Posts Tagged ‘Gavin Williamson’

UK minister slams ‘pariah state’ Russia over worldwide cyber attacks campaign

October 4, 2018

Ahead of NATO talks, Gavin Williamson says Moscow’s ‘reckless and indiscriminate’ attacks have isolated it from the international community


British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson prior to attend a NATO defense ministerial meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 4, 2018.  (AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel DUNAND)

British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson prior to attend a NATO defense ministerial meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 4, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel DUNAND)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Britain’s defense minister on Thursday condemned Russia as a “pariah state” after London accused Kremlin spies of mounting a campaign of cyber attacks on civilian bodies around the world.

Cyber experts from the UK have identified operatives from Russia’s GRU military intelligence as being behind a string of high-profile incidents, including an attempted hack on the World Anti-Doping Agency in Switzerland last year.

As he arrived for talks in Brussels with his NATO counterparts, Gavin Williamson said Moscow’s “reckless and indiscriminate” attacks had left it isolated in the international community.

“This is not the actions of a great power, this is the actions of a pariah state and we’ll continue working with allies to isolate, make them understand they cannot continue to conduct themselves in such a way,” Williamson told reporters.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) has “high confidence” that the GRU was “almost certainly” responsible for a number of attacks, including the infamous targeting of the US Democratic Party ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to sources in London.

In this photo taken on March 8, 2018, members of the emergency services in green biohazard encapsulated suits investigate the site where Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on March 4 in critical condition at The Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, southern England. (AFP PHOTO/Ben STANSALL)

NATO is stepping up efforts to strengthen its resources to counter electronic warfare, with the US set to announce it is making offensive cyber capabilities available to the alliance.

Asked three times whether Britain would consider hitting back at Russia with cyber attacks of its own, Williamson said that being named and shamed was a deterrent in itself.

“We’re going to make it clear where Russia acts that we are going to be exposing that action and we believe that by doing so this will act as a disincentive to act in such a way in the future,” he said.

Ties between Britain and Russia are at rock bottom after a nerve agent attack targeting former Kremlin agent Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury.

London has blamed Moscow for the attack, which left one person dead, and last month the British-based investigative group Bellingcat identified one of the suspects as a highly decorated GRU colonel.



Royal Navy warship ‘confronted by Chinese military’ in South China Sea

September 6, 2018

A Royal Navy warship has sailed close to islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea, a move denounced by China as a “provocation”.

In a sign of Britain increasingly flexing its military muscle in the region, HMS Albion last week passed by the Paracel Islands, where it was reportedly confronted by the Chinese military.

The Albion, a 22,000 ton amphibious warship carrying a contingent of Royal Marines, was on its way to Ho Chi Minh City, where it docked on Monday after a deployment in and around Japan.

Beijing dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to challenge the British vessel, but both sides remained calm during the encounter, a source told Reuters.

China said Britain was engaged in “provocation” and that it had lodged a strong complaint. In a statement to Reuters, the Foreign Ministry said the ship had entered Chinese territorial waters around the Paracel Islands on August 31 without permission, and the Chinese navy had warned them to leave.

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HMS Albion reportedly passed by the Paracel Islands in recent days to challenge Beijing’s ‘excessive claims’ CREDIT: PA

“The relevant actions by the British ship violated Chinese law and relevant international law, and infringed on China’s sovereignty. China strongly opposes this and has lodged stern representations with the British side to express strong dissatisfaction,” the ministry added.

“China strongly urges the British side to immediately stop such provocative actions, to avoid harming the broader picture of bilateral relations and regional peace and stability,” it said.

“China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”

A source told Reuters that the Albion did not enter the territorial seas around any features in the hotly disputed region but demonstrated that Britain does not recognise excessive maritime claims around the Paracel Islands. Twelve nautical miles is an internationally recognised territorial limit.

The Paracels are occupied entirely by China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

A spokesman for the Royal Navy said: “HMS Albion exercised her rights for freedom of navigation in full compliance with international law and norms.”

Dr Euan Graham, a Senior Fellow at the Lowy Institute in Australia, said the move followed an earlier passage by a Royal Navy ship through the Spratly Islands.

He said it was a clear indication of Britain’s support for the US, which has said it would like to see more international participation in such actions.

“Also, the fact that Albion was coming from Japan and on her way to Vietnam gives the signal a sharper edge to China,” he told The Telegraph.

