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Channel crossings in July hit highest monthly total of year so far amid reports of new deal with France | Politics News

The number of migrants crossing the Channel in July was the highest monthly of the year so far, with 3,683 making the journey in 90 boats, according to government figures.

The new total – the highest of any month in 2022 – comes amid reports Home Secretary Priti Patel will sign another multi-million pound deal with France to try to reduce the numbers.

According to the Times, the money will go towards more beach patrols and surveillance equipment, and be in addition to millions already paid to the country.

Politics Hub: Poll boost for Sunak as Truss gets more cabinet backers

It also comes a month after new laws increasing the maximum penalty for those illegally entering the UK to four years in prison, and life in prison for those piloting the boats.

The government announced its plan to send migrants who arrive illegally in the UK to Rwanda just three months ago, saying it would deter people from making the Channel crossings.

But the first flight to the country was cancelled after a last minute order from the European Court of Human Rights, and 11,131 migrants have arrived in the UK since.

More on Migrant Crossings

Ms Patel has continued to stand by the plan, saying the government would “not be deterred from doing the right thing [and] we will not be put off by the inevitable last-minute legal challenges”.

And both candidates for the Tory leadership, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, have committed to the scheme.

Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives at 10 Downing Street,
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Reports claim Priti Patel is about to sign a new deal with France to try to curb Channel crossings

But opposition parties and charities – reportedly even Prince Charles – have claimed the policy is inhumane.

Last month, court documents revealed Ms Patel was warned against pursuing the scheme, with the UK’s High Commissioner to Rwanda saying the country “has been accused of recruiting refugees to conduct armed operations in neighbouring countries”.

Rail strikes and traffic warnings deal double blow to summer getaways and weekend plans | UK News

Summer getaways and weekend plans could be severely disrupted today during a fresh round of rail strikes – with an “amber traffic warning” also in force on the roads.

The Aslef union says train drivers at seven rail companies are staging a 24-hour walkout in a dispute over pay, and there are fears millions of passengers could be disrupted.

Elsewhere, the AA is warning motorists there could be severe congestion on major routes between 11am and 3pm today – with the South of England set to be particularly vulnerable.

A number of factors are to blame – including the rail strikes, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and the start of the Football League season in England.

Drivers are being told to prepare for stop-start traffic as the weekend gets underway, and the AA’s head of road policy Jack Cousens says the congestion will be a frustration for many.

He added: “As well as taking food and water, some form of entertainment for younger passengers might just hold off a sigh and mutterings of ‘I’m bored!’ for a while.”

Roads into the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone weren’t affected by the traffic yesterday, but National Highways says this weekend is “likely to be extremely busy”.

The UK and France have now put plans in place to prevent border chaos and “maximise passenger flows”, and weekly meetings will aim to avoid additional disruption on both sides of the Channel.

Some 140,000 passengers are expected to pass through the Port of Dover between Thursday and Sunday this week, as well as 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles.

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‘We need to remove power of militant unions’

‘More uncertainty and disruption’

The Rail Delivery Group has accused the Aslef union of timing its industrial action to coincide with major sporting events.

Today’s strike is affecting Arriva Rail London, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.

Rail Delivery Group chairman Steve Montgomery said: “We’re really disappointed that the Aslef leadership has decided to impose yet more uncertainty and disruption for passengers and businesses in a week which has already seen a strike by the RMT.”

Passengers on affected routes are urged to plan ahead and check before they travel – and if trains are cancelled, travellers can change their ticket, get a refund, or use their ticket until Tuesday.

Further strikes are planned next month in the deadlocked row over pay, jobs and conditions – with Aslef’s general secretary Mick Whelan insisting industrial action is “always the last resort”.

He added: “We don’t want to inconvenience passengers, our friends and families use public transport too, and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike – but we’ve been forced into this position by the companies, who say they have been driven to this by the Tory government.”

Mr Whelan claimed that many Aslef members have not had a pay rise in three years – and with inflation “running at north of 10%”, these drivers have seen their pay fall in real terms.

