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Mixed reaction to new Aukus Security Alliance

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The UK, US and Australia have announced a landmark security pact in the Asia-Pacific in an effort to counter China’s military expansion in the region.

In a joint statement US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and UK PM Boris Johnson said the new strategic alliance aims to “defend our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific” in what Mr Biden called a “historic step”.

The pact will permit Australia to construct nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using US-provided technology, becoming just the seventh country in the world to have operate them.

The so-called “Aukus” pact will also cover AI and other technologies.

The pact has been described as the most significant arrangement between the three nations since the Second World War, and marks the third time in 50 years that the US has shared its submarine technology, having previously shared technology with the UK alone.

A statement released by the UK government said:

“The UK, Australia and US are natural allies – while we may be separated geographically, our interests and values are shared. The AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever, creating a new defence partnership and driving jobs and prosperity.

“This partnership will become increasingly vital for defending our interests in the Indo-Pacific region and, by extension, protecting our people back at home.”

On Thursday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also claimed that the pact would “preserve security and stability around the world” and even create “hundreds of high-skilled jobs”.

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee explained in a detailed Twitter thread in response to the move:

“After years of bullying and trade hostility, and watching regional neighbours like the Philippines see encroachment into their waters Australia didn’t have a choice. And nor did the US or UK.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told BBC Breakfast this morning that the new alliance was required to counter China, and referenced its ongoing military intrusions into disputed areas such as those in the South China Sea.

In a briefing on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed the agreement “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Franceinfo on Thursday morning that Australia’s decision to join the pact was a “stab in the back” after it consequently abandoned its €50 billion submarine deal with France.

Former Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn MP has also criticised the alliance via Twitter:

Former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage also commented on the news shortly after:

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Ringway to replace Kier on Surrey roads deal worth up to £2.5bn

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Ringway will take over from current incumbent Kier next April to carry out road repairs, resurfacing and specialist structural projects as well as the upkeep of drains, winter gritting and snow clearing under the contract which will initially run for 10 years with the potential to be extended up to 21 years.

Cabinet Member for Transport and Infrastructure, Matt Furniss said: “Ringway will work with SCC to invest £200m in Surrey’s highways over the next five years which will see improvements to approximately 350 miles of road and 180 miles of pavements. This will include the development and adoption of innovative materials, construction techniques and ways of working.

“I would like to thank Kier Highways Limited who have successfully delivered highways activities on behalf of the Council over the past eleven years.  We will work with them to ensure a smooth transition that doesn’t detrimentally affect services for residents.”

Mike Notman, Ringway Managing Director added: “We are very much looking forward to working with local people, partners and communities, ensuring that Surrey’s roads deliver connectivity and accessibility benefits for local people, as well as supporting the council’s climate change ambitions.”

The contract was awarded following a 12-month procurement process which saw seven organisations initially submit expressions of interest for the contract and Amey, Kier and Ringway make the shortlist.

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John Nicolson takes aim at Newcastle Supporters over Saudi takeover

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SNP MP John Nicolson took aim at Newcastle supporters for ‘not caring’ about Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses following the club’s controversial takeover last week.

The SNP culture spokesperson criticised some sections of fans for being “numpties dancing around in cod-Arabic dresses outside Newcastle United” after the takeover, and for the “enormous abuse” journalists received when reporting on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Nicolson claimed “there was nobody who could have taken over that club, no matter the level of evil of the person… that would have resulted in anything other than celebration for large numbers of these Newcastle United supporters.”

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BFT boosts fleet with new mastclimbers

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The new BFT120 Mastclimbing machines can reach heights of 130m with a total platform length of 30m when in a twin mast configuration.

The standard platform is 1.1m wide with a max SWL capacity of 3,700kg making it very versatile and suitable for many different construction projects.

BFT has around 600 of this machine type making up around one third of the fleet.

The new machines are all sourced from European manufacturers that BFT has held longstanding relationships with and come complete with CE certification and full service records available throughout their life.

BFT said: “It is important to note that these high quality machines meet all UK construction safety standards and we would actively encourage contractors to book a visit to our health and safety and maintenance facilities to see for themselves how this will benefit their projects.

“By keeping the machines maintained via rigorous safety checks both on site and back in our new manitenance facilities we are proud of our safety record and look forward to having more brand new machines out on sites in 2022.

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