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UK’s Brexit bubble spells domestic gridlock

The UK government has spent the past two-and-a-half years in a bubble that has left it paralytic and unable to tackle the domestic problems that haven't magically disappeared into the Brexit vortex. Rob Mudge reports. Given the government's fixation on Brexit, it's almost a surprise the country hasn't come to a standstill. But how long can the government get away with this form of escapism? Emily Andrews, associate director at the Institute for Government in London, a think tank that explores the key challenges facing the government, says the lack of progress is and isn't because of Brexit. "I think we've reached the point where a lot of this is now directly Brexit related. And since the general election [in 2017] the domestic agenda has been really stymied by the fact that the Conservatives are only in a minority government and by the fact that the Cabinet is very divided. Theresa May hasn't had the authority to push forward a united vision for domestic policy." But as Brexit reaches its potential endgame, it's not just the focus that has shifted. "In terms of civil servants we've got loads more people being moved across to think about a no deal [Brexit]," Andrews told DW. And those personnel gaps mean that very often other important policy issues are being dealt with in a cursory manner at best. What's happened to social care? One of the key areas that has ended up on the back burner is social care. A so-called green paper was originally due to be published in autumn 2017. Since then it's been put off repeatedly. Regardless of Brexit, there is no ideal time to deal with such a crucial issue, said Andrews. "Politically, it's a toxic question of how to fund social care in a sustainable manner. Whereas there's been a rise in National Health Service spending, funding for social care has fallen." Indeed, the issue caused problems for the Conservatives at the last election when the opposition accused them of proposing a "dementia tax." The Conservative Party's manifesto at the time set out plans for more pensioners to contribute to the cost of their care. The elderly would have to pay for their own care if their combined savings and property amounted to more than £100,000 (€114,000, $130,000). Under the proposal, people would be forced to sell their homes to pay. The plans were dubbed a "dementia tax" because people with dementia living at home would be forced to pay while people with cancer in hospital would not. Since then there's been little movement. While that can be put down partly to standard political prevarication, the focus on Brexit has stalled any meaningful progress. "Now Brexit is totally in the way and I've got no idea when are we going to have this national conversation about how we fund social care and what that means is that we're probably going to keep seeing this emergency cash being pumped in," said Andrews. Neglecting public services Trying to make public services efficient and cost-effective is difficult at the best of times. In 2010 the coalition government of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats presented a plan to cut costs, spend frugally and provide public services that actually work. And for a while, this less-is-more approach paid off, albeit with a caveat. "They didn't do that by making the services cheaper to run. They held down public sector wages through a freeze and then a pay cut. And they cut staff numbers and asked existing staff to do more," said Andrews Now, with Brexit casting its long shadow, neglect to tackle those areas could backfire badly. "It means that public services are going to limp forward and people will notice that. People want better employment, better access to housing, better access to public services. And people are looking for answers to those questions." No progress on 'burning injustices' And they've been looking for a good while. When Theresa May became prime minister in 2016, she stood outside 10 Downing Street and pledged to tackle the country's "burning injustices." But her track record does not reflect her holistic approach. Reductions in public health spending have made access to addiction services much harder, not to mention mental health service reductions. Homelessness has gone up which means more and more people are forced to sleep rough. Another major disappointment is the lack of tangible progress on one her key promises. "One of her big things was a pledge to draw up new legislation to support survivors and victims of domestic abuse. There is now a draft bill, but it hasn't actually been introduced in parliament. And we know of other bills that are just sitting there. There's one that's sat there for two years," said Andrews. Inertia coupled with a lack of transparency are proving to be a major predicament for the government and the country. Getting anything other than Brexit onto the legislative timetable is proving difficult, if not impossible. "And so actually passing any new laws is going to be difficult. And in reality, we don't know what the civil servants who have been moved on to no-deal preparations have been doing beforehand. We don't know what programs have been paused or cancelled precisely in order for the people who are working on them to go and do other things. The government hasn't been transparent about it," said Andrews.

