Posts Tagged ‘Boris Johnson’

David Davis dismisses ‘made up’ £40bn Brexit bill as he tries to calm Tory backlash

September 24, 2017

Brexit Secretary also said the power of the European Court of Justice in the UK will end in 2019

By Lizzy Buchan Political Correspondent

The Independent

David Davis has sought to calm Tory anger over Theresa May’s Brexit speech by saying the UK will not face a £40bn divorce bill as a result of leaving the EU.

Ahead on the next round of crunch talks with Brussels, the Brexit Secretary said reports around the final financial settlement were “made up” and claimed the power of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would end in 2019 when Britain formally leaves the bloc.

Ms May used a landmark speech in Florence to propose a two-year transition period after Brexit with similar arrangements, prompting concern among Tory Eurosceptics over the prospect of staying in the single market and keeping freedom of movement.

However cracks are already beginning to show at the top of the party amid reports Boris Johnson has demanded commitments Britain will not adopt any new EU rules during the transition period.

Mr Davis conceded that the UK would pay around £10bn a year to the EU up to 2019 but he rejected claims the final settlement could be far higher.

He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “Things like pensions and other things, these are debatable to say the least.

“The last time we went through line by line and challenged quite a lot of the legal basis of these things and we’ll continue to do that.

“That doesn’t mean that we want to see our allies and friends in Europe massively disadvantaged in the next few years and that’s what we’re aiming not to do.”

Asked about claims that the final settlement could be around £40 billion, Mr Davis said: “They sort of made that up too.”

He added: “I’m not going to do an actual number on air, it would be ridiculous to do that, but we have a fairly clear idea where we’re going on this.”

Mr Davis also said that while the UK would be leaving the ECJ’s jurisdiction in the long term, the existing arrangements would apply during the transition.

It comes as Mr Johnson reportedly intervened to demand assurances that EU rulings will not apply during the transition and that Britain would be allowed to sign trade deals during this period, according to The Telegraph.


UK’s Boris Johnson opposes adopting any new EU rules during Brexit transition

September 24, 2017


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Boris Johnson, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, September 21, 2017. REUTERS-Toby Melville


LONDON (Reuters) – British foreign minister Boris Johnson will oppose any move to adopt European Union regulations made after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported, risking reigniting divisions over Brexit.

Johnson, who campaigned to leave the EU in last year’s referendum, is one of Britain’s highest-profile politicians and seen as a possible replacement for Prime Minister Theresa May. On Friday, he praised a speech by May in which she set out her plan for a roughly two-year transition period after Brexit.

But the Telegraph reported that Johnson had set out a new set of demands, reviving talk of a split among May’s senior ministers which has the potential to destabilize her minority government.

“Boris will be one of those Cabinet ministers pushing to make sure we don’t have any new EU rules and regulations during the transition,” a cabinet source was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Johnson had fueled talk of a leadership challenge ahead of May’s speech by publishing his own 4,000-word plan for Brexit which was seen as a criticism of May’s more cautious approach.

May’s transition plan, set out in the Italian city of Florence in a speech that sought to break an impasse in negotiations with the EU, underlined the importance of regulation to the future economic relationship with the bloc.

She highlighted the fact that Britain and the EU start with identical regulatory standards and said she wanted “a practical approach to regulation that enables us to continue to work together in bringing shared prosperity to our peoples”.

She did not say whether she thought EU regulations passed during the transition period would be matched by Britain but said, on EU law, that British courts would be able to take European Courts of Justice rulings into account.

May’s Brexit minister David Davis said he did expect British and EU regulations to diverge over time after Brexit.

Reporting by William James; Editing by Keith Weir

Theresa May to outline UK’s Brexit future in vital Florence speech — May ‘to offer 20bn euros transitional deal’

September 22, 2017

Image result for Santa Maria Novella, photos

This is what the Press Association has filed about Santa Maria Novella, the church in Florence that is reportedly the venue for Theresa May’s speech.

Theresa May’s crunch speech on Brexit has been billed as Britain’s bid to break open deadlocked exit talks which have so far frustrated both sides.

So the grand, Gothic, Santa Maria Novella church in central Florence appears a fitting venue to attempt to heal divides which appear to have deepened since the beginning of tough negotiations in summer.

Today the square in front of the basilica is a picture of European unity, with tourists and Italians rubbing shoulders over gelato, Peronis and pasta.

And in the mid-15th Century it was the scene of the Council of Florence, gathered to bring about the reunion of the Greek and Latin churches.

It will be in that spirit that May seeks to make the first steps towards a “deep and special partnership” with the European Union despite the schism of Brexit.

Committed Brexiteers like Boris Johnson, who often see themselves as mavericks, may take something from another flashpoint in the church’s history.

It was the venue for one of the first attacks against Galileo, who along with other mathematicians was accused of heresy by Tommaso Caccini in December 1614 for claiming the earth moves around the sun.

The Renaissance man was of course proved right in the end and Leave supporters will hope the prophecies of doom from so-called “Remoaners” similarly fall away once the UK leaves the EU.

The church is also home to a number of notable artworks by Renaissance artists including Botticelli, Masaccio and Giotto.

