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Trump arrives in Helsinki ahead of meeting with Putin

16 July

Donald Trump has arrived in Helsinki for a meeting with Vladimir Putin but has struck a note of caution with the two "foes" at loggerheads over Syria, Ukraine, espionage and election interference.

Ahead of the highly anticipated talks, the US president told CBS News he has "low expectations" but added that he thinks that "maybe some good" will come of them.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also played down hopes, but said he would regard the summit as "a success" if there was an agreement to merely reopen severed lines of communications.
In an interview with Piers Morgan, Mr Trump said he and Mr Putin were "competitors" but that the two leaders could "get along very well".
In another comment that seemed aimed at pre-empting any possible criticism of the summit, Mr Trump tweeted that "no matter how well I do at the summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia, over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough - that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!"
He also complimented Mr Putin "for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament - one of the best ever", as well as France for winning the tournament.
In comments made before departing, Mr Trump said the US has "a lot of foes". He named Russia as one of them - but also the European Union.
"Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe," Mr Trump told CBS News. "But that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything.
"It means that they are competitive."
Ahead of his meeting with Mr Putin, Mr Trump has been urged to raise the death of a woman who was exposed to novichok in Amesbury and criminal charges being brought against a dozen Russians accused of hacking Democratic Party emails during the 2016 US presidential election.
It comes after Mr Trump's first official visit to the UK as president, during which he met with the Queen and held talks with Prime Minister Theresa May as protests raged against him in London, Glasgow, Manchester and elsewhere.
As he left the UK, Mr Trump put the EU on a par with Russia and China by describing it as a "foe" of America.
He said in his interview to CBS News while in Scotland: "I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade.
"You wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe."
Mr Trump said he respects Europe's leaders but says they have taken advantage of the US on trade and defence spending.
"I respect the leaders of those countries. But, in a trade sense, they've really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren't paying their bills," he added.
Earlier this week, Mr Trump claimed NATO spending will increase "like never before". However the French president, Emmanuel Macron, denied he claim that NATO allies agreed to boost spending over 2%.
Mr Trump has also previously said countries in the EU "treat us very badly, they treat us very unfairly." The president slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the EU, which responded with retaliatory measures.
Mr Trump said: "I can say it better in a different way. They made, last year, $151bn in trade surplus. We had a deficit with the EU.
"On top of that, we spend a fortune on NATO to protect them."
His latest comment on the bloc, which has been one of America's staunchest allies, drew sharp condemnation from the European Council President Donald Tusk.
"America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news," Mr Tusk said on Twitter.
The Trumps departed Glasgow Prestwick Airport hours after police charged a man over a stunt in which a paragliding protester flew above the president as he entered Turberry Hotel on Friday night.
A giant baby blimp depicting Mr Trump as a snarling, orange, nappy-wearing infant also made an appearance in Edinburgh, having debuted in London after being granted approval to fly by mayor Sadiq Khan.
Mr Trump made a number of controversial comments during his visit, including his advice to Mrs May for how to negotiate Brexit - Mr Trump told her to "sue the EU", according to the PM - and suggestions that her strategy would "kill" hopes of a US-UK trade deal.
Mr Trump later backtracked on claims Mrs May's Brexit plan would make a trade deal with the US impossible.

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Indictment of Russian spies hangs over Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki

15 July

Stories drop so thick and fast with Donald Trump it's vital you stand back and take stock.  