The Albion is one of three Royal Navy ships deployed to Asia this year, along with HMS Argyll and HMS Sutherland.

“The UK has impressively deployed three Royal Navy surface ships to Asian waters this year, after a long gap between ship visits, to this part of the world,” he added.

Military vehicles are seen in the loading dock of the HMS Albion, the British Royal Navy flagship amphibious assault ship, after the ship’s arrival at Harumi Pier in Tokyo CREDIT: REUTERS

Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, said in June that deployment of the three ships was intended to send the “strongest of signals” on the importance of freedom of navigation.

Dr Graham said “the bigger test of UK commitment to regional security in the Indo-Pacific is about the consistency of its military presence into the future”.

“The Royal Navy is making encouraging noises about sending assets to participate in FPDA (the Five Power Defence Arrangement) exercises as well as forward basing in future.”

The FPDA is a regional security institution between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which some $3 trillion of shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Both Britain and the United States say they conduct FONOP  operations throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies.

The British Navy has previously sailed close to the disputed Spratly Islands, further south in the South China Sea, several times in recent years but not within the 12 nautical mile limit, regional diplomatic sources have said.

FONOPs, which are largely symbolic, have so far not persuaded Beijing to curtail its South China Sea activities, which have included extensive reclamation of reefs and islands and the construction of runways, hangars and missile systems.

Beijing says it is entitled to build on its territories and says the facilities are for civilian use and necessary self-defence purposes. China blames Washington for militarising the region with its freedom of navigation patrols.

Foreign aircraft and vessels in the region are routinely challenged by Chinese naval ships and monitoring stations on the fortified islands, sources have said previously.

In April, warships from Australia – which like Britain is a close US ally – had what Canberra described as a close “encounter” with Chinese naval vessels in the contested sea.


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Brexit: Britain might not pay €44 billion divorce bill if there is no UK-EU free trade deal, warns Dominic Raab

July 22, 2018

Britain wants the EU to agree to a post-Brexit free trade deal; the EU wants Britain to pay its financial obligations after it leaves the bloc next year. British Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab says both are linked.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (picture-alliance/abaca/ANDBZ/T. Monasse)

Britain might not pay a promised 39 billion pound ($51 billion, €44 billion) divorce bill to the European Union if both sides fail to reach a post-breakup free trade deal, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator hinted on Sunday.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper that EU law governing the talks required London and Brussels to negotiate their post-Brexit relationship alongside a divorce deal.

Read more: Dominic Raab is UK’s new Brexit secretary

Talks on the divorce deal experienced a breakthrough in December, with Britain conceding to EU demands that it pay its remaining financial obligations after it plans to leave the bloc in March 2019.

But the EU has remained skeptical about British demands for the post-Brexit relationship, including a blueprint free trade deal proposed by British Prime Minister Theresa May in early July.

“You can’t have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side,” Raab said. “So I think we do need to make sure that there’s some conditionality between the two.”

British divisions

Raab’s veiled threat was the latest sign of division within May’s conservative cabinet over Britain’s Brexit policy. Chancellor Philip Hammond, Britain’s finance minister who favors close ties to the EU after Brexit, had previously said it would be “inconceivable” for London to not pay the bill.

Read more: EU Customs Union, Single Market, Brexit — What you need to know

May was forced to accept the resignation of Raab’s hardline predecessor, David Davis, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson two weeks ago after they said her post-Brexit free trade deal proposal would keep Britain too close to the EU.

Raab’s EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, also expressed doubts about the proposal during their first meeting on Friday.

Both sides are hoping to reach a Brexit deal by October to give national parliaments enough time for its ratification. Disagreements about the status of the border between Northern Ireland, a British territory, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, have also been plaguing the talks for months.

amp/rc (AP, AFP)


Britain’s Brexit plan ‘savaged by EU’ — “The prime minister’s plan has failed”

July 22, 2018

David Davis is somewhere saying, “I told you so…”

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The Daily Mail and Daily Express are scathing about Michel Barnier’s criticism of Theresa May’s Brexit plans.

“Now there’s a surprise” is the Mail’s response – pointing out that the EU’s chief negotiator is concerned the proposals will “give UK firms a competitive edge”.

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Michel Barnier

Both papers quote the Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who accuses the EU of being “mafia-like” and insists Mr Barnier’s “aggressive” language proves Britain was right to vote to leave.

