The Telegraph 2024-01-31 04:01:15

Britain set to deploy aircraft carrier to Red Sea

Britain is poised to send an aircraft carrier to the Red Sea to counter drone and missile attacks from Houthi rebels.

The Royal Navy is preparing to step in to replace USS Dwight D Eisenhower when it returns to America, as the Houthis warned of a “long-term confrontation” in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

James Heappey, the armed forces minister, said on Tuesday that the UK may “co-operate with the Americans” and step in to “plug a gap” in the Red Sea.

The UK has two aircraft carriers designed to carry F-35 fighter jets. One is HMS Prince of Wales, which would face its first combat operation if it were deployed. The other is HMS Queen Elizabeth, which has been sent into combat once before.

On Tuesday, Mohamed al-Atifi, the commander of the Iran-backed Houthi forces, said the group was prepared for a long conflict over the Red Sea, where it has launched dozens of drone and missile attacks against commercial and naval ships since November.

The attacks have caused major delays for global shipping, as tankers and container ships are re-rerouted around Africa to avoid the narrow Bab al-Mandab strait, the entry point to the Red Sea between Yemen and Djibouti.

Britain and the US have launched two rounds of joint air strikes on Houthi drone and missile sites, using American F/A-18 Super Hornet jets from USS Eisenhower, and the RAF’s Typhoons launched from a base in southern Cyprus.

However, Mr Heappey said the US carrier, nicknamed “Ike”, must soon return to the US. “The Eisenhower can’t stay there forever, and so there’s a thing about just maintaining a carrier presence in the region where we might cooperate with the Americans to provide a capability there,” he told The House magazine.

He said Royal Navy carriers could be used “when the Eisenhower goes home… if we were needed to plug a gap in US deployments”.

The plans come after weeks of calls for the UK to deploy one of its £3.1 billion aircraft carriers, which are both based in Portsmouth.

The Telegraph revealed this month that HMS Queen Elizabeth was not at optimal readiness for deployment because of a Navy staffing shortage that had affected RFA Fort Victoria, the solid support ship that provides it with ammunition, food and other supplies while at sea.

Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, previously said it was “absolutely extraordinary” that the UK had not deployed a carrier to protect commercial ships, although Mr Heappey said on Tuesday that there was “no real need… for more carriers to be in the region than the Ike can provide”. 

A sea trial of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2019 was aborted after the ship sprung a leak. However, a defence source said both carriers were now ready to be deployed if necessary. They stressed the “interoperability” between US and UK forces, after American F-35B jets took off from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth during Operation Shader against Islamic State in 2021.

“If we make a decision, we will tailor the package from there,” the source said.

The UK is not set to reach “full operating capacity” – with two squadrons of its own F-35 jets – until next year, but each carrier can support up to 36 jets.

Cameron open to Palestinian state

Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, travelled to Oman on Tuesday, where he is expected to call for stability over the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East.

Earlier, Lord Cameron said Britain was considering whether to formally recognise a Palestinian state. He told a reception of Arab ambassadors in London that the Government had a “responsibility” to work towards a two-state solution, which would result in an independent Palestinian state coexisting with the nation of Israel.

“Most important of all is to give the Palestinian people a political horizon so that they can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution and, crucially, the establishment of a Palestinian state,” he said.

“We have a responsibility there because we should be starting to set out what a Palestinian state would look like, what it would comprise, how it would work and, crucially, looking at the issue … of recognising a Palestinian state, including at the United Nations.”

In Oman, the Foreign Secretary will reiterate Britain’s commitment to delivering aid to Yemen, and outline the actions the UK is taking to deter the Houthis from targeting ships in the Red Sea.

The news came after Joe Biden said he had made a decision on how to respond to Iran-backed militants in Iraq and Syria who fired on an American base in northern Jordan on Sunday killing three US troops.

Asked if he believed Iran was responsible for the attack, the president said: “I do hold them responsible in the sense that they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it.”

Washington pledged a “very consequential” response to the attacks. John Kirby, the White House’s National Security spokesman, said the US had still not identified the specific group that attacked the US base, but believed the militants had Iranian backing. 

