Friday briefing: Aukus pact backlash grows

·7-min read

Top story: France seething over security deal

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories today.

Britain and the US are battling to contain an international backlash over a nuclear submarine pact struck with Australia amid concerns that the alliance could provoke China and prompt conflict in the Pacific. Boris Johnson told MPs that the Aukus defence agreement was “not intended to be adversarial” to China but there are growing fears that the agreement could be dragged into a war with China over Taiwan. Beijing accused the three countries of adopting a “cold war mentality”. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, questioned whether the pact meant Britain as Washington demands a greater British presence in the Pacific. Taiwan today welcomed support from the allies, but noted Johnson’s equivocation on being drawn into a conflict.

The Aukus pact, which will see Australia acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines, has also left France seething at what it sees as Joe Biden’s duplicity in excluding Paris. Meanwhile, Australia has dismissed Chinese “outbursts” and announced that more US military personnel will be deployed to Australia.

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McKee murder – Two men have been charged with the murder of the journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot dead during disturbances in Derry in 2019. McKee, 29, one of Northern Ireland’s most promising young journalists, was killed as she observed rioting in the Creggan area of the city on 18 April 2019. Police said the pair, aged 21 and 33, were also charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life, riot, possession of petrol bombs, throwing petrol bombs and arson. The 33-year-old was also charged with robbery.

Lyra McKee
Journalist Lyra McKee was killed as she covered rioting in Derrry in 2019. Photograph: PSNI/PA

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Afghans’ fear – Afghan employees who worked as contractors on UK aid projects fear for their lives after not being granted resettlement in Britain. Four families who said they had been targeted by the Taliban because they worked for the UK government have now been forced into hiding. Ahmad Shakib, who was employed for six years by advisory firm Adam Smith International, said Britain had not helped him evacuate. He, his wife and children, aged nine, seven and three, have fled for their lives, he said.

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Coronavirus – Plans to simplify England’s rules for international travel could see people who have been double-jabbed being able to escape quarantine – or the need for costly PCR testing – upon arrival. Unvaccinated passengers will still face those hurdles. Ministers believe that the rules, which will slash the number of “red list” countries by up to half, will incentivise vaccination. The amber tier of the traffic light system will be removed so there is a clearer distinction between “go” and “no go” destinations. The Scottish government has asked for troops to help ambulance crews deal with long waiting times in a crisis brought on after a man died after waiting 40 hours for help. A mother and her daughter who were opposed to vaccinations have died from Covid in hospital in Northern Ireland.

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‘Minority of one’ – Andrew Neil has said he stepped down as chairman of GB News after differences over the direction in which the channel was heading. The veteran broadcaster was the face of the new channel when it launched in June but left the project after an extended summer holiday. Neil told Question Time last night the launch of the channel could not be described as a “startling success” and that he felt he was in a “minority of one” about its future.

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Clare’s Law – The scheme designed to protect unsuspecting women from new partners with a history of violence, is not being used properly by police forces, putting some women at risk of harm, a policing watchdog has warned. In a far-reaching review of the police response to violence against women and girls commissioned after the Sarah Everard murder, inspectors found the domestic violence disclosure scheme, also known as Clare’s Law, was being inconsistently used across England and Wales.

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Sir Clive Sinclair on his Sinclair C5 vehicle.
Sir Clive Sinclair on his Sinclair C5 vehicle. Photograph: Richard Gardner/REX/Shutterstock

‘RIP, Sir Sinclair’ – Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, has died at the age of 81. Sinclair invented the pocket calculator but was best known for popularising the home computer. Many modern-day titans of the tech industry got their start on one of his ZX models, including Elon Musk who paid tribute to him on Twitter by saying “RIP, Sir Sinclair”. However, Sir Clive would also become synonymous with one of his less successful inventions – the Sinclair C5 electric vehicle.

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Lunchtime read: Genesis on punk, ageing and 80s stardom

As they prepare for what seems likely to be their final tour, the veteran prog rockers Genesis reflect on how the band lost Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett before ending up as a trio, how they survived punk – and how Phil Collins’ health will stand up to the rigours of stadium shows.

Sport

The new Premiership season kicks off tonight when no relegation and Harlequins’ thrilling example should push clubs decisively away from turgid heavyweight clashes. Napoli rallied to earn a 2-2 draw against Leicester in the Europa League but scuffles between fans after the game at the King Power Stadium left a sour note. Michail Antonio and Declan Rice eased West Ham to a 2-0 away win against Dinamo Zagreb, while Tottenham came from behind to draw 2-2 at Rennes and Celtic conceded four goals in 21 minutes in a 4-3 defeat to Real Betis. England skittled New Zealand for 211 in 46.3 overs at Bristol to take first blood in the women’s ODI series, winning by 30 runs despite being bowled out for an under-par 241 earlier in the day. Warrington ended Castleford’s play-off hopes with 40-24 Super League victory at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle. And Australia captain Tim Paine is “extremely confident” of being fit for the first Ashes Test despite undergoing invasive neck surgery to fix a bulging disc.

Business

The energy crisis is continuing to build after high prices forced two fertiliser plants in the north of England to shut down and brought steel plants to a halt. The crisis could jeopardise Britain’s post-pandemic recovery, and Goldman Sachs warned soaring prices could mean heavy industries across Europe running the risk of blackouts. The FTSE100 is on course to open up 0.55, while the pound is $1.379 and €1.172.

The papers

The Guardian’s lead is “UK and US face backlash amid fears pact could provoke China”, while the Times has “Tell us if deal will drag Britain to war, PM urged” and the FT says “China attacks ‘Cold War mentality’ of three nation nuclear subs pact”. The Mail focuses on the latest Covid news with “Holiday joy for double jabbed”, as does the Express: “At long last, green light for travel” The Sun simply proclaims: “Jabs blitz”. In Scotland, the Record says “Send in the troops”. The Telegraph leads with “Patel urges police to get tough on climate protesters”, while the Mirror has the latest on the big royal story: “Andrew is now worried’”.

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