Notre-Dame fire: Treasures that make it so special

A catastrophic fire has engulfed the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, destroying its roof, toppling the spire and threatening the remaining structure of the building.

The deputy mayor of Paris, Emmanuel Gregoire, said the cathedral had suffered “colossal damages”, and the emergency services were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.

The wooden interior has been destroyed.

But which other features in the 850-year-old Gothic structure make it stand out in a city of iconic buildings?

Rose windows

The South rose window of Notre Dame cathedral

The cathedral has three rose windows dating back to the 13th century, which are among its most famous features. It is unclear whether any of them has survived the fire.

The first, and smallest, on the west facade, was finished in around 1225 and celebrated for the way the glass seemingly upheld the stonework around it.

The south rose has a diameter of nearly 13m (43ft) and is made up of 84 panels.

However, it no longer retains its original stained glass because it was damaged in previous fires.

Two towers

Notre-Dame

Most visitors to Notre-Dame will spend some time standing before two Gothic towers which crown the western facade of the cathedral.

Work on the western facade began in 1200, but the first tower – the north one – was not completed until 40 years later.

Ten years after that, in 1250, the southern tower was completed.

Both towers are 68m high, and climbing the 387 steps gives panoramic views of Paris.

Gargoyles

Gargoyle on Notre Dame

Anyone feeling fit enough to climb the stairs and gain views across Paris will have to pass another of the cathedrals best-known features – the gargoyles.

These mythical creatures are typically composed of more than one animal.

The most famous – known as the “Stryge” gargoyle – sits on top of the building, watching out over the city with its head in its hands.

Bells

Media captionWhy Notre-Dame is getting new bells

The cathedral has 10 bells – the largest, known as Emmanuel, weighs over 23 tonnes and was installed in the south tower in 1685.

The cathedral celebrated its 850th anniversary in 2013 by recasting the smaller bells from the north tower.

Each was blessed with the name of a Saint to replicate the original bells that were melted for cannon balls during the French Revolution.

Writer Victor Hugo used the cathedral as a setting for his 1831 work The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

His main character, Quasimodo, is feared by locals for the way he looks – but finds sanctuary in the cathedral and is employed as a bell-ringer.

Gothic spire

Scene of blaze in Paris
An image of the steeple taken last year, contrasted with Monday’s blaze

Notre-Dame’s famous spire, which collapsed during Monday’s fire, dates back to the 12th Century.

It underwent several changes in the building’s history – including being dismantled during the French Revolution, and later rebuilt in the 1860s.

Reflecting on its collapse, Royal Institute of British Architects said: “The loss of the roof and spire of Notre Dame, and possibly the stone vault too, is an irreplaceable blow to the heritage of French Gothic architecture.

“Our heart goes out to the people of France, and to lovers of our shared cultural heritage wherever they are.”

Relics

Notre-Dame is home to relics from the Passion of Christ, described as a piece of the cross, a nail and the Holy Crown of Thorns.

The crown is said to have been rescued from the flames.

No-fault evictions to be banned in England

Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants at short notice without good reason under new plans.

The government says it wants to protect renters from “unethical” landlords and give them more long-term security.

Section 21 notices allow landlords to evict renters without a reason after their fixed-term tenancy period ends.

The National Landlords Association said members were forced to use Section 21 because they had “no confidence” in the courts to settle possession claims.

But an organisation representing tenants said the plans were “a vital first step to ending profiteering from housing”.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced similar plans for Wales, while in Scotland new rules requiring landlords to give a reason for ending tenancies were introduced in 2017.

There are no plans in Northern Ireland to end no-fault evictions where a fixed-term tenancy has come to an end.

‘Peace of mind’

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said that evidence showed so-called Section 21 evictions were one of the biggest causes of family homelessness.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the changes would offer more “stability” to the growing number of families renting and mean people would not be afraid to make a complaint “because they may be concerned through a no-fault eviction that they may be thrown out”.

A survey of 2,001 private renters by Citizens Advice suggests that tenants who made a formal complaint had a 46% chance of being evicted within the next six months.

Mr Brokenshire also said the plans would offer “speedy redress” to landlords seeking to regain possession of their property for legitimate reasons, such as to sell it or to move into it themselves.

At the moment, landlords can give tenants as little as eight weeks’ notice after a fixed-term contract ends.

Under the government’s new plans, landlords would have to provide a “concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law” in order to bring tenancies to an end.

Mrs May said the major shake-up will protect responsible tenants from “unethical behaviour” and give them the “long-term certainty and the peace of mind they deserve”.

The prime minister also said the government was acting to prevent “unfair evictions”.

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Michael Downes

‘Loaded towards the tenant’

Michael Downes, 65, who rents out a maisonette in Coleshill, Warwickshire, said that, after his experience with a problem tenant, he feels the system is stacked against landlords.

He used Section 21 to evict someone who had not paid rent for four months. He said the other method open to landlords – a Section 8 eviction – meant the renter could halt the process by paying his arrears, only to stop paying again later.

Even using the quicker eviction method that is due to be banned, the tenant lived rent-free for six months, costing Mr Downes £5,000.

If the renter had fought the case in court, it could have taken a year to move him on, Mr Downes said.

“Everything seems to be loaded towards the tenant,” he said. “People like me are going to think, is it worth bothering any more?”

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‘No confidence’

The National Landlords Association (NLA) said its members should be able to use a Section 8 possession notice to evict someone who has broken the terms of their tenancy – for example by not paying rent.

This sometimes involves landlords spending money taking action in court if the tenants refuse to leave.

But NLA chief executive Richard Lambert said many landlords were forced to use Section 21 as they have “no confidence” in the courts to deal with Section 8 applications “quickly and surely”.

He said the proposed changes would create a new system of indefinite tenancies by the “back door”, and the focus should be on improving the Section 8 and court process instead.

Hand signing a contract
The National Landlords Association says the changes would make contracts “meaningless”

A Ministry of Housing spokesman said court processes would “also be expedited so landlords are able to swiftly and smoothly regain their property” where such a move is justified.

