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The UK will appoint a new envoy to oversee a plan to ramp up the production of weapons and ammunition, which is now a “national priority”, the foreign secretary has revealed.

Lord Cameron, speaking on a visit to Ukraine, also underlined the importance of supporting the Ukrainian war effort against Russia, warning that the world was at an “absolutely critical tipping point” and Kyiv must prevail or else Europe faced a “very dangerous future”.

However, he cautioned against an idea from French President Emmanuel Macron to consider sending NATO troops to Ukraine to join the fight if Russia’s Vladimir Putin achieves a breakthrough, saying that such a move would be a “dangerous escalation”.

“I don’t think it is right to have NATO soldiers killing Russian soldiers,” the foreign secretary said in an interview in the western city of Lviv on Friday, having met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other top ministers in Kyiv on Thursday.

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Moscow rages over Cameron remarks

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, shakes hands with Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, May 2, 2024. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, shakes hands with Lord Cameron this week. Pic: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP

Lord Cameron made the two-day trip to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to Ukraine, which most recently includes a promise to transfer more of the British military’s own stockpiles of weapons, including precision-guided bombs and air defence missiles.

The UK has also promised at least £3bn worth of military assistance annually.

But Western nations are failing to deliver munitions to Ukraine’s frontline as quickly as Russia is rearming its military, with Russian troops gaining ground in the east in recent months.

President Putin put his economy on a war footing when he launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 – something NATO allies are only slowly starting to move towards.

Rishi Sunak said last week he would increase UK defence spending to 2.5% of national income by 2030 – claiming this equated to an additional £75bn in investment.

He also said he was putting the UK defence industry on a “war footing” and added £10bn of new funding would be dedicated to domestic munitions production over the next decade.

Read more:
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Is the UK preparing properly amid rising risk of war?

Lord Cameron met Lviv's mayor during his visit to Ukraine
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Lord Cameron met Lviv’s mayor during his visit to Ukraine

‘We need to build up our own stocks’

Asked how Britain could force defence companies like BAE Systems, Thales and Babcock – that have to answer to their shareholders, not the government – to increase production lines at the required rate and scale without some kind of legislation to force them to act, Lord Cameron revealed the plan for a new envoy for defence production.

“There is a specific munitions strategy of £10bn which will do exactly what you are talking about – the ramping up of production,” he said.

“But crucially I think we can go further than that in terms of a specific defence envoy with the ability from the prime minister to go out and make sure we are doing those muti-year deals with the defence suppliers because we need not only to provide more weapons to Ukraine, we need to build up our own stocks.

“So this is very important, it is a national priority.

“The prime minister is giving the lead and I think the industry will respond.”

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Pushed on whether the new envoy – whose identity has not yet been revealed – would be the modern-day equivalent of someone like Lord Beaverbrook, who was tasked with expanding aircraft production during the Second World War, Lord Cameron said: “It is the 21st century so there won’t be a Lord Beaverbrook.”

But he signalled that the envoy’s ability to approach industry with a commitment to fund multi-year contracts for munitions would be key – and could also drive down cost.

“It is possible to go to the defence contractors and say to them: ‘You are not going to get the price you might have hoped for year after year after year because we are going to make a contract with you over the coming years to make sure we replenish our ammunition, our artillery, our long rage fires, our missiles’ – those crucial things vital for Ukraine but also vital for our own defence.”

As for why the government needed to appoint a specific envoy to this role, Lord Cameron said: “You need I think to have that direct line to the prime minister to make sure we are making this the national priority it clearly is.”

Cameron warns of ‘dangerous future’

Turning to the war in Ukraine, the foreign secretary said Europe faced “two futures” – one in which Ukrainian forces, backed by Western weapons, are able to push out the Russian invaders and secure what he called a “just peace”.

“That is a footing on which you can see great security and prosperity for us and for Europe,” he said.

But he warned: “A future in which Putin is successful and Ukraine is pushed back is I think a very dangerous future.”

Nations such as Moldova and even the NATO states of the Baltics would be worried that President Putin might turn his attention towards them next, Lord Cameron said.

In addition, the authoritarian regimes in Iran and China would be watching closely.

“I think we are at an absolutely crucial tipping point in global affairs,” Lord Cameron added.

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General election called for 4 July, as Rishi Sunak says ‘now is the moment for Britain to choose its future’

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 General election called for 4 July, as Rishi Sunak says 'now is the moment for Britain to choose its future'

Rishi Sunak has called a general election for 4 July, saying “now is the moment for Britain to choose its future”.

In a statement outside Downing Street delivered in the pouring rain, the prime minister said he had met with the King to request the dissolution of parliament.

