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Brexiteers keep up pressure on PM's leadership and 'serfdom' Brexit deal

17 November

Brexiteers are staging a determined attempt to keep up the pressure on Theresa May as a leading critic told the prime minister that "most MPs" will vote against her in a confidence vote.

Both Mrs May's draft Brexit deal and leadership of the country have been left in a perilous position this weekend, following a fierce backlash against the agreement she has struck with the EU.
Conservative backbenchers in their constituencies on Saturday were continuing to pore over the details of the draft deal, while also taking soundings from their local associations.
But the prime minister will tomorrow look to push back against criticism of her leadership and sell her proposed Brexit deal to voters during an appearance on Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday show - her first live TV interview since the details were revealed.
Amid the ongoing turmoil, Mid-Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries told Sky News she would not be surprised if the number of letters of no confidence in Mrs May had already met the threshold of 48 needed to trigger a vote on the prime minister's leadership.
Predicting fellow MPs will "see things moving on Monday", Ms Dorries suggested 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady - who would organise any confidence vote in the prime minister - would soon be double-checking whether MPs had lost faith in Mrs May.
If a vote does occur next week, Ms Dorries predicted many Tory MPs would not want to give the prime minister a year's protection from another challenge by voting in favour of her leadership.
Under Conservative Party rules, if a leader survives a confidence vote they cannot be challenged again for another 12 months.
With the DUP - the Tories' Northern Irish allies who prop up Mrs May's minority government at Westminster - among the strongest critics of the draft Brexit deal, Ms Dorries predicted voters could soon be asked to go to the polls.
She said: "If the DUP walk away we have no majority and therefore, by default, we would be going into a general election with Theresa May leading us into that election.
"Now, you need half of the Conservative Party to vote not with her for a vote of no confidence.
"But I think you would find 90% of the Conservative Party MPs - if not more - who do not want the scenario of having a general election unplanned and with Theresa May leading us into that general election."
Ms Dorries added: "MPs will think to themselves, 'If I vote to keep the prime minister in place she's going to be there for the next 12 months when anything could happen, is that what I want?' And I think most MPs will vote 'no'."
She also defended her description of the Brexit deal as leaving the UK as "slaves" to the EU.
"I would call us a vassal state, an empty state, I'd call it serfdom, it's appalling," Ms Dorries said.
"It's actually beyond almost belief Number 10 - although they're spinning like mad - think they can sell this to the country. They can't, people can see right through it."
The Brexiteer also told Mrs May her draft agreement with Brussels "doesn't stand a cat in hell's chance of getting through parliament".
There are 21 Tory MPs who have publicly declared, or confirmed to Sky News, they have submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.
But one of those, Mansfield MP Ben Bradley, claimed the number was "significantly" higher and he could name "five or six more" MPs.
He said: "There are some colleagues who think they can name 50 people. I'll guess we'll find out in the coming days, but I think it's an awfully lot closer [a confidence vote] than it was a week or so ago."
Further Tory MPs stated their opposition to the draft Brexit deal on Saturday, with former minister Sir Hugo Swire, the East Devon MP, posting on Twitter: "I remain unhappy about parts of the proposed Brexit deal but I have not sent a letter in calling for a vote of no confidence in the PM.
"I shall continue to take soundings over the weekend."
And Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps, who led an attempt to oust Mrs May last year, described the draft deal as "very problematic" after studying all 585 pages of the agreement.
He demanded two key changes for the draft deal to win his support; a "unilateral" means for the UK to leave the Irish border backstop arrangement, and the terms of the future UK-EU relationship to be fleshed out beyond its current "flimsy" seven pages.
Members of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs are planning to use the rest of the weekend to continue their media attacks on the prime minister and her draft deal.
But Downing Street has also begun its own fightback against the attempt to force out Mrs May.
The prime minister held a conference call with hundreds of Conservative constituency chairs on Friday in a bid to persuade them to support her.
"I got the impression that people want to support her, but are struggling," one of those listening told the ConservativeHome website.
Mrs May also used a newspaper interview to reveal rare details of her marriage and life inside Number 10 following what she termed a "pretty heavy couple of days".
The prime minister told the Daily Mail how her husband Philip poured her a whisky after Wednesday's marathon cabinet meeting.
He then cooked beans on toast for Mrs May in their Downing Street flat after a bruising day on Thursday, when the prime minister saw a series of ministers resign from her government and efforts made to remove her from power.
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell told Sky News there was a "clear majority" against the prime minister's draft Brexit deal in parliament, as well as a "no-deal" Brexit.
Calling for a general election in order to allow Labour to negotiate a different agreement with Brussels, Mr McDonnell denied this would require a delay to the UK's exit from the bloc in March next year.
He said: "We can do it within the timescale itself, I accept that.
"That's the frustration that we've got, right the way across the House of Commons, the frustration of why have the last two years been wasted."
:: Watch the prime minister's appearance on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday tomorrow at 9am.

