London fire: Flats acquired for Grenfell Tower survivors

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 21, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Sixty-eight social housing flats in Kensington, London, are to be made available to survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, the government has said.

The one, two and three-bedroom flats are located in two blocks that stand alongside a large luxury development, where private homes go for up to £8.5m.

At least 79 people died and many more were left homeless after fire engulfed the North Kensington tower a week ago.

PM Theresa May has apologised for “State” failures after the blaze.

“People were left without belongings, without roofs over their heads, without even basic information about what had happened, what they should do and where they could seek help,” she told MPs in the Commons.

“That was a failure of the State – local and national – to help people when they needed it most.

“As prime minister, I apologise for that failure.”

Media captionTheresa May on Grenfell fire: “As prime minister I’ve taken responsibility”

There has been widespread anger from Grenfell Tower residents at the slow and chaotic response from authorities after last Wednesday’s devastating blaze.

On Wednesday, protesters demanding “justice for Grenfell” marched with anti-government protesters through London.

But Justice4Grenfell, a group which supports Grenfell residents, stressed it had not organised any of the events and urged protesters to have the victims and bereaved “foremost in their minds”.

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Meanwhile, the funeral of 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, who was among the first victims of the fire to be named, has taken place.

His family and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attended the ceremony, called a Janazat, at an east London mosque.

‘United by his body’

His family said: “His very last words to us were how much he missed us.

“Ever since he moved away from us, we tried to be united with him and his brothers, and now, instead, we have been united by his body.”

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Syria Solidarity Campaign

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Mr Alhajali became separated from his brother as they tried to escape

Since the fire, some Grenfell Tower families have been staying in hotels and BBs, and there were concerns that more permanent housing would be offered in other parts of the country.

But the upmarket Kensington Row complex is just over 1.5 miles from Grenfell Tower.

It includes a 24-hour concierge service and a private cinema, the website of developer St Edward says, but it is thought unlikely the new tenants from Grenfell will have access to such facilities.

Each new home in the two blocks set aside for social housing will be fully furnished and completed to a high-specification, the government said.

The flats are expected to be ready by the end of July.

At the scene

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Work on the private homes is already complete

By Jennifer Scott, BBC News

Nestled off trendy Kensington High Street, and a short distance from Westfield shopping centre, Kensington Row is the perfect example of London’s booming real estate market.

It’s £700 a week to rent a one-bedroom flat – for that price you get to live in the same borough as Prince William and Simon Cowell.

Builders are beavering away to finish the new blocks for the incoming residents, whilst placards that surround the site promise you can “find yourself in the clouds” after you move in.

You get a true feel for the development from the flats already completed.

On the hottest day of the year so far, the sun reflects off balconies and glass panels onto the tree-lined street and busy main road. The flats all have the luxury finish you would expect of this West End postcode.

George, a Kensington resident for 30 years, said his new neighbours would be welcome.

“In times of disaster, the communities in both the north and south of this borough come together,” he said. “The survivors and their families will be looked after.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government said extra public money had been found so the flats could be fitted out more quickly, and more builders had been taken on.

It said the “expectation was that these new properties would be offered as one of the options to permanently rehouse residents from Grenfell Tower”.

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St Edward has taken on extra builders to speed up completion of the work to the social housing blocks

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said Grenfell residents had been through “some of the most harrowing and traumatic experiences imaginable”.

“Our priority is to get everyone who has lost their home permanently rehoused locally as soon as possible, so that they can begin to rebuild their lives,” he added.

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Berkley Group

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Some Grenfell residents will be housed in the brick-clad building on the right, seen in this artist’s impression

A number of inquests were opened and adjourned earlier, with the coroner finding:

  • Retired lorry driver Anthony Disson, 65, died from inhalation of fire fumes
  • Farah Hamdan, a 31-year-old nursery nurse, died from smoke inhalation
  • Her husband, Omar Belkadi, 32, who worked as a courier, died from inhalation from fire fumes
  • Abufars Ibrahim, a 39-year-old shopkeeper, had been visiting his mother in the tower at the time of the fire. The coroner said he was found at the foot of the building and had died from multiple injuries
  • Khadija Khalloufi, a 52-year-old married woman, also died from inhalation of fire fumes

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40357280

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Queen’s Speech: Brexit bills dominate government agenda

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 21, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionNot got long? Here’s the Queen’s Speech in 90 seconds

A host of proposed new laws designed to prepare the UK for a “smooth and orderly” departure from the EU have been announced in the Queen’s Speech.

Of 27 bills, eight relate to Brexit and its impact on immigration, trade and sectors such as fisheries and farming.

Prime Minister Theresa May urged MPs to “seize this moment of national change” to unite and work for a fairer country.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said she had lost authority after axing a raft of manifesto pledges.

