Rolling coverage of political developments, including reaction to Theresa May’s statement about Russia’s involvement in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal
A new piece of research looks at the way that female and male leaders are treated on social media. The research, by the social enterprise Atalanta (which is focused on female representation in government) compared Theresa May to Jeremy Corbyn alongside pairs of female and male political leaders in South Africa and Chile.
They found that May had three times the share of comments about her appearance than Corbyn, and messages about May were often gendered.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, also spoke in the European parliament debate on its Brexit resolution. He said it was “rather surprising” that the UK thought the EU would accept convergence in some areas “and at the same time open up the possibility for divergence when there is a comparative advantage to be had” for the UK.
Barnier told MEPs:
I listened attentively to Theresa May’s Mansion House speech which confirms the door is closing itself by confirming the red lines – leaving the single market, leaving the customs union …
It’s time to face up to the hard facts. The UK is choosing to leave the union, the single market and the customs union, we have noted that.
In an interview in the Evening Standard on Monday Amber Rudd, the home secretary, indicated that she remained highly sceptical that all 14 deaths flagged up as potentially suspicious (see 11.09am) could be linked to the Russians.
Referring to Lord Blair, the former Met commissioner who has also called for the deaths to be reviews, she said:
You know I’m not dismissing it at all and after we’ve got beyond this incident it may be right to look at them all again.
Well, not all of them — I expect even Lord Blair would probably say one or two or three or four.
Last week Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons home affairs committee, wrote to Amber Rudd, the home secretary, asking for an investigation into the 14 deaths not being treated as suspicious by the police but which, according to a BuzzFeed investigation, are thought by US intelligence to be potentially linked to Russia.
Today the committee has published Rudd’s reply (pdf). Rudd said she would take this up with the police and MI5, and told Cooper:
In the weeks to come, I will want to satisfy myself that the allegations are nothing more than that. The police and MI5 agree and will assist in that endeavour. I will write to you again with my conclusions.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s decision to look again at other cases where questions have been raised. Rightly, the government is focused on the current investigation into the attack in Salisbury and supporting the efforts of the police, as well as responding to the incredibly serious conclusion the Prime Minister announced in the Commons yesterday.
But given the gravity of these issues, it is also right that the authorities should reassure us that they have looked at any further allegations or relevant evidence put forward in any other cases. As the home secretary has said in her letter, the government must satisfy itself that the correct finding was reached in each case and the public need to know that relevant questions about wider Russia links have been investigated and answered.
Russia is demanding access to the nerve agent identified by British investigators that was used to poison Sergei Skripal, the Press Association is reporting.
In a separate interview for international broadcasters, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, also stressed that the British government’s dispute was with the Russian government, not the Russian people. He said:
We don’t want to demonise either Russia or the Russian people for whom obviously we have a very high regard.
Russia is a great country. It is a great pity therefore that the Russian regime seems to be moving in this dangerous and disruptive direction.
Russia’s foreign ministry has mocked Theresa May over her conclusion that it was “highly likely” Moscow was responsible for the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. As the Press Association reports, in a post on Twitter, the ministry’s official account used the hashtag HighlyLikelyRussia – which has been used on social media as the basis of jokes for things to blame Moscow for. The ministry of foreign affairs’ message said “sincere thanks to May for HighlyLikelyRussia” along with a video suggesting the country was to blame for the recent snow to fall in the UK.
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, said this morning that he has been “very encouraged” by the support the UK has been getting internationally since Theresa May’s statement about Russia’s involvement in the Salisbury attack yesterday.
He also confirmed that the government would announce what action it will take in response tomorrow. He said:
What we’re doing today is giving Russia until midnight tonight to explain how it came to be that novichok was used on the streets of Wiltshire. If they can come up with a convincing explanation then obviously we will want to see full disclosure of that to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague.
If not, then clearly we will want to be announcing the UK response and that will come tomorrow.
The first thing is to get over to our friends and partners exactly what has happened and that’s what we’ve been doing today. And as the prime minister explained yesterday, this is a brazen attempt to murder innocent people on UK soil.
