Australian Government insiders have hit back at Britain over "sledging" by Liz Truss’s allies ahead of trade talks this week. The Telegraph revealed on Tuesday that sources close to the International Trade Secretary were briefing that Dan Tehan, the Australian trade minister, was "inexperienced" in comparison. Allies of Ms Truss complained of "glacially slow" progress over a UK-Australian trade agreement, and warned that Mr Tehan "needs to show that he can play at this level" when the pair meet for negotiations on Thursday. They also claimed that the British cabinet minister was plotting to sit Mr Tehan "in the Locarno Room [in the Foreign Office] in an uncomfortable chair, so he has to deal with her directly for nine hours". An Australian minister told this newspaper that the remarks were "full of hubris" and hit back that Mr Tehan is "from the land" and "has the stamina" to see off Ms Truss’s tactics. Unimpressed, the frontbencher commented ironically: "I love it when Brits underestimate us." The minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, continued: "Sledging is a fine art, which we have mastered on the pitch. This is just the Brits gobbing off." Australian officials also weighed in to counter the UK Government briefing. An official at the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: "If this was briefed by a member of Truss’s staff, that is very disrespectful." The official told the Sydney Morning Herald: "It’s also a very bad tactic. It won’t work." In response to the claim that Mr Tehan was "inexperienced" in trade talks, it was pointed out that while Mr Tehan only took on the post of trade minister in December, he first joined DFAT in 1995. He served as a diplomat between 1999 and 2001, and between 2002 and 2005 worked as a trade adviser to the minister, helping to negotiate Australia’s free trade deal with the US administration under George W Bush. Ms Truss is said to have texted Mr Tehan on Tuesday night to say she was looking forward to seeing him and hoped for a productive two-day dialogue in London. The UK High Commissioner Vicki Treadall faced questions over the UK briefing. She defended the sources close to Ms Truss, insisting that Australia is one of "our closest friends and allies", but that "this is a trade negotiation so there will be tactics on both sides". Some British politicians also took a dim view of the briefing. Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem MP and home affairs spokesman, branded it "embarrassing" and tweeted: "It's also a reminder that the Government has chosen to turn trade negotiations with a supposed ally into another avenue for domestic politics, on the bet that no one will notice the long-term negative side effects."
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More than 250 people demanded Russian President Vladimir Putin free jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, chanting "Freedom to Navalny" outside the Russian embassy in London on Wednesday. Navalny has become the leader of the disparate opposition groups which oppose Putin, a former KGB spy who has ruled Russia since 1999 when Boris Yeltsin handed him power. "Putin is an old fashioned demagogue but with a background in the secret service so he is very well equipped to be a tyrant," said John Taylor, a British man who joined the protest holding a white plastic lavatory brush.
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Covid passports will be made available to prove people have been vaccinated as early as next month, in time for summer holidays, the travel industry has been told. The Department for Transport wants an official certification scheme that gives British travellers a document they can show at borders overseas in place by May 17. In a separate development, a European medical agency recommended that fully vaccinated travellers should be able to sidestep tests and quarantine. It potentially smooths the path for holidays to more than 20 countries that have indicated they could ask travellers for proof of vaccination, such as Israel, Croatia, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. Greece has moved to reopen its tourism industry by dropping quarantine rules for travellers from more than 30 nations if they have been vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19. The Covid vaccine certificate could come in either digital or physical form, with government officials exploring the best way to make it work in the tight time frame.
Pete Bennett has accused his former Big Brother co-star Imogen Thomas of trying to “publicly shame” him over his tribute to Nikki Grahame. The star - who appeared on Big Brother 7 in 2006 with Thomas and Bennett and briefly dated Bennett - had battled anorexia for three decades. Thomas, 38, took to Instagram to suggest Bennett, 39, “betrayed” Nikki by sharing a final image of her and him together suggesting the move went “against everyone’s wishes”.
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Households in Britain hit by COVID-19 job losses suffered a much bigger fall in their incomes than in France and Germany where social security is more generous and incomes are more equal, the Resolution Foundation think-tank said. Forty-one percent of British households where one person or more became unemployed saw their income fall by at least a quarter. Only 20% of newly unemployed households in France suffered such a large fall in income, while the proportion in Germany was 28%, the foundation said in a report.
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A High Court judge quoted Tolstoy on Wednesday as she said the Russian family at the centre of a £450 million divorce was “the unhappiest to ever appear in my courtroom”. Mrs Justice Knowles referenced a passage from the Russian writer’s 19th century epic, Anna Karenina, as she allowed a legal challenge brought by the ex-wife of a Russian billionaire against her son. Tatiana Akhmedova had sued Temur Akhmedov for allegedly helping his father, Farkhad Akhmedov, hide assets following the breakdown of their marriage. The 48-year-old was awarded a 41.5 per cent share of her ex-husband’s fortune, which exceeds £1 billion, in 2016, but has since got her hands on only £5 million. The £453 million divorce settlement was the biggest made by a British court, but Ms Akhmedova had since been the “victim of a series of schemes designed to put every penny of the husband’s wealth beyond her reach”, the ruling concluded. The judge agreed with Ms Akhmedova’s characterisation of her son as his father’s “lieutenant” and said the schemes had been carried out with his “knowledge and active assistance”. The court found that very large sums had been transferred to Temur, 27, and concluded he must pay his mother, who is from Russia but lives in London, around £75 million. In the opening words of the ruling, which spanned 128 pages, the judge wrote: “All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. “With apologies to Tolstoy, the Akhmedov family is one of the unhappiest ever to have appeared in my courtroom. “Though this case concerns wealth of which most can only dream, it is - at its core - a straightforward case in which, following their divorce, a wife seeks to recover that which is owed to her from a husband and his proxies who, it is alleged, have done all they can to put monies beyond her reach. “Nevertheless, it is a case not without legal and factual complexity though much of that stems from the details of dishonest schemes instigated by Farkhad Akhmedov and put into effect by his advisors and his eldest son, Temur Akhmedov.”