Proposals to scrap the winter fuel allowance for well-off pensioners, end automatic 2.5% pension rises, expand grammar schools and end free school lunches for all infants have been dropped, while reforms to social care funding will be put out to consultation and a cap on some energy tariffs considered further.

Amid continuing talks with the Democratic Unionists about them supporting Theresa May’s government, a Downing Street spokesman said it was confident the Queen’s Speech could “command the confidence” of the House of Commons in a vote next week.

The main non-Brexit proposals include:

  • a Civil Liability Bill, designed to address the “compensation culture” around motoring insurance claims
  • a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, establishing a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner to stand up for victims and survivors and monitor the response of the authorities
  • a Tenant’s Fees Bill, banning landlords from charging “letting fees”
  • a High-Speed Two Bill to authorise the second leg of the rail link from Birmingham to Crewe
  • A Data Protection Bill to strengthen individuals’ rights and introduce a “right to be forgotten”.
  • An Armed Forces Bill allowing people to serve on a part-time and flexible basis

There was no mention of US President Donald Trump’s proposed state visit to the UK later this year, appearing to confirm suggestions it has been delayed. Ministers said the reason it was not included was purely because no date had been set.

The Queen announced the government’s legislative programme for the next two years at the State Opening of Parliament.

She was accompanied by the Prince of Wales, rather than the Duke of Edinburgh, after Prince Philip was admitted to hospital on Tuesday night. Buckingham Palace said it was a “precautionary measure” for treatment of an infection arising from a pre-existing condition.

The PM’s ambitions culled

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By political editor Laura Kuenssberg

It was meant to be Theresa May’s political coronation, but the Queen’s Speech has confirmed the reality of her fall from grace.

The prime minister’s ambitions for significant change at home have been culled, disappearing with her majority.

But the complexity of all the work the government has ahead administratively, as the UK prepares to leave the EU, is plain to see.

Eight bills on Brexit each requires no less than a redesign of systems that have been in place for decades. Each will require careful political handling, at a time when the government cannot be sure of its majority and a Labour Party with wind in its sails is determined to be a guerrilla opposition. Read more

As MPs began debating the government’s plans, Mrs May said the country was split “between red and blue, young and old and Leave and Remain” and Parliament’s challenge was to heal, not reflect those divisions.

She promised to work with “anyone in any party” in the national interest on Brexit and other issues.

“Not every problem can be solved by an act of Parliament but it is a step forward to building a more compassionate, united and confident nation,” she said.

  • Grammar school expansion abandoned
  • Ban on agents’ lettings fees to go ahead
  • Government aims to secure space sector

She also apologised for “the failure of the state, national and local” in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, promising a new role of independent public advocate to represent bereaved families in the aftermath of disasters.

With Brexit talks now under way, the government has set out the laws needed to leave the EU – irrespective of the final deal agreed with Brussels.

Media captionJeremy Corbyn: Austerity must come to an end

At the heart of this is the so-called Repeal Bill – which will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It will also copy over all EU laws into UK law, with Parliament then deciding which bits to retain.

The government says “wherever practical the same rules and laws will apply after exit, therefore maximising certainty for individuals and businesses”.

The bill would give the Parliament temporary authority, via secondary legislation, to amend laws that do not “operate appropriately” after Brexit while existing decision-making powers devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be maintained pending further discussion on a permanent solution.

As an indication of the scale of change which Brexit will bring, seven other pieces of legislation are proposed to anticipate the end of EU jurisdiction and introduce national policies in key sectors.

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The Queen was accompanied by the Prince of Wales – with the Duke of Edinburgh in hospital

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The ceremonial elements were scaled back – as the Queen did not wear the Imperial state crown

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Party leaders will debate the Queen’s Speech over the next week

On immigration, a bill will legislate for the end of free movement from the EU and make the status of EU nationals and family members subject to UK law. Although there are no specific details about a new system, ministers say they will be able to “control” numbers while attracting the “brightest and the best”.

A Fisheries bill will allow the UK to take on responsibility for “access to fisheries and management of its waters” while an Agriculture Bill will “provide stability” for farmers and ensure an “effective system” of support to replace the Common Agricultural Policy.

A new nuclear safeguards regime will be required after the UK leaves the EU and its nuclear agency Euratom, with new powers for the Office for Nuclear regulation.

Other measures will allow for a standalone domestic customs regime, giving the UK the scope to make changes to VAT and excise rates currently determined by the EU, to pave the way for an “independent trade policy” and to enable the UK to implement non-UN sanctions on its own or in conjunction with allies.