“We’re still working through the analysis, but clearly the work has all the hallmarks of groups that are backed by the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and, and in fact by Hezbollah as well,” he said.

Kataib Hezbollah, the group blamed for the fatal drone attack, said on Tuesday it would halt its attacks on American forces in the Middle East.

“We’re announcing the suspension of our military and security operations against the occupying forces to avoid any embarrassment for the Iraqi government,” it wrote on its website.

Watch: Israeli soldiers dressed as doctors raid hospital to kill suspected terrorists

Israeli commandos disguised as nurses and doctors have raided a West Bank hospital, killing three alleged terrorists in a lightning-fast, clandestine operation.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed the operation had taken place on Tuesday, after Palestinian media released CCTV video footage showing people dressed as medical workers and Muslim civilians entering a hospital in Jenin, brandishing assault rifles.

The team of IDF and police counter-terrorism commandos entered Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin overnight, killing a man they identified as a member of Hamas, and two other suspects, the Israeli military said.

Mohammed Jalamneh, 27, “had contacts with Hamas headquarters abroad” and was plotting a terrorist attack “in the immediate future”, the IDF said.

Mr Jalamneh was at the hospital to sit with a friend who was convalescing after being wounded in an IDF drone strike on a cemetery in Jenin last year.

The undercover commandos entered the hospital, shot the three men with silenced weapons and promptly left.

Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, quoted unnamed hospital employees who said the commandos entered the hospital one by one wearing disguises.

The CCTV footage, released by Palestinian media, appears to show the assault team gathering in an entrance foyer in the hospital at the start of the raid.

The first two commandos, one a man wearing a white doctor’s coat and a facemask, the other a woman in a headscarf, pass through the room, stalking across the tiled floor with their shortened rifles raised.

Behind them, another man wearing medical scrubs carries a rifle in one hand and a wheelchair in the other.

In total, around a dozen commandos – all either disguised as medical workers or civilians – can be seen gathering in the hospital.

One man, dressed as a devout Muslim with white prayer cap and long brown robe, carries a suppressed weapon and uses hand signals to direct the commandos to fan out and cover the corridors and doorways.

In the background, several commandos, some wearing hijabs, have their weapons trained on a civilian who has been made to kneel against a wall, with their hands held high.

The civilian’s jacket is removed before their hands are tied behind their back, with their jacket then put over their head as a makeshift hood.

Bags of equipment are brought in and laid down as one of the commandos puts on a balaclava before advancing deeper into the hospital.

After less than a minute, the commandos have moved on and the hallway is empty, save for the hooded civilian.

A second video clip released by Palestinian media appeared to show inside the rooms where the three Palestinians were killed.

Two blood-stained chairs are shown, before the camera arrives at a hospital bed, which is also covered in blood. A bullet hole in the pillow suggests the target was killed where he lay.

The Israeli military later released an image showing a handgun with two spare magazines that they said was retrieved during the operation.

Ten other people were reportedly in the same ward where the raid took place but they were unharmed.

The IDF claimed Mr Jalamneh transferred weapons and ammunition to “terrorists” in order to “promote shooting attacks” and reportedly planned a raid attack inspired by the Hamas massacre on Oct 7.

The two other people killed in the raid were identified as Mohammed Ghazawi, who was affiliated with the Jenin Battalions who allegedly fired at Israeli troops in the area, and his brother Basil, said to be involved with Islamic Jihad.

A deputy director of the hospital was quoted as saying Mr Ghazawi had been in and out of the hospital since October when he was injured and suffered from partial paralysis of the lower body.

International humanitarian law prohibits parties from using hospital garbs or Red Cross signs for military means.

Base for launching terrorist attacks

The IDF accused the suspects of using the hospital as a base for launching terrorist attacks.

Tuesday’s raid is believed to have been carried out by so-called Mista-arvim teams drawn from Israel’s elite Shayetet 13 naval special forces unit and Israeli counter-terror police.

