Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called on registered Labour Party voters to break ranks and vote Tory or Liberal Democrat in the upcoming general election, further challenging Jeremy Corbyn’s troubled leadership over the main opposition party.
In an interview with BBC on Sunday, Blair said the issue of getting more members of parliament who could oppose Prime Minister Theresa May’s possible hard Brexit deal was now “bigger than party allegiance.”
“The absolutely central question at this general election is less who is the prime minister on June 9, and more what is the nature of the mandate,” he said.
“Otherwise frankly this is a steamroller election – is it possible that we can return as many members of parliament as possible to parliament that are going to keep an open mind on this Brexit negotiation until we see the final terms.”
Last week, May called for snap general elections to gain a stronger mandate for Britain's withdrawal from the European Union. The request was approved by the Tory-dominated parliament, as the House of Commons voted 522 to 13 to pass the motion.The election will be held on June 8, nearly a year after 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the European Union (EU). The current parliament will dissolve on June 3.
Return to politics
Blair, who was elected PM three times as Labour leader, has positioned himself to join forces with Lib Dems against May, indicating a comeback to politics.
“I look at the British political scene at the moment and I actually almost feel motivated to go right back into it,” he told BBC on Sunday.
When asked whether he was encouraging people to vote for Lib Dems as his new party, Blair gave an evasive answer.
“What I’m advocating may mean that. It may mean voting Labour. It may mean, by the way, that they vote Tory, for candidates who are prepared to give this commitment,” he argued. “This is something that’s bigger than party allegiance, in this particular election.”
The former premier, who risks indictment over his role in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, insisted that he “will always vote Labour.”
Blair's comments prompted outrage on social media, with some party members calling for him to be fired for backing rival candidates in breach of the party’s rule-book.
“On 9 June, we will either have a Labour government or a Tory one. If you want Brexit to be used to turn Britain into a low-wage tax haven, vote Tory. If you want a Britain for the many not the few after Brexit, vote Labour. The choice is clear,” said a Corbyn spokesman.
Corbyn, who is struggling to close a wide popularity gap with the ruling Tories, has pledged to turn the page and win the vote.
Rising levels of inflation coupled with lackluster wage growth have led UK consumer confidence to fall, according to a new survey, nearly a year after 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the European Union.
According to the study by research firm Deloitte, overall confidence barometer showed minus seven percent for the first quarter of 2017, down one percent from the minus six percent in the previous quarter.
Deloitte also reported that four of its six measures of consumer optimism had dropped during the same period, with confidence in disposable income hitting a two-year low at minus 17 percent. This is while, inflation missed Bank of England’s target.
“Since last summer’s EU referendum consumer spending has held up well, but with inflation rising and nominal wage growth starting to slow, consumers are beginning to feel a squeeze on their disposable income,” Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said.
“In March, the rate of inflation stood at 2.3 percent, above the Bank of England’s 2 percent target and the highest in more than two years. There are already some signs that these pressures are contributing to a slowdown in consumer activity,” he added.
Deloitte’s consumer tracker also registered a decrease in consumer spending, where spending on discretionary items had dropped by four percentage points to minus four percent.
Ben Perkins, head of consumer research at Deloitte, blamed the trend on less disposable income, which forced consumers “to consider whether to trade down, buy less or borrow more.”
The robustness of the UK’s consumer-led economy in the wake of the EU vote was questioned in March, after retail sales saw their biggest quarterly fall in seven years.
The government of UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been harshly criticized for the way it is handling Brexit.
The immense criticism led May to request early general elections to gain more authority in the EU talks, a motion that was approved by Parliament. The vote will be held on June 8.
The Scottish government has formally asked UK Prime Minister Theresa May to allow it hold a second referendum following the beginning of Britain’s exit process from the European Union. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the request in a letter she wrote to May on Friday, two days after London wrote to Brussels announcing the UK's formal withdrawal from the EU. "I am... writing to begin early discussions between our governments to agree an Order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 that would enable a referendum to be legislated for by the Scottish Parliament," Sturgeon wrote in the letter. "The people of Scotland must have the right to choose our own future -- in short, to exercise our right of self determination," wrote Sturgeon, leader of the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP). Sturgeon tweeted a picture in the day, sitting on a couch at her official residence in Edinburgh and writing the Section 30 letter on a fresh referendum vote for her country. Earlier this week, Scottish lawmakers had voted 69 to 59 in favor of seeking permission for a second referendum on independence to take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. The Scottish first minister said her mandate for another vote is now "beyond question," and warned it would be "democratically indefensible and utterly unsustainable" to attempt to stand in the way. "There appears to be no rational reason for you to stand in the way of the will of the Scottish parliament and I hope you will not do so," she wrote in the letter. This is while May has repeatedly said the referendum request submitted by the government in Edinburgh will be turned down, insisting that now is not the time for another independence referendum and that all efforts should be on securing the best Brexit deal for the whole of Britain after Article 50 is triggered. “Now is not the time to focus on a second independence referendum or to be looking at that second independence referendum, because [now] is the time when we need to pull together as a United Kingdom,” Britain's prime minister recently said in an interview with BBC. Scotland held its first referendum in 2014, when over 55 percent of the people voted against independence. In June last year, nearly 52 percent of Britons opted to leave the bloc during the EU referendum; however, some 62 percent of the Scottish people voted against the Brexit decision.
