Posts Tagged ‘UK’

Five London towers evacuated over fire safety concerns

June 24, 2017

AFP

© Justin Tallis, AFP | Residents evacuate from the Taplow Tower residential block on the Chalcots Estate in north London on June 23, 2017 because of fire safety concerns

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-06-24

Residents of 800 London flats were hurriedly evacuated Saturday due to fire safety fears over their tower blocks’ external cladding, after urgent testing prompted by the deadly Grenfell Tower inferno.

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The cladding on the five Chalcots Estate towers is similar to that used on Grenfell, widely blamed for the rapid spread of the massive blaze last week that is presumed to have killed 79 people.

The dramatic decision follows urgent testing of the towers’ exteriors, which were installed by the same contractor as the Grenfell Tower. As a result, Chalcots residents were being sent to hotels across the city.

Just hours earlier, police said that manslaughter charges could be brought over the Grenfell inferno, after finding that the fire started with a faulty fridge and the building’s cladding had failed safety tests.

“Grenfell changes everything and I don’t believe we can take any risks,” said Georgia Gould, leader of the Camden Council local authority, told reporters, as residents left the five Chalcots Estate towers.

“We could not be sure that people could be safe.

“We had to do this. We have to act on fire service advice.”

‘Scary time’

“We know it’s a scary time but we will make sure that they stay safe,” said Gould.

“The cost we can deal with later.”

The council has been booking hotels across London and the works are expected to take up to four weeks.

Michelle Urquhart, who has been living in the Chalcots Estate’s Bray tower, said the situation was “frightening”.

“I don’t know where we are going to go.

“One man in a suit said to me ‘you can’t stay here tonight’.

“We have been living in these flats for the last 10 years with this cladding.”

Chalcots resident Shirley Philips told Sky News television she had been given no notice before being told she must leave her home.

“It’s absolutely disgusting,” asking why the decision had been left so late in the day.

“Where do they think we’re all going?”

Image may contain: night

Grenfell Tower fire. Credit Celeste Thomas

In an update early Saturday, Camden Council said they had secured “hundreds of hotel beds for Chalcots’ residents. We’re encouraging all residents to stay with friends and family if they can, otherwise we’ll provide accommodation.”

All ‘complete bodies’ removed

In an update on the Grenfell investigation, Fiona McCormack from the London police said: “We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards.”

Referring to the tiles and insulation on the outside of the building, she said: “All I can say at the moment is they don’t pass any safety tests.”

McCormack said police were investigating companies involved in the building and refurbishment of the tower, and possible “health and safety and fire safety offences”.

The cladding was installed on the 24-storey council-owned Grenfell Tower, which was built in 1974, as part of a refurbishment completed last year.

It has prompted a wider review of social housing which has identified at least 600 towers in England with similar cladding.

McCormack said all “complete bodies” had been removed from the burnt-out tower and there was “a terrible reality that we may not find or identify everyone who died due to the intense heat”.

She said officers had been through all levels of the tower and would be installing an external elevator to facilitate completing the forensic search, which could take until the end of the year.

Charity song hits top spot

She also repeated calls for any members of the public with information about people who may have been in the tower at the time of the blaze to contact the police.

Police fear the toll may be higher because some residents may have been living in the tower illegally.

Prime Minister Theresa May stressed on Thursday that all Grenfell victims, regardless of their immigration status, would be able to access whatever help they need.

Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts were with the evacuated Chalcots residents.

“We will work with and support the emergency services and relevant authorities to safeguard the public,” she said.

Six men and three women killed in the Grenfell inferno have been formally identified.

They are Mohammad Alhajali, 23; Khadija Saye, 24; Abufars Ibrahim, 39; Khadija Khalloufi, 52; and Anthony Disson, 65, while the identities of three men and one woman have not been made public at the request of their families.

Nine patients remain in hospital, of which three are in a critical condition.

Meanwhile the government ordered immediate checks on the Hotpoint FF175BP fridge freezer model blamed for the blaze.

A charity single released to raise money for survivors of the fire reached the top spot in the British charts on Friday after selling more than 170,000 copies.

The track is a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by 50 artists including Stormzy, Emeli Sande, Robbie Williams and Paloma Faith.