The UK government has spent the past two-and-a-half years in a bubble that has left it paralytic and unable to tackle the domestic problems that haven’t magically disappeared into the Brexit vortex. Rob Mudge reports. Given the government’s fixation on Brexit, it’s almost a surprise the country hasn’t come to a standstill. But how long can the government get away ... Read More »

Britain’s MI5 missed ‘opportunities’ to prevent Manchester terror attack

A parliamentary committee has criticized MI5 and London police for failing to adequately deal with Salman Abedi. The British citizen killed 22 people when he detonated explosives outside an Ariana Grande concert. The British parliament's Intelligence Security Committee on Thursday published a damning report on the 2017 Manchester Arena terror attack. The report said British security services failed to adequately deal with 22-year-old perpetrator Salman Abedi's case and, as such, missed several opportunities to possibly prevent the attack. It also noted that security services did not heed suggestions provided in previous reports on terror attacks in the UK. "While it impossible to say whether these would have prevented the devastating attack on May 22, we have concluded that, as a result of the failings, potential opportunities to prevent it were missed," said British lawmaker Dominic Grieve, who chairs the committee. Twenty-two people were killed exiting a concert by American singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena when Abedi, a British citizen born to Libyan parents, detonated shrapnel-laden explosives. Shortcomings Security services, including the UK's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, and London's Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism unit, had flagged Abedi as early as 2010. MI5 also briefly investigated him in 2014, but did not recommend his case to a counter-extremism program. The report singled out both security services for not following up with Abedi after he visited an extremist contact in prison. The failure to monitor Abedi after the prison visit allowed him to "return undetected" to Britain after a brief trip to Libya, it added. The case was reminiscent of German security service's treatment of Anis Amri, a Tunisian national and failed asylum seeker who drove a lorry into a Christmas market crowd, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more. Amri managed to elude German law enforcement despite once being described as a security risk. Although he told a federal police informant that he "wanted to do something big" and could acquire an AK-47 assault rifle to commit an attack, a brief investigation resulted in him being deemed an "unlikely" threat. 'An attack is highly likely' Interior Minister Sajid Javid thanked the committee for the report, noting that "we will review and formally respond to it in due course." "Following the attacks, the government, police and MI5 undertook a series of rigorous reviews to ensure we are all doing everything we can to tackle the evolving threat of terrorism," said Javid. The UK's perceived terror threat level is currently defined as "severe," meaning "an attack is highly likely." It hasn't been lower then severe since 2014.

A parliamentary committee has criticized MI5 and London police for failing to adequately deal with Salman Abedi. The British citizen killed 22 people when he detonated explosives outside an Ariana Grande concert. The British parliament’s Intelligence Security Committee on Thursday published a damning report on the 2017 Manchester Arena terror attack. The report said British security services failed to adequately ... Read More »

Meghan Markle pregnant as she and Prince Harry arrive in Australia

Kensington Palace has announced that the Duchess of Sussex is expecting a child due in spring 2019. The news comes as she and Prince Harry start a more than two-week Pacific tour in Australia. Meghan Markle began her first overseas multicountry royal tour as she and Prince Harry landed in Sydney, Australia on Monday. The newlyweds will embark on a more than two-week tour of the Pacific that also includes Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand, attending some 76 official events during the trip. Shortly after their arrival in Australia, Kensington Palace announced that the couple are expecting their first child in the spring of 2019. "Their royal highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public," the palace said in a statement. The baby will be seventh in line to the British throne. Koalas and games In Australia, Meghan and Harry will be welcomed on Tuesday by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and his wife, Lynne. A more light-hearted visit will follow, when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visit the Taronga Zoo's koalas. Read more: Dressing for the queen: A royal wedding dress code Their itinerary in Sydney also includes sailing in the harbor and visiting the famous Bondi Beach. The couple is set to attend the Invictus Games and also hold a meeting with the new Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison. The Invictus Games are an international Paralympics-style sport event for military personnel wounded in action, which was founded by Prince Harry. Additionally, the royal couple will visit the drought-stricken outback town of Dubbo and meet indigenous leaders on Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, in the northeastern state of Queensland. A focus on youth development In a statement about the visit, Kensington Palace said that the couple looked forward to "building an enduring relationship with the people of the region" and that they had asked to meet as many locals from each country as possible. "Their Royal Highnesses' program will focus on youth leadership, and projects being undertaken by young people to address the social, economic, and environmental challenges of the region," the statement read, highlighting Prince Harry's new role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. Read more: The Commonwealth: Still relevant for Africa today? All countries in the royal couple's itinerary are members of the British Commonwealth and were former British colonies. Queen Elizabeth II is currently the head of state of Australia, but her role is largely ceremonial. Meghan and Harry's trip will conclude in New Zealand and will coincide with the commemoration of the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage there. The island nation was the first country to give women the right to vote. Meghan is expected to speak at the suffrage anniversary celebration in Wellington on October 28.

