News

Kabul bombings: Photographer Shah Marai among 21 dead

Scene of blast Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The second explosion targeted those at the scene of the first

At least 21 people have been killed in two explosions in the Afghan capital Kabul, including a leading photographer for the AFP agency and several other journalists documenting the scene.

An attacker on a motorbike carried out the first explosion on Monday morning in Kabul’s Shashdarak district.

About 15 minutes later, after people and reporters had gathered at the scene, there was a second explosion.

AFP said its chief photographer, Shah Marai, had been killed.

In a tweet, the news agency said the second blast had deliberately targeted the group of journalists.

“The bomber disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd,” AFP quoted a police spokesman as saying.

The Shashdarak district houses the defence ministry, intelligence service, and a Nato compound.

Dozens of people are also reported to have been injured in the twin explosions.

Remembering Shah Marai

By Mahfouz Zubaide, BBC News

Shah Marai started work as a driver with AFP in the 1990s, during the era of the Taliban.

His interest in the world, his curiosity and love for photography resulted in AFP sending him to France for training.

When he came back, he turned his wonderful eye to capturing moments of humanity during the most shocking ordeals of his city, Kabul.

Image copyright Shah Marai/AFP
Image caption Photo by Shah Marai: An Afghan woman asks for donations, Kabul, 2009

One of his most iconic photographs was from an attack on a Shia mosque last year: a picture of a child just standing stunned with police pointing at him to leave the mosque because the attacker was still inside. But the child was looking for his father.

Throughout it all Shah Marai was calm, smiling and positive. He was never scared of danger.

But he was deeply affected when his good friend and fellow journalist Sardar Ahmad was murdered a few years ago in another Kabul attack at the Serena hotel.

I have known Shah Marai since I was a child and we found ourselves both working for the media here in Kabul, always meeting at the sites of tragedy.

He was also a friend to many others in Kabul’s journalistic community and we are all mourning him now.

No group has yet said it carried out the attacks, but bombings in the Afghan capital are not uncommon.

Earlier in April, a suicide bomb at a voter registration killed almost 60 people and injured 119, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

Both IS and the Taliban remain active in the country, of which only 30% is under full government control, according to BBC research published earlier this year.

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Amber Rudd resigns as home secretary

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Media captionAmber Rudd faced criticism over the existence of Home Office removals targets and her knowledge of them

Amber Rudd has resigned as home secretary, saying she “inadvertently misled” MPs over targets for removing illegal immigrants.

The Windrush scandal had heaped pressure on Ms Rudd, who faced criticism over whether she knew about Home Office removals targets.

Her successor is expected to be announced within hours by Theresa May, who was “very sorry” to see Ms Rudd go.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Ms Rudd had “done the right thing”.

Ms Abbott added that the “architect of this crisis” – the prime minister – must come before the Commons to explain “whether she knew that Amber Rudd was misleading Parliament and the public last week”.

On Sunday, the Guardian published the full letter it had reported on a week earlier, in which Ms Rudd set out her “ambitious but deliverable” aim to deport 10% more illegal immigrants over the “next few years” to Theresa May.

Ms Rudd, who had been due to make a Commons statement, telephoned the prime minister on Sunday evening to tell her of the decision amid intensifying opposition demands for her to quit.

In her resignation letter, Ms Rudd said she takes “full responsibility” for the fact she was not aware of “information provided to (her) office which makes mention of targets”.

In response, Mrs May said she believed Ms Rudd had given her evidence to the Commons “in good faith” but that she understood her decision to resign and take “responsibility for inadvertently misleading the home affairs select committee”.

She should “take great pride” in what she achieved at the Home Office, Mrs May added.

Ms Rudd is the fourth person forced to resign from the cabinet in the last six months – following Sir Michael Fallon, Priti Patel and Damian Green. James Brokenshire also left in January because of health reasons.

Analysis

By BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg

An inevitable resignation? Certainly there has been a mismatch between what she told MPs last week and the evidence that emerged.

In a different time, and with a minister with enemies, she’d likely have been out on Friday.

This time the Tory party was fighting hard to keep her. But beyond the mess-ups, perhaps part of the issue was also that she was not necessarily in tune with her predecessor’s attitude on immigration – the Home Office’s most politically charged brief.

