Terror threat

The Express warns that London could be hit by terrorists this week.

LONDON and capital cities across Europe have been warned about the possibility of a shooting or bomb attack on or before New Year’s Eve.

The terror alert was handed to Austrian police this evening from a “friendly” intelligence service, as evidence grows that jihadi sleeper cells are planning to hit Western targets.

It has prompted police across the continent to increase security measures in a bid to prevent a Paris-style copycat attack on

The warning made specific mention of the threat to shoppers and revellers in “crowded spaces” and warned that the strike could take place between Christmas and New Year.

A statement released by police in Austria said: “In the days before Christmas a warning was sent out by a friendly (intelligence) service to numerous European capitals, saying that it could come to an attack involving explosives or a shooting between Christmas and the New Year in crowded spaces.”

It added: “Several possible names of potential attackers were mentioned, which were checked, and the investigation based on (these checks) has so far yielded no concrete results.”

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry of neighbouring Germany said: “Germany is still in the crosshairs of Jihadist terrorism.”

And the Guardian claims a lack of armed police ‘leaves the UK regions open to terrorist attack’.

Britain’s regional cities are highly vulnerable to Paris-style terror attacks because they lack the 24/7 armed police cover given to London, the home secretary has been warned by police chiefs co-ordinating counter-terrorism.

Officers at Scotland Yard have briefed Theresa May that “dedicated armed assets” outside the capital are sparse. An exercise carried out by the National Counter-Terrorism Command aimed at examining how the UK’s police would respond to a simultaneous attack on London, Birmingham and a smaller provincial city has further highlighted the perils. A Scotland Yard source said: “Ask a regional force how long it would take them to respond to a terror attack and watch them squirm.”

The revelation comes in the wake of reports that the mastermind of the Paris terror attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, visited the UK on a false passport. It was reported he may have been in Kent before meeting fellow extremists in London. It was earlier reported that he had photographs of Birmingham landmarks on his phone and that he had called numbers belonging to Moroccans there.

Seven terror plots in the UK have been foiled in the past six months alone; the current threat level is “severe”. Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said: “It is essential that all our major cities have 24/7 protection from attack. If this is true, it suggests there are worrying gaps in our ability to respond.”

A Home Office spokesperson said that in recent weeks an extra £34m has been provided to fund more armed police. And it is understood that counter- terrorism chiefs are negotiating with May over a plan to assemble four dedicated regional armed units to be available seven days a week, and late into the night. It has also been proposed that “stand-by” teams, ringfenced from other operational duties, be made available to the regions on 15 minutes’ notice.

EU Referendum

The Telegraph reports that EU chiefs ‘plan to bombard voters with propaganda’.

Voters face being bombarded with pro-Europe propaganda in the months leading up to the referendum as there is no limit on how much Brussels can spend on efforts to keep Britain in the European Union, campaigners have warned.

The European Commission has formed a task force in Brussels to oversee an “information” campaign in the run-up to the in/out referendum, which is expected to be held next year.

Now, campaigners calling for Britain to leave the EU fear that they will be out-gunned in the debate by pro-European political parties and the Commission in Brussels.

Because the Commission is based overseas, it is exempt from having to comply with the UK election laws that limit the amounts that the British campaigns will be able to spend on advertising and leaflets in the months leading up to the referendum.

The Vote Leave campaign has now called for public donations to help build up a “war chest” for its campaign to win support for Britain pulling out of the EU.

Brussels intervened with publicity activities in the referendum in Croatia in 2012, which led to the country joining the EU after voters backed membership, and in a referendum in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Vote Leave group, said there was nothing to stop the European Commission sending direct mail to every voter in the UK in an attempt to scare the public into voting to stay in the EU.

“The referendum rules have been rigged so that pro-EU campaigners can hugely outspend the leave campaign,” he said. “All UK-based campaigners will have spending limits placed on them. The only organisation exempt from these rules will be the EU itself.

“UK voters can expect to hear a barrage of pro-EU propaganda from ‘eurocrats’ during the referendum.”

He added: “We need to amass a war-chest as quickly as possible if we are going to compete. I would urge anyone who wants to take back control from the EU to get behind the Vote Leave campaign as quickly as possible.”

