UK government accused of frightening immigrants into leaving

EU citizens in the UK are “expected to beg, bend their knee and show remorse for not knowing” about post-Brexit visa changes, Euronews was told.


Before Brexit became official on 31 January 2020, life for EU citizens living in the UK was fairly straightforward.

But everything changed after that date. 

Many people who had lived in the UK for more than 10 years and had been granted permanent residency cards were told they had no right to live there any more. 

That’s because the Home Office explained they hadn’t applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by the 30 June 2021 deadline.

Still, a large number of EU citizens say they simply weren’t aware of the change.

Following outrage from these people – and others representing them – the government said in January they may now be allowed to stay in the UK.

Changes aren’t enough

The3million is a grassroots organisation established in the UK to represent EU citizens living in the country after the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The movement told Euronews the government U-turn will likely not go far enough.

Under the government changes, those who settled in the UK before Brexit and were previously granted permanent residence cards will now be able to make a late application to the EU Settlement Scheme – yet only in some circumstances.

As Andreea Dumitrache, Communications Manager at the3million explained: “These are still very limited in scope, and a majority of late applicants are still expected to be confronted with huge barriers to get their application to be considered.”

Some 50 organisations asked the government for changes through a letter coordinated by the3million – but they think it’s too little, too late.

“We’re disappointed the Home Office still does not accept that having an EEA permanent residence card in itself is sufficient evidence for reasonable grounds for applying late,” Dumitrache told Euronews.

“People are also expected to beg, bend their knee and show remorse for not knowing. We are concerned this will lead to only people with access to legal advice to be able to get their application through,” she added.

Massimo and Dee, an Italian couple who moved to Belfast in January 2023 were victims of this apparent lack of transparency from the government since Brexit came into force.

They ran a small food outlet providing traditional Italian pizza and street food, serving the local community, but soon saw both their business account and Massimo’s current account blocked by their bank.

The restaurant owners told Euronews: “We only knew as we were trying to process a supplier payment and it didn’t go through. We contacted the bank but they wouldn’t tell us anything or advise how this could be resolved.”

Dee explained they felt “devastated, humiliated and concerned.”

Massimo in particular, “felt let down by the country he had lived in for over 20 years, where he had provided employment for many people over the years, paid his taxes and given back to the local community. We didn’t know which way to turn and received incorrect advice from several sources.”


Before discovering the3million, Dee and Massimo contacted the Home Office directly.

“They wouldn’t advise on what course of action we should take. We researched on the government websites but there was no clear guidance for people in Massimo’s situation who already held a residency card,” Dee said.

It was only after paying for an immigration lawyer that they were given any clarity and idea about what to do next.

Dee still holds a lot of anger towards the government. 

“They should have specifically mentioned that even those with a permanent residency card (with no expiration date) still needed to apply. In fact, they should have contacted holders of the card and advised them, as was the case in other countries with similar permits, such as Denmark.” 


After a great deal of stress, Dee managed to get her business account reinstated after removing her husband as a director and completing a change of mandate details.

She says it took the bank a month to sort out and now their business is “ruined” and they “won’t be in a position to reopen it.”

This kind of story is all too familiar for Andreea Dumitrache.

“It is the most vulnerable who will suffer,” she told Euronews, “vulnerable EU citizens, those living in poverty, ethnic minorities, those who are not digitally literate, can still be refused, despite living in this country for years, if they do not tick all the additional boxes.”

She is concerned that people who were aware of the need to reapply may still be in danger of losing their right to stay in the UK.


“Others will have been told by the Home Office to reapply following a previous incorrect refusal and will now be considered not to have a reasonable ground for a late application,” she said.

According to the3million, it appears as if the Home Office is working off the assumption that people will encounter a “trigger event” and find out they need to apply at an already difficult time.

“People can live in the UK for years without a trigger event making them aware they need to secure status. This was made exceedingly clear by the Windrush scandal, in which many people discovered their lack of proof of status many years after changes in policy and legislation,” Dumitrache explained.

The Home Office say they have been clear with their new policy. 

“Permanent residence documents issued under the EEA Regulations confirmed a person’s status in the UK under EU free movement rules.” they said. “We have long been clear that such documentation ceased to be valid at the end of the grace period on 30 June 2021.”


“More than two years have passed since the deadline for applying to the scheme, which was widely publicised. In line with our Citizens’ Rights Agreements commitments, we continue to accept and consider late applications from those with reasonable grounds for their delay in applying.”

Dumitrache refutes this claim, though.

“Politicians promised EU citizens would retain their rights after Brexit. This government needs to take responsibility and change this culture of disbelief in the Home Office. The most vulnerable cannot be those who suffer the burden and have their lives destroyed,” she said.

Under the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the UK must guarantee the rights of EU citizens living legally in the country before leaving the bloc. In turn, EU countries must do the same for British citizens living there.

After the scheme was closed in June 2021, the government promised they would take late applications if there were “reasonable grounds”.


In August last year, however, Rishi Sunak’s lawmakers changed the rules so a lack of awareness of the EU settlement scheme was no longer a justification for not applying.

The3million has now called on the government to take further action, saying their decisions are simply not in the spirit or substance of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

The organisation says they are not doing enough to ensure that the “reasonable grounds” promise is being upheld and are accusing them of effectively removing safeguards previously put in place for EU citizens to have full access to their rights.

While Dee and Massimo are on the way to getting back on their feet – although they are not sure they will stay in the country after the way they have been treated by the government and their bank – thousands of other EU citizens in the UK are just at the beginning of their possibly treacherous journeys.

“I struggle to think of any benefits (of Brexit),” Dee told Euronews.


“We have always striven to source foods locally and support the UK economy, customers want authentic Italian food which can only be achieved by including Italian ingredients. Brexit drove up the prices of food to such an extent that many family run businesses were forced to close their doors,” she said.

Dee, and many others, fear for the future of EU citizens’ role in the UK if the government does not make yet another U-turn.

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Europe’s Silicon Valley? No thanks

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CAMBRIDGE, England — This city wears many crowns: the fastest growing in Britain, the world’s most intensive research cluster and the university with the highest number of tech founders.

It also has Britain’s second highest level of inequality and one of the lowest amounts of rainfall of any U.K. city.

The tension between those titles has come to a head in the government’s bid to turn Cambridge into “Europe’s Silicon Valley.” Housing Secretary Michael Gove wants to build more than 150,000 new homes there by 2040, more than doubling the city’s size and triple the number local planners had earmarked for the area.

“Nowhere is the future being shaped more decisively than in Cambridge,” Gove said in a speech in December. “Its global leadership in life sciences and tech is a huge national asset. But until now… its growth has been constrained.”

He envisaged a new quarter with “beautiful Neo-classical buildings, rich parkland, concert halls and museums.” A new development corporation would be established to deliver the vision “regardless of the shifting sands of Westminster,” Gove said.

But in the face of mass house-building and water shortages; the investors, city leaders, businesses and environmentalists POLITICO spoke to for this article were skeptical of the scale of the government’s ambitions for their city.

They say they have other ideas.

Growing in a drought

The biggest obstacle to the city’s growth plans is a shortage of water. 

Plans for 9,000 homes and 300,000 square meters of research space, including a new cancer hospital, are being held up after the Environment Agency raised fears about water scarcity. Meanwhile, the area’s local water utility, Cambridge Water, is having to rework its latest management plan to account for the government’s inflated target.

The city pumps its water from underground chalk aquifers, but its rivers and streams are drying up. Levels in the River Cam have been 10 centimeters below their 2013 average for the last four summers.

“There is absolutely no point talking to us about expansion… unless you can solve the water problem,” said Cambridge Science Park director Jane Hutchins.

The science park wants to build a new campus and Hutchins said “we need to be able to accommodate growth at pace and in a timely manner, but we are all very conscious that we can’t do it at the cost of the environment.”

The Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire has expressed similar concerns.