Britain and France have signed an agreement to jointly develop long range missiles for future use by their navies and air forces.
British Minister for military purchases Harriett Baldwin and her visiting French counterpart Laurent Collet-Billon agreed in London on Tuesday to invest €50 million ( £43 million) each to begin a three-year concept phase for the project.
Dubbed the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon program, arms manufacturer MBDA would explore options to replace and improve existing naval and air force weapons systems over the next 10 years, according to a statement by the UK ministry of defense.
The concept phase is focused on determining the designs of the future weapons and cutting the risks to a minimum before heading to the next stage in the cooperation, the statement added.
Beside costs, both sides also agreed to freely use one another’s “national technology expertise, trials and test facilities.”
“As demonstrated by having Europe’s largest defense budget, the UK is committed to European security and we will continue to collaborate on joint defense programs across the continent,” Baldwin said.
Collet-Billon also hailed the agreement, calling it “the backbone of our ‘one complex weapon’ initiative.”
Formed by a merger of French Aérospatiale-Matra Missiles, Italian Alenia Marconi Systems and British Matra BAe Dynamics, MBDA already produces Storm Shadow/ SCALP EG long-range cruise missiles for the British and French air forces.
In late February, the two sides signed a £146 million deal to upgrade the £790,000 missile, which has a range of approximately 560 kilometers (300 nautical miles).
According to the British defense ministry, France is “the UK’s most important European Ally” and together, the two countries accounted for almost half of all military spending in Europe.
As London prepares to leave the European Union (EU) following last year’s July referendum, British officials have reassured their allies in Paris that nothing can undermine their military alliance.
“This is a day-to-day, intense partnership that has never been affected by whatever French or British-bashing was going on in either country in the last five years,” said Claire Chick, head of military affairs at the London-based Franco-British Council.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has triggered the formal, two-year process of withdrawing Britain from the European Union (EU), likely to be the most complex London has held since World War Two.
Launching the process of Britain’s exit from the EU, popularly known as Brexit, was announced by the prime minister on Wednesday at the UK Parliament, after more than 40 years of membership in the bloc.
On behalf of May, British Ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow hand-delivered a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels to officially notify the EU of Britain's decision to withdraw from the bloc.
The six page letter invoked Article 50 of the EU Treaty, the mechanism for starting Britain’s divorce process.
In her speech to Parliament, which was planned to coincide with the letter's delivery, May urged the country to come together as it embarks on a "momentous journey."
"The Article 50 process is now under way and in accordance with the wishes of the British people, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union," she said. "This is a historic moment from which there can be no turning back."
Brussels is expected to deliver its first response to London on Friday, followed by a summit of EU leaders on April 29 to adopt their own guidelines, possibly taking weeks before formal talks start.
The United Kingdom held a referendum last June in which Britons voted by a 52-48 percent margin to leave the EU, the first member state ever to do so.
However, there is a chance that the Brexit negotiations will break down and the UK will be forced to exit the EU without any deal in place.
The EU is determined to preserve its own unity and has said that any Brexit agreement must not encourage other member states to leave the bloc.
Although Britain as whole voted to leave the EU, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the bloc.
The Brexit referendum has prompted nationalists in Scotland and Northern Ireland to call for a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.
There is broad consensus among economists that Brexit will have a prolonged effect of the British economy and will ultimately diminish output, jobs and wealth to some degree.
Many business leaders are also concerned about May's decision to leave the EU single market, a free trade area of 500 million people, fearing its impact on jobs and economic growth.