Read more from Laura

The Windrush row began when it emerged that some migrants from Commonwealth countries, who settled in the UK from the late 1940s to the 1970s, and their relatives, had been declared illegal immigrants.

Reacting to the resignation, Labour MP David Lammy said: “Amber Rudd resigned because she didn’t know what was going on in her own department and she had clearly lost the confidence of her own civil servants.

“The real issue is the hostile environment policy that caused this crisis in the first place.

“That policy must now be reviewed, and the Home Office must move quickly to compensate and grant citizenship to the Windush generation.”

How the ‘targets’ row unfolded:

  • On Wednesday Ms Rudd told MPs investigating Windrush that there were no removals targets
  • But an inspection report from December 2015 showed targets for voluntary removals did exist
  • Ms Rudd then admitted “local” targets for voluntary removals had been set
  • She told the Commons on Thursday she had not been aware of them
  • The Guardian then reported a June 2017 memo from an official, copied to Ms Rudd, that refers to targets
  • Ms Rudd said she had not seen this memo
  • On Sunday evening, the Guardian published the full letter from Ms Rudd to Theresa May – which it had reported on a week earlier – setting out Ms Rudd’s aims to increase enforced deportations

Conservative MPs have been paying tribute to their colleague. Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom called her “honest and principled” while Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said she was a “huge talent” who would “no doubt be back in Cabinet soon”.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said she had done “a great job during last year’s terrorist attacks and cares deeply about the people she serves”.

‘Human shield’

Former chancellor George Osborne sad it was “so sad”, adding “the government just got a bit less human”.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable told the BBC: “She’s clearly jumped before she was pushed.”

Co-leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas said Mrs May had “lost her human shield and now looks very exposed”.

And UKIP’s former leader Nigel Farage tweeted: “Now that Amber Rudd has resigned we need a Home Secretary that supports Brexit.”

Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee last week, Ms Rudd, who has been in the post since July 2016, said there were no removals targets for illegal immigrants.

She later admitted “local” targets for voluntary removals had been set, but told the Commons on Thursday she had not been aware of them.

But the Guardian reported a June 2017 memo from an official, copied to Ms Rudd, that refers to targets.

The newspaper also published a letter, from January 2017, where Ms Rudd tells Theresa May about plans to restructure her department and increase removals “over the next few years”.

Image copyright Getty Images

Ms Rudd’s aim of increasing “enforced deportations” would not have affected Windrush migrants, as they were threatened with “voluntary departure”.

The term “voluntary” describes the method of departure rather than the choice of whether or not to depart – those leaving in this way are able to approach the Home Office for financial assistance with travel costs.

Job made ‘doubly difficult’

Analysis by BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw

With responsibility for immigration, counter-terrorism and policing, the job of home secretary is one of the toughest in government. During one period under Labour, there were six home secretaries in eight years.

But Amber Rudd’s job was made doubly difficult because she was following Theresa May, who’d survived in the post for more than six years and had set in train a series of plans and objectives that Ms Rudd was expected to stick to, even if she disagreed with them.

The former energy secretary was unable to put her stamp on any significant policy during her 21 months at the Home Office; much of her time was spent fire-fighting – dealing with the implications of Brexit, the rise in violent crime and last year’s terror attacks.

Presentationally, Amber Rudd was impressive. But she lacked a command of the detail, which her predecessor had mastered, and it proved to be her undoing.

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Sainsbury’s confirms tie-up with Asda

Asda and Sainsbury's signs Image copyright EPA

Sainsbury’s has confirmed plans to merge with Asda, currently owned by US supermarket giant Walmart.

The supermarkets said that grocery prices would fall in both stores as a result of the merger.

Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe said there would be no job losses and no store closures as a result of the deal.

The combination of the UK’s second and third largest supermarkets would create a giant, representing nearly £1 in every £3 spent on groceries.

Given the size of the two chains, the deal is expected to need approval from the Competition and Markets Authority.

Latest figures show Tesco has a 25% grocery market share, while Sainsbury’s has 13.8% and Asda has 12.9%.

‘Best possible fit’

Walmart will retain a 42% stake in the newly-merged company following the deal. Sainsbury’s and Asda said they would have a close relationship with Walmart as a strategic partner.