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This, from 2014, is how the Queen traditionally appears at the State Opening

A dressed-down Queen’s Speech

  • The Queen arrived at Parliament in a car, rather than horse-drawn carriage
  • There was no royal procession into the House of Lords chamber and the Queen wore “day dress” rather than robes
  • Her crown was driven to the Lords in its own car
  • It was the first state opening with “reduced ceremonial elements” since 1974
  • This was agreed because of timing issues caused by the snap election – rehearsals clashed with Saturday’s Trooping the Colour event.

The government has cancelled next year’s Queen’s Speech, so this one will cover a two-year period to give MPs more time to debate all the Brexit legislation.

  • DUP seeks £2bn deal to back Tories
  • Petrol stations to go electric
  • New data protection law

The remaining 19 bills – including three in draft form and three finance bills – are a mixture of new proposals and legislation carried over from the last Parliament, which was cut short by the snap election.

Among proposals that will not require immediate legislation, the government is to review its counter-terrorism strategy in the wake of recent attacks in London and Manchester and establish a new Commission for Countering Extremism to “stamp out extremist ideology in all its forms”.

Media caption“Get your skates on” – Labour veteran Dennis Skinner suggests someone is in a hurry to get to the races at Royal Ascot

While there are no proposed full laws on health and education, a review of mental health legislation is planned while a “digital charter” will seek to boost online safety and digital commerce.

Labour is putting forward an alternative version of the Queen’s Speech, calling for an end to austerity and huge investment in public services.

Media captionThe Queen’s Speech – a beginner’s guide

Mr Corbyn called it a “threadbare legislative programme from a government that has lost its majority and apparently run out of ideas altogether”.

He said Labour would “use every opportunity to vote down proposals which do not have public support”.

The Lib Dems said the Queen’s Speech was “bereft” of ideas to support the public services while the Green Party said it was a “shell of a Queen’s Speech from a hollowed out government”.

The CBI said there had been a “welcome change of tone” towards business but ministers should put “pragmatism before politics” over Brexit. The TUC said promises to help working people were “vague”.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40345280

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Grenfell Tower fire survivor reunited with her rescuer

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 20, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

Clarita Ghavimi has been reunited with Luca Branislav, the man who rescued her whilst fleeing the fire in Grenfell Tower.

A total of 79 people are either dead or missing presumed dead after a huge fire engulfed the west London tower block.

Watch the full story on BBC Panorama on BBC iPlayer.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40333946

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London fire: Grenfell patients face ‘months’ of recovery

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 20, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Some patients being treated after the Grenfell Tower fire have weeks and possibly months of recovery ahead of them, a doctor treating them has said.

Fourteen people are in hospital – eight receiving critical care and some in induced comas – NHS England has said.

King’s College Hospital Clinical Director Duncan Bew said hundreds of patients had been expected but did not arrive, adding: “It was very sad.”

The west London tower fire left 79 people dead, or missing presumed dead.

More than £330,000 of a £5m emergency fund has been distributed to the affected families, according to the official Grenfell response team – made up of council and government staff, charity workers, and police and fire service representatives.

It said 314 people have now received financial assistance, while 40 households have been given a £5,000 government payment.

Some 138 hotel placements have been made for people living in Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk, it added, while 112 additional residents from the wider area now in hotels.

In a statement, the response team said it was not aware of any victims living in a park, that nobody was being forced into accommodation and and people were being homed “as local as possible”.

Speaking a week after the devastating fire, Mr Bew, from the major trauma centre at King’s College Hospital, said the hospital had received 12 patients from the blaze.

The hospital is still treating seven people, five of whom remain in critical care.

Staff had expected to see “hundreds” of patients with a range of injuries, including burns, smoke inhalation and “people falling from a height, from jumping from windows,” he said.

But then they realised many patients were not making it to hospital and were still trapped inside the tower.

“We were ready to receive many more casualties,” he said.

“We knew there were many more people in the building. As time went on and we realised that we weren’t going to receive those casualties, it was very sad.”

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Getty Images

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A candlelight vigil was held in Westminster on Monday

He said some of his patients had clung to banisters to feel their way down 20 flights of stairs after fearing they were about to die.

Others had tried to save other families on their way towards the tower’s exit.

Almost all were suffering the effects of smoke inhalation, with very few having burns.

“We had patients who had saved their own families but had also tried to save other families as well.”

He added: “They had to make a very difficult decision. People went into the stairwells and went into toxic smoke.

‘Reticent victims’

“I think people who escaped felt that they were going to die and that the only way to stay alive was to go through the smoke.”

He added that it was “remarkable” that none of our first responders was killed.

Elsewhere, officials have said some victims are “reticent” to come forward and help the investigation into the fire due to concerns over their immigration status.

Victoria Vasey, director of North Kensington Law Centre, told BBC Radio 4′s The World at One it is “imperative” people feel safe to come forward.

The Home Office told the programme it will “not use this tragic incident as a reason to carry out immigration checks on those involved”.