Amina Gichinga, from London Renters Union – which has been campaigning for the end of no-fault evictions – said: “This campaign success is a vital first step to ending profiteering from housing and towards a housing model based on homes for people, not profit.

“Section 21 is a pernicious piece of legislation that renters across the country will be glad to see the back of.

“The law allows landlords to evict their tenants at a moment’s notice, leaving misery and homelessness in its wake. This fear of eviction discourages renters from complaining about disrepair and poor conditions.”

Alicia Powell, 24, said “it was a horrible shock” when she received an eviction notice after complaining about a leak in her north London flat.

She and her boyfriend had to find £3,000 in moving costs with two months’ notice and “it completely rocks your world, everything is uprooted”, she told BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

‘An outstanding victory’

Shelter, a charity which helps people struggling with bad housing or homelessness, said the proposals would “transform lives”.

Chief executive Polly Neate said: “Government plans to abolish no-fault evictions represent an outstanding victory for England’s 11 million private renters.”

Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey said that any promise of help for renters is “good news” but added that “this latest pledge won’t work if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking the rent”.

The Labour party previously said it would scrap so-called Section 21 evictions, among a host of other reforms to the rental sector.

“Tenants need new rights and protections across the board to end costly rent increases and sub-standard homes as well as to stop unfair evictions,” Mr Healy added.

Are Section 21 notices rising?

The majority of Section 21 notices do not appear in official statistics – that’s because most tenants will leave their property soon after they receive their eviction letter and do not mount a legal challenge.

However, where Section 21 notices do end up in the courts, some statistics are available. They show that the use of Section 21 has risen sharply since 2011. Last year 10,128 repossessions were carried out by county court bailiffs in England.

A repossession occurs when bailiffs are given permission to remove tenants from a property in order to return it to a landlord.

Section 21 repossessions in England

Data includes social as well as private landlordsSource: Ministry of Justice

So whilst the official numbers do not tell the whole story, they do show there is a rising trend over the long-term – even if the numbers have dropped a bit over the last couple of years.

Measles cases triple globally in 2019, says UN

The number of measles cases reported worldwide in the first three months of 2019 has tripled compared with the same time last year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The UN body said provisional data indicated a “a clear trend”, with all regions of the world seeing outbreaks.

Africa had witnessed the most dramatic rise – up 700%.

The agency said actual numbers may be far greater, since only one in 10 cases globally are reported.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can sometimes lead to serious health complications, including infections of the lungs and brain.

Ukraine, Madagascar and India have been worst affected by the disease, with tens of thousands of reported cases per million people.

Since September, at least 800 people have died from measles in Madagascar alone.

Outbreaks have also hit Brazil, Pakistan and Yemen, “causing many deaths – mostly among young children”.

A spike in case numbers was, in addition, reported for countries including the US and Thailand with high levels of vaccination coverage.

The UN says the disease is “entirely preventable” with the right vaccines, but global coverage of the first immunisation stage has “stalled” at 85%, “still short of the 95% needed to prevent outbreaks”.

In an opinion piece for CNN, WHO heads Henrietta Fore and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world was “in the middle of a measles crisis” and that “the proliferation of confusing and contradictory information” about vaccines was partly to blame.

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Why the sudden ‘global measles crisis’?

It is one of the most contagious viruses around, however, nothing about measles has changed. It has not mutated to become more infectious or more dangerous, instead the answers are entirely human.

There are two stories here – one of poverty and one of misinformation. In poorer countries fewer people are vaccinated and a larger portion of the population is left vulnerable to the virus.

This creates the environment for a large outbreak to occur – such as those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kyrgyzstan and Madagascar.

But rich countries with seemingly high vaccination rates are seeing cases spike too. This is because clusters of people are choosing not to vaccinate their children due to the spread of untrue anti-vax messages on social media.

It is worth noting these figures are provisional, the WHO says the true figures will be much higher. And that measles is far from harmless. It kills around 100,000 people, mostly children, every year.

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The pair wrote that it was “understandable, in such a climate, how loving parents can feel lost” but that “ultimately, there is no ‘debate’ to be had about the profound benefits of vaccines”.

They added: “More than 20 million lives have been saved through measles vaccination since the year 2000 alone.”

In response to recent measles outbreaks, calls have mounted in several countries to make immunisation mandatory.

Last month, Italy banned children under six from attending schools unless they had received vaccines for chickenpox, measles and other illnesses.

A public health emergency has also been declared in areas of New York ordering all residents to be vaccinated or face a fine.

What Notre-Dame means to the French

No other site represents France quite like Notre-Dame.

Its main rival as a national symbol, the Eiffel Tower, is little more than a century old. Notre-Dame has stood tall above Paris since the 1200s.

It has given its name to one of the country’s literary masterpieces. Victor Hugo’s novel Hunchback of Notre-Dame is known to the French simply as Notre Dame de Paris.

The last time the cathedral suffered major damage was during the French Revolution, when statues of saints were hacked by anti-clerical hotheads. The building survived the 1871 Commune uprising, as well as two world wars, largely unscathed.

It is impossible to overstate how shocking it is to watch such an enduring embodiment of our country burn.

Locals are not famous for their sunny disposition, but few can walk along the banks of the Seine in the central part of the capital without feeling their spirits rise at the majestic bulk of Notre-Dame.

It is one of the few sights sure to make a Parisian feel good about living there.

What Notre-Dame means to the French
The major operation to try to save the building

Like all cherished places everywhere, it is not one residents visit very often. In the three decades I spent in my native city, I can’t have been inside Notre-Dame more than three or four times – and then only with foreign visitors.

There are many of those. The cathedral is not just the most popular tourist site in Western Europe. Eight centuries after its completion, it is also still a place of worship – about 2,000 services are held there every year.

But it is also much more than a religious site. President Emmanuel Macron has expressed the shock of a “whole nation” at the fire. As Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said, Notre Dame is “part of our common heritage”.

Many of those looking on as flames engulf the building are in tears. Their dismay is shared by believers and non-believers alike in a nation where faith has long ceased to be a binding force.

