Extinction Rebellion: Police move in on London protesters

Officers surround the pink boat at Oxford Circus
Officers surrounded a pink boat in Oxford Circus as Dame Emma Thompson spoke to activists

Hundreds of police officers have closed in on Extinction Rebellion protesters in central London as demonstrations entered a fifth day.

Officers surrounded a pink boat in Oxford Circus as actress Dame Emma Thompson told activists her generation had “failed young people”.

More than 570 people have been arrested at protests this week in Oxford Circus, Parliament Square and Waterloo Bridge

Dame Emma joined the protests after flying from Los Angeles on Thursday.

She said: “We are here in this little island of sanity and it makes me so happy to be able to join you all and to add my voice to the young people here who have inspired a whole new movement.”

extinction rebellino
Police are not letting people into the circle around protesters in Oxford Circus
Dame Emma Thompson
Dame Emma Thompson said: “This is the most pressing and urgent problem of our time, in the history of the human race”

Oxford Circus
Protesters have blocked Oxford Circus since Monday

On Friday morning protesters were setting up a children’s area in hopes of making it a fun family event for Easter.

Demonstrators have also started “people assembly meetings” to discuss the group’s next moves.

Dame Emma Thompson was greeted by crowds with cheers and songs as she stepped up to the bright pink boat, which seems to have become the centre piece of the protest.

After she spoke the crowds began to take their seats on the ground, making it clear they weren’t prepared to move anytime soon.

By midday, police filed into the protests and started to create a barrier to contain people.

Officers are starting to block every entrance to the event and seem to have a stronger stance compared to previous days.


It comes as a small group of demonstrators staged a protest at Heathrow Airport amid threats to disrupt flights over Easter.

Protesters stood by the tunnel leading to Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3, but all roads remain open.

Protests
Undeterred by over 570 arrests, climate change activists continued their demonstration into a fifth day in London

However, Robin Ellis-Cockcroft, 24, said the group had succeeded in creating an “emotional disruption” at Heathrow, adding that no further Extinction Rebellion protests would take place on Friday.

Protests are still being held at Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Parliament Square, but the Met Police said officers have been working 12-hour shifts and have had leave cancelled.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “This is very, very difficult for us because my colleagues have never come across the situation that they are faced with at the moment.

“They are dealing with very, very passive people, probably quite nice people, who don’t want confrontation whatsoever with the police or anyone else but are breaking the law.”

Environmental activists have also been in action in other parts of the world.

In Paris, they blocked the entrance of the Societe Generale bank headquarters, as part of a protest urging world leaders to act on climate change.

Pepper spray was used by anti-riot police in an attempt to disperse the demonstrators.

Activists also gathered outside the Ministry of the Ecological and Inclusive Transition in La Defense, near Paris, and blocked the entrance of the headquarters of French oil giant Total there.

Pepper spray was used against the protesters
Pepper spray was used against the protesters
Activists outside the Societe Generale
Activists outside the Societe Generale declared it a climate crime scene
The Societe Generale logo covered in molasses
Molasses, representing oil, was smeared outside the Societe Generale

Lyra McKee murder: Derry gunman ‘should see hospital heartbreak’

Lyra McKee
Lyra McKee wanted to write about the effects of violence on young people in Derry, says a priest

A priest who anointed Lyra McKee after she was shot has said he wished that the gunman could have gone to the hospital where she was taken and seen “what they did” to her and her family.

Ms McKee, 29, was killed during violence in Londonderry, onThursday.

Police said the dissident republican group the New IRA was “likely” to be behind the shooting.

Father Joseph Gormley told BBC News NI he was called to the hospital shortly after 00:00 BST on Friday.

[Ms McKee’s family] just thought it was somebody else, it had to be somebody else – it wasn’t Lyra,” said Fr Gormley.

“I would love if those people who had fired those shots came over and saw what they did in Altnagelvin [Hospital] last night, if they came over and saw that scene of a young woman and her family.

Fr Joe Gormely
Fr Gormley said Ms McKee’s partner and family “are heartbroken”

“This is their Good Friday and we have to stand beside them…on this terrible cross that has been visited by such an evil act.”

Fr Gormley said Derry was not “a playground” for political games and the violence in the city was “beyond anti-social”.

“How dare they set themselves up as some sort of arbitrator for disputes within our community.

“They don’t listen but what needs to happen is we all need to get off the fence – we need to be saying face-to-face to people that we know that enough is enough.

“These are not games – these are deadly actions.”

He added that Ms McKee “in her heart of hearts wanted to make a contribution to ending this cycle of violence by writing about the effects of violence on our young people”.

Lyra McKee’s murder was a horrendous act, says PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton

He also called for a march that was organised to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising on Monday to be cancelled in the wake of Ms McKee’s death.

An illegal dissident republican parade was due to take place in the Creggan estate in Derry, where she was shot.

“If these people are serious about our community, what they will do is… they will call that off,” he said.

“They will not have men in combat uniform walking past the place where Lyra McKee was murdered a few feet away.”

“It has to be called off.

People in paramilitary-style uniforms leading an Easter parade organised by Saoradh in Derry in 2017
A parade organised by dissident republicans – like this one in 2017 – was due to take place on Monday

“I’m speaking for, I’m sure, everyone in the Creggan but everyone has to make their voices felt.

“It would be so disrespectful to have that march.”

Shortly after the priest’s comments, dissident republicans posted on social media that the event would be cancelled.

A statement issued by political party Saoradh, which represents dissident republicans, sought to justify the use of violence.

The organisation extended its sympathy to Ms McKee’s family and friends and claimed that she was “killed accidentally” and her death was “heartbreaking”.

The Saoradh statement sparked a social media backlash, with hundreds of hostile comments criticising their version of events.

Turpin captivity case: Children forgive parents for torture

Turpin child reads statement during sentencing

A California couple’s children have forgiven them for years of torture and starvation as the parents were sentenced to life in prison.

David and Louise Turpin’s children told a court they still loved their mother and father despite all the abuse.

The couple were arrested in January 2018 when their 17-year-old daughter escaped the filthy home in Perris.

The Turpins pleaded guilty to the abuse of all but one of their 13 children for at least nine years.

Photo of the Turpin family
The couple’s Facebook page contained numerous family photos

They are expected to serve the rest of their lives behind bars, unless granted parole in 25 years.

What did the children say?

The couple wept as they heard victim-impact statements from four of their children at Friday’s hearing.

“I love both of my parents so much,” said one child in words read by her brother.

“Although it may not have been the best way of raising us, I am glad that they did because it made me the person I am today.”

David Turpin
David Turpin broke down as he learned his fate

Another sibling recounted being haunted by their ordeal.

“I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up,” said his statement.

“Sometimes I still have nightmares of things that had happened such as my siblings being chained up or getting beaten.

“That is the past and this is now.

“I love my parents and have forgiven them for a lot of the things they did to us.”

But not all the children were so conciliatory.

One daughter, visibly shaking, said: “My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back.

Louise Turpin occasionally smiled during Friday's sentencing
Louise Turpin occasionally smiled during Friday’s sentencing

“I’m a fighter, I’m strong and I’m shooting through life like a rocket.”

She added: “I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realised what was happening.”

What did the parents say?

David and Louise Turpin also cried as they apologised for the treatment of their children.

The 57-year-old father’s lawyer read a prepared statement on his behalf, saying: “My home schooling and discipline had good intentions.

“I never intended for any harm to come to my children.

“I love my children and I believe my children love me.”

He was an engineer for major US defence contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

David Turpin and Louise Turpin
David and Louise Turpin have agreed to lengthy prison terms after pleading guilty to torture, child abuse and false imprisonment

Speaking directly to court, housewife Louise Turpin, 50, said she was “truly sorry” for what she had done.

“I love my children so much,” she said. “I really look forward to the day I can see them, hug them and tell them I’m sorry.”

What did the judge say?

The couple sat stony-faced as the judge rebuked them for their “selfish, cruel and inhuman treatment”.

Judge Bernard Schwartz said: “You have severed the ability to interact and raise your children that you have created and brought into this world.

The Turpin family with an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas
The Turpin family with an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, where the parents renewed their vows

“The only reason that your punishment is less than the maximum time in my opinion is because you accepted responsibility at an early stage in the proceeding.

“And you spared your children having to relive the humiliation and the harm they endured in that house of horrors.”

What did the children endure?

The tidy exterior of the middle-class family home 70 miles (112km) south of Los Angeles offered a veneer of respectability that masked the squalor and stench of human waste found by authorities within.

The children, between the ages of two to 29 at the time of the police raid, were severely malnourished.

A 22-year-old son was discovered chained to a bed. His two sisters had just been released from shackles.

The victims were forbidden to shower more than once a year, were unable to use the toilet and none of them had ever seen a dentist.

The Turpin family in a Facebook picture dated 2011
The Turpins on a family trip to Disneyland – it was apparently a favourite destination

Some of the adult siblings’ growth had been so severely stunted by starvation that authorities at first mistook them for children.