The Mista-arvim units take their name from the phrase meaning “those who live among the Arabs”, which was used to describe Arabic-speaking Jews living in the Middle East.

The secretive units are typically used for intelligence gathering, counter-terror and hostage rescue missions.

Training for the Mista-arvim squads reportedly takes 15 months and includes extensive lessons in Arabic language, culture and customs, as well as courses on disguises.

Israel’s special forces have for decades relied on disguises for their operations.

In 1972, commandos disguised themselves as technicians in white overalls and stormed a hijacked aircraft in Tel Aviv, freeing the passengers, killing two terrorists and capturing two others.

Perhaps most famously, a year later, commandos disguised as romantic couples complete with wigs, dresses and handbags, slipped into Beirut on a mission to assassinate the top leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

A young Ehud Barak, who would later become Israel’s prime minister, took part in the raid, which came in the aftermath of the Munich Olympics massacre.

The refugee camp in the city of Jenin in the West Bank has been a focus of IDF clashes with Palestinians for months.

At least 58 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank this year, according to rights groups.

Images of Constance Marten’s baby seen for first time

Images of Constance Marten’s baby have been seen for the first time in CCTV footage shown to court.

Ms Marten, 36, and Mark Gordon, her 49-year-old partner, are on trial at the Old Bailey accused of the manslaughter of baby Victoria.

It is alleged the couple travelled across England and lived off-grid in a bid to keep their daughter after four other children were taken into care.

Last January, Greater Manchester Police launched a missing persons inquiry after finding a placenta in the couple’s burnt-out car on a motorway near Bolton.

The defendants spent hundreds of pounds on taxis taking them from the north west to Essex and on to east London, the Old Bailey heard.

Last February, Ms Marten and Mr Gordon were arrested in East Sussex and Victoria’s body was found in a supermarket bag, covered in rubbish, inside a disused shed.

Previously, CCTV footage of the couple appeared to show a bulge where the baby had been bundled up beneath Ms  Marten’s coat and wrapped in a blanket or towel.

On Tuesday, jurors were shown video footage clearly showing the dark-haired child dressed in a babygrow, with her hands and arms moving around.

Colette Franklin, a cab driver who took the defendants from Harwich to Colchester in Essex for £30, described how Mr Gordon “slid down his seat” when a police car came towards them.

On arriving at East Ham, east London, Mr Gordon passed Victoria out of another cab to Ms Marten, who was standing near the door. The baby’s fingers were seen curling and moving around in the footage.

Further CCTV of Ms Marten standing in the street showed her unzipping her jacket to reveal the baby. She appeared to cradle the child in her arms to comfort her.

Jurors then viewed a clip of Mr Gordon buying a buggy in an Argos store while Ms Marten sat at a table in a German doner kebab shop. When Mr Gordon returned, Ms Marten put the baby, wrapped in a red scarf, down.

Joel Smith, prosecuting, told jurors: “You can see, while Ms Marten is assembling the buggy, the baby’s arms moving to her left.”

Mr Gordon sat in the dock and covered his face with his hand as the footage was shown. John Femi-Ola KC, his defence barrister, spoke to him briefly and then asked for a short break because his client was finding it “quite stressful”.

Ms Marten, who was later captured on camera buying a dummy in Boots, has not attended court for her trial.

Jurors were told the couple went on to Whitechapel, east London, where Mr Gordon bought a tent at Argos, before heading to Newhaven, East Sussex.

CCTV footage showed Mr Gordon in the shop wearing plastic bags on his shoes. Jurors were shown a receipt for the purchase of items including a children’s “pro-active unicorn” sleeping bag and tent, totalling £91.51, which was paid in cash.

On Jan 12 last year, Ms Marten was captured on film at a Texaco garage in East Sussex, jurors were told. After that, the “trail went cold” until Feb 20 when they were spotted near a golf course clubhouse, Mr Smith said. He told jurors that by then Mr Gordon was using a branch as a makeshift walking stick and the defendants were “rummaging through bins”.

They were finally tracked down on the outskirts of Brighton, where they were arrested on Feb 27.