Images of the blaze at Notre-Dame in Paris

A massive fire has engulfed the Parisian landmark of Notre-Dame, bringing down the cathedral’s spire and roof.

Firefighters have surrounded the iconic 12th Century building, famed for its stained glass, flying buttresses and carved gargoyles.

Crowds of Parisians and tourists looked on as the flames took hold.

Scene of blaze in Paris
The spire was quickly engulfed in flames
Scene of blaze in Paris
An image of the steeple taken last year, contrasted with Monday’s blaze
Scene of blaze in Paris
Scene of blaze in Paris
Scene of blaze in Paris
Scene of blaze in Paris
Scene of blaze in Paris
Scene of blaze in Paris
Firefighters tackle the blaze as dusk draws in
Scene of blaze in Paris
The extent of the blaze could be seen from a huge distance
Before and after at Notre-Dame
Scene of blaze in Paris
The damage to the iconic building will have a lasting impact on the French people
Scene of blaze in Paris

All images subject to copyright

Italian police arrest 34 people in ‘bone-breaking’ scam

Italian police have arrested 34 people allegedly involved in a “bone-breaking” medical insurance scam in Palermo, Sicily.

The perpetrators allegedly broke people’s limbs and staged road accidents in exchange for part of their insurance payout.

The scam was first uncovered when one individual died after being beaten, police say.

Eleven people were arrested over similar activity last August.

The perpetrators allegedly broke people’s limbs and staged road accidents in exchange for part of their insurance payout.

The scam was first uncovered when one individual died after being beaten, police say.

Eleven people were arrested over similar activity last August.

Police said the organised criminal enterprise had focused on drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, and others “on the margins of society” in financial need.

More than 50 people were allegedly taken to “rooms of horror” in apartments or warehouses.

The victims were anaesthetised with drugs and had their limbs held on blocks of stone or cement, which were hit with bags of weights or large rocks.

Fake car accidents were later staged in areas of the city not covered by CCTV cameras, and gang members would take the victims to hospital, posing as relatives.

In another case, the group staged a fake accident on a ferry from Palermo to Genoa, with the victim alleging he had fallen down the ship’s stairs, Italian media say.

The victims were allegedly paid hundreds of euros under the scheme, despite their insurance claims being worth thousands.

Among those arrested are doctors and physiotherapists who allegedly filed false medical reports, and a lawyer who filed the insurance claims.

Local media report that the scheme brought in more than €2m (£1.7m; $2.26) a year.

Right to food ‘should be enshrined in Scots Law’

The human right to food should be put into Scots Law to protect people from rising insecurity, a report to the Scottish government suggests.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission believes the move “would help tackle health inequalities”.

Its report was compiled for the Scottish government’s consultation on making Scotland a “good food nation”.

The government said it was committed to protecting internationally-recognised human rights.

The right to food is currently enshrined in international legislation.

Food insecurity

The commission said this right – which involves food being accessible, adequate and available for everyone – is not being realised across Scotland.

Food insecurity is “unacceptably high”, the report said, with more than 480,500 food parcels being handed out by food banks between April 2017 and September 2018.

It continues: “Health inequalities are persistent with many people, including children, unable to afford or access a healthy and nutritious diet.”

Food tins

Before making its submission, the commission spoke to people experiencing food poverty in Scotland, including a mother who lives with her one-year-old son in a rural area.

She said: “My universal credit was delayed and I had 85p left in my bank account.

“I had run out of nappies and wipes and was worried I would have no money for milk or food for my son if it did not come through.

“I had a food parcel delivered recently and I think I’ll need another this week.

“To reach a low-cost supermarket is a three-mile walk, making it a six-mile round trip on foot with my baby in a buggy.

“To get the bus would cost me £5, which would take a significant chunk out of my weekly food budget.”

‘Practical leadership’

Commission chairwoman Judith Robertson said: “International law is clear that governments have obligations to take action to ensure people’s right to food is realised.

“The Scottish Human Rights Commission is calling on the government to take action to incorporate the right to food into Scotland’s laws as part of its work to make Scotland a good food nation.

“We want to see the Scottish government showing human rights leadership in a practical way.”

The consultation document states that the option of exploring a right to food which is directly enforceable under Scots law “has not been ruled out”. But it suggests any proposals sit within wider human rights responsibilities.

The Scottish government said a national taskforce was being established to take forward the group’s recommendations.

A spokesman added: “We have also increased our Fair Food Fund to £3.5m this year to continue supporting organisations that help to tackle the causes of food insecurity.”

Article 13: UK helps push through new EU copyright rules

A revamp of the EU’s copyright rules has passed its final hurdle and will now come into law.

The rules include a section known as Article 13.

It says that if users upload infringing content to a service, the tech firm involved must either make a “best effort” to get permission from the rights holders or quickly remove it.

The UK was among 19 nations that supported the law in its European Council vote.

But Poland was one of those that objected on the grounds that it could pave the way to internet censorship.

EU sources say that five other countries also opposed the rules – Italy, Finland, Sweden, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – while Belgium, Estonia and Slovenia abstained.

Google had led lobbying efforts against the law’s introduction.

At one point it had featured pop-up notices on its YouTube video-streaming service warning that the effort could have “unintended consequences”, including the blocking of some of its clips to EU-based members.

In particular, there was concern that memes featuring clips from TV shows and films could no longer be shared. However, tweaks to the law subsequently made an exception for content used for the “purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche”.

Even so, there is still a concern that smaller sites will struggle to track down and pay copyright holders or to develop content filters that automatically block suspect material.

Another controversial rule – which says that search engines and social media providers will have to pay news publishers to feature snippets of their content – also remains.

Wikipedia blacked out four of its European sites in protest last month. It said the rules would make information harder to find online and thus make it harder for its volunteers to source information.

But European media industry leaders have welcomed the effort.

“Publishers of all sizes, and other creators, will now have the right to set terms and conditions for others to reuse their content commercially, as is only fair and appropriate,” commented Xavier Bouckaert, president of the European Magazine Media Association.