Britain is booming

The Telegraph claims that Britain will become world’s fourth largest economy.

Britain will reach the “giddy” heights of the fourth largest economy in the world, leapfrogging Germany and Japan over the next two decades, new analysis shows.

The UK is set to become the best performing economy in the western world over the next 15 years, boosted by its leading position in global software and IT sectors, according to a report by the Centre for Economics Business and Research.

By contrast, the stagnant Italian and French economies are set to be replaced in the world’s new economic order by growth giants of the emerging world – India and Brazil.

Britain is currently the world’s fifth largest economy based on total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which currently stands at $3.04 trillion. The UK overtook France in GDP terms in 2014.

Bumper growth will put Britain on course to become the world’s fourth largest economic powerhouse ahead of an ageing Japan and Germany in the 2030s, according to the CEBR’s latest world economic league table.

The total cash value of the UK economy will grow to around $4.7 trillion by 2031, but is expected to be quickly overtaken by Brazil in fourth spot by the 2040s.

UK economic growth is set to hit 2.9pc this year, the second fastest in the advanced world after the United States. It means the economy is now 6.1pc larger than its pre-financial crisis peak.

The Treasury said the CEBR’s analysis was evidence that the Government’s long-term economic plan was working, with the deficit reduced by almost two thirds as a share of GDP since its peak in 2009-10 and an average of 1,000 extra people in work each day.

Open borders

The Mail claims that almost 300 suspected terrorists, criminals and illegal migrants are trying to cross the UK border every day. 

Almost 300 suspected terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants are attempting to cross UK borders every day, figures from a top-secret monitoring centre suggest.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the number of potentially dangerous passengers being flagged up by a massive high-tech database has soared by 60 per cent in the past two years.

An investigation by this newspaper has found:

  • A record 99,500 alerts were issued last year by the National Border Targeting Centre (NBTC), the base once dubbed ‘Stasi HQ’ because it remotely screens all passengers entering or leaving the country by checking their previous journeys, criminal records and other habits.
  • 46 alleged extremists were blocked from travelling to Syria to fight for Islamic State in the past six months – close to two a week.
  • Elsewhere, hundreds more have been sent on deradicalisation courses after police discovered they wanted to become jihadis.
  • The number of people referred to police as potential extremists under the Government’s Prevent scheme has rocketed to 3,288 in six months after teachers, lecturers and doctors were forced by law to report their concerns.
  • Social workers are taking children away from their terror suspect parents, with seven taken into care in the East London borough Tower Hamlets alone in the past year.

The revelations come amid concerns that innocent travellers are being unfairly singled out as dangerous before they travel.

Growing numbers of Muslim families say they have been prevented from boarding flights to the US at the last minute, and as the MoS revealed last week, the US Department for Homeland Security wants to extend checks by stationing armed agents with the power to search holidaymakers at Heathrow and Manchester airports.

House of Lords

The Guardian reports an analysis by the SNP which indicates that the House of Lords is just a dumping ground for party cronies.

Nearly three quarters of the peers created since the general election are party political apparatchiks, including former MPs, special advisers and party aides, a new analysis reveals.

Since May’s general election, 62 new peers have entered the Lords, including four hereditary peers and two bishops. However, by far the largest group of new peers are retiring, former or deselected MPs and MEPs – 28 of the total, according to an analysis by the Scottish National party.

Four former government special advisers and a number of Conservative party officials have also been introduced to the Lords.

The party insiders include Catherine Fall, a former deputy chief of staff to the prime minister, Simone Finn, a special adviser to trade minister Francis Maude, and a former agriculture minister, Douglas Hogg. Hogg stepped down as an MP at the 2010 election, shortly after it was revealed that he had claimed £2,000 in parliamentary expenses to maintain a moat around his country estate, which he had listed as a second home.

Only four academics and two third-sector figures have become peers over the same period.

Kenneth Gibson, an SNP MSP, said the figures provided fresh evidence of the need for Lords reform. He also called on the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to fulfil his promise not to appoint any peers to the Lords until it has been reformed. Labour has appointed six peers since the election.

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