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Liam Gallagher urges brother Noel to bring back Oasis

Liam and Noel Gallagher Image copyright PA

Liam Gallagher has raised the prospect of re-forming Oasis in a tweet aimed at his brother and former bandmate, Noel.

Using strong language, the singer said he forgave his sibling and it was the time to “get the Big O back together”.

Hopeful fans may however be disappointed, as Noel Gallagher told the BBC in November that he would never play with his old band again.

Oasis split in 2009 after a row which began with Liam throwing a plum at his brother’s head.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Noel (left) and Liam have traded insults ever since Oasis split in 2009

However Liam now appears to be keen to get the group back together, although he made it clear on Twitter that he wasn’t “desperate” but just thought “it’d be a nice thing to do”.

Liam Gallagher has had chart success with his recent solo album while Noel is currently touring with his band Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

When working together, the pair wrote and performed hits including Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger – which became a unifying song in the aftermath of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

A crowd spontaneously started singing the song at a memorial event for the victims and Noel performed it when the arena reopened in September.

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Media captionManchester attacks: Don’t Look Back in Anger sung at vigil

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Battle of Britain RAF Spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum dies

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Media captionGeoffrey Wellum recalls the RAF’s ‘finest hour’

The youngest Spitfire pilot to fly in the Battle of Britain during World War Two has died, it has been announced.

Sqn Ldr Geoffrey Wellum, who was just 18 when he joined the RAF in August 1939, died at his home in Cornwall on Wednesday evening aged 96.

He served with 92 Squadron and his first missions included the “dogfights” above London and the Home Counties for which the battle became known.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust said it was “saddened by the news”.

Image copyright Geoffrey Wellum
Image caption Unique friendships were forged in the heat of battle – Geoffrey Wellum (r) and his commanding officer Brian Kingcombe

More news from Cornwall

Sqn Ldr Wellum was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was later promoted to flight commander with 65 Squadron.

He later led eight Spitfires from HMS Furious to relieve Malta.

Sqn Ldr Wellum, speaking in 2013, said: “Somebody said: ‘Here’s a Spitfire – fly it, and if you break it there will be bloody hell to pay’.”

“Looking at my life now, I had peaked at about 21 or 22. It was just lovely blokes, all together in Fighter Squadron.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Geoffrey Wellum with Prince Charles following a service at Westminster Abbey to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

He remained in the RAF until 1960.

Patrick Tootal, secretary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, said members of the charity’s staff and volunteers had been “much saddened by the news”.

“Only this week Sqn Ldr Wellum had been talking enthusiastically about attending the Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey on 16 September,” he said.

Battle of Britain: July to October 1940

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hurricanes taking off from Gravesend in Kent during the Battle of Britain in September 1940
  • The Battle of Britain was a pivotal moment in WW2 when the country stood alone against Hitler’s seemingly unstoppable military power
  • In July 1940 the RAF deployed 640 planes, although more were available, and aircraft production was subsequently ramped up
  • The Luftwaffe could call upon 2,600 fighters and bombers
  • Nearly 3,000 aircrew served with RAF Fighter Command during the battle
  • The average age of a pilot was 20 years old
  • 20% of the pilots were from the British Dominions, and occupied European or neutral countries
  • The RAF lost 1,023 planes and the Luftwaffe lost 1,887 planes in the battle

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Jewish nation state: Israel approves controversial bill

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Media captionIsraeli Arab MPs protest and rip copies of the bill after Knesset passes nation state law

Israel’s parliament has passed a controversial law characterising the country as principally a Jewish state, fuelling anger among its Arab minority.

The “nation state” law says Jews have a unique right to national self-determination there and puts Hebrew above Arabic as the official language.

Arab MPs reacted furiously in parliament, with one waving a black flag and another ripping up the bill.

Israel’s prime minister praised the bill’s passage as a “defining moment”.

“A hundred and twenty-two years after [the founder of modern Zionism Theodore] Herzl made his vision known, with this law we determined the founding principle of our existence,” Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens.”

What does the law say?

The Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People essentially defines Israel first and foremost as a Jewish state.

Among its 11 provisions, it describes Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says the right to exercise national self-determination there is “unique to the Jewish people”.

It also reiterates the status of Jerusalem under Israeli law, which defines the city as the “complete and united… capital of Israel”.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Israeli Arabs have long complained of discrimination

Controversially, the law singles out Hebrew as the “state’s language”, effectively prioritising it above Arabic which has for decades been recognised as an official language alongside Hebrew.

