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Westminster today: Trump says Russians are behind nerve agent attack in Salisbury and 'that is very sad' - as it happened

Follow all the live updates from Westminster here

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Thursday 15 March 2018 13:02 GMT
Theresa May orders biggest expulsion of Russian spies in 30 years in response to Salisbury poisoning

The fallout from the UK's response to Russia is rumbling on after Theresa May announced her decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats.

Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, delivered a major speech in which he told Russia it should "go away and shut up".

Labour frontbenchers openly contradicted their leader after he faced criticism for his response to the Prime Minister's statement.

Nia Griffith, the Shadow Defence Secretary, and Owen Smith, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, both expressed clear frustration at their party leader's position.

Internationally, the US expressed its full support for the UK but France was more cautious, saying there was still a need to establish the facts.

As it happened...


Welcome to The Independent's live updates from Westminster - we'll be bringing you all today's breaking news as it happens.

Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 08:35

Nia Griffith, the Shadow Defence Secretary, was just on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. 

She clearly distances herself from the response of Jeremy Corbyn and his spokesman, Seumas Milne, to Theresa May's statement on the nerve agent attack in Salisbury. 

Mr Milne had told reporters that Labour wanted to see more evidence that Russia was to blame, saying UK intelligence on weapons of mass destruction had been "problematic" in the past.

But Ms Griffith said:

"We very much accept what the Prime Minister said, this is a very sophisticated nerve agent, and that Russia is responsible for this attack.

"Therefore, we are fully supporting the measures which the Government is taking, including the expulsion of the 23 diplomats."

Asked why Mr Corbyn had not said this yesterday she replied:

"People speak in different ways and perhaps I speak in a more plain-speaking way."

That's not going to go down well with the Labour leader's team...

Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 08:44

Owen Smith, the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, has also been openly criticising Corbyn. He tweeted this this morning:

The editorial in question says: 

The Leader of the Opposition’s response to the Prime Minister was dispiriting. Jeremy Corbyn invited Mrs May to acquiesce to Russia’s requests that a sample be sent to Moscow for verification – on the supposition that the Kremlin might then honestly try to match it with its own stores. He sounded too keen to find another explanation for the use of the nerve agent novichok in the attack."

Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 09:10

This tweet from Debbie Abrahams is already setting tongues wagging. She was moved from her position as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary last week and accused members of Mr Corbyn's team of bullying... 

Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 09:39
Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 09:59

This from Brexit Questions in the Commons...

Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 10:16

The parliamentary motion tabled by 18 Labour MPs in opposition to Jeremy Corbyn's position on Russia is now online. Here's the full text:

Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 10:30

Boris Johnson is currently speaking to Sky News.

He says the poisoning of Sergei Skripal has resulted in a "deterioration in our relationship with Russia" but says the ongoing tensions are "not a threat to people's basic safety" in the UK.

The Foreign Secretary says the UK is willing improve relations with Russia but that Moscow must make the first move.

Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 10:41

Here's more from Boris Johnson on Sky News: 

"There's no question that our relations with Russia are going through a very difficult phase. We've had to respond to the first use of nerve agent on the European continent since Nato was invented."

He said the decision to expel 23 "spies masquerading as diplomats" would "eviscerate Putin's capabilities in this country for decades to come".

"We believe it's the right response, a proportionate response."

Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 10:50

Breaking: Police and an ambulance response team have just arrived at Parliament after a suspicious package was sent to an MP. Several other packages have been sent to Muslim MPs along with Islamophobic letters this week. More on this as we get it.

Kristin Hugo15 March 2018 11:00

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