Corbyn 2.0 comes out swinging and floors May by sticking to the script | John Crace

At PMQs, the Labour leader has a revolutionary scheme: ask the questions the country wants answered

At some phase in the last week the Labour leader has undergone a major reboot. At recent prime minister’s questions Jeremy Corbyn’s main achievement has been to make Theresa May appear less hopeless than she really is by failing to speak in joined-up sentences or asking questions even he couldn’t understand. All the prime minister had to do to survive unscathed was stand up and answer the question she would like to have been asked. Something that even she could just about manage.

Corbyn 2.0 had a revolutionary scheme. Talk in plain English. Keep things short and sweet. Stick to one topic. Don’t attempt the impossible of believing on his feet. And ask the questions that everyone in the country wanted answered. He began by highlighting the government’s divisions on Brexit. Did she agree with her foreign secretary that her favoured” customs partnership” arrangement was crazy?

The prime minister couldn’t cope. May has been through several iterations of her own- no one is entirely sure if we are now at Maybot 5.0 or Maybot 6.0- but she has yet to find a system that is passably functional. Rather it seems that each upgrade only serves to further weaken her. Even though Boris Johnson’s contributions to cabinet collective responsibility had been front page news for a couple of days, she was totally taken aback by the question.

” We are leaving the European Union and we are leaving the customs union ,” she told, playing for day as so often before by offering nothing that advanced the public understanding of anything. It’s becoming clearer by the day why the government has made so little progress in its Brexit negotiations. It’s not just that no one can agree on what it is they want, but that every new development seems to take the cabinet entirely by surprise. Michel Barnier must have more enlightening conversations with his grandchildren.

Corbyn relaxed into his script. No deviation , no repeating , no hesitation. The Labour backbenchers couldn’t believe what they were hearing. The best reply they can normally muster for their leader is a passive-aggressive stillnes, but now some were actively encouraging him. Their human was successfully embarrassing the prime minister by simply stating the obvious. The government was committed to working on two solutions to the customs union that both the government and EU concurred were unworkable and unacceptable. You’d be pushed to come up with a better definition of clueless.

” We are leaving the customs union ,” the Maybot told again as her computer crashed and she burned. By the time the exchanges between the two leaders came to an end, she was just a mess of wires and smoking silicon chips with a disembodied voice, both shrill and brittle, imploring someone to unplug her. On days like this, it is hard to see how she can remain in the job. Or how she could even want to. It feels as if it’s only the pressure going at her from all sides the hell is stopping her falling apart.

With John Bercow away at Michael Martin’s funeral, it was deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle who was left to preside over the proceedings. Taking his cue from Corbyn’s one-line questions, Hoyle moved things along at a nice clip, putting a stop to the braying with a simple hand gesture and keeping the odd outburst of Tory sycophancy to a minimum. PMQs was all wrapped up in under 40 minutes and the MPs roared their acceptance. Then, they would have done so if he’d let it run for over an hour. Not being John Bercow is more than enough to raise the roof in some quarters.

Boris Johnson had managed to prove his loyalty to May by refraining from heckling her- being so jet-lagged he could hardly keep his eyes open must have helped- but once she had left the chamber it was his turning at the dispatch box to explain how his one-man mission to nominate Donald Trump for the Nobel peace prize had ended with the US president canning the Iran nuclear deal. It wasn’t his finest hour, but even he seemed surprised that so many of his own MPs, including former defence secretary Michael Fallon, were so quick to hail Trump’s genius. With just a clue of Boris being in charge, the madmen really are taking over the asylum.

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‘I feel disgusted’: how Windrush scandal shattered two brothers’ lives

Trevor and Desmond Johnsons family units have been destroyed, but they sense Home Office cruelty is routine

Trevor and Desmond Johnson flew from Jamaica to London in 1971 as unaccompanied minors to join their parents who had moved to the UK several years earlier, hoping to make a better life for the family. The friends were 10 and 11 when they arrived, both incredibly excited about the future, but almost half a century subsequently, both men’s lives have been shattered by the Windrush scandal.

Trevor, a widowed single mother looking after two teenage daughters, was incorrectly told in 2014 that he was in Britain illegally and had his benefits cut off. An employee from Capita- the private company used by the Home Office for immigration run- called to tell him that policemen would come to his house to deport him back to the country he had left as small children. He spent that night waiting up with his daughters, listening for the knock at the door.

Because he was told he was not allowed to work, and was not eligible for benefits, the family was destitute and for two years they were forced to rely on food banks. Sometimes Trevor had to beg on the streets of Brixton so he could hot his home.

Desmond Johnson has been watching the UK’s unfolding political crisis from Jamaica.

As Trevor struggled to avoid deportation to Jamaica, his older brother Desmond, who had travelled back to Jamaica in 2001 to attend their father’s funeral and as the eldest son had remained on to support his widowed mom, was fighting a reverse battle to be allowed back into the UK. He has failed, and remains stuck in Jamaica, entailing he has not watched his daughter for 16 years.

Both men are devastated by the way the government’s” hostile surrounding” policy has destroyed two family units. But their indignation is subdued, deadened by an understanding that this is simply how British officials routinely treat people in their situation.

This sense that there was nothing especially remarkable about Home Office cruelty- even on such an extreme level- partly explains why the full extent of this scandal has taken so long to emerge.

Trevor tried repeatedly to explain to Home Office faculty that he was here legally, but no one believed him, even the then Home Office pastor James Brokenshire. Responding to a complaint about his therapy from the local MP he stated:” Mr Johnson’s application was refused because “hes having” failed to provide the Home office with proof to show that he was in the UK prior to 1 January 1973.”

The minister was apparently unaware of the profound difficulties that thousands of Windrush generation residents were having as they attempted to gather the enormous amount of paperwork required to persuade Home Office personnel that they were not illegal immigrants.

Asked by ITV’s Robert Peston on Sunday about the suit, Brokenshire said that during his time in the Home office personnel had looked “compassionately” at a number of cases, and added:” It’s about being firm but fair .”