The British-born man who killed four people and injured more than 50 others in an attack outside the British Parliament in London last week was known as a potential extremist to UK intelligence agencies in 2010, a report says. Khalid Masood first came to the attention of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, six years ago after returning to the country from Saudi Arabia where he had been teaching English, the Guardian reported on Monday. The Saudi Embassy in the United Kingdom on Friday confirmed Masood had visited Saudi Arabia three times, including two stints teaching English there. Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism is widely preached and practiced, stands accused of sponsoring terrorist groups such as Daesh. But some time before the deadly attack in London on Wednesday, Masood fell off the radar of intelligence officials, the report said. Earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that the attacker had previously been investigated by the intelligence agencies but only as a “peripheral” figure. The 52-year-old taught English in Saudi Arabia from November 2005 to November 2006 and again from April 2008 to April 2009 before returning to Luton, Bedfordshire, to teach English. According to The Sunday Times, Britain’s extremist al-Muhajiroun group, led by imprisoned cleric Anjem Choudary, was active in Luton, and that Masood was loosely connected to people under investigation by British agencies. But it is not clear how closely he had been monitored by MI5 and why that surveillance had been halted some time before the attack. It comes as the British police made yet another arrest on Sunday night as part of their investigation into the terror attack. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said, “A new arrest has been made as part of the investigation being carried out by the Met’s counter-terrorism command into the Westminster attack,” which was claimed by the Daesh terrorist group. The Metropolitan Police said on Sunday a 30-year-old man was apprehended in the central English city of Birmingham "on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts." A statement published by the Amaq News Agency, which is seen as the terror group's official press service, has said the assailant was a "soldier” of Daesh.
Dozens of Muslim women have gathered on Westminster Bridge in London to express solidarity with the victims of Wednesday’s deadly attack outside the British Parliament. The women stood in silence with heads bowed for five minutes on Sunday remembering the victims who lost their lives in the assault, which was claimed by the Daesh terrorist group. At least four people were killed and 50 others were injured in the attack on Wednesday after British-born Khalid Masood plowed a car into pedestrians and fatally stabbed police officer Keith Palmer, an incident that has been declared a terrorist incident. The attacker was later killed by police. The event was organized by Women’s March on London at the scene of the terror attack near the Parliament. People from a range of backgrounds joined the Muslim women, lined up along the bridge, linking hands and bowing their heads. Attendee Kerena Sheath told The Guardian newspaper the vigil was an act of remembrance. "That man wanted to divide us, so by joining hands we are literally doing the opposite of what he wanted," she said. "This is London and you are not going to change us." Meanwhile, the British police have arrested the 12th suspect, who is a 30-year-old man, as part of investigations into the attack. Nine of the suspects were released without further action. The Saudi Embassy in the United Kingdom on Friday confirmed Masood had visited the kingdom three times. Earlier, The Sun newspaper reported that the London attack suspect was a former English teacher working at the institution controlling Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation. Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism is widely preached and practiced, stands accused of sponsoring terrorist groups such as Daesh. A statement published by the Amaq News Agency, which is seen as the terror group's official press service, has said the assailant was a "soldier” of Daesh.
A large group of people have gathered in Britain's capital London to mark the second anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s ruthless invasion of Yemen, calling for an end to the deadly war. The kingdom’s unprovoked war against its impoverished southern neighbor, which began on March 26, 2015, has killed and injured over 30,000 Yemeni civilians, according to official reports. Over the course of the war, British and American military forces have supported the Saudi war machine through major arms deals. They have also admitted to training Saudi pilots and providing them with intelligence on their targets in Yemen. On Sunday, groups of protesters met at Marble Arch, near London’s Hyde Park, and condemned the ongoing weapons deals between Saudis and their Western allies. Carrying signs that read, “End Yemen Siege” and “Hands Off Yemen,” the protesters then marched outside the BBC offices to protest the mainstream media’s way of reporting the conflict. “The message is the illegal blockade must be lifted to save millions of lives, because according to the UNICEF figures obtained, every 10 minute a child under the age of five is dying in Yemen—approximately 52,000 children per annum-- that is clearly a genocide” Kim Shariff, director of Human Rights for Yemen, told Press TV. According to the UN, the war and the ongoing air and sea blockade by the Saudi regime has put a third of Yemen’s 22 provinces on the brink of famine, leaving more than half of the country’s population hungry. Amien Afet, the deputy mayor of Sana’a, said last week that Saudi Arabia has been using all kinds of internationally-banned munitions, including cluster bombs, in its military campaign. London has admitted to providing the kingdom with hundreds of cluster bombs over the past years. Additionally, British arms manufacturers like BAE Systems have continued to provide Riyadh with cutting-edge military technology during the war. The UK High Court is set to review the country’s weapons deals with Saudi Arabia, after activists accused the government of Prime Minister Theresa May of complicity in Riyadh’s war crimes. “It is a very sad situation for our government in the UK to continue supplying weapons to the regimes that are committing these crimes against Yemen, knowing full well that these crimes are being committed every day,” Shariff said.