The Italian city is the birthplace of that movement, widely seen as the cultural catalyst for the beginning of modern European history.

May will hope that Brexit is another chapter which proves as successful.

Politico Europe also has an interesting story about the choice of venue, saying that the May speech represents a departure from protocol because Italian officials have had very little involvement in setting it up.–florence-speech-brexit-eu-future-barnier-pm-to-outline-uks-brexit-future-in-vital-speech-in-florence-live-updates


May ‘to offer 20bn euros transitional deal’

BBC News

Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond

The foreign secretary and chancellor left No 10 together smiling

Theresa May is set to propose a transitional deal with the EU of up to two years in a speech on Friday, a cabinet source has told BBC News.

The PM is also expected to make an “open and generous” offer, potentially worth 20bn euros over the two years.

It would mean the EU does not have to unpick its current budget – so no other EU member loses out from Brexit.

No 10 hopes the speech, which has been agreed by the cabinet but could yet be revised, will speed up Brexit talks.

Mrs May briefed her top team at a marathon two and a half hour cabinet meeting in Downing Street on what she will say in Florence.

A government source said that the intention was to make the potential payments conditional on continued access to the single market and some form of customs union which allowed the UK to strike its own trade deals during the transition period, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said.

Mrs May is not expected to say how much the cash offer will be worth, the exact nature of the arrangements for accessing the single market or any conditions attached to the money in her much-anticipated speech – these are subject to the negotiations in Brussels.

Additional long term liabilities, like EU pensions and debts, will also have to be dealt with in the talks to come, so the eventual Brexit bill is likely to be far higher than that 20bn euros (about £18bn) or so.

But, Laura Kuenssberg says, it is hoped in government circles that the prime minister’s offer could help overcome the current political blockage in the negotiations.

Mrs May is also expected to repeat her assertion that the UK will seek its own bespoke trade deal after Brexit with the rest of the EU.

She is therefore likely to rule out seeking an equivalent to the Canada-style free trade deal, preferred by some Brexiteers, and an arrangement like the European Economic Area, where countries retain a full relationship with the single market but have to accept elements of the freedom of movement.

Media captionWhy Florence?

After a week of tensions on the issue of Brexit strategy the cabinet meeting to read and discuss the text of the draft speech ended with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond – seen as being at opposing ends of cabinet views on Brexit – emerging from No 10 in a show of unity for waiting reporters.

The view from Brussels

Michel Barnier
EU negotiatior Michel Barnier will be watching the speech closely. Reuters photo

By the BBC’s Adam Fleming

Politicians and officials across the EU will listen to the tone of Theresa May’s speech but they mostly care about the content and its effect on the Brexit talks.

The UK’s offer to pay its membership fees until the end of the seven-year budget cycle is more generous than Britain’s pitch at the last round of talks but less than Michel Barnier wants.

And the media has paid little attention to the impasse over citizens rights, where the EU fears its nationals will have to go through an unacceptable administrative process to stay in the UK after Brexit.

Diplomats point out that talk is fine but the negotiations advance on concrete proposals, written down in legalistic documents.

Brussels officials are also gripped by the political situation in the UK, with one senior figure suggesting the prime minister is too weak to offer anything big and might not even be in her job in two weeks’ time.

They are open to a transition deal but the further it deviates from EU membership, the harder it will be to negotiate in the limited time available.

Debate ahead of the speech has focused on the detail of the time-limited transition period after Brexit, how much the UK will pay as it leaves, and whether it will continue contributing to EU budgets in years to come.

So far, the government has said the UK will honour its commitments but that the days of “giving huge sums of money” are over.

In a speech to the Italian Parliament on Thursday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that striking a deal with the UK was “in our common interest” but that only a year remained to come to agreement on the key issues – as six months would be needed for ratification before March 2019.

Speaking in French, he said he was awaiting “clear commitments” from the UK on the issue of guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights in the UK, on the financial settlement and on the Northern Ireland border. Without those issues being resolved in a withdrawal agreement, there would be no transition deal, he said.

“I am convinced that a rapid agreement on the conditions of the UK’s orderly withdrawal, and a transition period, is possible. For that to happen, we would like the United Kingdom to put on the table, as soon as next week, proposals to overcome the barriers.”

The fourth round of Brexit negotiations begins on 25 September, with the UK due to leave the EU in March 2019.

Theresa May Briefs Cabinet to Reboot Brexit Talks

September 21, 2017

LONDON — The Latest on Britain’s talks to leave the European Union (all times local):

12:05 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is briefing her Cabinet on plans to reboot faltering Brexit negotiations, as she struggles to unite the government after a public rift.

May is outlining details of a speech she will deliver in Florence, Italy on Friday. She has chosen the historic heart of Europe as the location for an address that the government says will stress Britain’s desire for a close and special relationship with the bloc.

Divorce negotiations have made little progress on key issues including the status of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border and the amount Britain must pay to settle its financial commitments to the bloc.

EU leaders will be looking for May to signal Britain’s willingness to pay up. But some members of her Cabinet oppose paying a multibillion-pound (dollar, euro) bill.


11:30 a.m.