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It ascribes Arabic “special status” and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed.

In one of its clauses, the law stresses the importance of “development of Jewish settlement as a national value”, though it is unclear whether this also alludes to settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Why was this law created?

The question of Israel’s status as a Jewish state is politically controversial and has long been debated. Before now, it has not been enshrined in law.

Some Israeli Jewish politicians consider that the founding principles of Israel’s creation, as a state for Jews in their ancient homeland, are under threat and could become less relevant, or obsolete, in the future.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Benjamin Netanyahu says the Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state

The bill has been under discussion since it was first introduced in 2011 and has undergone multiple amendments, with the final version watering down or dropping altogether sections regarded as discriminatory.

Israel has no constitution but instead passed over time a series of Basic Laws which have constitutional status. The nation state law is the 14th such basic law.

The issue of Israel as a Jewish state has become increasingly important in recent years and a key dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly insisted that the Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state in any final peace settlement. He argues that the Palestinians’ refusal to do so is the biggest obstacle to peace, saying it demonstrates that the Palestinians do not genuinely recognise Israel’s right to exist.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meanwhile has said he will never recognise Israel as a Jewish state, arguing that the Palestinians have long recognised the State of Israel and should not be expected to go further.

Why does it matter?

It is important because it is hugely symbolic, and according to Israel’s large Arab minority, evidence that Israel is downgrading their status.

Israeli Arabs, many of whom identify as or with Palestinians, comprise about 20% of the country’s nine million-strong population.

They have equal rights under the law but have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens and say they face discrimination and worse provision than Israeli Jews when it comes to services such as education, health and housing.

Civil rights groups have denounced the law and some critics, including one Arab MP described it as apartheid – the state-sanctioned racial discrimination of black people during white-minority rule in South Africa.

Israel is often accused by its fiercest critics of practising a system akin to apartheid against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Israel vehemently rejects the allegation as a smear tactic used by those who reject its very right to exist.

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Murder and killing cases on rise again

Homicide chart

The number of killings and murders in England and Wales has increased for the fourth year running, figures show.

Excluding terror attacks, there were 701 homicides in the 12 months to the end of March, 74 more than the previous year – a rise of 12%.

Homicide covers cases of murder, manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and infanticide. The data also showed knife crime was up 16%.

Overall, crimes recorded by police went up 11%, the figures suggested.

However, the separate Crime Survey for England and Wales, which is based on people’s experiences of crime, suggested there was no change in overall crime levels.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said homicide remained rare and tended to take place in London and other cities.

The start of 2018 was characterised by what appeared to be regular killings on the streets of London.

Between January and March, the BBC recorded 46 killings in the city – some from gunshot wounds but most from stabbings. Among those killed were a handful of teenagers.

Image copyright PA

Other notable crime increases include:

  • Recorded robbery offences, including muggings, up 30% – 77,103 cases were recorded in the 12 months to March. In February, the BBC reported that the “rich pickings” on Oxford Street in London’s West End had made it a hotspot for robberies and ride-by moped thefts
  • Recorded sexual offences up 24% – the ONS said this rise reflected improvements in recording the crime and people’s willingness to report the crime
  • Recorded vehicle-related thefts up 12% – it is the second year for vehicle-related theft numbers to rise and is backed up by the separate Crime Survey which showed an increase of 17%

Publishing the data, the ONS said: “Over recent decades, we’ve seen a fall in overall levels of crime, a trend that now looks to be stabilising.”

Caroline Youell, of the ONS, said the latest figures showed a “fairly stable” picture in England and Wales for most crime types.

“It is too early to say if this is a change to the long-term declining trend,” she added.

“There have been increases in some lower-volume ‘high-harm’ offences such as homicide and knife crime, consistent with rises over the past three years.

“However, the latest rise in gun crime is much smaller than previously seen.

“We have also seen continued increases in some theft offences such as vehicle-related theft and burglary, while computer viruses have fallen.”

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Macron aide Benalla in French probe for beating protester

a pixelalted image shows a bearded man wearing a hoody and a riot police helmet grabbing a protester by the neck Image copyright TAHAR BOUHAFS
Image caption Mr Benalla was supposed to be a observer, officials said – but beat one protester at the scene

French prosecutors are investigating a senior presidential aide, who attacked protesters in Paris while wearing a police visor.

Alexandre Benalla, an assistant to President Emmanuel Macron’s chief of staff, was filmed targeting a woman and a man during May Day protests.

He was caught on video by a student activist and left the scene once challenged on camera.

