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Sunak claims Starmer could ‘put Brexit in peril’ – as Labour warn voters against election complacency | Politics News

The Conservatives have claimed a Labour government could “put Brexit in peril” in statements and op-eds published on the eighth anniversary of the EU referendum.

Rishi Sunak has made a series of claims about rival Sir Keir Starmer and his intentions if Labour get into government – claiming he “would recommit us to free movement of EU citizens, taking thousands more illegal migrants and binding our businesses again in Brussels red tape”.

“Keir Starmer has never believed we can succeed as a sovereign country and has tried to overturn the result time and time again,” he said. “Now he has committed to years more wrangling the EU and abandoning all our hard-won freedoms like the ability to strike more trade deals and cut more red tape.

“Make no mistake, Brexit would be in peril under Labour.”

General election: Follow the latest updates

Rishi Sunak speaking during a visit to a bathroom supply company near Rhyl, Wales.
Pic: PA
Image:
Sunak and three other Conservatives have launched Brexit-related attacks on Labour. Pic: PA

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has claimed Starmer and Labour “have never believed in Britain’s ability to forge its own path”.

“Instead of using the opportunities, Starmer wants to renegotiate the Brexit deal, taking us back to square one of being a rule-taker from Brussels,” she added.

“Only the Conservatives will continue to take the bold action required to build a secure, independent future for our country.”

What have Labour said about Brexit and the EU?

Sir Keir last month told Sky News he plans to seek “a better [Brexit] deal than the one that we’ve got” if elected in next month’s general election.

“I don’t think many people look at that deal and think it’s working very well,” he said of the current trade arrangements. “We were promised an oven-ready deal and we got something that was, frankly, half-baked.”

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‘We need a better Brexit deal’

The Labour manifesto makes one mention of Brexit. It reads: “With Labour, Britain will stay outside of the EU. But to seize the opportunities ahead, we must make Brexit work.”

“We will reset the relationship and seek to deepen ties with our European friends, neighbours and allies,” it continues. “That does not mean reopening the divisions of the past.

“There will be no return to the single market, the customs union, or freedom of movement.

“Instead, Labour will work to improve the UK’s trade and investment relationship with the EU, by tearing down unnecessary barriers to trade.”

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Meanwhile, Home Secretary James Cleverly has claimed Labour will “open the door to 100,000 illegal migrants” in a piece for the Sunday Telegraph – which a Labour spokesperson has already labelled “desperate lies from a party that has totally failed to control our borders or manage the asylum system”.

And in The Times, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has said in a new interview: “I think one of the biggest question marks over Labour is what they would do in terms of relations with the EU because it is on the record that Starmer did everything he could to frustrate a Brexit deal and to secure a second referendum.

“I was in the room with him when we were trying to negotiate an agreement between Labour and the Conservatives under Theresa [May] to secure a Brexit deal.”

Meanwhile, as polls continue to predict Labour are heading for a comfortable majority, their national campaign co-ordinator has reminded the public: “Change will only happen if you vote for it.”

Labour’s national campaign coordinator Pat McFadden wrote in the Observer: “There is a danger that the debate in this election becomes consumed by polls and specifically by the idea that the outcome is somehow pre-determined… No way is this election a done deal.

“The headlines about the clutch of MRP polls disguise a huge level of uncertainty.”

Government’s new extremism definition will ‘vilify the wrong people’, warn Muslim organisations | Politics News

The government’s proposal to redefine extremism will “vilify the wrong people” and “risk more division”, according to a coalition of Muslim organisations.

Signatories include groups which fear they may fall under the new definition, which is due to be announced as part of the government’s new counter-extremism strategy on Thursday.

CAGE International, Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), and 5Pillars say “the proposed definition signals an attack on civil liberties by attacking law-abiding individuals and groups that oppose government policy by labelling them as ‘extremist'”.

A spokesperson for the coalition added: “This new extremism definition is a solution looking for a problem.

“It attacks one of the cherished cornerstones of our pluralistic democracy – that of free speech.

