UK Readies For Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee

In this file photo taken on July 8, 2021 Queen Elizabeth II visits Manchester Cathedral in Manchester, northwest England. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. Christopher Furlong / POOL / AFP

 

Britain brings out the bunting next week for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, with four days of public events to mark her 70 years on the throne. 

Across the country, red, white and blue Union Jack are being hung for street parties, picnics and barbecues over four days from Thursday to Sunday.

With two public holidays and the weekend, retailers and the hospitality sector in particular are hoping for a sales boost, after a difficult few years.

Harvir Dhillon, an economist at the British Retail Consortium, predicted a rush to stock up on party food and booze.

“Fresh food, sales of alcohol and particularly items adorned with the Union Jack are expected to perform well,” he told AFP.

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The British Beer and Pub Association estimated that 90 million pints will be sold, giving a 105-million-pound ($132 million, 124 million euros) boost to the trade.

Closing time has been extended from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am from Thursday to Saturday night.

Jason Smith, who runs the White Swan pub in Otley, near Leeds, northern England, said Covid restrictions and closures had been a “real blow” to business.

“But this will be an opportunity to bounce back, so we’re keeping fingers crossed for nice weather as well to lift spirits and celebrations even more.”

Health 

Events begin on Thursday with Trooping the Colour, the military parade that has officially marked the British monarch’s birthday for more than 250 years.

In previous years, the queen has taken the salute herself on horseback at Horse Guards Parade, near her central London home at Buckingham Palace.

But at 96, and with well-documented problems walking and standing, senior royals will deputise.

Heir to the throne Prince Charles, 73, most recently stood in for his mother at the State Opening of Parliament — a key ceremonial engagement.

The queen has been largely out of action at public engagements since last October, when she spent a night in hospital after unspecified tests.

Last-minute cancellations and a bout of Covid earlier this year cast doubt on whether she would participate in full at the landmark jubilee.

No other British monarch in history has reigned for 70 years.

“If we don’t see the queen over the jubilee, there’ll be millions of people disappointed,” veteran royal photographer Arthur Edwards told AFP recently.

But she has made several surprise appearances in recent weeks, at the opening of a new east-west rail link in London that bears her name, and at the Windsor Horse Show.

She walked with a stick on those occasions and toured exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show this week in a deluxe chauffeur-driven buggy.

Balcony

The pomp and pageantry of the Trooping the Colour has typically ended with an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and a ceremonial fly-past.

But numbers have been limited to working royals only, leaving no place for self-exiled grandson Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan, nor her disgraced second son Prince Andrew.

But reports have claimed Andrew — who in February settled a US civil claim for sexual assault — could be involved in the jubilee in some form.

Harry and Meghan have also promised to fly in from the United States with their young children Archie and Lilibet to take part in the wider celebrations.

Andrew’s appearance in March supporting his mother at her late husband Prince Philip’s memorial service caused outrage, and royal officials are reportedly concerned about a media circus around Harry and Meghan.

Society 

As in previous jubilees, events have been designed to reflect the queen’s position as head of state and a national figurehead representing tradition and history.

The whole event is characteristically British, such as a pudding competition, and quirky world record attempts for the biggest cream tea party and longest picnic.

Participants in a giant public parade that tops off the events on Sunday will be familiar to anyone acquainted with British popular culture since 1952.

But Bollywood dancers and a Caribbean carnival will also reflect the changing nature of British society since the start of her reign from one predominantly white and Christian to multicultural and multi-faith.

The most recent YouGov poll gave the queen a 75-percent approval rating, maintaining her position as Britain’s most favoured royal.

But British Future, a think-tank, said the monarchy she heads and will soon pass on needs to do more to broaden its appeal to the young and ethnic minorities to remain relevant.

AFP

Married Couple Hit Record UK Lottery £185m Jackpot

A file photo of some British pound note.