He was identified from the video by French newspaper Le Monde.

What happened?

The incident took place in a popular tourist spot at Place de la Contrescarpe in the fifth district of Paris, where about 100 people had gathered on 1 May.

The original video, posted on social media by 21-year-old Taha Bouhafs, shows a man in a police helmet who is not in uniform joining CRS riot police after clashes erupted.

He grabs a woman by the neck, charging her down the street, before both disappear off-camera.

Shortly afterwards he returns to the scene, attacking another protester, who had been carried a short distance by police before being left alone on the ground.

The man in the helmet, since identified as Mr Benalla, can be seen grabbing the young protester around the neck, hitting him in the head and apparently stamping on his stomach when he falls to the ground.

Riot police do not appear to intervene.

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A presidential spokesman said Mr Benalla had been given permission to attend the disturbance as an observer on his day off. Other photographs show him wearing a police armband.

Who is Alexandre Benalla?

Mr Benalla’s main duty is to arrange security for the president’s engagements.

Before he joined the presidential staff he had the role of head of security during Mr Macron’s election campaign in 2017.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Macron and Mr Benalla in May 2017, when Mr Benalla was head of the candidate’s security

In that role, he was a constant companion to the future president, and archive photographs show the two men together at many high-profile public events.

But Richard Ferrand, a senior member of Macron’s party, sought to downplay the importance of Mr Benalla’s role.

“This is not a close aide, this is someone who was in charge particularly during the presidential campaign and then he joined the Elysée staff,” he told French TV.

President Macron, asked if he had confidence in his bodyguard on Wednesday night, pointed to a member of his entourage. “My bodyguard’s over there,” he said.

Formerly an employee of a private security firm, he had worked with other French politicians in the past – including leading Socialist Martine Aubry and Mr Macron’s predecessor in the Elysée, François Hollande.

In 2012, he was hired as a driver for industry minister Arnaud Montebourg.

Mr Montebourg told Le Monde that Mr Benalla was fired for misconduct after causing a car accident in the minister’s presence and wanting to flee the scene.

What has the reaction been?

Elysée palace spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit said Mr Benalla had been suspended for two weeks without pay from 4 to 19 May, a punishment described as the heaviest so far meted out to a head of mission working at the presidential office.

He had also been moved out of his role of organising security for the president’s visits.

However, French TV reported that Mr Benalla had handled security for two key events this month, including the parade of the World Cup-winning France football team along the Champs-Elysées.

Paris prosecutors announced on Thursday they were opening a preliminary investigation into the alleged assault.

Possible charges include violence by a public official, pretending to be a policeman and the illegal use of police insignia.

Speaking to French radio on Thursday, activist Taha Bouhafs said that protesters had been “quietly settled” on the square before he recorded his video.

“The man on the ground was harmless and begged Benalla to stop,” Mr Bouhafs said. “There is no explanation for this outburst of violence.”

On the day of the protests, Mr Macron took to Twitter, vowing that those responsible for violence would be “identified and held accountable for their actions”. The tweet has received renewed attention in light of the accusations against his employee.

Opposition MPs have called for far stronger action to be taken against the presidential official.

Socialist Olivier Faure complained of double standards, arguing that there was one form of justice for regular people, and another for the presidency.

Alexis Corbière of the far-left France Unbowed party called for Mr Benallon’s sacking, and said criminal charges should follow if the allegations were confirmed.

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Cliff Richard: BBC would be ‘crazy’ to appeal against ruling

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Media captionLord Patten chaired the now-defunct BBC Trust until 2014

Former BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has said the corporation would be “crazy” to appeal against the ruling in the Sir Cliff Richard privacy case.

Sir Cliff was awarded an initial £210,000 in damages after a judge ruled the BBC had infringed his privacy rights over its coverage of a police raid on his home in 2014.

The BBC said journalists acted in good faith and it is considering an appeal.

The singer was not arrested or charged over the historical child sex claim.

  • Sir Cliff privacy case: Read the full judgement
  • What has the reaction been?

On Wednesday night, following the High Court ruling, Tory peer Lord Patten said the BBC should “swallow hard, say they made a mistake, apologise as they have to Cliff Richard, move on and not to do it again”.

He said he did not believe the incident showed “BBC journalism at its best”.

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Media captionSir Cliff v BBC: How did it get to this?

Lord Patten chaired the BBC’s now-defunct governing body, the BBC Trust, from 2011 until 2014, standing down four months before the coverage of the police investigation into Cliff Richard.