Helen Smith, executive chair of the Independent Music Companies Association, added: “It was a long road and we would like to thank everyone who contributed to the discussion. As a result, we now have a balanced text that sets a precedent for the rest of the world to follow, by putting citizens and creators at the heart of the reform and introducing clear rules for online platforms.”

The EU’s member states now have two years to adopt the rules into their national laws.

Shamima Begum: IS bride ‘given legal aid’ for citizenship fight

Legal aid has been granted for Shamima Begum – who joined the Islamic State group aged 15 – to fight the decision to revoke her UK citizenship.

The 19-year-old, who left east London in 2015, was stripped of her citizenship in February, after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp.

Her family has previously said it planned to challenge the decision.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Legal Aid Agency’s decision to assist Ms Begum made him “very uncomfortable”.

He added, however, that the UK was “a country that believes that people with limited means should have access to the resources of the state if they want to challenge the decisions the state has made about them”.

Legal aid is financial assistance provided by the taxpayer to those unable to afford legal representation themselves, whether they are accused of a crime or a victim who seeks the help of a lawyer through the court process.

It is means-tested and availability has been cut back significantly in recent years in England and Wales.

Civil servants at the Legal Aid Agency, which is part of the Ministry of Justice, are responsible for making decisions about who receives legal aid.

The legal aid that has been granted covers a case before the semi-secret Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which adjudicates on cases where the home secretary has stripped someone of their nationality on grounds of national security.

Cases before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) are among the most complicated legal challenges that the government can face.

This is because they typically involve a complex combination of MI5 intelligence reports, which cannot be disclosed to the complainant, and long-standing law on achieving a fair hearing.

It is not yet clear when the case will be heard but the Siac process can take years to complete – and granting of legal aid in these circumstances is not unusual.

Over the last decade or so there have been many other people stripped of nationality on the basis they are linked to terrorism who have been legally-aided during the SIAC process.

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Ms Begum left the UK in February 2015 alongside fellow Bethnal Green Academy pupils 15-year-old Amira Abase and 16-year-old Kadiza Sultana.

Ms Begum was found in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019 and said she wanted to return home.

Soon afterwards, she gave birth to a boy called Jarrah. He died of pneumonia in March at less than three weeks of age. She had two other children who also died.

In the wake of the boy’s death, Home Secretary Sajid Javid was criticised over the decision to strip Ms Begum of her British citizenship.

Three weeks prior to the death, Ms Begum’s sister, Renu Begum, had written to Mr Javid asking him to help her bring the baby to the UK.

On Monday, the Daily Mail first reported that legal aid had been granted in response to an application made on 19 March.

Mr Javid said the granting of legal aid was a decision for legal aid organisations and it was “not for ministers to comment”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued Ms Begum had the right to apply for legal aid.

“She is a British citizen,” he said. “She’s therefore entitled to apply for legal aid if she has a legal problem just like anybody else is.”

He added: “The whole point of legal aid is that if you’re facing a prosecution then you’re entitled to be represented and that’s a fundamental rule of law, a fundamental point in any democratic society.”

‘Not a political decision’

Dal Babu, a former chief superintendent in the Metropolitan Police and a friend of the family, said Ms Begum should have legal aid to make sure the correct process is followed.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think legal aid is a principle of the British legal justice system.”

Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, a person can be deprived of their citizenship if the home secretary is satisfied it would be “conducive to the public good” and they would not become stateless as a result.

It was thought Ms Begum had Bangladeshi citizenship through her mother – although Bangladesh’s ministry of foreign affairs said she had been “erroneously identified” as a Bangladeshi national.

Human rights group Liberty said granting legal aid in this case was “not just appropriate but absolutely necessary to ensure that the government’s decisions are properly scrutinised”.

Brexit: Jeremy Hunt says ‘absolute priority’ to avoid European polls

It is an “absolute priority” for the government to leave the EU by 23 May to avoid having to take part in European elections, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The foreign secretary said the public would find it “hugely disappointing” to be asked to send MEPs to Brussels.

Asked if it could be a disaster for the Tories, he told the BBC “in terms of polling it certainly looks that way”.

Some local Tory activists have signalled they will not campaign and regard the polls as a “distraction”.

Downing Street said that in order to avoid the need for elections, legislation implementing the Brexit withdrawal deal would have to be passed by Parliament by 22 May.

Last week, the EU agreed a new Brexit deadline of 31 October.

Talks between the government and Labour are set to continue over the Easter parliamentary recess in the hope of finding an agreement that will be acceptable to MPs.

A series of working groups in key areas, such as environmental standards, security and workers’ rights, have been set up to try and find common ground.

Speaking on a visit to Japan, Mr Hunt said the talks with Labour had been “more constructive than people thought” but “we don’t know if they are going to work”.

If they did not lead anywhere, he suggested the government may “need to find a way to rebuild the DUP-Conservative coalition”, which has come under real strain from Brexit.

‘Brexit mire’

The Democratic Unionists are supposed to support the government in key parliamentary votes to give it a majority in the House of Commons.

But they have refused to support the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement over concerns with the controversial Irish backstop, which aims to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Jeremy Hunt meets Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe
The foreign secretary said Japan would remain a close economic partner whatever happened with Brexit

Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that continuing Brexit “paralysis” would be “highly damaging” to the UK’s global standing and international trading partners “are worried that we will become submerged in the mire of Brexit indecision”.

While Japan and other major foreign investors were keen for the UK to “make up its mind” about Brexit, he suggested they would continue to keep faith with the UK even if it left without a deal.

“(Japan) has signed a deal with the EU and, in a no-deal situation, we hope that would roll over and apply for us, although no-deal, I think, is looking much less likely,” he said.

“I think they are very keen to protect their trading relationship with the UK, but I think they are also wanting to talk to us about other things.”

However, in February, the government released a statement saying it would not be able to replicate the EU’s free trade deal with Japan after Brexit.

And Japan has not agreed to continuing existing trade terms in the event of no deal.

Leadership talk

Mr Hunt downplayed talk of an imminent Conservative leadership contest, saying it would be a “sidetrack” from Brexit.