“Anyone, regardless of faith or political colour should be free to criticise the government of the day without being labelled as ‘extremist'”.

This follows warnings by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, that the proposals risk “disproportionately targeting Muslim communities”.

Sky News also spoke to Shakeel Afsar, a vocal protester who has led pro-Palestinian demonstrations through the streets of Birmingham.

Shakeel Afsar3
Pic: Shak_afsar1
Image:
Mr Afsar at a protest. Pic: Shak_afsar1

Mr Afsar told Sky News: “This is only being passed to silence us and to put a zip on our mouth and say what you are saying is not acceptable, it won’t be entertained, and that’s wrong.

“This is not the democratic country that I grew up in. As far as I was aware, we had a right to speak.

“And what I’m saying is not my view. You could take a walk down streets in many areas and every single thing that we have said and done is agreed by many, many thousands of British citizens.”

Mr Afsar made headlines five years ago when a protest exclusion zone was set up around a Birmingham primary school after he led a campaign against the inclusion of LGBT literature.

He’s more recently re-emerged organising pro-Palestinian marches.

In one video, he tells the crowd: “The local police have released a statement saying we cannot say ‘from the river to the sea,’ so what do we say…”

The crowd chants back: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

He says he does not support what Hamas did on 7 October last year. However, his views and actions might still be considered extremist.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Communities Secretary Michael Gove said “when you’re saying ‘from the river to the sea’, you’re explicitly saying, ‘I want to see the end of Israel as a Jewish State’.”

Michael Gove.
Pic:No 10 Downing Street
Image:
Michael Gove. Pic: No 10 Downing Street

Responding, Mr Afsar said: “I want to see the end of the occupying force that is forcefully occupying Palestine.

“And I want to see the British establishment support the right of the Palestinians to arm themselves and defend themselves against the oppressors.”

He denies that this means the annihilation of Israel, but rather that they create “a democratic country, where they all live peacefully”.

Mr Gove said pro-Palestinian events “have been organised by extremist organisations”.

And it will be one of the challenges of this definition to decide who falls under it.

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Minister defends new definition of extremism

The current definition defines extremism as “vocal or active opposition to British values”.

However, Sky News understands the updated definition is going to include the “promotion or advancement of ideology based on hatred, intolerance or violence or undermining or overturning the rights or freedoms of others, or of undermining democracy itself”.

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Dr Alan Mendoza, from the Henry Jackson Society, told Sky News: “This definition does not ban extremism.

“What it bans is the government giving money or platforms to extremists.

“You can still have freedom of thought on this basis, but I think what is quite clear is we don’t want extremist groups to be empowered by government – we want them as far away in the margins of life as possible.”

But one group which fears it will be banned is MEND.

It opposed the government’s anti-radicalisation programme Prevent and accused them of Islamophobia. It also helps train institutions about Islamophobia.

Abdullah Saif
Pic: Andy Portch
Image:
Abdullah Saif. Pic: Andy Portch

Abdullah Saif, who represents the group in Birmingham, said: “People who engage with the Muslim community, whether it be in the hospital or the police or any other organisations, universities, they reach out to us saying, listen, you have some really good material and we’d like you to train our staff, to talk to us about these issues.

“If it does indeed come about that we are all put on some kind of list, [it] is to kind of stifle that kind of conversation.

“I think it’s an old tactic really, that if someone is against you, then you just put this label on them and then you don’t have to engage with them.”

The government says it’s trying to identify all forms of extremism, including far-right groups. But many Muslims fear this will disproportionately affect them.

Transgender children could be ‘forcibly outed’ under new proposals, charities warn | UK News

Transgender children will be “forcibly outed” under the government’s draft guidance on gender identity in schools, according to a coalition of charities.

A joint statement by a group of organisations including Mermaids, Stonewall, and Amnesty International UK, said the guidance “seeks to deny the existence of transgender pupils, discouraging them from coming out and being their authentic selves, and could lead to young people being forcibly outed to parents and teachers”.

The long-awaited draft guidance was issued in December, and offered proposals for schools and colleges in England on how best to support pupils who are questioning their gender.

