air strikes. Moreover, the Prime Minister clarified that Parliament should be involved only when the decision concerned ‘major deployments like Iraq’ when the engagement of troops would be long-term. This redefinition (undertaken unilaterally) by Mrs May affords future governments considerable latitude.

The flexibility of constitutional conventions is in principle a great strength. However, in the context of the War Powers Convention such flexibility represents a major weakness. Allowing extensive discretion to the Executive – including the option to exclude consultation in cases of emergencies, drones, special forces, air strikes – ‘limits the effectiveness of a formalised process in enhancing Parliament’s control over deployment decisions.’ As the Constitution Committee concluded, ‘there comes a point at which the number of exceptions is so great that it effectively negates the purpose of formalizing Parliament’s role.’ (House of Lords Constitution Committee, 2nd Report 2013 [58]).

For the War Powers Convention to retain relevance the notion of a combat deployment must be construed broadly by the Government and the Commons. Given the recent debates, this now seems unlikely. The nature of warfare has changed. All-out wars are rare and usually limited to some type of self-defence situations, where the Government can plead that it is fighting a war of necessity rather than a war of choice. But for the most part, today military action is limited to air strikes and targeted actions conducted remotely. Most interventions take place without one single British soldier being sent into combat abroad. To exclude the majority of such military interventions from parliamentary scrutiny is to effectively exclude the Commons from discussion on these questions. As things stand it will be for the government of the day to define terms such as ‘major deployments’, and there is a risk that new exception will be used to shield future governments from adequate constitutional scrutiny in cases where deploying the armed forces proves politically controversial. In 2003 around 40,000 troops were deployed to the Gulf Region to await deployment. However, the government did not officially declare ‘war’. The last such declaration of war was made against Thailand (formerly Siam) in 1942. Although the government did not suggest limiting the Convention to situations of ‘war’, there are a great many military interventions short of the deployment of 40,000 troops which may go constitutionally unchecked because of yesterday’s developments. If the War Powers Convention continues to exist, we question whether it exists in any meaningful sense.

Veronika Fikfak is Fellow in Law at Homerton College, Cambridge.

Hayley J Hooper is Pennington’s Student (Fellow) in Law at Christ Church, Oxford.

They are the authors of Parliament’s Secret War (Hart, 2018).

(Suggested citation: V. Fikfak and H.J. Hooper, ‘Whither the War Powers Convention? What Next for Parliamentary Control of Armed Conflict after Syria?’, U.K. Const. L. Blog (20th Apr. 2018) (available at

Prime Minister “Doing a Tony Blair” – Mike Hookem MEP

Prime Minister “Doing a Tony Blair” – Mike Hookem MEP

UKIP deputy leader, Mike Hookem MEP, has slammed Theresa May’s decision to commit the UK’s armed forces to retaliatory strikes against Bashar Al Assad’s regime, saying the Prime Minister is “doing a Tony Blair” by involving British forces in Syria using “scant, sketchy and unconfirmed intelligence.”

Mr Hookem – a former soldier – made his comments before a House of Commons debate on Theresa May’s decision NOT to seek the approval of Parliament in committing UK Forces to action.

Drawing parallels between Saturday’s airstrikes and Tony Blair’s disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mr Hookem said:

“Too often we have seen the results of taking military action in the Middle East based on scant, sketch and unreliable evidence.”

You only have to look at the state today of both Libya and Iraq to understand the ramifications of politicians giving in to international pressure and going off half-cocked. Airstrikes are a blunt instrument that alone, will not force regime change. It would take a full-scale invasion to protect the Syrian population against these terrible weapons; something I don’t see happening anytime soon due to Russia’s backing of the Assad regime.

All May has achieved, is to poke an already aggravated Russian ‘bear’, at a time of high tensions.

What many members of the public and I want to know is, where is the solid evidence that these attacks were perpetrated by Al Assad; and I don’t mean the television pictures showing people having water poured over their heads?

Other than vague assurances from rent-a-quote political friends of May, I have yet to see the case made for British forces to be involved in strikes on Syria! By rushing into airstrikes, Theresa May has also managed to undermine the experts of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who are only beginning their inspection today.”

He then went on to discuss the significant underfunding received by the British military and highlighted the issues regarding political ideology.

“Frankly, the British people are sick and tired of our politicians taking us into highly costly conflicts that do not concern us. This is especially the case when Britain has to play second-fiddle to France and the US due to years of under-funding and lack of investment in basic kit.”

“Look at the British crew of a billion-pound Type 45 Destroyer, who could only look at the blank space on the deck where a missile launcher that was cut to save cash should have sat, while the US and French operated their ships as originally intended.”

“No longer will we stand by and allow British politicians to sacrifice our sons and daughters serving in the armed forces on a political whim based on dodgy intelligence and iffy videos”

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News review – Monday 16 April 2018

News review – Monday 16 April 2018


PRO-BRUSSELS campaigners faced ridicule last night after launching a new cross-party push dedicated to triggering a fresh referendum on Theresa May’s Brexit plans. Former Tory minister Anna Soubry and senior Labour MP Chuka Umunna were among politicians uniting yesterday for the People’s Vote campaign.
And they faced jibes from Brexit supporters after recruiting Star Trek actor Sir Patrick Stewart to be a leading spokesman for the group. Tory MP Peter Bone, a leading Leave supporter, said: “This call for a second referendum is so off the planet that I suppose it is appropriate to have someone from Star Trek involved. “These people just want to keep re-running the referendum until they get the answer they want.

BBC News
MPs, celebrities and business leaders have launched a campaign calling for a public vote on the final Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union.
The People’s Vote – which held a rally in Camden, north London, on Sunday – aims to unite anti-Brexit groups. Organisers said some 1,200 people were at the event, including MPs from all leading parties. Pro-Brexit campaigners also gathered outside. Both the Conservatives and Labour have ruled out a second referendum. Actor Sir Patrick Stewart, who played Charles Xavier in the X-Men films based on the comic books, said the famous character would have voted Remain. He told the rally: “Unity, common cause, wellbeing of society and debate were paramount to the belief of this fictional character.

Cross-party Remainers have launched a campaign thinly disguised as a democratic movement which seeks a second referendum on the Brexit deal.
Supported by many of the key players in the Tony Blair-backed Remain continuity campaign Open Britain, the People’s Vote is  pushing for a “public vote” on the final Brexit deal. The movement was launched Sunday by Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Tory MP Anna Soubry as well as members of the entertainment industry, youth movements, and pro-EU academics. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Umunna and Soubry said they wanted to stop a “hard Brexit” – otherwise known as a full, proper Brexit which would free the UK from the restrictive Customs Union and Single Market that prevent the country from making her own trade deals and controlling immigration.