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Missing Argentinian navy sub ARA San Juan found on sea bed after a year of searching

17 November

A submarine which went missing a year ago with 44 sailors on board has been found, the Argentinian navy has said.

The ARA San Juan disappeared on 15 November 2017, prompting an international search which included assistance from the UK and US.
Argentina said early on Saturday that the vessel has been discovered about 2,600ft (790m) down, in waters off the Valdes Peninsula, several hundred miles from its last reported position.
It was found by a remotely operated submersible belonging to the US ship Ocean Infinity, a specialist marine survey vessel involved in the hunt for MH370.
The discovery was met with relief and sadness as those affected reflected on what it means.
Navy spokesman Rodolfo Ramallo told Todo Noticias TV that the Ocean Infinity ship "decided to do a new search and, thanks to God, it was able to find the zone.
"Now another chapter opens. From the analysis of the state in which the submarine has been found, we will see how to proceed."
But Yolanda Mendiola, the mother of crewman Leandro Cisneros, said: "We are with the other relatives. They are going to show us the photos. They say that our youngsters are inside. We are all destroyed here."
Just two days ago, the families of the missing sailors held a commemoration on the anniversary of the disappearance.
Some spoke of the hope they felt that their loved ones would still be found alive.
Argentina's president Mauricio Macri reiterated his "absolute and non-negotiable commitment" to find "the truth", having promised a full investigation in the weeks after the sub went missing.
Naval bases and other buildings were raided by police last January as part of the probe, soon after the government had sacked the head of the navy.
The San Juan had been returning to base at Mar del Plata when the navy lost contact as it passed the San Jorge Gulf, a large bay-shaped inlet about 500 miles (800km) northwest of The Falkland Islands.
It was eventually found about 250 miles (400km) to the north. At the time contact was lost, it was said to have had seven days worth of air, but had been taking on water through its snorkel.
A substantial British contribution to the initial search effort was hailed as a positive diplomatic development, after years of chilly relations following the 1982 Falklands War.
The German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class submarine dated from the mid-1980s and had been most recently refurbished in 2014.
During the retrofit, the vessel was cut in half as its engines and batteries were replaced.
Experts said even the smallest mistake during the cutting process can lead to accidents later.

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Jamal Khashoggi: CIA 'says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered killing'

17 November

The CIA has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, according to a US official.

Officials had high confidence in the CIA's findings, which link the prince to the killing of the journalist and prominent critic of the Saudi regime, according to the Washington Post.
The CIA reportedly found that 15 Saudi agents flew on government planes to Istanbul and carried out the killing at the Saudi consulate.
Mr Khashoggi had been at the consulate to obtain documents so he could marry his Turkish fiancee.
US Vice President Mike Pence, while saying he couldn't comment on classified information, restated his country's desire to identify those who had carried out the killing.
He said: "The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder."
The Post claimed the CIA had information that Prince Mohammed's brother - the Saudi ambassador to the United States - told the late journalist by phone it would be safe to go to the consulate in Istanbul and get the papers he needed.
The ambassador, Prince Khalid bin Salman, swiftly denied that he had spoken with Mr Khashoggi on the phone or that he suggested he go to Turkey "for any reason".
"The last contact I had with Mr Khashoggi was via text on Oct 26 2017. I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason," the prince wrote on Twitter. "I ask the US government to release any information regarding this claim."
He went on to post a full response to the Washington Post story, which said the claims in the CIA's "purported assessment are false. We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations".
It comes as Saudi prosecutors sought the death penalty for five suspects charged with the murder of Mr Khashoggi.
The kingdom's public prosecutor Saud al Mojeb said in a statement that 21 people were now in custody over the killing, with 11 people indicted and facing trial.
The highest-level official accused of being behind the murder is former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al Assiri, according to the prosecutor's spokesman Shaalan al Shaalan.
He said the Washington Post columnist's alleged killers had set in motion plans for the murder on 29 September, three days before he died inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.
The public prosecutor's office appeared to distance the alleged killers and their operation from the Saudi Crown Prince and accused two senior officials of giving the orders.
Mr al Shaalan denied Prince Mohammed had any knowledge of the killing.
Earlier on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump spoke on the phone and agreed on the need to prevent any cover-up of the killing, according to a source close to the Turkish leader.
Turkish media also claimed authorities had further evidence to discredit Riyadh's version of events, including a second audio tape.
Mr al Shaalan told reporters Mr Khashoggi was killed on 2 October after he was given a lethal injection, before his body was dismembered and taken out of the building.
He said the writer was murdered after "negotiations" for his return to the kingdom failed and that the person who ordered the killing was in fact the head of the negotiating team.
He said the whereabouts of Mr Khashoggi's body remains unknown.
On Friday, hundreds of people attended a symbolic funeral in Istanbul for the columnist as his loved ones came to terms with the prospect of never finding his body.