Plans for 9,000 homes and 300,000 square meters of research space are being held up after the Environment Agency raised fears about water scarcity | Cambridge City Council

The government has put £3 million into a water scarcity group and hopes a new reservoir in the Fens will solve the problem. But that is at least ten years away. In the meantime it is looking to rainwater harvesting, reducing consumption and a new pipeline.

Gove said in December that “new steps to help manage demand for water in new developments” would come in the new year.

Investors, tech founders and university leaders told POLITICO the water supply problem can be overcome, but environmentalists see it as an existential threat.

Sitting in a rooftop restaurant above the Cam, Tony Eva, whose film Pure Clean Water examines the city’s water crisis, said: “How many times can you say we will solve the problems caused by growth with more growth?”

“The shortage of water is not a new feature, we have known [about it] for 60 to 70 years… These clever people have sat on their hands and now they are having to do something. In one sense it is too late.”

Grow your own way

Wendy Blythe, chair of the Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations, agreed.

She argues that Cambridge has had enough growth and the “goodies” should go to less affluent parts of the country. Critics of Gove’s plan point out that the minister in charge of “leveling up” is putting forward a policy that could do the opposite.

“Lots of things are happening to Cambridge to become a ‘Silicon Valley,’ and ordinary residents are paying for it,” Blythe said.

Grappling with these problems is Tabitha Goldstaub, a tech entrepreneur and executive director of Innovate Cambridge, a group set up by the university and investors to come up with a more sustainable innovation strategy.

“We’d like to be as successful [as Silicon Valley] but we don’t want to be as socially unequal,” she said.

Income inequality in Cambridge, measured as the gap between the poorest and richest residents, is the second highest in England and Wales, only behind Oxford, and it is widening.

But Goldstaub said the city had “woken up” to the challenge and that supporting local people was a key pillar of an innovation strategy which it unveiled in October.

Income inequality in Cambridge is the second highest in England and Wales | Cambridge City Council

Innovate Cambridge hopes to get the wider population behind that strategy by showing the benefits of living close to so much research, such as better cancer survival rates at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

It has also set up a community fund for founders to pledge a percentage of money they make from selling their startups in the future. 

Pro-vice-chancellor for enterprise at Cambridge University, Andy Neely, said: “We need to make it clear to people why the research and cluster is improving the quality of their lives.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities says investing in Cambridge will reduce regional inequality. A spokesperson for the department told POLITICO: “We must be ambitious and expand the city and we will only do that through sustainable development.”

We’ll think, you’ll make

On the three-minute walk from the city’s main railway station to the office of VC firm Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), you pass offices for Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. But the city is more proud of the startups which have spun out of its university.

New arrival Gerard Grech, who has joined the university to lead a program supporting tech founders, said he was astounded by the innovation in the city. “In my first week here I met someone who had sold businesses to Google, to Apple and to Microsoft. I could not believe it,” he said.

The area around the station is also where Goldstaub hopes to build a new innovation center, where she sees VCs, researchers and startups mingling and coming up with new ideas.

But despite its concentration of creativity, some say the government’s “Silicon Valley” ambitions should be spread across larger parts of the country, rather than focusing on Cambridge.

The city has recently signed a partnership with Manchester to pitch their respective tech hubs as a single cluster to investors, and Goldstaub says such deals should be “the exemplar” going forward.

Semiconductor firm Pragmatic provides a model for this type of development. The company is aiming to become the U.K.’s biggest semiconductor manufacturer, and its founders moved from Manchester to Cambridge for its talent. It is still headquartered in Cambridge, but does most of its manufacturing in Sedgefield, north-east England.

CIC was an early investor in Pragmatic, which completed a £500 million funding round this month.

Andrew Williamson, managing partner at CIC, said this was an example of “a hub and spoke” model which Cambridge excels in.

A report on the university’s economic impact suggests it is generating £30 billion of economic value in the U.K. and supporting 86,000 jobs | Cambridge City Council

“Where the model differs from Silicon Valley is Cambridge is 150,000 people… so we are tiny. What we can do here is fundamental research and the first few steps of the commercialization of that research, but we’re clearly not going to do manufacturing at scale.”

Sai Shivareddy has learned that over the last two years. He co-founded Nyobolt, which designs and manufactures super-fast chargers and batteries for EVs.

The company spun-out from the university and was valued at £300 million last year, but it has struggled to find suitable manufacturing sites in Cambridgeshire. Shivareddy said he is now looking to manufacture in north England or Scotland, as well as Asia.

Giving out the goodies

A report on the university’s economic impact suggests it is already helping the leveling up agenda by generating £30 billion of economic value in the U.K. and supporting 86,000 jobs, more than 30,000 of which are outside the east of England.

“The way the U.K. will compete with Silicon Valley is to think in large clusters,” Neely said, pointing to the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and the Manchester partnership. 

“Cambridge can play a really powerful role providing the boosters but it can’t just be Cambridge.”

Rebecca Simmons, chief operations office at Cambridge quantum firm Riverlane, agreed. “I don’t think Cambridge can do it all,” she said. “If we want to get bigger, we have to do it across the country. Particularly in the quantum world — Oxford, Bristol, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, they’ve all got good hubs mostly based around universities.”

“It’s important that we step up and connect the dots between the various cities in this country,” said Grech, who led startup incubator Tech Nation for a decade. “For me, Silicon Valley is a mindset. I think we should basically adopt its mindset and apply it everywhere.”

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Russia launches 122 missiles in one of biggest attacks on Ukraine since start of war

Russia launched 122 missiles and 36 drones against Ukrainian targets, officials said Friday, killing at least 18 civilians across the country in what an air force official said was the biggest aerial barrage of the 22-month war.

AFP reporters in Kyiv heard several powerful explosions in the early hours of Friday and saw thick black smoke billowing from a warehouse.

“We haven’t seen so much red on our monitors for a long time,” said Yuriy Ignat, a spokesman for Ukraine‘s air force, explaining that Russian forces had first launched a wave of suicide drones followed by missiles.

The Ukrainian air force intercepted 87 of the missiles and 27 of the Shahed-type drones overnight, Ukraine’s military chief Valery Zaluzhnyi said.

Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk wrote on his official Telegram channel: “The most massive aerial attack” since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

According to the Ukrainian air force, the previous biggest assault was in November 2022 when Russia launched 96 missiles against Ukraine. This year, the biggest was 81 missiles on March 9, air force records show.

“There are people killed by Russian missiles today that were launched at civilian facilities, civilian buildings,” presidential aide Andriy Yermak said.

“We are doing everything to strengthen our air shield. But the world needs to see that we need more support and strength to stop this terror,” he said on Telegram.

Two people were confirmed dead in the capital Kyiv, with more people thought to be trapped under rubble at a warehouse damaged by falling debris, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram messenger.

He also said the capital’s air defences were working intensively.

A metro station whose platforms were being used as an air raid shelter was damaged, he said.

Sergiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said a warehouse with an area of around 3,000 square metres (32,300 square feet) was burning in the northern Podil district.

“There are many wounded, the number is being clarified,” he said.

In other districts of the city, an uninhabited multistorey block of flats also caught fire and a private house was damaged, Popko said.

Maternity hospital struck

In the central Shevchenko district, a residential building was damaged and there was also a fire in a warehouse with six believed to be injured, Popko said.

Klitschko wrote on social media that there appeared to be three people still under rubble of the warehouse while three others had been rescued.

The overnight attacks came days after Ukraine struck a Russian warship in the occupied Crimean port of Feodosia in a major setback for the Russian navy.

Drones and missiles struck at least five other Ukrainian cities on Friday, including Kharkiv in the northeast, Lviv in the west, Dnipro in the east and Odesa in the south, the cities’ mayors and police said.

“So far we have counted 22 strikes in different districts of Kharkiv,” the mayor, Igor Terekhov, said on television.

“There are currently seven injured in hospital. Unfortunately one person has died.”

In Lviv, governor Maksym Kozytsky said that “one person was killed and three wounded”.