According to the Spectator, the prime minister’s “plan has failed”. It believes Mrs May’s Chequers gambit “could lead to the fall of the government and the ceding of power to the most left-wing Labour administration in history”.

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The former government minister Anna Soubry tells the Guardian that Mrs May has capitulated to what she calls “the forces of darkness” and is being run by Mr Rees-Mogg’s faction within her party.

Ms Soubry says that she, and around a dozen rebels who support a soft Brexit, cannot be relied upon to vote for any final deal.

Meanwhile, the i newspaper says pro-Leave Conservatives are warning the prime minister that she faces more resignations if she makes additional concessions on Brexit.

Boris JohnsonImage copyright PA


“BoJo no go” is the Daily Mirror’s headline as it reveals that former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is yet to leave his official government residence, almost a fortnight after he quit over Brexit.

The paper says he’s expected to spend another few weeks staying rent-free in the mansion.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has urged Mrs May to follow the example of Nigel Lawson by cutting taxes to encourage growth.

He is said to have told the cabinet earlier this week that giving people “more power over their own money” would generate greater revenue and strengthen the economy.



Education Secretary Damian Hinds makes a promise in the Guardian to relieve the stress placed on teachers in England – admitting that the workload is the “number one” complaint among them.

Mr Hinds says he will “end the constant cycle of reforms”. He also suggests schools are “on a par with the NHS as a special case for extra government spending”.


Politics Home carries a suggestion by the shadow sports minister, Rosena Allin-Khan, that England fans were afraid to display the flag of St George during the World Cup because of its association with “far-right ideology”.

The Conservative MP for Shrewsbury, Daniel Kawczynski, rejects the claim in the Daily Telegraph, insisting a “huge number” of his constituents flew the flag.

The Daily Mail says there was “anger” on Twitter as users accused Labour of “knocking everything patriotic”.

Brexit: Philip Hammond accused of betraying Theresa May to end EU freedom of movement

July 21, 2018

Cabinet at war over freedom of movement as Philip Hammond says EU workers should get ‘preferential treatment’ 


Sajid Javid and Philip Hammond have clashed over free movement after the Chancellor said that EU workers should be given “preferential” treatment in a bid to win over Angela Merkel and strike a post-Brexit trade deal.

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The Telegraph has learned that official minutes from the Chequers summit state that the Chancellor said he “disagreed with the Home Secretary on labour mobility and ending free movement”.

He made the comments after Mr Javid, the Home Secretary, told Cabinet at the meeting that “free movement had to end” and that there could be “no back door”.

He argued that “labour mobility” should be limited to current international obligations but Mr Hammond argued that the Government should “keep…

Read the rest (Paywall):


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Home Secretary Sajid Javid

Philip Hammond angered colleagues at the crunch Chequers summit by insisting that Britain needed ‘maximum flexibility to negotiate’ including Britain’s border situation

PHILIP Hammond has been accused of betraying Theresa May’s sacred Brexit “red line” to end EU freedom of movement.

The Chancellor was at the centre of a row during the Prime Minister’s Chequers summit two weeks ago after appearing to suggest Britain’s borders should be on the Brussels negotiation table.

He angered colleagues including Home Secretary Sajid Javid by insisting Britain needed to be given “maximum flexibility to negotiate.”

Minutes from the Chequers summit stated that Mr Hammond argued in favour of offering preferential treatment to EU workers in a bid to win the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He urged Cabinet colleagues to “keep options open” for preferential mobility arrangements for EU citizens.

But Mr Javid and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said any perception that free movement was continuing would be toxic to voters.

Mr Javid insisted “free movement had to end”, adding that there must be “no back door” for EU nationals after Brexit.

The pro-EU Chancellor has been one of the biggest advocates for softer Brexit around the Cabinet table – to the fury of Leave supporting Tory MPs.

But his allies insisted that he does not want to keep free movement for EU citizens to come to the UK forever – but was raising concerns about labour mobility after Brexit.

Details of the tense standoff during the Brexit showdown at the PM’s country house are revealed today by Sun columnist James Forsyth.

But sources close to Theresa May have insisted that that there is “no room in the PM’s mind for one iota of deviation on free movement.”

They say: “If you can’t say free movement has ended, you can’t have a deal that’s sellable in any way”.

According to minutes seen by the Daily Telegraph, he said: “Such an agreement would be very important for the Chancellor of Germany.

