Aukus pact: China says deal makes Australia ‘nuclear war target' as UK insists France relations ‘solid'

LIVE – Updated at 00:04

© EPA US President Joe Biden delivers remarks about a national security initiative with Australia and Britain

A senior Chinese military expert has said the newly-announced Aukus pact, which will see the UK and the US supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, puts the latter at risk of becoming a “potential target for nuclear strikes”.

Speaking to China’s state-run Global Times newspaper, the unnamed official said nations such as China and Russia would not treat Canberra as “an innocent non-nuclear power” but as “a US ally which could be armed with nuclear weapons [at] any time”, adding that Australian PM Scott Morrison was putting his nation in danger.

It comes after the news of Aukus sparked a diplomatic row between the UK and France, with Paris labelling it a “stab in the back”, because its inception means Canberra ripped up a deal worth around £30bn that was struck with Paris in 2016, for France to provide 12 diesel-electric submarines.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace insisted Britain did not “go fishing” for the pact while Boris Johnson told the Commons earlier that Aukus was “not intended to be adversarial to any other power”.

“Our military relationship with France is rock solid and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the French,” the PM added.

Key Points

  • Australia ‘now at risk of being targeted in nuclear war’ – China
  • France complains over ‘backstabbing’ Aukus pact…
  • …but PM insists UK’s relationship with Paris ‘remains strong’
  • May questions if defence pact could lead to war over Taiwan
  • Aukus ‘confirms UK’s declining importance as first-tier US ally’
  • Report: Greensill shows ‘lobbying loopholes should be closed’

07:53 , Tom Batchelor

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the cabinet reshuffle which is expected to continue apace on Thursday.

Who is out and who has been promoted?

07:56 , Tom Batchelor

First, a catch up on who is in and who is out so far.

Among the roles to see a shake-up were the foreign, education, justice and housing briefs.

Here is the full list:

© Provided by The Independent

Reshuffle in full: Who is out and who has been promoted?

‘Prepare for the next election,’ says Tory co-chair

08:05 , Tom Batchelor

The newly appointed co-chair of the Conservative Party, Oliver Dowden, has urged staff to “prepare for the next election”, The Daily Telegraph is reporting.

The former culture secretary, who was given the new role during yesterday’s reshuffle, told a gathering at the Tory HQ in Westminster that they should begin preparations for another nationwide vote, possibly within the next two years.

“You can’t fatten a pig on market day,” he was quoted as saying.

The Telegraph suggested the next general election could be held in as little as 20 months.

Opinion | PM has tried to sort out his cabinet by sacking everyone for his own mistakes

08:25 , Tom Batchelor

Dominic Raab’s been sacked, or rather demoted, to deputy prime minister. The charge sheet against him appears to be taking too long to get on a flight home from Greece which, for all the sound and fury, made precious little difference to anything, writes Tom Peck.

In fact, the only truly outrageous aspect of that never-ending saga was the fact that both he, who was de facto deputy prime minister and Johnson, the actual prime minister, were both on holiday at the same time, the kind of holiday rota abomination that would not be sanctioned in a vaguely well-run sandwich shop.

Here is the full opinion piece:

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Johnson has sorted out his cabinet by sacking everyone for his mistakes | Tom Peck

Nadine Dorries promotion perceived as move to ramp up culture war

08:33 , Tom Batchelor

Nadine Dorries, the best-selling author and former star of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, has been promoted to culture secretary in a move by the government, perceived by critics at least, to ramp up the so-called “culture war”.

The former nurse and mother-of-three has been a long-time critic of the BBC, once claimed that “left wing snowflakes are killing comedy” and strongly opposed gay marriage and voted against the legislation at the time – though since said she regretted the decision.

Nadine Dorries as culture secretary? Satire is dead#Reshuffle

— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) September 15, 2021

The appointment of Nadine Dorries as Culture Secretary is final confirmation (if you needed it) that we do indeed have the worst Prime Minister and Govt ever. Ever.

— Anna Soubry (@Anna_Soubry) September 15, 2021

Nadine Dorries, who thinks lefties are dumbing down *panto* has just been made Culture Secretary pic.twitter.com/a1HhF4Z6Vc

— James Felton (@JimMFelton) September 15, 2021

‘Nadine Dorries produces culture that people buy and actually want to see’

08:36 , Tom Batchelor

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, has defended the appointment of Nadine Dorries as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, suggesting sales of her books was proof enough that she was the right pick for the job.

He told Sky News: “I think Nadine Dorries is actually a best-selling author, if that isn’t part of culture…

“She’s sold thousands and thousands of books and now if that isn’t part of culture, media and sport I don’t know.

“What’s great about Nadine Dorries is she produces culture that people buy and actually want to see rather than some of the more crackpot schemes we’ve seen being funded in the past by taxpayers’ money.”

Raab not demoted due to Afghan withdrawal chaos, says Wallace

08:46 , Tom Batchelor

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who has been put up to do the broadcast round this morning, has insisted Dominic Raab was not demoted from his position as foreign secretary because he was on holiday while Kabul was falling to the Taliban.

Mr Wallace told BBC Breakfast: “I don’t think that’s why.