Arch-Remoaners Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna have launched a push to have a public vote on whether or not to accept the final terms of the Brexit deal.
It’s called  ‘People’s Vote’ – basically it’s a second referendum in disguise. Soubry and Umunna insist this isn’t about blocking Brexit, which is pretty hard to justify! Soubry said: “If Theresa May gets a good deal, what better validation for it than if the people vote for it?” Umunna added: “It’s like putting an offer in on a house and the survey says the foundations are terrible. Anyone with any sense would withdraw from the transaction.” This is bonkers, what would a vote actually achieve? It seems to be based on the premise that if people aren’t happy with the deal, they’d tell the government to go back to Brussels and renegotiate – well that’s just not going to happen, is it? It’s a not so subtle way of hoping to stifle Brexit and ultimately overturn it altogether – a shameless disregard for democracy.

House of Commons

Theresa May will argue today that she struck against the Assad regime “in the national interest” as she awaits the verdict of the Commons on her handling of the military action in Syria.
After coming under intensifying pressure during the weekend for refusing to give parliament a vote before launching the strikes, the prime minister will ask for an emergency debate to give MPs the ability to discuss the military action at length. Labour will demand that the Commons is also given a vote at the end of the debate. The decision on whether to offer a vote will be taken by the Speaker, John Bercow.

The Prime Minister will today insist that the UK had to strike Syria ‘in our national interest’ to deter chemical weapon attacks on British streets.
Facing the threat of a knife-edge Commons vote, Theresa May will invoke the Salisbury poisonings in her defence of the military action. In a statement to MPs, she will point to the need to ensure the use of chemical weapons does not become normalised – ‘either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere’. She will ask Speaker John Bercow for an emergency six-hour debate on the action, giving MPs from both sides of the House the chance to have a say. But Labour will try to force a vote after the debate – raising the prospect of a humiliating, retrospective defeat.

THERESA May today gives MPs an ultimatum: Back military action in Syria or face more at­tacks on innocent victims.
The PM will call for an emergency debate in Parliament — and has ordered all Tory MPs to be ready to support her. Writing exclusively in The Sun today, she tells of her horror at tyrant Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack that killed at least 75 people. In an emotional plea to her critics, Mrs May writes in detail about the “despicable” way in which Assad targeted his own people with chlorine bombs. She will today hit back at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to action by declaring the 105-missile blitz on Syria’s chemical weapons sites over the weekend was in Britain’s “national interest”.

Sky News
The Prime Minister will tell MPs she acted “in Britain’s national interest” by ordering airstrikes on Syria as the Government calls for an emergency debate on the issue.
Theresa May will pre-empt planned opposition motions by applying to the Speaker for a debate herself “to give the House an extended opportunity to discuss the military action”. In a statement to the Commons, she will also set out her justification for the decision – arguing that it was done to alleviate further humanitarian suffering in Syria caused by chemical weapons attacks. The PM will say: “UNSC-mandated inspectors have investigated previous attacks and on four occasions decided that the regime was indeed responsible.

Theresa May is braced for a Commons showdown after bowing to pressure and allowing a debate in parliament on the UK’s role in air strikes against the Syrian regime.
She will make a statement on the British, French and US operation that saw more than 100 missiles fired at Syria, before being grilled by MPs who were denied a vote ahead of the action. Ministers hope the six-hour emergency debate will pacify concerns that parliament is being sidelined, but are desperate to avoid allowing any substantive vote that risks stripping the operation of legitimacy. It sets the stage for an opposition-party drive to force a more meaningful retrospective vote on Saturday’s action in the coming days, with Conservative MPs given strict orders to be available for voting on both Monday and Tuesday.

Theresa May will hit back at critics of military action in Syria by insisting the
decision to launch airstrikes was aimed at preventing human suffering, and was in Britain’s national interest, as she is questioned by MPs about the attacks for the first time. With the government braced for highly charged exchanges in the Commons as MPs return from their Easter recess, the prime minister will emphasise the international support for the bombing raids. May will tell MPs: “Let me be absolutely clear: we have acted because it is in our national interest to do so. It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used.” She is expected to add: “We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do. And we are not alone.

Morning Star
LABOUR demanded the introduction of a “War Powers Act” today to force a parliamentary vote before military actions are launched, as the row over Theresa May’s illegal bombing of Syria continued to escalate.
The call by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn comes as thousands mobilised for nationwide protests against the attack, including an emergency demonstration in London, where MPs are returning to Parliament after their Easter break. A poll showed only 30 per cent of people in Britain supported the attack, which was directly authorised by Prime Minister Theresa May without consulting MPs. Mr Corbyn said: “Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump.”


Russia has launched a “dirty tricks” campaign against Britain and the US in the wake of the Syria airstrikes as Boris Johnson warned of the need to be prepared for retaliatory attacks.
Whitehall sources on Sunday night confirmed a Pentagon analysis that showed a 20-fold increase in Russian-sourced “disinformation” being spread online since the cruise missile attacks on Syria in the early hours of Saturday. There are fears that it could be a precursor to a campaign of cyber attacks by the Kremlin, and the Foreign Secretary said Britain must take “every possible precaution” to guard against it.

Britain’s intelligence agencies are on the alert for possible revenge attacks by the Kremlin in response to the Syria airstrikes, after reports that a disinformation operation linked to Russia was increasing its output.
Boris Johnson warned yesterday that Russia could retaliate through cyberattacks on the NHS or power networks. “You have to take every possible precaution, and when you look at what Russia has done, not just in this country, in Salisbury, attacks on TV stations, on the democratic processes, on critical national infrastructure, of course we have to be very, very cautious indeed,” the foreign secretary told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One. US officials say that they have seen a 20-fold increase in Russia-linked disinformation pushed out online after Saturday’s strikes.

Britain was braced for a Russian cyber attack last night as officials warned of swift retaliation for the military strikes on Syria.
Intelligence officers at GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence are on standby to hit back if the Kremlin wages cyber warfare. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson acknowledged the threat yesterday, saying the UK had to take ‘every possible precaution’. It is feared vital transport systems, water supplies, gas networks, banks, hospitals and even air traffic control could be hacked by Russia in response to the assault on Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities. Intelligence sources also fear the retaliation could involve the online release of so-called ‘kompromat’ – compromising information on MPs or other public figures. Last night, the Pentagon said there was a 2,000 per cent increase in the number of Russian trolls spreading Kremlin propaganda in the hours after the air strikes.