Trevor, who was watching Brokenshire talking here the crisis on television, said this was not an accurate summary of how he had been treated. The whole family had been frightened by the deportation threats.” I was scared; my children were scared. The worst was that there was no fund. I had to go out on the street, asking people for fund for energy. It was very, very degrading ,” he said.

The Home office finally relented in his example after two years, when his sister posted details of his example on Facebook and an 81 -year-old retired dinner dame from his primary school recognised his picture and get in touch.

Peston on Sunday (@ pestononsunday)

#Peston asks @JBrokenshire about the @guardian‘s leaked letter proving a
Windrush case raised with him as Immigration Minister back in May 2016 SZcmz6nmJh

April 22, 2018

She afterwards sent a letter to the Home office, who issued him with a biometric card, recognising his right to be in the UK( albeit a temporary one that will need to be renewed in 2024 ). His difficulties have still not been fully resolved because the DWP has refused to repay 18 months of unpaid benefits, and he is receiving bailiffs’ letters threatening to come and remove valuables.

In Jamaica, Desmond was having difficulties returning to the UK for his daughter’s 21 st birthday. He remained in Jamaica, to look after his mother, but in 2014, she was coming to England for a family bridal and suggested he accompany her.” She said come and devote her a surprise for her birthday .” He applied for a visa to return to the UK, but it was rejected on the grounds that he had not provided details of a historical, trivial and spent criminal conviction on the application form.

” I had no recollection of it ,” he told. Officials had procured the recording of a drunk and disorderly offence dating back about 20 years. It was such a minor matter, which had resulted in a small penalty, that Desmond had solely forgotten about it.” They told I lied on the form. I had no idea what they meant ,” he told. They sent back his application with a note stating that his application had been refused and that he could not reapply for 10 years.

” It was a bombshell ,” he told.” It has been so painful. I wonder if my son or daughter died tomorrow, what would I do? I don’t want to come back to live in England; I simply want to see my children. It hurts. The last day I find my daughter she was about seven. I feel so bad about it .”

A Johnson household photo presents Trevor and Desmond fourth and fifth from the left. They were 10 and 11 when they arrived in Britain.

Desmond, who went to secondary school in London and spent 25 years running as a as a greengrocer on a market stall and later as a plasterer, said he felt betrayed.” My mom and father came to England to do the run that other people didn’t want to do ,” he said.

His father ran first in a television factory, and later as a baker, and his mother ran as a cleanser. In 1972 they had six children under 16 in London- three of them born in Jamaica, and three more later in London. They worked hard and instilled in their children the idea that it was crucial to work hard and do well.

” I feel disgusted by what really happened ,” Desmond said. He has been watching the unfolding political crisis from Jamaica and is unimpressed by the government’s response. The prime minister’s decision to apologise three times in three days was not enough.” She should resign, and the home secretary too. I had no idea there were so many of us in this situation ,” he said.

Trevor feels equally betrayed.” I’ve been here since I was 10 ,” he said.” I grew up with white people all around me; I worked with white people; I felt I was English. When this happened I didn’t feel English any more .” He worked for a while on a market stalling and as a security guard until he began to care full-time day for his daughters when they were aged two and five.

He remembers receiving two bellows from a Capita employee in July 2016, to be informed that staff would be coming to remove him. The call came as he was fighting to get official recognition that he was in the UK legally.

” The first time, it sounded like it was a young lady, a Scottish lady- she was really rude. I told: I’m sorry love, I’m not “re going away”, I’ve got a right to be here and set the phone down. I was up all night worried sick about it ,” Trevor said.” I explained to my daughters what their own problems was. I told,’ The Home office is trying to remove me .’ We all sat down and waited to see if they would come; I thought they would come and remove me in the night .”

No one came and the following morning he went to Lambeth Law Centre, which is still operating despite cuts to legal aid for help.” I wouldn’t have opened the door ,” he told. Staff coming to deport other Windrush victims have arrived armed with battering rams.

Trevor first became vaguely well informed possible immigration-related complications when his father succumbed and he wanted to go back to Jamaica for the funeral with the other members of the family in 2001. He had never applied for a British passport( he had never contemplated a holiday abroad, and had no reason otherwise to incur the expense of an application ).

He had difficulties working out what to do, until he managed to get a temporary travelling warrant from the Jamaican high commission. Because this was a more relaxed era, before the tighten of immigration rules, he was able to return to the UK on this paper- something that would be unthinkable now.

But problems merely began in 2014, when he was sent by the jobcentre back to college for a literacy course.” The college started asking me for newspapers. I said,’ I don’t need newspapers .’ I thought I was here legally since I had been here since I was a kid ,” he said.

Somehow officials must have tip-off off the Home office, and when Trevor went to his GP for a document indicating that he was eligible for sickness benefits, he was told:” We can’t give you a letter because the DWP has told us don’t issue one .”

” All the benefits, the child tax credits and the rent get cut off. It was very hard. Four old dames on my estate gave us food at Christmas ,” he said.” It was horrible. I had no clothes; my daughters had no clothes. My sisters came and “ve given me” food. I feed less; I was struggling to eat because of all the fret .” Trevor is profoundly grateful to those people who helped him during that period.

He has been trying repeatedly to get the DWP to issue several thousand pounds he is owed in sickness benefits that were stopped so he can untangle himself from the debt he got into when he was left penniless. The London borough of Lambeth promptly refunded housing benefit so he could get rid of his rent arrears but the DWP has been less helpful.

” They don’t want to give me anything. I called and asked what about my back pay? She said,’ You’re get benefits, aren’t you ?’ I said I was owed two years’ fund. She set the phone down on me. I’m not get anywhere; all I’m asking for is what was owed to me ,” he told. Officials have recently told him that they have lost his paperwork.

” I have loads of bailiffs’ letters starting from 2015; I couldn’t pay the television licence ,” he said. Before this problem, he was never in debt.” I used to pay my bills every week .”