‘Possibly homeless people’

Paul Rogers, a dog walker, told the court he saw the defendants near Hollingbury golf course in Brighton, adding: “As I got closer to them I noticed they looked a bit dishevelled, a bit dirty, possibly homeless people.

“The man was carrying plastic bags, a bag in each hand. The woman was pushing a buggy. They didn’t have anything else with them. I do not recall whether there was anything in the buggy.”

Mr Smith asked: “At any point, did you see or hear a baby?” Mr Rogers said: “I didn’t, no.”

Tim Morris, a motorist, was in Coldean Lane, Brighton, on the morning of Feb 18 when he saw a couple he thought were the defendants, the court was told.

He told jurors: “The thing I noticed about the lady was she had a big coat on with something underneath. The coat was done up. I straight away thought there was a child under the coat and it was being kept warm. It seemed quite odd she was quite far behind [the man] and almost dragging her heels. It didn’t seem right.

“I said to my partner: ‘They look like that couple in the news,’ and she said: ‘Yes, there’s definitely something beneath the coat and it could be a little ’un’.”

The defendants, of no fixed address, deny manslaughter by gross negligence of the little girl between Jan 4 and Feb 27 last year.

They are also charged with perverting the course of justice, concealing the birth of a child, child cruelty and causing or allowing the death of a child.

Harvard produces ‘whiny snowflakes’, says major donor as he withdraws funding

A major Harvard donor has halted financial support for the university and accused elite US colleges of producing “whiny snowflakes” instead of future leaders.

Ken Griffin, an alumnus who donated $300 million (£237 million) to Harvard last year, is the latest in a string of wealthy donors who have halted donations amid uproar over the university’s handling of anti-Semitism on campus after the Oct 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Mr Griffin announced he was pausing support for Harvard unless it makes significant changes.

“I’m not interested in supporting the institution,” Mr Griffin said of Harvard at a conference in Miami on Tuesday.

The university, he said, must make clear that it will “resume its role of educating young American men and women to be leaders and problem solvers”.

According to Bloomberg, he accused leading US colleges of producing “whiny snowflakes” instead of future statesmen.

Harvard is still struggling to resolve tensions even after Claudine Gay, its former president, resigned this month amid an onslaught of criticism over her response to anti-Semitism, as well as accusations of plagiarism in her scholarship.

The school has also come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers, students and alumni. Two congressional committees have begun investigations, with one of them criticising Harvard last week for providing “woefully inadequate” responses to its questions. 

The US education department is conducting its own investigation of anti-Semitism at Harvard and other schools.

Mr Griffin, the founder and chief executive of hedge fund firm Citadel with a personal net worth of $36.8 billion, said he was concerned after watching Ms Gay testify before Congress on Dec 5.

She and two other university presidents declined to give a definitive “yes” or “no” answer to a question on whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their schools’ code of conduct on bullying and harassment, saying it would have to be balanced against free-speech protections.

His decision to withhold support will deepen the financial pain for Harvard. Len Blavatnik, the billionaire and Harvard alumnus, whose family foundation has given at least $270 million to Harvard, paused donations last month.

Donors such as Idan Ofer and Leslie Wexner had earlier halted support, while Mitt Romney, the US senator, accused the university of ignoring the safety of Jewish students.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lawrence Summers, a former Harvard president, took aim at its leaders, describing the scandal over the university’s handling of anti-Semitism as the “worst stretch” in its 387-year history.

“My confidence in Harvard leadership’s ability and will to confront antisemitism and the demonisation of Israel continues to decline,” Mr Summers wrote on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, it is becoming ever clearer why Harvard ranks first on anti-Semitism, even as it ranks last on upholding free speech.

“I cannot think of a worse stretch in Harvard history than the last few months,” he added.

Telegraph sale: Government concerned by principle of foreign state media ownership

The media minister said on Tuesday that she was concerned in principle about a foreign government owning a British media organisation.

Julia Lopez made the comments in a Commons debate about the proposed takeover of The Telegraph by RedBird IMI, a group that is 75 per cent funded by the UAE.