“We expect to lower prices by around 10% on many of the products customers buy regularly,” the supermarkets announced.

The combined group will be led by Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe.

He said he believed the two supermarkets were “the best possible fit”.

“It will create a business that is more dynamic, more adaptable, more resilient and an even bigger contributor to the UK economy,” he said in a statement.

Mr Coupe told the BBC he expected the deal to be completed by the autumn of 2019.

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Weather: Rain and wind warnings for parts of UK

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Media captionBBC Weather’s Chris Fawkes has Monday’s forecast for the UK

Parts of the UK have been urged to prepare for an “unseasonably cold” and wet start to the week, with weather warnings in place that could mean disruption to the morning rush hour.

Yellow warnings for heavy rain and strong winds have been issued for southern and eastern parts of England on Monday.

Some places could see more than a month’s rainfall in one day.

The Environment Agency said travel disruption was expected on Monday.

A total of 31 flood alerts – meaning flooding is possible – have been issued across England.

There is a flood warning – meaning flooding is expected – along the River Nene, east of Peterborough.

Flooding could result in poor driving conditions and delays to bus and train services, the Met Office added.

Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services have all warned they could be affected.

There is also a risk of power cuts and flooding to homes and businesses.

  • Hottest April day since 1949
  • Pets lap up April sunny spells

The wet and windy weather is the result of an area of low pressure moving northwards overnight on Sunday.

It will feel unseasonably cold for the time of year, the BBC Weather Centre said, with maximum temperatures about 6 to 7C in these areas, but feeling much colder under the rain and wind.

High ground – like the Chilterns and the Cotswolds – could even see sleet and snow, although it won’t settle.

During the course of Monday, affected areas are likely to see rainfall of 25-35mm.

Up to 80mm is possible across parts of Norfolk and the North Downs (average monthly rainfall for Norfolk in April is 44mm).

There will be strong northerly winds too, with gales around eastern coasts with gusts of 40-45mph inland and up to 50-55mph along exposed coasts.

This is a relatively unusual wind direction for the time of year, the Weather Centre added, and trees being in full leaf could cause some problems.

Sharp contrast

Clare Dinnis, flood duty manager for the Environment Agency, said these winds will lead to “large waves and spray in exposed coastal areas and we encourage people to take care in these locations”.

Ms Dinnis advised people not to drive through floodwater.

Away from these areas, many parts of the UK will have a dry day with some sunshine, although it will feel cold.

It is in sharp contrast to earlier April weather – on 19 April, 29.1C was recorded at St James’s Park in central London, making it the hottest UK day in April since 1949.

The average maximum temperature for the UK in April is 11.9C.

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Papers on Rudd’s resignation

Guardian
Image caption “Rudd quits over Windrush scandal”, reads the front page of the Guardian, which was the first paper to report on the scandal. The paper says Amber Rudd was forced to quit as home secretary over her role in the “unjust” treatment of the Windrush migrants.
The i
Image caption The i, along with most other newspapers, also leads on Ms Rudd’s resignation. The paper says the former home secretary telephoned Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday night to offer her resignation over her handling of the Windrush scandal.
Daily Telegraph
Image caption Ms Rudd’s claim she knew nothing about Home Office deportation targets were left “in tatters” following a leaked letter she herself wrote to the prime minister, says the Daily Telegraph. That leak led to the home secretary’s resignation, the paper adds.
The Times
Image caption A day of “intense political pressure” led to the resignation of the home secretary, says the Times. The paper’s front page also says the government plans to reduce potholes on UK roads by making utility companies put their cables and pipes under pavements instead.
Metro
Image caption “Rudd quits,” exclaims the Metro. The paper says that Conservative colleagues had spent the day offering support in the hope she would stay on in her role.
Daily Mail
Image caption Ms Rudd’s resignation is a “huge blow” to the prime minister, says the Daily Mail. The paper says Mrs May has been using the former home secretary as a “firewall”.
Daily Express
Image caption The Daily Express says the prime minister is “in crisis” following Ms Rudd’s departure. The paper claims Mrs May is now facing “the biggest political crisis of her premiership”.
The Sun
Image caption The Sun leads on a story about videos on YouTube that show women how to perform “DIY” abortions and warns its readers to always seek “proper” medical help. The front page also mentions the resignation of Ms Rudd.
Mirror
Image caption “Good Ruddance,” says the Daily Mirror, in reference to Ms Rudd’s resignation. The paper also features an interview with the parents of Charlie Gard, who offer sympathy to the parents of Alfie Evans – the toddler who died on Saturday.
Financial Times
Image caption Supermarket giants Sainsbury’s and Asda will leapfrog Tesco in terms of market share once they have merged, says the Financial Times. The paper warns that both politicians and suppliers have raised concerns of the power the new merged group will be able to wield.
Daily Star
Image caption Ant McPartlin features on the front page of the Daily Star, which says the presenter is hoping to return to TV screens for the new series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

