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Keir Starmer heads to Paris for Macron talks to set out post-Brexit stall



Keir Starmer heads to Paris for Macron talks to set out post-Brexit stall

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, will meet Sir Keir Starmer in Paris on Tuesday, as the UK opposition leader faces claims he is looking to take Britain “back to square one on Brexit”.

Starmer told the Financial Times this weekend that he would seek to get “a much better deal” on Brexit if he wins the next election, including seeking a “closer trading relationship” by revisiting the post-Brexit trade pact.

The Labour leader will raise UK-EU relations in what will be his first meeting with Macron, but the Conservatives claimed that Starmer would “reopen the arguments of the past”.

“Seven years on from the referendum, Keir Starmer wants to take Britain back to square one on Brexit, reopening the arguments of the past all over again,” a Conservative spokesperson said.

James Cleverly, foreign secretary, told the FT at the United Nations in New York that some in the EU thought Starmer was “delusional”. He said: “I think there’s very little I can add to that.”


Starmer’s visit to the Élysée Palace marks the culmination of a week in which he has tried to introduce himself on to the world stage as a prime minister-in-waiting, including promising to repair EU relations.

Conservatives believe Starmer has made a strategic mistake by starting to talk openly about trying to improve the “far too thin” trade deal struck by Boris Johnson after Brexit.

Lord Peter Ricketts, former UK ambassador to France, said Macron would be trying to work out the extent to which he could work with Starmer, who campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum on EU membership.

“Politicians are generally interested in other politicians who are on the rise,” he said. “But I don’t think France or Germany are looking for a big leap forward on UK-EU relations. They have lots of other things on their plate.”

Starmer said an “implementation review” of Johnson’s Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU planned from the end of 2025 was an “important” moment, but Ricketts said at the moment Brussels saw it as more of a technical exercise.


Elysée officials have been careful to cast the meeting as a normal part of the French president’s diplomatic calendar, which periodically sees him meet opposition leaders from other countries. There will be no joint press conference.

Relations between Britain and France have improved in the year since Rishi Sunak became prime minister from the lows they plumbed under Boris Johnson, who was seen by Paris as an unreliable partner.

With negotiations over the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the EU now settled, the source of much tension between the two has abated, although the issue of cross-Channel illegal migration has remained difficult. 

Georgina Wright, director of the Europe programme at Paris-based think-tank, Institut Montaigne, said Macron was likely to be in listening mode during the meeting: “France and the rest of the EU don’t really know what Labour wants to do.”

She added: “Starmer needs to use this moment wisely to set out how a Labour government would be different not only on EU matters but on the global stage.”

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Serbia will not send military forces into Kosovo, Vučić insists



Serbia will not send military forces into Kosovo, Vučić insists

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Serbia’s president says he has no intention of ordering his country’s military forces to cross the border into Kosovo, despite US officials’ warnings of an “unprecedented” build-up by Belgrade.

In a statement issued to the Financial Times on Saturday, Aleksandar Vučić said that he would draw down Serbia’s forces in the area because an escalation of the conflict would be counter-productive for Belgrade’s EU aspirations.

“Why this would be beneficial for Belgrade?” Vučić said. “What would be the idea? To destroy our position we have been building for a year? To destroy this in a day? Serbia does not want war.”


On Friday White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the US had observed an “unprecedented staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks and mechanised infantry units” on the Kosovo border and called it a “very destabilising development”.

“We are calling on Serbia to withdraw those forces from the border and to contribute to lowering the temperature and the tension,” Kirby said, adding that Vučić and Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, had spoken about ways to defuse the situation.

International efforts to cool the tensions have mounted in recent days after a violent stand-off near a monastery in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo left at least four people dead, including a Kosovo police officer.

Kirby said the attack had been “well-co-ordinated and planned”, adding that the size of a weapons cache found afterwards threatened the safety of Kosovo officials and international personnel, including Nato troops.

Vučić told the FT that Washington’s warnings were disproportionate as the number of Serb forces on the ground was declining.


“Last year we had 14,000 men near the administrative line, today we have 7,500 and we will reduce that to 4,000,” he said.

“Serbia sending troops to the administrative line is a pure lie . . . Serbia would not benefit from it as that would jeopardise its position in EU-sponsored talks with Pristina.”

The EU has said it would not admit Serbia or Kosovo to the bloc until they normalised relations.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, held talks with Kosovo prime minister Albin Kurti on Friday, where they discussed the EU-sponsored dialogue as the only way out of the crisis.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a brief but bloody war in the late 1990s, but Serbia and most ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo never acknowledged its statehood. Serb nationalists reject Pristina’s authority.