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Prince Harry: HIV test is nothing to be ashamed of

17 November

Prince Harry has said people should treat HIV tests the same way as protecting themselves against "viruses like cold and flu".

In a video message recorded for National HIV Testing Week, the Duke of Sussex said: "Taking an HIV test is something to be proud of - not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
"As much as you protect yourself at this time of year from illnesses and viruses like cold and flu, you can also protect your health by taking an HIV test."
Around one in eight people living with HIV are unaware they have the virus, while 43% of those diagnosed last year were already at a late stage, meaning damage to the immune system had begun.
Late diagnosis is associated with a tenfold increase in the risk of short-term mortality.
Prince Harry said that a 28% drop in new HIV diagnoses in the last two years was "something to celebrate" but he added that "this is no time for complacency".
The prince has advocated for more widespread use of HIV testing for years and was even tested live on Facebook two years ago.
The move saw a fivefold increase in the number of orders for HIV tests from sexual health and HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust.
Prince Harry said: "We won't bring an end to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus until testing is seen as completely normal and accessible for everyone.
"Two years ago, I took a test and the whole process was actually really easy; the result came back within just a few minutes.
"This is such a pivotal time in the fight against HIV. If we can continue to make HIV testing the norm and empower young people to take control of their sexual health, we can be the generation to finally bring an end to HIV."
Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the charity was "thrilled" to have Harry's support.
He added: "As His Royal Highness says, we protect ourselves from cold and flu at this time of year - so let's protect ourselves against HIV by getting tested and knowing our status.
"It's an ambitious aim, but we have a real opportunity to get to zero new HIV infections in the UK."
Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie said: "HIV testing and treatment is free and available to all.
"You can take a test in your own home or at sexual health services, GPs, healthcare and community settings nationwide.
"In many cases the test involves a simple finger prick and results are ready within minutes."

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California wildfire deaths rise to 71 ahead of Donald Trump visit

17 November

The number of dead victims in the Northern California wildfire has increased to 71, while the missing persons list has grown from 631 to over 1,000.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea stressed that the list of those unaccounted for does not mean all of them are missing.
He said the list was "dynamic" and could easily contain duplicate names and unreliable spellings, as well as some who fled the blaze and do not realise they have been reported missing.
Some of the people have been confirmed as dead by family and friends on social media. Others have been found safe, but authorities have not yet marked them as such.
The wildfire razed the town of Paradise, with a population of 27,000, and heavily damaged the outlying communities of Magalia and Concow, destroying 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, authorities said.
Firefighters were gaining ground against the blaze, which blackened 222 square miles. It was 45% contained and posed no immediate threat to populated areas.
Searches were also continuing for those who perished and those who survived the deadliest US wildfire in a century, ahead of a planned visit by president Donald Trump.
Some survivors resent that Mr Trump tweeted two days after the disaster to blame the wildfires on poor forest mismanagement. He threatened to withhold federal payments from California.
"If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you're going to be accepted? You're not going to have a parade," Maggie Crowder, of Magalia, said on Thursday.
But Stacy Lazzarino, who voted for Mr Trump, said it would be good for the president to see the devastation up close, adding: "I think by maybe seeing it he's going to be like 'Oh, my goodness', and it might start opening people's eyes."
In a Fox News interview on the eve of his visit, the president repeated his criticism. Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said: "Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management."
In Southern California, more residents were being allowed back into their homes near Los Angeles after a fire torched an area the size of Denver, destroying more than 600 homes and leaving at least three people dead.

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