Kensington Palace has announced that the Duchess of Sussex is expecting a child due in spring 2019. The news comes as she and Prince Harry start a more than two-week Pacific tour in Australia. Meghan Markle began her first overseas multicountry royal tour as she and Prince Harry landed in Sydney, Australia on Monday. The newlyweds will embark on a ... Read More »

Ireland border dispute blocks Brexit deal, threatening a political crisis

In the wake of a collapsed deal, Britain's chief negotiator said there will be no special status for Northern Ireland. A "hard border" dividing the island of Ireland would have a profound political and economic impact. David Davis, Britain's chief Brexit negotiator, on Tuesday said Northern Ireland will not receive special treatment within the UK in the wake of the country's formal divorce with the EU. A deal on the border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which forms part of the UK, collapsed at the last minute on Monday when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) announced it would not accept the accord. Read more: Northern Ireland's fragile peace 'all about the border' According to a draft text, the UK would have ensured "continued regulatory alignment" between Northern Ireland and its EU neighbor, Ireland. 'Regulatory divergence' But DUP leader Arelene Foster said the party, which keeps May's government in power, "will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically" from the UK. "That is emphatically not something the United Kingdom government is considering," Davis told parliament after May met with DUP colleagues on Tuesday. "We will not be treating one part of the United Kingdom differently from any other part." The DUP's lack of support for the deal caught May's government off guard minutes before it was expected to be announced. However, May remained optimistic, telling reporters on Monday that a deal could be hashed out before a mid-December EU summit, where European leaders will decide whether to advance talks on post-Brexit trade. Why is the Irish border an issue? Thousands of Irish and British citizens in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland cross the border every day for work. Irish government figures show that more than 100,000 British citizens live in the EU member state. Ireland exported €15.6 billion ($18.44 billion) of goods to the UK, while imports of goods from the country amounted to €18 billion, approximately a quarter of all imports to the EU member state. A "hard border" could threaten the Good Friday Agreement that calmed decades of sectarian violence on the island of Ireland. The DUP was the only major political party in Northern Ireland to oppose the agreement, which has ensured peace since it went into effect in 1999. The UK and EU are attempting to hash out an agreement that will prevent a "hard border" from being implemented in the wake of Brexit, which would have a profound political, economic and financial impact on both sides. 'Keep the UK in the single market' Meanwhile, political parties across the UK have called for May's government to offer a different approach to Brexit, one that would ensure equal status across the kingdom. "This could be the moment for opposition and Brexit/remain Tories to force a different, less damaging approach – keep the UK in the single market and customs union," said Nicola Sturgeon, who leads Scotland's devolved government, in a tweet. Read more: Brexit poll: Half of Britons support second referendum "But it needs Labour to get its act together. How about it Jeremy Corbyn?" she added, referring to the leader of Britain's main opposition party. Keir Starmer, the Labour party's Brexit spokesman, told parliament on Tuesday that the collapse of a deal was an "embarrassment" and showed that May's government was in a "coalition of chaos." "Yesterday, the rubber hit the road: Fantasy met brutal reality. Will the prime minister now rethink her reckless red lines and put options such as a customs union and single market back on the table for negotiation?" asked Starmer. May has repeatedly insisted that the Brexit means that the UK will no longer be part of the EU single market and customs union when it leaves the block on March 29, 2019.