“Dominic is by trade a lawyer, he started his life in the Foreign Office as a human rights lawyer and he’s gone to the Ministry of Justice which is actually a very, very important role and a role he desperately understands.”

Election in ‘spring of 2023 or 2024’

08:50 , Tom Batchelor

According to The Daily Telegraph, voters are likely to be invited to cast their ballots in a general election in the spring of either 2023 or 2024.

The paper reports:

“The working assumption inside Number 10 is that Boris Johnson will go to the country in May or June 2024. However, The Telegraph understands he is also eyeing up a year earlier – May or June 2023.”

It comes after MPs backed a bill this month which would repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 and instead make the maximum term of a Parliament, rather than the period between general elections, five years.

The last election was held on 12 December 2019.

Cabinet sackings ‘not down to incompetence’

09:01 , Tom Batchelor

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace insisted Boris Johnson did not sack MPs from Cabinet because of their incompetence.

Mr Wallace said characterisations of Gavin Williamson, who was sacked as education secretary, have been “unfair”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “He has removed people from Government not because they’re incompetent, not because they weren’t loyal enough et cetera, which are often the narratives you see, but often he has to refresh his team and move people out the way.”

Aukus security pact part of a ‘Cold War mentality’, says China expert

09:11 , Tom Batchelor

Dr Henry Wang, president of non-government think tank the Centre for China and Globalisation (CCG), has said the Aukus alliance announced on Wednesday which will see Britain enter into a security pact with the US and Australia is part of a “Cold War mentality by the UK and its allies”.

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Dr Wang said: “I don’t think this is necessarily the right time to do this military alliance. It’s called security but if it’s not aimed at China why do they propose it at this time and in this region.

“I think there’s a question over the purpose of setting up such an alliance in peacetime in the 21st century.”

Here is more on the pact:

© Provided by The Independent

Britain joins defence pact with Australia and US to curb China

Penny Mordaunt out as junior Cabinet Office minister

09:16 , Tom Batchelor

Penny Mordaunt has announced she is to leave the role of junior cabinet office minister.

Ms Mordaunt served as paymaster general, with repsonsibilities for supporting the government on Brexit and trade issues and the inquiry into infected blood.

In a string of tweets this morning, she thanked colleagues and said: “Good luck to my successor and…look after the cats!”

Thank you to @cabinetoffice colleagues and partners for the last 20 months and all we achieved. Especially proud of the overhaul of the risk register, 1HMG cyber and the new resilience strategy. We are on track to be the most resilient nation. 🇬🇧https://t.co/XvG5cSdPc7

— Penny Mordaunt (@PennyMordaunt) September 16, 2021

Kemi Badenoch promoted

09:20 , Tom Batchelor

Delighted to be promoted to Minister of State yesterday, thank you for all the lovely messages! I’m the Minister for Levelling Up at @MHCLG working with the brilliant @michaelgove on the government’s flagship policy and Minister for Equalities with awesome Foreign Sec @trussliz pic.twitter.com/c7lXZasYnm

— Kemi Badenoch (@KemiBadenoch) September 16, 2021

Greg Hands shifted from trade to BEIS

09:24 , Tom Batchelor

Trade was a great role, but so is Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Energy, clean growth and climate change – some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for the Government as we approach #COP26. https://t.co/yLcCY4w28I

— Greg Hands (@GregHands) September 16, 2021

New job, but one thing hasn’t changed for me in 32 years.

Getting the District Line from Fulham Broadway.

Always an opportunity to see constituents too. pic.twitter.com/nUzpFiquof

— Greg Hands (@GregHands) September 16, 2021

Michael Ellis handed Paymaster General role

09:27 , Tom Batchelor

Michael Ellis has replaced Penny Mordaunt as Paymaster General at the Cabinet Office, Downing Street has said.

Ms Mordaunt will instead be minister of state at the Department of International Trade.

Mr Ellis was re-appointed Solicitor General on 10 September 2021. He had been Attorney General since March while Suella Braverman was designated as a minister on leave during her maternity leave. He was appointed Solicitor General on 26 July 2019.

Wallace insists new alliance not about ‘sending a message to China’

09:33 , Tom Batchelor

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace insisted the new security pact between the UK, US and Australia is not about “sending a message to China”.

He told Times Radio: “This is not about sending a message to China.

“This is about Australia seeking a new capability because it made a judgment it’s current acquisition programme for a diesel-electric submarine was not going to give it the strategic reach or indeed the undetectability that it would require in delivering a deterrent.”

He also insisted Australia’s move to obtain nuclear-powered submarines is not “about antagonising anyone”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “China is embarking on one of the biggest military spends and military investments in history, it’s growing its navy and air force at a huge rate, extremely fast. Obviously it’s engaged in some controversial areas and disputed areas.

“So we’ve seen that, that is China, that’s what they’re doing at the moment and it’s right that the UK, alongside other allies such as Australia, stand up for the rules-based system and international law.”

He added: “Australia have done a wise thing and a good thing today. It’s not about antagonising anyone, it’s about being able to protect its important sea lanes and its important position in the world.

“I understand France’s disappointment. They had a contract with the Australians for diesel-electrics from 2016 and the Australians have taken this decision that they want to make a change.

“We didn’t go fishing for that, but as a close ally, when the Australians approached us, of course we would consider it. I understand France’s frustration about it.”