In Dnipro, the mayor, Borys Filatov, said there were injured and dead. The health ministry said that a maternity hospital in the city had been “severely damaged”.

Two people were killed in the Black Sea port city of Odesa and at least 15 were injured, including two children, as missiles hit residential buildings, the regional governor said.

Ukraine’s southern command said 14 attack drones had been destroyed in the south of the country and there were no casualties reported.

The Polish army said a Russian missile passed through Polish airspace on Friday, entering from and then back into Ukraine, as Russia pummelled Ukraine with the barrage. 

“Everything indicates that a Russian missile entered Polish airspace … It also left our airspace,” General Wieslaw Kukula, chief of the general staff of the Polish armed forces, told reporters. 

“The object arrived from the Ukrainian border,” Colonel Jacek Goryszewski, spokesman of the operational command of the armed forces, earlier told news channel TVN24. 

“There was intense shelling of Ukrainian territory at night so this incident could be linked to that.” 

He said the airspace violation occurred near the Polish border city of Zamosc. 

Crucial Western support

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday said Moscow’s latest missile strikes on Ukraine showed Russian President Vladimir “Putin will stop at nothing to achieve his aim of eradicating freedom and democracy”.

“We will not let him win. We must continue to stand with Ukraine – for as long as it takes,” he added on X, formerly Twitter.

On Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the United States for releasing the last remaining package of weapons available for Ukraine under existing authorisation, as uncertainty surrounds further aid to his war-torn country.

Zelensky had warned that any change in policy from the US – Kyiv’s main backer – could have a strong impact on the course of the war.

“I thank President Joe Biden, Congress, and the American people for the $250 million military aid package announced yesterday,” Zelensky said on social media.

In an interview published on Friday, Christian Freuding, a German general who oversees the German army’s support for Kyiv, said Russia was severely weakened but was showing greater “resilience” than Western allies had expected at the start of the war.

“We perhaps did not see, or did not want to see, that they are in a position to continue to be supplied by allies,” he told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters, AP)

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Boris Johnson apologies to pandemic victims at COVID inquiry

The former UK leader will speak at the ongoing inquiry on Wednesday and Thursday, following criticism from colleagues and the public on how he handled the pandemic.


Disgraced former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised for the “pain and the loss and the suffering” of the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom.

Speaking at the ongoing COVID inquiry in London, he added that he “understands the feelings of these victims and their families”, repeating that he is “deeply sorry”.

Adding that he remains grateful to healthcare workers and other public servants who were on the frontline during the pandemic, Johnson explained that he hopes the inquiry will get “the answers these families are rightly asking”.

Johnson acknowledged that his government was too slow to grasp the scale of the crisis, although he skirted questions over whether any of his decisions had contributed to the country’s high death toll – one of the worst across the globe.

Testifying under oath at the inquiry, Johnson acknowledged that “we underestimated the scale and the pace of the challenge” when reports of a new virus began to emerge from China in early 2020.

The “panic level was not sufficiently high,” he admitted.

Last week, the former Health Secretary told the inquiry last week that he had tried to raise the alarm inside the government.

Matt Hancock claimed that thousands of lives could have been saved by putting the country under lockdown a few weeks earlier than the eventual date of 23 March 2020.

Britain went on to have one of Europe’s longest and strictest lockdowns. With the deaths of more than 232,000 people, it comes in at close to the top of the continent’s highest death tolls

Johnson acknowledged the government had “made mistakes” but put emphasis on apparent collective failure rather than his own errors.

He claimed that ministers, civil servants and scientific advisers had failed to sound a “loud enough klaxon of alarm” about the virus.

“If we had collectively stopped to think about the mathematical implications of some of the forecasts that were being made… we might have operated differently,” Johnson said.

Grilled by inquiry lawyer Hugo Keith, he acknowledged that he did not attend any of the government’s five Cobra crisis meetings on the new virus in February 2020. He admitted to looking only “once or twice” meeting minutes from the government’s scientific advisory group.

Johnson also claimed he had relied on “distilled” advice from his science and medicine advisers.

His testimony was interrupted as four people stood up in court as he spoke, holding signs saying: “The dead can’t hear your apologies,” before being escorted out by security staff.

Following their removal, he admitted his government had made mistakes.

“Inevitably, in the course of trying to handle a very, very difficult pandemic in which we had to balance appalling harms on either side of the decision, we may have made mistakes,” Johnson said, adding “Inevitably, we got some things wrong”.

He did assert, however, “I think we were doing our best at the time.”


The former prime minister had arrived at the inquiry venue at daybreak, several hours before he was due to take the stand, avoiding a protest by relatives of some of those who died after contracting the virus.

A group gathered outside the office building where the inquiry was set, some holding pictures of their loved ones. A banner declared: “Let the bodies pile high” – a statement attributed to Johnson by an aide. Another sign read: “Johnson partied while people died.”

Johnson agreed in late 2021 to hold a public inquiry after heavy pressure from bereaved families. The probe, led by retired Judge Heather Hallett, is expected to take three years to complete, though interim reports will be issued starting next year.

Johnson has submitted a written evidence statement to the inquiry but has not handed over some 5,000 WhatsApp messages from several key weeks between February and June 2020. They were on a phone Johnson was told to stop using when it emerged that the number had been publicly available online for years. Johnson later said he’d forgotten the password to unlock it.

At the inquiry on Wednesday, he reiterated: “Can I, for the avoidance of doubt, make it absolutely clear I haven’t removed any WhatsApps from my phone?”.


Wednesday marks the first day he’s expected to be questioned by the Inquiry. He will also face them on Thursday. 

The controversial leader, who resigned his post last June, will be grilled over his handling of the pandemic – as well as his government’s response.

The inquiry has so far heard and seen clear evidence of disarray inside Johnson’s cabinet, especially during the early weeks of the outbreak.

There has been public outcry, too, over lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street which Johnson long denied even happened. 

Senior officials got drunk and partied during these events, while the country was in full lockdown, with some people unable to say goodbye to dying loved ones. 


Earlier this year, a Parliament committee found that he had repeatedly and deliberately lied about breaking COVID lockdown rules.

In a damning 30,000-word paper, the body said his denials were “so disingenuous that they were deliberate attempts to mislead the Committee”, also referring to the “frequency with which he closed his mind to the truth.”

As a result, he stepped down with immediate effect as an MP and Johnson, his wife Carrie and now Prime Minister – then Chancellor – Rishi Sunak among more than 100 staff fined by police.

At the COVID Inquiry, Johnson is likely to be asked to explain why he initially tried to play down the threat posed by the deadly virus. He’ll also face questions over whether he failed to chair Cobra meetings coordinating the government’s response early on in the pandemic.

The Inquiry has already heard several pieces of damning evidence against the former PM.


One particularly condemnatory example came from chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance. In a diary entry written on 19 September 2020, he wrote: ”[Johnson] is all over the place and so completely inconsistent. You can see why it was so difficult to get agreement to lock down the first time.”

Speaking in front of the Inquiry panel in November, Vallance also claimed that Johnson had been “bamboozled” by the myriad scientific evidence about the pandemic.

Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser, had similar criticisms.

In written evidence presented to the inquiry, he claimed that, at the start of 2020, Johnson was distracted by “financial problems”, his divorce and pressure from his then-girlfriend Carrie wanted to “finalise the announcement of their engagement”.

Early that year, Lee Cain, Johnson’s former director of communications sent a message to Cummings asserting that the PM “doesn’t think [COVID] is a big deal and he doesn’t think anything can be done and his focus is elsewhere”.


“He thinks it’ll be like swine flu and he thinks his main danger is taking the economy into a slump,” Cain added.

Rishi Sunak is also expected to give evidence later in December.

The inquiry will not find any individual guilty of a crime. It aims to take lessons away from how the crisis was handled and how the UK could put in place preparation for a similar event in the future.

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UK’s 2022 migration levels revised to a record-breaking high

The figures will likely be an embarrassment for Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government who consistently pledge to bring the levels down.