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‘I socially transitioned at school’

It said “parents should not be excluded” from decisions taken by a school or college relating to requests for a child to “socially transition”, or in other words, a child who wishes to change their name, pronoun or their clothing.

‘A risk of significant harm’

Exceptions are allowed in “rare” circumstances “where involving parents would constitute a significant risk of harm to the child”.

It also said teachers and staff should “not be required” to adopt the child’s chosen pronoun, and should not have to accept all requests for social transition.

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Trans golfer on hatred after tournament win

But the charities have said the proposals will “erase decades of progress in making schools places that value difference and reject discrimination”.

They want ministers to withdraw the guidance and “rethink” their approach, and some of the signatories have published their own guide for those responding to the consultation, advising “schools and colleges should only engage with parents with the explicit consent of the child or young person in question”.

‘Lots of individual interpretation’

When the Department for Education guidance was published before Christmas, Sky News heard from schools and parents with experience of children questioning their gender at school.

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‘Pronouns are a matter of respect’

Kevin Sexton, executive headteacher at Chesterfield school in Liverpool, said the draft guidance offers a “pragmatic pathway” advising schools, though still left “lots of areas” for individual interpretation.

But one parent who we called Carrie, to protect her identity, spoke of her “scary” experience as the school her child attended changed her child’s name and pronouns without consulting her.

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Mother battles schools adopting child’s preferred gender ‘without consent’

In response to today’s statement, the department told Sky News: “All schools are expected to follow official guidance over advice from special interest campaign groups. Once the official guidance is final, we expect that schools follow it.

“This guidance will support schools in making decisions which are in the best interests of their pupils.

“Our draft guidance reflects the law, which schools have a duty to follow. It takes a parent-first approach and prioritises children’s safety and wellbeing, whilst recognising that treating children as though they are of the opposite sex can have significant psychological effects on a child.”

The guidance is currently open to public consultation until 12 March.

10,000 people a year could die as a result of heatwaves, MPs warn | UK News

Up to 10,000 people a year in the UK could die as a result of heatwaves if nothing is done, MPs have warned.

According to a report from the Environmental Audit Committee, the increased frequency of extreme heat events could also cost the economy £60bn a year.

The committee’s Conservative chair, Philip Dunne MP, urged the government to act, because “there is a lot of work that needs to be done”.

The UK Health Security Agency issued its first ever ‘level 4’ heat alert in July 2022 when 40C was recorded for the first time.

While globally, 2023 was confirmed as the hottest year on record by a significant margin.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Dunne said: “It’s here, it’s a present danger, and it’s coming at us quite quickly.

“We need a plan now.

“The longer we delay it, the more at risk we’re going to be.”

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Wildfires spotted in the Highlands

According to the Office of National Statistics, there were an estimated 4,500 heat-related deaths in 2022.

But MPs say the annual rate could rise to 10,000 by 2050 if there is no intervention.

Extreme heat increases blood pressure and heart rate, raising the risk of illness or death caused by dehydration and heatstroke.

Over-65s and those with existing conditions are most at risk, while there are impacts on mental health too.

The committee heard evidence that suicide risk in the UK is twice as high when the temperature is 32C rather than 22C.

The report recommends the Met Office should name heatwaves in the same way as storms to help raise awareness of the threats.

Climate change experts agree that public perceptions must be urgently changed.

“It’s clear that Britain still thinks of itself as a cold country that celebrates periods of heat by talking about going to the beach and eating ice cream, when in actual fact it’s an extreme weather event that leads to thousands of deaths,” Bob Ward, Policy Director at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute said.

Other recommendations include creating more parks and ‘green infrastructure’.

This is considered particularly important in urban areas, like London, which can be 8C warmer than surrounding areas.

The committee is also calling for a national strategy to retrofit homes and offices with passive cooling measures, like external shutters, to help save lives and boost productivity.

“The problems we have with heat are primarily because we have homes and offices that are not well designed for dealing with it,” Mr Ward told Sky News.