During the interview with Newsnight, he added: “This is not what a public service broadcaster should be doing.

“And I think that the decisions made by some very good people whom I much respect at the BBC were wrong.

“And I think it would be crazy for the BBC arguing that there is some principle of freedom of speech involved and to appeal this decision.”

In his judgement, Mr Justice Mann rejected the BBC’s case that its reporting, which included footage of Sir Cliff’s home filmed from a helicopter, was justified under rights of freedom of expression and of the press.

He ruled that a suspect in a police investigation “has a reasonable expectation of privacy” and while Sir Cliff being investigated “might be of interest to the gossip-monger”, there was not a “genuine public interest” case.

Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, apologised to Sir Cliff but said the case marked a “significant shift” against press freedom and an “important principle” around the public’s right to know was at stake.

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Media captionThe BBC’s director of news says there is “an important principle at stake”

In a statement, she said: “Even had the BBC not used helicopter shots or ran the story with less prominence, the judge would still have found that the story was unlawful; despite ruling that what we broadcast about the search was accurate.”

And in an email to BBC staff, Ms Unsworth said she is “keen that we learn lessons from the way we reported the story”, but said the principle at stake is one that affects all media organisations, not just the BBC.

The BBC said it would look in depth at the 122-page judgement before deciding on whether or not to appeal.

After winning his case, Sir Cliff told ITV that senior BBC managers “have to carry the can”, adding: “If heads roll then maybe it’s because it was deserved.”

Sir Cliff’s close friend, broadcaster Gloria Hunniford, told Good Morning Britain the singer had told her: “I don’t think I’ll ever be quite the same again.”

She said: “I agree – you can’t get that out of your head, when you haven’t slept properly for four years.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption TV and radio presenter Gloria Hunniford said the ruling follows “four tortuous years”

Conservative MP Nigel Evans, who has argued for anonymity for suspects of sexual offences, told Radio 4’s Today programme that the ruling “reinforced what the law means which is that the police don’t release the name of anybody who has had an allegation made against them”.

Meanwhile, Andy Trotter, a former chief constable for British Transport Police who carried out an independent review into the disclosure of information by South Yorkshire Police to the BBC, said: “Generally speaking, I see no reason for the public to know people have been arrested.

“They [the person arrested] carry the stigma of that arrest for a long time.”

However, he said there “may well be” a public interest “in very serious cases” to release the name of someone who has been arrested.


Analysis: ‘Dark day for news reporting’

By BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman

The judge found it was not merely the BBC’s use of helicopter pictures which breached Sir Cliff’s right to privacy. The simple naming of Sir Cliff as a suspect in the police investigation amounted to a breach of his privacy.

It means, going forward, people who are suspects in police investigations, save in exceptional circumstances, are entitled to reasonably expect the matter is kept private and not covered by the media.

That is why the BBC is broadening this out and saying, in effect, this is a dark day for news reporting.

Looking at some of the police investigations covered in the past, the BBC points out that naming the suspects has sometimes resulted in additional complainants coming forward.


Sir Cliff sued the BBC over broadcasts of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.

Police officers were investigating an allegation made by a man who claimed he was sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff at an event at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane in 1985 when he was a child.

Sir Cliff was never arrested and in June 2016 prosecutors said he would face no charges.

Image caption Fans of Sir Cliff celebrated his win outside court

South Yorkshire Police had earlier agreed to pay Sir Cliff £400,000 after settling a claim he brought against the force.

On Wednesday, the judge awarded Sir Cliff £190,000 damages and an extra £20,000 in aggravated damages after the BBC submitted its coverage of the raid for an award.

The BBC must pay 65% of the £190,000 and South Yorkshire Police, which carried out the raid, 35%.

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England to play four-day Ireland Test before 2019 Ashes series

Lord’s hosted the first Test against Pakistan this year and will host the second Test against India in August

England will play their first ever Test match against Ireland in July 2019, before the start of the Ashes series.

They begin the summer on 5 May with a Twenty20 international against Pakistan, followed by a five-match one-day international series, and then the World Cup starting on 30 May.

England face Ireland at Lord’s in a four-day match from 24-27 July – their first Test of fewer than five days since the tour of New Zealand in 1971.

The Ashes series starts on 1 August.

More to follow.

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Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes driver agrees £40m-a-year deal until 2020

World champion Lewis Hamilton will race for Mercedes in Formula 1 for at least a further two seasons.

The 33-year-old Briton has signed a new contract with the German manufacturer that lasts until the end of 2020.