Amber Rudd’s decision to resign as home secretary dominates Monday’s papers, with many publications having to quickly rewrite their front pages after the announcement late on Sunday evening.

“Oh Ruddy Hell”, reads the headline in the Sun, while the resignation of Ms Rudd is “the biggest political crisis” Theresa May has faced as prime minister, according to the Daily Express.

“Rudd quits as leaked letter leaves her denials in tatters” is the headline in the Daily Telegraph while the Daily Mirror opts for “Good Ruddance”.

News of the resignation came too late last night to make some of the first editions, but the Guardian online quoted Downing Street sources as saying the home secretary had made her decision to go after ‘new information’ came to light while she was preparing for today’s planned statement to the Commons.

The Daily Mail front page described the development as “a huge blow for the prime minister”, who will now be forced into an unwelcome reshuffle.

Image copyright EPA

In other news, the Telegraph reports that teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds are being offered places at some of Britain’s top universities with lower grades than those required of middle-class students.

The paper says that 15 institutions including UCL, Kings College London, Manchester and York have launched formal schemes to address widening access, where applicants from difficult backgrounds can be given an offer as much as two grades below what’s normally expected.

‘A deal too far’

The implications of the proposed merger of Sainsbury’s and Asda on jobs and competition in the supermarket sector occupy several of the newspapers.

‘A deal too far’ is Alex Brummer’s verdict in the Daily Mail. Strip away the hype, he writes, and you are left with a merger driven by market weaknesses, not strengths with Asda struggling at the low end and Sainsbury’s caught in the middle.

Jonathan Ford’s analysis in the Financial Times warns that the deal risks stamping on re-emerging competition in the supermarket sector – and that with benefits for consumers and suppliers hard to perceive, the proposals merit ‘very close examination’ by the authorities.

Get news from the BBC in your inbox, each weekday morning

“You will smile again”, is the message to the parents of Alfie Evans from Chris Gard and Connie Yates in the Mirror.

The couple, who lost their son Charlie Gard last year after battling to take him abroad for treatment for a rare condition, said they wanted to reassure Tom Evans and Kate James that they had done everything they could for Alfie, who died on Saturday following a legal battle.

Many of the papers carry tributes to the former Speaker of the House of Commons Lord Martin of Springburn – formerly Michael Martin – who died on Sunday at the age of 72.

In the Guardian’s obituary, Stephen Bates describes him as the first Catholic and first blue-collar worker to occupy one of the most senior posts in public life, earning the nickname in the Commons of ‘Gorbals Mick’ because of his thick Glaswegian accent.

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North Korea: Chinese foreign minister to visit Pyongyang after historic talks

Kim Jong-un (R) and Moon Jae-in Image copyright AFP
Image caption The two Korean leaders have agreed to begin “a new age of peace”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is to visit North Korea this week, after historic talks between the North and South last Friday.

The trip comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity following the landmark day on the peninsula.

China is North Korea’s only remaining economic ally, but this will be its highest level visit there in years.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is expected to meet US President Donald Trump in the coming weeks.

South Korea has already spoken to the leaders of US and Japan.

According to Beijing, Mr Wang’s visit on Wednesday and Thursday is being made at the invitation of the government in Pyongyang.

In March, Mr Kim made a surprise visit to Beijing to see President Xi Jinping, his first international trip since taking office, underlining the importance to Pyongyang of its relationship with China.