“Most people who die [in heatwaves], die in overheated homes. Most of the people who are less productive in heat are in offices that are overheating.

“There needs to be an urgent retrofit program to make our homes and offices much better at dealing with heat.”

Read more:
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UK weather: Warmest ever January temperature record rises to nearly 20C

A government spokesperson said: “We have set out a robust five-year plan to respond to the impacts of a changing climate and strengthen our national resilience – with action to improve infrastructure, promote a greener economy and safeguard food production.

“We are the first major economy to halve our emissions and have already taken steps to manage the risks of climate change – with new warning systems to alert the public to heatwaves and our Environmental Land Management schemes supporting farmers to make their land more resilient to the changing climate.”

“Nearly half of homes in England now have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C. This is up from just 14% in 2010 and we are investing billions to ensure homes and buildings are even more energy efficient.”

UK storm set to batter ‘everybody’ in ‘rare’ weather cycle – as forecasters warn of flying debris | UK News

A “very widespread” storm is forecast to hit Britain with strong winds and heavy rain as multiple amber warnings come into force, the Met Office has said.

Storm Isha, the ninth storm since September, is expected to bring winds of up to 80mph, potentially causing power cuts and increased congestion as roads and bridges are likely to be shut, while rail and bus services could face delays and cancellations.

Get the five-day forecast where you are

The Met Office has issued amber weather warnings for wind for northern and western England, Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland from Sunday evening into Monday.

Another warning comes into force across parts of Sussex and Kent from Monday morning.

Forecasters have also warned of large waves and flying debris being blown inland in coastal areas, posing a potential risk to life and damage to buildings.

Yellow warnings for rain and wind are in place for the rest of the country over the next two days, and eight flood warnings are already in place across England.

The heaviest rain is expected today, with 30mm to 50mm in many places and 80mm to 100mm in hillier areas.

Met Office forecaster Ellie Glaisyer said: “The main thing about this storm is it is very widespread across the whole of the UK.

“Quite often we see storms affecting the northwest or the southern half of the UK, whereas this one, later on Sunday and into Monday, the whole of the UK is covered by a warning, which is relatively rare.

“In that nature it’s a very widespread storm and it’s going to be affecting everybody. Heavy rain will affect everybody, those strong winds will affect everybody.

“That’s the main difference to previous storms we have seen.”

 Waves crash against the breakwater at Brighton Marina in Brighton, East Sussex. A weather warning for wind has been issued for parts of England and Wales for New Year's Eve while revellers in other parts of the UK have been urged to pack a rain jacket for the countdown. Picture date: Sunday December 31, 2023.
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Forecasters have warned of large waves and flying debris being blown inland in coastal areas. File pic

Ireland’s Met Eireann also has amber wind warnings in place today and on Monday, with a status red storm warning covering coastal areas in the north of the country.

“A status red severe weather warning is rarely issued but when it is, people in the areas expected to be affected should take action to protect themselves and/or their properties,” the forecaster says on its website.

High winds forced the Severn Bridge to close in both directions for a time overnight, but it has now reopened.

East Midlands Railway said it expected “significant disruption” on Sunday and Monday, while Police Scotland advised people to avoid unnecessary travel.

Ms Glaisyer said: “Anybody driving on Sunday evening and through Monday should be wary of water on the roads, lots of spray, perhaps some branches and trees may have fallen over causing roads to be blocked.

“There’s some large waves as well that could cause disruption to ferry services and the strong winds could cause some delays to trains and plane travel.”

Warmer weather will accompany the adverse conditions after a week of snow and sub-zero temperatures, with highs of 13C possible today.

However, Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said the strong winds, rain and clouds could overshadow the milder weather so it might not “feel quite so warm”.

Read more:
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Pictures: Snowy scenes blanket the UK

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Earlier this month: Snow coats County Durham

Mr Burkill added: “Temperatures will be on the mild side, lifting as we go through this weekend and staying mild through much of next week.

“There may be some chillier spells but I think that any frost is likely to be isolated if we see any at all.”