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Image result for Sulafa tower fire, photos

Dubai Sulafa Tower fire. July 20, 2016

The Address Downtown is on fire, with the flames reaching from the ground floor up another 40 storeys 

The Address Downtown is on fire, in Dubai, with the flames reaching from the ground floor up another 40 storeys — New Year’s Eve 2015

Brexit: EU leader says UK offer could ‘worsen situation’ — Theresa May’s plan called ‘neither fair, nor really serious’

June 23, 2017

BBC News

Media captionMay: I want to give EU residents certainty

Europe’s most senior official has criticised the UK’s offer to EU nationals after Brexit, claiming it could “worsen the situation” for them.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the proposal was “below our expectations” and needed more detail.

He said the EU wanted to secure the “full rights” of all its citizens and British expats on the continent.

Theresa May said there were differences between the two sides but the UK was giving a “fair and serious” guarantee.

In response to claims by the former chancellor George Osborne, in an article for the Evening Standard, that she had “blocked” calls for the UK to offer a unilateral guarantee of rights in the aftermath of last year’s referendum, she said that was “certainly not my recollection” of events.

Both the UK and the rest of the EU say they want to come to an arrangement to secure the status of the 3.2 million EU citizens in the UK and the estimated 1.2 million Britons living in EU countries on a reciprocal basis.

Under plans announced on Thursday by Mrs May, the UK envisages giving all EU citizens the right to stay after the UK’s exit – due on 30 March 2019 – and granting those resident for at the least five years the same rights to welfare, pensions and education as UK citizens.

However, no cut-off date for the package has been specified by Downing Street and further details of the plans will not be released until Monday.

Jean-Claude Juncker
Jean-Claude Juncker gave the proposals a guarded welcome. AFP photo

The offer has received a mixed response from EU leaders with many describing it as a “good start” but calling for more detail.

Mr Tusk, who represents the other EU 27 nations, said the EU would “analyse line by line” the UK’s proposals when they were published in full on Monday.

But he told reporters in Brussels: “My first impression is that the UK’s offer is below our expectations and that it risks worsening the situation of citizens.”

And Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta – who currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU – warned of the danger of “pitfalls”, in which people were “treated differently” depending on when they arrived in the UK.

“Everyone in Europe wants a situation where we have a blanket fair treatment of all our citizens”.

Questions remain

Chris Morris, BBC News, Brussels

Both sides would like to get the issue of citizens’ rights wrapped up as soon as possible – it would be good for morale to get an early win, and they have more difficult issues to tackle.

But while there is a sense that progress can be made, there are still some tricky technical questions to deal with.

Which rights will be extended to immediate family members living elsewhere – to children in particular? And who will guarantee citizens’ rights in the event of any legal dispute? The EU has already insisted that the European Court of Justice should be involved; the UK insists that British courts should uphold the deal.

It is also not clear what the cut-off date should be for citizens to qualify for any offer that is agreed. The UK proposal suggests a date between March 2017 and March 2019 – although it is highly unlikely that the EU would be willing to accept a date that has already passed.

From an EU perspective, what we’ve heard so far from the UK side remains rather vague. EU negotiators will want to see the details of this proposal which are only due to be made public next Monday.


The European Union has said EU citizens should continue enjoying the same rights as they do on a lifetime basis, enforceable by the European Court of Justice. But the UK’s view is that British courts should have the jurisdiction.

Mrs May said there had been a “very positive” discussion with other EU countries but acknowledged differences over how the plans would be enforced, saying she wanted the UK’s “highly respected” courts to oversee them.

“Let’s be clear about what we are saying. Those EU citizens who have made their lives and homes in the UK will be able to stay and we will guarantee their rights,” she said. “I think that is a very serious offer… and the matter will now go into the negotiations.”

The PM said the issue would be one of the first to be discussed and she wanted an agreement as soon as possible.

Anne-Laure Donskoy, founding member of the 3 million – which aims to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – said the offer was “disappointing” and “really falls short of our expectations”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “neither fair, nor really serious”.

“It is like a teaser this statement, it gives you general direction of travel potentially, but there are things in the statement that need to be unpicked.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged the government to guarantee all UK-based EU citizens full residency rights, saying the current offer “doesn’t go far enough and leaves uncertainty for those who have been here for less than five years”.

“These are people who are working here and have families here – we have to end their uncertainty.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-40378913

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European Council President Donald Tusk: Theresa May’s Citizens’ Offer Is Below Our Expectations

June 23, 2017

Bloomberg News

“My first impression is that the U.K. offer is below our expectations,” European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters in Brussels after a meeting of EU leaders.