“If the UK sought her help to deliver this deal, it would need to be prepared to negotiate on this point.”

But Mr Javid hit back by saying “free movement had to end,” insisting there must be “no back door” for EU nationals after Brexit.

The minutes stated that the Chancellor “disagreed with the Home Secretary on labour mobility and ending free movement”.

Revelations that Mr Hammond wants to put free movement on the negotiating table is likely to open up another explosive row with Tory Brexiteers.

Our revelation comes as Mrs May faced fresh pressure to rule out giving any further concessions to Brussels as negotiations come to a head in the Autumn.

Brexiteer Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom publicly warned that the Chequers plan must be the “final offer” rather than an opening gambit.

But Mrs May risked fresh wrath from her MPs by refusing to explicitly rule out further concessions to Brussels.

Asked if Mrs Leadsom was correct to describe the Chequers agreement as Britain’s final offer to the EU, a spokesman for the PM would only say: “The proposals that we put forward in the White Paper are what we believe to be the only credible and realistic way to move the negotiations forward and that was made clear numerous times by the PM.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt sparked further fears by twice refusing to describe Chequers as the “final offer”.

He would only say: “It’s our substantive offer I think is the best way to phrase it,” during a visit to Scotland.

UK Ministers’ demands for more money will mean higher taxes and leave Tories ‘crushed’ at election, warns Liz Truss

June 26, 2018
A SENIOR Conservative minister has slammed Theresa May’s Cabinet for their “unsustainable” budget increase demands, and warned tax increases could threaten to “crush” the Conservatives at the next General Election.

Liz TrussGETTY

Liz Truss has stated that increased spending would lead to ‘higher and higher taxes’ for the public

Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, called on her fellow ministers to acknowledge that “un-Conservative” spending increases would threaten to impose “higher and higher taxes” on the general public.

She also warned tax increases would be a “complete contradiction of the Brexit vote” and would betray the wishes of Conservative voters.

Commenting on the £29,000 which is currently spent on public services per household, she said: “My instinct is we can get better value for money for that spending, rather than just upping the budget of every department.

“Government has a responsibility to its people to balance the books and keep taxes as low as we possibly can.

“We have a responsibility to make sure every pound pulls its weight.”

Sajid JavidGETTY

Sajid Javid has called for a higher budget for the Home Office in a bid to increase policing

Gavin WilliamsonGETTY

Gavin Williamson is conducting a defence review which is expected to outline a funding shortfall

We have a responsibility to make sure every pound pulls its weight

Liz Truss

During a speech at the London School of Economics on Tuesday, Ms Truss will argue that her Cabinet colleagues have “not been clear with the public about the tax implications of their proposed higher spending”.

She will note they are demanding “unsustainable, unaffordable and un-Conservative public spending increases”, and will state that “it’s not macho to demand more money. It’s much tougher – and fairer to people – to demand better value for money”.

The minister will also turn directly to Brexit, and argue that an increase in taxes to fund higher departmental spending will be a betrayal of Brexit promises.

She will say: “We know that people voted for Brexit because they wanted to take back control of their lives.

“And the public will find it unforgivable and a betrayal of Brexit if, just as we embark on a bright future outside of the European Union, we impose higher and higher taxes on them taking away the control they have over their money.

“This is a complete contradiction of the Brexit vote.

“The more Government spends, the higher taxes have to be.

“And that means businesses and people have less freedom to spend on their own priorities.

“And that in turn will hamper the success of post-Brexit Britain.”

Her criticism is aimed at Cabinet ministers including Gavin Williamson and Sajid Javid, who have asked for large budget increases.

Mr Williamson, the Defence Secretary, reportedly stated he could “break” Mrs May if she refused to offer him a larger budget.

He is reportedly concerned about the Prime Minister’s refusal to declare the UK will remain a “tier one” military power, and is conducting a defence review which is expected to outline his department requires more funds to fill a £20billion funding shortfall over the next decade.

Mr Javid, the Home Secretary, has also spoken in the last few weeks about his aim to obtain more money for increased policing.

The Prime Minister has nevertheless faced resistance from the Chancellor Philip Hammond in recent weeks over her announcement of the huge £20billion a year increase in NHS funding.

Mr Hammond is reported to have stated other departments will have to restrict their spending in order to afford the increased NHS budget.

Theresa May Seeking Budget Cuts From Defence Secretary, MoD, British Military?

