Putin: UK should ‘get to bottom’ of spy attack then we’ll talk

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an interview with NBC's journalist Megyn Kelly in Kaliningrad, Russia March 2, 2018. Picture taken March 2, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Britain should work out what happened to a former Russian spy struck down by nerve gas in southern England before talking to Russia, a BBC reporter said on social media.

Former double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital in a critical condition since March 4 when they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the southern English city of Salisbury.

“Get to the bottom of things there, then we’ll discuss this,” BBC reporter Steve Rosenberg quoted Putin as saying when asked about the alleged poisoning.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Writing by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Jerusalem should be shared capital, UK’s Johnson tells Palestinian foreign minister

: Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson arrives at 10 Downing Street in London, December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) – Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of Israeli and Palestinian states, British foreign minister Boris Johnson told his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Malki on Monday, a statement from Britain’s foreign office said.

“I reiterated the UK’s commitment to supporting the Palestinian people and the two-state solution, the urgent need for renewed peace negotiations, and the UK’s clear and longstanding position on the status of Jerusalem,” Johnson said.

“It should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states.”

(Reporting by William James)

Britain sends frigate to escort Russian ships through English Channel

The Royal Navy's HMS Westminster escorts Russian Steregushchiy class ship Boiky (532) through the English Channel off Britain's coast, January 8, 2018. . LPhot Louise George Royal navy handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) – A British frigate escorted Russian ships through the English Channel on Monday, Britain’s defense ministry said, adding that it was the latest sign of an upsurge in Russian naval activity near UK waters over the festive period.

Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster was sent to monitor four Russian vessels over the weekend as they passed close to British waters, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, and will stay with the warships as they head north.

The MoD added that two Russian frigates, Soobrazitelny and Boiky, and support vessels, Paradoks and Kola, were believed to be returning from operations in the Middle East.

“The English Channel is an absolute lifeline for the UK, and it is very important HMS Westminster and the Royal Navy maintains a watchful eye on this key strategic link,” Simon Kelly, Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, said in a statement.

Britain said that the number of such incidents had increased in recent weeks.

Over Christmas, a British ship escorted new Russian warship Admiral Gorshkov as it passed near UK territorial waters, which Britain said was one of a four of vessels monitored during that period.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Michael Holden)

Stop meddling in foreign elections, UK’s Johnson tells Russian hosts

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attend a news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia December 22,

By Andrew Osborn and Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW (Reuters) – British foreign minister Boris Johnson told his Russian counterpart on Friday there was “abundant evidence” of Moscow meddling in foreign elections, but said any Russian efforts to interfere in last year’s Brexit referendum had fallen flat.

On the first visit to Russia by a British foreign minister in five years, Johnson said he wanted to normalize UK-Russia relations, which were going through “a very difficult patch”.

But that didn’t mean pretending that Britain did not have serious concerns about Russia’s behavior, he said.

” … We can’t pretend that they (the problems) do not exist, and that we share a common perspective on the events in Ukraine, or in the Western Balkans or … on Russian activities in cyberspace,” said Johnson.

He also said Britain had a duty to speak up for the LGBT community in Chechnya. Two men from Chechnya told Reuters in June they had been tortured because they were gay. Chechen authorities deny the allegations.

Johnson’s visit comes at a time when relations between London and Moscow are strained by differences over Ukraine and Syria as well as by allegations, which Russia flatly denies, that Moscow has meddled in the politics of various European countries by backing cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns.

BREXIT

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov challenged that narrative, however, saying Johnson himself had recently said he had no proof that Moscow had meddled in last year’s British referendum on leaving the European Union.

“Not successfully, not successfully, I think is the word,” Johnson — a leading advocate of Brexit — shot back, to which Lavrov replied: “He’s scared that if he doesn’t disagree with me, his reputation will be ruined at home.”

Johnson, who said there was abundant evidence of Russian election meddling in Germany, the United States and other countries, said it was Lavrov’s reputation he was worried about.

“I think it is very important … to recognize that Russian attempts to interfere in our elections or in our referendum, whatever they may have been, they’ve not been successful,” said Johnson.

