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European elections 2019: EU citizens turned away from UK polls

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EU citizens living in the UK have told of their anger after they were unable to vote in the European elections.

The Electoral Commission said the “very short notice” from the government about the UK’s participation in the elections had an impact on the process.

EU citizens can vote in the country they live in by registering to vote and completing a UC1 form.

But many complained of receiving the form late and of it not being processed by their local authority in time.

A campaign group said thousands of people have been affected by the error.

The prime minister’s spokesman recognised that there was “frustration”.

The government announced on 7 May that the UK would be taking part in the European elections, having previously hoped that a Brexit deal would have been agreed by then.

In order to take part in the European elections in the UK, EU citizens needed to have returned a UC1 form by 7 May to their local authority, declaring they would not vote in another EU member state.

Citizens of Ireland, Malta or Cyprus are eligible to vote in the UK for European elections without having to make this written declaration.

Many people took to Twitter to say they were not sent the form or had received it just days before the deadline – and that councils then failed to process the forms in time. Some others said they were unaware of the UC1 process that would have allowed them the right to a vote.

Within hours of the polling booths opening, the hashtag #deniedmyvote was trending on Twitter, with EU citizens saying they had been turned away from polling stations.

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MOritz Valero

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Moritz Valero said he wanted to make his voice “heard” through the vote

Moritz Valero, who is from Germany but has lived in the UK for nearly five years, told the BBC he and his partner received their UC1 form at the end of April.

He says he hand-delivered the completed forms to his local council, in east London, on 2 May to make certain they arrived in time.

But when he turned up to his local polling booth on Thursday, he says he was told there was no record of their UC1 forms and they could not vote.

“I was absolutely shocked and appalled,” he said. “They’re taking away our basic rights and it’s unacceptable.

“I want to make my voice heard through the vote.”

‘I tried to figure everything out’

Lisa van der Zanden, 26, who is from the Netherlands but has lived in Bristol for a year-and-a-half, said she had done research on the rules for voting in another country’s European elections.

She registered to vote but did not realise that she also needed to withdraw her vote from her homeland.

When she got to her local polling station, she found her name was on the list but crossed out, she said.

“I have been looking this stuff up for a couple of weeks before voting,” she said.

“I have tried to figure everything out. Nowhere it comes up that I have to withdraw my Dutch vote.”

“I’m really angry. I feel like I have done everything that I could to vote.

“I think voting is really important, especially in these times. I always use my right to vote.”

Another frustrated non-voter was Fabio, who did not reveal his surname. He said he received a letter confirming that he was included on the electoral register, but it did not mention the requirement for an extra form for the European election.

Then, on the eve of the election, he said he received a second letter saying he would not be able to vote because of the lack of a UC1 form.

He said he contacted his local council’s electoral services office and was told that the information about the UC1 form had been on a “read more” link on the online registration webpage.

Fabio added: “When I pointed out that it should have been advertised as essential information on the page itself, and that the confirmation letter should have included a reminder that the additional form needed to be submitted, the person on the phone made excuses about the short government timetable to organise the elections.”

‘Very short notice’

The3Million, a group that campaigns on behalf of EU citizens living in the UK, said it had been directly contacted by hundreds of people who had been affected, adding that thousands would have encountered problems.

The group said it was “outrageous” that people had been denied the chance to vote.

It is calling for a “full investigation” into what happened.

The prime minister’s spokesman said: “I’m aware of the reports but the government doesn’t have a role in the administration of the polls so can’t comment on numbers or the accuracy of reports.

“However I recognise that there is frustration.

“The running of polls is rightly a matter for independent returning officers, it is for them to put in place the necessary planning and contracts with suppliers to deliver items like poll cards and postal votes to meet necessary timetables.

“I am sure the electoral commission will take any reports seriously.”

An Electoral Commission spokesman said it understood the frustration of people who had been unable to vote.

It said it had made the case for the process for EU citizens to vote in the UK to be made easier, but it would require changes to the law from government and Parliament.

A spokesman added: “The very short notice from the government of the UK’s participation in these elections impacted on the time available for awareness of this process amongst citizens, and for citizens to complete the process.

“EU citizens’ right to vote in the election in their home member state remains unaffected by the change in the UK’s participation; in order to do so, they would need to be registered in that country in accordance with that country’s process and timetable.”

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South Korea begins military drills around disputed island amid feud with Japan

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FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows a part of the group of islets known in South Korea as Dokdo and in Japan as Takeshima in the Sea of Japan, October 20, 2007. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s military will conduct two days of drills around a tiny island also claimed by Japan, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday, just days after Seoul decided to scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo amid worsening relations.

Tokyo and Seoul have long been at loggerheads over the sovereignty of the group of islets called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean, which lie about halfway between the East Asian neighbors in the Sea of Japan, which Seoul refers to as the East Sea.