  • Why Xi’s still the one for Kim to see

Historic Korean talks

On Friday, the North Korean leader and the South’s President Moon Jae-in agreed at a historic summit to “completely cease all hostile acts against each other” and to work towards denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

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Media captionThe moment Kim Jong-un crossed into South Korea

The meeting followed months of warlike rhetoric and missile tests from the North.

The commitment to denuclearisation talks about the goal of “a nuclear-free Korean peninsula”. It does not explicitly refer to North Korea halting its nuclear activities. South Korea does not have its own nuclear weapons, but is militarily backed by the US, which has tens of thousands of troops stationed there.

According to Seoul, North Korea promised to close its atomic test site next month and invite US weapons experts to the country – a promise not included in the joint declaration from the summit.

North Korea has in the past argued it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against aggression from outside, especially the US.

Image copyright AFP

Mr Kim and Mr Moon said they would also pursue talks with the US and China to formally end the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with a truce, not formal peace.

Friday’s summit also prepared the way for direct talks between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump has since said talks with North Korea could take place “over the next three or four weeks”.

Many analysts, however, remain sceptical about the North’s sudden enthusiasm for engagement.

New time zone for a new era

Also on Monday, South Korea said it would take down its loudspeakers which have historically blasted propaganda into the North over the border.

A defence ministry spokesman said it was a “rudimentary” step to help build trust between the Koreas, the Yonhap news agency reports.

The loudspeakers had already been turned off ahead of Friday’s summit.

Among the announcements on Friday, Pyongyang said it would change its time zone to run in sync with the South again “as a first practical step for national reconciliation and unity”.

The current Northern time zone – 30 minutes behind the South – was created in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese occupation after World War Two.

According to North Korean state media, Mr Kim said it was “a painful wrench” to see clocks showing different times on the wall during the summit.

  • How time zones confused the world

Read More...

News

News Daily: Amber Rudd resigns and Labour’s pledge on loans

Hello. Here’s your morning briefing:

Image copyright Getty Images

Amber Rudd quits as home secretary

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has resigned, saying in a letter to the prime minister that she “inadvertently misled” MPs over Home Office targets for removing illegal immigrants from the UK. She had come under pressure to quit over the Windrush scandal. Labour’s Diane Abbott said Ms Rudd had “done the right thing” in going.

Ms Rudd had been due to address the House of Commons later today, but telephoned Theresa May on Sunday to say she was quitting. This followed the Guardian publishing a letter, in which she set out her “ambitious but deliverable” aim of deporting 10% more illegal immigrants over the next few years to the prime minister.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says the Conservative Party “was fighting hard” to keep Ms Rudd in place, but there was a “mismatch” between what she told MPs last week and the evidence that later emerged. Political reporter Gavin Stamp looks at where it all went wrong for her.

We’ll have all the latest reaction to the resignation – and any news on a replacement.

Cap overdraft fees and interest payments, says Labour

Labour is promising to end what it calls the “national scandal” of low-paid households being trapped in debt. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell says he wants to cap the total amount anyone could pay in bank overdraft fees or interest repayments. This would impose a limit of £24 per month per £100 borrowed on any interest, fees and charges related to an overdraft. The Treasury says it’s already tightened the rules to help ensure only people who can afford loans get them.

Get news from the BBC in your inbox, each weekday morning

Royal wedding: BBC waives licence for parties

Now it’s just fingers crossed for some decent weather. The BBC has waived the need for communities to take out special licences to show the royal wedding at street parties and other events on 19 May. Usually premises must be covered for showing live TV or iPlayer. The BBC said it had taken the decision because the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was an event of “national importance”. Here’s what we know so far about the big day.

Will our online lives soon become ‘private’ again?

By Dr Sandra Wachter, Oxford University

In Europe, from 25 May, a new law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be in place. The aim is to give individuals the power to make informed choices about how their data is collected and used. Personal data can only be collected for precise and predefined purposes. Companies will have to be very clear about how and why they are collecting it.

New transparency rules are intended to make sure consumers know what types of data are being collected when they use an app or platform, as well as who it might be shared with. This is why we have been seeing the notices about “important updates” popping up on Facebook and Twitter, for example.