Prime Minister Theresa May told EU leaders over dinner on Thursday that almost all 3 million EU citizens in the U.K. will be able to continue living there after Brexit, saying she wanted to offer them as much certainty as possible about their futures.

Includes video:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-23/eu-s-tusk-may-s-citizens-offer-is-below-our-expectations

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June 23, 2017, 9:13 AM EDT June 23, 2017, 9:59 AM EDT
  • European Council president speaks after summit in Brussels
  • Prime Minister May offers proposal on post-Brexit plans

The European Union objected to Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal to safeguard the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K. after Brexit.

“My first impression is that the U.K. offer is below our expectations and it risks worsening the situation of citizens,” European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters in Brussels after a meeting of EU leaders. “But it will be for our negotiating team to analyze the offer line by line once we receive it on paper.”

May told EU leaders over dinner on Thursday that almost all 3 million Europeans in the U.K. will be able to continue living there after Brexit, saying she wanted to offer them as much certainty as possible about their futures. Citizens’ rights is one of the main issues that the EU and U.K. need to resolve before trade talks can be broached leading up to Britain’s March 2019 exit from the bloc.

May, speaking at the end of the summit, dismissed the idea that her proposal had gone down badly and said that families living in Britain wouldn’t be split up. Asked about a conversation with her Polish counterpart Beata Szydlo, May said the plans had been well received.

“We had a very positive discussion about the offer that the U.K. had made to EU citizens and indeed other leaders have also reacted positively,” May said.

Many EU leaders withheld judgment on the proposal in public, saying issues remained unresolved and that they would wait for the release of the full plan on Monday.

While the proposal goes some way toward meeting what EU leaders wanted for their citizens, they’re objecting to May’s insistence that questions over their rights should be adjudicated in British courts. The U.K. is also leaving open the question of the “cut-off date” from which the rights will no longer apply, saying only that it will be some time between March 29, 2017, when it began the departure process, and the date it leaves.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he “can’t see the European Court of Justice being excluded from the settlement, but that’s a matter for negotiations to resolve.”

Includes video:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-23/tusk-says-may-plan-would-reduce-rights-of-eu-citizens-in-u-k

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Theresa May’s Presentation at the EU Summit Called ‘Below Our Expectations’ by Donald Tusk — Merkel says May’s Brexit proposals ‘not a breakthrough’ — ‘We will not allow ourselves to be divided.’

June 23, 2017

Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the end of an EU summit in Brussels on Friday that proposals from British Prime Minister Theresa May on preserving the rights of EU citizens after Brexit were “not the breakthrough”.

Speaking at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Merkel said: “It was a good start but it was also not the breakthrough, to put it conservatively.”

“It became clear during the discussion last night that we have a long path ahead of us. And the 27 (other EU countries), especially Germany and France, will be well prepared, we will not allow ourselves to be divided.”

The two leaders also made clear that they would not pursue changes to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty unless reform of the bloc demanded it, saying much could be achieved short of treaty change.

And they sent the same message to eastern countries like Poland and Hungary who have been accused by the European Commission of threatening the rule of law by taking steps to limit the powers of the media and judiciary.

“The EU is based on common values,” Merkel said. “If we see that these values are being damaged … we need to speak out.”

(Reporting by Noah Barkin)

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Theresa May’s Presentation at the EU Summit Called ‘Below Our Expectations’ by Donald Tusk

Theresa May holds a press conference in Brussels on Friday afternoon CREDIT: GEERT VANDEN WIJNGAERT/AP

 

  • Theresa May sets out plans to allow 3 million EU citizens to stay in UK
  • But European leaders line up to criticise the proposals 
  • Donald Tusk: Offer below our expectations, risks worsening situation
  • Jean-Claude Juncker: Offer is not sufficient
  • Angela Merkel: PM’s plans a good start but many issues remain
  • Dutch PM: ‘Thousands of questions to ask’ about proposals
  • George Osborne’s Evening Standard claims May blocked EU citizens offer
  • PM rejects accusation: Certainly not my recollection

Theresa May has been forced to defend her offer to give more than three million European Union citizens living in the UK the right to stay permanently post-Brexit after EU leaders lined up to criticise the proposals.