We have become so addicted to the chaos and drama that we fail to weigh up what we are witnessing.
So where do we stand on the eve of Helsinki?
First and foremost the US president is about to meet the man American investigators believe subverted US democracy with the aim of putting him in power. He does so immediately after they have presented compelling evidence supporting that extraordinary claim.
The president says he will ask Vladimir Putin whether or not he did it. But we are beyond that point. The FBI has indicted 12 Russian military agents it says attempted to hack the election in his favour.
Just as former president Richard Nixon's henchmen broke into Democrat offices in Watergate, Russian military intelligence agents are said to have broken into Democrat computers and email accounts.
Most crucially it's alleged they found and stole analytics' data, the Holy Grail for an opposition trying to double guess their rivals' strategy.
And shortly after they did so, the Trump campaign changed its own strategy and spending plans dramatically.
There is no proof the Russians were working in collusion with the Trump campaign, not yet at least. But the indictments hang over this summit in the most extraordinary way.
As the two men stand next to each other, the world will wonder whether they did indeed work together to hijack the election and America's democracy. We are now well beyond the point of calling this meddling.
We also need to assess Trump's foreign policy scoresheet ahead of this meeting.
The North Korea track is in trouble despite all the hullaballoo in Singapore. It is now well documented that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's most recent trip to Pyongyang did not go well.
The North Koreans have unveiled no plans to denuclearise and did not even turn up to one meeting with US officials.
Trump arrives from a NATO summit in which he tried to drive a wedge between Germany and allies and is reported to have threatened to pull the US out of the alliance. All music to Putin's ears.
And in the UK he attacked the prime minister further at a time when she is already extremely exposed on Brexit and endorsed one of her main rivals for her job, whatever the more conciliatory noises he made by the end.
He arrives here well exercised on the fairways of his Scottish golf course but not so well prepared mentally, according to multiple accounts.
As before Singapore this president has reportedly not bothered with a single meeting of his national security principals before walking into face Vladimir Putin.
Trump applied to NATO and Theresa May a by now familiar strategy. Go in guns blazing, knock the other side off balance, disorientate the media, then pull back, defuse the crisis you have created and claim credit to the faithful back home.
He has done that to allies and friends undermining them.
Not to Vladimir Putin, a man he calls a competitor, not an enemy, who he says he would like to make a friend. Why he is doing all this is the great mystery of his presidency.
Where it leads tomorrow is at this stage anyone's guess.

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Theresa May braced for showdown with Brexit rebels

16 July

Theresa May is facing a serious challenge from Conservative party rebels who object to her plans for leaving the European Union.

Amid an escalating crisis for the prime minister MPs are set to vote on a series of amendments, tabled by members of the European Research Group (ERG), that seek to wreck a blueprint for leaving the EU drawn up at Chequers.
The controversial plans, which detail "a common rule book" covering a new UK-EU free trade area, were presented by Mrs May as a hopeful compromise approach in Brexit talks.
But they prompted a total of eight resignations, including that of Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson, and a growing threat to the prime minister.
It has been reported that more than 100 Brexiteer MPs have joined a WhatsApp group coordinating voting tactics against Mrs May, and would be meeting ahead of a vote on the customs bill.
Increasingly visible figures such as Jacob Rees-Mogg have branded the prime minister's approach to Brexit negotiations "hopeless" and accused her of allowing too much ground to Brussels.
Pro-EU Conservatives have also tabled objections to the customs and trade bill, while former education secretary and remainer Justine Greening has called for a second referendum.
"I wanted the prime minister's Chequers agreement to be a workable compromise," she wrote in The Times. "It is clear it is not."
"The only solution is to take the final Brexit decision out of the hands of deadlocked politicians, away from the backroom deals, and give it back to the people," she added.
Key New Labour figures have also come forward in criticising the prime minister, with former leader Tony Blair branding the proposals "just mush".
The amendments to be voted on Monday are unlikely to pass without Labour support, but they represent a show of power by Brexiteer MPs toward the prime minister.
Mrs May has said she was forced to come forward with revised proposals after two options put forward by the EU were deemed unacceptable.
She has framed her plan as a compromise avoiding the need for a hard border in Ireland while maintaining "frictionless" EU trade and allowing the UK to negotiate free trade deals.
Mr Johnson also made his first public intervention since his resignation last week, with a column in the Daily Telegraph pledging to resist "for now" the urge to "bang on about Brexit".
"It is time for all of us - at this critical moment in our constitutional development - to believe in ourselves, to believe in the British people and what they can do, and in our democracy," he wrote.