The British police have made yet another arrest as part of their investigation into the recent terror attack near the Parliament in London. The Metropolitan Police said on Sunday a 30-year-old man was apprehended in the central English city of Birmingham "on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts." The police said the man is in custody under the Terrorism Act (TACT). In a statement, the police said they arrested a total of 12 people in connection with the attack but nine were released with no further action. At least four people were killed and 50 others were injured in the attack on Wednesday after the assailant plowed a car into pedestrians and stabbed a police officer near the British Parliament in London, an incident that has been declared a terrorist incident. The attacker was also shot dead by the police. Earlier, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the intelligence services must have access to encrypted social messaging services. The perpetrator of the attack in Westminster, British-born Khalid Masood, is believed to have used messaging app WhatsApp on the same day. However, rights groups said accessing social media messages amounts to spying and intrusion of people’s privacy. The Saudi Embassy in the United Kingdom on Friday confirmed Masood had visited the kingdom three times. Earlier, Britain’s The Sun newspaper reported that the London attack suspect was a former English teacher working at the institution controlling Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation.
UK spy agencies should be able to access encrypted content in online messaging applications to prevent terrorist attacks, says British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, warning that terrorists are hiding behind some of the most popular apps. According to reports, Khalid Masood, the man behind the recent terror attack in London, had communicated with unknown parties through WhatsApp messenger two minutes before his assault that killed 4 people and wounded 50 others. In an interview with BBC on Sunday, Rudd said it was “completely unacceptable” that terrorists have found a “place to hide” using these applications. “It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide,” she said. “We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” the secretary added. Rudd said tech companies in charge of applications like the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which use end-to-end encryption, have a “responsibility” to hand over user messages upon government’s request. “We have to have a situation where we can have our security services get into the terrorists’ communications. That’s absolutely the case,” she argued. “These people have families, have children as well – they should be on our side,” Rudd further said of app developers, calling on Facebook, Google and Telegram owners to step up cooperation. Echoing Rudd’s comments was Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who said in a Sunday Times article that internet companies should come up with software that detect and remove extreme material. Corbyn warns against ‘unaccountable’ access In reaction to the remarks by Rudd and Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised concern over giving too much access to spying agencies. “I’ve been concerned about giving too much unaccountable power to anybody in our society, so could the security services go to court and make an application? I would have thought they probably could,” said the opposition leader, urging a balance between the “right to know” and “the right to privacy.” Lib Dems did not like the idea either, with home affairs spokesman Brian Paddick saying that the government would play into the hands of terrorists by “implementing draconian laws that limit our civil liberties.”
Official statistics show the number of potential human trafficking victims identified in the UK has surged by nearly 80 percent in a year, triggering concerns about modern slavery. The latest available data from the National Crime Agency (NCA) goes back to 2015, with 306 cases of trafficking reported by local councils and over ten-fold that number by other sources. Some cities saw a very clear surge in the number of reported human trafficking victims and greater Manchester experienced a 197 percent increase. Authorities say labor exploitation is the most common fate of trafficking victims in Britain. In spite of the significant increase in the reported cases of abuse, there are still up to 13,000 victims of human trafficking in the UK. The figures have alarmed Local Government Association (LGA), a group that represents 370 local councils, calling the situation modern-day slavery and warning it is a rising threat and a major concern. LGA has urged the British public to be more aware of human trafficking in order to prevent criminal gangs from exploiting vulnerable foreign workers. “Modern-day slavery is a rising threat to our communities, and because of its hidden nature, is a major concern,” Simon Blackburn, the head of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said. Blackburn encouraged people to look out for “tell-tale signs,” such as large numbers of people staying in homes and people being taken to and from the address in vans or minibuses early in the morning and returning late at night. “Tip-offs from communities can help councils work with partners to better tackle slavery and exploitation. A simple phone call could make a world of difference to people living wretched lives at the hands of heartless gang-masters,” Blackburn added. The NCA report states that there were victims from 102 different countries, though Albanian, Vietnamese, and Nigerian nationals were the most common. People from Sudan make up the fastest growing category of modern slavery victims. The main obstacle in dealing with human trafficking is the apparent “hidden nature” of the crime, the report said. There have been several high profile stories that made headlines over the past recent years in Britain, stories that portray migrants in a negative light. Many of them are desperate and in search of a better life from countries that many argue Britain has destroyed or destabilized through war and foreign policy. One of the most recent cases of modern slavery was revealed last month, in which 16 women were released from a trafficking ring operating in Glasgow.