Net migration in the United Kingdom hit a record-breaking 745,000 in 2022, according to revised figures which also revealed some 672,000 people came to the UK in the 12 months to June 2023.

The numbers released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had previously been put at 606,000, which was deemed then to be a record high.

It’s a significant embarrassment for the country’s Conservative government, who have continuously insisted that it remains committed to reducing migration.

Led by Rishi Sunak, the party has already introduced measures to try to reduce the figure.

Among their initiatives was a plan to stop international students bringing their families with them when they study in the UK – except under very specific circumstances.

Even more controversially, Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court earlier in November.

It was part of his attempt to stop small boats crossing the English Channel and a policy supported by many, including the New Conservatives group on the right of the party.

They have repeatedly called for ministers to close temporary visa schemes for care workers and to cap the number of refugees resettling in the UK at 20,000 – with the aim of reducing net migration to 226,000 by the time of the election, which is likely to be held next year.

It is now certain that these efforts have not come to fruition for the Conservatives as they had hoped.

The ONS release of the statistic – some 140,000 higher than first thought – has caused criticism from all parts of the political spectrum.

The Conservatives themselves have hit out at the numbers – with former cabinet minister Simon Clarke saying having legal migration at such a level was “unsustainable both economically and socially”.

MP Jonathan Gullis went one step further, calling the figures “completely unacceptable to the majority of the British people”, and suggesting that “drastic action” is needed.

The newly-installed Home Secretary James Cleverly has all but dismissed the figures – and the impact they’re likely to have – instead insisting that the government remained “completely committed to reducing levels of legal migration” and would also be “focusing relentlessly” on tackling illegal migration.

On the other side of the political fence, the Labour Party have been using the findings as a way to attack the Conservatives and their apparent failures.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, says she and the party believe the statistics show “the scale of utter Tory failure on immigration, asylum, and the economy”.

It’s an interesting time for Sunak’s government – and its newest, surprise hire David Cameron.

In 2010, the then-prime minister – who is now Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron – pledged to bring net migration down to the “tens of thousands”.

Successive Tory governments have sought to move away from exact targets for reasons exactly like we are seeing now.


Sunak is under increasing pressure from the right of his party to reduce net migration, especially in light of the 2019 Tory manifesto – when Boris Johnson was in charge. It promised to bring the “overall number down”.

Home Secretary James Cleverly insists that he and the cabinet are “working across government on further measures to prevent exploitation and manipulation of our visa system, including clamping down on those that take advantage of the flexibility of the immigration system”.

Do the figures work both ways?

According to the ONS, most people arriving in the UK in the year to June 2023 were non-EU nationals.

They made up a total of 968,000 immigrants, followed by 129,000 EU citizens.

At the same time, both EU nationals and Britons were leaving the country in greater numbers.


Some 10,000 more EU nationals left than arrived in the UK and 86,000 more British nationals were seen to be leaving than arriving.

The net figure for non-EU people overall, though, was 768,000 more arriving than leaving.

Work was discovered to be the largest reason people from outside the EU migrated to the UK.

That figure was at 278,000 – and the first time employment was the most popular reason.

Against the Conservatives’ wishes, more foreign students were seen to be staying for longer – and bringing dependents or family members with them.


For those coming to the UK out of desperation, the number remained relatively stable.

Around 88,000 people were granted asylum, up from 73,000 in the year to June 2022 – when ongoing COVID-19 restrictions were still having more of an impact.

The ONS suggests that net migration has “increased sharply” since 2021 due to a rise in immigration from non-EU countries.

They include thousands of individuals arriving via humanitarian routes from the likes of Ukraine and Hong Kong.

The ONS figures show that the asylum backlog has fallen slightly.


At the end of June 2023, there were 175,457 people waiting for a decision on their asylum claim; that number dropped to 165,411 by the end of September.

But, that’s not as positive as it might seem, Sile Reynolds, Head of Asylum Advocacy at Freedom from Torture tells Euronews.

“The UK Government’s own data on asylum disproves the toxic and divisive narrative that has guided its punitive approach to refugees. These statistics leave no doubt that most people reaching our shores need sanctuary – men, women and children who have fled the most unimaginable horrors like torture and war, in places like Afghanistan, Syria and Iran,” Reynolds explains.

The charity also hit out at the government’s treatment of so-called “legacy backlog” cases.

They are, in simple terms, claims made before the end of June 2022, which are being cleared by the Conservatives at significant speed, with 28,202 cases taken care of in the last three months.


“The phenomenal rate at which ‘legacy’ claims are being decided – at nearly 8,000 per month – demonstrates what they can do when they want to deal with a problem”, Reynolds tells Euronews.

“This data disguises the catastrophic backlog of new asylum claims growing as a direct result of a flawed policy of deterrence. As a result, thousands of refugees, including survivors of torture, are condemned to languish in limbo and unsafe accommodation, unable to recover or rebuild their lives,” he adds.

All change for asylum rules?

Sunak’s Rwanda policy was targeted at people arriving in the UK by ‘unauthorised means’, including frequent Channel crossings.

They would have been deported to the African nation and made to claim asylum there and not in the UK.

In its landmark ruling, though, the Supreme Court said that those sent to Rwanda would be at “real risk” of being sent back to their country of origin regardless of whether their asylum claim was justified or not.


That, they say, is something which would breach international laws on human rights.

Sunak called the ruling “frustrating” and promised to double down on the policy, saying he would “change laws and revisit… international relationships”.

That is not a popular plan with many.

“These statistics show that cruel deterrents, like the Rwanda plan so recently declared unlawful by the highest court in the land, will not stop people risking their lives trying to reach sanctuary here in the UK,” Reynolds says, adding, “Rather than punishing refugees, this Government should reverse the cruel asylum ban, urgently refocus their efforts into rebuilding a fair and compassionate asylum system and restore and expand safe routes to protection.”

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Britain’s COVID-19 inquiry exposes the rot at the heart of Whitehall

LONDON — Everyone knew the British state had problems. This week revealed just how deep the rot goes.

Britain’s public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic stepped up a gear this week, with a procession of key witnesses taking the stand who were at the heart of the U.K. government in 2020.

The punchy oral testimony — and sweary WhatsApp messages — of Dominic Cummings, the former No. 10 Downing Street adviser turned arch enemy of Boris Johnson, grabbed all the headlines, as he attacked his old boss while struggling to account for his own crude and abusive language.

But it was Cummings’ long, incisive written statement to the inquiry, along with the testimony of a former top civil servant, Helen MacNamara, which contained the starkest home truths for the British state.

“I think we are absolutely fucked. I think the country is heading for a disaster. I think we are going to kill thousands,” MacNamara was revealed to have told colleagues in March 2020, as coronavirus began to grip the U.K.

Those words, from the-then second most powerful civil servant in the country, came as she and other senior officials abruptly realized the U.K. government had no real plan to deal with a global pandemic of that nature — despite years of confident reassurances to the contrary.

“I have just been talking to the [U.K. government] official Mark Sweeney, who is in charge of coordinating with the Department for Health,” MacNamara recalled saying. “He said — ‘I have been told for years that there is a whole plan for this. There is no plan.’ We are in huge trouble.”

What followed that dawning realization was an intense period of chaos, as ministers and officials grappled with never-before-considered questions such as whether to ban people from meeting their loved ones, and whether to place Britain into a strict lockdown.

Fingers are now being pointed at both individuals and wider systems for all that went wrong.

The blame game

Unsurprisingly, Britain’s ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken his fair share of criticism this week.

“It was the wrong crisis for this prime minister’s skillset,” Lee Cain, Johnson’s former director of communications, said in his evidence Tuesday. Others were less diplomatic — including Cain himself, in private WhatsApp messages handed to the inquiry by ex-colleagues.

In one such WhatsApp exchange, Cummings and Cain — old friends from the 2016 ‘Vote Leave’ campaign — detailed how they found Johnson “exhausting” to work with due to his lurches back and forth on key policy decisions.