A senior European Union official is doubtful that Britain’s talks on leaving the EU can advance to a new phase next month, fueling concern that a Brexit deal might not be found by the 2019 deadline.

EU leaders meet Oct. 19-20 and were expected to assess whether negotiations have made “sufficient progress” on Britain’s departure for talks on future relations and trade to begin.

But a senior EU official said Thursday that “it’s too early to tell” whether the leaders can decide. The official briefed reporters only on condition that she not be named.

She affirmed that the October summit is not a deadline, saying “we all know that negotiations don’t usually go according to our time plan, so we will take all the time needed.”

UK could get bad Brexit deal as Philip Hammond only sees the negatives, Theresa May’s former right hand man has warns

September 21, 2017
BRITAIN could get a bad Brexit deal if Philip Hammond and the Treasury continue with their reluctance to “mention the positives” of leaving the European Union, Theresa May’s former right hand man has warned.

Philip HammondGETTY

Philip Hammond’s reluctance to mention Brexit positives could hurt UK, says Nick Timothy

Nick Timothy, the  former chief of staff, said the Chancellor was putting negotiations at risk by failing to recognise the “opportunities of Brexit”.

Mr Timothy also accused Mr  of being on “manoeuvres” over the Treasury’s silence on the potential boost  could provide to the UK economy.

The former chief of staff also hit out at  over his own unauthorised 4,200-word Brexit plan ahead of Mrs May’s crucial speech in Florence on Friday.

Mr Timothy called on the Chancellor and Foreign Secretary to “stop their games” or risk leaving the UK unable to strike a Brexit deal.

Writing for The Telegraph, the former chief of staff said: “Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond… must understand that the surest route to a bad deal, or no deal at all, is to go on behaving as they are. They must stop their games now, because the stakes for Britain are too high.”

Mrs May is said to have struck a truce with Mr Johnson, who reports had suggested was prepared to resign over the possibility of a soft Brexit, ahead of her keynote address in Florence.

Theresa May insists ‘the UK government is driven from the front’

Mr Hammond and the Foreign Secretary will appear along side Mrs May in Italy as the Cabinet presents a united front to Europe.

It is hoped the Prime Minister’s speech will outline a Brexit strategy and break the negotiations deadlock.

The plan presented is thought to include a deal to pay Brussels €20 billion over a transition period taking us up to 2020.

Boris JohnsonGETTY

Boris Johnson was accused of undermining the Prime Minister with his Brexit proposal

Despite the expectation of this substantial financial offer EU officials are thought to be preparing to demand even more from the UK in a divorce bill.

An EU diplomat told The Telegraph: “Goodwill gestures are not enough – it is very doubtful that EU member states would consider that offer to be sufficient progress on its own.”

Mr Timothy implored the Prime Minister to avoid setting out an “exact solution” in her speech and instead suggested laying out a broad outline for the relationship between the UK and EU post Brexit.

He said: “The Prime Minister does not need to set out the exact solution tomorrow, but she can set out the Government’s parameters. These details are important but they are inherently technical.”

Mr Hammond and Mr Johnson clashed over the UK’s approach to Brexit talks during the summer.

The Chancellor favours a “business-first” exit that would see the UK paying into EU coffers to secure access to the single market.

Nick TimothyGETTY

Mr Timothy called on Leavers and Remainers in the Cabinet to support Theresa May

While the Foreign Secretary has called for Britain adopt a Canada model, where tariffs would be slashed but the UK would not be require to make budget contributions.

Mr Timothy demanded the pair cease hostilities saying: “[The Prime Minister] deserves the full support of her ministers, Leavers and Remainers alike.

Theresa May Brexit speech in Florence Thursday to be ‘open and generous offer’ to EU

September 21, 2017

BBC News

Boris Johnson and Theresa MayREUTERS photo

Theresa May’s speech on Brexit in Italy on Friday will represent an “open and generous offer” to the rest of the EU, a cabinet minister has told the BBC.

It is thought that might include a guarantee that no EU country would lose out from changes to the EU’s current budget as a result of the UK leaving.

But another minister warned against offering too much on the money, saying “it’s our only leverage”.

Mrs May is briefing her cabinet on Thursday morning about the the speech.

The event in Florence is being seen as an attempt to break the deadlock on the negotiations, with the EU unhappy at the lack of progress on agreeing the UK’s “divorce bill” from Brussels.


By BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg

We are one of the biggest contributors to the EU pot, so leaving dents the planned financial arrangements if we just go and take our cheque book with us.

If that is the promise that is roughly to the tune of £20bn, although it would be surprising if Theresa May named a figure herself – it’s not her style and any actual numbers will be subject to far-off negotiations.

But in terms of the bill, that could just be the start of it. Plugging the hole in the current budget doesn’t deal with what the EU sees as our long-term obligations – whether that’s diplomats’ pensions or our share of money that’s been loaned to other countries.

Read Laura’s full blog

The cabinet meeting comes amid reports of ministerial splits over Brexit.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was accused of undermining the PM with a 4,000-word article about Brexit.

He subsequently denied reports he planned to resign if his blueprint was not followed and described the government as “a nest of singing birds”.