Ms Lopez urged MPs to “be heard loud and clear” and indicated that she would be sympathetic to some of the fears they had raised in the debate, which was triggered via an urgent question.

She said: “As a principle, I would be concerned about government ownership of any media institution.”

At one point, Ms Lopez suggested a total ban on foreign state ownership of the media would be considered after a decision was made on The Telegraph deal.

MPs from across the political spectrum spoke out in the debate, with many warning that the move risked press freedom and could undercut British democracy.

There has been mounting speculation in Westminster that the Government is preparing to block the UAE takeover of The Telegraph.

Last week, Lucy Frazer, the Culture Secretary, criticised a “very late” change in corporate structure from Redbird IMI just days before an investigation by Ofcom, the media regulator, was due to be completed.

Also last week, the Cabinet Office found that the UAE’s stake in Vodafone was a threat to national security.

It comes as Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister – who could decide whether to intervene in the Telegraph takeover on national security grounds – visits the UAE later this week as part of a wider Middle East tour. The Cabinet Office is yet to publish who he will be meeting in the Gulf state.

Alicia Kearns, the Tory chairman of the foreign affairs committee, who triggered the debate, said: “The concern here is not foreign ownership – it is foreign state ownership, and in this situation you cannot separate sheikh and state. Those are our concerns.”

Ms Kearns urged the Government to intervene over national security concerns, noting that ministers had taken that step over the Vodafone deal.

She said of the proposed takeover: “This is something that will make us vulnerable not for five or 10 years, but for the rest of our lives, and we cannot afford for our media to be undermined.”

During the debate, Jamie Stone, a Liberal Democrat, said: “I think the mood of the House is that this is simply not on.” He later said: “We will not wear this.”

James Sunderland, a Conservative, expressed concerns about foreign ownership, asking: “To quote the well-known song, how do we ensure that we do not end up selling England by the pound?”

John Nicolson, an SNP MP, said he was “not in favour of a newspaper being owned as a loss-making PR arm of a foreign state through access to our daily news cycle”.

Throughout the debate Ms Lopez said she could not offer updates beyond what was in the public domain about the process scrutinising the takeover, nor could she share a personal opinion on the deal.

However, she talked about the importance of free speech, urged MPs to have their say, and voiced concerns about government ownership of the media in general.

Mr Nicolson, a former journalist, asked: “Would she agree that allowing the UAE to take over The Telegraph would be unhealthy in principle for our democracy?”

Ms Lopez replied: “I thank him for raising an issue of principle, which I perfectly understand, as it’s something that I speak about in relation to the BBC, and how it must have editorial independence from the Government. As a principle, I would be concerned about government ownership of any media institution, but as he will be aware I can speak only of principles.”

Sir John Redwood, the former Tory Cabinet minister, asked: “As owners expect to have influence over editors and the editorial line, why don’t we have a policy of ruling out all government ownership of such organisations, which would just make it much simpler?”

Ms Lopez thanked him for his point and said: “It is one that I am sure will be considered once this case has passed.”

She also made a wider defence of free speech in her opening remarks. 

Setting up what she intended to say about unrelated media legislation later on Tuesday, she said: “I shall argue that a free media, not interfered with by government or indeed governments, able to articulate and reflect a broad range of views, free to speak, free to create, able to project to the world what democracy, a plurality of views and debate truly mean, is something important, something that we should value, something that underpins what we mean, in many respects, by a free society.

“So I cannot speak to this specific media ownership question. And I know that honourable members will understand that and help me keep within the tramlines that I have. But I can speak about media freedom, the need for media to be separate from political and government interference, the importance of a British voice domestically and internationally.”

The debate that followed saw MPs from all the biggest political parties share their fears about the implications of the UAE effectively owning The Telegraph.

Mr Stone, the Lib Dem MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, made reference to Alan Cochrane, the Telegraph columnist, as he raised warnings about the takeover.

He said: “For years I’ve been teased in The Telegraph at the hands of Mr Alan Cochrane, and more recently in The Spectator. But of course that is democracy – it is the nature of the beast, and it is free speech.”