Newly released audio of their daughter’s call to 911, obtained by ABC, provides a hint of the conditions in which the children lived.

“Two of my sisters and one of my brothers… they’re chained up to their bed”, the 17-year-old girl, who did not know her own address, told the emergency operator.

“Sometimes I wake up and I can’t breathe because how dirty the house is.”

The girl was also unaware of the year or month, or meaning of the word “medication”.

The children – whose names all begin with the letter J – were kept indoors, but were allowed out for Halloween, or on family trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas.

About 20 people from across the country, including nurses and psychologists, have offered to care for the seven adult siblings and six children.

Specialist police teams were used to remove the group from the DLR train

Extinction Rebellion: Climate activists ‘face full force of law


Police officers must use the “full force of the law” when dealing with Extinction Rebellion protesters in London, the home secretary has said.

Three people were remanded in custody after pleading not guilty over a protest on a train, while more than 425 others have been arrested since Monday.

Sajid Javid said the climate activists “have no right to cause misery” and the Met Police “must take a firm stance”.

Met chiefs have also condemned footage of officers dancing with protesters.

The videos posted on social media , which showed police officers joining activists at Oxford Circus on Wednesday evening, have been condemned as “unacceptable behaviour”.

“We expect our officers to engage with protestors but clearly their actions fall short of the tone of the policing operation,” Cdr Jane Connors said.

Protester arrested at Oxford Circus
About half a dozen activists were arrested in a space of 20 minutes at Oxford Circus

On Wednesday, a man glued himself to a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train carriage in Canary Wharf while a man and woman were removed from the roof

Cathy Eastburn, 51, from Lambeth in south London, Mark Ovland, 35 of Somerton in Somerset and Luke Watson, 29, of Manuden in Essex, appeared before Highbury Magistrates’ Court charged with obstructing trains or carriages on the railway.

They all pleaded not guilty to the charge and will next appear at Blackfriars Crown Court on 16 May.

British Transport Police said it “continues to deploy additional officers throughout the London rail network to deter and disrupt further protest activity”.

Heathrow Airport said it was “working with the authorities” following threats that protesters may try to disrupt flights over the Easter weekend.

Police have made further arrests, but activists continue to block traffic at four sites around the capital.

Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge have been occupied by protesters since Monday.

Transport for London warned delays around those areas were expected “throughout the day”.

Oxford Circus protesters
Activists remain glued to a boat in the middle of Oxford Circus

Some protesters have been seen returning to the blockades despite being arrested.

Police action to deter activists was having the “opposite” effect, according to environmental scientist Dominic Goetz who has returned to Waterloo Bridge following his arrest on Tuesday.

“I don’t know whether I will be arrested again or not. If I am, I think the consequences will probably not be particularly severe,” the 47-year-old said.

In a letter to the home secretary, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan suggested cuts to police funding were restricting the Met’s ability to cope with the demonstrators.

A group of demonstrators has been blocking Vauxhall Bridge for short periods of time as part of a “swarming” protest.

Similar intermittent roadblocks have also been formed by activists at Piccadilly Circus.

Oxford Circus protesters
More than 425 people have been arrested since Monday

Extinction Rebellion co-founder Dr Gail Bradbrook has warned that the group’s tactics could escalate “if our demands are not met”.

She said: “More people are joining us all the time. We’re having a fantastic time here.”

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Met Police Federation, said it was “very difficult” for police to deal with the activists as “we have never dealt with something like this before”.

Blockade on Vauxhall Bridge
Demonstrators have been holding intermittent blockages on Vauxhall Bridge
Presentational grey line

What is Extinction Rebellion?

The co-founder of the protest group invites people to join them
The co-founder of the protest group invites people to join them

Since the group was set up last year, members have shut bridges, poured buckets of fake blood outside Downing Street, blockaded the BBC and stripped semi-naked in Parliament.

It has three core demands : for the government to “tell the truth about climate change”; to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025; and to create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress.

Controversially, the group is trying to get as many people arrested as possible.

But critics say they cause unnecessary disruption and waste police time when forces are already overstretched.

Mueller report: Trump ‘tried to get special counsel fired’

Trump on Mueller report: “This should never happen to another president again”

US President Donald Trump tried to get the man appointed to investigate his links to Russia fired, a long-awaited report has revealed.

Details are starting to emerge about the 448-page redacted document, collated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which has just been published.

Mr Trump’s legal team earlier described the report as a “total victory”.

It comes as the country’s top lawyer, William Barr, faces heavy criticism of his handling of the report’s release.

Mr Mueller’s report says he found no criminal conspiracy between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russia, but could not reach a concrete legal conclusion on obstruction allegations.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report says. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.

“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

What does the report reveal?

The report says that in June 2017, Mr Trump called Don McGahn – then a White House lawyer – to try to get Mr Mueller removed over alleged “conflicts of interest”.

US Attorney General William Barr on Mueller report findings

Mr McGahn told the special counsel he resigned after feeling “trapped because he did not plan to follow the President’s directive” and would not have known what to say to Mr Trump had he called again.

The report also reveals:

  • Mr Trump reportedly used an expletive when the investigation was announced, adding: “Oh my god. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency”
  • Mr Mueller examined 10 actions by the president in regards to obstruction of justice
  • Investigators viewed the president’s written responses to their questions as “inadequate” but chose not to pursue a potentially lengthy legal battle to interview him
  • Mr Trump dictated a misleading response as to what the June 2016 meeting between Russian intermediaries and Trump campaign officials in Trump Tower was about – this had earlier been denied by Mr Trump’s lawyer and White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders
  • The special counsel considered charging the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, and son-in-law Jared Kushner in regards to that meeting, but did not think they could meet the Department of Justice’s burden of proof

The mammoth document is the product of a 22-month investigation by Mr Mueller – who was appointed to probe Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

His team’s investigation has led to 35 people being charged, including several who were a part of the president’s campaign and administration.

How has Mr Trump reacted?

Speaking at an event for veterans, Mr Trump said he was having a “good day” – adding that there was “no collusion” and “no obstruction”.

Representatives for the president have also reiterated his view that the investigation was a “hoax” and called for reprisal inquiries.

“President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated yet again,” Mr Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.

“Now the tables have turned, and it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.”

His comments followed a stream of social media posts by the president on Thursday regarding the report’s release.

Senior Democrats are calling on Mr Mueller to testify to them directly in order to “restore public trust” after what they described as Mr Barr’s “partisan behaviour” regarding the report.

How are the Democrats responding?

The attorney general, who was appointed by Mr Trump, held a news conference before the report was made public in which he backed the president.

His actions have provoked top Democrats to publicly question his impartiality and independence.

Mueller report: Trump 'tried to get special counsel fired'
Democrat Jerry Nadler accuses the attorney general of “waging a media campaign” for Trump

Representative Jerry Nadler confirmed that the House Committee on the Judiciary had already issued an invitation to the special counsel to appear “as soon as possible”.

“We cannot take Attorney General Barr’s word for it. We must read the full Mueller report, and the underlying evidence,” he said in a tweet.

“This is about transparency and ensuring accountability.”

William Barr was chosen by Donald Trump to be US attorney general

Mueller report: Barr accused of helping Donald Trump ahead of release

The US attorney general has been accused of “waging a media campaign” for President Donald Trump ahead of the Mueller report’s long-awaited release.

Democrat Jerry Nadler described William Barr’s plans to hold a news conference before the report was sent to Congress as “unnecessary and inappropriate”.

The 400-page report is the result of an investigation into alleged Russian interference during the 2016 election.

A summary, released by Mr Barr, reveals it clears Mr Trump of any collusion.

However, it does not go as far as to completely exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.

Both Mr Trump’s supporters and detractors are now eagerly awaiting the full – albeit redacted – report’s release.

It will be sent to Congress between 11:00 and midday local time (15:00 GMT and 16:00 GMT). Mr Barr is due to hold a news conference at 09:30.

What is the Mueller report?

The report contains the findings of a 22-month investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign back in 2016.

It was led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was chosen to run the investigation in 2017 following concerns from US intelligence agencies that Russia had tried to tip the election in Mr Trump’s favour.

He also looked into whether Mr Trump obstructed justice when he asked for the inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn to end, and later fired FBI chief James Comey.

Mr Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia – one of six former Trump aides and 30 other people, including 12 Russians, charged in connection with the investigation.

What do we know already?

So far all the public have seen of the report is the four-page summary released by US Attorney General Barr.

It contained Mr Mueller’s main conclusions. The first, that Mr Trump did not collude with Russia during the 2016 campaign, and the second, that he did not completely exonerate him of the charge of obstructing justice.

Exactly what this means is what many hope to discover with the release of the report on Thursday.

But it may not be that easy to ascertain. The report has been redacted, with a colour-code indicating the reasons why.

As a result, according to the BBC, “it might look more like a colouring book than a report.

How has President Trump reacted?

Mr Trump and his supporters immediately jumped on the fact that no collusion was found.