Thousands of Britons have taken the streets of London to protest against leaving the European Union. On Saturday, the protesters converged on the British capital from across the country. Demonstrators waved EU flags and banners with slogans questioning the government’s Brexit plans going forward.They also observed a minute's silence in memory of the victims of last week’s deadly attack which occurred in the heart of London, at the start of the demonstration. Extra security is in place following the attack. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said, “We are here to show solidarity and respect for those who voted leave. We do not believe they wanted this. [Theresa May] does not speak for 52% she barely speaks for 5%.” He also expressed his sympathy with the crowd saying they have the right to be in this place just days after the terrorist attack this week. “We are defiant against those who would seek us to be afraid about last Wednesday,” he said. “We are also defiant because democracy did not end on the 23rd of June,” added Farron. The protests are taking place as the heads of state and government of the other 27 EU members have gathered in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty which founded the then-European Economic Community, later to become the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May has been adamant as she intends to take Britain out of the EU following last year’s referendum. The Prime Minister will formally announce the start of the two-year leaving process on Wednesday. Also, Scotland's first Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced proposals on how her country can stay inside the single market after Britain withdraws from the EU. Scottish voters chose to stay in the EU in the June 23 referendum when the rest of the UK voted to leave the bloc. Sturgeon said the Scottish people were now being forced out of the EU against their wishes.
The Saudi embassy in the United Kingdom has confirmed that London attack suspect Khalid Masood visited the kingdom three times, including two stints teaching English there. Britain’s The Sun newspaper reported on Friday that the man who carried out a deadly car ramming and stabbing attack near the UK Houses of Parliament was a former English teacher working at the institution controlling Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation. In response, the Saudi embassy issued a statement late on Friday confirming the Sun report. "The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia wishes to clarify that Khalid Masood was in Saudi Arabia from November 2005 to November 2006 and April 2008 to April 2009, when he worked as an English teacher having first obtained a work visa," the embassy said in a statement. "In 2015, he obtained an Umra visa through an approved travel agent and was in the Kingdom from the 3rd-8th March,” it added. "During his time in Saudi Arabia, Khalid Masood did not appear on the security services' radar and does not have a criminal record in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the statement claimed. At least four people were killed and 50 others were injured in the attack on Wednesday after the assailant plowed a car into pedestrians and stabbed a police officer near the British Parliament in London, an incident that has been declared a terrorist incident. The attacker was also shot dead by the police. The Saudi embassy expressed its condolences to the British people, saying the kingdom “continues to stand with the United Kingdom during this difficult time and reaffirms its commitment to continue its work with the United Kingdom in any way to assist in the ongoing investigation." The embassy went on to say that the “attack in London this week has again demonstrated the importance of international efforts to confront and eradicate terrorism.” “At such a time, our ongoing security cooperation is most crucial to the defeat of terrorism and the saving of innocent lives,” it stated. This is while Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism is widely preached and practiced, stands accused of sponsoring terrorist groups, such as Daesh, across the Middle East region. Daesh and other Takfiri terror groups use the extremist ideology to declare people of other faiths as “infidels” and thus to kill them. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who allegedly carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States came from Saudi Arabia and available evidence suggests some of them were linked to high-ranking Saudi officials. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a military campaign against Yemen since March 2015 to reinstate the country's resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement. The Saudi war has killed more than 11,400 Yemenis, and taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories. In Syria, the Saudi regime has been sponsoring Takfiri terrorists fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad since 2011 in a conflict that has taken the lives of a half a million Syrians.