“Pretty much everyone calls him ‘the trolley’,” Cummings told the inquiry, referring to a disparaging nickname he invented for Johnson due to the ex-PM’s inability to hold a clear line.

But beyond the Boris-bashing, Cummings and other ex-officials focused their ire on the broader state of Britain’s governing systems, rather than bungling individuals at its centre.

Cummings described the all-important Cabinet Office department — responsible for organizing the business of government and linking different departments together — as a “bombsite” and a “dumpster fire,” with a “huge problem of quality control … inconsistent data, inconsistent facts.”

This disorganization had consequences.

On March 16, 2020, Cummings said he received an email from a senior official warning that the Cabinet Office had yet to see any real plans for the pandemic from government departments — “never mind evaluated and fixed them,” he said. The virus had been in the U.K. for almost three months.

“[The Cabinet Office] cannot drive priorities or fix problems with departments,” Cummings wrote.

What became clear over the course of this week was that the British government was slow to take the virus seriously in early 2020 and even slower at figuring out a coherent and consistent plan to deal with it, jumping back and forth between early efforts aimed at pursuing herd immunity — until it became clear such an approach would be catastrophic.

“There are many signs that the way the Cabinet Office works was extremely ill-suited to this crisis,” Giles Wilkes, a former No. 10 adviser and senior fellow at the Institute for Government think tank, told POLITICO.

“It is very good for bringing together the people needed to avoid rows blowing up the government. In our system that is really valuable. But from [Cummings’] very compelling account, it was not brilliantly set up to be the body that focusses the PM and his power on a rapidly changing, dangerous situation,” Wilkes added.

‘Toxic’ culture

MacNamara, second in command in the Cabinet Office at the time, drew similarly damning conclusions.

She described how the British government “moved up the gears more slowly than the pace of the crisis,” and remained fixated on standard day-to-day government business as the pandemic began to rage.

She also lambasted the culture at the heart of government — arguing a “macho” and “toxic” environment fostered by a largely male leadership team hampered the broader response.

She said female experts were ignored, and senior women in government “looked over.” She pointed to a lack of consideration of childcare during school closures, and of the impact of lockdown restrictions upon victims of domestic violence, as examples of policy areas that suffered due to a lack of a “female perspective” inside government.

One result of that toxic environment saw MacNamara herself targeted by Cummings with misogynistic language in a WhatsApp message to a colleague revealed by the inquiry. She said she was “disappointed” Johnson didn’t do more to keep his top adviser in check.

Britain’s current top brass are pushing back, at least a little. Speaking Thursday, U.K. Science Secretary Michelle Donelan insisted she did not recognize MacNamara’s account of the culture inside government.

Coming attractions

Cummings has argued — including in multiple tweets since his evidence session ended — that observers should focus on his arguments about the broader failures of the system.

But it is the failings of one particular individual, Johnson, who was ultimately responsible for directing the government, which will continue to be scrutinized in the months ahead.

“If the PM at the heart of this is not a functional entity, cannot make a decision, has fundamentally poor judgment or lack of attention, then it doesn’t matter if the system around him is brilliant or rubbish. Things will go awry when they reach his desk,” Wilkes told POLITICO.

“The central role of the PM, and his rubbishness, cannot be evaded.”

Johnson’s former Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also come under intense fire this week, for his role in the lack of apparent planning for a pandemic, his handling of testing targets, and the crisis in British care homes as COVID-19 hit.

Both MacNamara and Cummings accused Hancock of telling falsehoods during the pandemic — or, in MacNamara’s case, she agreed he had a habit of “regularly telling people things that they later discovered weren’t true.”

Johnson’s successor-but-one as prime minister, Rishi Sunak — who was U.K. chancellor during the pandemic — also has questions to answer. He will likely face particular scrutiny for his now-infamous “eat out to help out” scheme — a government-sponsored discount to encourage diners back into restaurants in the summer of 2020 — which some medical experts believe helped spread the virus.

Conveniently enough, all three men — Johnson, Sunak and Hancock — are slated to appear before the inquiry in the same week at the end of November, two people with knowledge of the inquiry told POLITICO.

All of Westminster is holding its breath.

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Happy Rishiversary! Highs and lows of Rishi Sunak’s first year in power

LONDON — Happy anniversary to one of the UK’s most talked-about couples: No. 10 Downing Street and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

It’s been a tumultuous love affair, with a will-they-won’t-they start — and enough bumps in the road to keep a local pothole repair team busy.

As Sunak tries to restore the reputation of his governing Tories — still languishing in the polls ahead of an expected election next year — POLITICO takes a trip down memory lane with a month-by-month rundown of some of the key highlights. Buckle up!

October 2022

It finally happened. After one failed leadership run — in which he lost to Liz Truss and, in a way, to a lettuce — Sunak was elected the new leader of the Conservatives on October 24, 2022.

A day later he became prime minister, and vowed his government would be marked by “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.” That was in no way a massive sub-tweet of Boris Johnson.

Sunak’s first port of call was to pick his cabinet. He took a slow and steady approach, which No. 10 insisted was “not indecisiveness” — even as some MPs, accustomed to the adrenalin of the Truss and Johnson administrations, found the wait tedious. Sunak’s first few days seemed to mark him out as a PM in control.

Success rating: 9/10. Congrats, Rishi!

November 2022 

November saw a scrap about the COP climate summit. Having initially said he wouldn’t attend the COP27 bash, Sunak caved and traveled to Egypt for the conference on November 7, insisting he absolutely loved the planet.

Later in the month, Sunak had the fun task of creating a new government budget with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, seeking to right the economic ship after the drama of Truss’ brief spell in office.

The cheery document, billed in some quarters as Austerity 2.0 but actually delaying a lot of pain until after the next general election, unveiled a £55 billion package of tax increases and spending cuts, an attempt to ensure that Britain’s economic downturn was “shallower, and hurts people less,” according to Hunt. Something for the bumper sticker!

Its key measures indeed survived contact with the House of Commons and, crucially, didn’t spook the markets.

Success rating: 7/10. COP kerfuffle notwithstanding, Sunak and Hunt could breathe a sigh of relief for a whole eight seconds.

December 2022

Calling it a “winter of discontent” would be lazy plagiarism. So let’s go with “winter of discontent 2.0.”

A whopping 843,000 working days were lost in December to strikes, according to Britain’s statistics authority — the highest since those revolutionary days of November 2011.

With nurses, train drivers, and postal workers all downing tools (or mail?) throughout December, Sunak had a huge problem on his hands, and it didn’t get sorted until some time later. Despite the British love of moaning about train delays, the public largely supported the striking workers — especially the nurses.

Success rating: 3/10. ‘Tis the season of goodwill.

January 2023 

It was a month of ups and downs for Sunak, who gave some … mixed messages on following the rules.

Sunak swiftly fired his embattled Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi after an independent probe found that Zahawi had not been sufficiently transparent about his private dealings with Britain’s tax authorities.

In a letter to Zahawi confirming his sacking, Sunak reminded us all he had vowed to put “integrity, professionalism, and accountability at every level” of his administration.

This is the same dude who started the month by … getting fined by police for not wearing a seatbelt.

Success rating: 5/10. Big boys wear their seatbelts. 

February 2023 

Sunak seemed strapped in this month, and it ended up being a pretty good one for the prime minister, who finally managed to reach a deal with the EU over contentious post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland.

Sounding like a proud father at a press conference in Windsor, Sunak said Britain and the EU “may have had our differences in the past, but we are allies, trading partners and friends,” and hailed “a new chapter in our relationship.” A promised rebellion by allies of Sunak’s old nemesis Boris Johnson later came to nothing, which definitely didn’t provide Sunak with a good old chuckle.

Success rating: 10/10. Sunak managed the previously unthinkable: moving post-Brexit policy forward without loads of kicking and screaming from the Conservative Party. Plenty of time for that later!