Boris Johnson has warned that the UK must take “every possible precaution” to protect itself from Russian retaliation following the coalition air strikes on Syria.
The Foreign Secretary said Moscow had a track record of launching cyberattacks on infrastructure and interfering in the democratic processes of other countries. His comments come amid concern that Russia may start a clandestine campaign of retribution, following the strikes by the US, UK and France on targets of the Moscow-backed Syrian regime. Mr Johnson also revealed that contact between himself and Russian foreign minister  Sergei Lavrov had gone cold amid the military operation, in which the Western coalition partners fired more than 100 missiles at facilities around Damascus. The Cabinet minister said the operation would not make a material difference to the Syrian civil war and he could not say it would definitely stop the Assad regime from using chemical weapons again, but he argued that the strikes had sent a strong message that their use would not be tolerated.

The UK spy agency is working with phone networks to patch flaws that have left communication lines open to intrusion from hostile ­nation states.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), an arm of the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), said it would work closely with companies such as BT and Vodafone to ensure that a flaw in the software used to service 4G networks will be patched in the coming months. Paul Chichester, NCSC operations chief, said: “We assume that every piece of equipment in the telecoms networks has vulnerabilities.” Currently, mobile networks allow someone to connect using another person’s identity, intercept and even send messages on behalf of that user.

Two Russian warships laden with military vehicles have been spotted en route to Syria after Friday’s US-led airstrikes obliterated three suspected chemical weapons sites.
An Alligator-landing ship was pictured cruising down The Bosphorus on Sunday as the world awaits Vladimir Putin’s response to this week’s co-ordinated military action against Syria.  The vessel was spotted on its way to the Russian naval base at Tartus on the north Syrian coast. On its fourth deployment of Russian military equipment to the war-torn country the ship was seen laden with tanks, trucks, ambulances and an IED radar.  A yellow RoRo Alexandr Tkachenko was also pictured heading for Tartus carrying high-speed patrol boats, a temporary bridge structure and several trucks. 


Hundreds of thousands of people will receive personal allowances of NHS cash to organise their own care as ministers seek to “put power back into the hands of patients”.
Far more people with mental health problems, dementia and physical and learning disabilities will have the right to select and pay for treatments they want. The money will be paid directly to them and can be spent on whatever that they think best helps to manage their condition, as long as a doctor agrees. Veterans leaving the army and wheelchair users have also been promised the “personal health budgets” after complaints that care provided to these groups by the NHS is not good enough. Some such budgets run to tens of thousands of pounds.

Patients are to receive personal allowances of NHS money to organise the care option they feel best suits them.
The health service will hand money to hundreds of thousands of patients with mental health problems, dementia and physical learning difficulties and allow them to choose the treatment they want. The move is part of an effort by ministers to ‘put power back into the hands of patients’. The money will be paid directly to patients and they will be allowed to spend it on whatever treatment they feel is the best for their condition, although they will need a doctor’s approval. The ‘personal health budgets’ could be handed to the likes of veterans leaving the Army and wheelchair users after complaints about the service received by some groups. It is thought some of the budgets could be in the tens of thousands of pounds.

HUNDREDS of thousands of Brits will be handed wads of NHS cash to spend on their own care – even though past patients have blown it on horse-riding lessons and holidays.
Dementia sufferers, army veterans and wheelchair users have all been earmarked to receive ‘personal care budgets’. The money is paid directly to them and can be spent on whatever they think will help their condition – as long as their doctor agrees. The reforms are expected to let recipients employ relatives as carers, buy specific pieces of equipment, and enrol in exercise classes. Such budgets have previously been spent on horse-riding, holidays, and aromatherapy. An estimated 23,000 people are currently part of the scheme – but ministers want to expand it to 350,000. The reforms are expected to help merge the health and social care budgets.

Huffington Post
The NHS is unable to keep confidential patient data safe from immigration enforcers thanks to an information-sharing agreement with the government, MPs have ruled. Members of the health select committee have called for a second time for an end to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Home Office and NHS Digital, which allows officials to request information from medical records as part of their investigations. 
Experts have warned it is putting many migrants off seeking urgent treatment for fear of deportation and has even cost lives.  NHS Digital chiefs appeared before the select committee last month and said the organisation’s practices had been put through a “rigorous public interest test”.


Parents are now faking marriage breakdowns to get their children into a top school amid a rise in admission fraud, an expert has warned.  
As competition to secure places at the most sought after schools has intensified, parents are increasingly resorting to fraudulent means to boost their chances, according to The Good Schools Guide’s state school specialist Elizabeth Coatman. The warning comes as over half a million families in England learn which primary school their child will attend in September, on what is known as “national offer day”.  Local councils have become more vigilant in recent years, Ms Coatman said.

NINE in ten children got their first choice of primary school last year, new figures have revealed.
As parents find out today where their children will start primary school in September, data from last year showed that 97.2 per cent of pupils were awarded one of their top three preferences last year. This figure was up on the 96.3 per cent offered one of their top three preferences in 2016. And the number getting their top choice also increased – from 88.4 per cent in 2016 to 90 per cent last year. But experts warned that the ratio will vary massively across the country. Ministers said the increase in the ratio of pupils being awarded their top choice was a result of government reforms brought in since 2010.


The competition between rival gangs to sell cocaine to wealthy clients will result in the drug’s purity rising to dangerous levels, experts have warned.
Dealers are also likely to begin dropping their prices to attract more customers as the market becomes saturated with the Class A drug. Other gangs are using alternative methods including loyalty cards more commonly seen in high street chain stores, reports the Telegraph.   Deaths from cocaine in England and Wales have more than doubled in the past four years according to the Office for National Statistics – with 371 cocaine related deaths in 2016, compared to just 139 in 2012. In 2016-17, 12,000 people were admitted to hospital with cocaine related disorders, but in 2007-08 this number was just 5,148.

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Saturday papers – 14 April 2018

Saturday papers – 14 April 2018

Air strikes

The later editions of the papers cover the overnight bombing of targets in Syria. The Telegraph says:

America, Britain and France have launched a coordinated airstrike in Syria to punish the regime for a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 70 people.
Donald Trump announced he had ordered the strike at 9pm on Friday in Washington DC with Theresa May issuing her own statement minutes later.
Three Syrian sites involved in the use of chemical weapons were targeted in the attack – one scientific facility near Damascus and two storage facilities near Homs.
More than a hundred missiles were launched and the strikes lasted no longer than 70 minutes. America, British and French naval and air force units were involved.
Addressing the nation in a televised statement, Mr Trump said it was a response to the “evil and despicable” chemical attack by the Syrian regime last Saturday. 

BBC News reports:

The US, UK and France have bombed multiple government targets in Syria in an early morning operation targeting alleged chemical weapons sites.
The strikes are in response to a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week.
Explosions hit the capital, Damascus, as well as two locations near the city of Homs, the Pentagon said.
Russia’s ambassador to the US responded by saying the attack on its ally “will not be left without consequences”.
“The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality,” President Trump said in an address to the nation from the White House at about 21:00 local time (02:00 BST).
“The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons,” he added.
The wave of strikes is the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad’s government by Western powers in seven years of Syria’s civil war.