New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss ‘delighted’ with appointment

09:38 , Tom Batchelor

Gove not racist or homophobic ‘in any way’, minister insists

09:44 , Tom Batchelor

A Cabinet minister has insisted Michael Gove is not racist or homophobic “in any way” after The Independent exposed his past crude sexual comments and jokes about paedophilia.

Ben Wallace also insisted Mr Gove would be happy to answer questions about the controversy – although the man handed a key new role in Boris Johnson’s reshuffle has refused to comment so far.

“Fundamentally I know Michael. He’s not a racist, he’s not homophobic in any way at all. He is in fact a great reforming minister in this government,” he said.

Here is the full story:

© Provided by The Independent

Michael Gove is not racist or homophobic ‘in any way’, Cabinet minister insists

PM to address MPs on Aukus alliance

09:49 , Tom Batchelor

Boris Johnson will make a statement to MPs on the new military pact between the UK, US and Australia on Thursday, the office of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said. 

Later today the Prime Minister will make a statement updating MPs on AUKUS. pic.twitter.com/HOB0QXmcbo

— Leader of the House of Commons (@CommonsLeader) September 16, 2021

Former head of Ofsted: Nadhim Zahawi needs to inspire and be powerful voice in cabinet

09:55 , Tom Batchelor

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former head of Ofsted, has said the new education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has a “big job on his hands” and should be a “powerful voice” in cabinet.

Sir Michael told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s really important we shouldn’t underestimate the damage and disruption that Covid caused to schools, teachers and students.

“The new secretary of state has a big job on his hands to stabilise the education system and restore confidence amongst head teachers and teaching staff, which has been badly damaged.

“He’s got to be a powerful voice in cabinet. When I was a head teacher I was inspired by strong secretary of states.”

He added: “We need to worry about the 1/3 of youngsters, the forgotten 1/3, that don’t achieve the benchmark grades.

“Inequality was already bad before the pandemic, but it has gotten significantly worse. If I was Nadhim Zahawi I’d make that the priority – to make sure the disadvantaged do significantly better in our system.”

PM hails new nuclear submarine defence alliance with Australia as part of ‘levelling up’ agenda

10:03 , Tom Batchelor

The UK’s new defence partnership with the US and Australia will “preserve security and stability” and help the government’s “levelling up agenda”, Boris Johnson has said.

In a joint statement on Wednesday evening, Mr Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the creation of a “new trilateral defence partnership”.

The first initiative under Aukus will be for the three allies to work together to secure nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy – a move that will increase Western security capabilities in the Pacific.

The UK, Australia and the USA are forming a new trilateral defence partnership that will preserve security and stability around the world.

It will also create hundreds of high-skilled jobs across the country, driving forward our levelling up agenda.#AUKUS https://t.co/W1MibdaBDc

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) September 16, 2021

Ben Wallace discusses China threat in the Indo-Pacific region

10:11 , Tom Batchelor

Government plans requirement to make broadcasters produce ‘distinctively British’ TV shows

10:22 , Tom Batchelor

Government ministers are planning to introduce a legal requirement that broadcasters produce “clearly British” TV shows.

Speaking at the Royal Television Society conference on Wednesday (15 September), media minister John Whittingdale said that he would be proposing that public service broadcasters expand their remit.

As part of this, there will be a requirement that they must produce “distinctively British” content, with Whittingdale citing Only Fools and HorsesFleabagDerry Girls and Doctor Who as examples.

Read the full story here:

© Provided by The Independent

Broadcasters made to produce ‘distinctively British’ TV shows under government plans

BBC chief backs Brammar as ‘great hire’

10:33 , Tom Batchelor

Director-general Tim Davie has said the BBC ran a “completely open process” in the recruitment of Jess Brammar as the corporation’s executive news editor of news channels.

Confirmation of Ms Brammar’s appointment this week followed attempts by some to derail the process, with Labour calling for Sir Robbie Gibb to be sacked from the board of the BBC after claims that he tried to block the hiring on political grounds.

Speaking at the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge convention, Mr Davie said the corporation is in “dangerous territory if previous political positions, tweets, goodness knows what else rule you out from BBC jobs – we’re hiring from all walks of life”.

He said that, as leader of the corporation, he has an expectation “for anyone joining our organisation, and that’s to leave your politics at the door”.

He added that Ms Brammar, who will oversee the BBC’s two 24-hour news channels – BBC World News and the BBC News Channel – is a “great hire and she’ll do a great job”.

Media minister John Whittingdale returns to backbenches

10:44 , Tom Batchelor

NEW: DCMS sources saying John Whittingdale has told colleagues he has been sacked as Media Minister.

Not confirmed by No 10. And not clear if he’ll get another job.

— Joe Pike (@joepike) September 16, 2021

John Whittingdale, the media minister, has lost his job just hours after stepping in at short notice to appear at an event via videolink to read the speech the axed culture secretary Oliver Dowden had been intending to give.

During his address, Mr Whittingdale, who had been leading plans to privatise Channel 4, outlined proposals to protect “distinctively British” public service broadcasting.

New defence alliance requires ‘closest relationship of trust’, says PM

10:51 , Tom Batchelor

Boris Johnson has addressed MPs on the new defence alliance with Australia and the US.