March 2023 

March saw the U.K. build on its much-heralded AUKUS pact with Australia and the U.S., with Sunak joining President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a submarine base in California to hail a new defense mega-deal between the three nations. It marked another win for Sunak’s plan to repair Britain’s battered image abroad and create jobs along the way.

Closer to home, however, the PM had some proper first-world problems brewing.

As voters grappled with ever-rising energy costs, the Guardian revealed that the mega-rich leader’s swimming pool in his Yorkshire home used so much energy that the local electricity grid had to be upgraded.

Such everyman woes provided a great backdrop for another government budget. Chancellor Hunt had them cheering from the rafters across the U.K. as he declared that the country would duck a technical recession this year.

Plans to help with the eye-watering cost of childcare and address Britain’s sluggish economic growth also featured prominently in another fiscal statement that may not have shifted many votes, but came off without major drama.

Success rating: Big deal and a big budget. Rishi, go have a swim to cool off. 7/10.

April 2023 

April was — whisper it – a pretty quiet month, no small feat in British politics.

There was the small matter of an investigation being launched into a potential breach of the MP code of conduct by Sunak. It would be a whole four months, however, before that probe found he had indeed broken the rules, but only as a result of “confusion.” We’ve all been there.

Success rating: 5/10. A holding-pattern month.

May 2023

In May, Rishi faced his first big electoral test as prime minister: local elections. He didn’t do well, with the Conservatives losing over 1,000 seats, and both Labour and the Liberal Democrats making big gains.

Success rating: 2/10. Blame the voters!

June 2023

Still, nothing proves you’re confronting your problems at home like … heading to the other side of the Atlantic for a big visit to America. Sunak got his global mojo back on a trip that saw an unlikely bromance blossom between Sunak and Biden.

Biden pronounced the special relationship “in real good shape” — and even got Sunak’s name right this time (if not his job title.)

The rest of Sunak’s month was dominated by an angry row with Boris Johnson, who quit in a huff alongside a few allies after a damning report on his conduct in the Partygate affair. The row revealed how few acolytes Johnson still had in the parliament, and arguably strengthened Sunak’s position as the only game in town.

Success rating: 9/10. If it doesn’t work out here, Sunak could always make it big stateside.

July 2023

You can always count on a by-election or two to spice things up, and these were a mixed bag for Sunak. The prime minister’s Tories got a thumping in fights for the parliamentary seats of Selby and Ainsty, and Somerton and Frome.

There was one glimmer of hope, however: A narrow and unexpected win in Uxbridge, Johnson’s now-vacant seat, showed Team Sunak that targeted campaigning against environmental policies seen by some as overbearing could pay off.

Also in June, Sunak made a bold pay offer to striking public sector workers, and helped ease industrial tensions.

Success rating: 6/10. Few expected the Uxbridge result, even if Sunak’s fortunes elsewhere looked dicey.

August 2023

August saw grim headlines on what the government had billed as “small boats week” — a chance to show off all the hard work Sunak’s government was doing to stop asylum seekers crossing the English Channel in unsafe vessels.

As the week unfolded, disaster struck one element of the government’s tough asylum policy. A plan to move migrants onto the controversial Bibby Stockholm barge instead of putting them up in expensive hotel accommodation was derailed by concerns about legionella bacteria in the water supply. It was a PR headache for a government that hardly needed one.

On the brighter side, Sunak carried out a smooth and limited government reshuffle without anybody calling him mean names.

Success rating: 4/10. Nobody had “legionella” on the comms grid.

September 2023 

Mr. Brexit Fix-it returned in September as a deal struck by Sunak ensured the U.K. successfully rejoined the EU’s Horizon multibillion-euro science funding scheme. It was another piece of unfinished Brexit business resolved, to the delight of top scientists and other massive nerds.

Sunak also seemed to land on a clear domestic dividing line in September. In a hastily-arranged Downing Street speech after his plans leaked, Sunak took a big red pen to parts of the government’s climate agenda, announcing a slowing of several key U.K. green policies.

A fierce backlash ensued from business groups, climate activists and some members of Sunak’s own Conservative Party.

But the PM’s supporters saw it as the first time Sunak had drawn bold lines in the sand ahead of the election, gambling that tapping into anxiety among motorists could see the Uxbridge trick repeated.

Success rating: 5/10. Nice Horizon deal, shame about the planet!

October 2023

The Conservative Party conference was dominated by … Liz Truss and trains.

Yep, the star of last year’s show made a triumphant comeback on the conference fringes, where she was greeted like a returning hero and urged Sunak to push for economic growth. Truss — plus Brexiteer-in-chief Nigel Farage, who swanned around the place — showed just how fractious the Tories remain, with plenty of Conservative leadership wannabes flaunting their wares.

The conference meanwhile saw endless speculation about whether Sunak would cancel a key part of a major high-speed rail link, an announcement he saved for his big speech at the close, a treat to the North of England, which famously hates useful transport links.

October would get grimmer still for Sunak, as two more by-election defeats suggested Labour really is on the comeback trail. There’s always November!

Success rating: 4/10. A month of Labour gains, trains and Nigel-mobiles.

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Explained | What is the row over UK’s Rosebank oil field?

The story so far: Angering enivronmental activists across United Kingdom (U.K), the British government okayed one of the country’s biggest new oil and gas projects —the North Sea Rosebank field— on September 27. The Rishi Sunak government claims that the project was essential for securing the nation’s energy demands.

The move comes mere days after UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a delay in the ban on sales of new petrol cars from 2030 to 2035, claiming that he needed the public’s support in switching to net zero (carbon emissions). Mr. Sunak claims that Britain could afford to make slower progress in net zero emissions by 2050 as it was ‘so far ahead of every other country in the world’. The watering down of Britain climate action has triggered fears of other European nations following suit.

Mr. Sunak has stood firm by his decision to green light Rosebank, stating that it was a necessary domestic source of fossil fuel and that Britain would still be dependent on oil and gas as one of its fuel sources by 2050. His Energy Security Minister Claire Coutinho has stated that Rosebank will produce less emissions as it would eventually electrify the oil extraction process.

What is the Rosebank field project?

Located 130 kilometres north-west of Shetland islands, the Rosebank oil field was first discovered in 2004 by Chevron. While oil reserve capacity was demonstrated in 2019, the field has remained untapped till now. In 2019, Norwegian oil company Equinor acquired the licences for the project from Chevron. Known for tackling challenging deepwater untapped reserves, this joint venture by Equinor (80%) and British oil honcho Ithaca (20%) will drill for oil at a depth of 1100 metres under water. The project will be developed in two phases, with the first oil extraction scheduled for 2026.

Map of Rosebank oil field

Estimated to pump 300 million barrels of oil, the Rosebank field will comprise of 8% of UK’s total oil production and is estimated to generate 1,600 jobs during construction and 450 UK-based jobs throughout its lifetime — till 2051. Equinor estimates that the project investment will amount to £8.1 billion, of which £3.1 billion has already been invested in the first phase.

The project will reuse a Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel (FPSO) previously owned by Altera Infrastructure. An FPSO is a ship-like structure which receives fluids through risers from subsea reservoirs and then separates them into crude oil, natural gas, water and impurities. In order to reduce carbon emissions, the FPSO will be prepared for future electrification, cutting down the upstream carbon dioxide (CO2) intensity from 12kg/boe (barrels of oil equivalent) to less than 3 kg/boe.

The Norwegian oil producer had first submitted its environmental proposal in August 2022, which was open for public consultation till September 2022. While initially questioning Equinor about the environmental impact of the project, the North Sea Transition Authority — UK’s oil and gas regulator— okayed the project after considering the project’s net zero action throughout its lifetime. After Equinor made a final investment decision, the Sunak government okayed the project on September 27, 2023, despite protests by climate activists.

The floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) unit for Rosebank, Petrojarl Knarr

The floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) unit for Rosebank, Petrojarl Knarr

Conservatives, Labour & Scotland: Where do they stand on Rosebank?