In the wake of a collapsed deal, Britain’s chief negotiator said there will be no special status for Northern Ireland. A “hard border” dividing the island of Ireland would have a profound political and economic impact. David Davis, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, on Tuesday said Northern Ireland will not receive special treatment within the UK in the wake of the ... Read More »

Brexit: EU and UK ‘close to financial agreement’

Reports suggest the UK government has made a significantly improved offer to the EU on the terms of its Brexit financial settlement. There’s talk of "sufficient progress" before a December 4 meeting but doubts remain. The EU and the UK are close to agreement on the final Brexit 'divorce bill' — the share of EU liabilities the UK will pay upon leaving the bloc — according to several reports in the British media reported late on Tuesday. The BBC, the Financial Times, the Guardian and several other British newspapers and media outlets are reporting that following a UK government cabinet meeting last week, the British significantly upped their offer to Brussels, coming much closer than they previously had to the EU's estimate of the UK's financial obligations. According to several EU diplomats and officials, intense negotiations have led to the UK broadly agreeing to the terms of a financial settlement that could see the country paying a net amount of at least €50 billion ($59 billion) over a period of several years after it leaves the EU in March 2019. When asked on Wednesday about the reports, the EU's chief negotiator on Brexit Michel Barnier said: "We are working really, really hard on these subjects. I hope that I can report that we have been able to negotiate a deal." While nothing official has been announced, the reports suggest the two sides are close enough on the issue for the EU to deem "sufficient progress" has been made on it when a crucial meeting takes place between British prime minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday, December 4. "I think we can reach sufficient progress, but again we haven't seen anything on paper yet, so I am always extremely cautious," said one EU official involved in the talks. Splitting the bill The so-called 'divorce bill' relates to a series of liabilities the UK has in relation to its 44-year membership of the EU. Membership of the bloc means member states are committed to paying a share of various EU liabilities — thought to be around €745 billion — that relate to various costs ranging from the EU budget to pensions and loan repayments. Both the EU and the UK government have declined to comment in any significant detail so far. However, the reports have raised hopes that the UK is edging closer to moving onto the next stage of talks, which will deal with trade and the UK's future relationship with the EU. Theresa May is expected to formally present the change in the British position to the EU next week, although both sides say no final exit settlement figure will be agreed on at this stage. The UK has been pushing for a calculation model which avoids one lump-sum figure, and which instead recalculates the level of liabilities on a year by year basis into the future. Bordering on progress? The news comes at a particularly crucial and sensitive moment in the entire Brexit process. When May and Juncker meet in five days' time, all three of the big issues will be on the table, namely: the 'divorce bill', EU citizens' rights and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. If the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier deems sufficient progress to have been made on all three issues, the green light may be given to progress the Brexit talks into the next stage, with the final decision on that to be made at a European council meeting of the bloc's leaders on December 14 and 15. While progress has been made on the issue of citizens rights', and with the latest reports suggesting the EU may well be sufficiently satisfied with the "divorce bill" issue for now, that leaves the border issue as the primary stumbling block. With the Irish government very unhappy with the manner in which the British government has approached the border issue to date, there remains the possibility that it may use its veto to stop Barnier deeming "sufficient progress" has been made on it, further stalling the negotiations. As with the specific details on precisely what the UK will offer in terms of a financial settlement, the border issue and everything else ought to become at least a little clearer when May meets Juncker on Monday.

Reports suggest the UK government has made a significantly improved offer to the EU on the terms of its Brexit financial settlement. There’s talk of “sufficient progress” before a December 4 meeting but doubts remain. The EU and the UK are close to agreement on the final Brexit ‘divorce bill’ — the share of EU liabilities the UK will pay ... Read More »

Donald Trump shares anti-Muslim propaganda videos from far-right UK party Britain First