The Prime Minister made a “fair and serious offer” to European leaders in Brussels as she pledged that all citizens who arrived in Britain before she triggered Article 50 in March would…

Read more:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/23/eu-leaders-warn-theresa-mays-migrant-rights-plan-not-enough/

London mosque attack driver charged with ‘terrorism-related murder’

June 23, 2017

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Image result for Finsbury Park Mosque, photos

Finsbury Park Mosque in north London

LONDON (AFP) – 

The British van driver who mowed down Muslim worshippers near a London mosque this week was charged Friday with terrorism-related murder and attempted murder, officials said.

Darren Osborne, 47, will appear before magistrates in central London later Friday in relation to the charges, police and prosecutors said.

One man died in the incident early Monday near Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, and another 11 people were injured.

Makram Ali, 51, died from multiple injuries following Monday’s attack.

He had collapsed with a leg problem and was being attended to by fellow worshippers leaving late-night Ramadan prayers at the mosque when the hired van careered into them.

Ali came to Britain from Bangladesh when he was 10. He was married with four daughters and two sons, and had two grandchildren.

His family has said they were “devastated” by his death. “Our father was a quiet, gentle man,” they said in a statement.

The attack was the fourth in Britain in three months, killing a total of 36 people and injuring around 200.

The three previous attacks were all Islamist-linked.

Angela Merkel and other European leaders congratulate Theresa May on a “good start” to Brexit talks

June 23, 2017
ANGELA Merkel and other European leaders have reacted to Theresa May’s generous offer to the EU to allow all three million of its citizens currently living in the UK to have full residency status.
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PUBLISHED: 07:53, Fri, Jun 23, 2017 | UPDATED: 07:55, Fri, Jun 23, 2017

Theresa May announces EU citizens WILL be able to stay in UK

After the Prime Minister made her offer following a formal dinner at the European Council summit in Brussels, the German Chancellor has described the plans as a “good start” to Brexit talks – but said there are many issues that still need to be resolved.Mrs Merkel said: “Theresa May made clear to us today that EU citizens that have been in Britain for five years will retain their full rights. That is a good start.

Angela Merkel Theresa MayGETTY

The German Chancellor described May’s deal as a ‘good start’ to Brexit talks

“But there are still many many other questions linked to the exit, including on finances and the relationship with Ireland. So we have a lot to do until (the next EU summit in) October.”Merkel spoke after May addressed the other 27 EU leaders meeting in Brussels, offering them what London described as a “fair and serious” deal on EU expats post-Brexit.

Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said: “It is a first good step which we appreciate.

“Many details are left open. A lot of European citizens are concerned and not covered by May’s proposal.

Macron, May and Merkel chat before meetings at the EU summitGETTY

Macron, May and Merkel chat before meetings at the EU summit

“There is a long, long way to go for negotiations.”Even Tim Farron, who announced plans to step down as Lib Dem leader last week, offered his thoughts on Mrs May’s proposal.

He said: “These proposals are frankly too little too late, and leave millions of people still facing unanswered questions over their futures here. It is simply not good enough.

“Theresa May could have given a guarantee from day one, instead she has allowed our friends, colleagues and neighbours to live in uncertainty for a year.

Angela Merkel and Theresa May at the EU summitGETTY

Angela Merkel and Theresa May at the EU summit

Macron reaches to touch Theresa May at the EU summitGETTY

Macron reaches to touch Theresa May at the EU summit

“Even now, Theresa May continues to insist on using EU nationals in Britain as bargaining chips and has failed to provide a full and clear right to stay for all.”Mrs May promised EU citizens who are legally in the UK can stay and have full access to the NHS, education, benefits and pensions.

She said the offer was “aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives, and contributing so much to our society”.

However, she made it clear she rejects the demands by Brussels that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will continue to apply to citizenship issues in the UK after Brexit.

She also warned the offer would be withdrawn if it was not reciprocated for British citizens living in the EU.

Angela Merkel speaking to journalists at the EU summitGETTY

Angela Merkel speaking to journalists at the EU summit

And she left the cut off point for qualification for special residency status open as part of the negotiations saying it “will be no earlier than the triggering of Article 50 (in March) and no later than when Britain leaves the EU”.The Prime Minister was laying out the broad principles following a paper put out by the European Commission which Downing Street sources have described as “unrealistic”.

Those EU citizens there for less than five years would be allowed to stay until they reach the five-year threshold for “settled status”. Red tape would be cut to make gaining permanent residency easier and there would be a two-year grace period to avoid “cliff edge” misfortunes.