June 21, 2018

‘Shockwaves’ at MoD as PM challenges defence secretary to justify spending plans

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© Getty

George Parker and David Bond in London 

Theresa May has asked Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, to justify Britain’s role as a “tier one” military power, throwing Ministry of Defence plans to modernise the armed forces into disarray just weeks before a crucial Nato summit.

At a tense meeting this week, the prime minister said Mr Williamson needed to rethink the capabilities needed to be a modern military force and focus more on Britain’s cyber warfare capability to meet new threats, including Russia.

Senior officials said Mrs May’s intervention created “shockwaves” at the MoD, with some claiming she appeared to be questioning Britain’s role as a global military player. “People have their head in their hands,” said one official.

Downing Street acknowledged that Mr Williamson’s plans had been challenged by Mrs May in Tuesday’s meeting but dismissed suggestions that she was arguing for a reduction in Britain’s military status.

“It is categorically untrue to suggest that the UK’s current position as a leading defence nation is somehow in question,” a spokesman said. “The prime minister is strongly committed to the United Kingdom’s armed forces and to maintaining their strength and their ability to deter and where necessary defeat the threats we face.”

MoD officials are urgently working on a paper that will set out what it means to be a top-tier power alongside the US, Russia, China and France.

Although there is no formal definition of what constitutes a tier one power, the MoD has interpreted it as having a full spectrum of military capabilities, including an independent nuclear deterrent and a navy, army and air force capable of being deployed anywhere in the world.

Mr Williamson has fought a high-profile campaign in Whitehall for more cash for the armed forces as the MoD faces a funding shortfall of up to £20bn over the next decade. But in the “trilateral” meeting, he faced resistance from Mrs May and Philip Hammond, the chancellor.

According to one official briefed on the talks, Mrs May’s doubts were raised near the end of the meeting, after General Sir Nick Carter, the new chief of the defence staff, set out the threats the UK is facing, with a particular focus on Russia.

Gen Carter detailed the capabilities required to meet those threats and touched on some of the cost implications, prompting the prime minister to raise the question of tier one status and request a fuller review.

“The PM was simply asking, ‘Are you sure this is the right way to proceed’?” said a second government official with knowledge of the meeting.

On exercise with the British Army as it battles for funds

Mrs May said this week that the NHS is the government’s “priority” and Mr Hammond has told colleagues that the plan for £20.5bn in extra health spending by 2023 will mean tighter settlements for other departments in a spending review next year.

The chancellor will on Thursday say in his annual Mansion House speech that he is committed to reining in borrowing and sticking to his fiscal rules, including raising taxes “a bit” to pay for higher NHS spending.

Mr Williamson is pressing for more cash and wants to make an interim statement on his “modernising defence programme” before next month’s Nato summit, at which President Donald Trump is again expected to demand US allies boost military spending.

But the pushback by Mrs May and Mr Hammond has put the statement on hold. “More work needs to be done,” said one senior official. The modernisation review is scheduled to conclude in the autumn.

Britain is one of only five Nato countries which meet the alliance’s spending goal of committing 2 per cent of gross domestic product to defence. The current UK defence budget stands at £37bn a year.

Britain is also committed to spending a further £178bn on new defence equipment over the next 10 years — but the MoD’s budget remains under strain and Mr Williamson and military chiefs are seeking more.

The shift in tone from the prime minister comes after hopes were raised that defence would be granted extra money beyond the current commitment to increase the MoD’s budget by 0.5 per cent above inflation each year.

Earlier this week a report by the defence select committee called for ministers to raise defence spending to nearer 3 per cent of GDP.

On Wednesday, General Mark Carleton-Smith, the new head of the army, said sacrificing conventional war fighting capabilities to pay for new capabilities like cyber was “flawed”.

In a speech to the Rusi land power conference in London, Mr Carleton-Smith said it was wrong to believe that “the answer lies somehow in disruptive technology and the quicker we can field those technologies the less useful the traditional measures of combat power become as indicators of national power”.


Uk Response to Russian Nerve Agent Attack: Too Many Ministers “Shooting their Mouths Off”

March 19, 2018

Salisbury Attack: Top Cold War diplomat criticises Gavin Williamson over ‘go away and shut up’ remarks

Exclusive: Ex-ambassador to Russia says senior ministers have been ‘shooting their mouths off’, but backs Theresa May

By Ashley Cowburn

The Independent

The UK’s former ambassador to Russia has criticised senior ministers for “shooting their mouths off”, singling out Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson for displaying a lack of seriousness amid the deepest crisis in relations with Moscow since the end of the Cold War.