Throwing his weight behind Rosebank, Mr. Sunak highlighted how important the North Sea oilfield was for UK’s energy security and economy. In an interview with BBC Scotland, he said, “I don’t want our children to be dependent on foreign dictators like Putin for our energy”.

He added that while UK will switch to clean energy, he would prefer to use gas from domestic sources during the transition rather than “import [gas] from abroad at four times the carbon emissions.” The UK government has stated that if investment in new North Sea oil projects is stopped, the nation’s fuel imports will increase by 10% by 2035.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves the stage after delivers a speech during a press conference on net zero targets, at the Downing Street Briefing Room, in central London, on September 20, 2023.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves the stage after delivers a speech during a press conference on net zero targets, at the Downing Street Briefing Room, in central London, on September 20, 2023.
| Photo Credit:

Surprisingly, the Labour party, which opposes development in the North Sea, has said it will not reverse the approval to develop Rosebank if it wins the general election in 2025. Its leader Mr. Keir Starmer said that the party would accept the projects it inherits from this government to ensure stability, if it comes to power in 2025. His remarks were met by protests by Labour supporters outside shadow cabinet members’ offices.

Pulling up the Sunak government for reversing its net zero policies, Ed Miliband, the shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security said that the Labour party will tackle cost of living crisis and the climate crisis in tandem. Claiming that Conservatives lacked a vision for future economic growth, Mr. Miliband asserted that the only way to bring down household bills and secure UK’s economic future was by switching to green energy.

Criticising Mr. Sunak, Scotland’s first Minister Humza Yousaf claimed that Downing Street was in ‘climate denial.’ Taking to the microblogging site X (formerly Twitter), Mr. Yousaf pointed out that as Equinor planned to sell Rosebank’s oil at global prices, the fuel extracted from the site would not remain in Scotland or UK. He also slammed the UK government’s decision to commit to approving 100 new oil & gas licences, posting, “That isn’t climate leadership. It is climate denial.”

Why are climate activists opposing Rosebank?

Climate activists have already been seething over Mr. Sunak’s decision to water down the UK’s climate goals. Activists say that by pushing the ban on new petrol and diesel cars to 2035 and easing transition of home gas boilers to heat pumps, the UK will not be able to achieve its legally-binding 2050 net zero target. By estimations, Rosebank’s carbon emissions will be three times that of the nearby Cambo oil field — approximately 200 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to operating 56 coal-fired power stations for one year.

Activists stage a protest against Rosebank outside a government Office in Edinburgh

Activists stage a protest against Rosebank outside a government Office in Edinburgh

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has indicatedthat for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, no new oil and gas projects can be developed. The IEA has also estimated that demand for fossil fuels will fall by 80% by 2050 as more and more people switch to electric cars and solar panels. Hence, big oil fields like Rosebank are unnecessary for meeting energy demands, says the IEA.

Several British lawmakers have pointed out that Rosebank will not aid in bringing down household electric bills as most of the oil extracted (90%) will be sold to the global market across Europe. Equinor, meanwhile, has stated that its oil will be transported via the West of Shetland pipeline to support Europe’s ‘energy security.’ This will ultimately end up in the UK grid, securing the nation’s energy needs, the company avers.

What are the ecological effects?

The North Sea’s Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt is host to deep sea sponges, a variety of clams and quahogs, already subject to a fragile ecosystem. In a protest held in January outside Downing Street, activists displayed a four-metre whale model — emphasizing the havoc oil pipelines will create when laid underwater along the migration corridor of the fin whale and the sperm whale.

During construction, noise pollution and sediment plumes would likely disrupt habitats of shellfish, marine mammals and cephalopods. Drilling may also harm delicate marine creatures like sponges, corals and slow-moving mammals. The biggest threat to marine life, however, is a deep-sea oil spill which would spread faster due to sea currents, damaging fauna like multiple species of fish, dolphins, orcas, and birds and disrupting the food chain in the area.

Windfall tax & oil incentives

Activists have also claimed that the UK tax-payers will hand over £3.75 billion to Equinor via tax breaks awarded to them by the government, just to develop Rosebank field for oil extraction. They further claim that once the plant is operational, the tax-payers are set to lose more than £750 million as Equinor will reap benefits from future tax breaks and profits earned in its oil sale.

Equinor’s Mariner field in the UK North Sea

Equinor’s Mariner field in the UK North Sea

However, Equinor and the UK government refuted any tax benefit for the oil company due to Rosefield. In the wake of the massive profits earned by oil companies during the initial days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UK levied a 35% windfall tax called the Energy Profits Levy beyond the 40% corporation tax already imposed on oil and gas firms. Currently, oil companies like Equinor and Ithaca pay a 75% tax on their UK profits until 2028.

On the other hand, on June 9, 2023, the UK government announced the Energy Security Investment Mechanism which will go into effect post-March 2028. Under this scheme, if oil prices fall to normal levels (pre-Ukraine invasion rates) for a sustained period, then the tax for oil companies will return to 40%. The move is aimed attract investment in UK’s domestic oil fields — especially the North Sea region.

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Morning Digest | 10 civilians dead, 22 army men still missing in Sikkim, rescue operations on; Media bodies write to CJI, call for norms on interrogation of journalists and more

A flood affected locality at Singtam, in Gangtok district, Wednesday, October. 4, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PTI

10 dead, 22 army men among 82 missing as flash flood wreaks havoc in Sikkim; PM Modi dials CM

At least ten people died and 80 others, including 22 army personnel, went missing on Wednesday after a cloudburst over Lhonak Lake in north Sikkim triggered a flash flood in the Teesta River basin, officials said. All 10 who died have been identified as civilians including 3 of the dead who were washed up in north Bengal, they said adding that one of the 23 army men who had gone missing in the morning was rescued later.

UAPA case against NewsClick for plot to disrupt sovereignty of India: police

A day after the Delhi Police arrested Prabir Purkayastha, founder and Editor-in-Chief of NewsClick, and Amit Chakraborty, Human Resources head of the news portal, a government source told The Hindu that the police were investigating a “terror case that has Chinese links.” The foreign remittances received by the news portal are already being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) since 2021. The source said that the fresh terror case registered by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police was being investigated by multiple agencies.

NewsClick raids | Media bodies write to CJI, call for norms on interrogation of journalists

Over a dozen media bodies on Wednesday sought Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud’s intervention on the issue of raids against those linked to NewsClick, a digital news platform. Media persons and activists also turned up in large numbers at the Press Club of India to protest the police action. In a letter to the Chief Justice, the media organisations urged the courts to consider framing norms to discourage the seizure of journalists’ phones and laptops on a “whim”; and to develop guidelines for the interrogation of journalists and for seizures from them, to ensure that “these are not undertaken as fishing expeditions with no bearing to an actual offence”.

With Bihar caste survey, Nitish Kumar has set the national agenda, says JD(U) chief

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has set the national agenda ahead of the 2024 general election with the caste survey conducted in the State, Janata Dal (United)‘s Rajiv Ranjan Singh said on Wednesday. In an interview with The Hindu, he also criticised the BJP for alleging large-scale irregularities in the survey’s data collection process during an all-party meeting in Patna on Tuesday. 

Batches of India-manufactured syrups for cough, allergic rhinitis found contaminated: CDSCO

At least five batches of syrups for cough and allergic rhinitis of two Indian manufacturers — one Gujarat-based and one Tamil Nadu-based — have been found to contain higher than permissible levels of contaminants — diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, as per a recent report released by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO). Previously the World Health Organisation (WHO) too had issued alerts on contamination in cold-cough syrups exported by India and said these two contaminants were found in the drug.

Activists call for defeat of BJP to save MGNREGA from neglect

MGNREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a collective of workers, activists and academics have called for the defeat of the BJP government in the 2024 general elections to save the MGNREGS scheme. The various groups had just concluded their two-day national convention where the state of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was discussed.

New defence indigenisation list has futuristic weapons, systems

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday released the fifth Positive Indigenisation List (PIL) of 98 items which will be procured by the three armed services from indigenous suppliers in a staggered manner as per specified timelines. He also released the Indian Navy’s updated indigenisation roadmap, named Swavlamban 2.0.