The British police have identified the attacker who struck in the heart of London on Wednesday as 52-year-old Khalid Masood. "Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack," London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Thursday. The police added that Masood was known by "a number of aliases" and had been living in the West Midlands. He was born in Kent in southeast England. At least four people were killed and 40 others were injured in the attack after the assailant plowed a car into pedestrians and stabbed a police officer, an incident that has been declared a terrorist incident. The attacker was also shot dead by the police. One injured man succumbs to his injuries "Five people remain in a critical condition and two have life-threatening injuries," London police said in a statement. One of the injured persons -- a 75-year-old man -- succumbed to his wounds in hospital on Thursday night. The latest death comes as hundreds of people gathered at an iconic square in the British capital to remember the victims of the attack. People held flowers and volunteers handed out candles in London’s Trafalgar Square during an evening vigil. Those in attendance said the attack had nothing to do with religion. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, was among several officials who addressed the gathering. Hours earlier, the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the British Parliament attack, that left several people dead, including the attacker. A statement published by the Amaq News Agency, which is seen as the group's official press service, said the assailant was a "soldier” of Daesh. The statement said the man launched the attack because of Britain’s participation in the US-led bombing on territories in Syria and Iraq. The person "carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting citizens of the coalition," Daesh said. The wording of the statement did not however clearly show that if the attack was directly orchestrated or facilitated by the terror group, but indicated that the assailant was inspired by Daesh ideology. It comes after Prime Minister Theresa May said the attacker was British-born and known to the country’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, and had been investigated before. "What I can confirm is that the man was British-born and that some years ago he was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns about violent extremism," she told MPs on Thursday, a day after an attack outside the UK Parliament in London which also injured some 40 people. "He was a peripheral figure," she added. "The case is historic, he was not part of the current intelligence picture." She added that "when operational considerations allow, he will be publicly identified.” In a defiant speech to the Parliament, May said, "We are not afraid and our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism." Lawmakers earlier held a minute's silence in honor of the victims. The assailant plowed a car on Wednesday into pedestrians and stabbed a police officer, an incident that has been declared a terrorist incident. Police have arrested eight people during the investigation into the incident. MI5 Director General Andrew Parker earlier said his agency had fully mobilized its operational response in support of the police. "We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our police colleagues, grieving at their loss while also applauding the professional excellence of their response," he said in a statement. Queen expresses 'deepest sympathy' Meanwhile, the British Queen expressed her "deepest sympathy" with the people affected by the terror attack, calling it an act of "awful violence.” "My thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy are with all those who have been affected by yesterday's awful violence," she said in a statement issued on Thursday.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger the process of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union on March 29, launching the two year exit negotiations likely to be the most complex London has held since World War Two.
Britain's ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, informed European Council President Donald Tusk on Monday about the date when the UK intends to invoke Article 50 of the EU Treaty, the mechanism for starting the Brexit process.
The United Kingdom held a referendum last June in which Britons voted by a 52-48 percent margin to leave the EU, the first member state ever to do so.
Brexit Minister David Davis said the withdrawal process will take Britain to "the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation."
"The government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the UK and indeed for all of Europe - a new, positive partnership between the UK and our friends and allies in the European Union," Davis added.
The notification of triggering Article 50 will come in the form of a letter to Tusk next week, which will likely plunge Britain into a period of intense uncertainty.
Article 50 allows for two years of talks to decide an EU member state's separation terms, "taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union."
May has said she wants to make Brexit as painless as possible. But EU leaders, anxious to avoid encouraging others in the 28-member bloc to split, have said they will not give May an easy ride.
Although Britain as whole voted to leave the EU, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the bloc.
The Brexit vote in June has prompted nationalists in Scotland and Northern Ireland to call for a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants her country to hold a referendum on Scottish independence immediately after Britain's exit from the EU.
The largest Irish nationalist party, Sinn Fein, has also called for a referendum on splitting from the United Kingdom and uniting with the Republic of Ireland "as soon as possible."
For more than 50 years their image has hung unmolested on the walls of the National Gallery, alongside well known and well loved works by such titans of British art as Stubbs, Hogarth, Reynolds, Turner and Wright.
Yesterday, however, Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of William Hallet and Elizabeth Stephens, The Morning Walk, came under attack from a man armed with a screwdriver.
Staff and gallery-goers rushed to detain the man, who was restrained until members of the police arrived at the scene in Room 34 on the second floor of the museum.
Keith Gregory, 63, of no fixed abode, was charged on suspicion of causing criminal damage to a valuable painting.
The National Gallery's East Wing was evacuated and closed for two hours following the incident, which took place at a spot featured in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.However, the masterpiece, which was acquired for the nation from Lord Rothschild in 1954, has now been removed from display while conservation experts assess the damage, after it suffered two long gouges which penetrated the paintwork during the afternoon assault.
Commonly referred to as The Morning Walk, Mr and Mrs William Hallett were painted shortly before their marriage in the summer of 1785, when they were both 21, and measures 2.3m by 1.7m.
