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An electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer backed by Amazon and Ford is in talks with ministers about building a giant factory in the UK that could include a big state support package.

Sky News has learnt that Rivian, which is also backed by the Ford Motor Company and many of the biggest investors in Silicon Valley, has been in secret negotiations with the British government for weeks about the construction of a plant near Bristol.

The talks are not yet at an advanced stage, and Britain is facing competition from rival proposals from Germany and the Netherlands, according to industry sources.

Any investment decision is likely to be ultimately worth well over £1bn, they added.

If Rivian does opt to build a plant in the UK – which would be its first outside the US – it would represent another major boost to the country’s automotive sector following recent announcements from Nissan and Stellantis, the owner of Vauxhall.

Rivian raised another $2.5bn (£1.8bn) from investors earlier this month, taking the total sum it has raised since 2019 to a gargantuan $10.5bn (£7.5bn).

RJ Scaringe, the company’s founder and chief executive, said the latest capital injection would enable it “to scale new vehicle programmes, expand our domestic facility footprint, and fuel international product rollout”.

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Customer deliveries of its R1T electric trucks, which will sell from $67,500 (£48,500), are due to begin in the autumn – although they have faced previous delays.

The talks with ministers are understood to be focused on a facility to manufacture Rivian vehicles, rather than the batteries used to power them, although insiders said that the negotiations were fluid and could yet shift towards a gigafactory.

Several companies are discussing building gigafactories in the UK, reportedly including the South Korean conglomerates LG and Samsung.

Boris Johnson has been briefed on the Rivian discussions and is said to be taking a keen interest in their progress, according to one industry executive.

The nature of a government subsidy package is not yet defined and it was unclear this weekend whether Rivian had yet to make any formal requests for funding or tax breaks from ministers.

Rivian is said to have identified Gravity, a 616-acre campus near Bristol, as one potential site for a new manufacturing plant.

Its existing factory is in Normal, Illinois – which it acquired from Mitsubishi Motors in 2017 – and last week the company confirmed that it was looking for another location in the US to build its vehicles.

The electric vehicle (EV) group is also reported to be preparing to launch an initial public offering in New York as soon as this year that would value it at as much as $70bn (£50.3bn).

That would make it far smaller in market value terms than Tesla, Elon Musk’s EV company, which has a market value of $680bn (£489bn) and has seen its shares more than double during the last year.

Nevertheless, at a valuation north of $50bn, Rivian would be one of the world’s largest publicly traded EV companies.

Its other shareholders include BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, the hedge fund Third Point and Dragoneer Investment Group, a prolific technology investor.

Rivian’s biggest customer to date is Amazon, which has placed an order for 100,000 EV trucks, production of which is scheduled to start this year.

A decision on whether to proceed with a plant in the UK or on the Continent is expected in the next few months.

If it does move ahead in Britain, it would further confound predictions that the country’s automotive sector was headed for terminal decline after Brexit.

Honda’s decision to close its plant in Swindon, announced in 2019, was seen as a major blow to the industry, with Nissan warning that its future investment would be jeopardised if Britain left the trading bloc.

Recent developments involving both the Japanese carmaker and Stellantis have revived hopes of a brighter future for automotive manufacturing in the UK.

The government’s decision to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and hybrid vehicles by 2035 has accelerated the need for a huge shift in manufacturing capability.

There remain significant concerns, though, that the provision of EV charging infrastructure will fail to keep pace with demand.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “While we are working to attract inward investment into the UK to accelerate the growth of new industries, we cannot comment on speculation about individual investments.”

Rivian declined to comment this weekend.

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James Heappey says UK should consider sending troops to Ukraine – but away from the frontline

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James Heappey says UK should consider sending troops to Ukraine - but away from the frontline

The UK should consider sending troops to Ukraine to give training and other support to Ukrainian forces in their war with Russia – though away from the frontline, former armed forces minister James Heappey has said.

Mr Heappey also told Sky News that Britain needs to be better prepared for war at a time of growing threats, including by reinvigorating a large “strategic reserve” force of thousands of veterans who could be required to serve again in a national crisis.

In a wide-ranging interview, the outgoing MP for Wells in Somerset repeated a call for an immediate increase in defence spending to close gaps in capability – such as being able to defend UK airspace from missiles – and eventually to regrow the size of the military.