The US president has circulated videos from a far-right British group on his official social media account. The incident has sparked outrage across the UK, with lawmakers urging the government to condemn Donald Trump. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday circulated anti-Islam videos posted on Twitter by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right Britain First group in the UK. Trump's decision to retweet racist videos from a British citizen convicted of a hate crime prompted outrage across the UK. Opposition lawmakers have called for the government of Prime Minister Theresa May, a conservative, to condemn Trump for sharing such content. "I hope our government will condemn far-right retweets by Donald Trump," said Jeremy Corbyn, who leaders the Labour Party. "They are abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society." Read more: Donald Trump's 'America First' slogan has a toxic past 'Wrong' Hours later, May's spokesman said it was "wrong" for Trump to circulate material published by Britain First, saying their rhetoric is "the antithesis of the values that this country represents." "Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people," the spokesman said. However, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to play down the issue, saying Trump wanted to "promote strong borders and strong national security." "Whether it's a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about," said Sanders. Britain First itself, a fringe group struggling to stay afloat as its leaders face impending prosecution and as it fights for supremacy among rival right-wingers, reacted with glee to the unlikely official publicity from the White House. "The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has retweeted three of deputy leader Jayda Fransen's Twitter videos … God bless you Trump!" said a block-capital response from Britain First on the social media platform. 'Promoting a hate group' Opposition Labour politicians in particular were swift to condemn Trump's latest controversial activity on Twitter. "I want an unequivocal condemnation from all quarters," Labour MEP Seb Dance told DW. "It is not even remotely acceptable to normalize hatred. The strength of condemnation must be total so that patriots in America can see what is being done in the name of their country and act accordingly to remove Trump from office." British lawmaker David Lammy of the Tottenham constituency in London tweeted that Trump "is no ally or friend" of the UK, adding that the US president was not welcome in "my country and my city." "Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted," Lammy wrote. Britain First claims it has a "proven track record of opposing Islamic militants and hate preachers" and aims to protect the UK from "spiraling" migration. However, Fransen was found guilty last year of a hate crime after hurling abuse at a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf. Read more: Is the UK's racist hate crime problem out of control? The group's leader Paul Golding and Fransen were expected in court on Wednesday on possible charges of "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior" over a fiery speech made in Belfast in August. Golding wrote a plea to Trump to intervene in one of the court cases, saying Fransen "is facing prison for criticism of Islam … she needs your help!" 'The president should be ashamed' Brendan Cox, the husband of the late British MP Jo Cox, killed in 2016 by a right-wing extremist who reportedly screamed "Britain First" before stabbing her repeatedly, accused the US president of attempting to spread far-right sentiment in the UK with his retweets. "Trump has legitimized the far-right in his own country, now he's trying to do it in ours. Spreading hatred has consequences and the president should be ashamed of himself," Cox wrote. Speaking to Reuters news agency, Fransen said she was "delighted" by the incident. Read more: Donald Trump's sub-tweet helps make Hitler biography a US hit "The important message here is Donald Trump has been made aware of the persecution and prosecution of a political leader in Britain for giving what has been said by police to be an anti-Islamic speech," Fransen said.

The US president has circulated videos from a far-right British group on his official social media account. The incident has sparked outrage across the UK, with lawmakers urging the government to condemn Donald Trump. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday circulated anti-Islam videos posted on Twitter by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right Britain First group in the UK. ... Read More »