According to the National Gallery: "William is in a black, silk velvet frock-suit. His apparent carelessness is actually a studied pose. The undone jacket and with one hand tucked into it is a stance seen in many fashionable 18th century informal portraits.
"Elizabeth is in a dress of ivory silk - perhaps her wedding dress - caught at the waist with a black silk band. A frilled muslin kerchief covers her breast, with a knot of grape-green ribbon under it.
"The light, feathery brushstrokes used to describe the landscape are typical of Gainsborough's late style."
The Morning Walk, which sold for £30,000 in 1954 thanks in part to a £5000 Art Fund grant, sits immediately adjacent to An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, a 1768 work by Joseph Wright of Derby, and opposite Joseph Turner's The Fighting Temeraire (1839).
A Metropolitan police spokesman said: "A man has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. He was taken to a central London police station where he remains in custody."
A mother was heard screaming "my kids, my kids"after a 1-year-old boy was killed and a girl of the same age left fighting for life in an alleged hammer attack.
A major search is underway for Bidhya Sagar Das, 33, who was at the property where the children were injured but left before police and ambulance crews arrived.
Police said that the suspected murder, at a flat in north London yesterday, is believed to be domestic.
Mihai Menea, 29, who lives in the building said: "A neighbour heard the woman screaming in the street and went up to the room.
"He went into the room and the boy was already dead when he found him.
He believed the mother was Romanian and the father is Indian and worked as a night receptionist at the Pembury Hotel round the corner for seven years, but apparently quit his job two days ago."I couldn't imagine something like this happening in a million years."
He confirmed the children were twins, a boy and a girl.
The girl remains in a critical condition in an east London hospital.
The Metropolitan Police said: "Detectives are urgently trying to trace a man who was at the flat shortly before the injured children were found, but left before emergency services were called. The man has not been seen since this time.
"He is Bidhya Sagar Das, 33, of the address in Wilberforce Road where the injured children were found.
"If any members of the public see this man or know his whereabouts, they are urged to contact police immediately.
"The incident is believed to be domestic. There has been no arrest at this stage and enquiries continue."
The National Police Air Service helicopter tweeted that it was assisting "officers searching Finsbury Park for a suspect".
A woman living opposite the building, who gave her name as Gui Gui, said she heard a woman shouting late last night and opened the window to offer help.
"I was watching TV," she said. "I heard someone was shouting. She kept on shouting. I do not know what she was shouting.
"I opened the window and I asked her 'Can I help you, can I call the police for you?' She added: ""I said what has happened and she just shouted 'my kids, my kids'."
The neighbour said she later saw two young children being carried out of the building, with one being held very close to a member of the emergency services.
Britain’s departure from the European Union is projected to deliver a severe blow to the National Health Service (NHS), the country’s healthcare system, which already suffers from serious staff shortage.
Critics have warned that UK Prime Minister Theresa May is making the NHS staffing crisis worse by refusing to guarantee the rights of European citizens.
Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will force European healthcare workers to either stay away or leave the country. The country’s main association of nurses says it’s currently facing 24,000 nursing vacancies.
Almost 2,700 EU nurses quit their jobs in 2016, compared to 1,600 in 2014, an increase of 68 percent. In total, about 6,400 EU nationals quit the NHS in 2016, up from 5,135 in 2014.
There are an estimated 57,000 EU nationals working for the NHS, including 10,000 doctors and 20,000 nurses.
“The Government risks turning off the supply of qualified nurses from around the world at the very moment the health service is in a staffing crisis like never before,” said Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing.
“As she pulls the trigger to begin negotiations, Theresa May must tell EU nurses and other occupations that they are needed and welcome in the NHS. It would not survive without their contribution,” she said.
“Sadly, it is no surprise that EU staff are leaving – they have been offered no security or reassurance that they will be able to keep their jobs. Few are able to live with such uncertainty.”
The NHS is already under pressure because of a long-term failure to hire enough people. The British Red Cross warned in January that the NHS is facing a “humanitarian crisis” as hospitals and ambulance services struggle to keep up with rising demand.
The warning came following the deaths of two patients after long waits on trolleys in hospital corridors in Worcester.
Nearly 2,600 British war veterans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during the US-led invasion of the two countries have been imprisoned over the past year over committing violent crimes as well as sexual offences.
The figure represents between four and five percent of Britain’s total prison population, according to UK’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ), prompting concerns about the impact the military invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq has had on the mental health of former members of the British armed forces, The Guardian reported Saturday.
The MoJ began identifying the convicted ex-soldiers as they entered the prison system in January 2015 after concerns over the management of British war veterans were raised in a review of the criminal justice system.