“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over,” the president told a cheering crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last month.

Mueller report: One summary, two interpretations

The Republican president has repeatedly described the investigation as “a witch hunt”.

However, he has not addressed the fact that the report does not completely clear him of the allegation of obstructing justice.

What do his opponents say?

Leading Democrats have called for the Mueller report to be published in full, and pledged to make use of the party’s majority control of committees in the House of Representatives to continue investigating the president.

They have also raised concerns over Mr Barr’s handling of the report since Mr Mueller’s team handed it to the Justice Department.

“Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the Attorney General has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation,” Mr Nadler, who is the House Judiciary Committee chairman, told reporters on Wednesday.

A new Brexiteer PM’s impossible promises could land us with no-deal Brexit, says former EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers

I think it’s the other side who could truncate this process and decide that no-deal is the right solution’.

The UK’s former EU ambassador, Sir Ivan Rogers, warned that a future Brexiteer Prime Minister could bring about a no-deal Brexit through impossible promises, despite the prospect being repeatedly ruled out by MPs in a series of votes in the Commons.

Sir Ivan resigned from his post as Permanent Representative to the EU before the end of his tenure in 2017 and has since issued a series of warnings about the Brexit process.

The former top civil servant told the BBC’s Newsnlight programme that European leaders are aware of the potential damage to the negotiations should a more “fervent” Brexiteer take control for the second stage.

‘A robust and bellicose position with Brussels’

Sir Ivan Rogers said a no-deal could be triggered by the EU. (Photo: BBC

He said: “I think the danger that we face – and I think people are acutely conscious of this incidentally in Brussels and Strasburg and Paris and Berlin – is that if we were to have a Conservative leadership election, might we have a sort of 2019 version of the syndrome I described in 2016.”

The process of appealing to the party base, which is, after all, more fervently eurosceptic than many of the parliamentarians and may well want a more true believer Brexiteer as their leader, will see various candidates give pledges as to the future direction of the Brexit talks on what they would do in phase two, that will essentially wreck any prospect of phase two succeeding.

So for example, if people were to give commitments saying, you know, ‘when I’m in power if you give me if you give me this job, I will reopen the withdrawal agreement, indicate that we can’t possibly accept the backstop and take a much more robust and bellicose position with Brussels’.

“Well, that leads fairly inexorably, I think, to a breakdown of the talks.”

Theresa May has said she would resign as Prime Minister if her deal is approved by the House of Commons that has rejected it on three occasions this year.

Sir Ivan, who said he left his post with the feeling that he did not have a “receptive audience” in Theresa May’s Government, also poured cold water on the idea that MPs have taken no-deal off the table by signalling in a number of votes that they do not wish for it to happen.

He said: “Well, it can happen because the other side can decide to pull the plug on these talks, and say, ‘we’re giving you a couple of extensions, you haven’t used the time, nothing has really happened, we’re aborting this process’. You’ve already seen the pressures coming above all from Paris, but Paris wasn’t alone in saying this at the April council.”

The UK was granted an extension to Brexit until 31 October after EU leaders rejected Theresa May’s proposals for an extension until June. Sir Ivan said that calls for the UK to be shown the door could gain greater support if no progress is made by then.

“If we’re cycling through this, again, six months down the track. I think there’ll be more appetite in the European Union to say ‘this is all a massive diversion from the agenda that we need to be pursuing.’ Brexit does not figure very high up on people’s list of the strategic agenda for the European Union.”

‘Truncate this process’

He said that the EU could decide to “abort” the process and then force the UK to sign up to many of the contentious aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, such as the Irish backstop and the so-called “divorce” payment of £39bn.

He said the EU could think: “We will just tell them that no trade negotiations start until we’ve been through that loop and let’s see what happens then.”

“I think it’s the other side who could truncate this process and decide that no deal is the right solution.”

Concern is growing of pupils being missing from registers. (Stock photo: Getty Images)

Nearly 50,000 children missing from classroom registers amid claims schools are ‘off-loading’ pupils with poor results

Nearly 50,000 children are disappearing from classroom registers without any explanation, a study has found following allegations hundreds of schools are gaming the system to boost their position in league tables.

One in 12 pupils (8.1 percent) from the cohort that finished year 11 in 2017 were removed from school rolls for reasons not accounted for by family decisions, according to the study by the Education Policy Institute.

Their report, sponsored by the National Education Union, says the missing names account for 55,300 school exits by 49,100 pupils. The figure has grown from previous years.

It comes after the schools regulator Ofsted last year identified 300 schools with high levels of soc-called “off-rolling” where pupils disappear from a school register just before GCSEs. Ofsted found that more than 19,000 year 10 pupils vanished from school in 2016.

Off-rolling has become an issue of growing concern for Ofsted amid allegations that some schools are playing the system by getting rid of poorly performing students to boost their performance in leage tables.

The institute has now found a small number of schools have particularly high rates of pupil exits, with just six percent of secondary schools in England (330 schools) accounting for almost a quarter (23 percent) of the total number of unexplained moves in 2017.

Jo Hutchinson, report author and director of social mobility and vulnerable learners at the EPI, said: “This research provides important evidence on unexplained pupil exits in the school system, following reports of children being removed by schools for reasons that are not in the pupil’s best interests.

For the first time, we begin to see the full scale of this problem, having stripped away cases where family decisions have led to school moves.

“Our estimate is that one in 12 children are being pushed around the system, and that this has risen in recent years.

”We will undertake further research on these trends this year, highlighting prevalence among local areas and groups of schools.“

The EPI says the schools with very high exit rates have removed the equivalent of an entire classroom of children from a single year group, as they have moved through secondary school, from 2012 to 2017.

According to the research, pupils with certain characteristics are disproportionately represented among those leaving school rolls.

One in three pupils in the social care system, one in seven disadvantaged pupils, and one in eight black pupils experience unexplained school moves, the report says.

The report also found the proportion of pupils who left school rolls with no explanation was the highest in the most recent cohort in our study – those expected to have finished year 11 in 2017.

For the 2014 cohort, 7.2 percent moved between schools or left the school system completely, and this was not explained by family reasons for moving.

In the 2011 year group, over the course of five years, 7.8 percent of pupils had moves that were unexplained by family reasons.

Education campaigners have long expressed concern at the notion of off-rolling – where problematic, badly behaved or academically poor pupils are unofficially removed from the school.

‘The size of unexplained pupil moves is disturbing’

This can include a ”managed move“, when a school looks for an alternative to expelling a pupil, such as asking another institution to admit the youngster to give them a new start.

Other examples, identified by local authorities, include suggesting the pupil is educated at home for an unspecified period, prompting concerns children could fall through the gaps and out of the education system.

Nearly 50,000 children missing from classroom registers amid claims schools are ‘off-loading’ pupils with poor results

Unlike formal exclusions, there is no requirement to record the reason why a pupil has been removed from a school roll.

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, said: ”The size of unexplained pupil moves is disturbing and will raise concerns about whether some schools are ‘off-rolling’ pupils.

“We need to look particularly closely at the six percent of schools which account for almost a quarter of unexplained moves.

”In a few months’ time we will publish figures showing the scale of this issue by school group, to allow for greater scrutiny over what is happening in our schools.“

Trump-Mueller report – ‘Paranoia’ among White House aides fearing backlash by president as world awaits release

Attorney general to hold press conference ahead of redacted 400-page report being sent to Congress

Donald Trump, the US political class and much of the world is waiting with baited breath ahead of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller ‘s long-awaited report on Russia’s role in the 2016 US election. 

Its disclosure will provide the first public look at the findings into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, and whether the president obstructed justice. 

Jerry Nadler, the House judiciary chairman, hastily convened a press conference last night to accuse the attorney general of taking “unprecedented” steps to spin Robert Mueller’s report in favour of Donald Trump.  “The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump,” Mr Nadler told reporters in New York.
“Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.”  The New York Times, which cited people with knowledge of the discussions, said the conversations had helped the president’s legal team prepare for the release of the report and strategise for the public relations and political battles that are certain to follow. The Justice Department declined to comment on the New York Times report. Trump lawyers Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
When Mueller’s report is released, close attention will be given not only to potential new details on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and the question of whether the Republican president acted to impede the inquiry, but also on how much Mr Barr elects to withhold.

Donald Trump was curiously quiet on Twitter on Wednesday evening. He only tweeted once, sharing an article by far right news outlet Breitbart which highlighted a poll in which 38% of respondents believed the FBI spied on the Trump campaign. 

In adjacent – but utterly astonishing – news, Ivanka Trump has revealed her father asked her to head up the World Bank. She says she turned it down because she is “happy with the work” she’s doing.

Donald Trump has suggested he may hold a press conference of his own in a bid to shape the narrative of the Mueller report’s release.  He said last night “a lot of strong things” would come out today. “Attorney general Barr is going to be doing a press conference. Maybe I’ll do one after that, we’ll see,” he told WMAL radio.  