Lavrov said he blamed Britain for the poor state of relations, complaining about “insulting and aggressive statements” from London. He also complained about Britain airing its differences with Moscow publicly rather than in private.

But although the two men spent much of their joint news conference exchanging barbs, both sounded upbeat when it came to trying to cooperate in narrow areas, such as in the U.N. Security Council, and on security arrangements for next year’s soccer World Cup in Russia.

Lavrov complained, however, that Britain was still not fully cooperating with Russia’s FSB security service.

Johnson had riled Russian officials before his visit by telling Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper that Moscow was “closed, nasty, militaristic and anti-democratic”.

But when asked about the comment on Friday, he rowed back, saying he had been referring to the Soviet Union, not modern Russia.

Russian media has portrayed Johnson as anti-Russian. Johnson told reporters on Friday however that he was “a committed Russophile”.

(Editing by Catherine Evans)

Rookies and robots brace for first UK rate rise since 2007

Office lights are on at dusk in the Canary Wharf financial district, London, Britain,

By Fanny Potkin and Polina Ivanova

LONDON (Reuters) – Financial markets braced this week for what could be the Bank of England’s first rate rise in a decade – a step into the unknown for a generation of young traders who started work after 2007 but also for the state-of-the-art technology they use.

After a decade that included a global financial crash, numerous investigations into market collusion and relentless automation, trading floors at banks in London have been transformed in ways not obvious at first glance.

The newest kid on the block is not necessarily the rookie trader with a PhD in physics but the latest computer model or algorithm. How these models will perform under the almost novel circumstances of tightening monetary policy is as much a question as how the human neophytes will react.

Using past market data, assessments of demand, valuation models and even measures of how upbeat news headlines are, computers crunch the numbers, game the scenarios and buy or sell in the blink of an eye.

But shocks such as Brexit have shown that computer-driven trading can end in stampedes, or so-called flash crashes.

“You’ve got to weigh up the strength of the traders and the strength of the algorithms that have been developed and whether they can manage this kind of a process when the rate hike does come in,” said Benjamin Quinlan, CEO of financial services strategy consultancy Quinlan & Associates.

At Citibank’s expansive trading floor in London, the dealing room doesn’t look much different from a decade ago with traders hunched in front of banks of screens, the odd national flag perched on top, and television screens on mute.

But beneath the outward appearance, foreign exchange trading has undergone a seismic shift: more than 90 percent of cash transactions and a growing proportion of derivatives trades in the global $5 trillion a day FX market are done electronically.

So-called smart algos, or fully automated algorithmic trading programs that react to market movements with no human involvement, were virtually non-existent in 2007. Now, almost a third of foreign exchange trades are driven solely by algorithms, according to research firm Aite Group.

“Most of these algorithms haven’t really been tested in a rising interest rate scenario so the next few months will be crucial,” said a portfolio manager at a hedge fund in London.

To be sure, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s first rate rise in a decade in 2015 provided a dry run for this week’s UK decision – but the two economies are in very different positions and the knock-on effects on the wider financial markets of a Bank of England move are hard to predict.

 

ROOKIES AND ROBOTS

Much has changed since the Bank of England raised rates by 0.25 percent on July 5, 2007 to 5.75 percent. The first iPhone had yet to reach British shores, the country’s TVs ran on analogue signals and Northern Rock bank was alive and well.

Where once lightning decision-making and a calm head in a crisis were at a premium, the bulk of trading today is done by machines and the job of a foreign exchange sales trader is often little more than minding software and fielding client queries.

Itay Tuchman, head of global FX trading at Citi and a 20-year market veteran, said while the bank employs roughly the same number of people in currency trading as over the last few years, fewer are dedicated to business over the phone.

“We have an extensive electronic trading business, powered by our algorithmic market making platform, which is staffed by many people that have maths and science PhDs from various backgrounds,” said Tuchman, who heads trading for Citi’s global developed and emerging currency businesses.

London is the epicenter of those changes with the average daily turnover of foreign exchange trades executed directly over the phone down by a fifth to $566 billion in just three years to 2016, according to the Bank of England.