The foreign secretary and prime minister were due to travel back from the United Nations in New York together on Wednesday night.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Priti Patel were among those watching the PM's speech
Boris Johnson watched the PM’s address to the UN general assembly in New York on Wednesday. Getty Images

Debate ahead of the speech has focused on the detail of the time-limited transition period after Brexit, how much the UK will pay as it leaves, and whether it will continue contributing to EU budgets in years to come.

So far, the government has said the UK will honour its commitments but that the days of “giving huge sums of money” are over.

Why Florence?

Downing Street has also described as “speculation” a Financial Times report that chief Brexit “sherpa” Olly Robbins, who reports directly to Mrs May, had told Germany she will offer to pay £20bn in the period up to 2020 to cover gaps in the budget left by the UK’s departure.

The fourth round of Brexit negotiations begins on 25 September, with the UK due to leave the EU in March 2019.

The UK is keen to intensify their pace and open discussions on the country’s future relationship with the EU, including trade, as soon as possible.

Theresa May asked about Johnson’s intervention on Brexit

But this cannot happen until the EU deems sufficient progress has been made on the initial subjects being discussed, including the UK’s financial settlement.

The two sides are also trying to reach agreement on the status of UK and EU expats after Brexit, and the impact of Brexit on the Northern Ireland border.

BBC political correspondent Leila Nathoo said Mrs May’s challenge is to make enough of a gesture to Brussels to kickstart negotiations, while reconciling both Remainers and Brexiteers in Cabinet to her position.

On the detail of a proposed transition period, the Brexit bill and any payments to the EU after we leave, the prime minister’s speech will be closely watched for points of compromise, said our correspondent.

Britain’s Theresa May hopes to end cabinet disquiet with Brexit speech

September 20, 2017


© AFP/File / by Alice RITCHIE | Britain and the EU are to restart Brexit negotiations on September 25, but Prime Minister Theresa May is yet to reveal much about what she wants from a deal

LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May will make an eagerly anticipated Brexit speech in Florence on Friday, seeking to unlock stalled negotiations with Brussels as well as quell divisions in her own cabinet.Six months after beginning the two-year process of withdrawing Britain from the European Union, the Conservative leader has yet to set out in detail what she wants from the divorce.

A fourth round of talks with the European Commission are due to begin on September 25 and the question of Britain’s financial settlement remains a significant stumbling block.

The lack of clarity was reinforced when May’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, laid out his own vision for Brexit in a newspaper article widely viewed as an attempt to force his premier’s hand.

A senior official in Brussels said there were “high expectations” for May’s speech, both on the money and another blocked issue — the rights of EU nationals living in Britain after Brexit.

Businesses are also watching closely. The head of the CBI lobby group of business leaders, Carolyn Fairbairn, warned the risks of leaving the EU without a deal felt “all too real”.

– ‘Say what she wants’ –

Without progress in next week’s talks, EU leaders are unlikely to accept Britain’s request to move the negotiations on to the future trading relationship at their next summit in October.

“The onus is on the British to come up with a serious offer to move the talks forward,” Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform (CER), told AFP.

“Theresa May needs to make a serious offer on the money that she hasn’t made so far. And on the transition, she needs to say what she wants.”

The Financial Times reported that May would offer to meet Britain’s commitments under the current EU budget, which runs to 2020, worth 20 billion euros (£18 billion, $24 billion).

This would mean continued payments during a transition deal that Britain wants to bridge the gap between Brexit in March 2019 and the implementation of a new trading arrangement.

A major problem for May is that her ministers still disagree on the future shape of Brexit — highlighted by Johnson’s 4,000-word article in the Daily Telegraph last weekend.

Johnson, a leading voice for Brexit in last year’s referendum campaign who has long had leadership ambitions, argued for a clean break with the EU, including on financial matters.

He subsequently denied reports he had threatened to resign, and insisted the cabinet was as united as a “nest of singing birds”.

– Home of Machiavelli –

Johnson’s intervention highlighted the fragility of May’s position, after her Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority in June’s snap election.

The prime minister chose Florence to deliver her speech because it is the “historical heart” of Europe.

But some commentators have noted that the Italian city was also home to Machiavelli, the Renaissance philosopher and author of “The Prince” who has become a byword for slippery politicians.

A cartoon in the Daily Telegraph had Johnson and members of the cabinet grappling with each other and snakes subbed “Brexitus”, an apparent reference to a sculpture in the Uffizi Gallery.

The Times, meanwhile, had Johnson as King Kong, holding May in one hand as he swung on the famous dome of Florence’s cathedral.

The prime minister has insisted she is in control, saying on Monday: “The UK government is driven from the front and we all have the same destination in our sights.”

May has called a special cabinet meeting for Thursday morning, when she is expected to brief ministers about what she will say in Florence — and ensure they fall in line.

Former Conservative leader William Hague said it was “about time” that ministers rallied around.

“The period of negotiating publicly with each other is over, and .. the time for negotiating in earnest with the EU has begun,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

by Alice RITCHIE

North Korea, Iran Draw Suspicion Over Possible Nuclear Cooperation

September 20, 2017

But top U.N. watchdog says no basis to ‘rumors’ of nuke plots

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, in Vienna on Sept. 18.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, in Vienna on Sept. 18. PHOTO: REUTERS

President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on the international community to join forces and confront what he called the “rogue regimes” of North Korea and Iran, in his first address to the annual United Nations General Assembly.