Follow latest: Moscow accuses British special forces of operating in Ukraine

“There’s really two things that I have set myself to achieve in my remaining time as an MP, given the knowledge that I have as a long-serving minister in the MoD [Ministry of Defence],” Mr Heappey, 43, said in an interview at his home.

“Firstly, to make the case for more defence spending: 2.5% [of national income, up from just over 2%] now. Three per cent by 2030.

“And secondly, that we reinvest and refocus in our strategic resilience as a nation and our capacity to war fight and withstand any other type of crisis that might come our way.”

The comments came after Sky News revealed last week that the government has no national plan for the defence of the UK or the mobilisation of its people and industry in a war.

In a series - called Prepared For War? - Sky News explores how prepared the UK is for the possibility of armed conflict
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In a series called Prepared For War? Sky News explores how prepared the UK is for the possibility of armed conflict

Officials have started to develop a cross-government “national defence plan”, but any shift back to a Cold War-style, ready-for-war footing would require political leaders to make defence a genuinely national effort once again.

Mr Heappey, who stepped down as armed forces minister last month after four and a half years in the job, underlined the critical importance to British and wider European security of supporting Ukraine in its war against Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

He urged the UK and its allies to go even further with the types of weapons they are willing to give Kyiv as the Ukrainian military struggles to withstand renewed Russian attacks.

“I think we’ve got to shake the tree again right now for what more we could give from our current inventories – What is the next capability threshold that we could go to beyond Storm Shadow [cruise missiles]?”

The MP, who will quit politics at the next election, would not be drawn on what munitions he was suggesting but he did voice support for comments made by France’s President Emmanuel Macron about the potential need to deploy western forces to Ukraine.

British Army personnel teach members of the Ukrainian armed forces are taught how to operate L119 Light Guns by the New Zealand Defence Force and British Army - to defend itself against Russia - on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. Picture date: Saturday June 25, 2022.
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British Army troops teach members of the Ukrainian armed forces how to operate weaponry in 2022. Pic: PA

“Some of the things that Macron has suggested recently, I think are things that really do deserve consideration,” the former minister said.

Asked if he meant the idea of boots on the ground, he said: “I think you’ve got to be careful about how you do it. I think definitely nowhere near a combat zone. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful not to make it into a Russo-NATO war.

“But I do think it is worth exploring what in the sort of deeper – in the depth of Ukraine – the donor community could do.”

As for whether this meant things like deploying British troops on a training mission inside Ukraine, Mr Heappey said: “Well, I think it’s worth considering.”

Reviving the strategic reserve

Closer to home, Mr Heappey said he would like to see a modern-day version of a Cold War system of preparing the whole of the nation – military, industry and the public – for the possibility of armed conflict.

This included reviving the strategic reserve – which comprises everyone who leaves the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force for a set period of time.

Pic: PA
Minister of State for the Armed Forces James Stephen Heappey speaking to the media following a Government's Cobra emergency committee meeting at the Cabinet Office in London, to discuss contingency arrangements for strikes, the second time ministers, officials and military chiefs have come together this week. Picture date: Wednesday December 14, 2022.
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James Heappey said care will need to be taken not to turn the current conflict into a Russo-NATO war. Pic: PA


“Rewind 30 years, when you left the military, you were left with a set of uniform, there was a requirement to go for training exercises once a year, just a weekend, just to check you could still shoot straight and that you could still run,” he said.

The obligation to serve as a second layer of military force to support the regular military in a war of national survival still exists – including for Mr Heappey as a former army officer.

“So I’d better get on with some press-ups and some running,” he said with a smile.

Renewing contact with this group of veterans is something defence chiefs are exploring.

“I think that they are looking at how they’ll do that,” the MP said.

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“Contacting them is one thing… but it’s what you do with them… are we going to start to say to them that there is some sort of liability whilst they’re on the strategic reserve?

“These are discussions that are under way, nowhere near to a policy announcement, but they are under way.”

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He said he thought it would be a good idea to re-establish such a link and some kind of annual training, though he recognised this would require a lot of equipment, such as rifles and uniforms, as well as serving soldiers, sailors and aviators to run the exercise.