BBC Sport understands Hamilton will earn at least £30m a year, rising to a maximum of £40m, depending on bonuses.

Hamilton said a new contract had been “a formality” since he sat down with Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff to begin discussions last winter.

He said: “It’s good to put pen to paper, announce it and then get on with business as usual.

“I have been part of the Mercedes racing family for 20 years and I have never been happier inside a team than I am right now.

“We are on the same wavelength both on and off track – and I am looking forward to winning more in the future and shining even more light on the three-pointed star. I’m very confident that Mercedes is the right place to be over the coming years.”

Mercedes have dominated F1 since the introduction of turbo hybrid engines in 2014, winning four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles.

Hamilton has won three of those titles, with the fourth going to former team-mate Nico Rosberg, who retired after becoming champion in 2016.

Hamilton’s first world title came with McLaren, using Mercedes engines, in 2008.

Hamilton is eight points behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in this year’s championship before this weekend’s German Grand Prix, which marks the halfway point of the season.

Hamilton added: “Although we have enjoyed so much success together since 2013, Mercedes is hungrier than ever.

“The competitive passion that burns bright inside me is shared by every single member of this group – always chasing the next improvement and digging even deeper to make sure we come out on top.

“I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together in the next two and a half seasons.”

Wolff said: “There has understandably been a lot of interest and speculation around the whole process, so it’s good to put all of that to rest and get this thing announced.

“We signed the final documents this week and didn’t want to keep people waiting any longer!

“There is not much about Lewis as a Formula 1 driver that hasn’t been said already – he is one of the all-time greats and his track record speaks for itself.”

“But what I enjoy most about working with him is getting to know the man inside the racing helmet: his relentless drive for self-improvement, his emotional intelligence as a team member and his loyalty to those around him.

“Mercedes has become Lewis’ home in Formula 1. I am very confident that we have some incredible chapters of our story together still to come.”

Mercedes still have to confirm the identity of Hamilton’s team-mate after this season, but Finn Valtteri Bottas is expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

‘No reason to look elsewhere’ – analysis

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have been saying for months that a new contract was only a matter of time – and this announcement proves they were true to their word.

The delay on a deal that they had initially expected to conclude over last winter led to speculation that Hamilton might be looking around.

In fact, the length of time it has taken can be explained simply by Hamilton’s busy schedule and the pressures of an F1 season – especially one in which Mercedes face their toughest fight since the start of the turbo hybrid era.

There was no reason for Hamilton to look elsewhere. The only other team that could afford him and offer him a similar chance of success would be Ferrari, but they are committed to Sebastian Vettel until 2020, and F1’s top teams tend not to like having two A-listers in the cockpit at the same time. And Hamilton has repeatedly said he sees no reason to leave, and has not had discussions elsewhere.

Why only two years? Simply because that is as long as Mercedes are currently committed to F1.

Like all teams bar Renault, Mercedes have a contract only until 2020, and the sport’s bosses are currently in the process of what are proving to be long, complex and not a little fractious negotiations over the shape of F1 from 2021 onwards.

Assuming Mercedes continue after 2020, will Hamilton stay with them? It’s most likely. Any uncertainty would focus mainly on whether Hamilton is motivated to continue racing at that point, when he will be approaching 36.

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Salisbury poisoning: Police ‘identify Novichok suspects’

Yulia and Sergei Skripal
Image caption Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were poisoned in March, but both survived

Police are believed to have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack on a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in Salisbury in March, according to reports.

Several Russians were involved in the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the Press Association says.

They are thought to have been identified through CCTV, cross-checked with border entry data.

Earlier this month, Dawn Sturgess, 44, died after being poisoned by Novichok.

She and her partner, Charlie Rowley, 45, fell ill on 30 June in Amesbury, Wiltshire. He remains seriously ill in hospital.

Police believe the incidents are linked. The UK government has blamed Russia, but the country’s authorities deny any involvement.

Asked about the latest developments, the Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko told the BBC: “Unfortunately, we don’t have official statement of the British side.

“I want to hear that from the Scotland Yard or from the Foreign Office. A lot of versions that we hear in newspapers, they are not supported by the Foreign Office.”

Mr Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 33, who were discovered slumped on a bench in Salisbury on 4 March, have been discharged from hospital and moved to secure locations.

“Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack through CCTV and have cross-checked this with records of people who entered the country around that time,” a source with knowledge of the investigation told the Press Association.

“They (the investigators) are sure they (the suspects) are Russian.”