The EU, the US and other western powers have tried to broker talks but despite coming close to an agreement in March, the proposals disintegrated as a result of disputed municipal elections in northern Kosovo, which has a majority-Serbian population.

“[Serbs] want to turn back time” to an era when Kosovo still belonged to them, Kurti told the Associated Press. “They are in search of a time machine. They want to turn the clock back by 30 years. But that is not going to happen.”

Milan Radoičić, a hardline Serb political leader in north Kosovo, has taken responsibility for the attacks this month, saying he wanted to stoke resistance to Kurti’s government. Belgrade authorities had not known about his plan, nor did they assist him, he added.

Vučić and Kurti have both called in recent days for Nato-led KFOR peacekeepers to step up their presence in the north of Kosovo. On Friday Nato said it would do that, including by deploying hundreds of additional British troops.

“We will always continue to make sure that our commander has the resources and flexibility necessary for KFOR to fulfil its mandate,” Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday. “We stand ready to make further adjustments to KFOR’s posture as required.”


KFOR is made up of about 4,500 troops.

In the face of Serbian discontent about the violence, Vučić has recently been forced to reform his political group and declare general and local elections. The presidency will not be up for election, however.

“We want to have a clean mandate in the future and to be a sovereign country,” Vučić said in a televised address on Friday. “The opposition demanded elections, they [succeeded], let them prepare.”

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October 2023 general conference: Announcements, talk summaries and session highlights



October 2023 general conference: Announcements, talk summaries and session highlights

Millions will tune in this weekend, Sept. 30-Oct. 1, to the October 2023 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

October 2023 general conference — the Church’s 193rd Semiannual General Conference — will feature messages from the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders. Five general sessions will be held for all individuals, families and friends.

Below is information about the conference schedule, how to watch and what happened during the April 2023 general conference.

This article will be updated with videos, talk summaries, session highlights, photo galleries, news and announcements from the October 2023 general conference.


News from October 2023 general conference

On Thursday, Sept. 28, the Church announced that President Russell M. Nelson will not attend general conference in person due to recovery from a recent fall and will watch it remotely. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, will also participate remotely as he continues to recuperate from recent health challenges. 

Also, two Area Seventies were released and two more were called during leadership meetings on Sept. 28. The October 2023 edition of the World Report was released on Sept. 27.

Saturday morning session of October 2023 general conference

Talk summaries

Session schedule for October 2023 general conference

There will be three sessions on Saturday, Sept. 30, and two on Sunday, Oct 1.

  • Saturday morning session, 10 a.m. MDT.
  • Saturday afternoon session, 2 p.m. MDT.
  • Saturday evening session, 6 p.m. MDT.
  • Sunday morning session, 10 a.m. MDT.
  • Sunday afternoon session, 2 p.m. MDT.

All five general sessions, including the Saturday evening session, are for all audiences. Each session is scheduled to last two hours.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, wave to attendees upon leaving the Conference Center after the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 2, 2023.


Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

How to watch the October 2023 general conference

October 2023 general conference will be broadcast live worldwide in several languages on, the General Conference YouTube channel, Gospel Stream and the Gospel Library app. Sessions will also be streamed live in English on KSL-TV and BYUtv. It’s also available through the Gospel Voice skill on Amazon Alexa devices and through TuneIn by searching for “Saints Channel Talk” or “Canal Mormon” (for live Spanish interpretation).

Announcements prior to the October 2023 general conference

What happened during the April 2023 general conference?

At the conclusion of the April 2023 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced 15 new temple locations and also offered an invitation with promised blessings for temple participation. 

“Making covenants and receiving essential ordinances in the temple, as well as seeking to draw closer to Him there, will bless your life in ways no other kind of worship can,” he said. 


He also spoke on the need for peacemakers in today’s contentious society and counseled that answers to life’s problems can be found in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Also, a new Young Women general presidency was sustained, along with a change in Young Men general presidency counselors. Five new General Authority Seventies were called, and three received emeritus status effective Aug. 1. For the first time, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square included 10 international singers from six countries. More international singers will participate in this weekend’s conference, as well.

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Extreme weather hits lovers of sweet treats in the pocket



Extreme weather hits lovers of sweet treats in the pocket

Steep rises in the prices of sugar and cocoa are set to hit sweet treat lovers’ wallets as extreme weather conditions hinder production, even as broader measures of food inflation ease off.

This month sugar prices hit their highest level in 12 years and cocoa futures reached a four-decade high, in a move which analysts said was likely to feed through into higher prices for hot drinks and confectionery.

Chocolate manufacturers and processors have been “praying for prices to drop all year and they just haven’t”, said Andrew Moriarty, price reporting manager at Mintec. Instead, they are set to rise further, he said: “We can expect costs to start being passed on to consumers soon.”

