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Top Stories: Joe Biden Accepts Northern Ireland Invite, Illegal Migration Bill Passes MPs

The US, UK, and Australia agreed a nuclear submarine pact in San Diego this week. (Alamy)

3 min read

US president Joe Biden has accepted Rishi Sunak's invitation to visit Northern Ireland for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement next month, during a meeting between the two leaders in San Diego.

"Twenty-five years? It seems like yesterday," Biden said. 

The invitation was made as Biden and Sunak met alongside Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese to agree a new AUKUS pact that will see the UK and the US assist Australia in acquiring a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

The agreement seeks to curtail the influence of Beijing in the Indo-Pacific region.

"For the first time ever, it will mean three fleets of submarines working together across both the Atlantic and Pacific, keeping our oceans free, open, and prosperous for decades to come," Sunak said during the AUKUS visit in San Diego.

However, responding to the pact, China said the three countries had gone “further down a dangerous road” with their agreement.

Government wins Illegal Migration Bill vote

The government won a vote on its Illegal Migration Bill in parliament on Monday night with 312 MPs to 250 voting for the legislation. No Tories voted against the bill, despite some including Chris Skidmore and Caroline Nokes having publicly criticised its measures, but instead choosing to abstain. 

Speaking ahead of the vote, Home Secretary Suella Braverman defended the plans and said the government had a "moral duty to stop the boats" – claiming the legislation guarantees “humanitarian protection for those who genuinely need it".

She said: "Our policy is profoundly and at heart a humane attempt to break the incentive that sustains the business model of the smuggling gangs.”

However former prime minister and former home secretary Theresa May said the UK would be “shutting the door on victims while being trafficked into slavery”.

The government’s new legislation includes plans to prevent anyone who enters the UK “illegally” by a non-authorised route having access to the UK’s modern slavery protections.

May, the architect of the UK's modern slavery protections, added: “Whenever you close a route, the migrants and the people smugglers find another way.

“Anybody who thinks that this bill will deal with the issue of illegal migration once and for all is wrong.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the new law would “rip up our long-standing commitment to international law”.

“The message from the UK Government to the criminal trafficking and slavery gangs is this: ‘Don’t worry, so long as you bring people into the country illegally, we won’t help them. In fact, we will help you’,” she said.

Pensions lifetime allowance set to be raised in Budget to discourage early retirement

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is set to announce pensions changes in the budget tomorrow to encourage people planning to retire early to stay in the workplace – with millions set to benefit.

Hunt is reportedly looking at boosting the lifetime allowance for pensions savings up to £1.8m to encourage people to stay economically active.

He is also reportedly looking at increasing the £40,000 tax-free annual cap on pension contributions – the amount of money someone can save for retirement before they are taxed.

It comes amid warning from economists that rising economic inactivity in the UK is in part being driven by over 50s leaving the work place and retiring earlier than usual.

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