From Tuesday afternoon until midday on Wednesday, a yellow wind warning will be in place covering Northern Ireland, north Wales, northern England and much of Scotland.

Mansfield market: Chocolate bought at stall should not be eaten, police warn | UK News

Chocolate bought from a stall in a Nottinghamshire market should not be eaten, customers have been warned.

Nottinghamshire Police have issued a safety alert about the chocolate – which is wrapped in gold foil – at Mansfield market.

Officers have received reports of people feeling unwell after eating chocolate purchased on Saturday.

The force asked anyone who has bought the chocolate to get in touch.

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Anyone who feels unwell after eating it should seek medical attention.

Nottinghamshire Police said: “We are working with other agencies and will publish further guidance in due course.”

Police make appeal for man wanted in connection to serious assault in west London – but warn public not to approach him | UK News

Police are appealing for help to find a 23-year-old man in connection to a serious assault in west London.

Sam Gray is wanted for questioning after two people were allegedly assaulted in Uxbridge.

Metropolitan Police officers said they were called to an address on Arklay Close at around 10.40pm on Friday.

They said officers found a 19-year-old man with multiple stab wounds who was taken to hospital with “non life-changing injuries” while a 24-year-old woman sustained minor injuries but did not require hospital treatment.

Police said the suspect Sam Gray is known to the two people but he left the scene before officers arrived.

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A statement from the Met Police said: “It is believed Gray made off in a Peugeot with the registration KT13 KNW and detectives believe he may now have left the London area.

“He has links to Eastleigh in Hampshire and it is believed he may have returned to that area.”

Members of the public with any information on Mr Gray’s whereabouts are urged not to approach him but to contact police immediately.

UK emergency alert system launched to warn of life-threatening events – with test set for next month | UK News

A UK-wide emergency alert service is being launched today, ahead of a test on Sunday 23 April.

The alerts will be sent directly to mobile phones across the UK to warn people about life-threatening events such as wildfires and severe flooding, the government has said.

They will only come from the government or emergency services and will include details of the area impacted along with instructions about how to respond.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden said: “We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alerts system, to deal with a wide range of threats – from flooding to wildfires.

“It will revolutionise our ability to warn and inform people who are in immediate danger, and help us keep people safe.

“As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone can save a life.”

Successfully tested in East Suffolk and Reading, the alerts will only be sent when there is an immediate risk to life, so it may be a period of weeks, months or even years between them.

The government said that the alerts will be secure, free to receive, and will not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data.

It is already possible to sign up to have flood warnings sent directly to your mobile from the Environment Agency in England, and its equivalents in Scotland and Wales.

What will the alert look and sound like?

The alert will appear on your device and you will hear a loud siren-like sound and vibration for up to 10 seconds.

You will have to acknowledge the alert before you can use your phone’s other features.

The alert will appear as a notification and may include phone numbers or website links with further information.

You can see what they look and sound like at www.gov.uk/alerts

If you don’t want to receive the alerts you can opt out in your device settings.

Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Mark Hardingham, said: “We’ve seen this type of system in action elsewhere across the world and we look forward to having the facility here in the UK.

“By working together with fire services and partners we want this system to help us to help you be as safe as you can if a crisis does hit.”

Executive director for flood and coastal erosion risk management at the Environment Agency, Caroline Douglass, said: “Being able to communicate warnings in a timely and accurate manner during incidents is really important to help people take action to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbours.”

Strep A: Pharmacies warn of penicillin shortage as parents urged not to self-diagnose their children | UK News

A senior pharmacist says a penicillin shortage is leading to fears that some prescriptions will not be filled as seasonal sickness levels continue to rise.

Pharmacy director Zeshan Rehmani criticised the Department of Health for being “out of touch” after it mooted proposals to give antibiotics to children in schools to help fend off illnesses including Strep A – saying: “There’s no drugs. Today, we haven’t been able to get any penicillin in stock at all.”

His warning comes amid concerns some parents have been resorting to using old or out-of-date antibiotics they have found at home to treat their children.