The Met Police, who are leading the investigation, have declined to comment. The BBC has not been able to independently confirm the story.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Gordon Corera considers how likely is it Russia poisoned the Skripals

Philip Ingram, a former British Army intelligence officer and chemical weapons expert, said the development supported his perception that this was a “professional attack” designed to send a “political message” – adding that it happened two weeks before the Russian election.

“My view is that the primary reason behind it was to send a message out to dissenters – and Sergei Skripal was chosen because he was based in Salisbury and that gave the Russians plausible deniability by saying, oh it must have leaked from Porton Down, because it’s just up the road,” he said.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley touched a contaminated item with their hands

An inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess is due to open on Thursday.

Counter-terrorism detectives have revealed they found a small bottle containing Novichok at Mr Rowley’s home in Muggleton Road, Amesbury.

They are trying to establish where the container, thought to be a bottle of perfume, originated from, and how Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess first encountered it.

On Wednesday, international chemical weapons experts completed their investigations in Amesbury, where they sought to identify whether the substance which poisoned the couple was from the same batch used against the Skripals.

The risk to the public remains low, according to Public Health England.

Mike Wade, deputy director for health protection in the South West, said: “The advice remains – if you didn’t drop it, then don’t pick it up.”

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New Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab set for talks with EU

Dominic Raab Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Dominic Raab will be fronting the UK’s negotiations with the EU

The UK’s new Brexit secretary will hold his first talks with the EU’s chief negotiator in Brussels later.

Dominic Raab was appointed when David Davis resigned in protest at Theresa May’s plans for post-Brexit trade.

It now falls to Mr Raab – part of the winning Leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum – to continue negotiations with the EU’s Michel Barnier.

Their meeting comes as the European Commission is instructing other EU states to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

The commission paper warns that failure to reach a deal would have a considerable impact on European business and citizens.

Possible consequences, the paper says, include disruption to the aviation industry and goods from the UK being subject to custom checks.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Leo Varadkar has said his government is preparing for a no deal Brexit

Speaking to MPs before setting off for Brussels, Mr Raab said he hoped Mr Barnier would “fully support” the proposals for post-Brexit trade with the EU in the government’s White Paper.

But he added the UK was stepping up preparations for a “no deal” Brexit and would shortly be publishing advice for businesses on how to cope with it to minimise “disruption”.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar has said his government is also making contingency plans for “the unlikely event of a no-deal hard Brexit”.

Mr Varadkar said that – even if there is a deal – Ireland will need 1,000 new customs officers and veterinary inspectors to deal with changes in trade rules with the UK.

In the UK, the government has advised all its departments to have fully planned contingencies in place in the event of the UK withdrawing from the EU without an agreement.

However the government watchdog, the National Audit Office, has warned that, in the case of one department, there is “still much to do”.

On Thursday, Theresa May will be making her first visit to the Irish border since the Brexit referendum.

No 10 says the visit will “reaffirm her commitment to a Brexit that avoids a hard border and protects the Belfast Agreement”.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

But the two sides have yet to agree how their final relationship will work, with key issues around cross-border trade unresolved.

Mr Raab’s trip to Brussels comes with debate raging within the Conservative Party about what Brexit should look like.

A baptism of fire

By Katya Adler, the BBC’s Europe Editor

It will be quite a baptism of fire for the new Brexit secretary.

He will be greeted here in Brussels with a barrage of questions.

First and foremost amid all the political turmoil in Westminster: What exactly is the UK’s Brexit negotiating position now?

The EU also has a strong message for Dominic Raab.

Work with us, they will say, to finish the UK’s exit deal – the so-called Withdrawal Agreement – otherwise the chances are rising of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal come March next year.

  • Read Katya’s full blog here.

On Wednesday, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – who also quit over the proposals presented to the cabinet at Chequers – used his resignation speech to accuse Theresa May of “dithering” over the UK’s strategy for leaving the EU.

“It is not too late to save Brexit”, he said, calling for the government to “change tack”.

Former Remain supporters, on the other hand, were furious when the government changed its Customs Bill this week to comply with the demands of a Eurosceptic group of Tory MPs.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Barnier was appointed to lead the European Union’s team of Brexit negotiators

The EU says it will analyse the Chequers proposals, which were set out in full in a White Paper, before coming up with a response.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Raab urged MPs to back Theresa May’s plans.

He said: “What we now should all do on all sides of this chamber is not call for second referendums, not call for returning to the customs union, but get behind the government’s plan, show some united front, so we get the very best deal for everyone in this country.”

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