Follow the latest politics news live – general election confirmed

“The King has granted this request and we will have a general election on the 4th of July”, Mr Sunak said.

The surprise move is a huge electoral gamble given Labour are ahead by about 20 points in the polls.

It comes after official figures showed inflation had come down to 2.3% in April.

Mr Sunak said this is “proof that the plan and priorities I set out are working”.

More on General Election 2024

However, he said “this hard earned economic stability was only ever meant to be the beginning”.

In a rallying cry to the nation he said: “The question now is how and who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you, your family and our country?

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Sky’s Beth Rigby explains why inflation and boat crossings may have played a part in the timing of the election

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future and to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one. With no plan and no certainty.”

Mr Sunak had to contend with New Labour anthem Things Can Only Get Better being played from beyond the gates to Downing Street as he delivered his speech.

In a sign the election will be fought on the economy, the prime minister opened his remarks by harking back to his days as chancellor during the pandemic, saying he served the country while “the future hung in the balance”.

He said that economic stability is “the bedrock of any future success” and accused Labour of having no plan.

Summer election big gamble for Sunak

By Darren McCaffrey, political correspondent

The prime minister, late, increasingly soaked and being drowned out by protesters, confirmed there will be a July election.

Rishi Sunak’s pitch to voters is essentially better the devil you know, stick with me, I have a plan and Labour has no ideas.

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future, to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one with no plan and no certainty” he said.

He is hoping that a relatively long campaign, a focus on security, in what he describes as an uncertain world and his economic record will eat into the enormous poll lead Labour have.

It is interesting there was much less focus on migration and small boats.

Sunak admitted mistakes had been made, accepted they had been in power for 14 years but played on lots of voter’s apathy about what Labour’s plans are for government.

This is undoubtedly a massive gamble for the prime minister, no party has ever come back from such a difficult polling situation, but he hopes under scrutiny Labour and Starmer will crumble.

At the moment, most in Westminster think it’s a gamble that will not pay off.

Let the proper campaign begin.

He finished his statement with an attack on his rival for Number 10, Sir Keir Starmer, saying he has “shown time and time again that he will take the easy way out and do anything to get power”.

“If he was happy to abandon all the promises he made to become Labour leader once he got the job, how can you know that he won’t do exactly the same thing if he were to become prime minister?

“If you don’t have the conviction to stick to anything you say, if you don’t have the courage to tell people what you want to do, and if you don’t have a plan, how can you possibly be trusted to lead our country, especially at this most uncertain of times?”

Read More:
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Election ‘opportunity for change’

Keir Starmer
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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Delivering his own televised statement from central London, Sir Keir said the election is an “opportunity for change” as he tore into the Tories’ record in government.

He pointed to sewage in rivers, people “waiting on trolleys in A&E”, crime going “virtually unpunished” and mortgages and food prices “through the roof”.

“On 4 July you have a choice, and together we can stop the chaos, we can turn the page, we can start to rebuild Britain and change our country,” he said.

If Sir Keir wins the election, it will end 14 years of Conservative governments under five prime ministers.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, who is also hoping to make gains the the rural Tory heartlands, said the election is “a chance to kick Rishi Sunak’s appalling Conservative government out of office and deliver the change the public is crying out for”.

What are the rules for calling an election?

Mr Sunak has been saying for months the vote would happen in the “second half of the year” but had refused to set a date.

The assumption was that he would wait until the autumn to give him more time to deliver on his pledges.

However, speculation he could go to the country earlier mounted in Westminster on Wednesday as Cabinet ministers were summoned for an unusually timed meeting, with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron cutting short trips abroad to attend.

As general elections have to be held every five years, the final day a vote could have taken place was 28 January 2025.

However, the Conservatives in 2019 restored the prime minister’s power to call an election at a time of their choosing within that five years.

The last general election was held in 2019, when Boris Johnson won the Conservatives a landslide over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Since then, there have been two more prime ministers, Liz Truss and Mr Sunak, and the Conservatives’ 80-seat majority has been reduced by a series of by-election losses while their popularity among voters has plummeted.

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General Election 2024: What happens now an election has been called?

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General Election 2024: What happens now an election has been called?

Rishi Sunak has called a general election for this summer.

The prime minister has been saying for months he would call a vote for the “second half of the year”, and it will now be held on Thursday, 4 July.

Under the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022, Mr Sunak had until 17 December this year to call an election – as votes must be held no more than five years apart.

Sky News looks at what happens now.

General election latest: Rishi Sunak to call election for 4 July

Requesting permission to dissolve parliament

The prime minister has already requested permission from the King to hold a general election, as the power to dissolve parliament – end the session – legally lies with him.