“We will not charge people who need to replace documentation that has been lost in the fire,” it added.

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Lee Disson and NicolaGreenArt

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Anthony Disson and Ya-Haddy Sisi Saye are among five people to be formally identified by the police

Five of the victims have so far been named.

Anthony Disson, 65, Ya-Haddy Sisi Saye, 24, also known as Khadija Saye, and Abufars Ibrahim, 39, and Khadija Khalloufi, 52 – were identified on Monday.

Mohammad Alhajali, 23, was the first victim to be formally identified.

So far 126 hotel places have been found for residents of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk.

The GRT – which includes local and regional government from across London, central government, the British Red Cross, Met Police and London Fire Brigade – said those due to have been rehoused would be living in Kensington and Chelsea or a neighbouring borough.


Meanwhile, the BBC has learned that four separate government ministers were warned that fire regulations were not keeping people safe.

In leaked letters seen by BBC One’s Panorama, experts warn that those living in tower blocks like Grenfell Tower were “at risk”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government, which received the letters, said work to improve regulation and safety had already been under way.

It comes as police have warned the final number of victims from the fire in the 24-storey block could still change.

Commander Stuart Cundy said his priority was to identify the people who died in the building and to remove them as quickly as possible.

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Have you or your family been affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower? If you are willing to speak to a journalist you can email us at

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40343897

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DUP warn Conservatives: Don’t take us for granted

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 20, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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DUP leader Arlene Foster visited Downing Street a week ago

Democratic Unionist Party sources have urged the Conservatives to give a “greater focus” to their negotiations.

A senior DUP source said the party could not be “taken for granted” – adding that if the PM could not reach a deal, “what does that mean for bigger negotiations she is involved in?”

No deal has been reached after 10 days of talks between the parties.

But sources told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg they believed a deal would still be done.

The Conservatives are hoping the DUP will sustain their minority government.

The warning from a senior DUP source to BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport comes the day before the government’s Queen’s Speech is presented to Parliament.

Although they have not reached a final deal, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said it is “right and proper” that her MPs support the Conservative government’s first Queen’s Speech.

‘Going well’

Earlier cabinet minister Chris Grayling predicted a “sensible” deal would be reached.

The transport secretary said the talks were “going well”, adding that the DUP, which has 10 MPs, did not want another election or Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.

Theresa May is seeking to negotiate a so-called “confidence and supply” arrangement whereby the DUP will throw their weight behind the government in key Commons votes, such as on the Queen’s Speech and Budgets.

It is a week since DUP leader Arlene Foster visited Downing Street for talks with Theresa May, with reports that a final agreement is being held up by discussions over extra funding for Northern Ireland.

Media captionScaled back Queen’s Speech will look a little different

Should Mrs May lose any votes on the Queen’s Speech, which are expected to take place next week, it would amount to a vote of no confidence in the government and put its future in doubt.

But Mr Grayling told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that he did not expect this to happen.

“The talks are going on but one thing I am absolutely certain of is that the DUP do not want to see another election and Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street,” he said. “We are having good, constructive discussions and I am confident we will reach a sensible agreement.”

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has urged Theresa May to reconsider her approach, saying a deal with the DUP could threaten the Northern Ireland peace process and “carry baggage” for his party. He has said the Conservatives should be able to govern anyway with the DUP’s tacit support.

Asked about the repercussions if there was no agreement, Mr Grayling replied: “I am not pessimistic about this. I think we will have a sensible arrangement.

“We have got some days until we have a vote on the Queen’s Speech. It is not on Queen’s Speech day. The vote happens many days later as we have an extended debate first and I am sure we will have a sensible arrangement between the parties when that time comes.”

The DUP had made it clear, he added, that they did not want “an unstable government undermining our union” and wanted to see us “go ahead with the Brexit negotiations with a sensible government in place”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40339330

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Brexit negotiations: David Davis ‘positive’ as first meeting begins

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 19, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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The two sides are meeting face to face for the first time

Brexit Secretary David Davis has said he is entering negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU in a “positive and constructive” frame of mind.

As he began talks in Brussels, he said he was determined to build a “strong and special partnership” with the EU.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said he wanted to agree key priorities and a timetable for discussions.

Subjects for the negotiations include the status of expats, the UK’s “divorce bill” and the Northern Ireland border.

The UK is set to leave the EU by the end of March 2019 following last year’s referendum vote.

Day one of the negotiations, at the European Commission buildings in Brussels, will be followed by a joint press conference this evening by Mr Davis and his counterpart, a former French foreign minister and EU commissioner.

Media captionBarnier and Davis set out early priorities
Media captionThe clock counts down on Brexit negotiations

The BBC’s Europe editor Katya Adler said the opening session would focus on basic issues of procedure such as how often the two men and their teams will meet and in what order items will be discussed.