Five senior House Democrats are calling on William Barr to cancel his press conference ahead of the release of the Mueller report.  This is what they said in a statement: “The Department of Justice announced today that the Attorney General will hold a press conference tomorrow morning before Congress has even seen Special Counsel Mueller’s report. This press conference, which apparently will not include Special Counsel Mueller, is unnecessary and inappropriate, and appears designed to shape public perceptions of the report before anyone can read it.
“In addition, we understand from press reports that the Department of Justice has had ‘numerous conversations’ with lawyers from the White House about the report, which ‘have aided the President’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report.’ There is no legitimate reason for the Department to brief the White House prior to providing Congress a copy of the report.
“These new actions by the Attorney General reinforce our concern that he is acting to protect President Trump. The Attorney General previously stated, ‘I do not believe it would be in the public’s interest for me to attempt to summarize the full report or to release it in serial or piecemeal fashion.’ We agree.
“He should let the full report speak for itself. The Attorney General should cancel the press conference and provide the full report to Congress, as we have requested. With the Special Counsel’s fact-gathering work concluded, it is now Congress’ responsibility to assess the findings and evidence and proceed accordingly.”

Jerry Nadler, chair of the House judiciary committee, has hit out at the Justice Department’s decision to brief the White House on the findings of the Mueller report ahead of its release, and the fact the report will not be released until after the attorney general has held a press conference. 

Similarly, White House officials are reportedly suffering “breakdown-level” anxiety over whether the Mueller report will expose them as a source of damaging information about Donald Trump. 
More than a dozen current and former administration personnel cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia, according to NBC News.

The New York Times reports the Justice Department has had a number of conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Robert Mueller. The discussions have reportedly helped the president’s legal team prepare a rebuttal of the report.  The newspaper says “paranoia” was taking hold among some Trump aides, with a number fearing more a backlash by the president than the findings themselves.

Donald Trump has in recent days ramped up his attacks on those involved in the probe, in a likely sign the president is concerned over what the report reveals to the public about his alleged obstruction, and his campaign’s links to Russia.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Trump said “a lot of strong things” would come out today, and suggested he may hold a press conference of his own – a sign the White House intends to go on the attack from the outset.
“You’ll see a lot of strong things come out tomorrow,” Mr Trump told Washington’s WMAL radio. “Attorney general Barr is going to be doing a press conference. Maybe I’ll do one after that, we’ll see”.

Jeremy Corbyn told to commit to Brexit vote or let Farage snatch shock European elections victory

Senior Labour MP’s say Jeremy Corbyn must back a fresh Brexit referendum unequivocally within weeks or Nigel Farage will snatch a shock European elections victory.

Worried backbenchers piled pressure on the Labour leader to shift his stance before the 23 May poll, after the former Ukip Labour was revealed to be on course to triumph, at the head of his new Brexit Party.

A survey gave Mr Farage’s party a healthy five-point lead at 27 per cent of the vote, leaving both Labour (22 per cent) and the Conservatives  (15 per cent) trailing in his wake.

It came as the, Liberal Democrats accused other anti-Brexit parties of boosting their opponents by refusing pleas to fight on a joint ticket.

Labour supporters of a Final Say referendum seized on evidence that Mr Corbyn was heading for a further disastrous slump if his manifesto backed forcing through a Brexit deal in alliance with Theresa May.

A customs union deal – the aim of the current cross-party talks – would see Labour dip to just 15 per cent, according to the poll of 1,855 adults by YouGov, handing the Brexit Party a 10-point win.

But undiluted support for a further public vote would lift Labour to 23 per cent, with Mr Farage’s outfit only three points ahead.

Owen Smith, a former Labour leadership contender, told The Independent: “It’s very clear that Labour is losing support among our voters because the leadership has refused to give unambiguous support to a people’s vote on Brexit.

“We should never forget that the majority of Labour supporters voted Remain in 2016 and if we want to beat the Brexit parties we have to honour their views.”

Stephen Doughty , a former shadow minister, echoed the fear, saying: “We must put a public vote on Brexit at the core of our European manifesto.

“Pro-European voters who in all other respects support Labour need to see that message loud and clear. Otherwise we risk leeching support to other parties – which can only benefit Farage and his forces.”

Sir Vince Cable the Liberal Democrat leader, also said it “would be a game-changer” if Labour came out clearly to campaign to stay in the EU.

But he admitted: “I find it difficult to see they could do that given that Jeremy Corbyn has said repeatedly he is there to deliver Brexit, but it certainly would change the nature of the argument.”

Mr Farage’s surge follows the burst of publicity the Brexit Party received at its campaign launch last week, when Annunziata Rees-Mogg – the sister of the leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, was unveiled as a candidate.

It also heightened Tory fears that their party is heading for a crushing defeat, which would trigger fresh calls for the prime minister to quit.

Justine Greening the former Conservative education secretary, hinted she would quit if that resulted in her party adopting a harder Brexit position.

“It’s certainly a challenging time I think for me to be in the Conservative Party,” she said. “For me it was about three things: opportunity, a strong economy and well-managed public finances.

“And clearly I think if we become the Brexit party, that really goes against those three core tenets of what I think being a Conservative Party member is all about.”

Sir Vince lashed out at the Independent Group, for rejecting his pleas to stand joint candidates on 23 May, to boost the number of MEPs demanding a second referendum.

He revealed his party had proposed fighting together – a move that one election expert has predicted could deliver an extra six seats in Brussels.

Frustrated campaigners for a Final Say public vote also believe a unified campaign would have excited voters and delivered an even greater reward.

“It would be better, I think, from the point of view of the supporters of British membership of the EU if we were fighting together under the same banner,” Sir Vince said.

“Certainly that’s something we would like to have seen, but that wasn’t possible, we didn’t get a positive reaction to that, so we are going on our own.”

Change UK, the new party name for the Independent Group, has said it wants “no alliance and no pacts, but to be a new party standing on its own”, a stance echoed by the Green Party.

The YouGov poll put the Greens top among the pro-Remain parties on 10 per cent, ahead of the Liberal Democrats (9 per cent) and Change UK (6 per cent).

The full Mueller report is here at last – so what’s next?

Finally. At last. The day has come. The Mueller report. It is here

And for all the hype, the expectation that Washington and cable news specialises in, on the one to 10 scale where one is a barely audible whimper and 10 is the eruption of a Krakatoan volcano, this is almost certainly going to be at the lower decibel end.

Why do I say that? Because the Attorney general, Bill Barr, blew any cliff-hanger season finale moment with his four-page letter summarising the findings.

On collusion with Russia, there was none. On whether the president obstructed justice, the Mueller report was more equivocal.

And that is fascinating and why we shouldn’t just roll over and go back to sleep.

Donald Trump has made clear what he thinks it amounts to: “Total exoneration.”

But the one sentence of the report that was released in the attorney general’s summary is far more tantalising.

Mueller wrote: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.” And what that amounts to is going to engulf debate once this report lands.

Barr and Mueller

Jonathan Turley is the incredibly well plugged in professor of law at George Washington University.

“Critics of Trump will come in and they will look specifically at obstruction and find a lot of material there, of conduct that may not be indictable but certainly could be contemptible, or even impeachable.

“For Trump supporters they will look at the collusion section and say ‘that’s what started all this and they found nothing, and this whole narrative proved to be false.'”

The frustrating part about when we eventually get our hands on the report will be how much of it is redacted.

Helpfully the excisions will be colour-coded. One colour if it is intel too sensitive for public consumption; another if it is material being considered by a grand jury; another still if it is criticism of a third party who hasn’t been indicted.

In other words it might look more like a colouring book than a report.

So should we expect Democrats to create a hue and cry? Back to my one is a whimper and 10 is volcanic scale, I think they will be around the seven to eight mark.

Already Democratic party-controlled committees in the House of Representatives are issuing subpoenas to get access to all sorts of information.

They will reject the ‘there’s nothing to see here, just keep moving along the sidewalk, ladies and gentlemen’ – Donald Trump’s opponents will insist there are questions to be answered.

But out on the stump across the country it feels different – remember in the US you are never far away from an election.

At the moment there is a heap of Democratic hopefuls hurtling around the country honing messages for 2020. They are debating jobs, the environment, taxes, health, immigration. But Mueller? Not so much.

Nancy Pelosi, the strategically astute Speaker of the House, said this on a trip to Europe this week:

“People are concerned about their kitchen table issues: are they going to be able to pay the bills. So I have not been one of these focusers on impeachment and reports and the rest of that, let the chips fall where they may when we have the evidence and the facts.”

Now this needs decoding a bit.

Nancy Pelosi

She’s not giving the president a clean bill of health. What she’s saying is the last thing Democrats need is a messy and almost certainly futile attempt at impeachment; much better to have a president who is wounded and weakened by Mueller.

One other thing: Timing. It’s the day before Good Friday. It is Spring Break. American schoolchildren are on holiday. Some families are at the beach. In the national parks. Enjoying Easter.

And on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are never more than a few yards from a microphone, they’re in recess.