As for the message this would send to the UK’s enemies, he said: “I think it would be quite powerful… all of a sudden, our adversaries are looking at a force that is the regular force… and then 200,000-250,000 more beyond who have a skill at arms, who have a familiarity with military tactics, and could in extremis be mobilised, and that changes their thinking again.”

Asked about the strategic reserve, a MOD spokesperson said: “Our armed forces reserves are an essential and extremely valued part of defence and the contribution that they make to resilience and our ability to call on additional personnel when required are vital. We regularly update our records to ensure that we can call on ex-regular personnel should they be required to serve and have modernised our processes.”

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Caroline Flack’s celebrity status likely contributed to police charging her with domestic abuse, says mother

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Caroline Flack's celebrity status likely contributed to police charging her with domestic abuse, says mother

Caroline Flack’s mother has told Sky News that her daughter’s celebrity status is likely to have contributed towards the Metropolitan Police’s decision to charge the TV presenter with domestic abuse.

Chris Flack has called for the Met Police to give its side of the story in the lead-up to her daughter’s death.

It comes as the force announced it would reinvestigate the circumstances leading up to the decision to charge the TV presenter with assaulting her boyfriend.

The 40-year-old former Love Island host died in February 2020, with a coroner saying she took her own life after discovering she was definitely going to be prosecuted.

In an interview with Sky News, Flack’s mother said there had been “no written rationale” for why the Met Police pushed for her daughter to be charged.

She told The UK Tonight With Sarah-Jane Mee: “The IOPC [Independent Office for Police Conduct] have found all these things that were wrong.”

The CPS had recommended Flack only get a caution but this was overturned after the Met appealed.

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She was ultimately charged with assault by beating over the incident, which involved her boyfriend Lewis Burton in December 2019.

Flack’s mother said: “This wasn’t domestic violence. This was an accident. But she was portrayed in the court and in the newspapers as a domestic abuser, and that’s what hurts. That’s what I want got rid of – because she wasn’t.”

She said her daughter’s celebrity status likely contributed to the police’s decision, saying she had an email from the coroner’s court saying the force treated her daughter differently.

“They could tell by the way the police were acting that they were treating her differently. And that’s not on. She shouldn’t be treated better, but she shouldn’t be treated worse.”

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Flack reinvestigation ‘very strange’

Asked about her daughter’s version of events, Ms Flack said: “I think she was just going along with it. She wasn’t aware of any rights. She just didn’t know. It was just horrendous to be locked up in a cell.

“She was having to be checked on every half an hour because of her mental health. She could have been sent home.”

She added: “It wasn’t right what they did that night, and I don’t think that would have happened to many people.”

The Met Police has said it has referred a complaint from Flack’s family to the IOPC on 7 March.

Ms Flack said the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley “won’t talk to me” and she had requested meetings with him several times.

She added: “I’ve also been told that all new practices were being put across the police force countrywide because of what happened to Carrie. That was meant to make me feel better – it actually doesn’t, because I don’t think anything will change.”

The Metropolitan Police said it is making “further enquiries” because “new witness evidence may be available” about officers’ actions in appealing the CPS decision.

The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) previously found there was no misconduct in the case, prompting another complaint from Flack’s family to the IOPC.

It also didn’t find any misconduct by the Met, but ordered the force to apologise for not recording its reason for appealing against the caution.

Flack’s mother rejected the apology at the time.

Watch the full interview with Caroline Flack’s mother on The UK Tonight With Sarah-Jane Mee from 8pm on Sky News

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

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Moroccan asylum seeker Ahmed Ali Alid murdered ‘defenceless pensioner’ in rampage motivated by Gaza, court hears

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Moroccan asylum seeker Ahmed Ali Alid murdered 'defenceless pensioner' in rampage motivated by Gaza, court hears

A Moroccan asylum seeker murdered a “defenceless” pensioner in a rampage motivated by the conflict in Gaza, a court has heard.

Ahmed Ali Alid, 45, attempted to kill his housemate, Javed Nouri, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, because he believed Nouri was an apostate – meaning someone who has abandoned their religion, Teesside Crown Court was told.