 

A married couple from western England was revealed Thursday as Britain’s biggest-ever lottery winners after scooping a jackpot of nearly £185 million ($230 million, 218 million euros) in the EuroMillions draw. 

Joe and Jess Thwaite, from Gloucester, called the unprecedented win “huge for us” as they claimed the record-breaking sum of £184,262,899 with a ticket of randomly selected numbers earlier this month.

“It was amazing but also surreal,” said Joe, 49, who works at a communications company, at a press conference with his wife as they recounted the momentous moment they discovered online their May 10 win.

“I looked at the amount. I put the phone down and I picked the phone up again and I looked at the amount again!”

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The early riser somehow contained his excitement enough to let his wife keep sleeping until her alarm sounded — and then relayed the news.

“He was like, ‘I’ve got a secret to tell you’,” recalled Jess, 44. “I was like ‘don’t be stupid!,” she said, adding they initially thought it was a joke and “obviously wrong”.

The couple, like many other Britons, have been struggling through the country’s growing cost-of-living crisis and plan to share their newly-amassed fortune with friends and family.

“This is an amazing thing that’s happened to us, and this means it’s an amazing thing that’s happened to our family and we want to share that with them,” said Jess, who runs a hair salon with her mother and sister.

“Even though it’s wonderful and exciting, it’s also a massive relief for everybody that’s been struggling with all their bills.

“We’re like every normal family… so it’s just a huge relief.”

‘Family Holiday’ 

Joe said the blockbuster win meant they had been enjoying simple pleasures like hot water without worrying about the costs, amid the spiralling energy prices hitting Britain.

“I did put the immersion heater on the other day and heated up the hot water and just thought that’s fine, whereas in the past these are the sorts of things you just didn’t do,” he added.

Beyond that, the immediate Thwaite family — which comprises two primary school-aged children and a host of pets including horses, ponies, dogs, and even geckos — are planning a rare family holiday and likely a new car purchase.

“We never go on holiday,” said Jess. “So our kids would just die to go to the sun and do that kind of thing,” she added, noting one favoured Hawaii while the other wanted to go to a Texas horse ranch.

The Thwaite’s jackpot sets a new record in Britain and is the second largest in the history of EuroMillions, which is played in the territories of nine European countries.

Last October saw an unprecedented 220-million-euro jackpot claimed by an undisclosed woman — who had never previously played the game — on the Pacific island of Tahiti, which is part of French Polynesia.

AFP

UK Inflation Jumps To 40-Year Peak

A man carries shopping bags past people queing to enter a shop in London on May 12, 2022.  JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Britain’s annual inflation rate surged to a 40-year high last month on rocketing energy costs, official data showed Wednesday, sparking opposition calls for the government to announce an emergency budget to combat a cost-of-living crisis.

Consumer prices index inflation hit 9.0 per cent in April from 7.0 per cent in March, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

The ONS estimated that April was the highest level since 1982, and the fastest rate since the current data series began in 1989.

Nations across the world are plagued by decades-high inflation as the Ukraine conflict pushes up energy and food prices, in turn forcing the Bank of England, the US Federal Reserve and others to ramp up interest rates.

The squeeze on UK household budgets tightened further in April due to tax hikes, while wages are failing to keep pace with inflation.

‘Global challenges’

“Countries around the world are dealing with rising inflation,” said British finance minister Rishi Sunak.

“Today’s inflation numbers are driven by the energy price cap rise in April, which in turn is driven by higher global energy prices.

“We cannot protect people completely from these global challenges but are providing significant support where we can, and stand ready to take further action.”

The main opposition Labour party, however, wants an emergency budget to help Britons cope with the cost-of-living crunch.

Labour finance spokeswoman Rachel Reeves described the inflation data as “a huge worry for families already stretched”.

“Today, Labour force a vote for an emergency budget and for a plan for growth.”