Above all, she added, it would be a “trust-building exercise” after all the “mud-throwing” of recent months.

Who’s who in the UK delegation?

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  • David Davis: Secretary of State for Exiting The EU
  • Tim Barrow: UK permanent representative to the EU
  • Oliver Robbins: permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting The EU
  • Glynn Williams: director general at the Home Office
  • Mark Bowman: director general, international finance at HM Treasury
  • Simon Case: director general, UK-EU partnership team
  • Alex Ellis: director general at the Department for Exiting the EU
  • Christian Jones: press officer to David Davis

Arriving in Brussels, Mr Davis said there would be “challenges” ahead but he believed the two sides could reach an agreement on the terms of the UK’s exit which “works in the best interests of all citizens”.

“We are starting this negotiation in a positive and constructive tone, determined to build a strong and special partnership between ourselves and our European allies and friends for the future.”

Reflecting on the Finsbury Park attack in north London, he added: “In testing times like these, we are reminded of the values and resolve we share with our closest allies in Europe. There is more that unites us than divides us.”

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HM Government

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The chief protagonists – both fans of hill walking and mountaineering – exchanged gifts

Mr Barnier said a “constructive” opening to negotiations was vital in setting the tone for what he hoped would be an “orderly” process.

“We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit – first, for citizens but also for the beneficiaries of EU policies and for the impact on borders, in particular Ireland,” he said.

Prior to the start of talks, the two men exchanged gifts reflecting their shared love of hill walking and mountaineering.

Mr Davis gave his counterpart a first edition of a mountaineering book – a French language version of Regards vers Annapurna – while Mr Barnier reciprocated with a traditional, hand carved walking stick from Savoie, complete with leather wrist strap.

The BBC has been told by European Union sources that the talks will follow the EU’s preferred pattern of exit negotiations first, with the future relations between the two sides – including the free trade deal the UK is seeking – at a later date.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s The World at One, newly-appointed Brexit Minister Steve Baker – who was a leading figure in the campaign to leave the EU – denied this was a sign of weakness on the UK’s side.

“What we need to do is make sufficient progress quickly so that we can get on to talk about that free trade deal which all sides have agreed we should have,” he said.

Media captionFormer Labour cabinet minister Lord Mandelson on Brexit negotiation deals
Media captionMichael Gove tells Today there is support across the Conservative Party for Theresa May

After holding talks with Theresa May in Downing Street, new Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said there must be no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and economic borders must be “invisible”.

While he said he regretted Mrs May’s decision to leave the single market and customs union, he said the two had a shared objective to minimise disruption to trade after the UK’s exit.

Five major UK business bodies have come together to call for continued access to the European single market until a final Brexit deal is made with the EU.

In a letter to Business Secretary Greg Clark they urged the government to “put the economy first”. The letter is from the British Chambers of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry, EEF, Federation of Small Businesses and Institute of Directors.

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Former Marks and Spencer chairman Lord Rose, who chaired the Stronger In campaign last year, told BC Radio 4′s Today he was reassured that economic considerations were “top of the pile” but ministers needed to be realistic with the public.

“Let’s communicate with people who voted Out and people who voted Remain what the art of the possible… we all know we can’t have our cake and eat it… negotiations mean you are not always going to get what you want.”

Speaking on the same programme, JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin – one of the leading pro-Leave business voices – said negotiators had to be open to possible compromises but also prepared to walk away and to default to World Trade Organisation rules if necessary.

“I don’t think many people feel that staying in the single market and customs union and being subject to EU laws is Brexit. I think Brexit is parliamentary sovereignty and an assertion of democracy. Outside that, I think there is a quite a lot of scope.”

For Labour, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said there was “real confusion” about the government’s mandate after the general election result.

Pressed on whether he supported remaining in the customs union, which other senior Labour figures have appeared to rule out – he told Sky News the focus should be on “outcomes not models” and what he wanted to see was “no increase in customs burdens” following Brexit.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40321271

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Grenfell Tower fire: Police identify five victims of blaze

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 19, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Lee Disson and NicolaGreenArt

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Anthony Disson and Ya-Haddy Sisi Saye are among five people to be formally identified by the police

Three more victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington have been named by the Metropolitan Police.

Anthony Disson, 65, Ya-Haddy Sisi Saye, 24, also known as Khadija Saye, and Abufars Ibrahim, 39, all died when the 24-storey high rise caught fire shortly before 01:00 BST on 13 June.

Another victim – a 52-year-old woman – was also identified, but her family did not want her name to be made public.

A total of 79 people are either dead or missing presumed dead, police said.

Commander Stuart Cundy confirmed the figure in a statement on Monday, adding it may still change.

