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Liz Truss hails ‘hard-headed’ AUKUS submarine deal amid deepening row with France | Politics News

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New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has defended the UK’s “hard-headed” security pact with the US and Australia, amid a deepening diplomatic row with France.

The AUKUS deal saw the UK, Australia and the US form a security pact to develop and deploy a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, adding to the Western military presence in the Pacific region.

Ms Truss said the agreement showed Britain’s readiness to be “hard-headed in defending our interests”, adding that it could result in hundreds of new jobs.

France was outraged by the deal which sees them losing out on a £30bn contract to supply conventional submarines to Australia, who opted for nuclear-powered subs provided by Britain and the US.

In response, they recalled their ambassadors to the US and Australia, although there was no similar order to return to Paris for the French envoy to London.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Truss made no mention of the diplomatic stand-off with the French.

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British nuclear-powered subs make rare ‘surface’

Earlier, however, a French minister scornfully referred to the UK as the “junior partner” in the trilateral agreement and accused it of returning to hide in the “American lap”.

It comes after Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to the US, referenced the omission of UK from the ambassador recall.

He wrote on Twitter: “You can interpret the omission of the UK as a sign of conciliation or contempt. Your choice.”

In her article, Ms Truss said the agreement, widely seen as a counter to increasing Chinese military assertiveness in the region, underlined the UK’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific.

She said Britain would always be a “fierce champion” of freedom and that the agreement illustrates the nation’s commitment to “challenging unfair practices and malign acts”.

“Freedoms need to be defended, so we are also building strong security ties around the world,” she wrote.

“That is why last week the prime minister announced, alongside our friends President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison, the creation of a new security partnership called AUKUS.

“It shows our readiness to be hard-headed in defending our interests and challenging unfair practices and malign acts.”

On Saturday, the president of the French National Assembly told Sky News that the bonds of friendship between France and the UK, US and Australia have been “tarnished” by the AUKUS pact.

Speaking while attending the G7 Speakers’ Conference in Chorley, Lancashire, Richard Ferrand said: “I think it has somewhat tarnished the bonds of friendship that we have. Yes, it has made things more difficult in terms of trust and friendship.”

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‘AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever’

Pressed on why Catherine Colonna, the top French diplomat in the UK was not recalled, Mr Ferrand said: “Obviously it was not my decision but we thought it was more important to recall the ambassadors of the two main protagonists in this thing.”

Andreas Michaelis, Germany’s ambassador to the UK, has suggested the AUKUS agreement threatens the “coherence and unity of the West”.

In the Commons on Thursday, Boris Johnson sought to smooth over the differences, insisting relations with France remained “rock solid” while Downing Street described Paris as “a close ally and friend” of the UK.

Nevertheless, the prime minister also made clear he expected the agreement to bring “hundreds” of highly-skilled jobs to Britain – jobs which may well have otherwise gone to France.

Ms Truss said the deal could “create hundreds of new and high-skilled jobs, from the shipyards of Govan to the factories of Tyneside”.

The French were reportedly given just a few hours’ notice of the new agreement ahead of what is expected to be a tough election year for Mr Macron.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the snub was a “stab in the back” and constituted “unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners”.

The pact between the UK, US and Australia has been widely seen as an attempt to counter the growing military assertiveness of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Beijing swiftly denounced the initiative as “extremely irresponsible” and a threat to regional peace and stability.

Mr Johnson, however, said it was not intended as an “adversarial” move against China or any other power.

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Brexit: Latest Northern Ireland Protocol talks ‘constructive’, says UK – as EU negotiators head for London | Politics News

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UK officials have described the latest talks with the EU over the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol as “constructive”, as a Brussels delegation prepares to travel to London on Tuesday.

Measures recently proposed by the EU would cut checks on retail agri-food products arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain by 80%.

A 50% reduction in customs paperwork is also on the cards.

It is understood, however, that the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in resolving disputes between the UK and the EU remains a key sticking point.

A UK government source said the arrangement “must end”, while the European Commission has insisted it will not budge on the issue.

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EU’s Sefcovic pushed on UK’s red lines around ECJ

The UK source said: “The talks this week were constructive and we’ve heard some things from the EU that we can work with – but the reality is that we are still far apart on the big issues, especially governance.

“There’s been plenty of speculation about governance this week but our position remains unchanged: the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in resolving disputes between the UK and EU must end.”

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The source added that “real progress” must happen “soon” to avoid a “process of endless negotiation”.

At the end of the week, once several days of negotiations have been completed, Brexit minister Lord Frost and EU Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic are due to meet in Westminster.

The protocol is designed to avoid the introduction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, following Brexit.

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Newcastle United takeover: Crystal Palace fans’ banner protesting Saudi-led consortium’s Tyneside takeover investigated by police | UK News

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A banner unfurled by Crystal Palace fans ahead of Saturday’s draw with Newcastle, protesting the recent Saudi-led takeover of the Tyneside club is being investigated by police.

The graphic sign, held up at Selhurst Park, showed a man wearing Arab-style clothing wielding a bloodied sword about to behead a magpie, as faceless supporters in the background sing: “We’ve got our club back.”

Crystal Palace fans with a banner about Newcastle United's takeover before the match
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The Premier League has been accused of ‘total hypocrisy’ over the deal

It listed offences the regime is accused of by human rights groups – terrorism, beheading, civil rights abuses, murder, censorship and persecution – which were all ticked off on a clipboard under the heading “Premier League Owners Test”.

The top-flight league’s chief executive Richard Masters is also depicted giving a thumbs-up to a bag of cash, standing in a pool of blood.

It comes after the controversial go-ahead was given for a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s state sovereign wealth fund – known as the Public Investment Fund or PIF – to take control of Newcastle United in a £300 m deal, earlier this month.

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This was despite the closeness of the fund to the Saudi state, which has faced criticism over its human rights record.

PIF is chaired by Saudi’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was linked to the gruesome 2018 murder of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi, although he has denied any involvement.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
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Saudi’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman chairs the investment fund

A post on the official Croydon Metropolitan Police Twitter account said: “On Saturday 23 October police received a report of an offensive banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans.

“Officers are assessing the information and carrying out enquiries. Any allegations of racist abuse will be taken very seriously.”

Palace supporters’ group Holmesdale Fanatics released a statement after the banner was unveiled.

It said: “The Saudi led takeover of Newcastle has rightly received widespread condemnation and anger.

“To give the thumbs up to this deal at a time when the Premier League is promoting the women’s game and inclusive initiatives such as rainbow armbands, shows the total hypocrisy at play and demonstrates the league’s soulless agenda where profits trump all.”

Proud and Palace, the club’s official LGBT+ supporters group, also posted a video on its Twitter account which highlighted the case of Suhail al Jameel, a gay man reportedly imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

A spokeswoman for the group said: “We don’t believe these owners have a place in the Premier League and we want to keep raising awareness.”

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Taiwan: Earthquake of magnitude 6.2 strikes island | World News

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 has struck Taiwan, according to the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC).

It had a depth of 25 miles (40km), the EMSC added.

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