The foreign secretary, along with his predecessor Boris Johnson, are among a long list of potential candidates touted to succeed Mrs May when she stands down.

Asked whether the next leader could be someone, like himself, who campaigned to remain in the EU, Mr Hunt replied: “There is one very big difference between me and Boris, which is that I am foreign secretary and I have a very big job to do to try and get this deal over the line and that has to be my focus.

“I think that what matters is we have a cabinet that believes in Brexit.”

On the first day of his trip to Japan, Mr Hunt met the country’s prime minister Shinzo Abe and other political leaders.

He also took some time out of his political schedule to talk to pupils in a school in Tokyo. Mr Hunt is a fluent Japanese speaker, having taught English as a foreign language in Japan in his 20s.

What happens next?

Flowchart on next steps after extension

Tiger Woods’ celebrates Masters’ win with his children – but not ex-wife Elin

TIGER WOODS’ sensational win at this year’s Master’s saw the legendary golfer break down in a flood of emotion as his children rushed to his side, but where was their mother, Woods’ ex-wife Elin Nordegren?

Both of Woods’ kids, 10-year-old Charlie and 11-year-old daughter Sam, were from his previous marriage with the former model from Sweden. Having his kids there to see him win a major for the first time in their lifetime clearly was extra special to the 43-year-old as he broke into tears on seeing them. Woods and Ms Nordegren divorced in August 2010, with court papers saying their relationship was “irretrievably broken”, which is likely to be the heartbreaking reason the model was absent on Sunday.

In a book published in 2017, called Unprecedented: The Masters and Me, Woods reflected on the behaviour that cost him his marriage.

Woods said: “Elin and I were so much in love when we married in 2004.

“But I betrayed her.

“My dishonesty and selfishness caused her intense pain.

Tiger Woods and ex wife Elin Nordegren’s children celebrate their father’s Masters success (
Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods divorced in 2010 

“Elin and I tried to repair the damage I had done, but we couldn’t.

“My regret will last a lifetime.”

Ms Nordegren reportedly received over $100 million (£76million) in the divorce settlement.

Woods spent the next several years plagued by injuries and recovering from surgeries until he was arrested in 2017 when police found him passed out behind the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz while it was stopped with its engine running in Florida.

Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods walking on the fairway 

A mugshot showed him with bleary eyes and dishevelled hair, and tests showed he had Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system.

But, the legendary golfer’s comeback has enthralled the world with congratulations coming from the great and the good.

Barack Obama tweeted: “Congratulations, Tiger!

“To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination.”

Brexit: Mrs, May’s election CRISIS – Tories face OBLITERATION in EU vote as anger grows

THERESA May is facing a bruising EU Election with the Tories suffering a battering in the vote, according to the latest polls.

YouGov’s poll on April 10 to 11 – the first since Brexit was exteneded up until October 31 – shows Labour a clear leader with 24 percent of the public’s backing. The Conservatives are in second place at 16 percent, said the poll of 1,843 people. That is a steep drop from the 2017 general election.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which was officially launched on Friday, is third with 15 percent backing, and UKIP is on 14 percent.

Another new party, Change UK, which includes Chuka Umunna among its number, are on seven percent. The Liberal Democrats are on eight percent, the same as the Greens, while the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru are both on six percent.

Talks between the Government and Labour are set to continue over the Easter parliamentary recess in the hope of finding a Brexit agreement that will be acceptable to MPs.

The EU has insisted the terms of the UK’s withdrawal, rejected three times by MPs, cannot be renegotiated – but there is scope to strengthen the political declaration, a document setting out the parameters of the UK’s future relations with the EU, ahead of the new Brexit deadline.

10.15am update: May’s leadership rivals try to DODGE Brexit demanding she SORTS crisis before quitting if she can’t get her Brexit deal through Parliament.

Supporters of Cabinet contenders for the Number 10 hot seat made clear in private they do not want a leadership challenge before the first stage of Brexit is resolved, even if cross-party talks with Labour fail to yield positive results, sources told The Times.

They fear a summer leadership challenge before Theresa May can get her Brexit deal thorough Parliament would provide Brexiteer rivals Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab with vital momentum, both of whom have pledged to re-open talks with Brussels.

The Prime Minister has come under huge pressure following her decision to accept a deadline of October 31 from Brussels to extend the Article 50 process and to begin talks with Jeremy Corbyn as she desperately looks for ways to build support for her Brexit deal.

Mrs May has vowed to quit once this first stage of negotiations is complete, but one source backing a Cabinet rival told The Times their candidate would be “perfectly happy” for her to remain in office until December when, under the Tory leadership rules, she can next face a confidence vote.

The source said: “We want a contest after the first stage of Brexit has been sorted so we can talk about other things. Most leading contenders do not want an early challenge, even if that means waiting and supporting the Prime Minister until December.”

Brexit: Theresa May has been urged to remain as Prime Minister until later this year

10.00am update: Eight out of ten finance leaders expect environment to be worse after Brexit

UK businesses are expecting the long-term environment to decline as a result of the UK exiting the EU.

Deloitte warned that worries over the long-term impact of Brexit are mounting, with more than half of finance bosses in the UK expecting to halt recruitment and spending.

The accountancy firm’s latest survey interviewed 89 chief financial officers (CFOs), including 48 representing FTSE 100 companies and smaller firms on the FTSE 250.

Only found 13 percent of those surveyed were optimistc about the future of ther company.

More than half – 53% – also expect to reduce hiring staff because of Brexit.

A timeline explaining what could happen next in Brexit.

9.30am update: UK house prices are rising as buyers “bored” waiting for Brexit re-ignite the market

House prices rised 1.1 percent – or £3,447 – in the month to April 6, meaning the average price is now £305,449. But despite the spring bounce in April the figure is still 0.1% lower than a year ago.

Rightmove said the uncertain political backdrop continues to hold back the market, with new seller asking prices, the number of properties coming to market and the number of sales agreed all below this time last year.

Rightmove director Miles Shipside said: “The rise in new seller asking prices reflects growing activity as the market builds momentum, egged on by the arrival of Easter.“

Some sectors of the market and some parts of the country have strong buyer demand and a lack of suitable supply.

