Posts Tagged ‘Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May’

May under Brexit pressure at EU reform summit

November 17, 2017


© TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP / by Lachlan CARMICHAEL | Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May meets with her Swedish counterpart in Gothenburg, Sweden, on the eve of the EU Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth.


 EU leaders will press British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday to do more to reach a divorce deal against the backdrop of a summit to launch reforms for the bloc’s post-Brexit survival.

The Brexit crisis threatens to overshadow the meeting in the Swedish port city of Gothenburg, which is supposed to focus on fair jobs and growth in the European Union.

May will hold talks with EU President Donald Tusk and her Irish and Swedish counterparts as a deadline looms for Britain to make enough progress to move on to trade talks in December.

“Tusk will inform May that such a positive scenario is not a given, will require more work and that time is short,” an EU source told AFP of the meeting at 1130 GMT.

Former Polish premier Tusk “will ask May how the UK plans to progress” on key issues before negotiations can advance to the next phase, which includes post-Brexit trade ties and a transition period.

The EU demands that Britain makes sufficient progress on its exit bill, on avoiding a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the EU state of Ireland, and on the rights of three million EU citizens living in Britain.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned last week that Britain had two weeks to meet the bloc’s conditions if it wanted an agreement at the next EU summit in Brussels in December.

Failure to do so would push back a decision until February or March, leaving little time for trade talks before Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

– ‘All about people’ –

The so-called “social summit” in Sweden is the first step in a two-year reform drive to show the bloc can survive after Brexit and other setbacks by tackling the economic inequalities fuelling populism.

EU leaders are looking to reboot the union based on plans by France’s dynamic new president Emmanuel Macron and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

By holding their first “social summit” since one in Luxembourg in 1997, they aim to show the post-war dream of a united Europe is still alive by promoting fair jobs, growth and a social safety net after years of economic austerity.

An EU source told reporters in Gothenburg that despite Brexit, May herself fully supports the social reform agenda embraced by EU leaders in Sweden.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said far-right gains in Austrian and German elections this year, which followed last year’s shock of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, showed action was necessary.

“I’m convinced that a sustainable European Union needs a strong social dimension because this is all about people,” Lofven, the summit’s co-organiser, told AFP in an interview in Brussels last month.

Most of the EU’s 28 national leaders are expected to attend, including Macron.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the bloc’s economic and political lodestar, will skip the summit to lead talks for a new governing coalition, though her aides said she fully supports the meeting’s goals.

These points will be enshrined in a European Pillar of Social Rights which Juncker, European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani and Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas — whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency — are due to sign on Friday.


British PM hit by new scandal over minister’s Israel meetings

November 8, 2017


© AFP/File / by Alice RITCHIE | Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has struggled to keep her ministers in line since losing her parliamentary majority in a snap June election

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s aid minister faced the sack Wednesday over unauthorised meetings in Israel, as she became the latest cabinet member caught up in a whirlwind of scandals rocking Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

May summoned International Development Secretary Priti Patel back from a trip to Africa to explain her talks with Israeli politicians, in which she reportedly raised the possibility of Britain diverting aid to the Israeli army.

Patel had apologised on Monday for holding 12 separate meetings — including with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — during a family holiday to Israel in August, without notifying the Foreign Office or Downing Street in advance.

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International Development Secretary Priti Patel

After a public reprimand from the prime minister, Patel left London on Tuesday on a three-day trip to Uganda, but a government source told AFP she was returning home Wednesday at May’s request.

If she is sacked, Patel would become the second cabinet minister in a week to leave May’s government, after Michael Fallon quit as defence secretary on November 1 following allegations of sexual harassment.

Britain is facing its biggest peacetime challenge in Brexit, but May has struggled to keep her ministers in line since losing her parliamentary majority in a snap June election.

Months of public divisions over the negotiations with the EU have in recent days given way to scandals over foreign affairs and sexual abuse.

May’s deputy Damian Green is being investigated for groping a journalist in 2014 — which he denies — while a similar probe is underway into the behaviour of junior trade minister Mark Garnier towards his secretary.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has meanwhile been accused of jeopardising the case of a British woman jailed in Iran, after appearing to suggest she was training journalists at the time — something her family strongly denies.

May put off a mooted reshuffle after her election setback, but some MPs have called on her to act to assert her power over a government that looks increasingly adrift.