Q& A

Timeline of the ‘hostile environment’ policy

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2012: Home secretary Theresa May: ‘The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.SSSS

2012: Hostile environment working group established, involving many government ministers.

2013: Sarah Teather MP raises very concerned about the working group and its stated aims.

2013 : Government introduces bill which became the Immigration Act 2014, and introduces key measures of the hostile environment.

2014 : Chasing Status warns of a ‘virtually invisible and rarely recognise group who can’t easily prove their legal status’. Home Office answers: ‘It is up to anyone who does not have an established immigration status to regularise their position- however long they have been here’.

2014 : Civil society organisations brief parliament during the passage of the 2014 Immigration Act that ‘individuals often do not have any identity documentation or corroborated status but have a right to remain in the UK’.

2014: Impact assessments of a Right to Rent strategy caution: ‘Some non-UK born older people may have additional difficulties in providing original documentation.’ Officials respond that work had been done to ensure checks ‘do not have an adverse impact on any age group’.

2016 : A letter from immigration pastor James Brokenshire discloses he knew of a Windrush victim having extreme difficulty proving he had arrived in the UK before 1971, and knew recurred legal action had been mounted to persuade the Home office to recognise the rights of a human who had lived here for 49 years.

2018 : A Liberty and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants dossier sets out many warns received by the government regarding the impacts of the current policy.

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His mother in Jamaica was highly upset about the situation.” She did everything she could to help. She was really angry .” His younger sister, Cardlin Johnson, 51, has been working for years on helping her brethren sort out their wrongful immigration issues.

She spent all her free time between looking after her children and working as a network traffic controller for Transport for London visiting records offices and repositories, trying to track down school records, struggling to find paperwork that presented Trevor had been in the UK since before 1 January 1973.

Brokenshire’s letter to the MP Kate Hoey points out that her efforts failed. Not only had Trevor Johnson failed to provide evidence that he was in the UK before 1 January, Brokenshire noted( with a precision that dedicates a clear insight into the inordinately high proof requirements made by the Home office ):” He has also been unable to demonstrate that “hes having” been continuously resident in the UK for the years: 1989 to 1990, 1994 to 1995 and 1997 to 1998.” The letter concludes that the Home office was preserving” the repudiation decision “.

” It has is still very distressing for the whole family ,” Cardlin told.” I know the hard work and chasing around I had to do. The government tells organisations aren’t allowed to retain documentation for too long. Sometimes data protection laws entail I wasn’t allowed to get the information. Trevor got very depressed. He worried about what was going to happen to his daughters if they deported him. He came here when he was 10. The system is a total disgrace .”

She was puzzled why such a shocking occurrence had not attracted a great deal of attention from MPs or local papers when it was going through the courts. The Windrush generation are” law-abiding, hardworking, keep their heads down and don’t usually make a fuss”, she said.

Trevor also feels angry.” Person should resign. Theresa May was there at the time; she should go ,” he said.” It was something to do with racism; it is funny how it is all black people affected. They destroyed proof so I couldn’t present who we were .”

Asked to comment on the occurrence, the Home Office responded by email, stating that Trevor made a No Time Limit( NTL) application in 2015 but it was rejected due to the incorrect fee and an incomplete sort. His sister said that was not correct.

He was later awarded NTL in August 2016. An official said Desmond should contact the new Windrush hotline and indicated that officials would now have the flexibility to appear again at his case.

On Sunday Trevor was called for the first time by a Home Office official. He refused to speak to them and told them to call Cardlin. She said someone who worked for” premium services” and had been drafted in to assist deal with the Windrush issue was calling everyone affected to update them on what was happening.

Cardlin was told the government was ” promoted through legislation in the next couple of weeks to offer those affected citizenship “. However, a Downing Street spokesperson said they were unaware of that.

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Customs union U-turn by May could provoke Brexiter cabinet revolt

Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan calls for pacify and tells sabre-rattling is unhelpful

Theresa May could face a cabinet uprising on a customs union as peers prepare to inflict more defeats on the governmental forces over the EU withdrawal bill in a key week for the future of the UK’s relations with Europe.

Amid Brexiter threats of a leadership challenge, the former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury committee, told party rebels should be careful what they wished for.

” This sabre-rattling is not coming from the section of the party that I represent. It is coming from the pro-Brexit segment of the party and is deeply unhelpful ,” she told.

Government hopes of avoiding a hard border in Ireland either through technological innovation or regulatory alignment have been put off after they were rejected during preliminary negotiations in Brussels.

Q& A

Brexit phrasebook: what is the customs union?

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EU members( plus Turkey, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino) trade without customs duties, taxes or tariffs between themselves, and charge the same tariffs on importations from outside the EU. Customs union members cannot negotiate their own trade bargains outside the EU, which is why leaving it- while hopefully negotiating a bespoke arranging- has been one of the government’s Brexit goals. See our full Brexit phrasebook .

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That has led to speculation that May is preparing to concede on a customs union, which has been a red line since the prime minister’s conference speech in October 2016.

Reports over the weekend suggested a “wargaming” exercising into the consequences of a concession showed that not even resulting Brexiters such as Michael Gove, the environment secretary, or Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, would resign.

But a source close to Gove reiterated his opponent:” Michael believes regarding the referendum result means taking back control of trade policy. He fully supports the prime minister’s position that this entails leaving the customs union .”

Nicky Morgan said hysteria and leadership supposition were not in Britain’s interest. Photograph: David Mirzoeff/ PA

Although the loss of other pledges in negotiations have been reluctantly accepted, such as the promise to reclaim control over fishing quotas from March 2019, accepting continued membership of a customs union would be of a different and much larger scale.

Downing Street sources dismissed the idea.” The stance remains very clear: we don’t think staying in a customs union is the right thing to do and it isn’t government policy to do so ,” a spokesperson said.

Any customs union makes it effectively impossible to negotiate free trade deals with other countries- one of the government’s key ambitions and a central justification for leaving the EU.