What the two have in common are nuclear and missile programs, although Iran agreed in 2015 to curtail its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions. Iran says its nuclear work is for purely civilian purposes, though it has continued conducting ballistic-missile tests.

And earlier this month, North Korea said it conducted its sixth nuclear test, work it has publicly championed.

President Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that Iran has become an “economically depleted rogue state” whose chief export is violence and chaos in the Middle East. He also called the Iran nuclear deal an “embarrassment.” Photo: Getty

For years, those common threads have fueled speculation about possible cooperation between Iran and North Korea on nuclear and missile programs.

A February 2016 report by the Congressional Research Service said there is no evidence that Iran and North Korea, who retain diplomatic ties, have engaged in nuclear-related trade or cooperation. But missile-technology cooperation has been “significant and meaningful,” it said.

Critics of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal have raised questions about whether North Korea could help Iran cheat the agreement.

In March, Anthony Ruggiero of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies said in an article that “what happens in North Korea rarely stays there and Pyongyang has likely proliferated nuclear technology in secret to at least two countries: Syria and Libya.”

“Likewise, a North Korea-Iran nuclear relationship would be difficult to detect. And while North Korea won’t sell complete nuclear weapons or fissile material for nuclear weapons—as these are critical to the regime’s survival—it will sell other parts of its program, as well as its expertise,” he wrote.

Another critic of the Iran deal, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, said on Twitter last week that “If we let #NorthKorea retain nuclear weapons & ballistic missiles, they’ll happily sell the materials & tech to #Iran & terrorist groups.”

However, no hard evidence of nuclear cooperation has emerged.

In an interview this week, Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the body charged with overseeing Iran’s compliance with its 2015 commitments, said all there ever has ever been is conjecture on the matter.

“We have heard rumors but not more than that,” Mr. Amano said, adding that this was not something he had raised directly in talks with Iranian officials. “We do not react to rumors.”

Asked if he had any worries about possible cooperation between Pyongyang and Tehran on nuclear issues, Mr. Amano said “I do not have the information that makes me have concerns.”

Write to Laurence Norman at



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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location, allegedly inspecting the loading of a hydrogen bomb into a new intercontinental ballistic missile. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. (Korea News Service via AP)

Could North Korea help Iran develop nuclear weapons?


  • The ominous predictions have coincided with escalating tensions between the US and North Korea
  • North Korea and Iran have collaborated on missile development in the past

Washington (CNN)As North Korea continues its march towards developing a reliable long-range nuclear missile, US officials are becoming increasingly vocal about concerns over Pyongyang’s ties to another familiar adversary: Iran.

Despite current restrictions in place to monitor and curtail Iran’s nuclear program, several lawmakers and members of the intelligence community have warned in recent weeks that Tehran could theoretically purchase technology or knowledge related to building a nuclear weapon in the future.
The ominous predictions have coincided with escalating tensions between the US and North Korea: Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test and issued a variety of heated threats, including a retaliatory threat to launch missiles near the American territory of Guam.
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 Chinese paramilitary policemen build a fence near a concrete marker depicting the North Korean and Chinese national flags with the words “China North Korea Border” at a crossing in the Chinese border town of Tumen in eastern China’s Jilin province. FILE photo
North Korea and Iran have collaborated on missile development in the past, and the State Department is currently monitoring weapons transactions and attempting to determine whether there has been cooperation between the two nations on ballistic missile capability which does not fall under the restrictions agreed to in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
But little to no hard evidence has been presented to suggest that the Iranians are currently working with Pyongyang to enhance their nuclear program, and intelligence suggests North Korea is still addressing issues with its own efforts.
Last week, Japan asked Iran to cooperate in international efforts against North Korea’s nuclear program. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has also said that he does not want a nuclear North Korea.
So what is prompting some US officials to sound the alarm?
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Iran space launch, July 27, 2017. Iranian Defense Ministry. A missile like this is a close relative of an ICBM

Why now?