UK PM Theresa May: Citizens’ rights ‘first priority’ as she heads to Brussels

May has sought to reassure EU citizens on their post-Brexit future. Her letter came as the EU and the UK are desperately seeking a breakthrough in talks — though some in May's team are calling for the UK to crash out. Ahead of her trip to Brussels to take part in the next round of Brexit negotiations, the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Theresa May published an open letter Thursday on her Facebook page seeking to reassure the some 3 million European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom that they will be able to remain there post-Brexit. Read more:Brexit - what's the 'no deal' fallout? "EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay," she said, also writing that the UK wanted them to remain. She added that the country would develop a digital process for EU residents to apply for "settled status" — a post-Brexit category for EU citizens who have lived continuously in the UK for five years before a yet-to-be-determined cut-off date and who wish to remain. However she did not provide more on detail on the criteria surrounding how the government would calculate continued residency. The ability for settled status individuals to bring family members to the UK was also not addressed. Agreement is but weeks away… In her letter, May wrote that her government and the EU were in "touching distance of agreement" on the rights that EU and UK citizens would have once the UK leaves the bloc in May 2019. In addition to residency rights, May said the upcoming agreement would also touch on how health care, pensions and other benefits would work for both EU and UK nationals living in one another's respective territories. Some one million UK nationals live across the EU's 27 member states. The EU has regarded May's prior assurances on citizens' rights until now as unsatisfactory. In addition, she has been accused of using EU citizens as "bargaining chips," a criticism which she sought to deflect in her open letter. "I have been clear throughout this process that citizens' rights are my first priority, May wrote in her letter. "And I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU. Her letter came the same day she was heading to Brussels to take part in the next round of Brexit talks. Both the UK and the EU will be looking to make progress after negotiations stalled during the previous meeting. If citizens' rights do become the focus of Thursday's sixth round of negotiations, it would mark a retreat away from the UK's insistence on working on the future economic relationship between the UK and the EU. The 27-member bloc had stated that "sufficient progress" needed to be achieved on the rights of citizens, as well as the UK border with Ireland and the financial commitment of the UK, before proceeding to other areas. To crash or not to crash? In an interview with German daily Die Welt, lead UK Brexit negotiator David Davis said he believed that the UK had fulfilled its promises thus far. "We think we made progress," he said, but then pointed out it was in the European Council's power to decide if this was true or not. David added that Britain would meet its financial "international obligations" but that a judgement on how much the UK owes to the EU "should be informed by everything, informed by the whole deal, not informed by a figure picked out of the air." The British government at times has struggled to give an appearance of unity in negotiations. On the same day as May's Brussels highly anticipated trip, leader of Britain's parliamentary opposition Andrea Leadsom said that the body would not discuss the EU withdrawal bill before representatives left for their autumn recess next week. She told lawmakers, "There is nothing odd or anything to fear from this slight pause." The legislation, known as the Great Repeal Bill, would transpose much of EU law onto British books in order to ensure as seamless a transition as possible. However, concern has been growing that political divisions over its content could complicate May's ability to complete a negotiated Brexit. In addition, fears have been voiced on both the EU and the UK side that if an agreement is not reached shortly with enough time to set up its implementation, then the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal come March 2019. Some politicians from May's conservative party, including former Treasury head Nigel Lawsom ex-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, have also urged May to turn her back on the negotiation table if a breakthough does not materialize. In his Die Welt interview, Davis said that a no-deal outcome was neither the UK's intention nor very probable. "I think it is a very distant possibility," he said. "That being said, we have to prepare for it." When pressed by the interviewer to clarify who one should call when one wants to understand the UK's position, Davis replied cheekily. "You want my number?"

May has sought to reassure EU citizens on their post-Brexit future. Her letter came as the EU and the UK are desperately seeking a breakthrough in talks — though some in May’s team are calling for the UK to crash out. Ahead of her trip to Brussels to take part in the next round of Brexit negotiations, the United Kingdom’s ... Read More »

Police arrest London Bridge attack suspect as May hints at limiting suspects’ rights