“It’s not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you’re not worse off for three years in a row,” he said. “Especially as the train companies are doing very nicely, thank you, out of Britain’s railways, with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders, and big salaries for managers, and train drivers don’t want to work longer for less.”

Denial of alleged coup attempt and ex-PM’s arms deal bid revealed in declassified documents | UK News

Details of an alleged government coup attempt and a prime minister’s desperate bid for an arms deal have been revealed in a slew of freshly declassified documents.

The secretive records have been released for the first time by the National Archives in Kew.

Among them is a letter surrounding a reported plot to overthrow Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1968.

The story had enough weight to be recreated for Netflix royal drama The Crown, but correspondence from one of those accused years later described it as “nonsense” with “no foundation in fact”.

Those were the words of publishing guru Cecil King in a 1981 note to Whitehall mandarin Sir Robert Armstrong, as he dismissed claims he had conspired with Lord Mountbatten – the Duke of Edinburgh’s uncle – and Lord Cudlipp.

Mr King, chairman of the International Publishing Corporation (IPC) which counted the Daily Mirror among its titles, accused Mr Wilson of feeding the coup allegation to the press years after he was legitimately ousted by Ted Heath’s Conservatives in 1970.

The alleged coup was reported in The Times newspaper, prompting the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher to address the claims in parliament.

Decades later, it formed part of season three of The Crown.

An embittered Mr King suspected that the accusation played a part in his removal from the IPC.

“Unlike most newspaper stories this one had no foundation in fact,” he said in his letter.

(Original Caption) 1978-London, England- Margaret Thatcher, leader of the British Conservative Party, is on the threshold of becoming Britain's first woman Prime Minister. Mrs. Thatcher wears dark blue dress with white collar, background is dark.
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Margaret Thatcher was forced to address the reports

Composer loved by royals ‘sought help with illegal drug supply’

Also revealed is how a revered British composer beloved by the Royal Family secretly sought state help to supply him with illegal quantities of controlled drugs.

Sir William Walton, whose famous composition Crown Imperial was used in the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 and the Platinum Jubilee celebrations this year, was said to be “very dependent” on Ritalin, commonly used to treat ADHD.

Records show his wife, Lady Susana Walton, asked a police inspector in 1982 to help send a year’s supply to his home on the island of Ischia, near Naples, in Italy.

Sending such high volumes of the substance abroad was illegal, but his wife asked anyway because – the records suggest – she “rather lives with her head in the clouds”.

UK knew of French president’s secret health woes

Another revelation released by the National Archives is that the UK government knew the extent of ailing French president Francois Mitterrand’s ill-health a decade before his terminal prognosis was made public.

Diplomat Sir Reginald Hibber filled in Whitehall colleagues in December 1981 with “talk about the President’s health which seemed to me to carry a certain amount of conviction”.

Sir Reginald suggested Mr Mitterrand may have cancer, less than a year after he had taken office.

That proved to be correct, as Mr Mitterrand died in 1996 with prostate cancer – something he successfully concealed from the French public throughout his presidency – which ended in 1995 – and until his death.

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks to the media on the second day of the European Union heads of state and governments summit in Brussels December 15, 2006. REUTERS/Yves Herman (BELGIUM)
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Tony Blair’s bid for an arms deal with Kuwait is also detailed in the documents

Blair begged Kuwait for arms deal

According to other declassified records, Tony Blair begged Kuwait to buy UK artillery as payback for supporting the Middle Eastern nation during the Gulf War.

He repeatedly lobbied Crown Prince Sheikh Sa’ad between 1998 and 1999, even calling in on him during a brief stopover on a flight home from South Africa to press the point.

Internal briefing notes show the government believed it was “due the award of a significant defence equipment contract in recognition of its defence of Kuwait” following the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces in 1990.

The efforts did not immediately reap rewards, as Kuwait announced its intention to buy US artillery instead.