It is no secret that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have made major strides in recent months, and its weapons tests amid escalating tensions with the US have prompted global condemnation and increased sanctions on the rogue nation.
The standoff between North Korea and the US has raised myriad complex challenges for military and intelligence officials tasked not only with addressing the immediate threat of potential escalation but also preparing for scenarios that could emerge as Pyongyang continues to improve its capability.
Preventing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from achieving his nuclear ambitions remains a top priority for the Trump administration — but should those efforts fail, some US officials warn that the implications could stretch beyond dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea.
On Monday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said it is “fair to say” that as North Korea improves its capabilities, it could be willing to share that knowledge and technology if approached by potential customers — namely, Iran.
“The North Koreans have a long history of being proliferators and sharing their knowledge, their technology, their capacities around the world,” Pompeo said in a Fox News interview.
“As North Korea continues to improve its ability to do longer-range missiles and to put nuclear weapons on those missiles, it is very unlikely, if they get that capability, that they wouldn’t share it with lots of folks, and Iran would certainly be someone who would be willing to pay them for it,” he added.
Pompeo’s comments were notably conditional as he addressed the issue of proliferation — an issue that has been a long-standing concern for US intelligence officials.
But his remarks also reflect a recent effort by some US officials and lawmakers to publicly highlight the potential link between North Korea and Iran that also coincides with recent high-level diplomatic activity between the two nations.
On Tuesday, Thornton said the State Department continues to track illicit arms shipments from North Korea to both Iran and Syria, noting “there are some transactions we are worried about,” when pressed on the issue by Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul.
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Iranian protesters burn representations of US and Israeli flags in their annual pro-Palestinian rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran, Iran, Friday, June 23, 2017. AP photo
“We do track any kind of illicit proliferation networks from the North Koreans and go after those transactions, again, with colleagues at Treasury and other agencies,” Thornton told lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“When we find them, we try to block them or deter them, and we’ve had some success. It’s a continuing effort on our part, and we devote a lot of attention to that,” she said.
Thornton said the US is also monitoring collaboration between Tehran and North Korea on ballistic missiles but did not indicate that the relationship directly involves nuclear proliferation.
The United Nations panel on North Korean sanctions is also investigating “reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation” between North Korea and Syria, according to its latest assessment.
These findings are also fueling concerns that if North Korea will sell to one malign actor in the Middle East, it could just as easily sell to a country like Iran.
In July, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva said he agreed with assessments by the intelligence community that North Korea could become a nuclear arms proliferator.
“There’s no evidence that they have engaged in proliferation of their long-range ballistic missile technology, but they have proliferated every other weapons system that they’ve ever invented. So it’s a pretty clear pathway to the potential proliferation of these kinds of weapons systems,” Selva told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Links to Iran nuclear deal


US-Iranian tensions seemed to cool after international negotiators reached an agreement aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear program in 2015.
But murmurs linking Tehran and North Korea’s nuclear program have only grown louder against the backdrop of President Donald Trump’s repeated pledges to take a tough line on Iran — including his calls on the campaign trail for the US to tear up or renegotiate the agreement, which he has decried as “the worst deal ever.”

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the UN General Assembly on September 19, 2017.


Donald Trump and Iran: the one thing to know 01:36
While Trump has since twice re-certified the deal, most recently in July, he also recently approved new sanctions against six Iran-based satellite companies following a recent Iranian rocket launch — a move that prompted a bristling response from Tehran.
Trump will face another re-certification deadline in the coming weeks and has again signaled a desire to withdraw from the agreement despite a recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency that all parties were in compliance.
The State Department and National Security Council did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment regarding the administration’s stance on whether links between North Korea and Iran relate to the upcoming re-certification deadline.
The Trump administration is continuing its review of the Iran nuclear deal but the policy toward Iran should include “the totality of Iranian threats, not just Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday in London.
Speaking at a news conference with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, Tillerson said the preface to the agreement said its implementation “will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security.”
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Boris Johnson
“In our view, Iran is clearly in default of these expectations of the JCPOA through their actions to prop up the Assad regime (in Syria), to engage in malicious activities in the region — including cyberactivity — aggressively developing ballistic missiles; and all of this is in defiance of UN Security Council resolution 2231, thereby threatening — not ensuring, but threatening — the security of those in the region as well as the United States itself,” Tillerson added.

Talking point or proliferation threat?


Trump’s looming decision to either re-certify or withdraw from the Iran deal has been amplified by the heightened concern over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but experts offer a range of assessments regarding the potential threat of nuclear or missile cooperation between Pyongyang and Tehran in the future.
North Korea and Iran do have a history of joint missile development dating back to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, and both countries have been linked to Pakistani nuclear physicist and accused proliferator Abdul Qadeer Khan in the past.
Since that time, Iran has made some independent developments in its missile capability, but much of its progress has been coupled with assistance from Pyongyang, according to Bruce Bennett, a senior researcher who specializes in North Korea at the RAND Corporation.

The US and Iran through the years

The US and Iran through the years 01:49
Iran currently possesses more ballistic missiles than any other country in the Middle East but remains dependent on foreign suppliers for missile development and production — an ongoing challenge that raises questions about whether they can or will develop an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear missile, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonpartisan, Washington-based nonprofit organization.
“We have to anticipate that while focusing on North Korea that it is a potential trigger of great deal of proliferation,” Bennett told CNN, adding that the potential for cooperation stems from the shared goal of both countries to mount a nuclear weapon on an intercontinental ballistic missile and North Korea’s willingness to act like a “cartel” in its willingness to share information for a price.

North Korea has long maintained it wants nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to deter the United States from attempting to overthrow the regime of Kim Jong Un.


Pyongyang looks at states such as Iraq — where Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the United States, and Libya — its late leader, Moammar Gadhafi, gave up his nuclear ambitions for sanctions relief and aid, only to be toppled and killed after the United States intervened in his country’s civil unrest — and believes that only being able to threaten the US mainland with a retaliatory nuclear strike can stop American military intervention.