It’s no accident that the Justice Department is releasing the Mueller report today.

The suspect was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers said

Columbine-obsessed’ woman accused of Denver school threats found dead

An 18-year-old woman suspected of making threats to Denver-area schools has been found dead in an apparent suicide, according to police.

Sol Pais was reportedly obsessed with the 1999 Columbine high school massacre, in which two teenagers murdered 12 students and a teacher.

The alleged threat led to school closures, affecting more than 400,000 students, and a manhunt for the woman.

She flew to Denver ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader told reporters on Wednesday that she died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The FBI earlier tweeted there was no longer a threat to the community and the suspect is deceased.

Sol Pais was reportedly obsessed with the Columbine massacre
Sol Pais was reportedly obsessed with the Columbine massacre

Officials said at a news conference that local schools would reopen on Thursday and events marking the anniversary of the 1999 shooting would continue on Saturday.

The Miami Beach high school student travelled to Denver from Miami on Monday night and purchased a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said.

At a second news conference later on Wednesday, FBI Denver special agent in charge Dean Phillips said that “a combination of her actions and comments” alerted authorities to Pais as a possible threat.

Mr Phillips said that Pais made comments in person and online related to her “infatuation” with Columbine. And she had purchased three one-way tickets to Denver from Miami for 15, 16 and 17 April, before taking the first flight on Monday. Mr Phillips said Pais went directly to purchase the weapon after landing.

Authorities are now conducting an investigation to ensure Pais had no accomplices and that there is no further threat.

“You should feel confident that your law enforcement community is protecting you and keeping you safe,” Mr Phillips said.

Police had considered her armed and extremely dangerous.

Nearly 30 armed officers swarm the woods near the Echo Park Campground in the Arapaho National Forest, CBS News reports.

The Echo Lake Lodge, nearby to where she was reportedly found, does not open until late May due to weather.

Witnesses told local media that she was seen running naked and armed with a gun in the area earlier on Wednesday. She had last been spotted in the Mt Evans area dropped off by a “for-rent vehicle”, Mr Phillips said.

Anniversaries can be difficult for survivors and the wider community, often triggering traumatic memories.

Littleton was already on high alert because they’ve faced threats in the past, and this was another scary reminder that the mass shooting will perhaps forever affect life in this city. One Columbine survivor told me that when she heard the news, she questioned her safety and took a different route home in a moment of panic.

Today, schools are closed, empty, and deemed unsafe. John McDonald is in charge of security for the school district that includes Columbine. He told me he was angry that as a country, Americans had done nothing but point fingers for the last 20 years, and as a result children weren’t just dead, they were unsafe to attend school.

Columbine isn’t even among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in this country any more. Yet, it is still a tragedy that cuts deep and becomes more painful with each reminder that nothing has changed.

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The Mt Evans area, one hour's drive west of Denver, is covered in snow at this time of year
The Mt Evans area, one hour’s drive west of Denver, is covered in snow at this time of year

The suspect’s family had urged her to turn herself in as authorities launched a manhunt.

It’s like a bad dream. We don’t know. We don’t have any ideas,” her father told CBS News in Miami.

Mr Phillips declined to answer questions related to Pais’ mental health.

According to the news outlet, more than 130 schools in and around Denver had closed as officials searched for her.

At the news conference Tuesday afternoon, Mr Phillips said there had been information about a specifically targeted school.

Asked about a possible “overreach” in keeping so many students home from school Mr Phillips responded, “As a parent I would say thank you to the school system for protecting my child.”

Authorities were seen preparing to approach the cabin
Authorities were seen preparing to approach the remote lodge
Four people glued themselves together at Jeremy Corbyn's home in north London

Rebellion London activists: chained to Jeremy Corbyn’s home

Climate change activists glued themselves to a train and others chained themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s home in a third day of protests.

Extinction Rebellion protesters have been blocking traffic at Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Oxford Circus since Monday.

Earlier, three activists were glued to a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train at Canary Wharf, causing minor delays.

Four people also glued themselves together at the Labour leader’s home.

The activists, who also used a bike lock to attach themselves to Mr Corbyn’s north London house, said they supported him but wanted the Labour Party to go further than declaring a “climate emergency”.

After ending their protest Tracee Williams, one of the group, said she did not think the action was a “misstep but whether we’d do it again, I’m not so sure”.

Mr Corbyn left his home but declined to meet or speak to any of the protesters.

Easter eggs and flowers from the group, which had been taken into Mr Corbyn’s home earlier, were later returned to the street by the Labour leader’s wife Laura Alvarez.

Ms Williams added the group “really felt we had to bring it to his front door” but “feel absolutely terrible about upsetting his wife”.

As of 17:00 BST, 340 people have been arrested since Monday over the protests, the Met Police said.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn declined to speak to any of the protesters when he left his home

The campaigner who glued himself to a train window was removed about an hour after the start of the DLR protest, at about 10:50.

The man and a woman who unfurled a banner and glued themselves to the top of the train’s carriage were also later removed and carried off by officers.

BTP said three people had been arrested for obstructing the railway.

Extinction Rebellion targeted the DLR after members changed their minds about disrupting the Tube network.

It came after BTP ordered Transport for London (TfL) to switch off wifi at Tube stations to deter protests.

Activists on to a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf
Two activists climbed on to a train at Canary Wharf while another glued his hand to the window

Supt Matt Allingham said extra officers would be on duty throughout the day, adding: “We will not tolerate any activity which disrupts the millions of passengers who rely on using the rail network in London.”

Campaigners at Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Oxford Circus have been ordered to restrict their protests to Marble Arch.

The Met said protesters were being removed from both areas and those who did not comply would be arrested.

Police at Parliament square
Police have been sent in to clear protesters from Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Oxford Circus
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How do you unglue a protester?

The Metropolitan Police says it uses a “fluid de-bonding agent” – but refuses to specify what that contains for operational reasons.

Dr Mark Elliott, a senior lecturer in organic chemistry at Cardiff University, said warm, soapy water or the compound acetone would be the most suitable method – but warned any removal was likely to be painful.

“Anyone who has inadvertently stuck their fingers together with superglue will know how difficult and painful it can be to separate then – and the fingertips are relatively tough,” he says.

“It is even more painful when other, softer, areas of skin become bonded.”

According to Dr Elliott, the general advice is to use warm, soapy water, then to apply gentle pressure – for example by inserting a spatula.

“This will inevitably take time and be rather painful,” he warned.

Alternatively, acetone – normally found in nail-varnish remover – can make it easier to remove the glue – but “easier”, he adds, “is very much a relative term”.

The BBC’s Dominic Casciani said about a dozen people were carried to police vans at Oxford Circus after failing to comply with police.

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham, who was at the protest in Oxford Circus, said the atmosphere was “peaceful and resolute”.

Most of the people arrested so far have been held over public order offences.

The Met Police said “contingency plans are in place should custody suites become full”.

Protester arrested on Waterloo Bridge
Protesters are being removed from Waterloo Bridge by police

Extinction Rebellion earlier said “thousands” more people were willing to be arrested as part of the non-violent disruption.

It had been planning to target London Underground to “highlight the emergency of ecological collapse” and persuade ministers to meet group members.

The campaign group said: “Today we will disrupt one overground line as part of our escalating campaign to demand the government acts now on the climate and ecological emergency.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged protesters to “think again”, adding public transport helped tackle climate change.

Music student Anouska Stahlmann said her ill mother and elderly grandparents were forced to walk part of their journey to avoid risking being stuck in a Tube tunnel.

The 20-year-old said: “I have no issue with wanting to better the environment and we’re fairly conscious of it as a family.

“Their methods, however, are seriously flawed and are not inclusive of people who want to support the cause.”

Protester arrested on Waterloo Bridge
So far, 340 people have been arrested during the week’s protests

Protester and climate lawyer Farhana Yamin, who was arrested on Tuesday, 

 “I totally want to apologise to people using public transport.

“But at the same time we need to take actions that are disruptive so everyone understands the dangers we’re facing right now.”

Oxford Circus roadblock
Oxford Street has been empty of traffic since activists parked a pink boat in Oxford Circus on Monday

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, said the West End lost £12m in trade because of the first two days of protests.

Everyone has a right to peaceful protest. But this is really disruptive.”

In Edinburgh, dozens of people were arrested earlier this week when hundreds of protesters blocked a main road.

Marble Arch camp
Police ordered protesters to retreat to the site of their camp at Marble Arch

Organisers said protests had been held in more than 80 cities across 33 countries and action in London was planned until 29 April.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said “it’s appropriate for people to make their feelings known” but added: “We’ve got the message; we understand that action needs to be taken.”

Speaking on the BBC’s The One Show, he said some of the protest action had been “over the top” but driven by a “legitimate desire to put climate change and the environment further up the agenda”.

Mr Gove said the UK had “played a role in reducing carbon emissions and at the same time growing the economy”, but admitted “there is more to be done”.

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What is Extinction Rebellion?

