Politics update: Government accuses the Kremlin of cyber-attacks, EU divorce bill on the rise

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Government accuse Russia of ordering cyber-attacks

The British Foreign Office has directly accused the Kremlin of ordering a series of “reckless and indiscriminate cyber-attacks”. These attacks include the hacking in 2016 of the US Democratic National Committee headquarters, which the government now believe was carried out by Russian military intelligence.

British government claimed that these attacks were: “in flagrant violation of international law, had affected citizens in a large number of countries, including Russia, and had cost national economies millions of pounds”.

The foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) had found there were hackers around the world who were conducting cyber-attacks under the orders of the Kremlin.

Strong words from Putin

These accusations by the government are believed to be a precursor to further revelations regarding the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, the Russian double agent, in Salisbury. On Wednesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin called Skripal a “traitor” and a “scumbag”, in comments that appeared to be deliberately provocative.

Addressing the audience  at an energy forum in Moscow, Putin said that the west was “pushing the theory that Mr Skripal was almost some kind of human rights activist,” adding that: “He’s simply a scumbag, that’s all.”

Speaking on Wednesday, Putin said of Skripal: “He was simply a spy. A traitor to the motherland. There is such a concept – a traitor to the motherland. He was one of those.”

May’s speech: “no more austerity”

Theresa May used her speech at the closing of the Conservative conference to call for unity from her party, promise an end to austerity, and poke fun at herself.

The PM came onto the stage to the tune of ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’, awkwardly dancing in what was a clear reference to her public gaffe where she danced with the children of a South African secondary school earlier this year.

She used the majority of her speech to call for unity in her party in the lead up to Brexit, after ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson yesterday used his conference speech to launch an attack on her Chequers proposal.

Then, the PM turned to attack Labour’s policies, before borrowing one of their own, vowing that 10 years after the banking crisis, “austerity is over”. This seeming promise came from the PM despite chancellor Philip Hammond strongly hinting in his speech that a no-deal Brexit could lead to further austerity.

Brexit bill could rise above £39bn

Figures released in an official report by EU auditors have shown that the Brexit ‘divorce bill’ the government previously insisted was £39bn, could rise above that figure.

The government has previously claimed that the divorce bill would be paid over several decades, ending in 2064. However a senior EU source has told the Guardian in 2017 that the UK had signed up to €60bn (£53bn), after the two sides settled the issue last December. In addition, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has never revealed a figure.

The newly released figures have revealed growing debts and liabilities racked up by the EU, contributing to the estimated divorce bill – which includes the share of bills and any unpaid loans that the UK has promise to pay as part of the divorce settlement.

Despite this fresh speculation, a UK treasury spokesperson has said that the UK “cannot be made to pay for additional spending beyond what it has signed up to as a member.”

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