Making a statement to the Commons, he said: “To design, build, operate and then safely decommission a nuclear submarine ranks among the most complex and technically demanding enterprises yet devised.

“Only six nations possess nuclear-powered submarines, and to help another country join this tiny circle is a decision of the utmost gravity, requiring perhaps the closest relationship of trust that can exist between sovereign states.

“I hope I speak for the House when I say I have no hesitation about trusting Australia, a fellow maritime democracy joined to us by blood and history, which stood by Britain through two world wars at immense sacrifice.”

Aukus ‘confirms the UK’s declining importance as first-tier US ally’

10:55 , Tom Batchelor

Britain’s membership of the Aukus defence alliance with the United States and Australia “confirms the UK’s declining importance as first-tier US ally,” an expert has said.

Hervé Lemahieu, director of research at the Sydney-based think tank Lowy Institute, said that “until now, the US has only shared nuclear propulsion tech with the UK”.

Now, he said, Australia had replaced the UK as “tip of the allied spear by virtue of geography”.

Counterintuitively, AUKUS confirms the UK’s declining importance as first-tier US ally. Until now, the US has only shared nuclear propulsion tech with the UK. A Cold War legacy. In this new era of competition, AUS replaces the UK as tip of the allied spear by virtue of geography.

— Hervé Lemahieu (@HerveLemahieu) September 16, 2021

Whittingdale ‘sorry to be stepping down’

10:59 , Tom Batchelor

I am sorry to be stepping down as Minister for Media and Data and saying goodbye to a great team of ministers and officials. It has been a privilege to play a part in shaping the future of UK public service broadcasting and in reforming our data laws using our new Brexit freedom

— John Whittingdale (@JWhittingdale) September 16, 2021

Keir Starmer warns PM not to neglect Europe and Nato with new defence pact

11:02 , Tom Batchelor

Sir Keir Starmer has offered his support for the new Aukus alliance, but called for a guarantee that the pact would not weaken relations with European allies and Nato.

The Labour leader also asked the PM to provide more clarity on how it would affect the UK’s relations with Beijing.

Responding to that point, Boris Johnson said Aukus was “not intended to be adversarial to any other power”.

“On his point about Nato, the House should be in no doubt that this government’s commitment to Nato is absolutely unshakeable,” Mr Johnson said.

“Our military relationship with France is rock solid and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the French.”

Theresa May questions Aukus impact on Taiwan

11:09 , Tom Batchelor

Theresa May has asked how the Aukus pact will cause the UK to respond should China attempt to invade Taiwan.

The Conservative former prime minister told the Commons: “(Mr Johnson) said yesterday that this partnership has the aim of working hand-in-glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

“Can I ask him what are the implications of this pact for the stance that would be taken by the United Kingdom in its response should China attempt to invade Taiwan?”

Boris Johnson replied: “The United Kingdom remains determined to defend international law and that is the strong advice we would give to our friends across the world, and the strong advice that we would give to the government in Beijing.”

Marks & Spencer closing 11 stores in France due to Brexit

11:14 , Tom Batchelor

Marks & Spencer have blamed Brexit for the closure of eleven French stores over supply chain issues.

The UK retail giant is struggling to stock its stores with fresh and chilled products.

All eleven franchise stores, operated in partnership with SFH, in France will shut “over the coming months”.

Here is the story:

© Provided by The Independent

Marks & Spencer closing 11 stores in France due to Brexit

More than 5.5 million people apply to EU Settlement Scheme

11:37 , Tom Batchelor

More than 5.5 million people had applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline, according to official estimates.

Of the 5,548,440 who submitted an application, more than 4.9 million (4,908,760) have been allowed to continue living and working in the UK after freedom of movement ended following the Brexit transition period.

EU citizens and their families were asked to apply to the Home Office by the end of June to obtain an immigration status so they could remain in the country.

Johnson’s refusal to heal ‘dysfunctional relationship’ with EU is damaging Britain

11:49 , Tom Batchelor

Boris Johnson’s refusal to rebuild the UK’s “dysfunctional relationship” with the EU is damaging foreign and security policy, a former top diplomat says.

Peter Ricketts, a former head of the Foreign Office, says the prime minister’s “tactic” of trying to build closer links with national capitals instead “will not work” and must be rethought.

However, Lord Ricketts said the bitter spats between London and Brussels since Brexit made the task hugely difficult, adding: “Unfortunately trust is now at a very low ebb.”

Read the story here:

© Provided by The Independent

Former diplomat attacks refusal to heal ‘dysfunctional’ EU relations

France complains over Ausuk pact

11:57 , Tom Batchelor

The new UK-US-Australia defence pact is a blow to France which had a contract with Canberra to supply a new fleet of conventional diesel-electric submarines which has now been scrapped.

In a joint statement, foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and armed forces minister Florence Parly condemned the move as contrary to “the letter and spirit of the co-operation” between France and Australia.

They said the US decision to exclude a European ally and partner from the agreement with Australia “signals a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret”.