Mohammad Alhajali, 23, was the first victim to be formally identified.

Of those who were injured, 18 people remain in hospital, with nine in critical care.

Mr Disson was a retired lorry driver who lived on the 22nd floor of the tower.

He lived in the property for eight years and phoned his son at 03:30, saying he was being told to stay in his flat.

“His family released a statement saying they were “devastated” at the news.

“Tony leaves behind a large family, his wife, sons and grandchildren, including one grandchild he will never get to meet,” they said.

“We miss him terribly, and are pulling together as a family and trying to stay strong under these tragic circumstances. We ask at this time that our family are left to grieve in private.”

‘Talented artist’

Ms Saye’s death was first talked about after Labour MP David Lammy posted a tribute on Twitter, but this is the first time the police have confirmed it.

The artist and photographer lived on the 20th floor with her mother, Mary Mendy, who is missing.

Mr Lammy’s wife was Ms Saye’s employer and mentor and she had been filmed for a BBC documentary.

Many of the families that were affected lost more than one relative, said Cdr Cundy, adding that his “heart went out to them”.

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Metropolitan Police

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Police have released images of the inside of flats where the occupants have been accounted for

Cdr Cundy said his priority was to identify the people who died in the building and to remove them as quickly as possible.

But he warned that not everyone would be identifiable and the operation would take “many, many weeks”.

“This is an incredibly distressing time for families,” he said. “It is really hard to describe the devastation the fire caused.

“What is important for me is to find answers for those families who have been directly affected.”

Cdr Cundy said there may have been people inside the building that they did not know were there, but there also could be people who were reported missing and managed to escape.

He urged those people to make themselves known to the authorities.

Media captionPeople across the UK paused to remember the victims

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AFP/Getty Images

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Emergency services marked the minute’s silence in the capital

A minute’s silence was held at 11:00 BST across the UK to remember the victims.

Earlier, police released new images from inside the 24-storey building to show the scale of the challenge they face.

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Metropolitan Police

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This police picture shows an entrance to the tower

The police investigation will be “wide ranging”, according to the Met, looking at the construction of the building, the recent refurbishment, how it was managed and maintained, and fire safety measures.

“I would like to reassure everybody that we will be looking at all criminal offences that might have been committed by any individual or any organisation,” said Cdr Cundy.

“Where offences have been committed, I will do everything in my gift to make sure they are brought to justice.”

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Firefighter looks at tributes during the silence

The government has sent in a team of civil servants to to help with the relief effort.

On Sunday, the prime minister also announced a £5m fund to help those families affected.

Each household that has lost their home will receive at least £500 in cash and £5,000 paid into an account.

The fund will also:

  • Help people having to stay in temporary accommodation
  • Help meet funeral costs
  • Cover legal representation for residents involved in the public inquiry
  • An extra £1.5m will also pay for mental health support for the emergency services
Media captionGrenfell Tower community applauded firefighters as they drove past

A number of figures have faced criticism for their handling of the disaster, including Theresa May – who failed to meet survivors in the immediate aftermath – and Kensington and Chelsea Council.

Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown said he understood residents’ anger and that the authority itself wanted to know why the fire had started and spread so quickly – but it was too big for one council to handle alone.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40327357

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Finsbury Park attack: Theresa May condemns ‘sickening’ terror attack

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 19, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionFootage shows the suspected attacker being tackled to the ground before the police arrive

Prime Minister Theresa May says the terror attack near a north London mosque is “every bit as sickening” as other recent ones to hit the UK.

A man drove a van into worshippers close to the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park as they were gathered to help an elderly man who had collapsed.

That man later died, but it is not clear if his death was the result of the attack. Ten others were also hurt.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said the incident was “quite clearly an attack on Muslims”, and the community would now see more police, including armed officers, in the area, “particularly around religious establishments”.

It is the fourth terror attack in the UK in three months, after incidents in Westminster, Manchester and on London Bridge.

Police said all the victims of the attack were Muslim and many were believed to have just left evening prayers after breaking the Ramadan fast.

Media captionFinsbury Park attack: PM Theresa May arrives at mosque

Security Minster Ben Wallace said the suspect was not known to the security services, and was believed to have acted alone.

The prime minister said police declared it a terrorist incident within eight minutes and a 48-year-old white man was now in custody.

Mrs May was speaking after chairing a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee.

She added that “there has been far too much tolerance of extremism over many years”.

“It is a reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms; and our determination to tackle them must be the same whoever is responsible.”

After making her statement outside Downing Street, the prime minister visited Finsbury Park Mosque, which is also close to the scene of the incident, where she held talks with faith leaders.

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Nine people were taken to hospital after the attack, which happened shortly after midnight, and several are seriously injured.