Speaking exclusively to The Independent, Sir Rodric Braithwaite, took aim at the Cabinet minister following comments in which he told Russia to “go away and shut up“, sparking retaliatory insults from the Russian Foreign Minister and others in Moscow.

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Sir Rodric Braithwaite

Sir Rodric, who was the UK’s man in Moscow during critical years of the Cold War, also attacked other senior ministers whom he said “have come out much too early, saying things that are much too wild”, as the UK seeks to build pressure on Vladimir Putin over Salisbury nerve agent attack.

It follows a Commons appearance from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson early on in the crisis in which he sparked news stories that England may pull out of the football World Cup in response to the attack, something which later had to be clarified.

The former high-ranking diplomat’s comments echo those of Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who last week insisted on keeping “cool heads” following Mr Johnson’s intervention, meanwhile he goes on to praise Theresa May’s performance as “judicious”.

Sir Rodric, who served between 1988 and 1992, spoke as events quickly developed in the ongoing saga following the attack in Salisbury that involved a Russian-made “military grade” nerve-agent.

With former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and a British police officer still in hospital, Ms May used a speech at a party forum to say the UK would not tolerate any threat to life on British soil.

Theresa May warns Russia UK will ‘never tolerate threat on life of British citizens’

On Saturday Mr Putin also announced the expulsion of 23 UK diplomats in retaliation to expulsions announced by Ms May earlier in the week.

Praising the Prime Minister approach so far, Sir Rodric said: “She’s been rather judicious; she hasn’t rushed the process.

“I think in a very difficult set of circumstances, in the highly charged atmosphere, a lot of people are shooting their mouths off, I think she’s performed rather well.”

It follows the Prime Minister’s decision to blame the attack on the Russian state, expel its diplomats and execute asset freezes after Moscow failed to respond to the Government’s 24-hour deadline for an explanation of how the Novichok nerve agent came to be used on British soil.

Asked about the Defence Secretary’s comments on Thursday, Sir Rodric continued: “I think I hinted at what people like him and some of his wilder colleagues have been saying. It lacks seriousness.

“Whether you like Russia or not, it is a big country, which now has rather a lot of influence in the world – whether you like it or not. To tell it to go away and shut up is not very serious, in my view.”

Russian Foreign Minister responds to Gavin Williamson: Russia has ‘stopped paying attention’

He added: “I wouldn’t be ruder than that, but it seems to me that he and some of his senior colleagues have come out much too early, saying things that are much too wild, in contrast to Theresa May.”.

Asked whether the Prime Minister should confront Mr Williamson over his incendiary remarks, Sir Rodric, also a foreign policy adviser to former Prime Minister John Major, said: “Well, she has a difficult domestic political situation to mange, to put it mildly.

“She has to make her own judgements about who she tells to shut up.”

On Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to blame Russia on Wednesday in the House of Commons, Sir Rodric said: “This is not a situation in which absolute certainty and absolute proof, particularly of who gave the order, is ever going to be available. So one has to make a judgement.”

Sir Rodric Braithwaite was the highest ranking diplomat in Russia between 1988 and 1992 (Youtube)

He continued: “There is a limit beyond which it doesn’t make sense to say we’ve got to wait until we get more proof.

“I think it was a misjudgement on Corbyn’s part to combine his remarks about the events in Salisbury, with other remarks about the Tories receiving donations from Russian oligarchs and about money laundering in the City.

“Both of those are perfectly legitimate comments – personally I think they are both things that should be investigated further. But that wasn’t the moment to say it. I think that was a political misjudgement, which is being exploited by his political enemies.”

He later added: “If there is a secret information about who gave the order, available to British agencies, they are almost certainly not going to reveal it because they won’t want to compromise their sources. I think it’s quite difficult to imagine how they would get such information, but maybe they have done. And we won’t know.”

Russian Foreign Minister responds to Gavin Williamson: Russia has ‘stopped paying attention’

While Sir Rodric described the current diplomatic crisis between the UK and Russia as a “highly emotional confrontation”, he urged caution about referring to the current situation as a “new Cold War”.