Labour is also calling for a windfall tax on the energy sector, which has been boosted as gas and oil prices rocketed on supply worries following key producer Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

 ‘Apocalyptic’

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey on Monday warned of an “apocalyptic” situation surrounding runaway food costs — which he said were fuelled by major wheat and cooking oil producer Ukraine finding itself unable to export its goods.

Addressing British MPs, Bailey spoke also of a “very real income shock” coming from surging energy and food prices.

Britain risks falling into recession with inflation expected to top 10 percent by the end of the year, the BoE warned earlier this month.

It came as the central bank hiked its main interest rate by a quarter-point to one percent to tackle inflation.

That was the fourth straight increase by the BoE, while its key rate now stands at the highest level since 2009.

 Energy cap

UK consumer prices leapt in April after a cap on domestic gas and electricity was hiked due to spiking wholesale energy costs.

“Inflation rose steeply in April, driven by the sharp climb in electricity and gas prices as the higher price cap came into effect,” added ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner.

“Around three-quarters of the increase in the annual rate this month came from utility bills.”

Official data showed Tuesday that Britain’s unemployment rate has fallen further to a nearly five-decade low, but the value of wages continues to erode as inflation soars.

The economy shrank in March on the fallout from soaring consumer prices, data showed last week, increasing the prospect of the country falling into recession.

Raised rates have lifted borrowing costs for consumers and businesses, further impacting spending.

AFP

Queen Elizabeth II Visits New Elizabeth Railway Line

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) and her son Britain's Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (R) visit to Paddington Station in London on May 17, 2022, to mark the completion of London's Crossrail project, ahead of the opening of the new 'Elizabeth Line' rail service next week. Andrew Matthews / POOL / AFP
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (C) and her son Britain’s Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (R) visit to Paddington Station in London on May 17, 2022, to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project, ahead of the opening of the new ‘Elizabeth Line’ rail service next week. Andrew Matthews / POOL / AFP

 

Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday made a surprise appearance at a new railway line named in her honour, after health issues prevented her attending recent events.

The 96-year-old monarch smiled as she visited Paddington Station in London to see the new Elizabeth line, a major new railway that is set to speed up transport links within the city and beyond.

Dressed in a yellow wool coat and hat trimmed with flowers, she took a lift down to the platform, holding a walking stick, joining her son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, who had been announced as attending the event without her.

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She was welcomed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The monarch has rarely attended events outside her royal residences recently and she missed the ceremonial opening of parliament on May 10 for only the third time, due to ongoing mobility issues.

This has caused concern over whether she will be able to attend the main events next month for her Platinum Jubilee, marking her 70 years on the throne.

Last week, however, she attended two events near her Windsor Castle home, including an equestrian event hosted by Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and Helen Mirren that was part of the Jubilee celebrations.

The Elizabeth line is set to partially open to the public on May 24. It was originally due to open in 2018, but was hit by problems with construction and complex signalling systems.

Its opening comes before a long weekend of Platinum Jubilee celebrations from June 2 to 5.

Once completed, the line will run from Reading, around 35 miles (56 kilometres) to the west of London to Shenfield, around 21 miles to the east, with the option of stopping at Heathrow airport.

The line had been due to be completed in 2018 and its budget has spiralled to £18.9 billion (22.4 billion euros, $24 billion).

Transport for London says the new railway line with violet-coloured signage will “transform travel across London and the South East”.

AFP

Prince Charles To Represent Queen Elizabeth At UK Parliament Opening

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 19, 2019 Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (R) sits with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as she delivers the Queen’s Speech on The Sovereign’s Throne in the House of Lords chamber, during the State Opening of Parliament in the Houses of Parliament in London.  Leon Neal / POOL / AFP

 

Prince Charles will replace his 96-year-old mother Queen Elizabeth II at Tuesday’s ceremonial opening of the UK parliament, Buckingham Palace said Monday, citing the monarch’s ongoing mobility issues.