Rebellion London activists: chained to Jeremy Corbyn's home
Extinction Rebellion: The story behind the activist group

Since the group was set up last year, members have shut bridges, poured buckets of fake blood outside Downing Street, blockaded the BBC and stripped semi-naked in Parliament.

It has three core demands: for the government to “tell the truth about climate change”, reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025, and create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress.

Controversially, the group is trying to get as many people arrested as possible.

But critics say they cause unnecessary disruption and waste police time when forces are already overstretched.

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The government said it shared “people’s passion” to combat climate change and “protect our planet for future generations”.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the UK had cut its emissions by 44% since 1990.

A spokesman said: “We’ve asked our independent climate experts for advice on a net zero emissions target and set out plans to transition to low emission vehicles and significantly reduce pollution.”

Activists vow disruption in capital will continue for weeks

Extinction Rebellion: Hundreds of arrests as protesters target London transport network and Jeremy Corbyn’s home

More than 300 environmental protesters have been arrested during ongoing climate change protests in London as demonstrators attempted to bring travel chaos to the capital by targeting the Tube and DLR network.

Activists have vowed the disruption in London will continue for weeks as activists glued themselves to a train and, Jeremy Corbyn ‘s garden fence.

The Labour leader’s home in north London became the latest target on the third day of demonstrations, which faced criticism for its focus on the public transport system.

Taliban talks: Draft framework for Afghanistan peace ‘agreed’

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, voiced his support for the demonstration but warned: “You don’t want to inadvertently cause problems with our public transport, which is what we are going to be encouraging people to use when we face a climate emergency.”

Others praised the positive impact the protests were having on major junctions and roads in the capital that are normally traffic-clogged.

“No cars, clean air, happy vibes. What a lovely protest. Should be like this every day,” wrote one on Twitter.

Extinction Rebellion: Climate change protests cause chaos in London

1/26Police officers detain a climate change activist at Waterloo BridgeReuters
2/26Climate change activists blockade Oxford Circus on the third day of an environmental protest by the Extinction Rebellion group
3/26Climate change activists stand atop a bus shelter as they take part in a blockade of Waterloo BridgeAFP/Getty Images
4/26Police is seen as climate change activists demonstrate during the Extinction Rebellion protest, at Canary Wharf DLR station in London

5/26Police speak to climate change activists blockading Waterloo bridgeAFP/Getty
Waterloo Bridge
6/26 Waterloo
7/26Climate change activists, one (right) with her hand glued to the underside of a truck parked across Waterloo BridgeAFP/Getty
8/26Environmental campaigners protest in the centre of Oxford Circus

Participants are demanding the government declare a climate emergency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025.

Two men and two women from the Extinction Rebellion (XR) group used glue and a bike lock in a bid to prevent police from removing them from outside the Labour leader’s house on Wednesday.

They said they all support Mr Corbyn but want the Labour Party to go further than declaring a “climate emergency”.

As they left, one protester, Tracee Williams, 55, said: “We just really felt we had to bring it to his front door.”

Demonstrations have so far taken place in locations including Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Marble Arch this week.

Roads around Parliament Square remain closed to cars and other vehicles. Environmental protesters were dancing to samba music in the street on Wednesday evening and reading “letters to the Earth” from a podium on the green in the middle of the square.

Scotland Yard could not confirm whether or not anyone had been charged with any criminal offences.

Campaigners said the cells in the capital are full and “operating on a one-in, one-out capacity”, while some of those being released from custody have rejoined the protests.

The Metropolitan Police said: “Our custody suites are not full and we are continuing to arrest those who are breaking the law.”

The force added those continuing to demonstrate in areas where a restriction is in place face prosecution.

Activists said they plan to continue their roadblocks, which have affected more than half a million people with road closures, traffic gridlock and disruption to transport and businesses since Monday, until at least next Friday.

Spokeswoman Jayne Forbes said: “We would obviously look to go on for two weeks and if we can go on longer then even better. It depends on the rebels.

“We have got quite a lot of people committed to do it for the whole two weeks.”

Robin Boardman-Pattison, 21, said activists are planning to step up action on the rail and London Underground network.

“We will be escalating our disruption throughout the week,” he said. “The impact to the Tube system will grow.”

The British Transport Police (BTP) arrested two men and a woman on suspicion of obstructing the railway after activists clambered aboard the carriage of a train at Canary Wharf station on Wednesday morning.

Police remove climate change protestors who had glued themselves to the roof of a DLR train at Canary wharf station (AFP/Getty Images)

A smartly dressed man and woman glued their hands to the roof before being removed and taken away in a police van.

XR, who are demanding a meeting with the Government, says direct action is needed to force authorities to act urgently on climate change and wildlife declines and halt a “sixth mass extinction”.

TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham joined protesters at Oxford Circus, saying: “I believe the world’s leaders are not acting urgently enough to avert a climate catastrophe.

“As long as it is peaceful and democratic then they can count on my support.”

A YouGov poll of 3,561 UK adults suggested public opinion has swung against the protests, while some Londoners hit out at the group’s “seriously flawed” methods.

Many voiced opposition to their targeting of the public transport system, which appeared to contradict a wider environmental message for people to switch from cars to Tubes and trains.

Music student Anouska Stahlmann, 20, said her ill mother and elderly grandparents had to walk part of their journey because of the risk of getting stuck in a tunnel while on the Tube.

“I have no issue with wanting to better the environment and we’re fairly conscious of it as a family,” she said.

“Their methods, however, are seriously flawed and are not inclusive of people who want to support the cause.

“I find it awful they’re disintegrating into a rent-a-mob mentality really.

“I’d expect better.”

Brexit: High-tech solution to avoid hard Northern Ireland border ‘decade away’, leaked Home Office document says

‘The challenges of this work cannot be underestimated’, warns memo in blow to Brexiteer hopes of replacing backstop.

Any hi-tech solution to the problem of how to keep the Northern Ireland border open after Brexit is at least ten years away, a leaked Home Office document has said.

The memo said the cost and complexity of using new technology to remove the need for border checks meant “the challenges of this work cannot be underestimated”.

The finding will come as a blow to Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, who have repeatedly insisted that technology could be used to keep the border open in the event of a no-deal Brexit removing the need for the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.

The memo, seen by Sky News, was drawn up by the Home Office’s Policy Unit and sent to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Treasury. It says there could be a possible technological solution but that it would come with a huge array of difficulties.

The solution would involve companies uploading data on goods and using blockchain technology, sensors and automated collection to pay tariffs. 

The memo said: “If all these technologies are brought together this could allow a seamless collection and analysis of the data needed. It would also provide the ability to target interventions away from the border itself.”

But it also warned of a series of practical problems in introducing the technology, including cost, time and complexity. 

It said: “The challenges of this work cannot be underestimated… No government worldwide currently controls different customs arrangements with no physical infrastructure present at the border.”

Warning that the technology would take over a decade to introduce, the document said: “Current realisation for a similar technological solution in the UK is 2030.”

The memo also highlighted the cost and difficulty of implementing such a project and questioned whether the government would be able to deliver it.

Opposing protesters flock to parliament on would be date of Brexit

1/30Pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporters attend a rally in Parliament Square after the final leg of the “March to Leave” in London

It said: “Any future system must operate with 28 government agencies and a myriad of interconnected existing and planned IT systems. There is currently no budget for either a pilot or the programme itself. And it will be expensive. 

“This suite of technology would need to operate on both sides of the border; as such it would require agreement and commitment from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and possibly the EU too. It is a big and complex project, with possibly tight deadlines.

“Government does not have the strongest track record on delivery of large tech projects.”

The question of how to keep the Northern Ireland border open after Brexit has been at the heart of the row over Britain’s EU withdrawal in recent months.

The EU insisted on the backstop, which would see the UK temporarily enter into a customs union with the EU if no other deal is agreed, to ensure there was not a return to a hard border even if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal.

29/30A jogger gestures rudely at a Brexit supporter outside of the Houses of ParliamentAFP/Getty
30/30A Brexit supporter outside the Houses of Parliament

But Eurosceptics say the policy would see the UK tied to EU tariffs and rules indefinitely and therefore unable to strike new trade deals with other countries.

The government and the EU have agreed to look at “alternative arrangements”, such as new technology, that could be introduced to remove the need for the backstop to come into effect. 

Local Conservative party chairs are plotting to bring down Theresa May Local Conservative party chairs are plotting to bring down Theresa May

Brexit news: Theresa May facing no-confidence vote as grassroots Tories plot to oust PM

Theresa May could face an unprecedented no-confidence vote among grassroots Tories as local party chairman look to trigger a little-known process that could be “devastating to her authority”.

Party chairs have been circulating a petition that is on course to force the National Conservative Convention to hold an extraordinary general meeting where the vote could be held, according to the daily BBC Newslight.

The plot is being driven by growing “frustration and anger” over the prime minister’sBrexit  strategy, and comes as talks between Ms May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn continue to stall.

Theresa May’s Brexit strategy has endangered MPs, undermined parliamentary democracy, and wasted billions of pounds, according to Labour politician Pat McFadden.