The Times claims the strike is a one-off.

Britain, the United States and France launched more than 100 airstrikes in a “one time shot” against Syria early this morning to stop President Assad from using chemical weapons.
It was double the firepower of a US attack against a single Syrian air base a year ago, James Mattis, the US defence secretary said.
The bombardment, which included US Tomahawk and British Storm Shadow cruise missiles, was fired at three targets linked to Syrian chemical and biological warfare operations, one on the outskirts of Damascus and the other two close to the western city of Homs.
It took place at 2am UK time despite warnings by Russia, a close ally of Syria, that its armed forces might shoot down incoming missiles.

The Star reports the explosions.

LOUD explosions were heard tonight as co-ordinated strikes by UK, US and French forces battered key areas in Damascus today.
The Pentagon said the air strikes, which began at 4am Syrian time, involved planes and ship-launched missiles, more than a hundred weapons in all.
Officials named three targets: a scientific research centre in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, and another storage site and command post nearby.
Explosions were reported in Damascus moments after Trump’s seven-minute address.
Raw footage and images from Syria are pouring in of the coordinated strikes with the United Kingdom and France
Trump said the strikes were intended to deter the use of chemical weapons like the attack on civilians in the Syrian town of Douma last week, and that the U.S. was prepared to continue the attacks until the Syrian regime stops using chemical weapons.
An US official confirmed the strikes involved the use of deadly Tomahawk missiles.

Breitbart reports on the tie up between three countries.

The British government has joined with the American and French militaries to strike targets in Assad’s Syria following an alleged chemical weapons attack in the country.
“These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead,” President Trump said in an address from the White House late on Friday evening.
The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons,” he wrote. “Establishing this deterrent is a vital interest of the United States.”

Sky News has the Prime Minister’s statement.

Theresa May confirms British armed forces were involved in a combined operation with the US and France to strike Syria.
Here is the Prime Minister’s full statement:
This evening I have authorised British armed forces to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use.
We are acting together with our American and French allies.
In Douma, last Saturday a chemical weapons attack killed up to 75 people, including young children, in circumstances of pure horror.
The fact of this attack should surprise no-one.
The Syrian Regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way.
And a significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack.

ITV News quotes the US president.

Donald Trump said Friday air strikes against Syria are “underway” alongside military forces from the UK and France.
Speaking at the White House, Mr Trump said the strikes were in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma last Saturday.
“This evil and despicable act left mothers and fathers and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air,” he said.
“The combined American, British and French response will integrate all instruments of our national power.”


In associated news, the Times covers new intelligence on the Russian poisoning.

Theresa May released new intelligence on the Salisbury poisoning yesterday as she prepared to justify military action to prevent the collapse of a 100-year-old taboo on the use of chemical weapons.
Britain’s security chief revealed that Russia spied on the former double agent Sergei Skripal in the five years before he and his daughter were attacked with novichok, a type of nerve agent, last month. This included the hacking of Yulia Skripal’s email accounts.
In a letter to the head of Nato, Sir Mark Sedwill also said that Moscow had an assassination programme based around nerve agents that included attacking a victim by smearing poison on a door handle.

The Telegraph claims the Russians had been observing the Skripals for some time.

Russian intelligence agents hacked Yulia Skripal’s emails for at least five years before she and her father Sergei were poisoned in Salisbury, newly-declassified Government intelligence has revealed.
Cyber specialists from the GRU – Moscow’s Main Intelligence Directorate – targeted email accounts belonging to Miss Skripal as long ago as 2013, and possibly even before that, according to the British security services, in an apparent attempt to track the Skripals’ movements.
Theresa May took the highly unusual decision to release previously classified intelligence in order to quash weeks of Russian “disinformation” about the source of the attack.

And the Mail reports that Russia has issued its own report into the incident.

The Russian Embassy have published their own 8,000-word report into the Skripal poisoning row.
It comes as Britain dramatically moved to counter  Russian propaganda on Salisbury today by releasing new evidence.
The UK authorities disclosed that Moscow security services were spying on the Skripals for at least five years, and hacked the email of Yulia, who was poisoned along with her ex-spy father Sergei last month.
Russia’s report sets out a timeline of events, the British response and the lack of information it claims to have received following official requests.
It concludes that ‘the situation around the Skripals looks more and more like a forcible detention or imprisonment,’ adding ‘if British authorities are interested in assuring the public that this is not the case, they must urgently provide tangible evidence.’

The Mirror quotes a security boss.

Britain’s top National Security chief has revealed further evidence that Russia was behind the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
In a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill said Sergei and Yulia Skripal had been under scrutiny from Russian intelligence services in recent years.
Yulia Skripal’s email account, he said, was targeted by Russian intelligence cyber experts as far back as 2013.
The letter, shared with NATO allies, set out the government’s case for Russia being the only state with “the technical means, operational experience and the motive” to carry out the attack.
Mr Sedwill wrote: “There is no plausible alternative explanation”.

Reuters also claims the Skripals were spied on.

Russia’s intelligence agencies spied on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia for at least five years before they were attacked with a nerve agent in March, the national security adviser to Britain’s prime minister said.
Mark Sedwill said in a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday that email accounts of Yulia had been targeted in 2013 by cyber specialists from Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.
Sedwill also said in the letter, which was published by the government, that it was “highly likely that the Russian intelligence services view at least some of its defectors as legitimate targets for assassination.”


Closer to home, the Sun claims Gibraltar could come under Spanish rule.

BRITAIN is ready to cave into Spain’s demands for more control over Gibraltar, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has claimed.
In incendiary comments, Michel Barnier said Britain was already in talks with Madrid over Spain’s wish to have joint control of Gibraltar’s airport, greater co-operation on smuggling and tax rates on the Rock.
The French bureaucrat added that he believed Spain’s demands were “reasonable”.
Speaking to Spanish newspaper El Espanol he claimed Britain had entered into talks as ministers knew the EU stood behind Spain – and Gibraltar would be left out of the post-Brexit transition deal unless an agreement could be reached between London and Madrid.
He said: “That lever is there and the British know it well.

And fisheries are also in the spotlight in the Sun.

BORIS JOHNSON has been accused of “betraying Britain” after foreign companies were picked for six new lucrative fishing licences.
UK bidders for rights to fish waters around the Falkland Islands ripped into the Government after being snubbed.
Of the six contracts, four went to a Norwegian company, one to a New Zealand business and one to a Chilean vessel.
Documents seen by The Sun reveal that Foreign Secretary ordered that one licence was kept for a Chilean-registered boat.
The four-year contracts to fish Chilean seabass or Patagonian toothfish – said to be Prince Charles’ favourite catch – are thought to be valued at more than £75 million.

The Brexit secretary’s plans to accelerate talks could be under threat, says the Times.