“However, on average, properties are still coming to the market at slightly lower prices than a year ago.

“It’s one of the most price-sensitive markets that we’ve seen for years, with buyers understandably looking for value or for homes with extra quality and appeal that suit their needs.”

Brexit live: UK house prices will rise as buys and sellers are “bored by brexit” (Image: GETTY)

9.25am: Nigel Evans warns May’will plead for another Brexit EXTENSION’

The Brexiteer MP warned the Prime Minister will return to Brussels “cap in hand” in October to demand the European Union agree to yet another Brexit extension.

Theresa May last week sparked the fury across the country after she agreed to a new Brexit extension until October 31 despite pledging not to sign up the country to stay inside the European Union past June 30.

Tory MP Nigel Evans reacted furiously to the news, predicting the Prime Minister will ask for a further delay to Brexit before the new deadline is due to expire in the Autumn.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Evans said: “We’re still in the European Union and the can has been kicked down the road towards Halloween.

“I can see us on October 30, Theresa May going back to Brussels, cap in hand yet again, asking ‘can we stay until March 2020?’ The whole thing is absolutely preposterous.

“She went to Brussels, basically cap in hand but her hands tied behind her back at the same time. Brussels saw all of this, they saw the weakness of Theresa May.”

Brexit: Mrs May has extended Article 50 to October – to the fury of Brexiteer Tory MPs.

9.05am update: Rees-Mogg launches attack on ‘foolish’ Lammy after he compares Brexiteers to NAZIS

Jacob Rees-Mogg has lashed out at David Lammy after the Labour MP compared the Brexit-backing European Research Group to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.

compared the Brexit-backing European Research Group to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.

The prominent Brexiteer and chair of ERG said he felt sorry for the Labour MP following his controversial comments which made him “look foolish”.

In a blistering attack, Mr Rees-Mogg said Mr Lammy’s comments were “unbalanced” and would “damage his reputation”.

He tweeted: “I feel sorry for Mr Lammy, comparing a Parliamentary ginger group with an organisation and creed that killed six million Jewish people makes him look foolish and his comments unbalanced.

“It damages his reputation.”

Brexit: Mr Rees-Mogg said he felt “sorry” for David Lammy following his shock comments

8.53am update: Cross-party brexit talks are “more constructive” than people think

Jeremy hunt has said talks between Mrs May’s Government and the Labour Party to agree to a plan are more constructive than people think,

Mr Hunt told BBC Radio: “Talks we are having with Labour are detailed and I think more constructive than people have thought.

“They are more detailed and more constructive than people had been expecting on both sides. But we don’t know if they are going to work.”

Meetings between ministers and their opposite numbers from Labour are due to continue this week, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said on Sunday – but it has not been confirmed if the talks will resume today. 

8.30am update: Hammond mocked Tory peers for engaging in “suicide pact”

Philip Hammond mocked prominent Tory peers for engaging in a “suicide pact” during failed bids to beat Theresa May to the Tory leadership.

Brexit: Mr Hunt said that cross-party talks had been “constructive”

The Daily Telegraph reported Mr Hammond used a speech in the US on Friday to say Environment Secretary Michael Gove and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson had formed an “unintended suicide pact” in the 2016 leadership contest.

The Chancellor said that Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom had effectively “knifed herself” during the race to become Prime Minister, according to the newspaper.

Mrs May is facing calls to quit and trigger a new leadership contest, with ex-cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith saying she should stand down as early as next month.

Mr Johnson hit back at David Lammy after the Labour MP defended comparing some Tory peers to the Nazis.

The remarks came as Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, Mrs May’s defacto deputy, said talks with Labour on trying to end the deadlock would continue over the Easter parliamentary recess. But discussions are not expected to resume on Monday, according to Labour sources.

Referring to the leadership battle, the newspaper reported Mr Hammond as saying: “If you remember last time this happened in 2016, Gove and Johnson knifed each other in an unintended suicide pact.

Brexit: Mrs, May's election CRISIS - Tories face OBLITERATION in EU vote as anger grows
Brexit: Hammond mocked Tory peers for engaging in a “suicide pact” over failed leadership bids

“Which left just Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. And then Andrea Leadsom knifed herself in a private suicide pact and Theresa May inherited the prime ministership without anybody casting a single vote.”

8.20am update: Hunt to tell Japan business leaders UK is focused on avoiding no deal

Jeremy Hunt is using a visit to Japan to tell business leaders that the UK is focused on avoiding a no-deal Brexit.

Following withdrawal from the EU being delayed until October 31, Mr Hunt will stress on Monday that Britain is seeking “tariff-free frictionless trade” with the bloc.

As well as meeting Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Hunt is also visiting a Tokyo high school to help teach English.

The Foreign Secretary will “update them on EU exit developments, and reassure them that UK Government is focused on avoiding a no-deal Brexit and on agreeing a deal which that will ensure tariff-free frictionless trade between the EU and the UK”.

Mr Hunt, who has previously worked in Japan, intends to promote English as the “language of opportunity” on the trip.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Hunt said: “I’m privileged to be able to visit Japan as Foreign Secretary and see how that shared culture is inspiring the next generation. The UK has always been an outward-looking global power. That cannot change after Brexit. I look forward to our relationship with Japan getting even closer in the years after we leave the EU.”

The man behind Somalia’s only free ambulance service

Somalia’s capital city – where there are frequent and deadly bomb blasts – only has one free ambulance service, which was founded by Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan 13 years ago.

When he returned from Pakistan, where he had been studying dentistry, to Mogadishu as a fresh graduate he was struck by the lack of ambulances on the busy streets – and people using wheelbarrows to ferry the sick to hospital.

The very few ambulances that did exist and respond to calls came from private hospitals and patients had to pay for their collection.

So not long after his return, Dr Adan decided to start an ambulance service.

“I bought a minibus, revamped it and made it accessible for wheelchair users too,” he told the BBC.

Ambulance driving in Mogadishu
Aamin now has a fleet of 20 ambulances

He started to operate the minibus, carrying the wounded, injured and the heavily pregnant to the hospital.