Police have made a fresh arrest tied to last week's attack in central London. With security in the spotlight ahead of elections, the UK's prime minister has proposed undermining human rights to improve public safety. Police on Wednesday arrested a 30-year-old man in the east London suburb of Ilford in connection to a deadly terror attack that left seven people dead and dozens more wounded in central London on Saturday. In a statement, authorities said the suspect was arrested on "suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorist acts." "Detectives investigating the London Bridge terror attack have carried out a search warrant at an address in east London in the early hours of Wednesday," police said. Read more: Banishing the 'extremist' image: A crucial task for British-Pakistanis The announcement comes as police have been pressed to explain their handling of suspected attacker Khuram B., who was known to authorities prior to Saturday's attack and appeared in the 2016 television documentary "The Jihadis Next Door." 'No intelligence to suggest attack' Although Khuram B. was known to authorities, police on Monday said, "There was no intelligence to suggest that this attack was being planned and the investigation had been prioritized accordingly." Earlier this week, authorities identified the assailants of the attack as 27-year-old Pakistan-born British citizen Khuram B., 30-year-old Libyan-Moroccan national Rachid R. and 22-year-old Italian-Moroccan Youssef Z. The self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) militant group claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday. However, authorities have yet to announce whether the attack was coordinated by the militant group's operatives in Iraq or Syria, or by a UK-based cell. A spate of terror attacks on British soil has moved security into the spotlight ahead of key parliamentary elections slated for Thursday. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday announced that she is willing to weaken fundamental rights in order to make it easier for authorities to detain suspected militants even when authorities did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute them. "If our human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change the laws so we can do it," May said at an election rally. Read more: UK's 'Big Brother' anti-terror strategy is flawed, UN expert says Human rights organizations lashed out at May's proposal, saying it was "reckless and misinformed." Amnesty International said it "will not stand by silently when threats are made to 'rip up human rights laws.' Human rights are there to protect all in society - that is just pure common sense." May also proposed to extend the length of time authorities could detain suspects without charge from 14 days to 28 days, according to an interview published by the British newspaper The Sun. Security is a hot election topic In response to May's tough proposals, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said, "We will always keep the law under review, but don't believe would-be terrorists and suicide bombers will be deterred by longer sentences or restricting our rights at home." He also pledged to hire more police officers. The issue of security would appear to have closed the one-time large gap between the Conservatives and the Labour party. According to a poll published Tuesday by the group Survation, May's previous 20-point lead over Labour has withered to barely more than a single point - 41.6 percent to 40.4 percent. Most other polls, however, log a more comfortable lead between 5 and 10 percent. Editor's note: In a bid to limit their exposure, Deutsche Welle has decided to withhold terror suspects' names and obscure their faces.

Police have made a fresh arrest tied to last week’s attack in central London. With security in the spotlight ahead of elections, the UK’s prime minister has proposed undermining human rights to improve public safety. Police on Wednesday arrested a 30-year-old man in the east London suburb of Ilford in connection to a deadly terror attack that left seven people ... Read More »

European Parliament votes against parallel Brexit talks as Farage likens bloc to ‘mafia’

As the EU and UK gear up for Brexit negotiations, MEPs have voted against holding exit talks and trade deal discussions concurrently. Nigel Farage meanwhile caused outrage by likening the EU to the "mafia." Going against the wishes of London, European Union lawmakers passed a resolution on Wednesday calling for phased Brexit negotiations with the UK. While Britain advocates holding exit talks and trade arrangement negotiations simultaneously, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier stressed that there would be no parallel talks. "To succeed, we need on the contrary to devote the first phase of negotiations exclusively to reaching agreement on the principle of the exit," Barnier said. No cherry-picking MEPs voted overwhelmingly for the resolution, with 516 for, 133 against and 50 abstentions, highlighting the tough task ahead for UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Gathering in Strasbourg, the European lawmakers highlighted issues which they would seek to avoid, including cherry-picking by the British, an agreement at the expense of citizens and new conflicts around Gibraltar and on the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland. Read more: Spanish navy patrol shop sails into Gibraltar's waters prompting interception Manuel Weber, the leader of the center-right coalition in the parliament and a member of the Bavarian wing of Germany's Christian Democrats, warned London of a tough negotiating position from the EU. "A state outside the European Union can not have the same or better conditions than a state within," said Manfred Weber (CSU), agreeing with his Social Democrat (SPD) colleague Gianni Pittella. Weber then alluded to questions about a "hard" border in Ireland, and Britain and Spain's tensions over Gibraltar, calling on all sides to keep cool heads. "Where have we landed?" Weber asked. "Have we lost our senses? We really need to talk about digitalization, the security issues of our continent, and not about debates from previous decades." Juncker, meanwhile, promised that the EU Commission would be "advocates of those directly affected both sides of the Channel." Both the UK and EU have a general agreement that they want to tackle the fate of the three million EU citizens in Britain and some one million Britons working in other EU nations first of all. "Humans are not bargaining chips," Juncker said. "They must not become a pawn in the negotiations." Read more: Lond road to Brexit - What happens next? Italy minister shuts down mafia comments Ahead of Wednesday's vote, Brexit crusader and former UK Independence Party (UKIP) chief Nigel Farage outraged the European Parliament after comparing the bloc to the "mafia." "You are behaving like the mafia. You think we are a hostage. We are not. We are free to go," he said, prompting cries of indignation and jeers from many of his fellow MEPs. The European Parliament's Italian chief Antonio Tajani interrupted Farage to say it was "unacceptable" for him to compare the parliament to the mafia. "Mr President, I do understand national sensitivities," Farage retorted. "I will change it to gangsters and that is how we are being treated. We are being given a ransom note." While parliament tried to distance itself from the war of words over Gibraltar in recents days, Farage also insisted that the British enclave was "clearly a deal breaker." Extension of free movement Prime Minister May, meanwhile, reportedly suggested during a trip to Saudi Arabia that the free movement of people between the UK and the EU could be extended during a post-Brexit implementation phase. Broadcaster BBC reported that May had told media that the implementation phase would give businesses and governments a "period of time" to adjust to any new restrictions agreed as part of a Brexit deal. Citing the same conversation, the Financial Times newspaper reported that May had suggested that London would not finalize a new trade deal with the EUuntil Brexit was complete.