May’s push to set the cut-off date as early as March 29 this year, is unlikely to wash with many in the European Union, whose position is that nothing must change until Britain leaves – scheduled for March 30, 2019. And there was much missing from an outline offer which the British previously called “generous”.

EPA

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern pictured after the two-day summit in Brussels

Going into the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the bloc’s main power broker, said she wanted “far-reaching guarantees”.
“Anything that provides a great deal of security for people living in Britain or planning to live in Britain during the time in which Britain is still a member of the EU would be useful,” she said, underlining EU attachment to a cut-off only in 2019.Others, like Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, said they were relaxed about the cut-off – reflecting the fact that most of her country’s expats already qualify for permanent residency.

Brussels has been dismissive of May’s call for sweeping and quick guarantees for expats, including over a million Britons on the continent, and says only detailed legal texts can reassure and take account of complex, multinational family situations.

Leaders had agreed with summit chair Donald Tusk not to open discussions with May and she left immediately afterwards, leaving the other 27 to discuss other Brexit issues without her.

They were to be briefed by Michel Barnier, who launched the Brexit negotiations for them on Monday, and discuss the move of two EU agencies from London after Britain quits.

Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, among others, had made clear that they did not want to be drawn into Brexit talks and preferred to focus on the future of the EU without Britain.

May seemed keen to calm the mood with the continentals after weeks of sniping during her election campaign, stressing that London wanted a “special and deep partnership with our friends and allies in Europe”.

Merkel also expressed a desire for constructive talks with Britain, but made clear that the EU’s priority now was its own future: “We will conduct these talks in a good spirit,” she said. “But the clear focus has to be on the future of the 27.”

France’s new president spoke of working with Germany to revive European integration and Macron did not refer at all to Britain during his remarks before talks got under way.

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http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/820325/angela-merkel-reacts-theresa-may-eu-nationals-residency-brexit-germany

Boris Johnson gives ‘worst interview by politician ever’ on live radio

June 22, 2017

RT (Russia Today)

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s competency has yet again been called into question following a botched BBC interview in which the Tory minister failed to answer key questions on the government’s program set out in the Queen’s Speech.

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During the interview on BBC Radio 4 with Eddie Mair, Johnson repeatedly stumbled over questions about the Tories’ policies announced in the state opening of Parliament on Wednesday.

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John Prescott @johnprescott

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THE worst interview by a politician EVER. I expect @BBCNews & @itvnews will cover it & it’ll be in every newspaper 🤔

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3:30 PM – 21 Jun 2017
9,622 9,622 Retweets 11,517 11,517 likes
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Mair asked what policies outlined in the Queen’s Speech would tackle the “burning issues” highlighted by Prime Minister Theresa May a year ago when she entered Downing Street.

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© Don’t Panic LondonMichael Gove pranked by Game of Thrones ‘producer’ casting ‘ruthless backstabber’ (VIDEO)
He asked how the government intends to tackle discrimination against black people in the criminal justice system.

“Well, there are measures, I believe, in the bill on the courts which I think is supposed to address some of those issues,” Johnson replied.

“I think one thing in particular that we are looking at is measures to … hang on a second … there are all sorts of measures that we want to take to ensure that we do not discriminate against everybody.”

Mair fired another question at the befuddled foreign secretary, asking him what policies are in place to help white working class people access education.

Johnson, however, appeared to dodge the question completely, saying instead that the Queen’s Speech focuses on “economic growth” and coming out with a “successful Brexit.”

He did though add that the government aims to ensure a “fantastic educational system” and “make sure there is a ladder of opportunity for everybody.”

Turning to the issue of mental health, Mair accused the government of merely announcing proposals for “review and discussion” rather than “concrete policies.”

Johnson once again digressed from the challenge and tried to answer Mair’s previous question.

Boris Johnson © Brendan Smialowski  Theresa May to ‘send Boris Johnson on foreign trips,’ keeping him away from election campaign
At that point the BBC presenter lost his patience. “It’s not a Two Ronnies sketch – you can’t answer the question before last,” Mair said, referring to the popular UK comedy double act from the 1970s and 80s.

Mair asked the Tory MP why Conservative manifesto pledges were ditched so easily, to which Johnson replied: “I’m not going to hide it from you that the election did not turn out exactly as we would have hoped.”

He insisted, however, that the Queen’s Speech had been “very progressive.”

Image may contain: one or more people, suit and closeup

Boris Johnson. Credit Toby Melville – Reuters

Johnson also dismissed speculation he is trying to snatch the leadership from Theresa May, insisting the prime minister is a “great leader,” pointing out that the public currently has little appetite for another election.