The military drills were scheduled to begin on Sunday, Yonhap reported, and could exacerbate tensions between the two neighbors.

South Koreas on Thursday had announced the scrapping of the intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, drawing a swift protest from Tokyo and deepening a decades-old dispute over history that has hit trade and undercut security cooperation over North Korea.

Relations between South Korea and Japan began to deteriorate late last year following a diplomatic row over compensation for wartime forced laborers during Japan’s occupation of Korea.

They soured further when Japan tightened its curbs on exports of high-tech materials needed by South Korea’s chip industry, and again this month when Tokyo said it would remove South Korea’s fast-track export status.

The disputed islands have long been one of the most sensitive areas of contention for South Korea and Japan. Recently, South Korea and Japan traded words over the way the islands were described on a website for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

The islands were at the center of a more serious clash in July, when both South Korea and Japan responded to what they saw as a violation of their air space near the islands by a Russian military plane.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler

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Airport security: 3D baggage scanners could end liquid restrictions

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File image of an airport security worker helping travellers place their bags through the 3D scanner at the Miami International Airport in May 2019Image copyright
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Several US airports have already installed 3D scanning equipment

All major UK airports must introduce 3D baggage screening equipment before the end of 2022, the government says.

Ministers say the technology will boost security, speed up pre-boarding checks, and could end the restrictions on travelling with liquids and laptops.

The equipment, similar to CT scanners used in hospitals, is already being installed at London’s Heathrow Airport.

It provides a clearer picture of a bag’s contents, which staff can zoom in to and rotate for inspection.

Currently, passengers taking liquid in their cabin baggage are restricted to containers holding no more than 100ml, which must be shown to security staff in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag of about 20cm (8in) x 20cm.

The limits have been in place since November 2006. Their introduction ended a ban on liquids in the cabin imposed three months earlier, when British police said they had foiled a plot to blow up as many as 10 planes using explosives hidden in drinks bottles.

Announcing the new plans, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new technology would cut down on “hassle” for travellers and improve security.

“By making journeys through UK airports easier than ever, this new equipment will help boost the vital role our airports play in securing the UK’s position as a global hub for trade, tourism and investment,” he added.

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Heathrow has revealed it is spending £50m in order to roll out the technology over the next few years.

It is the first UK airport to install the equipment, which it has been trialling since 2017.

The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said it would make travel “less disruptive”, adding that the scanners were able to see what liquid was contained in luggage.

The scanners are set to be rolled out to other UK airports over the next few years.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the new equipment means “no more pulling out your socks and your underwear, and having to separate your liquids and and take your laptops out”.

He added that aviation companies would be paying for the changes, rather than the taxpayer.

The technology is already being used by US airports, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson and Chicago’s O’Hare.

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Royal Family: From costs to carbon, how do they travel?

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Prince Harry and Meghan depart Sydney for New Zealand in October 2018

The image of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stepping onto a budget flight contrasted somewhat with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s travel this summer.

Prince William and Kate’s cheap hop on Flybe from Norwich to Aberdeen was compared unfavourably by critics to Prince Harry and Meghan’s trips by private jet.

But who decides how the Royal Family travels? And how much do they spend getting about?

Official v unofficial

While the costs of official royal trips are published online in annual reports, the amount the royals spend on unofficial travel is not.

Spending on official travel, which is paid for by taxpayers, was £2.7m overall last year. Of trips costing more than £15,000, Prince Charles spent the most.

Tradition dictates that what the royals spend in their own time is up to them and so we only know what gets reported, often by chance.

Kensington Palace would not comment on the cost of the Cambridges’ personal travel after they were snapped boarding their budget flight this week. Reports said tickets cost as little as £73.

Meanwhile, Sir Elton John said he lent his private jet to Prince Harry and Meghan to ensure their privacy on a recent visit to his French estate.

Phil Dampier, who has written several books about the royals, said he expects that gifts of flights – which can total tens of thousands of pounds – may need to be disclosed in future.

“I think what will have to happen in future is that any flights given to them by the likes of Elton John or any benefactors they’ll have to declare,” he said.

Helicopters are preferred

When travelling in an official capacity, the royals make use of chartered helicopters far more than private jets.

Figures published by the royal household showed that 207 trips by helicopter were made last year, compared with 56 flights on specially-chartered planes.

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PA Media

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The introduction of a royal helicopter operated by a civilian crew saved thousands of pounds

The vast majority of the helicopter trips were short hops and cost less than £15,000 each, the accounts showed.

But the royals almost exclusively use chartered planes when travelling abroad.

Among the more expensive trips taken was the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s official visit to the Caribbean Islands and Cuba aboard RAF Voyager which cost £416,576.

Costs have plummeted

Despite the seemingly high costs, royal travel still costs a lot less than it did a few decades ago.