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Ninth child dies in Strep A outbreak

That led to Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, cautioning against self-diagnosis and urging parents to talk to their GP instead.

She has warned leftover antibiotics must be returned to pharmacies as there is a risk that children could be given an incorrect dose.

Nine children in the UK are known to have died in a recent outbreak of a form of Strep A, an infection that is usually mild and treated easily with the antibiotic amoxicillin.

But an invasive form of the bacteria known as iGAS has increased this year – particularly in those under the age of 10.

Share your story about the NHS

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Schools ‘may’ get Strep A antibiotics

The National Pharmacy Association confirmed there had been a spike in demand for some antibiotics, including those used to treat Strep A infection in children.

A statement said: “Pharmacies are having to work very hard to obtain stocks of these antibiotics, and some lines are temporarily unavailable.

“We have been advised by wholesalers that most lines will be replenished soon, but we cannot say exactly when that will be.

“As always, pharmacists will continue to work with local GPs to help people get the medicines they need as promptly as possible, which may require a change of prescription.”

Mr Rehmani, whose pharmacy is in Manchester, told Sky News’ Inzamam Rashid: “When we hear stories about possibly giving antibiotics to children in schools, it just shows how out of touch the Department of Health is with on-the-ground pharmacy.”

He added: “Pharmacists across the country are thinking we haven’t got enough penicillin to fill our prescriptions, let alone handing it out to schools.”

Read more:
What is Strep A and what are the symptoms?
Strep A generally causes mild infections – why the spate of deaths now?

Inzamam Rashid piece on the growing issue of Strep A, colds, and flu in the North West of England

‘No shortage’

Health minister Maria Caulfield said a cross-party briefing had been held for MPs on Strep A, and she denied there was a shortage of antibiotics.

She said: “We want to reassure parents if their children do have symptoms, and they are concerned to seek help – GPs are ready, A&E departments are ready, and also we have directors of public health proactively going into schools where there are cases.

“There is no shortage of antibiotics we want to reassure people on that, and we’re keeping an eye on that on a daily basis.”

Dr Colin Brown, UKHSA deputy director, told Sky News there was “long-standing guidance” that enables health protection teams to assess the situation in schools and nurseries to consider antibiotic prophylaxis for “either a group of children in certain classes or an entire nursery school”.

Following the death of at least nine children across the UK, Dr Brown reiterated there was no evidence to suggest there had been a change to the circulating strains of Strep A to make them more severe.

He suggested it was a lack of mixing due to the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to the susceptibility in children that was “bringing forward the normal scarlet fever season” to this side of Christmas.

Do not approach: Police warn public to stay away from Katie Piper attacker | UK News

Police hunting the man who threw acid over television presenter Katie Piper have warned the public not to approach him – and say he may be out of the country.

Stefan Sylvestre, from Shepherd’s Bush, west London, has been recalled back to prison for breaching his licence conditions.

He had been given a life sentence in 2009 for the attack on Ms Piper and was told he must serve a minimum of six years before he would be eligible for parole.

He was released in 2018 when he was aged 30, a time Ms Piper has said was “really difficult” for her.

A Probation Service spokeswoman said on Sunday: “We are urgently working with the police to bring the offender back to prison where he’ll face longer behind bars.”

Detectives are appealing for information on his whereabouts but say inquiries so far show that he left the UK on 2 August. They have not said where he might have headed.

But the Metropolitan Police is working with partner agencies to trace him, adding that anyone who spots him should call 999 and that he “should not be approached”.

Ms Piper suffered horrific injuries in the acid attack that left her permanently scarred.

She was left fighting for her life after obsessive ex-boyfriend Daniel Lynch arranged for Sylvestre to throw the corrosive liquid in March 2008.

Lynch was jailed for life with a minimum of 16 years for sexually assaulting Piper and telling Sylvestre to throw acid on her.

In court, Lynch and Sylvestre were told by Judge Nicholas Browne QC they were “the face of pure evil”.

Anyone with information on Sylvestre’s whereabouts should speak to police immediately, quoting reference CAD6239/23Sep.