But a meaningful vote on remaining in the customs union is likely over the next several months. At least 10 Tory backbenchers have signed an amendment to the trade and customs bill supporting continued membership.

Morgan is one of the 12 select committee chairs who are backing that policy in a potentially difficult debate in the Commons on Thursday on customs union membership. She said it would be an opportunity for a calm debate about current realities of leaving the customs union based on the evidence that select committees were hearing as they investigated its potential impact.

” If every time we debate these issues or pass suggested amendment all we end up with is this hysteria and leadership speculation, that is not in Britain’s interest ,” she said.

” The majority of the party would not entertain a leadership contest at the moment and those who want to … should think very carefully if they actually want to intervene in the negotiations in the way a leadership tournament would .”

In the House of Lords, the government is braced for more defeats as peers begin a second week of elections on the EU withdrawal bill on Monday. Last week, 24 Tory peers backed the customs union amendment.

The most difficult vote on Monday is likely to be on the EU charter of fundamental rights. The government virtually lost a vote in the Commons on a similar amendment, which seeks to incorporate the charter into the legislation. It is one of the few major aspects of EU law that has been left out.

The government argues that the rights it protects are already covered by UK law, but it also says the charter offer improved protection than is needed. Campaigners fear that means the government will seek to dilute the rights.

Peter Goldsmith, who as Tony Blair’s us attorney general was involved in drafting the charter, said it was only be exempted from the withdrawal bill because of an ideologically driven hatred of the EU.

The government is vulnerable on such issues, with Tory rebels such as the former attorney general Dominic Grieve merely falling their opposition when the bill passed its earlier stages after ministers pledged to publish a review for the human rights conferred by the charter and set about their view.

The published review eventually amounted to an extended criticism of the EU charter.

In remarks that indicate Grieve may yet result a rebellion in the Commons, he said it would be unacceptable for rights to be left unprotected while waiting for the government to come forward with new legislation to make up for the loss of EU law.

” I want to see how the governmental forces reacts ,” he told.” I understand that in the longer term we need a new system, but it’s a mistake not to leave the protections intact for now .”

The equalities and human rights commission insists the charter is essential to safeguard individual rights effectively and adapt to changing circumstances. The charter includes a general right to non-discrimination, protection of a child’s best interests and the right to human dignity , none of which are properly protected by existing UK law.

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Syria gas attack: Theresa May condemns ‘barbaric’ targeting of civilians

Assad regime and Russia must be held to account if they were behind Douma attack, tells PM

Theresa May has said the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and his Russian backers must be held to account if found responsible for the chemical attack that killed dozens of people

The prime minister did not rule in joining international military action against the Syrian regime, but refused to elaborate on the range of options that might be available to the government.

During a visit to Denmark, she condemned the “barbaric” aimed at providing innocent civilians, including children, in the attack which is the subject of a meeting of the UN security council in New York on Monday afternoon.

Standing alongside her Danish equivalent, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, May told reporters:” If they are found to be responsible, the regime and its backers, including Russia, must be held to account .”

Later in Stockholm, where she was meeting with prime minister Stefan Lofven, May said:” We are running urgently with our allies to asses what has happened. But, we are also working with our allies on any action that is necessary .”

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, had earlier told his French equivalent, Jean-Yves Le Drian, that” a full range of options should be on the table” for the international community in response to the attack. This is understood to include airstrikes against military targets.

May has come under growing pressure in Britain to take action after the suspected poison gas attack on the rebel-held town of Douma in Syria which killed at least 42 people.

The prime minister did, however, toughen her criticism of the Russian government, saying Moscow’s recurred employ of its veto at the UN had enabled international rules on chemical weapons to be broken and investigations hampered.” This must stop ,” she said.

When asked whether she had a direct message for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, she said the Kremlin should” appear very carefully at the position they have taken “.

May said the attack was part of a “troubling” wider pattern of aggressive acts and that Britain had consistently given a “very clear message” to Syria about “brutal” ten-strikes against its own people.

But when it came to concrete action she maintained her alternatives open.” This is a brutal regime that is attacking its own people and we are very clear that it must be held to account and its backers must be held to account too ,” she said.

” What we are urgently doing with our allies is assessing what has taken place. Patently, if this is a chemical weapons attack of the sort the initial reports suggest that it is, this is another example of the Assad regime’s brutality and the brazen way in which they have ignored the interests of their people .”

Britain has been locked in urgent talks with allies in Washington, Paris and at the UN before Monday’s meeting.

Johnson said in February that Britain should consider joining military action against the Assad regime if there is fresh “incontrovertible” evidence he has utilized chemical weapons against his own people.

However, following a sarin attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun last April that left dozens dead, May rejected as “hypothetical” his suggestion that the UK would have to join action in the case of farther atrocities.

Earlier, Downing Street said the UK was working with its allies to come up with a rapid and unified response to the apparent chemical attack on Saturday in Douma.

A No 10 spokesman said Britain would consider” a range of options” if there was verified evidence of chemical weapons being used, but rejects to speculate on what these might be.

No 10 also cautioned Russia, which backs the Assad regime, against was striving to obstruct the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which has confirmed it has begun an investigation into the attack.

Government sources have expressed concern that if Britain were to had participated in any action taken to punish Assad it would have to be approved by parliament.

David Cameron suffered a serious jolt to his credibility when he lost a historic Commons vote in 2013 over launching airstrikes on the Assad regime to deter its use of chemical weapons, after the then Labour leader, Ed Miliband, refused to accept his backing to the plan.

There is no legal requirement for the government to seek parliamentary approval before ordering military action but it has become convention to consult MPs.

Donald Trump told the Assad regime and its allies on Sunday that there would be a ” big price to pay “~ ATAGEND after shocking footage demonstrated victims, many of them young children, suffering from the attack.