“The Queen continues to experience episodic mobility problems, and in consultation with her doctors has reluctantly decided that she will not attend the State Opening of Parliament,” the palace said in a statement on the eve of the pomp-filled event.

“At Her Majesty’s request, and with the agreement of the relevant authorities, The Prince of Wales will read the Queen’s Speech on Her Majesty’s behalf,” it added, referring to her eldest son and heir to the throne, Charles.

The palace added that the Queen’s eldest grandson, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and next in the line of succession, would also attend the elaborate State Opening of Parliament ceremony.

As head of state, the Queen usually presides over the annual event, reading out her government’s legislative programme in an address from a gilded throne in the House of Lords.

But Buckingham Palace had not confirmed her attendance in the run-up to this year’s spectacle, which culminates in the so-called Queen’s Speech at around 11:30 am (1030 GMT) on Tuesday.

The monarch has rarely been seen in public since spending an unscheduled night in the hospital in October last year and has complained of difficulties standing and working, as well as a bout of Covid.

She has missed only two state openings during her record-breaking 70-year reign, in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and then Prince Edward.

She has cut back on numerous public appearances in recent months, and last week the palace announced she will not attend this summer’s royal garden parties, usually a regular feature in her yearly diary.

The monarch recently returned to Windsor Castle after a week-long break on her Sandringham estate in Norfolk, eastern England, where she marked her 96th birthday in private on April 21.

A royal tradition since the 18th century has also seen the monarch have a second, official birthday, typically celebrated in warmer weather in June.

This year’s official birthday coincides with her Platinum Jubilee, and four days of public events from June 2 to 5 to mark her record-breaking 70th year on the throne.

AFP

We Didn’t Designate IPOB As Terrorist Organisation – UK

A photo combination of President Muhammadu Buhari and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnso.
A photo combination of President Muhammadu Buhari and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnso.

 

The United Kingdom has clarified that it did not designate the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation.

The clarification comes after it emerged that the UK sought to exclude IPOB members who have committed human rights abuses from its asylum program.

A statement signed by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, had stated that “Nigeria welcomes the decision by the United Kingdom to proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group.”

But the British High Commission in Abuja, in a statement on Friday, said this was not the case.

READ ALSO: UK Bars IPOB, Others From Seeking Asylum

“We are aware of inaccurate reporting circulating in the media and online that the UK Government has added the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to the UK’s list of terrorist groups or organisations banned under UK law,” the statement said.

“These reports are untrue. The ‘Indigenous People of Biafra’ (IPOB) is not a proscribed organisation in the UK.

“The inaccurate reporting relates to the 13 April 2022 publication by the UK Government of a revised Country Policy and Information note (CPIN) on separatist groups in SE Nigeria, including the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). CPINs provide country of origin information (COI) and analysis of COI for use by UK Government decision-makers handling particular types of protection and human rights claims.

“All asylum and human rights claims made in the UK are considered on their individual facts in accordance with our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights, taking into account relevant background country information and case law.

“The CPIN on separatist groups in the South East, including the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), provides a general assessment of risks faced by individuals belonging to those groups. These assessments are based on an analysis of publicly available country information obtained from a wide range of reliable sources including media outlets; UK and other governments; local, national and international organisations; and non-government organisations.

“This CPIN also acknowledges that the Nigerian government has proscribed IPOB as a terrorist organisation, some members of IPOB have reportedly used violence against the state and members of the public, and advises that persons who have committed human rights abuses must not be granted protection.”

‘Confiscate IPOB assets’

In his Friday statement, Mr Shehu asked the UK to confiscate IPOB assets, shut down their communication channels and sanction the issuance of visas to IPOB’s funders in Nigeria.

“Such sanctions have played a critical role in combatting other terror groups. And make no mistake: today Africa is a breeding ground for terror, with local and international groups alike gaining strength across the continent, thriving on the economic devastation of the pandemic,” Mr Shehu said.