Writing in The Independent, the MP for Wolverhampton South Eastsays his party leader Jeremy Corbyn must now answer “the call of leadership” by taking “co-ownership” of a Brexit deal or insisting on a second referendum.

Opinion: May’s Brexit strategy has put MPs in danger and wasted billions – Britain deserves a real leader, It should not be left to backbench MPs to defend Parliamentary democracy when the leader of our country undermines it and legitimises its rejection.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has has said it would “be better” if Remain-supporting political parties were “fighting together under the same banner” in the forthcoming European elections.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today this morning, Sir Vince acknowledged there was “not a great deal” of difference between his party’s message to the electorate and that of new party Change UK – The Independent Group, which will stand on a pro-EU platform calling for a second referendum.

He added:  “So, there’s a variety of different parties offering the same message, something which is possible under the proportional voting system that we have.

“It’s not crazy, I mean it would be better, I think, from the point of view of the supporters of British membership of the EU if we were fighting together under the same banner, and certainly that’s something we would like to have seen, but that wasn’t possible, we didn’t get a positive reaction to that, so we are going on our own.”

A grassroots no-confidence vote would put “massive pressure” on the prime minister resign, according to John Strafford, chair of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.

“It does not force the issue but would be quite devastating to her authority,” he told the Telegraph.

However, it is worth considering just how much authority Theresa May has left.

Mark Wallace, writing for ConservativeHome, notes that a no-confidence vote “would be another embarrassment for the prime minister, but she has ridden out many embarrassments before”.

Theresa May could face an unprecedented no-confidence vote among grassroots Tories as local party chairman look to trigger a little-known process that could be “devastating to her authority”.

Party chairs have been circulating a petition that could force the National Conservative Convention – the most senior body of the Tories’ voluntary wing – to hold an extraordinary general meeting where the vote could be held.

If the petition attracts more than 65 signatures, the party is obliged to hold the meeting. According to the daily,

between 40 and 50 chairs have already signed it and that figure could hit the threshold as early as next week.

Dinah Glover, the London East area chairman started the petition, told the newspaper: “There is a lot of frustration and anger within the party – this is a route that we have to demonstrate those feelings so we can encourage MPs to make those feelings known.

“What we need is a new leader who can break the impasse, who passionately believes that Britain has a bright Brexit future.”

US President Donald Trump has issued the second veto of his presidency, overriding a congressional resolution directing him to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen AFP/File

Trump vetoes bill to end US support for Saudi-led Yemen war

President Donald Trump on Tuesday vetoed a resolution from Congress directing him to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, the second such move of his presidency.

The resolution was a harsh bipartisan rebuke to Trump that took the historic step of curtailing a president’s war-making powers — a step the president condemned in a statement announcing his veto.

“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump said.

Vetoing the measure is an “effective green light for the war strategy that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis to continue,” said International Rescue Committee president and CEO David Miliband.

“This veto by President Trump is morally wrong and strategically wrongheaded. It sets back the hopes for respite for the Yemeni people, and leaves the US upholding a failed strategy.

“Yemen is at a breaking point with 10 million people on the brink of famine. There are as many as 100 civilian casualties per week, and Yemenis are more likely to be killed at home than in any other structure.”

The veto was the second of his presidency, after he overrode a congressional resolution that aimed to reverse the border emergency he declared in order to secure more funding for his wall between the United States and Mexico in March.

Trump argued that US support for the bloody war between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-aligned Huthi rebels was necessary for a variety of reasons, “

“first and foremost” to “protect the safety of the more than 80,000 Americans who reside in certain coalition countries.”

These countries “have been subject to Huthi attacks from Yemen,” he said, referring to drone and missile strikes the Saudi-led coalition has either claimed were intercepted or denied altogether.

The president also said the resolution would “harm the foreign policy of the United States” and “harm our bilateral relationships.”

– War crimes –

And it would “negatively affect our ongoing efforts to prevent civilian casualties and prevent the spread of terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS, and embolden Iran’s malign activities in Yemen,” Trump said, referring to two Sunni Muslim militant groups and his Shiite bete noire.

The resolution, which passed the US House of Representatives earlier this month and the Senate in March, was a historic milestone, as it was the first time in history that a measure invoking the 1973 War Powers Resolution reached the president’s desk.

It was a reminder that Congress has the legal ability to compel the removal of US military forces, absent a formal declaration of war.

Democrats argued that US involvement in the Yemen conflict — through intelligence-sharing, logistical support, the sale of military equipment and now-discontinued aerial refueling — is unconstitutional without congressional authority.

Critics of the intervention warn that Saudi forces are likely using US weapons to commit atrocities in the four-year war.

Some 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen over the past four years, according to the World Health Organization, although rights groups say the toll could be five times higher.

Both the Saudi-led alliance and Huthi rebels have been accused of acts that could amount to war crimes, while the coalition has been blacklisted by the United Nations for killing and maiming children.

Skill shortage could hold up Notre Dame rebuild: UK architect

One of the architects who helped restore Windsor Castle after a devastating fire said a shortage of craftsmen could hold up the reconstruction of Notre-Dame.

“The supply of craftsmen with the skill to work so much stone, so much timber, so much lead, so much glass for the windows is something which the industry in the whole of Europe may well be challenged to meet at the present moment,” Francis Maude, director at the Donald Insall Associates architect firm, told AFP.

“There are other very large projects which are facing the same limitations,” he said, giving the example of the Houses of Parliament where his firm is also working.

Maude’s firm was called upon by the British royal family to help restore Windsor Castle following a fire in 1992 that also shocked the country.

The fire began in the Queen’s Private Chapel when a curtain was ignited by a spotlight pressed up against it. It spread to the State Apartments, including St George’s banqueting hall, and engulfed Brunswick Tower.

There were no casualties, also thanks to the quick reaction of the castle’s own small fire brigade.

The restoration work began in 1995 and was completed in 1997, costing £36.5 million at the time.

As part of the renovation, a specially commissioned stained-glass window was installed in the medieval surrounding depicting a firefighter battling the blaze.

The castle’s grandest rooms were restored to their former state while others were modernised, and the issue of how faithfully to stick to the original design is likely to be the source of “big discussion” when rebuilding the iconic Parisian cathedral.

“There will be some who think the only way we can restore Notre-Dame is to make it exactly the same as it was before,” said Maude.

Alternatively, restorers could draw inspiration from the rebuilding of Reims Cathedral after World War One, when a fire-resistant steel roof was installed.

– Stonework at risk –

Maude pointed out that “there has already been a process of change at Notre-Dame” with the 19th century restoration work done by French architect Viollet-le-Duc, and that carefully selected parts of the church could be modernised, making it more efficient and less at risk of future fires.

But it is likely to be many months before the mammoth cleaning-up process ends and an assessment made on which parts of the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece can be salvaged.

“One particular difficulty which I can imagine is the cathedral being largely constructed of limestone,” warned Maude.

“One particular difficulty which I can imagine is the cathedral being largely constructed of limestone,” warned Maude.

When limestone is exposed to temperatures of over eight hundred degrees centigrade, it “decays through chemical reaction… and it’s then rather difficult to use it again,” he said.

“I can imagine that there’s going to be a lot of the historic surface of the stonework lost but there may be stone buried deeper within the walls which can be capped.”

– ‘A symbol of renewal’ –

The cathedral’s relatively bare interior should count in its favour, compared to Windsor Castle, where centuries of redevelopments led to a complex web of empty spaces behind the walls.

Money does not appear to be an issue, with billionaire donors already pledging hundreds of millions of euros.

The director said he would be “delighted to be invited” to help in the restoration, which he believes could end up revitalising the UNESCO world heritage landmark.

“It can be a symbol of renewal,” he said of the fire.

“There’s also an opportunity in some parts of a rebuilt Notre-Dame to have a new expression of an artistic temperament for our own times.”

Trump vetoes bill ending US support for Yemen war

The resolution was a harsh bipartisan rebuke to Trump that took the historic step of curtailing a president’s war-making powers — a step the president condemned in a statement announcing his veto.

“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump said.

Vetoing the measure is an “effective green light for the war strategy that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis to continue,” said International Rescue Committee president and CEO David Miliband.

“This veto by President Trump is morally wrong and strategically wrongheaded. It sets back the hopes for respite for the Yemeni people, and leaves the US upholding a failed strategy.

Yemen is at a breaking point with 10 million people on the brink of famine. There are as many as 100 civilian casualties per week, and Yemenis are more likely to be killed at home than in any other structure.”

The veto was the second of his presidency, after he overrode a congressional resolution that aimed to reverse the border emergency he declared in order to secure more funding for his wall between the United States and Mexico in March.

Trump argued that US support for the bloody war between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-aligned Huthi rebels was necessary for a variety of reasons, “first and foremost” to “protect the safety of the more than 80,000 Americans who reside in certain coalition countries.”