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Aftermath of suspected chemical assault in rebel-held Douma in Syria – video

The US president demanded access be opened to Douma, the last of three besieged districts in the Ghouta area to remain under opposition control, to confirm what had happened. He issued a statement along with the French chairman, Emmanuel Macron, vowing to” co-ordinate a strong, joint answer “.

It went a year to the day since Trump ordered a US strike in which 59 weapons reached a Syrian airbase thought to be the origin of the attack on Khan Sheikhun. Since then, he has vowed to order another ten-strike if chemical weapons were used again.

Israeli warplanes on Sunday bombed a Syrian regime airbase east of the town of Homs, Russian and Syrian military forces said.

Syria denied that a gas attack had taken place, while Moscow cautioned the west against taking” military action on fabricated pretexts” which could have dire consequences.

But at home, pressure was growing on May’s Conservative party for tough action against the regime. The defense pastor, Tobias Ellwood, said the UK could not” maintain turning a blind eye” to the” barbaric and illegal” horrors of the conflict.

Mark Field, the Foreign Office minister, told the BBC the UK could support the US and Nato friends” if there were to be further action” against Syria.” I don’t think we are going to be able to rely upon a United Nations security council resolution, which is almost unprecedented given the gravity of what is being proposed here, simply because the Russians will veto such a thing standing behind their client nation, Assad ,” he added.

The Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said there was a legitimate example for using force, tweeting:” Standing by as kids are gassed isn’t pacifism, it’s tolerating evil .”

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said he condemned the use of chemical weapons in any scenario, but did not place the blamed on Assad directly, instead calling for the UN to be able to access the area to investigate.

He added:” I call on all parties to cooperate urgently with the UN in conducting an inquiry into this so we can find out exactly who delivered the chemical weapon. The proof is significant and the use of international law is crucial to bring about a most peaceful world in the future.

” The misfortune and the terror of people’s lives in Syria can only aim by a political answer. That entails every country in the region, as well as Russia and the US, coming together to ensure there is a meaningful ceasefire, and there is a political process in bringing about a political solution to the conflict that has wasted so many lives in Syria .”

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Trump to decide on US response to Syria gas attack ‘within 48 hours’

President condemns heinous assault and vows to take action against those responsible

Donald Trump has condemned the ” heinous ” deadly chemical weapon attack on a Damascus suburbium and said he will decide within the next 24 to 48 hours whether to launch a military reprisal against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

Speaking to reporters as he convened his cabinet, the US president told:” We cannot allow cruelties like that”, adding that “hes having”” not much doubt” about who was behind the poison gas assault in Douma that killed more than 48 people and affected hundreds more.

When asked if military action was a possibility, Trump said:” Nothing is off the table … If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out, and we’ll know the answers quite soon. So we’re looking at that very, very strongly .”

Trump, who has consulted his British and French friends, announced:” We will be building some major decisions in the next 24 to 48 hours .”

Later, with his new, hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, beside him, he suggested a foreshortened schedule, telling:” We’ll be constructing that decision very quickly, probably by the end of the day .”

Asked if the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, bore any responsibility for the most recent attack, Trump told:” He may, yeah, he may. And if he does it’s going to be very tough, difficult and challenging. Everybody’s gonna pay a price. He will, everybody will .”

His remarks echoed a tweet on Sunday in which he specifically criticised Putin for the first time, warning that he would pay a” big cost” for backing the Assad government.

Almost precisely a year ago Trump authorised a Tomahawk missile strike on the Syrian Shayrat airbase within three days of a chemical assault deemed to have been undertaken by the Assad regime airforce. Russia in effect controls the airspace over Syria and operates its military operation from the Khmeimim airbase in north-western Latakia province and the nearby Russian naval base at Tartus.

The US defence secretary, Jim Mattis, visited the largest US military base in the Middle East in Qatar on Monday, and will have been briefed on the options for a US attack.

The US president’s comments came before a UN security council meeting. At the meeting, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley told the council:” The United States is determined to see the monster who fell chemical weapons on the Syrian people held to account . … History will record this as the moment when the Security Council either discharged its duty, or demonstrated its utter and complete failure to protect the people of Syria. Either route, the United States will respond .”

Washington is demanding that Russia aims its veto on a UN accountability mechanism that can determine persons responsible for chemical assaults. UN bodies can investigate whether a chemical attack has occurred but not point blame at any group or regime.

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Aftermath of suspected chemical attack in rebel-held Douma in Syria – video

Speaking in Stockholm, the British “ministers “, Theresa May, told:” We are running urgently with our allies to assess what has happened. But, we are also working with our allies on any action that is necessary .”

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, spoke to Trump by phone and concurred a strong joint reply. In Paris, Macron held talks with Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince who is one of the strongest backers of the Syrian opposition.

The Russian foreign ministry insisted there was no evidence of a chemical assault, let alone Syrian government involvement, adding the Syrian rebel fighters, branded by Moscow as jihadi terrorists, may have mounted a false flag operation to try to seduce a reluctant Trump administration deeper into the seven-year Syrian civil war.

The rebels had been mounting a last-ditch, and now abandoned, resistance to the Syrian government taking over Douma. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told:” Our military experts have visited this place and they did not find any tracing of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians .”


The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told:” It’s necessary to examine very carefully what happened in Douma. And it goes without saying that without this information, making any allowances is wrong and dangerous .”

Russia also blamed Israel for intensifying the Syrian crisis by carrying out an overnight air raid on a largely Iranian running T-4 airbase near Homs inside Syria. Iran tells at least three Iranians were among the 14 dead in the Israeli missile attack. Israel had previously struck the airbase, in March last year and February this year.

Israel is determined to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and block the flow of arms to Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces close to the Israeli perimeter in south-west Syria.

The Iranian foreign ministry named the three members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps killed in the attack, and denounced Israel’s actions as” a violation of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria “.

Israel, according to US officials, forewarned Washington of its air raid, and Russia in a diplomatic turnaround outed Israel as being responsible for the attack, saying two Israel jets launched the overnight strike.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, conveyed deep concern about the chemical attack in Douma, saying it would launch an immediate investigation.