France regrets #Australia’s decision on submarine cooperation, which is “contrary to the letter and spirit of the cooperation which prevailed,” say Foreign Minister @JY_LeDrian and Armed Forces Minister @florence_parly: https://t.co/KNxf4kzQCx pic.twitter.com/ND94Pqytjp

— French Embassy UK (@FranceintheUK) September 16, 2021

Aukus pact was discussed at G7, say No10

12:13 , Joe Middleton

Downing Street has said the deal between the UK, US and Australia for nuclear-powered submarines was discussed by them during the G7.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “In terms of meetings between the three leaders, there was a meeting at the G7.

“I wouldn’t say there was one single meeting that did it, this has been something that has been an undertaking of several months, it’s a culmination of that work.”

‘Unconscionable’ universal credit could plunge half a million households into poverty, warns top UN official

12:28 , Joe Middleton

The decision to cut universal credit by £20 a week is “unconscionable” and could plunge hundreds of thousands of households into poverty, a top United Nations official has warned.

Ministers have come under continued pressure to reverse the decision to end the £20-a-week uplift introduced to support families during the Covid-19 pandemic, with recipients expected to lose out on £1,040 annually if the cut goes ahead, writes The Independent’s Chiara Giordano.

Olivier De Schutter, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty, has warned the move breaches international human rights law and could cause half a million low-income households, including 200,000 children, to fall below the poverty line.

© Provided by The Independent

‘Unconscionable’ universal credit cut breaks human rights law, says UN envoy

PM set to meet with Nancy Pelosi

12:46 , Joe Middleton

Boris Johnson will host Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, for a bilateral meeting to discuss Anglo-American relations on Thursday, Downing Street has confirmed.

The meeting will be in person, with Ms Pelosi then due to join Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle in his Chorley constituency for the G7 Speakers’ Conference on Friday.

Give EU nationals in UK a physical document, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland tell Home Office

12:56 , Joe Middleton

The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have urged the Home Office to provide EU nationals in Britain with a physical document to prove their post-Brexit immigration status, or risk “confusion and discrimination”.

A letter to immigration minister Kevin Foster, sent jointly from Scotland’s Europe minister, Wales’s social justice minister and the Northern Ireland executive’s first and deputy first ministers on Wednesday, warns of “a number of difficulties” EU citizens are facing in not having physical proof of their status.

Following Brexit, EU and EEA nationals and their family members who wished to stay in Britain have had to apply to the EU settlement scheme or otherwise face automatically becoming undocumented.

The Independent’s social affairs correspondent May Bulman has the details.

© Provided by The Independent

Give EU nationals a physical document, devolved administrations tell Home Office

China says Ausuk ‘severely damaging regional peace and stability’

13:38 , Tom Batchelor

China has reacted with fury to the newly formed Ausuk alliance between the UK, Australia and the US.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the three countries were “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts”.

“China always believes that any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and help enhance mutual trust and cooperation … It should not target any third party or undermine its interests,” he told a briefing in Beijing.

‘Stab in the back’: France hits out at Aukus alliance with fears it threatens Indo-Pacific partnerships

14:00 , Matt Mathers

France has hit out at Australia’s decision to abandon a £43bn deal for French submarines in favour of a new security pact.

The French government reacted angrily to news Australia, the UK and the US have entered an alliance that will involve building a nuclear-powered submarine fleet and wide-ranging projects on cyber warfare, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

My colleagues Chiara Giordano and Andrew Woodcock report:

© Provided by The Independent

‘Stab in the back’: France hits out at Aukus alliance

Nearly 5 million EU citizens allowed to remain in UK under settlement scheme

14:17 , Matt Mathers

Nearly five million people have been allowed to continue living and working in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme so far, according to the latest official estimates.

Home Office figures show that, as of the end of June, 4,908,760 people had been granted an immigration status to remain in the country after freedom of movement ended following the Brexit transition period.

EU citizens – as well as people from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – and their families had been asked to apply to the scheme by the June 30 deadline.

Quarterly data published on Thursday suggest more than 5.5 million people (5,548,440) had applied by that date.

Cop26 president insists summit will be an ‘all UK’ event

14:34 , Matt Mathers

The president of Cop26 has insisted the climate summit will be an “all of UK” event despite suggestions Number 10 is trying to sideline Scotland’s first minister.

Alok Sharma said he wanted the event, which will world leaders come to Glasgow for key talks on how to limit global warming, to be something the whole of the United Kingdom could be proud of.

His comments come in the wake of reports that advisers at No 10 and the Cabinet Office have been seeking to sideline Nicola Sturgeon’s role, amidst fears she may seek to use the event as an “advert” for Scottish independence.

But Mr Sharma told MSPs on Holyrood’s Net Zero Committee: “I very much want to see this as an all of UK Cop, something that we can all collectively be very proud of.”

He added: “We will be welcoming the world to Glasgow and this is an opportunity to showcase what the United Kingdom has to offer.”

NHS in Scotland facing toughest test in decades , Sturgeon says

14:47 , Matt Mathers

Scotland’s ambulance service and NHS faces the most challenging winter in a lifetime, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

The first minister told MSPs the coronavirus pandemic has left the health service feeling the pressure “acutely” but insisted her government would be focused on resolving the worsening issues “every day” over the winter period.