These countries “have been subject to Huthi attacks from Yemen,” he said, referring to drone and missile strikes the Saudi-led coalition has either claimed were intercepted or denied altogether.

The president also said the resolution would “harm the foreign policy of the United States” and “harm our bilateral relationships.”

War crimes

And it would “negatively affect our ongoing efforts to prevent civilian casualties and prevent the spread of terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS, and embolden Iran’s malign activities in Yemen,” Trump said, referring to two Sunni Muslim militant groups and his Shiite bete noire.

The resolution, which passed the US House of Representatives earlier this month and the Senate in March, was a historic milestone, as it was the first time in history that a measure invoking the 1973 War Powers Resolution reached the president’s desk.

It was a reminder that Congress has the legal ability to compel the removal of US military forces, absent a formal declaration of war.

Democrats argued that US involvement in the Yemen conflict — through intelligence-sharing, logistical support, the sale of military equipment and now-discontinued aerial refueling — is unconstitutional without congressional authority.

Critics of the intervention warn that Saudi forces are likely using US weapons to commit atrocities in the four-year war.

Some 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen over the past four years, according to the World Health Organization, although rights groups say the toll could be five times higher.

Both the Saudi-led alliance and Huthi rebels have been accused of acts that could amount to war crimes, while the coalition has been blacklisted by the United Nations for killing and maiming children.

Kosovo president says EU will ‘lose a lot of substance’ after Brexit as he eyes membership

“For us in, Kosovo, we would like to see Britain in the European Union  – definitely the EU cannot be the same without Britain,” says Hashim Thaci, the country’s president. “We cannot continue to pretend that nothing has changed, nothing is happening, this is a very, very big thing.”

He stresses: “Without Britain, the European Union will lose a lot of substance. It is not a good situation, for the EU or for us in Kosovo.”

The president was speaking about these troubled times from the viewpoint of his part of the continent. He is on a rocky road to ensuring that there is not a return to the Balkan wars – a conflict of death, atrocities, mass rapes and ethnic cleansing. The violence shocked Europe, which thought such savage strife was stuff of the past.

Now the former adversaries, Serbia and Kosovo, are being urged by the west to draw a line under a simmering feud that has threatened to reignite.

The leaders of the two states – Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic – both viewed in the past as fiercely unbending nationalists, have held talks, most recently at the annual Munich Security Conference. Another round of negotiations is expected to be held in the near future.

Serbia tells citizens to avoid travel to UK because of ‘major chaos’

There is a general agreement from both sides that membership of the European Union is pivotal to achieving long-term peace and, in the case of Kosovo, joining Nato too.

“The circumstances we face in Kosovo, the only future, the only way forward, is membership of the European Union, there is no doubt about that,” maintained Thaci during a visit to London.

“As Kosovo we will do all our duties, tasks, to deserve to be a Nato member and an EU member. We want eventually to see open borders within the EU, with Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, everywhere in the region. Regarding Nato, I think we are talking about a five to 10 year time frame, or perhaps even less, to join.”

Sitting in the breakfast room of a hotel in Kensington, Thaci looks relaxed and urbane in a white and blue checked shirt and jeans. He was in combat fatigues the first time I met him, 20 years ago, drained and pale after a difficult military operation by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which he led at the time.

Britain will always remain a partner for Kosovo, whether it is a member or not. It was a key contributor to freedom and independence of Kosovo

Hashim Thaci, president of Kosovo

It was a time of ferocious fighting in Kosovo, and Nato bombing of Serbia, amid bitter recriminations between Russia and the west.

Nato’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) headed by British Major General Mike Jackson, went into Kosovo, while Moscow sent in their own military contingent. Both sides were racing to secure the airport in the capital, Pristina, and the strategic advantage that went with it.

There was a tense standoff, which I and other journalists witnessed in an evening of stormy rain, during which Jackson refused the order from his superior, the American General Wesley Clark, to block the runway to the Russians. Jackson’s response is now part of the history of the conflict: “I am not going to start the Third World War for you.”

Serbia threatens military action after Kosovo votes to create army

Jackson had his way and a potentially incendiary confrontation was averted after the dispute reached the White House and Downing Street. They backed the British General over Clark, who was the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Saceur).

The Russians landed their flights, their troops went on a few symbolic joint patrols with Nato troops, and then withdrew. General Sir Mike Jackson went on to become the head of the British Army.

Thaci had dinner with Jackson a few evenings before our meeting. “It was good to catch up and talk about old times – but also what’s going on now,” he says.

“Britain will always remain a partner for Kosovo, whether it is a member or not. It was a key contributor to freedom and independence of Kosovo and we will always be grateful for this.”

The Balkan wars led to bitter divisions within Europe, with countries taking sides as Yugoslavia was dismembered: one example of the acrimony was that early German recognition of Croatian independence was widely portrayed as payback for the support given to Germany by the Ustashe during the Second World War.

Sceptics have been saying that Trump would not care about the Balkans. In fact he has been very attentive, very supportive

Hashim Thaci

A number of EU member states – Greece, Spain, Romania and Cyprus – have yet to recognise Kosovar independence. Thaci says: “There is disunity among some EU members on some things as we know, and there is disunity over Kosovo as well. International unity would really help with the dialogue we need to achieve an agreement (with Serbia). No doubt it would speed up the process.”

Donald Trump has, rather unexpectedly, taken an interest in the issue, urging both sides to continue negotiating. “Sceptics have been saying that Trump would not care about the Balkans,” says Thaci. “In fact he has been very attentive, very supportive, but really he was following the policies of other presidents over Kosovo and the Balkans, Bush senior and junior, Clinton and Obama. Trump has sent two letters in two months, both to me and President Vucic of Serbia, with a very clear message to reach an agreement this year.”

While Thaci was leading the KLA in Kosovo, and Nato warplanes were over Serbia, Vucic was minister for information in the government of Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, railing against what he saw as victimisation of the Serbs by the west. He was also consumed by what the regime saw as “treachery within”, bringing in the draconian “Vucic law” to muzzle opposition media.

Vucic is now viewed as a man the west can do business with and has been credited with reforming Serbian politics. He is facing some internal opposition, but was seen, for a long time, as the power-broker in his country. He remains the most influential politician.Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says Albanians ‘didn’t want to compromise’ over Kosovo army

I recall a dinner Vucic, then deputy prime minister, hosted six years ago in Belgrade for a small group of journalists on a day the Serbian government fell.

He made a series of calls on his mobile phone in between courses, and, highly impressively in our view, had formed a new coalition administration by the end of the meal.

“Mr Vucic definitely has changed, mainly because he has gone through difficult times because of his own mistakes,” says Thaci. “The regime he belonged to once was evil, a regime that did a lot of harm not only to Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia, but even to Serbia itself.” 

“In 1998 and ’99, Vucic and I were in opposition. We won, he lost. Nevertheless, he is a legitimate leader, in Kosovo and Serbia, leaders that were voted by the citizens. We have all changed in a positive way, we’ve had to evolve. Now we don’t speak of war and conflict but speak of how to reach peace. There have been recent demonstrations in Serbia, and there is a danger they might scare Vucic away from reaching an agreement, but we hope not. Unfortunately, there will always be those who are opposed to peace.

“Vucic is a very difficult person to negotiate with, to have dialogue with. But I did not choose him as my counterpart, he didn’t choose me as his own counterpart, it’s the reality of these two sovereign countries.”

Will those killed by Nato in Varvarin 19 years ago ever get justice?

Thaci faces his own problems. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, set up in the Hague in 2017, is investigating allegations of war crimes against a number of senior figures in the KLA, including the Kosovar president.

Thaci insists he has nothing to fear. “As always, we will not run away, we will not shy away, we will face it and I am convinced we will overcome it with dignity and integrity,” he says.

“I am personally very proud that I was one of the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army. There will always be voices that try to denigrate Kosovo or accuse Kosovo, smear Kosovo and me personally. But this doesn’t mean that I have any hesitation on what’s our way forward and how we should proceed forward. I believe in justice. What we should not allow to happen is for the history to be rewritten.”

Of course the biggest hurdle is the past. But I think now really is our turn to reach a peace agreement

Hashim Thaci

The Kosovar president accuses the international community of double standards: “We still didn’t even see trials, convictions for the genocide in Serbia carried out in Kosovo. And for us, it is a matter of concern, this silence of the international community towards these crimes. We have had as many as 15,000 civilians killed. Up to 20,000, it’s estimated, victims of sexual violence. There were around 200 massacres against civilians in Kosovo, all around Kosovo. International justice has failed to convict those responsible for these crimes.”

But Thaci is also very aware of the burden of history in the Balkans.

“Of course the biggest hurdle is the past, ” he says. “But if we look now broadly at the region, in particular after the recent agreement between Macedonia and Greece, the main issue, I think now really is our turn, Kosovo and Serbia, to reach a peace agreement. After all, dialogue has no alternative. It’s the only solution.”

He adds: “Those of us who fought in the war need to think of a peaceful new future for the coming generations, that is important for us and for Europe.”