He then went out onto the streets of Hartlepool where he encountered Terence Carney, 70, who was out for a morning walk, attacking him and stabbing him to death, the jury heard.

Following his arrest, Alid admitted being responsible for the attempted murder of Nouri and the murder of Carney.

However, he is now on trial after pleading not guilty to both charges and to assaulting two female police officers who had interviewed him after his arrest.

Alid told police the attacks on the two men on 15 October last year, a week after the Hamas attacks on Israel, were “because of the conflict in Gaza” and to remove “Zionists” from Palestine, the court heard.

He said he would have killed others if he had not been stopped and was prepared to be a martyr, the jury was told.

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Jonathan Sandiford KC, prosecuting, told the court there had been “friction” between Alid and Mr Nouri who lived in asylum accommodation in Wharton Terrace along with two other men.

“Mr Nouri had been a Muslim who had converted to Christianity. He was attending a local church in Hartlepool,” Mr Sandiford said.

“The defendant was Muslim. The evidence would indicate he was quite a strict Muslim. He seems to have regarded Mr Nouri as a murtad, or apostate, who therefore deserved to die.”

Mr Nouri and his other housemates formed the view that Alid followed an “extreme interpretation of Islam”, the court was told.

On 7 October – the day on which Hamas launched an attack on Israel from Gaza – and the days afterwards, they noted that Alid was paying particular attention to coverage of the attacks, the jury heard.

Alid had taken to keeping a knife with him in the house and began making threats towards Mr Nouri and the other two housemates who were afraid of what he might do, the court was told.

On 9 October, Mr Nouri allegedly reported their concerns to the housing managers and to friends at his church in Hartlepool, who advised him to contact the police.

The housing managers visited the property on 10 October and warned Alid he would have to leave the house if his behaviour continued, the jury heard.

Mr Nouri was asked to return to the police station on 13 October, when he was told “rightly or wrongly the police were of the view that the defendant had committed no offences so advice was given to Mr Nouri on what to do if things developed further”, the court was told.

At 5am on Sunday 15 October, Mr Nouri was in bed asleep when Alid broke into his bedroom armed with two knives and attacked him, the jury heard.

Mr Nouri allegedly heard Alid kick the door in and woke up to find him shouting “Allahu Akbar”, meaning “God is great”, and stabbing him in the upper chest near to his heart.

He managed to kick Alid away and run for the door but was then allegedly attacked from behind and stabbed in the face, before managing to get Alid into a headlock and wrestling one of the knives from him, the jury was told.

One of his housemates came to his assistance and they bundled Alid out of the room and sat with their backs against the door as Alid kicked at it, attempting to get back in, the court heard.

However, one of the knives had ended up in the corridor and Alid allegedly picked it up and went out on to the street where he passed Mr Carney on an early morning walk, circling back and approaching him from behind.

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A police cordon at Wharton Terrace, Hartlepool. Cleveland Police were called to a property in the street at 5.17am on Sunday and found an injured man who had suffered non-life-threatening injuries. A second man was found on nearby Tees Street, and he died at the scene. A 44-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder and he remains in custody. Issue date: Monday October 16, 2023.
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A police cordon at Wharton Terrace in Hartlepool where Javed Nouri was found with injuries

The jury has watched CCTV footage which shows Carney being stabbed a number of times while “effectively defenceless” and crying out: “No, No.”

“Despite Mr Carney’s injuries, he appears to have been able to get to his feet and move a short distance along Tees Street to the junction with Raby Road where he collapsed and ultimately died,” Mr Sandiford said.

Alid said after his arrest that he had attacked the two adults “because Israel had killed innocent children” and swore that, if he had had a machine gun, and more weapons, he would have killed more victims, the court heard.

He described Mr Carney as an “innocent victim, killed because Britain created the Zionist entity” and said he wanted to “make it leave”, the jury was told.

The court heard that he added: “They killed children and I killed an old man.”

Alid swore by Allah that if the “colonisation” – by which he appeared to mean by Israel – did not leave, Britain was “on the verge of an explosion and there would be more victims”, the jury heard.

He said Britain would be a “wreck” and that two victims being lost was better than the whole of Britain being lost, the court was told.

The jury heard the interview concluded with Alid swearing by Allah that he was “ready for shahada” – martyrdom.

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