Sir Julian Lewis, the Tory who chairs the intelligence and security committee, offered an intervention that prompted laughter from MPs.

He said: “When the wonderful Taylor Swift discovered that her back catalogue had been bought by a purchaser of whom she disapproved, she began to render it worthless by re-recording all her previous hits. Is this an example which the journalists on The Spectator and The Telegraph might do well to follow?”

Ms Lopez replied by saying that was a “mischievous suggestion” and one “I couldn’t possibly comment on”.

Labour figures also voiced concerns with John McDonnell, who was the shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, saying: “The National Union of Journalists’ concerns are obviously about jobs, but they are also about future editorial independence.” Mr McDonnell also called for a review of media ownership more widely.

Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow culture secretary, said: “The freedom of the press has never been more important. Now is not the time for the Government to have no answers or be asleep at the wheel.”

Last week, Ms Frazer ordered a second Ofcom investigation into the Telegraph takeover, prompted by an 11th-hour change to the corporate structure via which RedBird IMI plans to own The Telegraph.

That introduced an English limited partnership into the chain of ownership – a type of organisation in which investors such as RedBird IMI must be passive by law – in an apparent attempt to assuage the regulator’s concerns that Abu Dhabi could interfere in the running of The Telegraph

However, such a significant change days before Ofcom had been due to deliver its report angered Ms Frazer, who viewed it as a new transaction and added six weeks to the investigation timetable.

Ofcom is now due to report back by March 11.

Sinn Fein claims Irish reunification ‘within touching distance’ after DUP ends Stormont deadlock

The reunification of Ireland is within “touching distance”, Sinn Fein has claimed, after the DUP ended its two-year boycott of Stormont over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, announced the party executive had accepted Rishi Sunak’s Irish Sea border offer in the early hours of Tuesday after a turbulent five-hour meeting, which exposed deep divisions among unionists.

It paves the way for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly in the coming days, which has been mothballed since the DUP walked out of a power-sharing deal in February 2022 that was intended to help maintain peace in the province. 

Stormont’s return means that Michelle O’Neill will become the first nationalist first minister in Northern Ireland’s history after she led Sinn Fein to a historic victory in the May 2022 elections.

Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein’s party leader, said it would be a moment of “very great significance” and a sign of change sweeping the island of Ireland.

She said the reunification of Ireland was “in historic terms” within “touching distance”, pointing to Sinn Fein’s lead in the polls ahead of elections in the Republic of Ireland this year.

Alongside her, Ms O’Neill said the next days would be “crucial” in restoring power-sharing but added this was a “day of optimism” as the Republicans considered the prospect of being in power on both sides of the Irish border.


Ms McDonald has previously predicted a referendum on Irish unity by 2030. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement states that the UK’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must call a border poll if it “appears likely” a majority would back reunification – which is not reflected in the latest opinion polls.

The DUP opposed both the Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent a hard land border and the Windsor Framework, which reduced Irish Sea checks, on the grounds it put the region’s place in the UK’s internal market at risk.

Sir Jeffrey said he hoped the devolved government could be back in place within days after backing a deal he claimed would remove all post-Brexit checks on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Downing Street refused to confirm Sir Jeffrey’s assertion that the deal would result in “zero checks, zero customs paperwork” on goods moving within the UK, saying it would “not be helpful at this stage to get into the detail”.

The agreement faces fierce opposition from hardline unionists and grassroots loyalists, who argue it falls short of the DUP’s seven tests to end the boycott, and they have vowed to fight the deal.

Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice, said he feared the “tawdry climbdown” could be “game over for the Union”.

It is understood a DUP executive member behind a leak of Monday night’s meeting was wearing a wire which relayed the party leader’s speech to Jamie Bryson, an influential Loyalist activist, who posted it on social media.

“Are these proposals perfect? Have we achieved everything that we wanted to achieve? No, we haven’t,” Sir Jeffrey said, adding there had been “substantive change” and “progress” across the seven tests.