The OPCW told:” A fact-finding mission is in the process of gathering further information from all available sources to establish whether chemical weapons were used .”

The Russian military are also at the scene of the attacks, claiming there are no reports from physicians at local hospitals of a chemical attack, a suggestion that appears to be contradicted by graphic videos of children foaming at the mouth.

The OPCW only has powers to investigate whether a chemical attack has taken place but not to attribute responsibility. A UN-OPCW body, the joint investigative mechanism, did have powers to ascribe responsibility but was closed last year after Russia vetoed its renewal.

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Russia must uphold the chemical weapons convention, tells UK- video

The UK ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, said Russia as a permanent member of the security council had a special responsibility to uphold and protect the chemical weapons convention and international law.

The absence of a UN investigatory mechanism was a significant gap in the international architecture to prevent impunity for war crimes, she told. She added she was not holding her breath for Russia to drop its objections to an investigatory mechanism, pointing out Russia had vetoed the proposal twice before.

Britain’s Labour party also moved closer to blaming Assad for the attack. The darknes foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, told:” What has happened in Douma looks to be merely the most recent abhorrent attack in Syria use chemical weapons, a war crime for which[ the] Assad regime has been found responsible in the past and which we utterly condemn .”

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Russian spy attack: May to set out reprisals in parliament

Moscow says UK is being openly provocative and it will retaliate against any new measures

Theresa May is preparing to set out a range of reprisals against the Russian country before parliament, after a midnight deadline passed for the Kremlin to explain why a former spy was poisoned by a Russian-manufactured nerve agent.

Russia said there would be reprisal against any fresh measures and that the UK had so far offered only” baseless accusations which are not backed up by any evidence “. A spokesman for Vladimir Putin told Russia” repudiates the language of ultimatums”, while a foreign ministry spokesperson told Britain must not try to threaten Moscow, pointing to Putin’s recent speech in which he presented a range of new atomic weapon.

The prime minister will hold a session of the national security council on Wednesday to lay out her proposals, after a day of diplomacy during which she tried support from the US president, Donald Trump, as well as Nato and EU allies including Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel.

May will chair members of the council, which is attended by a select group of cabinet ministers, including the Cabinet Office minister, David Lidington, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, and the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, as well as May’s most senior security consultant, Mark Sedwill.

Downing Street told Trump “ve been given” his full backing to the UK in tackling Russia over the poisoning of the former double agent Sergei Skripal, after a chaotic 12 hours during which the president fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

The White House said the two leaders” agreed on the necessity of achieving consequences for those who use these heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms “.

During the day, Johnson spoke to his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who said France was also prepared to take concrete measures.” The French government stressed particular concerns about Russia’s use of chemical weapons elsewhere, as demonstrated with their support to Assad’s murderous regime in Syria ,” the Foreign Office said.

Both May and Johnson spoke to their German opposites, and the FCO said Berlin supported taking further steps against Russian disinformation.

Frans Timmermans, a vice-president of the European commission, told Europe should show a united front.

” It is of the utmost importance that those who are responsible for what has happened assure very clearly that there is European solidarity- unequivocal, unwavering and very strong- so that those responsible are really penalise for what they did ,” he told the European parliament.

In Moscow, Russian officials and prominent members of the foreign policy establishment on Wednesday reiterated menaces that Moscow would respond harshly if penalise for the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The Russian foreign ministry summoned the British diplomat, Laurie Bristow, and warned that” actions by the British authorities are openly provocative “.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, accused the UK of staging a” political performance” intended to mislead the international community and said the allegations that Russia was likely to blame for poisoning Skripal were neither robust nor serious.

Among the options being considered by the UK are fresh sanctions, visa forbiddings as well as the possibility of setting up action by Ofcom against the Russian broadcaster RT. The watchdog said it had written to RT warns that an” unlawful use of force” by Russia against Britain would trigger a fast-track investigation to potentially revoke its licence.

” Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they close Russia Today ,” the foreign ministry spokesperson told.

Sanctions would provoke” disdain and a harsh response “, Sergey Karaganov, an influential foreign policy analyst who heads Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, told the Guardian by telephone on Wednesday morning.” We don’t care what Britain threatens us with. The proposed punishments look ridiculous .”

Russian officials continued to protest the country’s innocence. Members of parliament tasked with the portfolio for chemical disarmament told Russia no longer had any stores of chemical weapons.

The novichok nerve agent,” just like any other stockpiled over the previous period, has been scrapped”, the MP Vladimir Gutenev told reporters on Wednesday.

Labour is set to argue that the government should formally support amendments to the sanctions and anti-money-laundering bill to target human rights abusers, named the “Magnitsky clause” after the Russian accountant who died after uncovering state-sponsored fraud.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said the measures would” hit them in the pocket” and could be applied to human rights abusers anywhere in the world.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, will respond to May’s statement on Wednesday afternoon, having been criticised by some of his own backbenchers for his initial answer, which assaulted the Conservatives for accepting gifts from Russians.

McDonnell said the response had not been ill-judged and Corbyn wanted due process to be followed.” He was very careful to say we have to have due process on this, both to give the government day, and yes even Russia time to respond ,” he told BBC Radio 4′ s Today programme.

” I think he got the tone exactly right, to make sure no one could criticise us for not having due process .”

On Tuesday evening, the Metropolitan police launched a counter-terrorism investigation into the death of another Russian exile in London, Nikolai Glushkov, a close friend of the oligarch and Putin adversary Boris Berezovsky. The Met said it was ” a precaution because of associations that the man is believed to have had “.

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Police chief leads praise for officer poisoned in Russian spy attack

Nick Bailey, a detective sergeant in Wiltshire police, receives specialist therapy and tributes for work in Salisbury

Nick Bailey, the police officer who needed intensive care following the poisoning this week in Salisbury of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, has been described as well-liked, brave and dedicated.