Read the full article

What the papers say

The resignation of Amber Rudd is all over the front pages. The Daily Mail says she was “forced” to go because of the pressure on her, adding that her departure is a “huge blow” to Theresa May. The Daily Mirror uses the headline “Good Ruddance”, and the Daily Express says the prime minister has been left “in crisis”. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Asda will outdo Tesco in terms of market share once they merge. And the Daily Star says TV presenter Ant McPartlin is planning a return to screens in the autumn.

Daily digest

Washington talks Nigeria President Buhari becomes first African leader to meet Trump at White House

Bus crash One person in critical condition after collision in Glasgow

Brrrrr Wet and “unseasonably cold” weather hits the UK

Diesel trial Case collapse shows “systemic disclosure failings”, warns judge

If you see one thing today

Caravans make a comeback

If you listen to one thing today

Image copyright Getty Images

The revolution in menswear

If you read one thing today

The perils of travelling as a young black woman

Sign up for a morning briefing direct to your phone

Lookahead

16:30 MPs discuss the Windrush scandal in a debate in Westminster Hall based on an e-petition.

20:00 Tottenham Hotspur host Watford in the Premier League.

On this day

1975 The war in Vietnam ends as the government in Saigon announces its unconditional surrender to North Vietnamese forces.

From elsewhere

Nicaragua on the brink, once again (New Yorker)

A man’s battle with bulimia (Guardian)

Inside the world of slum tourism (National Geographic)

My melancholy over Abba’s reunion (Daily Mail)

Read More...

News

Barnier ‘doesn’t understand’ unionist stance, says DUP

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Media captionDUP leader Arlene Foster: Brexit negotiations have ‘become aggressive’

DUP leader Arlene Foster has told the BBC that the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator “does not understand” the unionist position in Northern Ireland.

Monday marks the start of Michel Barnier’s two-day visit to Ireland, which comes amid rising tensions over the future UK-Ireland border.

Mr Barnier said the UK is contradicting itself over its Irish border policy.

But Mrs Foster believes Mr Barnier does not understand the dispute and is “not an honest broker”.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Arlene Foster has warned Michel Barnier the DUP will not accept Northern Ireland being treated differently to the rest of the UK

In December, the UK and EU reached a political agreement in which the UK committed to protecting north-south cooperation on the island of Ireland.

It also guaranteed there would be no hard border, including physical infrastructure or related checks and controls.

However, the EU’s proposed backstop solution to avoid a hard border – keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union after Brexit – continues to be at odds with what the UK government and the DUP say they would accept.

Mrs Foster told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg the DUP would not accept Northern Ireland being treated differently to the rest of the UK.

She said: “Michel Barnier’s trying to present himself as someone who cares deeply about Northern Ireland and if that is the case he needs to hear the fact that we are part of the United Kingdom [and] will remain part of the United Kingdom constitutionally, politically and economically.

“Therefore his proposal of us being in an all-Ireland regulatory scenario with a border down the Irish Sea simply does not work.

“It does not work constitutionally, politically and it certainly does not work from an economic perspective.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionThe Irish border bridge where stakes are high

Mrs Foster added: “We’ve tried to get him to understand the unionist position for the people of Northern Ireland but he hasn’t really responded and I’m disappointed about that.

“I don’t think he does understand the wider unionist culture of Northern Ireland.”

Mr Barnier is due to meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Monday and will also speak to business leaders on both sides of the Irish border during his trip.

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News

Amber Rudd: Why has the home secretary resigned?

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has resigned, saying she “inadvertently misled” MPs over targets for removing illegal immigrants.

Ms Rudd, who was due to make a Commons statement, was under pressure to quit over the Windrush scandal.

She faced criticism over the existence of Home Office removals targets and her knowledge of them.

Read More...

News

Jojo Moyes: The chick lit label is ‘disappointing’

Jojo Moyes Image copyright FMCM
Image caption Jojo Moyes’ new book Still Me is the final instalment of the Me Before You series

We often can’t help judging a book by its cover – but author Jojo Moyes says cliched cover designs are stopping potential readers from picking up books they might like.

Books, on the whole, are designed so readers think they know what they’re getting before they even read a word – especially when it comes to those by, or aimed at. women.

But Jojo Moyes, whose most famous novel Me Before You was a huge success, doesn’t want her books, or any books by female writers, to be judged in such a superficial way.