Challenged repeatedly at First Minister’s Questions about reports of people waiting hours and even days for ambulances to attend emergencies, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the situation was “not acceptable” but stressed there was work and investment attempting to address the problems.

She said: “The pandemic has created the most challenging conditions for our National Health Service probably since the National Health Service was created and that is being felt acutely in Scotland, it has been felt acutely in countries across the UK and the rest of the world.

“There are, right now, over 1,000 people in our hospitals with Covid.

“That puts additional pressure on our hospitals and that feeds through into longer turnaround times for ambulance services, and, of course, the ambulance service is often the frontline response for those who need hospital care – for Covid or for anything else.”

Patel meets with Border Force after holding onto home sec job

15:03 , Matt Mathers

Priti Patel has met Border Force officers as migrants continue to cross the English Channel to the UK from France by boat.

The home secretary was seen out in the Channel on Thursday, the day after it was confirmed she would remain in her role as part of Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle.

It is understood she took part in a private meeting with law enforcement teams who are on the front line tackling illegal migration.

Her trip to Dover came as crossings continued for the fourth consecutive day this week.

I wonder what the ghost of Margaret Thatcher would make of her successor’s new cabinet?

15:20 , Matt Mathers

Thatcher would surely approve, particularly as the values shared by the vast majority of Johnson’s cabinet now are unashamedly Thatcherite, free market – and Brexity, writes Cathy Newman.

Read Cathy’s full column here:

© Provided by The Independent

What would Margaret Thatcher make of her successor’s new cabinet? | Cathy Newman

Reshuffles make great theatre, but a few new players on the Westminster stage give me very little to applaud

15:35 , Matt Mathers

The purpose of this week’s reshuffle is to sweep away the problems of the recent past. But I doubt this new team will give us the open and honest government the country needs, writes Labour MP Jess Phillips.

Read Jess’s full article here:

© Provided by The Independent

Reshuffles make great theatre, but there’s little to applaud | Jess Phillips

May questions if Aukus could lead to war over Taiwan

16:12 , Sam Hancock

Former PM Theresa May challenged her successor, Boris Johnson, today over the possibility that Aukus could lead to the UK being dragged into a war with China over Taiwan.

The question came during a Commons debate on the three-country defence pact, under which the US and UK will share sensitive technology with Australia to allow it to develop its first nuclear-powered submarines.

Ms May asked the PM: “What are the implications of this pact for the stance that would be taken by the United Kingdom in its response should China attempt to invade Taiwan?”

He replied: “The United Kingdom remains determined to defend international law and that is the strong advice we would give to our friends across the world, and the strong advice that we would give to the government in Beijing.”

The fractious relationship between Beijing and Taipei – which has long received military support from the US – has worsened in recent years. Just this month, China sent 19 aircraft, including several nuclear-capable bombers, into Taiwan’s “air defence identification zone”, on the eve of Taipei’s annual war games exercises.

While the UK, the US and Australia have tried to downplay the impact of the Aukus agreement on China, nuclear-powered submarines will allow the Australian navy to match Beijing.

China has already denounced the deal, labelling it “irresponsible” and claiming it “reintensifies the arms race”.

Australia ‘now at risk of being targeted in nuclear war’ – China

16:21 , Sam Hancock

Australia is at risk of becoming the target of a nuclear strike, should a nuclear war break out, a Chinese military expert has claimed amid fallout from the announcement of Aukus.

Issuing a warning to Australian PM Scott Morrison, the unnamed “senior Chinese military expert” told the state-run Global Times newspaper on Thursday that his country was now at risk of being targeted by nuclear-armed states such as China and Russia, who may feel they are directly facing the threat from Australia’s nuclear submarines “which serve US strategic demands”.

[US president Joe] Biden and [Mr] Morrison’s promises of “not seeking nuclear weapons” are meaningless,” the expert said.

“Beijing and Moscow won’t treat Canberra as an innocent non-nuclear power, but as a US ally which could be armed with nuclear weapons anytime.”

It echoes the words of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, who said at a press conference on Thursday that Aukus’ intention to supply Australia with nuclear submarines “seriously damages regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race, and undermines the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”.

Greensill shows ‘lobbying loopholes should be closed’ – report

16:30 , Sam Hancock

Some Greensill news now. A review ordered by Boris Johnson in response to the saga around David Cameron lobbying on behalf of failed finance firm Greensill Capital has called for a strengthening of the rules.

PA Media reports:

The second part of the long-awaited report by Nigel Boardman was published on Thursday and called for a variety of reforms in the wake of the Greensill scandal.

Mr Boardman noted that if his recommendations were in force at the time, then, the Conservative former prime minister would have been required to register as a lobbyist.

The review was launched in April after it emerged Mr Cameron privately lobbied ministers to attempt to try to secure access to an emergency coronavirus loan scheme for Greensill Capital.

Mr Boardman recommended that the “transparency of lobbyists be strengthened” by requiring them to disclose the ultimate person paying for, or benefiting from, their work.

Lobbyists should also meet a statutory code of conduct setting minimums standards, he advised.

Mr Boardman added that former ministers have “a privileged position” derived from their work in Government and called for the Register of Consultant Lobbyists to include any former minister or senior civil servant who undertakes any lobbying activity.