The EU is to rebuff David Davis’s plans to establish up to 50 Brexit negotiating groups to start work on a trade and security treaty with the bloc.
The Brexit secretary claimed this week that there would be “about 40 to 50 negotiating strands starting shortly”.
His remarks, at a conference in London, come after a letter was sent to Whitehall departments calling for officials across government to take part in the next phase of the negotiations.
Senior figures in the European Council and Commission said that Britain had not put forward proposals for such working groups and any attempt to do so be would be rejected. “There will be no ‘50 negotiation strands’, no hundreds of negotiators.

And the Telegraph claims India will demand more visas for its people.

India is using immigration as a “stick with which to beat us” in early talks on a post-Brexit trade deal by exaggerating the UK’s resistance to handing out more visas, business leaders have warned.
Richard Heald, the head of the UK-India Business Council, said the situation was “not as bad as it is portrayed by the Indians,” pointing out that the number of visas handed out last year had increased “significantly”.
It comes after high-ranking Indian officials warned that  Britain must be prepared to allow higher levels of immigration if it wants to secure a comprehensive free trade agreement.
YK Sinha, India’s high commissioner to the UK, said in November that any future deal could not be a “one-way.

‘Rivers of blood’ speech

Enoch Powell’s famous speech was scheduled to be broadcast by the BBC but may have to be pulled, says the Telegraph.

A controversial BBC broadcast of Enoch Powell’s notorious Rivers of Blood speech has been abandoned by its contributors amid a growing backlash.
The 50th anniversary broadcast, due to be read by actor Ian McDiarmid on Saturday, will mark the first time in British radio history that the infamous 45 minute anti-immigration speech will be transmitted  in full.
During the 1968 speech,  Enoch Powell,  the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West, attacked the anti-discrimination Race Relations Bill and warned that “in 15 or 20 years time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man”.
Politicians and expert guests to the programme have claimed that rebroadcasting this speech may stoke racial tensions.
The BBC has responded to the criticism by urging people to “wait to hear the programme before they judge it.”

The Times claims the decision not to broadcast it has already been made.

The BBC has had to remove an interview with an academic about Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech.
The speech is scheduled to be broadcast in full for the first time tonight to mark its 50th anniversary. It is due to be read by Ian McDiarmid, the actor, on Radio 4 but has led to the BBC being criticised for allowing the broadcast and the risk of stirring racial tensions.
Shirin Hirsch, an academic at the University of Wolverhampton, said she was “disgusted by the way the BBC are promoting this” and had “made a mistake” by being interviewed for the show. She wrote on Twitter yesterday: “I’m not going to be included in [the] BBC programme, thanks all.”


The correlation between housing and immigration is examined by Westmonster.

New research out from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has shown that between 1991 and 2016, mass migration increased house prices by 21%.
Essentially, it sets out how population growth between 1991 – 2016 led to a 32% overall increase in house prices, with two-thirds of population growth driven by non-UK born people, thus accounting for a 21% increase.
As the report sets out: “In 1991, the population of England was 47.1 million. In 2016, the population of England was 54.5 million. This is equivalent to an increase of 16 per cent over this period (1991 to 2016).
“Applying the relationship from the University of Reading model set out in the methodology section above (a 1 per cent increase in the number of households leads to a 2 per cent increase in house prices) 7, this increase in the population is expected to have led to a 32 per cent increase in house prices.”


Schools’ catchment areas are examined in the Times.

Sixty primary schools are turning down pupils who live more than 350 metres away from the front gate as competition for places at the best ones shows no signs of abating.
The smallest catchment area for a primary in England is now 93 metres.
London has the most schools where parents need to live within a stone’s throw of the front gate to get a place for their child.
The data, compiled by Findaschool, the online service, excluded religious schools, which are often even harder to get into, requiring parents and children to be certified, regular churchgoers.
The data covers this academic year. It comes before parents learn on Monday whether their children will get into their first choice of school.

Breitbart considers a call by teachers about religious education in schools.

The government should take measures to stop parents withdrawing their children from some lessons where they have to study Islam or visit mosques, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has said.
Parents are allowed to pull their children from some Religious Education (RE) lessons that conflict with their personal views. However, a motion passed by the ATL claims the power is being abused by “prejudiced” parents.
The teachers argued that studying Islam, as well as other religions, is key to preparing pupils for adult life in the UK.
The motion at the union’s conference was proposed by London teacher Richard Griffiths, who said removing children because of genuine religious beliefs was “very rare”, according to 
The Times.

Tidal power

Power from the waves comes under the spotlight in the Guardian.

MPs are to press ministers on why they have left investors hanging in limbo over taxpayer support for a pioneering £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea.
The business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee and Welsh affairs committee will call on government to explain why no decision has been forthcoming on the flagship scheme. The government has still not indicated whether it is minded to support the lagoon, 15 months since  an independent review told ministers to back the clean energy project.
Tidal Lagoon Power, a Gloucester-based company, has been pushing for years to build the first of five lagoons at Swansea, to harness power from the ebb and flow of the tides.
But the company needs an indication the government is prepared to negotiate a guaranteed price of power for the renewable energy it produces, akin to the ones awarded to windfarm and nuclear power station developers.

Rubbish collections

A plan to charge homes to collect rubbish by weight is covered by the Sun.

FAMILIES could be left shelling out more to have their rubbish collected under new plans to boost recycling.
The scheme, dubbed “pay-as-you-throw”, would charge households for bin collection by weight which could see large families paying more than singletons or couples.
However, waste put in the recycling bin would be collected for free or at a reduced fee, but tougher rules would be enforced to stop people dodging the bin levy and contaminating recycling.
The plans from the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), which represents waste collection officers at about 70 per cent of councils, would essentially penalise people who don’t recycle.

The post Saturday papers – 14 April 2018 appeared first on UKIP Daily | UKIP News | UKIP Debate.

Learn from Iraq, Libya Lavrov warns US

Russian FM Serge Lavrov does not want Syria to go the way of Iraq and Libya [PPIO]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has once again pointed to the US debacle in Iraq and Libya as likely fallout if Washington repeats its former foreign policies in Syria.

“God forbid anything adventurous will be done in Syria following the Libyan and Iraqi experience,” Lavrov told a press conference on Friday.

Russia has previously pointed to these two Middle Eastern and North African states as the aftermath of US interventionism in the region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as his Turkish counterpart, has blamed the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East on the wars there supported by France, the UK and the US.

The three Western allies are currently consulting on what military measures they should take against the Syrian government in Damascus for its alleged involvement in a chemical weapons attack in the besieged city of Douma.

In February, Lavrov said that US actions in Syria could lead to the country’s disintegration.

Four years ago, Lavrov accused the US and its invasion of Iraq of plunging the entire Middle East into chaos.