“It was a binary confrontation between two super powers and their respective allies. It was a nuclear confrontation, which if there had been a nuclear exchange would have killed hundreds and hundreds of millions of people, and it was a hair-trigger confrontation.

“The order to launch could have been given within 15 minutes of the warning.”

He added: “It’s a paradox – it was a much simpler situation, it was a much stabler situation because each side was terrified of the other and neither of them ever wanted to trigger a nuclear war, or get anywhere near it.

“But of course these great machines of rockets and submarines and things are all subject to technical error ,and of course human being are also subject to blowing a gasket. So it was a pretty frightening situation – and that is not where we are now.”

At a speech in London, the Prime Minister said Moscow was in “flagrant breach” of international law over the Salisbury incident, a position since backed by the US, France, Germany and others.

She said: “Many Russians have made this country their home. And those who abide by our laws and make a contribution to our society will always be welcome.

“But we will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from the Russian Government.”

A Russian response to the British measures had been expected for several days and when it came, it went further than expected.

Apart from the expected tit-for-tat expulsions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it is stopping all British Council activities “due to legal irregularities” and revoking its agreement for Britain to operate a consulate-general in St Petersburg.

The ministry also warned that Russia could take further measures if Britain takes any more “unfriendly actions” against the country.

Ex-MI6 chief says Jeremy Corbyn has questions to answer over spying claims

February 24, 2018

Sir Richard Dearlove said the Labour leader can’t just ‘laugh off’ the accusations.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Aaron Chown/PA)

Jeremy Corbyn has “questions to answer” over his Cold War links, a former spy chief has said.

Sir Richard Dearlove said the Labour leader should have “taken care to avoid” meeting a Czechoslovakian agent and cannot just “laugh off” the claims.

The ex-MI6 boss said holding only a couple of meetings with Jan Sarkocy would amount to “stupidity” but if the spy’s claims that many more took place were true then “this affair takes on a completely different aspect”.

Former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove says Jeremy Corbyn has questions to answer over spy claims
Former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove says Jeremy Corbyn has questions to answer over spy claims (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Sarkocy,  a former agent of the Czech StB intelligence agency, has been described as a fantasist by Mr Corbyn’s allies.

But Sir Richard, who was “C” at the Secret Intelligence Service, said the agent could not be easily dismissed.

The “discussion I have had with friends close to the current Czech intelligence community” suggests otherwise, he told The Daily Telegraph.

Sir Richard, who was posted to Communist Czechoslovakia, said “everything I learned about the way the StB operated tells me that these accusations should be taken seriously”.

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman has previously challenged records of supposed meetings between the then Labour backbencher and Mr Sarkocy.

Mr Corbyn recalled speaking to a diplomat from the then communist country in 1986, as one of many meetings with ambassadors, politicians, activists and dissidents from “the majority of countries in the world”, said the spokesman.

But another meeting with the same man was recorded in StB files as taking place the following year in the House of Commons, on a Saturday when the Labour MP’s own diaries record he was attending a conference in Chesterfield.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “Richard Dearlove, who as head of MI6 was involved in the infamous dodgy dossier that helped take us into the disastrous Iraq War, should not be trying to give credence to these entirely false and ridiculous smears.”


See also The Telegraph:


Stasi kept ‘top secret’ files on Labour group which Jeremy Corbyn helped to run

February 21, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn

Questions: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faces intense pressure over his links to former Czechoslovakian agent Jan Sarkocy CREDIT: GEERT VANDEN WIJNGAERT/AP

East Germany’s secret police kept “top secret” files on a Labour group which Jeremy Corbyn helped to run, it has emerged.

The Stasi reportedly took a keen interest in the Labour Action for Peace (LAP) group in the 1980s.

Mr Corbyn was reportedly an officer of the LAP in the eighties and went on to serve as vice chairman before becoming president.

The Stasi believed the activity of the LAP to be of “special importance” and that the group could play a role in influencing the formulation of official Labour Party policy.

The emergence of the files, published by the Guido Fawkes website, comes as Mr Corbyn faces intense pressure over his links to former Czechoslovakian agent Jan Sarkocy.