“I note that, were these recommendations in force at the relevant time, Mr Cameron would have been required to register as a lobbyist,” he added.

© Provided by The Independent Former PM Cameron came under pressure over Greensill accusations earlier this year (Reuters)

Watch: China govt adviser calls Aukus ‘ideological cold war’

16:40 , Sam Hancock

How has the reshuffle changed which constituencies are in Cabinet?

16:49 , Sam Hancock

Jack Pannell, from the Institute for Government think-tank, takes a look.

Where do the MPs in the cabinet represent? The new cabinet has slightly more ministers from the north and slightly fewer from the midlands. pic.twitter.com/2o2kA6xX0z

— jack pannell (@jack_pannnell) September 16, 2021

Aukus row with France comes amid migrant boat crisis

17:00 , Sam Hancock

Britain and France’s fallout over the Aukus pact comes at a time when relations are already strained over the situation with migrant crossings in the Channel, according to some analysis by PA.

The news agency writes:

The French warned against the UK using “blackmail” tactics after suggestions from Home Secretary Priti Patel that she could withhold millions of pounds of cash unless there was an improvement in the number of migrants intercepted by the authorities across the Channel.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman sought to smooth relations by stressing that “we very highly value our relationship with France both in terms of defence and security and more broadly”.

He insisted talks with France would continue over efforts to prevent migrants risking crossings of the Channel, despite the row over the defence deal.

Australia “as a close ally and friend of this country” had asked for help on the defence scheme and “it was something we were pleased to be able to assist with, not in the least because it benefits the people of the UK”.

“With regards to the ongoing issues in the Channel, we want to work with our French counterparts, the Home Secretary has had a number of discussions with her counterpart, and we will continue to do so.”

Military to help Scottish ambulances amid Covid surge

17:10 , Sam Hancock

The Scottish government is in talks to deploy the Army to provide “targeted military assistance” for the ambulance service, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Scotland’s FM told MSPs that emergency services are under “acute pressure” as a surge in Covid-19 cases causes severe ambulance delays.

Ms Sturgeon said the waiting times for some patients were “not acceptable”, adding: “I apologise unreservedly to anyone that has suffered or is suffering unacceptably long waits.”

During FMQs, the SNP leader also apologised to the family of a 65-year-old man who reportedly died after waiting 40 hours for an ambulance, reports Daniel Keane.

© Provided by The Independent

Military to to help Scottish ambulance crews amid Covid-19 surge

Fleet of electric vehicles to drive world leaders at Cop26

17:50 , Sam Hancock

World leaders attending the Cop26 summit in Glasgow this November will be driven around the city in a fleet of electric vehicles, the government has said.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) will provide the battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids for leaders and their teams travelling to and from the summit being held at the Scottish Events Campus. The vehicles will be sourced from existing fleets in the UK to help ensure their carbon footprint remains low.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma said JLR “is an iconic British brand with a proven track record”.

“They are showing climate leadership in their field with award winning electric vehicles, and I am delighted these will be used by world leaders in Glasgow,” he added.

When leaders, including US president Joe Biden and PM Boris Johnson, attend the summit, they will be under pressure to ramp up climate ambition in their national action plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Scientists warn the world is already experiencing human-driven climate extremes at current levels of 1.2C of warming above pre-industrial levels. While messaging suggests efforts are still in place to ensure the figure does not rise above 1.5, environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion have claimed this will inevitably happen if the government continues to invest in fossil fuels.

G20 countries need to go further and faster in reducing emissions to keep alive the prospect of preventing global temperatures rising above 1.5C

This means committing to net zero emissions by mid-century and aligning their climate plans with a 1.5C future#COP26 https://t.co/X0UXYlIDIV

— Alok Sharma (@AlokSharma_RDG) September 16, 2021

New Cabinet minister denied climate change in tweets

18:00 , Sam Hancock

Speaking of the climate crisis. Boris Johnson’s new international trade secretary has been accused of climate emergency denial after a series of tweets came to light in which she insisted the world was not getting hotter and dismissed global warming campaigners as “fanatics”.

In the messages, sent between 2010 and 2012, Anne-Marie Trevelyan approvingly quoted the work of groups which have rejected the mainstream scientific consensus that human activity is driving climate change.

Labour swiftly condemned the Berwick MP’s elevation to the Cabinet just weeks ahead of the Cop26 UN conference being chaired by Boris Johnson in Glasgow, at which the PM is hoping to persuade countries from around the world to sign up to ambitious carbon-cutting targets.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock reports:

© Provided by The Independent

New cabinet minister denied climate change in string of tweets

Peer accuses Sturgeon of ‘destroying’ UK with indyref2

18:22 , Sam Hancock

Over to the House of Lords. A Tory former Scottish secretary has accused Nicola Sturgeon’s government of being “dishonest” and determined to “destroy” the UK amid rumblings of a second independence referendum.

Conservative peer Lord Forsyth of Drumlean questioned the ability to have a “constructive relationship” with the SNP during during a question on working with the devolved administrations.

The SNP won its fourth consecutive term in power at Holyrood in May’s Scottish elections, and Ms Sturgeon has insisted the victory “represents an unarguable mandate to implement the manifesto we put before the country”. This included plans for the so-called indyref2.