Such was the demand for the service that he realised it needed to expand and he began frequenting the city’s open-air markets and corner shops, looking for potential donors.

“I managed to convince a group of local entrepreneurs to chip in and buy us another minibus,” he says.

At the time Dr Adan was a part-time tutor at a couple of universities in the city.

“I asked my students if they wanted to save a life and if they did, to donate a $1 (£0.75) a month to help save our brothers and sisters,” he says.

Soon everywhere he went, he began to ask people to contribute a $1 a month to help run Aamin Ambulance.

‘No government funding’

“Aamin” means “trust” in Somali – and most residents of the city feel it has lived up to its name in a society failed by its politicians.

Ambulance in Mogadishu

GettyAamin Ambulance

  • Up to 42calls a day
  • 20ambulances
  • 35members of staff

Source: Aamin Ambulance

Today Aamin Ambulance, which survives on donations, has a staff of 35 people. Many of them are volunteers and students, Dr Adan says.

The volunteers are not paid a salary but some of their expenses, such as transportation, are covered.

The service has a fleet of 20 ambulances and a driver for each vehicle.

Scene of a massive explosion is seen in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia - 14 October 2017
Aamin Ambulance helped in the wake of the October 2017 attack in which more than 580 people died

“We operate on donations. We don’t receive any funding or help from the government.

“A while ago, we asked the Mogadishu mayor’s office if they could assist us with 10 litres of petrol a day but we are still waiting to hear about that.”

‘Somalis are very generous people’

But Dr Adan has been able to attract some backing from the United Nations.

“WHO [the World Health Organization] bought us two cars. UNDP donated some walkie-talkies,” the 45-year-old says.

“We bought second-hand ambulances from Dubai and had them delivered here. Recently, the British embassy in Mogadishu organised a half-marathon to raise funds for our service.

Raising money can be hard work, as is dealing with the city authorities which recently banned Aamin Ambulance from attending blast scenes.

The crux of the problem seemed to be the government’s sensitivity about casualty figures from bombings carried out by Islamist militants – Aamin Ambulance often keeps journalists up-to-date about what its paramedics have witnessed using social media.

The ban infuriated some when it was reported last week on the BBC Somali Service’s Facebook page, who deplored the government for “stopping aid”.

But Dr Adan tried to play down the friction.

Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan

The most valuable thing for me is human life. That is my driving force”Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan
Aamin Ambulance founder

“I spoke to the police commissioner, who rescinded the ban but he told us to let them know when we are attending to an emergency. We are not allowed to talk to the media or talk about the body count.”

While a spokesman for the regional authority, Salah Hassan Omar, told the BBC it had all been a misunderstanding and was more about “how to best work together”.

For Dr Adan, such headaches can be overcome as he is heartened by the generosity he has experienced since starting the ambulance service.

“Every person in this life has a purpose and the most valuable thing for me is human life. That is my driving force,” he says.

Aamin operator in Somalia on the telephone
Operators are on hand 18 hours a day to take calls and despatch the ambulances

“Somalis are very generous people, even when they have nothing. Our country has been in turmoil for 30 years and it is only active because of money sent from abroad.

“Our country has been running on the generosity and goodwill of Somalis in the diaspora for decades.

“Aamin is almost a joint community effort – we have had to take the reins for the well-being of our fellow Somalis.”

‘We’re not political’

Although Mogadishu has been in the news for bombings carried out by the militant group al-Shabab, Aamin Ambulance service is not solely borne out of the need to attend to these types of attacks.

Mr Adan says the ambulances go where they are needed, whether it is to attend to a small child, a woman going into labour or an old person in need of assistance.

“Anything really and anyone who needs our help – we have paramedics and nurses ready,” he says.

For the future, Dr Adan envisions a Somalia where nobody needs to die because they are unable to get help in time.

Presentational grey line
Control map of Somalia

He would like to see Aamin Ambulance expand to cover the whole country.

It may seem like an unlikely vision as al-Shabab still controls most rural areas – but Dr Adan is nothing if not determined.

And al-Shabab, known for demanding protection money from many Somali businesses – even in Mogadishu from where it was expelled in 2011, does not seem to hassle Aamin Ambulance.

“We’re not a business, we’re not making a profit and we’re not political. I can’t possibly see what al-Shabab would want with us,” says Dr Adan.

Finland election: Tough coalition talks after split poll

The Social Democratic Party has won a narrow victory in Finland’s general election with 17.7% of the vote.

But the far-right Finns Party was close behind on 17.5%, while the Centre Party of outgoing PM Juha Sipila saw its support crash by a third to 13.8%.

“For the first time since 1999 we are the largest party in Finland,” said SDP leader Antti Rinne.

But with the vote split and no party winning by a clear margin, it may be hard to build a workable coalition.

The Greens and the Left Alliance also increased their share of the vote.

It is the first time in more than a century that no party has won more than 20% of the vote.

Voter turnout was 72%.

The Social Democrats have won 40 seats in the 200-seat parliament, one more than the Finns Party.

At the last election in 2015, the Finns Party won 38 seats, but MPs split after a leadership election in 2017.

For Jussi Halla-aho, who has led the Finns Party since then, the rebuilding of the party’s parliamentary block was a cause for celebration.

“I could not expect a result like this, and no-one could, ” he told supporters on Sunday evening.

Mr Halla-aho had urged people to “vote for some borders” during the election campaign.

Before the election, most other parties ruled out any coalition with the Finns Party.

Jussi Halla-aho, Finns Party leader, 14 April 2019
Jussi Halla-aho: “I could not expect a result like this”

How did we get here?

Last month, Mr Sipila’s government resigned over its failure to achieve a key policy goal on social welfare and healthcare reform. His Centre Party had been in a centre-right coalition government since 2015.

Concerned about Finland’s expensive welfare system in the face of an ageing population, Mr Sipila made tackling the nation’s debt one of his government’s main aims, introducing planning reforms he hoped would save up to €3bn (£2.6bn; $3.4bn) over a decade.