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Sunak had spoken to Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach and both agreed “it was in the people of Northern Ireland’s interests to have stable devolved government”. But the leaders clashed over Ireland’s European Court of Human Rights case against the UK’s Legacy Act.

The European Commission said it was not party to the negotiations with the DUP but warned it expected the UK to uphold the Windsor Framework deal agreed last February.

The UK-EU joint committee on the Windsor Framework announced a decision giving Northern Ireland the opportunity to access lower tariffs across 13,000 tons of products like lamb, beef and poultry imported as part of the UK’s post-Brexit free trade deals. 

Sir Jeffrey said the announcement proved there had been legal changes to the framework, despite the assertions of “naysayers”.

Patriotic rebrand

The DUP deal is expected to be published in full on Wednesday. It includes a £3.3 billion package to support under-pressure public services in Northern Ireland.

The border’s Green Lane will be given a patriotic rebrand as the “UK Internal Market Lane”.

There is an undertaking to screen new UK laws to ensure they do not have a “significant adverse effect” on trade with Northern Ireland.

The Government will this week introduce two statutory instruments at Westminster, which requires only a short parliamentary debate rather than full legislation.

It is the same mechanism No 10 used to pass the Windsor Framework, which sparked anger with Mr Sunak suffering a significant Commons rebellion.

Brexiteer backbenchers, including Sir Bill Cash and Theresa Villiers, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, warned they could oppose the deal if it hampers Britain’s ability to diverge from EU rules.

They are also “troubled” by the Government’s plans to fast-track the agreement through the Commons in just two days, allowing little time for scrutiny.

Brexit border checks arrive

It came as Brexit border checks are finally set to come into force on Wednesday for goods arriving into Great Britain from the EU.

The long-delayed customs controls, supposed to be introduced after Britain left the bloc, will apply to live animals, plants and plant-based products.

Exporters welcomed the measures, which they said would help UK businesses compete with continental rivals and grow the economy.

But importers have warned the extra paperwork risks delaying supplies of goods including pork, leading to shorter shelf lives in supermarkets.

The Commons environment committee warned the planned level of controls is too lax and risks exposing the UK to diseases such as African Swine Fever.

The 13-year-old reporter challenging Gaza protesters: ‘The BBC are too neutral’

The next time the BBC’s news division is recruiting reporters, they might like to give a Year 8 student in Manchester a call. On Sunday, at a march through the city in solidarity with Palestine, 13-year-old Josh armed with a microphone weaved his way through the crowd with the confidence of a seasoned journalist.

The crowd – chanting anti-Western sentiments – felt “hostile” at times, but he selected people whom he thought might be good to interview while his father, Nick, filmed the exchanges on his phone. 

“I wanted to document it,” says Josh. “If I was just speaking to them normally, and they said anything overtly anti-Semitic then it wouldn’t be recorded. I wanted to be able to keep it somewhere.” 

Nick had recently been to a march in London “trying to understand the depth of anti-Semitism”, and (a self-confessed frustrated journalist) took a microphone with him to interview people. Josh was “a little bit jealous” and asked if he could go to a march himself. 

At the Manchester march, Josh, who is from a Jewish family, approached a woman holding a sign emblazoned with the words: “End the power of the Zionist lobby.” A video of their exchange has gone viral, earning Josh praise from Israeli commentators and British journalists including Andrew Neil and Piers Morgan. “Brilliant interview by this young man,” wrote Neil on X. “Brilliant. Confident. Clear. Informed. Polite (note how he just walks away at the end). And he’s done his homework, which is increasingly rare these days.” 

The video shows Josh engaging the woman in a conversation about her interpretation of Zionism. He tells her Zionism is defined as “the belief that Jews should have a homeland”. She tells him Israel is “trying to create a state where there are only Jewish people”. He points out “there are two million Israeli Arabs that have the same rights as Israeli Jews living in Israel”. She tells him Hamas was set up by Netanyahu; he says the Iranians financed Hamas.  

“No,” she says. “That’s propaganda. Are you Jewish?” 