“Nigeria’s intelligence and security forces are the first lines of defence against such groups, including ISIS and Al Quaeda affiliated Boko Haram. We rely on our allies in the West for their support.

“IPOB’s – and its 50,000 strong paramilitary unit’s – reign of terror has seen villages butchered, school buses set alight and politicians’ homes bombed. Through their international network of radio and TV stations, they threaten further violence if their demands are not met, while inciting violence and religious and ethnic tension between Nigeria’s Christian and Muslim populations.

“Their mouthpieces and their wallets are their most effective tools – it is these assets Nigeria’s allies must target next. And there is no time for complacency.”

UK Govt Recovers More Abacha Loot Worth $23.4m

File photo of former Head of state, General Sani Abacha during an Armed Forces parade

 

The National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK says it has recovered $23,439,724.98 loot believed to have been siphoned out of Nigeria in the 1990s by the associates and family of former Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

According to a communique issued by the agency on Thursday, the funds formed part of a larger pool of monies identified by the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) as having been misappropriated by Abacha and his allies.

The NCA  revealed that the funds have now been transferred to the Home Office for onward transmission to the USDOJ.

It also pursued nearly seven years of protracted litigation and international negotiation to obtain the recovery order, to enforce the U.S. forfeiture order relating to the recovered monies.

Asset Denial Senior Manager at the NCA, Billy Beattie, assured of the agency’s fight against money laundering activities within the UK.

“The NCA is committed to ensuring that the UK is not a safe haven for criminals to launder their proceeds of crime, and the civil recovery of assets is a powerful weapon in this fight,” Beatie stated.

“We work closely with the UK and international partners to tackle the threat posed by corruption, which disproportionately impacts the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.

“We are committed to ensuring that those who perpetrate corruption do not benefit from their actions.”

The NCA case is ongoing with further monies having been identified by the USDOJ as having also been misappropriated by Abacha and his associates.

Since Abacha’s death in 1998, recovered monies have principally been stashed away in four major countries: Switzerland, Jersey Island in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Liechtenstein, reports said.

During the General Abdulsalami Abubakar era in 1999, $750million was recovered while $1.2 billion was recovered in 2002; $149 million repatriated from Jersey Island, UK in 2003; $500 million recovered in 2004 from Switzerland, and another $458 million recovered in 2005 from Switzerland, all under former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration also saw the recovery of $1 billion in 2012 and $380 million in 2015 respectively, both tranches from Switzerland.

Similarly, Liechtenstein and the United States repatriated the sum of $227 million and $48 million respectively in 2014 during Jonathan’s administration.

UK Bars IPOB, Others From Seeking Asylum

A file photo of youths during a demonstration for Biafra in the south-east region of the country.

 

Authorities in the United Kingdom have excluded members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and some other secessionists from seeking asylum in their country.

In its updated asylum policy published in May and sighted by Channels Television, the UK explained that it took the decision as a result of the recent activities of such people as reported in Nigeria.

According to Britain, Nigerian authorities have since proscribed IPOB as a terrorist group while the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has also been banned, but not designated the same status as the former.

IPOB is proscribed as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government, and members of the group and its paramilitary wing – the Eastern Security Network (created in December 2020) – have reportedly committed human rights violations in Nigeria,” the document said.

“MASSOB has been banned but is not a proscribed terrorist group in Nigeria. It too has reportedly been involved in violent clashes with the authorities.

“If a person has been involved with IPOB (and/or an affiliated group), MASSOB or any other ‘Biafran’ group that incites or uses violence to achieve its aims, decision-makers must consider whether one (or more) of the exclusion clauses under the Refugee Convention is applicable. Persons who commit human rights violations must not be granted asylum.”

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The UK stated that any person excluded from the Refugee Convention would also be excluded from a grant of humanitarian protection.

it, however, advised decision-makers to still consider all claims on an individual basis, taking into account each case’s specific facts.