But as support for the Tory party withers and May’s pledge for a “strong and stable leadership” loses credibility, Mair challenged Johnson on what being a prime minister actually entails, to which, again, the foreign secretary seemed to give a fumbling answer.

“The point of the prime minister is to lead the country, to give a …er… lead on these key issues … and to take this Queen’s Speech through.

“And she will, and she will do a great job.”

Social media users mocked Johnson’s performance.

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Phil Jerrod @PhilJerrod
When I worked in Tesco’s on the trolleys we fired people more capable than Boris Johnson.
4:58 AM – 22 Jun 2017
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Rachael @Rachael_Swindon
Wow…This isn’t a car crash. This is a 20 car pile-up. Boris Johnson has just about blown his chance of being PM. pic.twitter.com/Ce5CSgLru6
2:33 PM – 21 Jun 2017

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Polly Toynbee @pollytoynbee
Blethering bluster from flailing Boris on PM prog. NEVER does any homework,ignorant of own policies, should NEVER be PM or let near EU negs
1:37 PM – 21 Jun 2017

https://www.rt.com/uk/393552-boris-johnson-bbc-interview/

London Mayor Calls on UK to Retain Single Market Membership After Brexit

June 22, 2017

“The Brexit goalposts have been moved,” Khan said in a statement, adding that single market access should be ensured at least for the transition period during which Britain extracts itself from the EU.

“The government must now listen to the will of the people by putting aside ideology and negotiating a sensible Brexit that ensures continuing UK membership of the Single Market,” Khan said.

May has said she wants a clean break from the EU bloc, leaving the single market.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by James Davey)

After London fire, PM says other tower blocks have combustible cladding

June 22, 2017

Reuters

A number of British tower blocks have combustible cladding, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday, citing the results of tests conducted after a fire killed at least 79 people in London.

Flames spread rapidly up the 24-storey residential tower block last week, trapping people inside, in what was Britain’s worst blaze since World War Two. Exterior cladding added during a refurbishment may have played a part, residents have said.

The disaster heaped pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May, already fighting for her political survival after a snap election saw her party lose its parliamentary majority. It has acted as a focal point for anger at government cuts to local authority funding and drawn accusations of criminal negligence.

“(We) should of course be careful on speculating what caused this fire, but as a precaution the government has arranged to test cladding on all relevant tower blocks,” May told parliament.

“Shortly before I came to the chamber, I was informed that a number of these tests have come back as combustible.”

She said local authorities and fire services had been informed and were taking steps to make affected buildings safe and to inform residents.

May has launched a public inquiry into the fire and police have announced a criminal investigation.

May said tests on the cladding of Grenfell Tower where the fire blazed would be made public in the next 48 hours.

“This has been a wake-up call for the whole country,” said Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party.

“Residents of tower blocks all over the country are concerned, worried and frightened for their own safety. What we need is a step change in our attitude toward housing in this country.”

After apologizing for a slow state response to the fire, May said it was right that the head of the local council had resigned. Nicholas Holgate, chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council, said he was forced out by the government.

(Reporting by William James and James Davey; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Tusk Holds Out Hope That Brexit Can Be Reversed

June 22, 2017

BRUSSELS — The Latest on the European Union summit (all times local):

11:20 a.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk says that he still holds out hope that Brexit can be reversed even though the negotiations on Britain’s departure from the European Union officially started this week.

Tusk has made the comments a few hours before a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Tusk says that he had been asked by British friends if he could see a way of Britain still staying in.

Tusk said that “I told them that in fact the EU was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve.”

He added to that by quoting a John Lennon song: “So who knows? You may say I am a dreamer but I’m not the only one.”

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10 a.m.

European Union leaders are gathering to weigh measures to tackle terrorism, closer defense ties and migration, convinced that anti-EU sentiment and support for populist parties are waning.

Before the two-day meeting in Brussels starting Thursday, summit chairman Donald Tusk trumpeted the resurgence of the EU, even as Britain launched talks this week on leaving.

Tusk told the leaders in an invitation letter that after a series of election defeats for anti-migrant parties, notably in France, the EU is “slowly turning the corner.”

He said “we are witnessing the return of the EU rather as a solution, not a problem.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to praise the good atmosphere at Monday’s Brexit talks, and explain how to protect the rights of citizens hit by Britain’s departure.