At Dutch bank ING’s London trading room, Obbe Kok, head of UK financial markets, said the floor now has about 165 people but the bank wants to make it 210 by the end of the year – searching mainly for traders attuned to technological innovations and keen on artificial intelligence.

The proportion of people employed in trading with degrees in mathematics and statistics has increased by a 58 percent over the last 10 years, Emolument, a salary benchmarking site, said.

“What banks have started to do is trade experience for technological skill and with electronic platforms growing, the average age on the floor is a bit younger,” said Adrian Ezra, CEO of financial services recruitment agency Execuzen.

 

TAPER TANTRUM

The increasing use of technology means traders can gauge the depth of market liquidity at the click of a button or quickly price an option based on volatility – a major change from a few years ago when they had to scour the market discreetly for fear of disclosing their interest to rivals.

Ala’A Saeed, global head of institutional electronic sales and one of the brains behind Citi’s trading platform FX Velocity, said its electronic programs process thousands of trades per minute.

Most of the currency trading models used by banks incorporate variables such as trading ranges, valuation metrics including trade-weighted indexes and trends in demand based on internal client orders to get a sense of which way markets are moving – and the potential impact of a new trade.

Nowadays, the models also incorporate sentiment analysis around news headlines and economic data surprises.

These electronic trading platforms also have years of financial data plugged into them with various kinds of scenario analyses, but one thing they have sometimes appeared unprepared for is a sudden change in policy direction.

Witness the market mayhem exacerbated by trend-following algorithms when Switzerland’s central bank scrapped its currency peg in 2015, or the taper tantrum in 2013 when the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would stop buying bonds.

Or Britain’s vote last year to leave the European Union.

Indeed, the biggest risk for financial markets cited by money managers in a Bank of America Merrill Lynch poll in October was a policy misstep from a major central bank.

 

EASY CREDIT, LOW VOLATILITY

One concern is that the rise in automation has coincided with a prolonged decline in market volatility as central banks from the United States to Japan have kept interest rates close to zero and spent trillions of dollars dragging long-term borrowing costs lower to try to reboot depressed economies.

While central banks have been careful to get their messages across as they end the years of stimulus, there are concerns about whether quantitative trading models can capture all the qualitative policy shifts.

For example, a growing number of investors expect the Bank of England to raise its benchmark interest rate to 0.5 percent on Nov. 2, and then leave it at that for the foreseeable future.

But futures markets are expecting another rate rise within six to nine months, injecting a new level of risk around interest rate moves and potentially boosting volatility.

Neale Jackson, a portfolio manager at 36 South Capital Advisors, a $750 million volatility hedge fund in London, said young traders have never seen an environment other than central banks supporting markets, and that has fueled risk-taking underpinned by the belief that “big brother has got our backs”.

“The problem these days is that there’s a whole generation of traders who have never seen interest rates, let alone interest rates hikes,” said Kevin Rodgers, a veteran FX trader and the author of “Why Aren’t They Shouting?”, a book about the computer revolution within financial markets.

 

(Additional reporting by Maiya Keidan and Simon Jessop; writing by Saikat Chatterjee; editing by Mike Dolan and David Clarke)

 

Slow divorce risks leaving future Britain-EU ties in limbo

FILE PHOTO: A worker arranges flags at the EU headquarters as Britain and the EU launch Brexit talks in Brussels, June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Divisions between Britain and the EU over mapping out their divorce will be laid bare in Brussels next week when the two sides meet for another round of talks whose timetable already looks tight.

Expectations of a breakthrough are minimal. London wants to focus on what happens after Brexit but the bloc says more ground must first be covered on settling the terms of departure, including the bill, leaving dozens of officials to pick their way through a diplomatic minefield from Monday to Thursday.

The 27 remaining EU states are also insisting on making headway on expatriate rights and the future status of the Irish border before declaring the “sufficient progress” that would allow them to broach talks about Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

Time is limited for negotiations, which started in June and should conclude before the expected Brexit date of March 2019. Otherwise Britain risks leaving the EU unclear on what happens next.

“There are no major expectations as regards next week’s round. The documents published by Britain (this week) refer more to the future relationship than the things to settle in the first place,” an EU diplomat said.