Wiltshire’s temporary chief constable, Kier Pritchard, visited Bailey at Salisbury district hospital on Thursday and reported that the detective sergeant was sitting up in bed, but that the long-term prognosis was unclear.

” I satisfied Nick and his wife at the hospital in the intensive care unit ,” Pritchard said.” I’ve known Nick for many years, he’s a great character, he’s a huge presence in Wiltshire police- well liked, well loved, a massively dedicated officer.

” He’s clearly receiving high-specialist therapy. He’s well, he’s sat up. He is not the Nick that I know but of course he’s receiving a high level of therapy. He’s in the safe hands of the medical professionals working in Salisbury district.

” Of course he’s very anxious, he’s very concerned. He did his very best on that night. All of our faculty that attended the incident in Salisbury in the Maltings performed the role that police officers and police staff do every day up and down the country. With limited information, they responded to try and protect individuals and safeguard people who we knew were ill. I’m massively proud of what Nick did and all of my staff on that night, they did a first-class task. We’re rooting for Nick. We all miss him .”

The prime minister, Theresa May, paid tribute to the emergency services in Salisbury who had reacted to the initial call on Sunday” and those who continue to respond to this appalling and reckless assault “.

She added:” In particular, my thinks are with DS Nick Bailey, one of the first responders, who remains in a serious condition in hospital. We are all thinking of him, his family, friends and colleagues, and the two other victims, at what is an incredibly difficult time.

” The events of Sunday are a stark reminder, if ever one was required, of the dangerous situations our emergency services face and the dedication and gallantry they display every day in order to keep us safe .”

Messages of support for Bailey arrived from members of the public and police forces across the country. Colleagues conveyed devastation at what happened to him.

Bailey joined the force in 2002 and he knew Salisbury city centre well, having run there as a member of the neighbourhood policing team. He became a detective constable and single-handedly worked on the case of Arthur Bonner, who sexually assaulted multiple victims over four decades between the early 1970 s and 2014.

After Bonner was jailed for 14 years, Bailey was awarded a chief constable’s certificate of excellence. Bailey said of the Bonner case:” You live and exhale that type of investigation for a long time. It’s on your mind constantly, and it’s very difficult to switch off, it’s such a big thing. It affects so many people in such a significant style .”

Bailey was transferred to Wiltshire’s force headquarters in Devizes before being moved back to Salisbury CID, where he worked on steals, robberies and assaults.

A police officer stoops near the bench in the Maltings shopping centre, where Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found. Photograph: Thom Belk/ Solent News

Meanwhile, new images have emerged showing how little protection the first officers on the scene of the poisoning at the Maltings had; clearly unaware of the severity of the situation officers did not have specialist protective clothing and members of the public can be seen strolling nearby.

The photographs were taken by Thom Belk, who had been at a nearby indoor football match when he hear sirens and an air ambulance.

Belk, of Salisbury, said:” I went to see “whats going on” just as the air ambulance was taking off and the land ambulance was leaving. These pictures are the immediate aftermath of what had happened- I don’t think anyone there is had a clue what was going on. The police officer is very close to the area where[ Skripal and his daughter] were taken ill .”

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No 10 defends PM after Stormzy’s Grenfell freestyle at Brits

May didnt assure performance but said Grenfell tragedy should never be allowed to happen again

Downing Street has defended the cabinet of ministers after commentaries from Stormzy at the 2018 Brit awardings, where the south London MC attacked Theresa May for her response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

The prime minister’s spokesman said the government had committed millions of pounds to the community in the aftermath of the blaze at the west London tower block that killed at least 71 people in June last year.

Closing his Brits performance with a freestyle performance, Stormzy asked:” Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell ?” adding that the government” just forgot about Grenfell, you felons, and you got the cheek to call us savages. You should do some incarcerate period, you should pay some damages. We should burn your house down and see if you can manage this .”

The Downing Street spokesman said May had not watched the performance on Wednesday night and said he was not aware of any plans to reach out to Stormzy.

However, the spokesman said the prime minister would listen to anyone with very concerned about how the funds allocated to survivors and community services were being expended.

” The PM has been clear that what happened at Grenfell was an unimaginable tragedy, which should never be allowed to happen again ,” Downing Street said.” She is determined the public inquiry will discover not just what went wrong but why the voices of the people of Grenfell had been dismissed for so many years .”

No 10 said PS58. 29 m had been provided by the government so far in the consequences of the the flame, though the total sum was what had been committed, rather than what had been spent in so far.

” If there are any concerns being raised about that, we will of course look at those ,” the spokesman said.” Wherever there is more that can be done, we will look at that too .”

The sum included PS28m announced in the budget for mental health and emotional support, PS15m towards rehousing, PS6m to survivors through the discretionary fund, PS7. 7m for the Bellwin strategy for emergency services to compensate them for the additional costs as a result of the disaster, and PS2. 2m for local community projects.

No 10 acknowledged there is also concern about the initial response to the fire and said that was something the public inquiry, led by retired magistrate Sir Martin Moore-Bick, would examine.

” The “ministers ” told us that the initial response was too slow and that is something for the public investigation to look at ,” the spokesman said.” I’m not get into responding to individual comments- I’m pointing out the gravity with which the PM is taking this .”

Stormzy has long been a supporter of the survivors of the fire and featured on a charity single to raise money for the victims.

At Glastonbury festival, the MC said he believed the official response had been weak and those responsible for the conditions that led to the tragedy had been left unpunished.” We exhort the authorities to tell the fucking truth, first and foremost. We urge them to do something. We urge the fucking government to be held accountable for the fuckery, and we ain’t gonna stop until we get what we deserve ,” he said.

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Theresa May to reshuffle cabinet on Monday, No 10 confirms

Ministers seen as possible casualties in rejig prompted by loss of Damian Green include Justine Greening and Andrea Leadsom

Theresa May will carry out a reshuffle of her cabinet and junior pastors this week, Downing Street has confirmed. The chores of the education secretary, Justine Greening, and the party chairwoman, Sir Patrick McLoughlin, are particularly vulnerable, it is believed.