– Funding to Golan Heights –

On Monday, Patel revealed details of her meetings in Israel, which included with NGOs and businesses, and said they were arranged by Lord Stuart Polak, the honorary president of lobbying group Conservative Friends of Israel.

But it emerged late Tuesday there had been another two unauthorised meetings in September, with Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in London and senior foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York.

“I don’t understand what more she needs to do to be sacked,” one unnamed minister told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

During her meetings, Patel discussed the possibility of British aid being used to support medical assistance for Syrian refugees arriving in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Downing Street said.

Reports suggest however that she did not explain to May that this involved supplying funding to the Israeli army, which has facilitated the treatment of more than 3,100 wounded refugees in Israeli hospitals since 2013.

Britain views the Golan Heights as occupied territory and a minister told MPs on Tuesday that funding the Israeli Defence Forces there was “not appropriate”.

In a further development on Wednesday, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Patel visited a military field hospital in the Golan Heights as a guest of the government.

Patel’s ministry declined to comment on the report.

– Breach of ministerial code –

Patel was a leading campaigner for Britain to leave the European Union in last year’s referendum, and is a prominent figure in May’s cabinet.

The daughter of Ugandan Indians, the 45-year-old has been an MP since 2010, and is widely believed to have ambitions on Downing Street.

On Monday, she apologised that her “enthusiasm to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures”.

But the main opposition Labour party has demanded an investigation into whether her behaviour breached the ministerial code.

Shadow minister Jon Trickett said May should explain why “she believes that Priti Patel can stay in post”.

The Palestinian ambassador to Britain, Manuel Hassassian, said the revelations were “shocking”.

“If a cabinet minister goes along and says she wants to funnel money to the IDF, and to funnel money to occupied Golan Heights, this is in total contradiction of the main policies of this government that is pushing for a two-state solution,” he told ITV news on Tuesday.

by Alice RITCHIE
See also:
Priti Patel’s allies turn on Theresa May over deepening Israeli meetings row as minister faces the sack
UK aid minister Priti Patel under fire over unauthorized Israel meetings

US Urges China to Use Oil Leverage on North Korea

September 14, 2017

LONDON — The Latest on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to London (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is urging China to use its leverage as North Korea supplier of oil to get the North to “reconsider” its development of nuclear weapons.

The United States has sought an embargo on oil imports to North Korea at the U.N. Security Council in response to North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test to date.

But the U.N. has agreed to weaker measures against the North — although the U.N. is banning ban textile exports, an important source of its revenue for the North.

Tillerson says it was going to be “very difficult” to get China to agree to an oil embargo. Still he’s urging China as a “great country and a world power” to use its leverage as the supplier of virtually all North Korea’s oil.


10:25 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is holding talks in London with British and French officials on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

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The U.S., Britain and France are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and the council this week approved new sanctions to punish North Korea’s latest nuclear test explosion.

The officials also intend to discuss the response to Hurricane Irma, which struck the southeastern United States and the Caribbean.

And expect the situation in Libya to come up during talks with representatives from the U.N., Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

It’s Tillerson’s second visit to Britain since taking office in February.


British PM Theresa May narrowly wins Parliament confidence vote

June 29, 2017

The Associated Press

© Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP | Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves No. 10 Downing St on her way to Westminster for Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQs) on June 28, 2017.


Latest update : 2017-06-29

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative minority government secured lawmakers’ backing for its legislative plans by a narrow margin Thursday, but only after making a sudden concession on abortion funding to stave off defeat.

The House of Commons voted by 323 to 309 to approve last week’s Queen’s Speech, which laid out the government’s agenda for the next two years.

@theresa_may gov survives its first major Parliamentary test as  passes unamended with a majority of 14 

Theresa May

Commons voting on Queen’s Speech – BBC News

The government acted to avoid a possible rebellion over abortion funding ahead of the vote.

The slimmed-down package jettisoned several pledges made by the Conservatives before Britain’s June 8 election, which saw May’s party humiliatingly stripped of its parliamentary majority.

Rejection of its legislative plan would have been a major – and possibly fatal – blow to May’s already weakened administration, which struck a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party this week to make sure it can win key votes.


May called the snap election in a misjudged attempt to bolster her majority and strengthen her authority during talks on Britain’s departure from the European Union. Instead, it left her weakened at home and abroad, and tipped Parliament into a new era of deal-making, compromise and concessions.