“Since 2007 health spending in England has gone up by 25 per cent in real terms. In Scotland it has gone up by 10.8 per cent, because the Scottish government have not spent the Barnett consequences of health increases on health,” he said today at the House of Lords.

He continued: “At the same time, they are blaming Westminster for so-called cuts in health expenditure. How is it possible to have a constructive relationship with a government who are so dishonest and are determined to destroy the United Kingdom?”

Responding, Lord True said: “I cannot answer for the actions of the Scottish government, but I say to them – and indeed to everybody – that now is the time not to stoke divisions but to focus on what unites the people of Scotland and all of us around the rest of the United Kingdom.”

© Provided by The Independent Lord Forsyth of Drumlean attacks the SNP at the House of Lords earlier (Parliament TV)

Gove is not racist or homophobic ‘in any way’ – Cabinet minister

18:33 , Sam Hancock

A cabinet minister has insisted Michael Gove is not racist or homophobic “in any way” after The Independent exposed his past crude sexual comments and jokes about paedophilia.

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, also insisted Mr Gove would be happy to answer questions about the controversy – although the man handed a key new role in Boris Johnson’s reshuffle has refused to comment so far.

“Michael Gove has been quoted as using racist language, specifically the term ‘fuzzy wuzzies’, and homophobic language in a speech that he made, admittedly, some years ago in the Cambridge Union,” the presenter Niall Paterson said, adding it was “about time we heard from Michael Gove something of an apology for the use of that language”.

Mr Wallace denied his colleague was hiding from questions about the controversy, insisting he had never been “shy of appearing on media rounds”.

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has more:

© Provided by The Independent

Michael Gove is not racist or homophobic ‘in any way’, cabinet minister insists

18:44 , Sam Hancock

Following my last post, and in case you missed it, here’s Holly Bancroft with her exclusive report on Michel Gove’s unearthed sexist jibes, racist jokes and homophobic slurs.

© Provided by The Independent

Revealed: Michael Gove’s sexist jibes, racist jokes and homophobic slurs

No 10 confirms junior appointments in reshuffle

18:53 , Sam Hancock

Downing Street announced a series of new junior position appointments today as the reshuffle continued.

  • Robin Walker becomes minister of state at the Department for Education,
  • Lucy Frazer QC has been appointed Financial Secretary to the Treasury,
  • Victoria Atkins has become minister of state at the Ministry of Justice but will remain responsible for the Afghan resettlement scheme and Operation Warm Welcome,
  • Gillian Keegan has been moved to be a minister at the Department of Health and Social Care,
  • Lee Rowley has been madea junior minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and a Government whip,
  • Neil O’Brien has been made a junior minister at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government,
  • Maggie Throup has become a junior minister at the Department of Health and Social Care, Helen Whately becomes Treasury Exchequer Secretary, and Amanda Solloway has been made a whip.

Covid: Booster jab campaign has started, says Javid

19:04 , Sam Hancock

Sajid Javid confirmed earlier that the Covid-19 booster campaign has started and pledged to “level-up” health in England.

Speaking at a think-tank event in Blackpool on Thursday afternoon, the health secretary confirmed that the first person had received a jab under the scheme that will see millions of eligible people offered a Pfizer vaccine.

Hospital hubs have now started inoculating key workers and GP-led vaccination services are set to follow in the coming days, followed by vaccination centres and pharmacy-led sites who will join the campaign next week, reports Joe Middleton.

© Provided by The Independent

Covid-19 booster vaccine campaign has started, confirms Health Secretary Sajid Javid

PM thanks Abu Dhabi Crown Prince for support during Afghan crisis

19:20 , Sam Hancock

Boris Johnson has held talks with the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the global effort to combat climate change.

The PM welcomed Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan to Downing Street on Thursday.

At the meeting, the two leaders discussed a new investment partnership and efforts to tackle climate change ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November.

Mr Johnson also thanked the Crown Prince for the UAE’s support during the evacuation from Afghanistan.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The leaders agreed the UK and UAE should work together more widely on development and security in the region.”

© Provided by The Independent The PM is pictured with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi inspecting the Guard of Honour in central London (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Watch: Rees-Mogg claims Tories don’t need masks because they ‘work harder’

19:35 , Sam Hancock

Campaigners demand to see minister’s texts over Covid contracts

19:48 , Sam Hancock

A health minister is facing demands to release thousands of electronic messages potentially relating to coronavirus testing contracts, after it emerged that a mobile phone previously said to have been lost or broken had in fact been given to a family member.

As part of a legal challenge relating to controversial £87.5m testing contracts with Abingdon Health, the government revealed in July that some of Lord Bethell’s communications had been conducted via WhatsApp and text messages held only on his private mobile.

But when lawyers from the Good Law Project demanded that the messages should be retrieved and preserved, they were told initially that the phone had been lost and then that it was broken, making the records inaccessible.

Now government lawyers have stated that the phone was in fact handed over to a family member when the health minister upgraded to a new one, reports our political editor Andrew Woodcock.

© Provided by The Independent

Transparency campaigners demand to see health minister’s texts over Covid contracts

00:03 , Sam Hancock

That’s it from us on the politics blog for today, thanks for following along. Be sure to check back tomorrow for all the latest updates.

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