“We warned long ago that the adventurism the Americans and the British started there would not end well,” he said at the time.

Now, the Russian foreign minister is accusing the Americans of using the Kurds to partition Syria, which would be tantamount to playing with fire.

He said that he feared that Washington was not looking at the long-term effects of their meddling in Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In 2017, the US maintained its influence on the Al-Tanf region which borders Jordan and Iraq currently houses a large refugee camp, but Russian officials have charged that some hostile factions, such as the terrorist Al Nusra Front, slip in and out of the area.

Lavrov has called on the US to “shut down” this area.

He also warned Israel and Iran not to use Syria for their proxy conflict saying that a de-escalation zone in the southwest was being violated.

He called on both Israel and Iran to back down from their increased war footing in the area.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

“We have Proof – Trust Us” – – Syria, Russia and the West

“We have Proof – Trust Us” – – Syria, Russia and the West

It’s the same old, threadbare story, being told over and over again when our governments feel the need to go to war. And it’s not just one particular government, just one super-power doing this, no, they’re all at it. Again.

With the world on the brink of a confrontation between the USA and Russia, thanks to yet another alleged ‘chemical gas attack’ in Syria, one might have thought that by now our various government figures had learned something. But no – the old lies are peddled again and again.

Let’s cast our minds back, to Blair and Bush and their tale about a certain potentate in the Middle East with ‘WMD’ … So we got the Iraq war. Hundreds of thousands died. A ‘regime change’ did not bring any peace and prosperity. Instead, we saw the rise of ISIS and continuous warfare in that region unto this day.

I won’t mention Afghanistan where so many of our lads died. We know the results of their sacrifice: no peace, but more terrorism and more terrorists coming to our country.

I will mention Libya and the ‘Arab Spring’ … and Syria. “We”, that is our various governments in the West simply ‘knew’ that the masses in those countries were crying out for liberty and democracy, Western style. They had proof … and it was only going to be a short uprising, no civil war – all would be well.

Instead, there’s no peace, there’s civil war or repression along the whole of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean coast. And ‘refugees’ …

Syria was the prize, supposedly going to topple like a house of cards. That was over 7 years ago. And of course, there were the ‘gas attacks’ by that man Assad. I’ll come back to the first one in 2013, but right now let’s just remind ourselves of the current and last year’s attacks.

Last year, we saw such attack just when Assad’s forces were entering, finally, a jihadi stronghold. Cue uproar, from President Trump down. Actual proof was not needed, there were these photos whizzing around the internet. That was sufficient ‘proof’. Trump acted, firing Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian Air Force base.

People across the world asked where was the logic in Assad gassing his own people when he was winning? Never mind –

“We have proof – trust us!” – and that was that. Or was it?

In February this year, very quietly, it was reported that Gen Mattis, US Secretary of Defense, said that there actually was no proof:

“Lost in the hyper-politicized hullabaloo [… of US politics] was the striking statement by Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the U.S. has “no evidence” that the Syrian government used the banned nerve agent Sarin against its own people.

This assertion flies in the face of the White House (NSC) Memorandum which was rapidly produced and declassified to justify an American Tomahawk missile strike against the Shayrat airbase in Syria.” (Newsweek).

Ah. So “We have proof – trust us” was actually, ahem, a porkie? But we surely must believe them now, when they say they have proof! After all, even President Macron tells the world that yes, he has proof! Of course, what exactly that proof consists of he can’t tell us … and Ms May – well, we know all about the sort of ‘proof’ she provides us with. Skripal ring any bells? Our FM Johnson claims (see e.g. here) based on the report from the OPCW, now out, that the ‘Novichok’ nerve agent was extremely pure … so, therefore, the Russians did it. “We have proof – trust us! You must!”

Well, the summary of that report has been made public but, oh dear:

“The name and structure of the identified toxic chemical are contained in the full classified report of the Secretariat, available to States Parties.”

So it might have been a pure anything – we’ll never know, we just have to trust our totally unbiased governments who tell us the ‘have proof’.

It wouldn’t be so bad if these same governments weren’t working full tilt to create a military confrontation with Russia in the Middle East.

As many of us peasants know, Russia and Syria had already warned that the usual suspects were planning to ‘produce’ a ‘gas attack’. And lo and behold – it happened, just like last year: same circumstances, same evidence from the same “White Helmets” (why are they not helping the people in Yemen, btw?), and with President Trump blowing his top again, predictably.

This time round, however, because our various governments have been on the “Putin did it” rampage for a month now (“We have proof, but we won’t tell you, so sit down and shut up”), it has become very serious indeed. So serious that WWIII is indeed a possibility.

One hopes that the little sabre-rattlers, the Macrons and Mays, can be sat upon. Trump however is another calibre. I don’t agree with Nigel Farage’s take that Trump is doing this to get concessions as with North Korea and China. What, does he think, can Putin ‘concede’? Roll on his back and stick his four paws in the air?

Why are our statesmen and ~women and our MSM so fixated on Putin and Russia? Here’s one little secret: remember the first gas attack in Syria in 2013? Remember Pres. Obama’s ‘red line’, and how he and Cameron were gung-ho to attack Assad, even with ‘boots on the ground’? Remember how a certain William Hague was fulminating against the evil Assad? It was another case of “we have proof – trust us” … and then what happened?

This happened: Putin negotiated the destruction of all Assad’s chemical weapons, under UN inspection, to the relief of all of us. Parliament refused to allow ‘boots on the ground’ and indeed any involvement. Obama had to call back his war dogs. He and they weren’t going to get their ‘little war’ – and ever since, the US and their Western Allies have turned on Putin … ever since, they ‘have proof’ which they can’t tell us, but we have to trust them. And this time it’s really different, really! Trust them!


The post “We have Proof – Trust Us” – – Syria, Russia and the West appeared first on UKIP Daily | UKIP News | UKIP Debate.

News review – Friday 13 April 2018

News review – Friday 13 April 2018


A £1million campaign to stop Brexit by forcing a second referendum will be launched this weekend. Dubbed ‘The People’s Vote’ the campaign brings together nine different Remain groups and MPs from across the political divide. Tory Anna Soubry and Labour‘s Chuka Umunna are figureheads of the new campaign, which was revealed today by the Telegraph.  Arch Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash, chairman of the influential European Scrutiny Committee accused the group of defying the referendum. He told the paper: ‘They are completely defying the British people who made a decision which was given to them by parliament itself. ‘The latest polling says 65 per cent of the British people do not want a second referendum; they are living in a parallel universe.’