Greening was no enthusiast for the prime minister’s push to expand the number of grammar schools and it is widely reported that the Conservatives are anxious to refresh their education policies. However, in an indication that she could defy any attempt to move her, the education secretary posted a series of messages on Twitter heralding her achievements in the various roles and twice proclaimed:” School criteria are rising .”

Downing Street refused to comment on possible changes on Saturday evening but it is understood that the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, the Brexit secretary, David Davis, and the home secretary, Amber Rudd, would all be continuing in their posts.

Speculation about the fate of the business secretary, Greg Clark, and Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, has suggested they may also face moves.

It is known that the prime minister was looking to replace her close friend and ally Damian Green at the Cabinet Office after he was forced to quit in December. Green was told to step down as first secretary of state after he acknowledged lying about the discovery of pornographic images on his Commons computer during a police raid. He was the third minister to be forced from office following abdications by the defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, and the international developing secretary, Priti Patel.

On Saturday night, May was said to be preparing to appoint the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to replace Green although it was also reported that the proclamation may be delayed while the NHS winter crisis continues. Boris Johnson, who some said a week ago could be moved, is now thought to be safe in his role, at the least for the time being.

More sweeping changes in junior ministerial ranks on Tuesday are planned by the prime minister, it was claimed. May was said to be putting the finishing touches to a series of promotions for younger MPs to roles in government. Several commentators said the Conservative party was anxious to resurrect its fortunes with the help of fresh faces and a more varied cast of ministers and aides. More women and younger MPs are expected to be promoted and dedicated roles at junior ministerial levels.

The Sunday Telegraph suggested that promotions were also expected for other figures including Dominic Raab, the justice minister. Raab, a leading Brexiter, would replace Brandon Lewis as the immigration minister, the report said. Raab would then join the cabinet and take responsibility for steering the immigration bill through parliament. It was also noted that May would use the opportunity to introduce greater diversity into ministerial ranks, with the black former army policeman James Cleverly tip-off for a senior party role.

Among MPs from the 2015 intake who could win promotion are government aides such as Suella Fernandes, the head of the party’s European Research Group, and Seema Kennedy, the PM’s parliamentary private secretary.

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Donald Trump’s London visit still uncertain after call with May as tensions continue

Pair have expressed disagreement over Jerusalem and Trumps Islamophobic retweets, and neither US nor UK mention visit in accounts of phone call

Theresa May spoke to Donald Trump on Tuesday about their country’s very different positions on Jerusalem, but it was left unclear whether previous damage to the relationship had been repaired- or whether the president would visit London in February to open the new US embassy.

The bellow between the two leaders came 13 days after May had announced she would speak to Trump about his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a position at odds with the policy pursued by London and almost all other UN member states, which argue that the fate of the city should be decided in comprehensive negotiations.

Asked if the two-week delay amounted to a snub by Trump, a spokesman for May said the pair had” a good relationship”, which included being able to differ on some matters.

” The prime minister has always been clear on these matters that part of having a special relationship is that whenever there is days you don’t concur, you can say so ,” the spokesman said.

However, there is still no agreed to by a Trump visit to the UK, which had been postponed because of fears that it would trigger mass demonstrations. British officials say that ultimately Trump will have to decide whether to attain the journey, given that large-scale demoes against him are schemed, and that it would not be possible to stage-manage a visit to London, unlike during Trump’s previous journeys to Riyadh, Jerusalem, Warsaw and Beijing.

The US ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, a personal friend of Trump, said last week he expected the president to visit London in the new year, creating expectations that he would fly in to open a new $800 m embassy complex in Battersea on the south bank of the Thames. However, neither the Downing Street nor the White House account of Monday’s call mentioned a presidential visit.

A afterward statement from Downing Street said that May had offered condolences for Monday’s train crash in Washington nationand that they had” discussed the different positions we took on the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and agreed on the importance of the US bringing forward new proposals for peace and the international community supporting these efforts “.

The issue of Jerusalem has isolated Washington from almost all its allies, and forced a rare US veto of a UN security council resolution on Monday, when the 14 other council members, including the UK, voted to call for the US recognition of its status as Israeli capital be rescinded.

The election described a bitter response from the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, who described it as an “insult”, adding:” It won’t be forgotten .” In an official transcript of her remarks issued on Tuesday, however, the line about the vote not being forgotten was left out. The White House account of the president’s dialogue with May did not mention Jerusalem.

The open rift over Jerusalem followed a sharp exchange between May and Trump after the president retweeted Islamophobic videos circulated by the extreme-right Britain First group, which was banned from Twitter this week. The “ministers ” publicly rebuked Trump, saying he had been “wrong” to share the videos, which depicted a sour tweeted riposte from the president telling her not to focus on him but on what was happening in the UK.

A spokesman for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:” It has taken Theresa May two weeks to contact Trump over his dangerous decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, yet she seems to have failed to use the opportunity to call him out for retweeting abhorrent Islamophobic material. As Prime Minister, May has a responsibility to stand up against hate and for all communities in our country .”.

The No 10 communique on Tuesday’s phone call said the two leaders also discussed the situation in Yemen, and that May had expressed” our ongoing deep concerns at the humanitarian situation “.

A Saudi-led coalition supported by both countries is conducting an aerial bombing campaign and a siege of rebel-held the regions that has contributed significantly to a humanitarian disaster. May has called for an end to the blockade, but British officers acknowledge that Trump has much greater leveraging on the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, with whom the president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have a close relationship.

Trump issued a brief statement on 6 December, saying he had asked US officials to ask Riyadh to permit food, gasoline and water and medication to reaching Yemeni ports, but he has not put overt pressure on Salman on the issue.

Downing Street said May reported on progress in Brexit talks and the president and prime minister” wished each other a very Merry Christmas and looked forward to keeping in close touch “.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said the consultations with London about the visit were continuing.

” We are working with them to finalise the details, which we expect to announce soon ,” Sanders said.

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