The government also asked them to check if there had been a previous application for a UK visa or another form of leave, stressing that asylum applications matched to visas should be investigated prior to the asylum interview.

In the political context, the UK described Biafra as a loosely defined area in Nigeria’s south-east that roughly corresponds to Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Anambra States.

MASSOB, it said, was identified in May 2013 by former President Goodluck Jonathan as one of the three ‘extremist groups threatening national security’.

“MASSOB, since its formation in the late 1990s, has clashed with the security forces. Some sources report that numerous individuals have been killed, wounded, and arrested during these clashes – usually during demonstrations.”

“Through its online platform, ‘Radio Biafra’, and other social media, IPOB has increasingly used inflammatory rhetoric to encourage secessionist aspirations and resistance to the authorities, including violence,” the UK government said of IPOB.

“Sources reported that the security forces have arrested hundreds of IPOB supporters at different events, particularly between 2015 and 2017 and including during raids on homes of IPOB leaders. Since 2015, IPOB has also claimed that the security forces have used excessive force, including killing and injuring hundreds of its supporters.”

UK Voters Head To Polls With Historic N.Ireland Result Predicted

A voter walks out of Holy Trinity Church being used as a polling station in Dobcross near Manchester during local elections on May 5, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP
A voter walks out of Holy Trinity Church being used as a polling station in Dobcross near Manchester during local elections on May 5, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Polls opened across the UK on Thursday in local and regional elections that could prove historic in Northern Ireland and heap further pressure on embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The contest for the devolved assembly in Belfast could see a pro-Irish nationalist party win for the first time in the troubled history of the British province.

The results, which are expected from Friday, could have huge constitutional implications for the four-nation UK’s future, with predicted victors Sinn Fein committed to a vote in the province on reunification with Ireland.

READ ALSO: UK’s Johnson Promises Action On Soaring Cost Of Living

Polls opened at 0600 GMT for councils in Scotland, Wales and much of England, with Johnson facing a potentially pivotal mid-term popularity test.

Poor results could reignite simmering discontent within his ruling Conservatives about his leadership, after a string of recent scandals.

Jeopardy

Johnson, 57, won a landslide 2019 general election victory by vowing to take Britain out of the European Union, and reverse rampant regional inequality.

Despite making good on his Brexit pledge, the pandemic largely stalled his domestic plans.

But his position has been put in jeopardy because of anger at revelations of lockdown-breaking parties at his Downing Street office and a cost-of-living crisis.

Heavy losses could revive calls among Tory MPs to trigger an internal contest to oust Johnson as party leader and from power.

The polls should also point to whether the main opposition Labour party poses a serious threat, as it tries to make inroads across England despite defending the many gains it made at the last local elections in 2018.

Labour is bidding to leapfrog the Conservatives into second place in Scotland, behind the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), and remain the largest party in Wales, where 16 and 17-year-olds are eligible to vote for the first time.

‘Sea change’

The contest for Northern Ireland’s power-sharing assembly is set to capture attention, after numerous polls put Sinn Fein ahead.

A University of Liverpool poll reported Tuesday it remained on target to win comfortably with over a quarter of the vote.

The pro-UK Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and cross-community Alliance Party were tied for second.

Deirdre Heenan, professor of social policy at Ulster University, said there was a feeling the election “really is momentous”.

“It will be a sea change if a nationalist becomes first minister,” she told AFP.

Sinn Fein — the IRA’s former political wing — has dialled down its calls for Irish unity during campaigning, saying it is “not fixated” on a date for a sovereignty poll, instead focusing on the rising cost of living and other local issues.

Party vice president Michelle O’Neill has insisted voters are “looking towards the future” with pragmatism rather than the dogmatism that has long been the hallmark of Northern Irish politics.

“They’re very much looking towards those of us that can work together versus those that don’t want to work together,” she said.

Power-sharing?

But her DUP rivals have sought to keep the spotlight on possible Irish reunification in the hope of bolstering their flagging fortunes.