Many experts say they believe North Korea would not use the weapons first. Kim values his regime’s survival above all else and knows the use of a nuclear weapon would start a war he could not win, analysts say.


The idea that North Korea and Iran’s past missile-sharing relationship could eventually evolve to include nuclear weapons is “appropriate as each side has something to offer,” according to Anthony Ruggiero, a former official at the US State and Treasury departments.
“Iran and North Korea both have enrichment programs, Pyongyang has an advanced nuclear weapons program, and Tehran has cash,” he said, adding that Pyongyang desperately needs hard currency to sustain its strategic programs and its elites.
But although their history of missile cooperation indicates that the two nations could potentially strike a deal over nuclear weapons in the future, some argue that concerns over the link between North Korea and Iran misses a more urgent point.
“Proliferation is part of the problem but not the centerpiece when it comes to North Korea,” according to Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York. Sigal added that the recent emphasis on Pyongyang’s links to Iran are the product of an internal argument within the Trump administration over the Iran deal.
Sigal’s suggestion that attempts to publicly link Iran and North Korea’s nuclear development efforts stems from conflicting views over Trump’s desire to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump and several of his top diplomats, including US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, have repeatedly made the case for abandoning the agreement despite warnings from 80 of the world’s leading nonproliferation specialists that doing so would not only isolate the US but could ultimately encourage Iran to resume its nuclear program and “create a second major nonproliferation crisis.”
“The US has to find out if North Korea is willing to negotiate, and there are people in the Trump administration willing to get to that point,” Sigal said, noting that Pompeo’s comments suggest a strong argument to negotiate in hopes of bounding Pyongyang’s program before they reach the point of being able to sell fissile material.
If the US doesn’t negotiate, then North Korea will ultimately “have an unbounded nuclear program and can sell its secrets or technology to other people,” he said, adding that the more urgent problem facing the US is that, despite levying more sanctions, it still hasn’t determined whether Pyongyang is willing to stop its programs now and come to the table.
“Negotiations mean putting forth a real proposal that addresses North Korea’s security concerns in addition to our own interest, and we are not at that point yet,” Sigal said.

Includes videos:

‘Ludicrous’ or ‘bold’? Boris Johnson becomes symbol of a nation divided

September 19, 2017
Media reactions to Boris Johnson’s Brexit vision give the impression the UK only has one of two destinies. While the Tory Telegraph sees a chance for “national renewal and deliverance,” the liberal Guardian acts like he’s invited the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Days before UK Prime Minister Theresa May will make a major and much heralded Brexit speech in Florence, her foreign secretary grabbed all the headlines. Writing a 4,200-word article in the Telegraph on the“glorious” future that awaits Britain, Boris Johnson claimed the country would “succeed mightily” in its great post-Brexit enterprise.

Tensions are growing between the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary as @theresa_may hits back at @BorisJohnson’s #Brexit challenge.

— RT UK (@RTUKnews) September 19, 2017Downing Street didn’t like it of course, and sent out Home Secretary Amber Rudd to accuse Johnson of “backseat driving” – a move which itself didn’t look good considering May faces accusations of being a weak leader.

But the real state of the political landscape is vividly obvious, as always, in the press. For the liberal, Pro-Europe Guardian, this was a “masterpiece of doublespeak and smarm.” For the Telegraph, the Brexiteers’ right-leaning newspaper of choice, it was a “fearless blueprint for a brighter future.” Of course, the pro-Tory Telegraph has Boris on the payroll, so you wouldn’t expect much different.

A closer look at how these two institutions of the press choose to represent the Brexit debate, as typified by blonde bombshell Boris, suggest there is currently little middle ground to be found.

Fiercely on the Remain side, the Guardian believes “conman” Johnson is making claims that are “palpably false” and based on “ludicrous fantasy.”

Much of its criticism focuses on Johnson’s revival of the widely disproved claim that the UK would have £350 million ($472 million) extra per week post-Brexit. The left-wing newspaper blames “Tory lies and scheming”for the “Brexit mess.” Boris has known the figure was a lie, it claims.

It also accuses Johnson of misleading the public by presenting what he calls “obvious opportunities” from Brexit, but failing to mention any.

Pro-Brexit articles by the Guardian are few and far between, so its refusal to agree with anything Johnson is saying on the benefits of Brexit is hardly unsurprising.

The right-wing Telegraph, which published Johnson’s article, was delighted with Johnson’s take on Brexit – hailing it as “at last, a positive and bold vision.” It even urged the PM to take note of the “inspiring” article, claiming he’d done voters a “public service” for penning the piece.

The Eurosceptic newspaper claimed it was finally a chance for the Leave side to have a voice, with “no shortage of negativity in the media.”

Remember, this is just the debate Britain is having with itself about what Brexit actually means and what it should look like. The negotiations with the immovable eurocrats waiting in Brussels have yet to really begin, and the clock is ticking.

Now the rumor is… Boris may quit anyway.

Ken Clarke: Boris Johnson exploiting May’s weakness — A Stronger PM Would Have Fired Him

September 19, 2017

BBC News

Kenneth Clarke calls Boris Johnson’s Brexit article an “irrelevant nuisance” on Radio 4’s Today

Veteran pro-EU Conservative MP Ken Clarke has accused Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson of “exploiting” Theresa May’s weak position as prime minister.