Eyewitness Abdul Rahman told the BBC: “When the guy came out from his van he wanted to escape, run away, and he was saying ‘I want to kill Muslims. ‘I want to kill Muslims.’

“I hit him on his stomach… and then me and the other guys… we held him to the ground until he couldn’t move. We stopped him until the police came.”

Adil Rana, 24, said “people were punching him and beating him, which was reasonable because of what he’s done”.

The imam of Muslim Welfare House – which is also a community centre – said a passing police van was flagged down after the attack.

Mohammed Mahmoud told reporters: “We told them the situation – there’s a man, he’s restrained, he mowed down a group of people with his van and there is a mob attempting to hurt him and if you don’t take him then, God forbid, he might be seriously hurt.

“We pushed people away from him until he was safely taken by police.”

Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of Muslim Welfare House, said the suspect had told those holding him “you deserve it” and was also saying “I did my bit”.

Media captionFinsbury Park Imam Mohamed Mahmoud says the community in Finsbury Park is “mild-mannered, calm”

Another witness, who gave his name as Abdul, told the BBC the suspect was shouting “kill me, I’ve done my job”.

Earlier, police also said the arrested man would be the “subject of a mental health assessment in due course”.

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect.”

Thee mayor has also reiterated his calls for the government to provide more funding to the Met Police.

BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani said it was not the first time that Muslims – and specifically visible Muslim targets, namely mosques – had been targeted in an act of terrorism in the UK.

The threat from extreme right-wing groups has been growing in recent years, he said, noting that 16% of all terror arrests in the year to March were classed as “domestic extremism”.

At the scene

By Cherry Wilson, BBC News

Locals say this is a proudly multicultural area, where the biggest rivalry is whether you support Arsenal or their north London rivals, Tottenham.

Now the mood here is one of shock, as residents stand by the police cordon seeing the aftermath of yet another attack in London.

Mother-of-four Nicola Senior, 43, is walking back from taking her children to school when she stops to take in the scene.

She said: “I’m frightened. Is there going to be retaliation?

“I am fearful for my kids. Can we go to the park? Can we go to the church? It feels like this is happening all the time.”

‘Everyone is on edge’ after attack

Forensics officers are examining a white van which has Pontyclun Van Hire on it – a firm from Rhondda Cynon Taff in south Wales.

The firm said in a statement that it was “shocked and saddened” and co-operating with the police.

A dangerous juncture in the battle against extremism

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By BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner

This incident risks playing right into the hands of those planning further attacks on vulnerable citizens in the UK.

Online followers of the so-called Islamic State have been quick to seize on the Finsbury Park attack as proof of what they see as widespread hostility towards Muslims who live in the West. Inevitably, it will be used by recruiters and propagandists to incite further attacks – extremism breeds extremism.

The one thing that far right anti-Muslim extremists and violent jihadists have in common is the belief that peaceful coexistence between Muslim and non-Muslim is impossible.

The unified prayers and solidarity across communities that followed recent terror attacks are anathema to them. Extremists of both types want instead to divide society and will keep trying to bring this about by criminal acts of provocation such as this.

The Muslim Council of Britain said this was the “most violent manifestation to date” of recent Islamophobic incidents.

“We expect the authorities to increase security outside mosques as a matter of urgency.”

Mohammed Kozbar, general secretary of Finsbury Park Mosque, gave a statement on behalf of a joint faiths group.

He said that “an attack on one faith is an attack on all faith and communities”.

The group has appealed for calm, adding that “all of our efforts should be towards getting justice for the victims and ensuring our community stays the diverse, tolerant and welcome place we know it to be”.

Media captionAbdulrahman Aidroos describes how he and others detained the suspected attacker
Media captionTheresa May said “hatred and evil” will never succeed

Home Secretary Amber Rudd described it as an appalling incident, and said new funding for security at religious sites had recently been arranged.

“We will make sure that we do all we can to reduce these sort of attacks,” she added.

Labour’s shadow home secretary and Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott said on Twitter that police “must urgently review security for all mosques”.

Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn has also visited the area, telling the BBC that “an attack on a mosque, an attack on a synagogue, an attack on a church is actually an attack on all of us”.

“We have to protect each other’s faith, each other’s way of life, and that’s what makes us a strong society and community.”

Media captionCorbyn: People must be free to practise their faith

Mr Corbyn attended prayers at Finsbury Park Mosque with Islington Council Leader Richard Watts.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has also been to the area, where he met residents and community leaders.

Speaking to the BBC, he said it was a “despicable attack” which was intended to divide society, but added: “That will fail. These perpetrators will never succeed.”

Mr Javid also said he wanted to reassure Muslims around the UK that the government would “always take a zero tolerance approach to hate crime”.