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Official photos released by Royal Family to mark Prince Louis's christening

16 July

The Royal Family have released four official photos to mark the christening of Prince Louis.

The pictures were taken by British photographer Matt Holyoak at Clarence House after Louis was baptised in The Chapel Royal at St James's Palace last Monday.
In one photo, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are joined by their children, along with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
The Middleton family including Kate's sister Pippa Matthews and her husband James, are also included in the photos, which were taken in the morning room and garden at Clarence House.
Members of the Royal Family appear in another photo without the Middletons, while a third photo features just the Cambridges and the fourth photo is an image of just Kate and son Louis.
Unofficial photos were taken on the day of the ceremony and showed the Duke and Duchess together with all three of their children for the first time.
Speaking after the official shoot, Mr Holyoak said: "I was truly honoured at being asked to take the official photographs at the christening of Prince Louis, and to witness at first hand such a happy event.
"Everyone was so relaxed and in such good spirits, it was an absolute pleasure.
"I only hope I have captured some of that joy in my photographs."
Louis was sound asleep as he was carried into the chapel by his mother for the christening ceremony which lasted 40 minutes.
Then only eleven weeks old, Louis was dressed in a white lace, satin-lined christening gown.
It is a replica of the royal christening robe, first worn in 1841.
Reproduced by dressmaker to the Queen Angela Kelly, it was worn by his older siblings, George and Charlotte at their christenings.
After the ceremony, the baby prince looked content and wiggled his fingers as Kate gazed down and beamed at him as she held him in her arms.
Twelve-week-old Louis, who is fifth in line to the throne, has six godparents.

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'Great British Space Age' will see rocket launches in three years, says government

16 July

Satellites could be launched from the UK in as little as three years, heralding the start of what the government called the "Great British Space Age".

A traditional "vertical" rocket launch pad will be built in Sutherland, on the north coast of Scotland, to put small satellites into orbit.
New "horizontal" launch sites - where runways are used by space planes carrying satellites and tourists - are also planned in Cornwall, Glasgow and North Wales.
The spaceports could be worth £3.8bn to the UK economy over the next decade, according to the UK Space Agency.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said: "As a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, we want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites as part of our Industrial Strategy.
"This will build on our global reputation for manufacturing small satellites and help the whole country capitalise on the huge potential of the commercial space age."
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is expected to be given £2.5m from the UK government to develop the spaceport in Sutherland.
The site on the A'Mhoine peninsula, between Tongue and Durness, is believed to be the best place in the UK for vertical rocket launches.
It is expected to create hundreds of jobs.
A further £2m funding will boost development of vertical spaceports across Britain, subject to a successful business case, at Newquay airport, Glasgow Prestwick airport and at a site in Snowdonia.
In a partnership due to be signed at the Farnborough International Airshow Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit is seeking to begin launches from Newquay by 2021, using a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft called "Cosmic Girl".
Cosmic Girl will carry a LauncherOne rocket under its wing to a launch range over the Atlantic and release the rocket at around 35,000 feet for onward flight into space, carrying a satellite into Earth orbit.
Low cost access to space is important for the UK's thriving space sector, which builds more small satellites than any other country. Glasgow builds more than any other city in Europe.
But companies currently have to transport their hardware to countries such as the US, Russia or India to be launched.
Earlier this year Sky News was given rare access to Spire Global, a Glasgow-based company that makes satellites the size of a loaf of bread.
Peter Platzer, Spire's CEO, said: "A spaceport in Scotland and the UK is fantastic news!
"Launch continues to be the most unpredictable part of the overall supply chain, with delays, often for months and sometimes years, being the norm.
"In Spire, Scotland already sports Europe's most advanced and prolific satellite manufacturing capability, and with a spaceport right next door, enabling clockwork-like launches, we can finally get our space sector supply chain to be truly integrated."

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