“Many matters, including the financial aspect most importantly, remain unclear from the British side… which makes any ‘significant progress’ less likely in (subsequent negotiations in) October.”

Talks have been slowed by an ill-judged snap election called by Prime Minister Theresa May that weakened her governing Conservative Party and exposed rifts among her ministers over what sort of Brexit they would seek.

Position papers released this week have made clear London will look to closely replicate many of its existing arrangements as an EU state after it leaves.

But the EU wants much more detail on the three priority areas before moving on to anything else.

“We won’t be talking about the future during this round,” an EU official said. “We need detail, the withdrawal deal …has to be a legal text.”

One key point of contention is London’s desire, reaffirmed this week, to break free from the jurisdiction of the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

For the EU, ensuring the ECJ can police the withdrawal and continue to have the final say in disputes involving EU citizens residing in Britain – and Britons living in the EU – is essential.

The bloc gave short shrift to what May called an initial “generous offer” on citizens’ rights, saying more detailed legal assurances were necessary.

While there is some common ground, sources on both sides say more technical work is needed. For a graphic, please see: http://tmsnrt.rs/2tws2uK

TIME IS MONEY

But the issue of money is seen by both sides as the hardest nut to crack for now. The EU has floated a divorce bill of around 60 billion euros ($71 billion), which London has dismissed as far too high.

“We should pay not a penny more, not a penny less of what we think our legal obligations amount to,” Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.

The bloc hopes to agree a formula with Britain for calculating the figure and sees that too as a precondition to moving to any talks about post-Brexit arrangements.

Without that, the EU has said the talks risk stalling and its chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has already warned time is running out.

But British negotiators have said they will go “line by line” through the EU’s financial expectations and reiterate next week they see the EU’s sum as excessive.

“I would not want to get hopes up that we will see a breakthrough on this issue next week,” said a senior EU official involved in the talks.

“If you look at where we are and where we need to be, the gap is big. I say that in the next round it is unlikely we will make major progress in closing that gap.”

Some pieces of the puzzle should however start falling into place in more talks next month, sources said. This could include a political agreement on the future border between Britain and EU state Ireland.

Technical arrangements around the border would only come in the second phase of talks, as they would largely depend on the nature of future bilateral relationship, including customs arrangements.

A senior EU official warned Britain not to use the North Irish peace process as a bargaining chip, adding that the British government papers showed a lot of “magical thinking” about how the border could function in future.

While opening “phase two” talks had initially been expected in October, Barnier has already signaled this is now less likely to happen. London has said it was still confident the EU would move towards discussing future relations by October. ($1 = 0.8470 euros)

(Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Julia Fioretti, Robert-Jan Bartunek, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by John Stonestreet)

UK inquiry to examine Grenfell Tower fire but not broader social issues

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the Grenfell Tower, which was destroyed in a fatal fire, in London, Britain July 15, 2017. REUTERS/Tolga Akmen

By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) – A public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 80 people in June began on Tuesday with a mission to examine the cause of and response to the tragedy, but not broader issues such as social housing policy.

The destruction of the 24-storey social housing block, home to a poor, multi-ethnic community, in an inferno that spread with terrifying speed in the middle of the night shocked the nation and raised public anger over social inequalities.

Grenfell Tower was part of a deprived housing estate in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, one of the richest areas in the country. The fire has prompted debate about the impact on poor communities of years of public spending cuts by Conservative-led governments.

The inquiry, led by retired judge Martin Moore-Bick, was announced by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May to show she wanted the truth about the disaster to emerge after her initial response was seen by survivors as slow and insensitive.

The inquiry formally opened on Tuesday with the publication of its terms of reference. Moore-Bick will start hearings in September.

It will examine the cause and spread of the fire, the design, construction and refurbishment of the tower, fire regulations relating to high-rise buildings, whether they were complied with at Grenfell Tower, and the actions of the authorities before and after the tragedy.

But Moore-Bick said the inquiry would not delve into broader issues such as social housing policy and the relationship between the community and the authorities, even though many local people wanted it to.

That drew immediate criticism from the local member of parliament, Emma Dent Coad of the opposition Labour Party, who said it was precisely what the community had feared.