Consumers can also expect further “shrinkflation” in product size and substitution of ingredients to cut costs, he added.

The price rises have been driven by supply fears as the El Niño sea temperature phenomenon, coupled with rising temperatures resulting from climate change, bring extreme heat to parts of Asia and diminished rainfall to West Africa, threatening yields of sugar, cocoa and coffee.


“What’s really driving these price rises is the prospect of a [supply] deficit in 2023-24,” said John Stansfield, senior sugar analyst at DNEXT.

Food manufacturers have signalled they will pass on the latest cost increases. François-Xavier Roger, chief financial officer at the world’s largest food manufacturer Nestlé, told investors this month the company did not plan to raise prices much higher except “on a selective basis for some categories where we still see some input cost inflation, like for cocoa, for sugar, for robusta, for coffee”.

In the UK confectionery prices rose by 15 per cent in the year to June, while in the US candy prices jumped 9.4 per cent in the year to August.

Despite this, sales have proved resilient. Analysts said that although shoppers have cut back other spending, they tend to regard treats such as confectionery as affordable luxuries.

That has proved a boon for manufacturers. Cadbury maker Mondelez and Hershey have both raised their profit forecasts for the year.


“The advantage of cocoa and confectionery is it’s a very resilient market,” said Bruno Monteyne, analyst at Bernstein. “People keep eating chocolate.”

Sugar prices rose after unseasonably dry weather in the southern states of Karnataka and Maharashtra hit production in India, the world’s largest sugar producer. Analysts forecast a 4mn-tonne production shortfall in the 2023-24 season from the 32.8mn tonnes produced a year earlier.

A shopper browses candy at Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania, US
A shopper browses Hershey’s Chocolate World in Pennsylvania, US. Hershey has raised its profit forecast for the year © Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

India capped exports at 6.1mn tonnes for the 2022-23 season, down from 11mn the year before, and is considering a total export ban from October, which would further crimp supplies, said Stansfield. 

Looming elections in five states, and national elections next year, make export curbs more likely, he added, given that “sugar is extremely political in India”.

Sugar prices have eased slightly from their peak earlier this month after a bumper corn crop in Brazil prompted ethanol producers to switch to the grain, freeing up sugar supplies.

Cocoa prices have more direct impact on consumer products than sugar, however, said Andy Duff, global sugar strategist at Rabobank.

Workers load harvested sugar cane in a tractor trolley
Workers load harvested sugar in India. Sugar prices hit their highest level in 12 years this month © Rajendra Jadhav/Reuters

Ivory Coast, which produces 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans, expects a “mediocre harvest”, said Yves Brahima Koné, head of the country’s Coffee and Cocoa Council, blaming “too much rain and not enough sunshine”.

Analysts expect the west African country’s output for the coming season to be down by about 15 per cent.

With prices already running high for the past 18 months, chocolate makers have limited their purchases, said Moriarty.

Maps showing the effect El Nino has on weather and crops

“The entire industry is running short on cover,” he said, adding that some manufacturers only have supplies to last until the end of the year. As a result, buyers are now being forced to take the hit and purchase at higher prices, said Moriarty.

As well as increasing prices, manufacturers also shrink products to mitigate rising costs, said Paul Joules, cocoa analyst at Rabobank.

French supermarket chain Carrefour this month slapped stickers on products whose size had been reduced, including Unilever’s Viennetta ice-cream and Lindt chocolate, warning consumers of “shrinkflation”.

Chocolate manufacturers also offset rising cocoa prices by adjusting other ingredients to cut costs, for instance by increasing palm oil content or using cheap powdered milk instead of anhydrous milk fat, said Joules.


Erratic weather in recent months has also knocked production of robusta coffee in Vietnam and Indonesia, the world’s second- and third-largest producers. If El Niño creates a prolonged dry spell, this could further reduce yields.

A ‘shrinkflation’ sign at a Carrefour grocery store in France
A ‘shrinkflation’ sign at a Carrefour grocery store in Montesson, France © Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters

This is bad news for espresso drinkers, especially in Italy, where robusta beans dominate. Drinkers of instant coffee may face a bigger hit, said Moriarty. The product uses robusta and is energy-intensive to produce, so is affected by high energy prices.

While chocolate and coffee seem like food basket luxuries, the rising costs for underlying commodities point to the fragility of the global food system, said Professor Tim Benton, food security expert at Chatham House.

Surging rice prices, which have reached their highest levels since 2008 as El Niño and poor weather threatened yields, could drive up costs of other commodities and spur Asian inflation, HSBC analysts warned this month.

More aggressive broad-based food inflation could easily return, said Benton. Agricultural commodity markets were complacent about risks linked with El Niño, he added, “but we’ve never had an El Niño in a world that is as hot as it is today”.

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