A policeman still in hospital. Overwhelmingly likely, or highly likely that the Russian state was involved.
In the Commons yesterday two MPs asked Theresa May to consider banning the pro-Kremlin news channel RT (formerly Russia Today). May said she knew that this was an issue of concern to MPs, but she did not make any firm proposals. She said she would be making a further statement later setting out her proposals for retaliatory action.
On the Today programme Dominic Raab, the housing minister, said that there might be a case for taking action against RT if it was involved in the Salisbury attack (no one has suggested it was), but that he would not favour banning it just because it is a propaganda channel. He said:
I’m generally in favour of free speech and I think people can judge [Russia Today] on its own terms.
Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that all broadcast licensees are fit and proper to hold a licence.
We have heard the pime minister’s statement in the House of Commons this afternoon and we await her further statement on Wednesday. We will then consider the implications for RT’s broadcast licences.
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, told MEPs this morning that the UK would come to regret its decision to leave the EU. As the Press Association reports, Juncker said things “cannot remain as they are” for the UK in its relationship with the EU after leaving the bloc. Addressing the European parliament, Juncker was cheered by Eurosceptic MEPs as he noted the UK’s departure was due on March 29 2019. Responding to their applause, Juncker said the time would come “when you will regret your decision”.
Juncker also said the EU was ready to work with the UK on its preferred option of the border issue being resolved in the future trade deal, or by other specific measures. But he added “we need to receive concrete proposals from the UK first”.
But David Miliband, the former Labour foreign secretary, told the same programme that it was “very worrying” that the White House was not able to blame Russia. He told Today:
The biggest thing [Theresa May] has to do in the next two days is to rally her allies.
It is very significant and very worrying, frankly, that the White House has not felt able to point the finger at Russia in the last seven or eight days.
On the Today programme Kurt Volker, an American diplomat who currently serves as the US special representative for Ukraine, said the UK should not be worried about the White House’s failure to accept Russia was to blame for the Salisbury attack. Asked about this, he said:
I wouldn’t be worried at all. I think the secretary of state came out last night with a very robust statement.
Dominic Raab, the housing minister, has been giving two interviews this morning. On the Today programme he was asked about the spring statement and the Salisbury attack, neither of which are subjects relevant to his portfolio, but he is clearly trusted to speak on the government on these issues, otherwise he would not have been put up. Here are the key points he made.
If, as is widely feared it turns out that there is no credible explanation for this [and] that the Russian authorities were responsible for it directly, then it would be an unlawful use of force on UK soil. And that opens up the whole panoply of counter measures from economic, financial, diplomatic measures.
And there is obviously, as you know, a lot of talk about the Magnitsky sanctions …
The prime minister chose her words very carefully. The words ‘unlawful use of force’ have a different meaning in international law from an armed attack. The range [of measures] would I believe extend to and include: diplomatic measures, financial measures, economic measures and issues around visa bans and things like that.
Frankly the leader of the Labour party needs to grow a backbone and show some mettle. People will expect both as a matter of principle, but also the issue of protecting the public at large, that we take a resolute responsible approach but a resolute and robust one.
Theresa May’s announcement yesterday about Russia’s involvement in the Salisbury nerve agent attack has prompted reaction around the world, although mixed messages have been coming out of Washington.
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, has strongly backed May, and the British government’s assessment about it being “highly likely” that Russia ordered the attack. Tillerson spoke to Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, yesterday and afterwards he put out a statement saying he was “outraged” by what happened. It said:
We have full confidence in the UK’s investigation and its assessment that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack that took place in Salisbury last week.
There is never a justification for this type of attack – the attempted murder of a private citizen on the soil of a sovereign nation – and we are outraged that Russia appears to have again engaged in such behavior. From Ukraine to Syria – and now the UK – Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.
Q: So you’re not saying that Russia was behind this act?
MS. SANDERS: Right now, we are standing with our UK ally. I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that. And we’re going to continue to work with the UK, and we certainly stand with them throughout this process.