Mr Corbyn,…

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Corbyn spy claims: Labour steps up war of words with media

Jeremy Corbyn’s office blames rightwing press ‘owned by tax exiles’ for ‘absurd stories’

Jeremy Corbyn
 Jeremy Corbyn’s lawyers have demanded an apology from Ben Bradley MP. Photograph: A Davidson/SHM/Rex/Shutterstock

Labour has stepped up its war of words with rightwing newspapers over claims that Jeremy Corbyn met a Czechoslovakian spy in the 1980s, calling the allegations “completely surreal” and “utterly ridiculous”.

As lawyers for Corbyn threatened the Conservative MP Ben Bradley with legal action over a tweet repeating the claims, Corbyn’s spokesman blamed “significant parts of the national press which are owned by billionaire tax exiles” for “a succession of false and absurd stories”.

He suggested the owners of the papers publishing the story – which include the Sun and the Mail – were scared at the prospect of a Labour government, which would seek to “open up” media ownership and crack down on tax avoidance.

Corbyn’s head-on confrontation with newspapers whose support was once courted by his predecessors underlines Labour’s belief that it can use social media to bypass the mainstream press – and that a populist attack on the establishment media will win voters over.

The spokesman conceded that the Labour leader had a record of a meeting with a Czechoslovakian diplomat in 1986, but denied reports of a second meeting on 24 October 1987.

“On that day Jeremy was in fact in Derbyshire at the Chesterfield socialist conference; it was the day after his mother died. There is absolutely no possibility that he was at a meeting with a Czech diplomat in the House of Commons at the time.”

The spokesman went on to insist that Corbyn had met with activists and diplomats from many countries, and the hour-long chat, which lasted “just enough time for a cup of tea,” was “not in any way unusual”.

Some ministers have also repeated the allegations. After Labour MP Louise Haigh said on the BBC’s Daily Politics that “Jeremy has been interested in Foreign Policy issues his entire political career”, security minister Ben Wallace tweeted, “yup so was Kim Philby” – apparently comparing the Labour leader to the Soviet spy.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson claimed Corbyn’s meetings with the alleged Czechoslovakian spy were, “a betrayal of this country”. DexEU minister Steve Baker was pressed on whether he shared that view on Wednesday by the BBC’s Andrew Neil in a tough interview, in which Baker said: “Jeremy Corbyn, I think, is a grave danger to this country because of the ideas in which he believes and what that would mean.” But he refused to stand by the language used by his ministerial colleagues.

The latest attack on the rightwing media came as Corbyn’s lawyers threatened to take legal action against Bradley, the MP for Mansfield, who deleted the Twitter post that followed claims in a series of newspaper articles.

“The natural and ordinary meaning of your words is our client made financial gain for such criminal acts and espionage,” the lawyers’ letter said.

It called for Bradley, whose seat was a rare Tory gain in the general election last year, to make a contribution to a charity of Corbyn’s choice, tweet a public apology and undertake not to repeat the claims.

Bradley’s tweet said: “Corbyn sold British secrets to communist spies…get some perspective mate!! Your priorities are a bit awry! # AreYouSerious.”

The legal letter said “we note that you have removed the tweet, but nevertheless, serious harm has been caused by your libellous statement”, pointing out that his allegation had been cited in several publications.

Corbyn and his colleagues have taken a combative approach to reports that he met a Czechoslovakian spy in London.

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 ‘Change is coming’: Corbyn’s message to ‘billionaire tax exile’ press owners – video

Earlier, Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, accused the media of trying to smear the Labour leader with “fantasist” spying claims because it fears the party’s plans for press regulation.

He denied that Labour was threatening sections of the press over its focus on Corbyn’s contact with Ján Sarkocy, a former Czechoslovakian intelligence officer.

He pointed out that the party’s previous two manifestos had pledged to implement press regulation set out in the Leveson report and press ahead with part two of the inquiry into allegations of criminality in the media.

“That’s exactly why the newspapers are trying to get their revenge in first. They are trying to discredit Jeremy,” Gardiner told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday.

His comments came after Corbyn appeared in a Labour video to dismiss as “ridiculous smears” suggestions that he gave information to a communist spy during the cold war.

Labour would “stand up to the powerful and corrupt”, he said in the video, without detailing what action would be taken.

Sarkocy has claimed he recruited Corbyn as an intelligence asset and he and other Labour MPs were paid £10,000 by the Czechoslovakian secret service (StB) for their work.

Gardiner said: “This is an incredibly stupid story … from a fantasist who is recorded as telling his handlers in Prague that he was also responsible for the Live Aid concert, for the Nelson Mandela birthday concert.