Thousands of activists will take to the streets on Saturday as part of a national day of action to demonstrate public support for a vote on the final Brexit deal. Several pro-EU organisations have joined forces to mount an attack on the government’s Brexit plans with more than 350 events across the country, ahead of the launch of a £1m campaign demanding the opportunity to stay in the EU if the people want to. Remain-backing groups have been emboldened by a recent shift in public support towards staying in the EU, and a number of high-profile figures have come out in favour of a second referendum, including former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair. A recent poll for the anti-Brexit group Best for Britain found that 44 per cent of people want a vote on the exit terms secured by Theresa May, while 36 per cent were against the idea of a further referendum.

Compromise is clearly needed if the Brexit deal is to be agreed, and European negotiators have been clear about what they feel the British must do: accept being part of a customs union post-Brexit. “That offers a significant part of the solution” to the Irish border question, Michel Barnier opined in February. A senior EU official closely involved with the negotiations told my colleague Peter Foster this week that they expected that Theresa May would have to sign up to a “camouflaged” customs union in the end.

THE LEADING Remoaner boss of Goldman Sachs – who has trolled Brexiteers since the referendum – now admits leaving the EU is “not as bad as he thought” after all. The investment bank’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein admits he got it wrong on the impact of our historic vote to leave – saying he is surprised there hasn’t been ‘more of a dramatic effect’. Speaking in London today he said: “Cassandra hasn’t been proved right. “Some people would say, ‘hasn’t been proved right, yet’.” According to Politico the 63-year-old American, who said Brexit would “stall” the City, added: “I’m at least wrong in that I thought there would have been a worse outcome by now.” He said the UK economy had “surprised on the upside”, referring to the fact economic data has been better than Project Fear had expected it to be.

THERESA May has been handed another Brexit boost after Canada’s prime minister said he wanted to start work on a better trade deal than his current one with the EU the day after Britain leaves. Justin Trudeau is gearing up for a seamless transition of trade between the two nations and a “more impactful” agreement than Canada holds with the bloc. International Development Secretary Liam Fox has backed the call, saying there is “huge appetite” for increasing trade with its Commonwealth ally. Mr Trudeau said: “Trade deals are always challenging but it should be fairly easy for all of us to get to an improved approach on trade between Canada and the UK.” The Canadian leader signalled an ambitious approach to trade, saying a carbon copy of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) with the bloc was appropriate in the short-term but he wanted to “go further”.

The Aussies are again pushing for a trade deal with Brexit Britain that could come into effect on the very first day after the so-called ‘transition period’ ends on 31st December 2020. Australia is set to host another round of trade talks, with UK officials flying over for a ‘working group’ on a potentially lucrative free trade agreement. And their Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has addressed head on worries of any ‘flood’ of foreign migrant workers as a result of any such deal, saying:  “Those scare campaigns are disgraceful because they deliberately misrepresent the impact of FTAs on our ability to regulate foreign workers. “The fact is that we retain all the rights to regulate foreign workers, with or without an FTA. “We still regulate and require that any foreign worker meets Australian standards.”


Vladimir Putin’s abusive stranglehold over European gas supplies has been laid bare by explosive EU documents, exposing deliberate violations of EU law and a pattern of political bullying over almost a decade. The longest investigation in EU history found that the Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom has used its enormous power to pressure vulnerable states in Eastern Europe, and to fragment the EU’s unified energy market with coercive pricing policies. The report suggests that Germany has been enjoying a sweetheart deal with Gazprom, gaining a competitive advantage in gas costs at the expense of fellow EU economies and leaving front line states at the mercy of Moscow’s strong-arm tactics.

The European Union (EU) will allow the UK to change its mind on a clean Brexit and stay inside the bloc’s Single Market, tied to many of its rules, for years after the Brexit date. The Commission’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told reporters on Thursday the UK would be welcomed back into the market during the planned so-called Brexit “transition period”, up until December 2021. The UK is set to formally leave the bloc in March 2019 but will remain in the Single Market and Customs Union for the 21-month transition, with mass migration continuing uncontrolled as it is now. The bloc has previously stated the UK cannot stay in the Single Market after Brexit and end open borders, and Mr. Barnier said Prime Minister Theresa May would have to drop her “red lines” on migration to do so. “

Foreign aid

New foreign aid minister Penny Mordaunt stood accused of going native last night after using her first major speech to demand that the public ‘be proud’ of the billions ploughed into projects abroad. The International Development Secretary claimed she ‘wanted a return to the priorities of the people’ – then insisted on maintaining the status quo. She underlined her commitment to the target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid, currently £14billion a year. Many critics believe the cash is wasted, but Miss Mordaunt vowed to continue spending large amounts in overseas aid, even claiming her support for the huge budget came directly from her backing for Brexit.

MINISTERS must tackle public concerns about the multi-billion pound foreign aid budget by putting “British values” at the heart of international development, Penny Mordaunt insisted yesterday. The International Development Secretary promised a sweeping overhaul of the way overseas assistance is delivered to address complaints about waste and corruption. And she admitted there was a “lack of trust” from the public in the aid system following the sexual misconduct scandal that has hit Oxfam and other charities. “I hear you, I get it – I really do,” the Tory Cabinet minister said, in a speech directed at critics of the Government’s aid policies. “You want a return to the priorities of the people not the priorities of the politicians – I understand that,” she added.

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has outlined a new approach to her department’s foreign aid spending as she told those who had concerns: “I hear you.” Ms Mordant said her department’s strategy will now include a new partnership with the City of London to “bring down the barriers to trade” and unlock investment for emerging markets in Africa and Asia. In her first major speech on Britain’s overseas aid budget since taking over the role at the end of last year, Ms Mordaunt also offered a passionate defence of the £13.9bn budget. Her speech in central London follows several months of high-level scrutiny over the department’s spending after scandals that rocked the charitable sector, including allegations of sexual abuse by aid workers in developing countries.

UK Aid is a shield against pandemics, organised crime, poverty and terrorism, and an example of British values, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary has said. In a speech short on detail, but long on colour and allusion, Mordaunt evoked images of past glories and wartime Britain. She also announced the launch of a new “great partnership” that, she said, would “connect all that our nation has to offer, its talents, its people and communities, its expertise and knowledge, and its resource to those in the developing world”. She portrayed the UK as “the cradle for democracy, the fight against slavery and for universal suffrage”, as well as the birthplace of the Paralympics, Leonard Cheshire and Live Aid, adding that she voted for Brexit because she believed British values should be projected on to the world stage.


Satellite pictures have emerged showing how Russian warships appear to have deserted a key naval base in Syria amid fears over possible US airstrikes. Overhead Images show how at least 11 navy vessels, including the frigate Admiral Grigorovich, appear to have left the Tartus military port on the Syrian coast. A picture, said to have been taken on Wednesday, shows how only a kilo-class submarine remains in the port, which is understood to be protected by Moscow’s fearsome S-300 and S-400 missile defence systems. It comes after Donald Trump told Russia to ‘get ready’ for missile strikes in Syria with the Kremlin having threatened to shoot down any rockets – and anything that launched them. Trump and his Western allies are considering action after a horrifying chemical attack on a Syrian rebel-held town killed at least 40.