“So many women who write about quite difficult issues are lumped under the ‘chick lit’ umbrella,” she tells the BBC. “It’s so reductive and disappointing – it puts off readers who might otherwise enjoy them.”

The 48-year-old says she has been “lucky to get a wider audience” but wishes books were presented in a different way, avoiding that age-old cliche about book covers and judging.

“If it was up to me, we would all discover things in a huge massive jumble,” she says.

“The boundaries are being blurred with women writing domestic noir and thrillers. I want to see covers that are a bit more gender neutral.

“Supermarkets wanted things that are easily categorised, but people don’t want to read something pink and glittery.

“My favourite covers are just words on the front cover in very nice fonts, with just a tiny image, and it’s no coincidence that I have a lot more male readers who aren’t being put off.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jojo Moyes at the Me Before You film premiere in 2016 alongside its cast

The Me Before You series follow the life of Lou Clark, a working class girl who ends up as a carer for paraplegic Will Traynor, a wealthy banker who is paralysed after a motorcycle accident.

The first book was adapted into a film in 2016, starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, with the screenplay also written by Moyes.

The book series just been completed with its third and final instalment, Still Me, which sees Louisa move to New York to take on a new challenge.

Moyes explores many themes, with love being just one. From class divide and financial struggles to assisted suicide and depression, her books are far from defined by one plot line.

She says “you always need tension to propel a story forward” and for Me Before You, it’s class.

“There are groups of people who rarely cross into each other’s lives, Will Traynor’s will only meet people who clean their houses or do the garden and I like to put people together who wouldn’t cross paths and they find things in common.

“Me Before You was really a story about two polar opposites colliding and gradually changing each other’s points of view.

“I think we are becoming such a polarised society that it’s a theme I find hard to steer away from – it’s everywhere in front of you – in politics, in people’s economic situation, in their opportunities and outlooks.

“But by getting inside of the heads of each you have to acknowledge that we are more similar than we realise – and also understand that nobody necessarily has it all their own way,” she adds.

Image copyright Warner Bros
Image caption Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin starred in Me Before You, directed by Thea Sharrock

“I just try to tell a story which will maybe make people feel something, and perhaps think a little too,” Moyes says.

“Ultimately fiction is entertainment and no matter how beautifully or thoughtfully done, it succeeds or fails based on whether people are entertained.

“That being said, I find myself thinking more and more that as a writer you have a responsibility to think about what messages you send, especially if you have a readership with a high proportion of young women.

“I don’t want to feed into the idea that getting married is going to fix everything, or buying a handbag or pair of designer shoes. I might not be able to fix society’s ills, but I can try not to be part of the problem.”

The former journalist, who wrote for The Independent for nine years, wanted her writing to be more reflective of real life relationships, rather than romanticising them.

“We all have these grand ideas of how romantic things are going to be but there’s always a fly in the soup.

“I’m not interested in a handsome prince, I want one falling down the stairs then announcing he’s gay,” she says. “That’s the book I want to read.”

Moyes says she also “thinks very carefully about the messages” she sends when writing about women and love.

“I want to have a conversation where women’s romantic behaviour is not governed by someone else, coerced, controlled or bought by fancy cars and helicopter rides.

“We’re in a weird time for relationships between men and women and I would rather emphasise that you want to have a good time with them rather than a deeply problematic relationship.”

Image copyright Warner Bros
Image caption Lou Clark’s outfits were recreated by Emilia Clarke in the film adaptation of Me Before You

The conversation turns to dating apps, which do get a mention in Moyes’ latest novel but as something quite reflective of the shallow New York dating scene.

“How are you going to find out if you’re going to have a laugh with someone if you’re focused on them having sculpted abs?” she says.

“What you need is someone to take the mick out of you when you wake up in the morning and then hang out with you when you go clothes shopping.”

She adds that there is a growing “road of misery” that comes from young people being “hyper aware of themselves”.

Lou Clark, Moyes’ central character, is in her 20s, but her personality is expressed in her adventurous dress sense.

“It’s no accident that I don’t have Lou fretting about her appearance and she gets joy from wearing the clothes she wants to wear,” Moyes says.

“If you’re busy thinking about how you look, it’s a miserable way to exist, and so much of technology is geared up to make you judge yourself.

“Turn your gaze outwards and don’t be self-conscious.”

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