“We were told ‘no stone would be unturned’ but instead are being presented with a technical assessment which will not get to the heart of the problem: what effects if any the lack of investment into social housing had on the refurbishment project,” she said in a statement.

Moore-Bick said it would take too long to fully examine social housing policy issues when there was a need for the inquiry to quickly identify safety problems that may be putting lives at risk in other tower blocks.

May said the government would tackle the deeper issues in a different way.

“I am determined that the broader questions raised by this fire — including around social housing — are not left unanswered,” she said in a statement.

May said the housing minister, Alok Sharma, would personally meet as many social housing tenants as possible in the Grenfell Tower area and across Britain to help identify common concerns, and there would be further announcements about this shortly.

But Dent Coad rejected the assurance.

“We have no confidence whatever in the ability of Alok Sharma and a few politically compromised individuals to take on the task of answering this most important question,” she said.

The Grenfell Tower inquiry faces an uphill struggle in gaining the cooperation of those affected by the fire, many of whom are distrustful of the authorities and see Moore-Bick as a remote, establishment figure unlikely to relate to their lives.

During consultation meetings with the community in recent weeks, he was heckled several times.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Alister Doyle)

Referrals to UK counter-terrorism scheme double after recent attacks: police

Police officers patrol in front of London Stadium during World Athletics Championships in London, Britain, August 6, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

By Mark Hosenball

LONDON (Reuters) – Referrals by members of the public to the British government’s counter-terrorism scheme have doubled since militants launched deadly attacks earlier this year in London and Manchester, a senior police official said on Wednesday.

Simon Cole, the National Police Chief Council’s lead spokesman on deradicalization efforts, said police had received around 200 referrals to the strategy known as “Prevent” from members of the public since March when Britain suffered the first of four deadly attacks.

Officials said that this figure was around twice the numbers of referrals that “Prevent” representatives around Britain had received in the months prior to the attacks.

“Even though these referrals from the public are increasing, we still need more people to have the confidence to tell our safeguarding experts if they are worried about someone’s behavior,” Cole told reporters.

Prevent has long been the most controversial strand of the government’s attempts to stop Britons from becoming involved in violent extremism following its introduction in the wake of the July 2005 suicide bombings by four British Islamists on London’s transport network.

Many Muslims believe it has been used as a tool to spy on their communities rather than simply sway potential militants from becoming radicalised.

Cole’s comments are the latest attempt by senior officers to try to reassure the public about Prevent and come days after Dean Haydon, the officer who heads up London’s Counter Terrorism Command, said it had achieved “fantastic results” and that criticism was based on ignorance.

“All of us involved in Prevent need to work to improve that public confidence and understanding, challenging damaging myths and be more transparent in our approach,” Cole said. “We would rather people show concern before something happens.”

Cole said the number of referrals made to “Prevent” by members of the public was still relatively low, with 500 made in 2016 and 2017 compared to an annual total of about 6300. The other referrals were made by government or police bodies or other public organizations.

The program had helped the authorities stop about 150 people from traveling to Syria in the past year, Cole said, adding about 55 to 60 percent of referrals were related to possible involvement by British individuals with Islamic State militants.

However, another 15 percent were related to right-wing extremism. Officials said that the number of referrals about suspected right-wing extremists had doubled since the murder last June of British lawmaker Jo Cox, who was killed by a loner obsessed with Nazis and white supremacist ideology.

(editing by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge)

With 20 months until Brexit, UK orders year-long EU migration study

FILE PHOTO: UK Border control is seen in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London June 4, 2014. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

By William James

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain ordered a year-long study of EU migration on Thursday to help it design a post-Brexit immigration system that is due to come into force just six months after report is completed.

EU citizens’ freedom to live and work in Britain will end as soon as it leaves the bloc, scheduled for March 2019, but ministers have said they will design a system that allows businesses to hire the workers they need.

However, with Brexit negotiations already under way and the EU hoping to wrap up talks by October 2018, critics said the study should have been commissioned sooner and that uncertainty was already driving EU nationals out of the UK labor market.