“It doesn’t matter,” Josh replies.  

“It does matter. Are you a Zionist?”  

“Why does it matter?” he asks her. 

“Because I want to know what your agenda is.” 

What compelled him to pick up a microphone and head to the march? He says he wanted to cut through reporting which he deemed to be either too partial or too neutral. “We get all this news from social media, like for example the Campaign Against Antisemitism on X – they do these interviews and make everyone look really anti-Semitic. I wanted to go and see what it was like for myself.” 

He doesn’t think much of the BBC’s efforts. “I felt like they were being too neutral. For example, they were comparing Israel and Hamas […] and saying ‘this one is making these allegations, this one is making these allegations, which one is true?’ and trying to portray them as equal sides when they weren’t. I felt that was a bit of a problem.” 

He was also frustrated with his secular school in Manchester, where talk of what has unfolded in the weeks since the October 7 attacks hasn’t been encouraged. “I felt a little bit confined because we weren’t really allowed to talk about it in school.” 

Josh, meanwhile, was learning as much as he could about the conflict in his spare time. “I felt like I had gained a lot of knowledge and I wanted to have a debate with someone.” 

We are speaking on Zoom after school on a day when the video of his interview has been viewed 1.2 million times and reposted by the Israeli foreign ministry. A fiercely bright, hard-working boy, who is learning Spanish and Mandarin at school, Hebrew at home, and teaching himself Hindi and Slovak in his spare time (why? “Well Hindi is the language of almost one billion people in the entire subcontinent of India”), Josh developed an interest in the news by reading his father’s X feed and checking the BBC News site. 

It has been a strange 48 hours for the family. His younger brother, Isaac, nine, has been telling his friends about it at school. Nick, sitting next to his son, is “dead chuffed with him”.

Nick, who runs his own business while his wife, Johanna, runs a property company, says the October attacks were “traumatic” for his family, because of the wave of anti-Semitism that followed the attacks in this country. “It’s our strong belief that we were heavily integrated into British society. Josh has loads of Asian friends and Muslim friends. I work with lots of Muslim people. But my family has felt a lot more vulnerable because of what’s happened – there’s been a jolt to that sense of security.” 

Josh is only 13. He has grown up in modern, multicultural Manchester. This is his first experience of that “jolt” his father speaks of. “Since October 7 there’s just been this huge wave from most of the people that you thought were your allies,” says Josh. “I haven’t felt anything like that before.” It’s an articulate way of describing what so many British Jews have experienced since October. 

Nick recalls the day Josh came home from school having seen a line of Palestinian flags hung up on his school bus route. “He said it made him sad to see all these Palestinian flags and he wanted to put a flag up, not that he did. You wouldn’t feel able to put up an Israeli flag because it would be a lightning rod for hate.” 

Not every 13-year-old would take it upon themselves, in the face of that knotty, uncomfortable feeling, to get educated. “I’ve spoken a lot with my dad about it,” Josh says. “And we have discussions about history. I’ve looked at a lot of debates online.” 

Still, he was shocked by what he found at the march. “I think one of the chants was ‘Joe Biden you can hide, how many babies have you killed tonight?’” says Josh. “And they were also expressing support for Houthis. I just found it crazy in a Western democracy that has given most of them their lives and their livelihoods that they’re just expressing this anti-Western rhetoric.” 

Nick is impressed by how his son has handled some of the more negative reactions to his video. “They were calling me an ‘extremist Right-wing white boy child’,” says Josh. “99.9 per cent of those comments are just angry that what I’m saying doesn’t fit their narrow view of the world. They’re saying ‘oh he’s lying, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about’. And they have no evidence.” 

The people Josh admires in the world of commentary (Douglas Murray, Ben Shapiro – for his views on the conflict but not “all his other politics” – and Piers Morgan) could probably teach him a few things about how to handle trolls. 

What does he plan to do with his newfound taste for reporting? He plans to keep doing interviews. “And not just about the conflict. Maybe about something else.” Anyone planning on attending the next march might want to look out for a small red-headed boy with a microphone.