As the EU and UK gear up for Brexit negotiations, MEPs have voted against holding exit talks and trade deal discussions concurrently. Nigel Farage meanwhile caused outrage by likening the EU to the “mafia.” Going against the wishes of London, European Union lawmakers passed a resolution on Wednesday calling for phased Brexit negotiations with the UK. While Britain advocates holding ... Read More »

Police believe UK attacker acted alone

Anti-terrorism police have said they believe the man who killed four people outside parliament last week acted alone. Police have since raided several addresses and arrested 11 people, with only two remaining in custody. Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Neil Basu (above) said on Saturday there was no intelligence to suggest further attacks were planned. "We still believe that Masood acted alone on the day," Basu said in a statement. "Nevertheless we are determined to understand if Masood was a lone actor inspired by terrorist propaganda or if others have encouraged, supported or directed him." Police are reportedly investigating media reports that Masood checked his encrypted messaging service WhatsApp - or even sent a message - just before the attack, which hinted at others being involved. 'We may never know' "We must all accept there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this. That understanding may have died with him," Basu added. British-born Islamic convert Khalid Masood, 52, was shot dead after killing four people including a policemen on Wednesday after ramming his car into pedestrians. The self-styled "Islamic State" group (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack and police inquiries since have concentrated on whether Masood was acting with accomplices. Two people remain in custody for questioning, neither of whom have reportedly been charged or identified. Nine others who had been arrested in connection with the investigation have been released. Of them, two men, one aged 58, and the other 27 - both arrested in Birmingham - are being held under the Terrorism Act. Two women have been released on bail, a 32-year-old arrested in Manchester and a 39-year-old from London. Misjudged threat Masood had been considered by intelligence officers to be a known criminal who posed little serious threat. He had shown up on the periphery of previous terrorism investigations that brought him to the attention of Britain's MI5 spy agency. Masood taught English in Saudi Arabia from November 2005 to November 2006 and again from April 2008 to April 2009, a Saudi Embassy statement released late Friday said. Details about how he became radicalized aren't clear. Eighty-two seconds Having reconstructed the attack, the police said it had begun at 14:40:08 when Masood's hire car mounted the pavement on Westminster Bridge, weaving along the footpath and road until 14:40:38 when he crashed into the perimeter fence of the Palace of Westminster. He left the car at 14:40:51 and was shot by a police firearms officer, part of the close protection team of the defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, in the palace courtyard at 14:41:30. At 14:40:59, the first call to emergency services was made to report the incident.

Anti-terrorism police have said they believe the man who killed four people outside parliament last week acted alone. Police have since raided several addresses and arrested 11 people, with only two remaining in custody. Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Neil Basu (above) said on Saturday there was no intelligence to suggest further attacks were planned. “We still believe ... Read More »

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