Interior minister Amber Rudd asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a public body that advises the government, to look at how migration affects the labor market and the wider economy, and how the post-Brexit rules need to work to support the country’s plans for an industrial revival.

Concern about the long-term social and economic impact of immigration helped drive last year’s vote to leave the EU, and the government has a long-standing aim to bring net migration into Britain below 100,000. In 2016, net migration was 248,000.

“The public must have confidence in our ability to control immigration — in terms of type and volume — from within the EU,” Rudd wrote in an article for the Financial Times.

“That is why, once we have left the EU, this government will apply its own immigration rules and requirements that will meet the needs of UK businesses, but also of wider society.”

Ministers have so far said little about the kind of immigration system they want to replace the EU’s freedom of movement rules, leaving companies and workers in limbo and forcing some to make alternative plans

“The government needs to explain why this study wasn’t commissioned a year ago, directly after the referendum,” said lawmaker Ed Davey of the pro-EU Liberal Democrat party, citing lower numbers of EU nurses wanting to work in the health sector.

“Ministers must explain how their negotiations will minimize the damage Brexit will do to our economy and public services.”

A government statement said Rudd would stress in a letter to the MAC that “there will be an implementation period when the UK leaves the EU to ensure there is no ‘cliff edge’ for employers or EU nationals in the UK”.

Rudd said the government would “set out some initial thinking on options for the future immigration system” later this year.

Immigration minister Brandon Lewis said the MAC would make interim reports, and that its work was not the only source the government would use to design its new immigration system.

A wide range of companies have already expressed concern that they will not be able to hire the people they need to operate, from skilled financiers to unskilled farm workers. The effect could be to force them to relocate.

The government said the MAC, which is expected to report back in September 2018, will be asked to look at a range of issues:

– Existing patterns of EEA (European Economic Area) migration, including which sectors rely most on EU labor.

– The economic and social costs and benefits of EU migration to the British economy.

– The potential impact of a reduction in EU migration and the ways in which both business and the government could adjust to this change.

– The existing impact of immigration, from both EU and non-EU countries, on the competitiveness of British industry and skills and training.

– Whether there is any evidence that the availability of unskilled labor has led to low UK investment in certain sectors.

– If there are advantages to focusing migrant labor on high-skilled jobs

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Louise Ireland)

Parents of UK baby Charlie Gard agree to let him die

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – The parents of Charlie Gard dropped their legal battle to give the terminally ill British baby further treatment on Monday and will now hold discussions with his London hospital about how he should be allowed to die.

Charlie’s mother, Connie Yates, who won the support of U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis with a campaign to keep him alive, said 11-month-old Charlie could have lived a normal life if he had been given treatment earlier.

“This is the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do,” she said in London’s High Court where a judge had been due to hear final arguments as to why a hospital should not turn off the boy’s life support.

“We have decided it is no longer in his best interests to pursue treatment,” Yates said. “We have decided to let our son go … Charlie did have a real chance of getting better. Now we will never know what would have happened if he got treatment.”

Charlie has a rare genetic condition causing progressive muscle weakness and brain damage. His parents had sought to send him to the United States to undergo experimental therapy.

Britain’s courts, backed by the European Court of Human Rights, refused permission, saying it would prolong his suffering without any realistic prospect of helping the child.

Lawyer Grant Armstrong, speaking in the High Court, said the parents had dropped their legal fight for Charlie to continue to receive treatment because scans showed that the child suffered irreversible damage.

“For Charlie, it’s too late, time has run out. Irreversible muscular damage has been done and the treatment can no longer be a success,” he said.

“Charlie has waited patiently for treatment. Due to delay, that window of opportunity has been lost.”

The judge hearing the case, Nicholas Francis, said no parents could have done more for their child.

Francis had been due to preside over a final two-day hearing after which he would have decided whether the boy’s parents could take Charlie to the United States for treatment by Michio Hirano, a professor of neurology at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center.

Hirano had said he believed there was at least a 10 percent chance his nucleoside therapy could improve the condition of Charlie, who cannot breathe without a ventilator, and that there was a “small but significant” chance it would help aid brain functions.

 

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Alison Williams)