In February, its first minister withdrew from the power-sharing government in protest at post-Brexit trade arrangements, prompting its collapse.

At a final election debate between the five biggest parties, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson reiterated the party would not form a new executive unless London rips up the trading terms, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Although many unionist voters share DUP dislike for it, the party is also getting blamed.

On Belfast’s staunchly unionist Shankill Road, gift shop owner Alaine Allen paused from selling merchandise marking Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee to complain the Protocol is “killing small businesses”.

“Hopefully they’ll get in again, but no one’s actually working for the people,” the 58-year-old said.

Deliver

In England, the Conservatives are predicted to lose hundreds of councillors and even control of long-time strongholds in London to the main UK opposition Labour party.

“People across the country are going to focus on which government, which party, is going to deliver for them,” Johnson said this week.

He has tried to sideline the so-called “partygate” scandal that last month saw him become the first British prime minister to be fined for breaking the law while in office.

In Scotland, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is hoping a strong performance in contests for all 32 local authorities can lay the groundwork for another independence referendum.

Johnson has repeatedly rejected the push for a second poll, after Scots in 2014 voted by 55 percent to 45 percent not to break away.

Two UK Aid Workers ‘Captured’ By Russian Forces In Ukraine

This video grab was taken from footage released by The Russian Defence Ministry on April 22, 2022, reportedly shows personnel from an armoured military unit as they sit on a tank advancing along a road in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine, after Russian forces invaded the central European nation on February 24. .
Handout / Russian Defence Ministry / AFP

 

 

Two British men working as aid volunteers in Ukraine have been taken captive by Russian forces on suspicion they are “spies”, a non-profit organisation and the family of one of them said Friday.

Paul Urey and Dylan Healy were “captured” by Russian soldiers on Monday at a checkpoint south of the city of Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine, according to Presidium Network, a humanitarian organisation.

The pair were said to be operating independently to try to get vulnerable Ukrainians out, and were arrested as they drove to help a woman and her two children in Zaporizhzhia.

Presidium Network said it had offered to help Urey and Healy after hearing of their volunteer efforts, but the pair were not affiliated with the non-governmental organisation, which has been active in Ukraine.

After the checkpoint arrests, the woman’s house “was stormed by armed Russian soldiers”, Presidium co-founder Dominik Byrne said in a statement.

“They made her husband lie on the floor and asked her how she knew these British spies,” he said, insisting that the pair were not spies but humanitarian workers.

Urey, born in 1977, is a Type 1 diabetic and needs regular insulin doses, according to his mother Linda Urey, who said his family was “extremely worried”.

“He was out there on his own accord. We want everyone’s support to bring (my) son home and pray he is safe,” she said.

A family man with children, Urey is a well-travelled humanitarian who worked for eight years in Afghanistan, according to Presidium.

It said that Healy, born in 2000, is a kitchen manager for a hotel chain in Britain.

The NGO confirmed it was working with Britain’s foreign ministry, which has been urgently seeking further information on the case.

The news comes a day after the ministry said one UK citizen had been killed in Ukraine and another was missing, with both reportedly involved in fighting against Russian forces.

The dead man was a military veteran named Scott Sibley, British media reported, giving his age as 36, with former comrades paying tribute.

His death is believed to be the first of a Briton fighting in the conflict, just over two months after Russia launched its invasion and Ukraine appealed for foreign fighters to help.

Harry, Meghan Visit Queen Elizabeth First Time In Two Years

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 26, 2018 (L-R) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II pose for a picture during the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.  AFP

 

Britain’s Prince Harry on Thursday visited his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, with his wife Meghan before going to the Netherlands for the Invictus Games, a spokesperson for the couple said.

The Sussexes are on their way to the sporting event Harry founded for disabled military veterans that starts in The Hague on Saturday.

The spokesman confirmed the couple had met the queen. British media reported that the meeting took place in Windsor Castle, about 40 kilometres from London.