According to the National Audit Office (NAO), official royal travel costs declined by 76% in real terms between 1991-2 and 2011-12.

The NAO said that was because the household switched from using RAF helicopters to a civilian service and by taking fewer flights on more expensive planes.

Official royal travel is paid for by the Sovereign Grant, funded by the taxpayer.

This year, the grant – which also pays the Queen’s household staff and upkeep of palaces – is expected to be £82.4m in total.

Last year, the money spent on official royal travel (£2.7m) was roughly the same as the previous two years. In 1997-98, the equivalent figure was £17.3m.

It’s not all about money

The decision to charter a special plane or fly on a commercial flight is often taken by senior royal staff in conjunction with government, according to a former head of royal protection.

Dai Davies, who led palace police in the 1990s, told the BBC: “Convenience in terms of the routes, the number of the visits, the timings, and in some parts of the world the need for security [are all considered]”.

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Prince Charles and Camilla arrive in Vienna after a flight on a RAF Voyager plane

But the suggestion, made by celebrities who came to the defence of Prince Harry and Meghan, that the couple are not safe flying on a normal airliner was untrue, Mr Davies added.

“It’s absolute nonsense in terms of security,” he said.

‘More Travelodge than palace’

For trips closer to home, the royal train is still used by senior members of the Royal Family, despite the current stock dating back to the 1970s and it costing more per mile than a plane.

The train was most recently used by the Queen in March 2019, when the monarch slept on it overnight before an early visit to Somerset. Her combined train and helicopter for that trip cost £21,230.

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PA Media

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The interior of the royal train has been likened to a Travelodge

Yet the train costs much more per mile than chartered flights.

A September 2018 trip by the Prince of Wales from Aberdeen to Euston cost £22,086, around £40 a mile, but a similar journey by the Queen on a chartered flight in October 2018 cost £17,689, or £32 a mile.

Courtiers have argued that using the train reduces the need for costly and disruptive hotel stays.

The train has begun to show its age. Sir Alan Reid, the former keeper of the palace purse, told MPs in 2013 the interior of the train “is very G-Plan, which is either ’60’s or ’70’s”.

“It is not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, but it does offer a very safe, secure and effective way – particularly as the Queen has got older – of having her go up the country in order to do engagements first thing the next morning.”

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Prince Charles took three trips by royal train last year

A reporter for The Daily Telegraph once said the décor was “closer to a Travelodge than a palace”.

Mr Davies added: “In truth it is an antiquated system that costs a huge amount in terms of security and protection… I think there’s a question mark as to whether it is justified.”

Carbon controversy

Prince Harry and Meghan’s recent flights to Nice generated an estimated 37.6 tonnes of carbon, which Sir Elton John said he paid to offset.

The couple had previously told their followers on social media that “every choice… every action makes a difference” to climate change.

Royal historian Caroline Aston told the BBC that the younger royals should practice what they preach.

“If you’re going to create your own ‘woke up’ brand of greenness and ethical behaviour, then you do need to dot the ‘i’s’ and cross the ‘t’s’ a little bit,” she said.

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Getty Images

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Sir Elton John said he would pay to offset the carbon caused by Prince Harry and Meghan’s trip to his French home

Yet claims of hypocrisy when it comes to how senior royals travel are nothing new.

Ms Aston said history was “packed with examples of royalty who have been attracted to the glitzy lifestyle” of private jets only to find “the friend who extended the hand might just have been doing it for their own reasons”.

“Now because we finance the Royal Family… they have to be seen to earn our respect. We don’t give it anymore purely because of an accident of birth, it has to be earned.”

Prince Charles faced claims of hypocrisy in 1991 after making a speech on “monstrous” motorcars only to have his favourite Bentley driven 800 miles to then-Czechoslovakia ahead of a visit.

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Prince Charles’ favourite Aston Martin runs on eco-friendly fuel

In 2015, he was accused of “double standards” by making an 80-mile journey by helicopter just days after urging people to save energy by turning off their lights.

Prince Charles, who takes on the lion’s share of royal travel as heir to the throne, now lists measures his household takes to reduce his carbon footprint online, including the use of waste from the production of wine and cheese to fuel his prized Aston Martin.

Despite the measures, the royals’ latest accounts revealed that the family’s carbon footprint from official travel nearly doubled last year, to 3,344 tonnes of CO2.

It is unclear which members of the Royal Family engage in so-called carbon offsetting. The Foreign Office, which organises the royals’ official trips abroad, spent £43,635 on offsetting the carbon created by international flights in 2017-18.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman told the BBC: “Travel arrangements for members of the Royal Family are made taking into consideration security, efficiency, cost, effective use of time and disruption to others.

“Official overseas travel undertaken by members of the Royal Family is done so at the request of government.”

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