The largest US air and naval strike force since the 2003 Iraq war was heading towards Syria last night as Theresa May won the backing of the cabinet to join in military action. US-led strikes after the suspected chemical weapon attack in Douma, which left as many as 40 people dead, are expected within the next three days. The prime minister continued yesterday to face down demands for a Commons vote on whether Britain should join the US in any punitive action against President Assad. Senior ministers decided it “was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged”, according to the official read-out from an emergency meeting of the cabinet yesterday. It added that they “agreed on the need to take action.

Theresa May’s Cabinet have agreed unanimously that action is needed over the “shocking and barbaric” Syria chemical attack. Mrs May spoke to Donald Trump tonight after ministers agreed it was “highly likely” President Assad’s regime was behind the attack – and said the use of chemical weapons could not “go unchallenged”. But Downing Street made no mention of what that action will be, when it will happen, or whether MPs will get a vote. “Cabinet agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime,” a No10 statement said.

Theresa May’s Cabinet today agreed to ‘take action’ to ‘deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime’. Britain will also act to alleviate ‘humanitarian’ suffering in Syria. A Downing Street spokesman did not state what taking action would mean or on what what timescale it would happen. Last night, Theresa May and Donald Trump spoke and agreed to work ‘closely together’ on a response.  Mrs May met her most senior ministers for two hours today and the new statement will raise expectations Britain will join coalition strikes against President Assad.  A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Following a discussion in which every member present made a contribution, Cabinet agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged.

ITV News
The Cabinet has “agreed on the need to take action” in response to a “highly likely” chemical weapon attack by Syrian forces. The meeting at Number 10 was held to determine whether Britain would join US-led air strikes against the regime of president Bashar Assad. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has emerged from a meeting with his national security team without a “final decision” on how to respond to Syria. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump held a meeting with his team to discuss the situation but “no final decision has been made”. She said that US officials are “continuing to assess intelligence” and are “engaged in conversations with our partners and allies”.

Theresa May received unanimous cabinet backing for UK military action against Syrian regime targets after senior ministers were briefed by Sir Mark Sedwill, the national security adviser, on the intelligence case pointing to President Assad’s culpability for the Douma attack. Although the official read-out of the meeting, attended by all but three of Mrs May’s senior ministers, does not specifically mention military action, it will be seen as an endorsement for an intervention expected within days. “Following a discussion in which every member present made a contribution, cabinet agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged,” it read.

RAF JETS were today pictured primed to launch air strikes on Syria – once they get the green light from PM Theresa May. Mrs May was today trying to rally support for strikes against dictator Bashar al-Assad after the gassing of civilians in capital Damascus on Saturday.The PM suggested yesterday that the West has strong proof that Assad is responsible for the deadly chemical attack which killed dozens. And the Tornados with their deadly payload were today seen sitting on the tarmac at their RAF Marham in Norfolk. The jets are on standby awaiting a decision from the PM’s council of war at Downing Street, which will decide the role Britain will play in the US-led attack on the Syrian regime.

Gerard Batten opposes British military action in Syria. The UKIP Leader warned that intervention would lead to a proxy war with Russia which would be, “not only dangerous to Britain, but the entire world.” Today, Prime Minister Theresa May called for a special Cabinet meeting to approve UK military action in Syria, in the wake of an alleged chemical attack by the Assad regime. Mr Batten commented: “Mrs May should not allow the UK to get sucked into a war in Syria. “There is no proof that the Assad regime is responsible for the chemical attack on civilians. “Whoever is responsible, our involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts has been disastrous for Britain and achieved nothing but further disorder in the region. By going to war with Syria, we would also be entering into a proxy war with Russia, which is not only dangerous for Britain but the entire world.

Angela Merkel has reportedly said she acknowledges that the Syrian government ‘obviously’ has chemical weapons, but she’s ruled out Germany engaging in military action against the Assad regime. She said: “But we see and support that everything is done to signal that this use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.” This is a major contrast to French President Emmanuel Macron who claims to have ‘proof’ that the Syrian government was behind the chemical weapons attack in Douma several days ago. May, Trump and Macron appear to be on the brink of military action, the Germans admit chemical weapons use was a possibility in Syria but are choosing to sit tight. Are the German government worried about even more Syrians seeking refuge in the country?

Cyber attack

Cyberattacks backed by Russia frequently hit Britain’s infrastructure, the head of GCHQ’s cybersecurity centre said yesterday. Ciaran Martin told The Times that Britain had been “on high alert of a major attack for quite some time”. He added: “Cyberwarfare is part of the Russian state’s armoury of statecraft.” The chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said that “defensive and offensive” cybercapability was increasingly a key part of any modern state. “Cyberattack capabilities are an integral part of Russia’s national policy, of its way of asserting itself in the world,” he said.

Russia has been launching repeated cyber attacks against Britain’s essential services, a computer security chief revealed. Ciaran Martin, director of the National Cyber Security Centre, said Moscow’s attempts at hacking into the UK’s critical infrastructure were part of a ‘wider campaign to destabilise’. Critical infrastructure covers vital systems such as water supplies, electricity and gas networks, hospitals, banks and transport. Mr Martin’s warning came as Jeremy Fleming, head of the government’s GCHQ intelligence agency, made an unprecedented attack on ‘reckless’ Russia. The Kremlin did not care about ‘putting ordinary lives at risk’, he said, adding that the ‘tectonic plates’ in the Middle East were moving with the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the dispersal of Islamic State fighters and gangs smuggling migrants.


Hundreds of people with kidney cancer could be spared surgery with a DNA test that can identify whether tumours are likely to be highly aggressive or relatively harmless, scientists say. The number of Britons diagnosed with the disease each year has nearly doubled since the mid-1990s to 12,600, largely because of rising obesity. It is forecast to increase by another 26 per cent over the next 17 years. While some kinds of kidney cancer grow and metastasise around the body with lethal speed, others do not appear to pose much of a threat.At present it is extremely difficult for doctors to tell the difference between the two.

Social care

Pay rises for NHS staff risk undermining social care and GP surgeries by luring workers away, leaders of professional bodies have warned. A deal that will give more than a million NHS staff pay rises of at least 6.5 per cent over three years would backfire and be “hugely damaging” to efforts to look after the elderly closer to home, they said. Skilled and experienced care workers, many of whom are among the lowest paid in England, are likely to switch to NHS hospitals if councils are not able to match rises of up to 29 per cent, the new leader of Britain’s social services bosses believes. Many care homes and providers of care in people’s own homes are already struggling to recruit staff.

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