Queen Elizabeth will celebrate her 96th birthday in a few days.

READ ALSO: Australian Prime Minister’s Security Team Injured In Car Crash

Harry, 37, and his wife, 40, were criticised by British tabloids for skipping a Prince Philip’s memorial service in Westminster Abbey on March 29.

Philip, who was married to the queen for 73 years, died last April just weeks short of his 100th birthday.

Harry and his wife quit royal life and moved to North America two years ago.

As a result of their decision, the UK government withdrew his taxpayer-funded protection on visits back to Britain, a decision that Harry is challenging in the courts.

AFP

UK To Send Asylum Seekers To Rwanda

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Tolga Akmen / POOL / AFP

 

Britain will send migrants and asylum seekers who cross the Channel thousands of miles away to Rwanda under a controversial deal announced Thursday as the government tries to clamp down on record numbers of people making the perilous journey.

“From today… anyone entering the UK illegally as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1 may now be relocated to Rwanda,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a speech near Dover in southeastern England.

“Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead,” Johnson said.

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He called the East African nation with a sketchy human rights record “one of the safest countries in the world, globally recognised for its record of welcoming and integrating migrants.”

Johnson was elected partly on promises to curb illegal immigration but has instead seen record numbers making the risky Channel crossing.

He also announced that Britain’s border agency would hand responsibility for patrolling the Channel for migrant boats to the navy.

More than 28,000 people arrived in Britain having crossed the Channel from France in small boats in 2021.

Around 90 percent of those were male and three-quarters were men aged between 18 and 39.

“Inhumane”

The Rwanda plan swiftly drew the ire of opposition politicians who accused Johnson of trying to distract from his being fined for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules, while rights groups slammed the project as “inhumane”.

Ghana and Rwanda had previously been mentioned as possible locations for the UK to outsource the processing of migrants, but Ghana in January denied involvement.

Instead, Kigali on Thursday announced that it had signed a multi-million-dollar deal to do the job, during a visit by British Home Secretary Priti Patel.

“Rwanda welcomes this partnership with the United Kingdom to host asylum seekers and migrants, and offer them legal pathways to residence” in the East African nation, Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said in a statement.

The deal with Rwanda will be funded by the UK to the tune of up to 120 million pounds ($157 million, 144 million euros), with migrants “integrated into communities across the country,” it said.

In Dover, where many migrants arrive after crossing the Channel, some residents welcomed the announcement.

“They should be sent back, because it is not our responsibility,” said retiree Andy, 68.

“Our responsibility is to look after our own people, which we aren’t doing,” the heavily tattooed army veteran told AFP.

“I understand people escaping from repression, I do. But if they’re coming over here for one thing and that is money, to me that is wrong.”

Backlash

Refugee Action’s Tim Naor Hilton accused the government of “offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe’s former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet”.

“This grubby cash-for-people plan would be a cowardly, barbaric and inhumane way to treat people fleeing persecution and war,” he said.Nadia Hardman, Refugee and Migrant Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the plan would “complicate” the process for Syrians seeking refuge in the UK.

“Syrian refugees are desperate to reach a place of safety,” Hardman told AFP.

“The UK’s agreement with Rwanda will only complicate this pursuit.

“They will arrive and expect to be treated according to the fundamental values the UK says it upholds, but will instead be transferred somewhere, miles away.”

Australia has a policy of sending asylum seekers arriving by boat to detention camps on the Pacific island nation of Nauru, with Canberra vowing no asylum seeker arriving by boat would ever be allowed to permanently settle in Australia.

Since 2015 the UK has “offered a place to over 185,000 men, women and children seeking refuge (…) more than any other similar resettlement schemes in Europe,” Johnson said.

According to the UN refugee agency, Germany received the highest number of asylum applicants (127,730) in Europe in 2021, followed by France (96,510), while the UK received the fourth largest number of applicants (44,190).