Mr Clarke told BBC Radio 4’s Today that “in normal circumstances” Mr Johnson would have been sacked after his 4,000 word article on his Brexit vision.

He accused Mr Johnson of making a pitch for a future Tory leadership election.

Mr Johnson has said his article was “sketching out” the “exciting landscape of the destination ahead” on Brexit.

The continuing fallout from the article led, on Monday, to Mrs May having to rebut claims that Mr Johnson was trying to become a “back-seat driver” in her cabinet.

The prime minister, who is due to set out her vision for Brexit in a speech in Florence on Friday, declared: “This government is driven from the front.”

Mr Clarke said that in her speech Mrs May had to set out “for the first time, really” what the UK can “can realistically achieve in negotiations”.

That must include “free access to the European market and no new barriers for our trade,” he argued, and how best “to avoid economic damage to the country”.

“Alongside that, personal publicity and campaigning by the foreign secretary is actually just an irrelevant nuisance.”

Theresa May is making a big Brexit speech in Florence. But why do it there?

Mr Clarke said: “Sounding off personally in this way is totally unhelpful and he shouldn’t exploit the fact she hasn’t got a majority in Parliament.

“He knows perfectly well that normally the foreign secretary would be sacked for doing that – and she, unfortunately, after the general election, is not in the position easily to sack him – which he should stop exploiting.”

He also attacked Mr Johnson for repeating “one of the more simplistic and dishonest arguments of the hardline Leavers” in his article – a reference to “taking back control” of £350m a week after Brexit.

“They use money because it appeals to the public, who don’t, I think, follow very closely the details,” he told Today.

“You tell people we are giving money to foreigners and quite a lot of the public are against it.”

He said that if there are genuine disagreements in cabinet over Brexit, then it was in the “national interest” to “compromise” and abide by collective responsibility.

Mr Johnson used his Telegraph article to insist that Britain should pay nothing to access the EU single market, amid reports Mrs May will use her Florence speech to say the UK will carrying on paying for access during a three year transition period after Brexit.

Donald Trump and Boris Johnson
Mr Johnson met US President Donald Trump at the UN on Monday. Reuters

The foreign secretary, who made much of the savings the UK would make when it left the EU during last year’s referendum campaign, said his article was meant to be an “opening drum roll” for the PM’s speech.

“Because I was involved in that Brexit campaign, people want to know where we are going,” he added.

Mrs May attempted to avoid a public row with her foreign secretary, telling reporters travelling with her on a trade mission to Canada: “Boris is Boris.”

The prime minister and Mr Johnson are due at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, where the PM will hold a series of meetings with fellow leaders, including US President Donald Trump. There will be talks on fighting online extremism and on modern slavery.

No formal meeting is planned between Mrs May and Mr Johnson.

Lord Hague
Lord Hague is concerned about cabinet disunity over Brexit

Former foreign secretary, Lord Hague, writing in the Daily Telegraph, warned that disunity over Brexit could hand power to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Lord Hague wrote: “It is putting it a bit too politely to say, in the wake of Boris Johnson’s article in this newspaper on Saturday, that the approach of senior ministers to the Brexit negotiations appears to lack co-ordination.

“More bluntly, it is now 15 months since the referendum, and high time that all members of the government were able to express themselves on this subject in the same way as each other, putting forward the same points, as part of an agreed plan.

“Hopefully, that happy circumstance will follow the speech the prime minister is due to give on the subject in Florence on Friday.

“If not, there will be no point Conservatives discussing who is going to be the foreign secretary, chancellor or prime minister in the coming years, because Jeremy Corbyn will be prime minister, sitting in Number 10 with John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, completely ruining this country.”


Boris Johnson would normally be sacked by now, says Ken Clarke

Senior Tory accuses foreign secretary of exploiting parliamentary minority to make ‘dishonest’ claims in apparent leadership bid

Boris Johnson
 Boris Johnson ‘should make some more serious contributions on wider foreign policy’, Ken Clarke said. Photograph: Stephanie Keith/Reuters 

Boris Johnson would have been sacked from the cabinet by now if the Conservatives had a parliamentary majority, a senior Tory has said.

Ken Clarke warned Johnson to stop taking advantage of the party’s situation after the foreign secretary wrote a newspaper article that some have interpreted as a leadership bid. He used the article to repeat his discredited claim that Britain will claw back £350m a week after leaving the EU.

“Sounding off personally in this way is totally unhelpful and he shouldn’t exploit the fact that [Theresa May] hasn’t got a majority in parliament,” Clarke said on Tuesday. “And he knows perfectly well that, normally, a foreign secretary would be sacked instantly for doing that.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the prime minister was not in a position to sack Johnson, but said the foreign secretary should keep his views on the Brexit negotiations to the confines of private discussions with cabinet colleagues, rather than airing them in public.

Johnson, a prominent figure in the leave campaign during the referendum, set off a fresh row over the government’s approach to Brexit by claiming at the weekend that, “once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week”.

Vote Leave made the claim central to its campaign last year, despite it being discredited then and since.

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