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Prayers were held in the street in aftermath of the van attack

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-40322960

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London fire: Syrian victim Mohammed Alhajali family ‘can come to UK’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 18, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionVictim’s brother recounts final call: “He said: ‘Why did you leave me?’.”

Arrangements will be made for the family of one of those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire to travel from Syria to the UK for his funeral, the Home Office has said.

Mohammed Alhajali, who was 23, was the first victim to be named.

The Syrian refugee came to the UK in 2014 and studied civil engineering.

A total of 58 people are known to be dead or missing, presumed dead, after the fire. The BBC understands this could rise to about 70 people in total.

Mr Alhajali’s older brother Omar – who was with him in their flat on the 14th floor – survived after they were separated on the way out of the burning tower block.

A friend of Mr Alhajali, Randa El-Daouk, told the Andrew Marr programme that her friend was “loved by all of us”.

A petition for his parents to be allowed to come to the UK has more than 80,000 signatures.

The petition was set up by family friend Mirna Suleiman, 26, who had been ringing around numerous hospitals, rest centres and the casualty helpline searching for Mr Alhajali, before discovering that he had died.

“My mum told me and I just burst in to tears. Even though I didn’t know him it was so difficult to bear the news,” she said.

Ms Suleiman said she started the campaign because, as someone with Syrian family herself, she knew how difficult it was to obtain a visa for visits.

The proportion of visa applications for visits to the UK from Syria that are rejected has risen since the country’s civil war began in 2011.

But the Home Office has suggested Mr Alhajali’s family will be able to come to the UK on compassionate grounds.

“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home,” the Syrian Solidarity Campaign said in a statement.

“His dream was to be able to go back home one day and rebuild Syria.”

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A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We have established processes in place which allow us to consider visa applications outside the immigration rules on compassionate grounds.

“We are in contact with Mr Alhajali’s family and will offer any assistance we can to help them obtain the necessary travel documents they will require in these terribly sad circumstances.”

Ms Suleiman said she was happy with the outcome, but added: “It shouldn’t reach a point where people are dying [before] we can allow families to be reunited with one another.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40317674

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Portugal forest fires kill 62 near Coimbra

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 18, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionResidents watch on as their homes blaze in Pedrogao Grande

A catastrophic forest fire in Portugal has claimed at least 62 lives, including four children, officials say.

Most died while trying to flee the Pedrógão Grande area, 50 km (30 miles) south-east of Coimbra, in their cars, according to the government.

Hundreds of firefighters are continuing to tackle the blaze, which has spread across several fronts.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa called it “the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires”.

The death toll could rise further as many people remain missing, he warned. The authorities have declared three days of national mourning, starting on Sunday.

Bodies found in cars

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said that the majority of the victims died from smoke inhalation and burns, while two died in a road accident related to the fires.

He earlier said 30 bodies were found inside cars, with another 17 next to the vehicles, on one road leading on to the IC8 motorway.

Another 11 died in a village next to the motorway.

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Media in Portugal say the fire is no closer to being contained despite hundreds of firefighters and 300 vehicles working to put it out.

Among the dozens of people injured was an eight-year-old girl with burns found wandering alone close to the fire, the Correio do Manhã newspaper reported.

In pictures: Portugal forest fire

Six firefighters are seriously wounded, national broadcaster RTP said, and two who went missing overnight turned up injured.

The Correio do Manhã warned that many areas hit by the fire had not yet been reached by authorities, so the death toll was likely to increase.

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A number of houses near Pedrógão Grande have been destroyed

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AFP/Getty Images

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The search for victims of the fire has continued into Sunday

About 60 forest fires broke out across the country overnight, with close to 1,700 firefighters battling them across Portugal.

The flames spread “with great violence” on four fronts near Pedrógão Grande, Mr Gomes said.

Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help tackle the fires, and the European Union is co-ordinating an international firefighting and relief effort.

It is not yet known what caused the fire, however Mr Costa said thunderstorms could have been one possible cause.

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AFP/Getty Images

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Firefighters pause as the wildfire continues behind them

Portugal has been experiencing a heatwave, with temperatures of more than 40C (104F) in some areas.

“This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions,” Valdemar Alves, the mayor of Pedrógão Grande, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press agency.

“I am completely stunned by the number of deaths.”

What happens next? Alison Roberts, BBC News, Lisbon

We have had large-scale fires before over the past couple of decades – this year is not unusual in that respect – but it is certainly unusual to have so many fatalities in one place. Portuguese officials are visibly shocked.

There were very particular circumstances with the lightning strikes here – this fire started with a dry lightning strike. There has been rainfall elsewhere but there was no rain there, and this is a heavily-forested area.

Getting it under control depends not only on temperatures, which do seem as though they will be high, but on the wind above all. It is very much in the hands of Mother Nature.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-40316934

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