More on General Election 2024

Parliament must be “dissolved” for an election to officially take place. Polling day then takes place 25 working days after that date.

Mr Sunak said in a speech outside Downing Street on Wednesday that the King had granted his request to dissolve parliament.

As a result, parliament will be prorogued on Friday, 24 May, while dissolution will take place on Thursday, 30 May.

King Charles III with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Buckingham Palace, London, for their first in-person audience since the King's diagnosis with cancer. Picture date: Wednesday February 21, 2024.
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Rishi Sunak will go to the King to request the dissolution of parliament

What happens in parliament after an election is called?

There is usually a period of several days, known as “wash-up”, between an election being called and the dissolution of parliament.

During “wash-up”, parliament will continue as normal, but any parliamentary business not completed by the end of that time will not enter into law and cannot be continued into the next parliament.

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This normally leads to a rush to pass legislation through parliament to get it onto the statute book, which often means parties having to work together to agree on which bills they will support.

The longest “wash-up” period since 1992 was in 2017 when parliament sat for a further seven days after the election was called, according to Institute for Government (IfG) analysis.

What happens after parliament is dissolved?

Once parliament is dissolved, there are no longer any MPs as every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant.

House of Lords members retain their positions, but no more business happens until the next parliament begins.

Government ministers remain in post until a new government is formed.

However, government activity is restricted during the campaign period to ensure public money is not used to support the campaign of the party in power and to maintain civil service impartiality.

Restrictions normally begin when parliament has been dissolved, however, they can start before this, as they did in 2017.

Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street after an audience with Queen Elizabeth II in which he was invited to form a Government after the Conservative Party was returned to power in the General Election with an increased majority. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday December 13, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Election. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
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Boris Johnson won the last election in 2019 with a landslide. Pic: PA

The campaign

Campaigning never stops for political parties, but it will ramp up after an election is announced.

Parties, their candidates, and supporters, will promote their policies during the campaign period by publishing informative material, knocking on doors to talk to people, writing newspaper articles, and supporters putting posters in their windows or placards in their front gardens.

There is no set time for when manifestos explaining the parties’ pledges have to be launched, but they generally happen within a few days of each other.

A voter carries his passport along with his poll card at The Vyne polling station in Knaphill, part of the Woking borough, which was one of five councils that trialed the use of ID in polling stations in May 2018
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Voters now need to provide ID to be able to vote. Pic: PA

Since 1997, Labour and Conservative manifestos have been launched between 18 and 29 days before the election, the IfG found.

Televised debates between party leaders or other politicians became a feature of campaigns in 2010.

Their timing and format are negotiated between political parties and broadcasters, but there is no obligation for any of them to take part.

Cinna, an 8-year-old rescue dog from Greece, arrives with owners to the polling station at St Alban's Church in London.
Pic: PA
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Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm on election day. Pic: PA

Polling day

Registered voters can submit postal votes before the day, but most people go to polling stations, which are open from 7am until 10pm.

This will be the first general election where photographic ID will be required to vote.

When voting closes, an exit poll is announced following a survey of voters taken from about 150 constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales.

What happens after the election?

If the current government retains a majority in the new Parliament after an election, it will continue in office and resume normal business.

If the election results in a clear majority for a different party, the incumbent prime minister and government will immediately resign, and the King will invite the leader of the party that has won the election to form a government.

It becomes slightly more complicated if the result is a hung parliament.

The current government remains in office unless and until the prime minister tenders his and the government’s resignation to the King.

The government is entitled to await the meeting of the new parliament to see if it can command the
confidence of the House of Commons or to resign if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to command that confidence.

They could also be forced to resign if they lose a vote of no confidence, at which point, the person who appears to be most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons will be asked by the Monarch to form a government.

In terms of dates, the new Parliament will be summoned to meet on Tuesday, 9 July, when the first business will be the election of the speaker and the swearing-in of members.

The state opening of Parliament will be on Wednesday, 17 July.

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Person dies in mudslide in North Yorkshire

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Person dies in mudslide in North Yorkshire

A person has died in a mudslide in North Yorkshire, police have said.

Police said they were responding to the mudslide, which happened at 1.15pm in Carlton-in-Cleveland.

The force said: “We can confirm that one person has sadly died as a result of the incident. Our thoughts are with their family and friends during this difficult time.”

It comes as a yellow warning for rain was issued covering the north of England, the Midlands and north and central Wales until 6am on Thursday.

“It is going to be a pretty wet picture as we go through the rest of the week for many places,” Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said.

Many places could see 30-40mm of rain, while a few areas may receive 60-80mm as heavy downpours move northwards throughout Wednesday.

There is even a small chance a few upland areas could see up to 150mm, according to the forecaster.

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