Akshata Murty makes U.K. political stage debut for ‘best friend’ PM Sunak

Britain’s Indian First Lady, Akshata Murty, made a surprise debut on the political stage on October 4 when she stepped out to introduce “best friend” Rishi Sunak for his maiden speech as U.K. Prime Minister to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

Former Russian journalist sentenced in absentia for Ukraine war criticism

A court in Moscow on Wednesday handed a former state TV journalist an 8 1/2-year prison term in absentia for protesting Russia’s war in Ukraine, the latest in a months-long crackdown against dissent that has intensified since Moscow’s invasion 20 months ago. Marina Ovsyannikova was charged with spreading false information about the Russian army, a criminal offense under a law adopted shortly after the Kremlin sent troops to Ukraine. 

Nepal town imposes lockdown and beefs up security to prevent clashes between Hindus and Muslims

Despite quickly escalating tensions between Hindus and Muslims, the night passed peacefully after a lockdown was imposed and security heightened in a city in southwest Nepal, officials said. Trouble began in the regional hub city of Nepalgunj over the weekend after a Hindu boy posted a status about Muslims on social media. Muslims protested the status inside the region’s main government administrator’s office building, burned tires on the streets and blocked traffic.

Lawyers of Imran Khan in Pakistan oppose his closed-door trial over revealing official secrets

Lawyers for Pakistan’s imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday opposed his closed-door trial in a case in which he is accused of revealing state secrets after his 2022 ouster, saying it’s aimed at convicting the popular opposition leader quickly.

Moratorium under IBC to exempt aircraft and engines, govt. notifies

In a big relief for aircraft lessors, the government has notified that the protection offered to a corporate debtor from recovery of dues under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 will not cover aircraft, helicopters and engines. If implemented retrospectively, the move may impact Go First’s insolvency resolution proceedings under which the National Company Law Tribunal had granted it a blanket moratorium in May to shield it from lessors and creditors and also restrained the DGCA from accepting any applications for de-registration of aircraft from any lessors.

Tata Group to focus on coffee as core business category for future

Tata Group plans to intensify its focus on branded coffee as part of its strategy of “building core categories for the future.” Tea and salts have so far been Tata’s core categories and the company said it was currently in the process of building more core categories for the future and coffee was clearly a prominent one.

Asian Games | Why did so many decisions go wrong, questions Neeraj

Never before has Neeraj Chopra questioned officiating in any meet at any level. The Olympic and World Champion has preferred to let his performance do the talking so when he says “gadbad to hai” it speaks volumes about the level of officiating in athletics at the Asian Games.

Asian Games | Neeraj defends title, quartermilers take gold as India manages best-ever medal haul in athletics

Neeraj Chopra defended his Asian Games title with a season’s best throw of 88.88m and Kishore Kumar Jena managed a personal best of 87.54m as India completed a one-two in javelin but not before both got the short end of dodgy officiating as India finished the track & field assignments here with a best-ever haul of 29 medals including six on Wednesday – two golds and four silvers – for second spot on the table by numbers.

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West ‘weary’ of supporting Ukraine, as US aid at stake

All the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

West will tire of supporting Ukraine – Kremlin


The Kremlin claimed on Monday that “weariness” about assisting Ukraine will increase in the West, amid a meeting by EU foreign ministers in Kyiv seeking to prove the opposite. 

“Weariness of [the] completely absurd support for the Kyiv regime will increase in different countries, particularly in the United States,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

The future of US aid to Kyiv is up in the air after it was left out of a temporary budget deal to avoid a shutdown in Washington. 

Peskov said he expected the US would “continue to be involved” in the Ukraine war “directly”. 

But war fatigue in the West will create more “divisions in the political establishment” and lead to “contradictions”, he claimed. 

His statement comes as the EU foreign ministers held a “historic meeting” in Kyin on Monday, aimed at expressing their “solidarity” with Ukraine, which ultimately aims to join the bloc. 

Faced with a slow Ukrainian counteroffensive and fears of declining Western support, French Minister Catherine Colonna said the gathering intended to show Moscow it “must not count” on the “weariness” of the EU. 

Kyiv strikes deals with French arms manufacturers

Several French defence companies have concluded supply contracts with Ukraine during a forum organised in Kyiv last week, AFP reported on Monday. 

Nexter, the French branch of the Franco-German group KNDS, will supply six additional Caesar cannons, according to the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.

Mounted on a truck, the Caesar can fire 155mm shells up to 40 kilometres away. 

Arquus, another French manufacturer, struck a deal to maintain and produce certain armoured vehicle parts, of which France sold more than 100 units to Ukraine. 

CEFA will provide eight SDZ heavy mine clearance robots as well as eight amphibious vehicles for crossing water. 

The company Delair, which concluded a contract this summer to supply 150 surveillance drones, has received a new order for 150 more units, according to its president Bastien Mancini.

Thales and Turgis & Gaillard have also each signed an agreement with Ukrainian companies to co-develop drones, while the company Vistory will install a 3D printing centre in Ukraine to produce spare parts.

How the contracts will be financed has not been announced, AFP reported it was possibly thanks to French subsidies.

Future of US aid to Ukraine at stake

Further military funding for Kyiv has been excluded from a last-minute budget deal in Washington. 

President Joe Biden reassured Ukraine the US would continue to support its war effort against Russia, despite the temporary measure that was pushed through Congress to avoid a government shutdown. 

Funding for Ukraine has become increasingly politicised in the US, with hardline Republicans arguing they do not want to write a “blank check” for Kyiv.


Biden and the Democrats argue Washington has a duty to help Ukraine resist the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Otherwise, they warn, autocrats would be emboldened in the future.

Doubts now hang over US military assistance, with repercussions on the ground feared thousands of kilometres away.

“This should worry leaders in Kyiv,” said analyst Brett Bruen. “I think in Moscow they are celebrating signals that our support may be waning.” 

Ukraine is already concerned about the possible re-election of Donald Trump, who has previously praised Putin.

Democrats said Saturday they expected a separate measure on aid to Ukraine in the coming days.


The US has already supplied some $ 46 billion (€43 billion) in military aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Biden wants to send another $24 billion (€23 billion).

Behind all this political wrangling in the US lies another problem: War fatigue. Faced with biting inflation, US voters are growing increasingly sceptical. 

An ABC/Washington Post poll released September 24 showed that 41% of respondents thought Washington was doing too much to support Ukraine, up from 33% in February and 14% in April 2022.

Ukraine will not give in, says Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president said in a speech on Sunday that his country will remain resolute against Russia, one day after US Congress passed a budget deal that left out military aid for Kyiv.  


Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a pre-recorded speech did not directly mention the US move but maintained nothing would not weaken his country’s resolve. 

No one would diminish Ukraine’s bravery and strength, he said, adding the country would only lay down arms on the day of victory. 

“As we draw closer to it every day, we say, ‘We will fight for as long as it takes,'” said the Ukrainian leader. 

No plans to send British troops to Ukraine – UK PM

Rishi Sunak has said there are no plans to deploy British military forces in Ukraine after his defence minister suggested troop trainers could be sent to the country. 

The UK and its Western allies have not formally put boots on the ground in Ukraine fearing escalating conflict with Russia. 


However, leaked classified documents in April purported to show special forces from the UK and other NATO countries were deployed inside the country. 

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, British defence minister Grant Shapps – appointed to the role last month – said he wanted to send military instructors to Ukraine, while also training the Ukrainian army in Britain. 

Sunak rowed back on this hours after the interview was published, saying there were no immediate plans to deploy British troops. 

“What the defence secretary was saying was that it might well be possible one day in the future for us to do some of that training in Ukraine,” Sunak told reporters. “But that’s something for the long term, not the here and now. 

“There are no British soldiers that will be sent to fight in the current conflict.”


Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday said any British soldier in Ukraine would be legitimate target for Russian forces. 

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