The last British combat troops turned over Camp Bastion in Helmand to Afghan forces and withdrew from Afghanistan after 13 years and 453 deaths. Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, spoke of ‘whole towns and communities being swamped by huge numbers of migrants’. He later withdrew the word ‘swamped’, but David Blunkett, a former Labour home secretary who used the word 12 years ago, said: ‘I believe that both Michael Fallon and I were right to speak out.’ This came after Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, responded to an idea of David Cameron, the Prime Minister, that European Union migration could be renegotiated; she said: ‘Germany will not tamper with the fundamental principles of free movement in the EU.’ The Home Office has a backlog of 29,000 asylum applications dating back at least seven years, the Public Accounts Committee said, and contact had been lost with 50,000 people who had been refused the right to stay. In response to a demand from the European Commission for an extra £1.7 billion contribution from Britain, because its economy has done better than other countries’, Mr Cameron had expostulated: ‘I’m not paying that bill on 1 December. It is not going to happen.’ But Jacek Dominik, the European Commissioner for Budgets, said that any negotiation would ‘open up a Pandora’s box’. Dean Farley, aged 28, a jogger wearing a Tintagel T-shirt, bumped into Mr Cameron in Leeds, and was arrested by police, only to be ‘de-arrested’ a few minutes later.
The National Grid warned that spare generating capacity would fall to 4 per cent this winter, perilously close to unwanted power cuts. Lloyds Bank, a quarter of which is owned by the taxpayer, is to cut 9,000 jobs (about 10 per cent) and close 150 branches; it was the only British bank to come close to failing the European Banking Authority’s ‘stress test’ last week. David Cameron tried to raise interest in high speed rail links (HS3) between Liverpool and Hull. During a visit to the Science Museum, the Queen sent a tweet, signing it ‘Elizabeth R’.
Johann Lamont resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party after three years, accusing ‘some colleagues at Westminster’ of being ‘dinosaurs’. A 19-year-old became the fourth of six men from Portsmouth (calling themselves the Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys) to die after going to fight for the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant. The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales said it would be permissible to eat cold turkey (or other meat) on Boxing Day, even though it’s a Friday. The so-called naked rambler Stephen Gough had a case claiming that he had suffered repression by repeated arrests dismissed by the European Court of Human Rights.
Fighting continued in Kobane, a Kurdish town in Syria on the Turkish border. The Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qa’eda, attacked the Syrian government-held city of Idlib. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a convert to Islam, shot dead a soldier in Ottawa, then exchanged fire with the sergeant-at-arms at parliament while Stephen Harper, the prime minister, was hidden in a cupboard; the gunman was shot dead. Zale Thompson, a convert to Islam, hacked at a policeman’s head with an axe before being shot dead in Queens, New York. An unmanned American rocket carrying supplies for the International Space Station exploded seven seconds after its launch in Virginia.
Of 123 banks subjected to a stress test by the European Banking Authority, 24 failed. Deutsche Bank made a loss of €92 million in the past quarter because of legal costs. Pro-western parties did well in the Ukrainian elections. Russia said it would recognise separatist elections in eastern Ukraine to be held tomorrow. An Italian operation that in the past year saved 150,000 migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean (in which at least 2,500 did drown) was nominally handed over the EU; Britain said it would not support a search-and-rescue operation, since it would encourage dangerous passages. Sir Nicholas Winton, aged 105, travelled to Prague to be honoured for his role in saving 669 children, most of them Jews, from the Nazis.
Cases of Ebola in west Africa passed 10,000, of whom nearly 5,000 had died. A court in Malaysia heard a final appeal by Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader, against a conviction for ‘sodomy’ in 2008. Senzo Meyiwa, South Africa’s football captain, was shot dead during a burglary at his girlfriend’s house in Vosloorus, south of Johannesburg. CSH