Based on the figures, the former members of the armed forces accounted for 721 of the “first receptions” from July to September 2015, the initial period when they were released.
The numbers, the report adds, appear to have dropped since, 545 arrived in the system in the same period a year later. In the year leading up to last September, 2,565 veterans were imprisoned.
The development came after historic murder conviction against British soldier Alexander Blackman, who shot dead a seriously wounded Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan, was overturned earlier in the week and replaced with the lighter charge of manslaughter on the grounds of “diminished responsibility,” according to the report.
Blackman’s lawyers argued that he had adjustment disorder at the time of the killing after “serving for months on the frontline in terrible conditions.”
Although the British veterns of the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent five percent of UK’s prison population, “but they represent a disproportionate number of serious violent offences and sexual offences, and that raises questions that need answering,” said Fraces Crook, the chief executive of independent charity organization, the Howard League for Penal Reform.
“These are not victimless crimes. They have a terrible effect on the victim,” he added.
Crook further added that several factors contributed to the number, including alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Research by the organization also found that 25 percent of former combat forces were in prison for sexual offences, compared with 11 percent of the civilian prison population.
The report further quoted a Defense Ministry spokesperson as saying, “Most former service personnel return to civilian life without problems and are less likely to commit criminal offences than their civilian counterparts, but we’re determined to help those who fall into difficulty, and last year awarded £4.6m to schemes targeted at tackling this issue.”
“The government has enshrined the Armed Forces Covenant in law to make sure veterans are treated fairly and receive the support they deserve, including with mental health issues, getting on the housing ladder, and applying for civilian jobs,” the official added.
British soldiers represented the second largest contingent of mostly Western military forces that took part in the US-led occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 under the purported “war on terror” schemes. Nearly 15 years later, both countries are struggling with unrelenting incidents of terrorism amid growing suspicions that they have directly and indirectly aided the establishment of some terrorist elements in both countries.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called on people across the United Kingdom to move to Scotland ahead of Brexit.
Sturgeon made the remarks on Saturday in Aberdeen, east of Scotland, while addressing the Scottish National Party (SNP)'s spring conference. She extended her invitation to everyone "as appalled as we are at the path this Westminster government is taking.”
She declared that Scotland will stage another “independence referendum.”
"Scotland isn't full up. If you are as appalled as we are at the path this Westminster government is taking, come and join us,” she said.
"Come here to live, work, invest or study. Come to Scotland and be part of building a modern, progressive, outward-looking, compassionate country,” she continued.
Sturgeon accused May of seeking a hard Brexit and attacked the prime minister’s "intransigence.”
"The Prime Minister's attitude should worry all of us hoping that negotiations with Europe will not be a disaster because—and let me put this bluntly—if she shows the same condescension and inflexibility, the same tin ear, to other EU countries as she has to Scotland then the Brexit process will hit the rocks,” she continued.
"In an independent Scotland, the SNP would guarantee unequivocally the right to stay here for all EU citizens who do us the honor of making our country their home,” she reiterated.
A new vote on independence from the UK needs to be signed off by London to be legally binding. The premier has so far refused to grant her the powers needed to stage a legally constituted referendum.
Sturgeon on Monday demanded a new referendum by early 2019 at the latest, just before the UK is expected to leave the European Union. May however said “now is not the time” for another referendum, because all energies should be devoted to getting a good Brexit deal for the UK as a whole.
The first minister who has repeatedly refused to rule out staging an unofficial referendum also told BBC on Friday that she was still keen to “work our way through” disagreements with May.
She argued that they both agreed the referendum should not be held now. Sturgeon insisted on Monday the vote should be held between fall 2018 and spring 2019. Surgeon argued that it was imperative for a vote on Scotland's constitutional future to take place once the Brexit deal being signed in March 2019.
In a referendum held on June 23 in the UK, almost 52 percent of British voters opted to leave the EU. The Scottish people however voted by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent to remain in the bloc.
This was while in a referendum back in 2014, 55 percent of Scottish people backed staying in the UK. But according to the SNP, the political landscape has dramatically changed since then and that the former vote was based on expectations that the UK would remain in the EU.
The latest annual ScotCen Scottish Social Attitudes survey that was released on Wednesday indicated that at least 46 percent of Scottish voters back breaking away from the UK.
The SNP's deputy leader Angus Robertson said on Friday that there is no doubt that "Scotland will have its referendum and the people of this country will have their choice. They will not be denied their say."