More about Finland’s welfare experiment:

Finland’s basic income trial

But while the introduction of austerity measures – such as benefits cuts and pension freezes – resulted in Finland reducing its government debt for the first time in a decade last year, the reforms proved politically controversial.

Meanwhile, the Social Democratic Party, a centre-left party with strong links to Finland’s trade unions, saw its popularity grow.

Why has this happened now?

The Social Democrats campaigned on a pledge to strengthen Finland’s welfare system.

Mr Rinne earlier described Mr Sipila’s policies as unfair, and said taxes needed to be raised to combat inequality.

One of Mr Rinne’s election pledges was to raise the state pension for those taking home €1,400 a month by €100, a move he said would help “more than 55,000 pensioners escape poverty”.

A nurse assists an elderly resident at the public care unit Heikanrinne in Forssa, Finland, 2 April 2019
Finland’s ageing population is putting pressure on its social welfare systems

Balancing taxes and spending is problematic for any government, and Finland’s personal income tax rate – at 51.6% – is among the highest in Europe.

However, a poll commissioned by the tax authority in 2017 found that 79% of Finns questioned were happy with their taxes.

Why is Finland’s welfare system an issue?

Like many developed nations, Finland has an ageing population that is putting financial pressure on its social welfare systems.

As an increasing number of people live longer in retirement, the cost of providing pension and healthcare benefits can rise. Those increased costs are paid for by taxes collected from the working-age population – who make up a smaller percentage of the population than in decades past.

In 2018, those aged 65 or over made up 21.4% of Finland’s population, the joint fourth highest in Europe alongside Germany – with only Portugal, Greece, and Italy having a higher proportion, according to Eurostat.

Finland’s welfare system is also generous in its provisions, making it relatively expensive. Attempts at reform have plagued Finnish governments for years.

In February this year, caring for the nation’s elderly returned to the top of the political agenda amid reports that alleged neglect in care homes may have resulted in injury or death, according to YLE.

Finland’s basic income trial

€560

Monthly income for two years

  • €20m Cost to government
  • 8.1% Unemployment rate
  • 5,503,347 Finnish population

Kela, Statistics FinlandEPA

What are the other key issues?

Immigration has become an important topic following reports of alleged sexual assaults by foreign men. As a result, support has risen for the Finns Party, which has promised to cut immigration and enforce stricter asylum rules. Other parties have also pledged to crack down on migrants who commit crime.

Another key issue is climate change. Following the release of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, almost all parties have vowed to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees, the New York Times reports.

But the Finns Party has not campaigned for greater environmental controls.

“Finland isn’t capable of saving the world,” Mr Halla-aho says.

“We have already done our part.”

Today’s result could also be felt outside Finland’s borders, as the country is set to take presidency of the European Union in July. The Finns Party’s success could affect EU policy making.

The party has already announced an alliance with Germany’s far-right AfD, Italy’s League party and the Danish People’s Party for the European elections in May.

They plan to form a parliamentary group, the European Alliance for People and Nations, to challenge the power of centrist parties.

Scotland’s papers: May faces revolt and Tiger roars again

i
The PM’s future is also the topic of choice in the i newspaper, which also claims MPs are seeking a change of party rules – to allow a fresh leadership challenge, less than a year after Mrs May saw off the last one.
The Times Scotland
But the Times Scotland suggests her leadership rivals would prefer Mrs May to stick around until the first part of the Brexit deal is complete. A supporter of one candidate is quoted saying their leadership campaign would be damaged if the election was held against a backdrop of Brexit uncertainty.
The Daily Telegraph
Over in the Daily Telegraph, we read that Chancellor Philip Hammond mocked Brexiteer leadership rivals in a speech. He told an audience at the British Embassy in Washington that Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Andrea Leadsom all lost the 2016 leadership bids because of “suicide pacts”.
Scottish Daily Express
More Brexit at the Scottish Daily Express, which reports senior Tory Ian Duncan Smith’s comments that “Theresa May must be gone within weeks”. The paper claims there is a “grassroots revolt” within the party.
The Herald
The Herald’s front page exclusive says that Scottish government ministers are not doing enough to tackle the growing mental health crisis in schools, according to campaigners. Leading charities have told the paper the government is too focused on the treatment of pupils once they had developed issues such as anxiety and depression and it wants a greater focus on teaching pupils the skills they need to cope with stress.
Scottish Daily Mail
The Scottish Daily Mail boasts an exclusive about so-called “Jihadi bride” Shamima Begum. The paper claims the teenager, who ran away from London to join the Islamic State group in Syria has been granted legal aid to challenge the UK’s decision to revoke her citizenship.
The National
The front page of The National carries an interview from the BBC’s Good Mornings Scotland programme with veteran politician Dennis Canavan. The former MP and MSP tells the paper he believes Scotland will become independent within his lifetime. The former leader of the Yes campaign says a new independence referendum should take place before 2021.
Daily Record
A stark warning from a sex abuse victim makes the front page of the Daily Record. She waives her anonymity to tell other women she believes the man who beat and raped her “will kill when he is released”. Stefan Scott was jailed for 12 years for 23 charges of rape, assault and abusive behaviour.
The Scottish Sun
The Sun runs with the story of killer Phillip Wade, who tortured and murdered Glasgow accountant Lynda Spence, landing a “cushy job” counselling fellow inmates at Kilmarnock Prison through the Samaritans charity. Friends of Ms Spence have have criticised his “agony uncle” role saying if he wants to help people, he should tell her family where her body is.
Press and Journal
“Dangerous Merseyside crime lords” are bringing blackmail and extortion tactics to the north east, according to the Press and Journal. The paper says the criminals are targeting vulnerable teenagers and that police admit there is a long-standing issue with gangs flooding Grampian with drugs.
The Courier
The Courier’s Fife edition highlights problems with Universal Credit. It says frontline organisations are concerned with a rise in crime, addiction and poverty as a result of the policy.
Daily Star of Scotland
And the Daily Star of Scotland notes the 02:00 BST launch of the latest Game of Thrones series, predicting “millions” of Britons will be “throne a sickie” on Monday.