In a sign of the government’s fragile hold on power, government ministers were forced into a major concession hours before the vote. Fearing defeat on an opposition amendment, ministers said they would pay for women from Northern Ireland to travel to England for abortions.

Abortion is banned in Northern Ireland unless a woman’s life or mental health is in danger, and hundreds of women a year travel to other parts of the U.K. to terminate pregnancies. They must pay for the abortions, as well as for travel costs.

Labour Party lawmaker Stella Creasy obtained a vote on a motion calling for women who travel from Northern Ireland to get government funding. Several Conservative legislators said they would support the amendment because it corrected a longstanding injustice, prompting the government’s scramble to change its policy.

In a letter to lawmakers, Equalities Minister Justine Greening said women from Northern Ireland had previously been asked to pay, but “from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen.”

Creasy said the government’s about-face was “very encouraging” and agreed to withdraw her amendment without a vote.

“There is a recognition that there has been an injustice for too long,” she said.

This month’s election left the Conservatives with 317 of the 650 seats in Parliament, several short of a majority, while Labour won a better-than-anticipated 262 seats.

Creasy’s amendment was one of several attempts by the Labour opposition to defeat the weakened government over its plans for the economy and for Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Other Labour proposals called on the government to reverse cuts to public spending, lift a pay cap on civil servants and the emergency services and soften the Brexit terms of to keep full access to the bloc’s single market.

The government defeated all the proposed changes with support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists, a Loyalist party whose 10 lawmakers have agreed to back the Conservatives on key votes.

The DUP deal – secured with a promise of 1 billion pounds ($1.29 billion) in new spending for Northern Ireland – has dismayed some Conservatives on account of the smaller party’s socially conservative policies on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

It has also complicated attempts to restore a power-sharing administration in Belfast, drawing accusations from the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein that the British government has abandoned its position of neutrality toward Northern Ireland’s rival political forces.



Humbled PM Theresa May hopes to reassure EU leaders at Brussels summit

June 22, 2017


© Stephane De Sakutin, AFP | Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron talk during the G7 summit in Italy on May 26, 2017.


Latest update : 2017-06-22

Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May will try Thursday to convince European leaders she can still push through Brexit despite being badly weakened by an election bet that turned sour.

The two-day Brussels summit marks the debut of French President Emmanuel Macron, the figurehead of a renewed confidence among the remaining 27 states that Britain’s withdrawal can be a fresh start.

But talks on issues including post-Brexit defence plans risk being overshadowed by concerns that a disastrous election has left May so enfeebled that Brexit negotiations will be hampered.

“There is an enormous insecurity among the Europeans: how long will she last? Has she got the majority to deliver?” a senior EU official said.

In Brussels, security has been stepped up after Tuesday’s bombing at one of the city’s main rail stations by an Islamic State sympathiser, following attacks in Britain and France.

Over dinner, May is expected to fill in some of the blanks for the other EU leaders on Brexit.

It will be their first meeting since her Conservative party unexpectedly lost its majority in a June 8 election, leaving her in charge of a so-called “zombie government“.

Britain’s shock referendum vote to leave the EU was a year ago on Friday, and the country remains in a dark national mood after a string of terror attacks and a deadly tower block blaze.

May citizens offer

“The PM will give an update to the other member states on the UK’s Brexit plans following the beginning of the negotiations this week,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

During the dinner May will “outline some principles of the UK’s paper on citizens rights which will be published at the beginning of next week,” the spokesman said.

The EU has made a priority of the rights of three million European citizens living in Britain, plus a million Britons resident in Europe.

At the first formal Brexit negotiations Monday, Britain accepted the EU’s timetable that the exit bill, citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland border be settled before its request for a free trade deal be considered.

EU diplomatic sources said May will try to keep it simple, with no discussion.

“We believe that the warming-up round of last Monday did create a positive atmosphere … I don’t think that May will want to shatter that understanding,” said one EU diplomatic source, who asked not to named.

After her comments, May will leave the room for the remaining 27 EU member states to discuss what she has told them, and the future relocation of key EU agencies from London.

‘Turning the corner’

EU President Donald Tusk said the bloc appeared to have survived the worst of the anti-EU sentiment which drove Britain’s shock vote to leave exactly a year to the day on Friday.

“The current developments on the continent seem to indicate that we are slowly turning the corner,” the former Polish premier wrote in his invitation letter.

His upbeat assessment follows a series of election setbacks for populist and eurosceptic parties, including French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who lost heavily to newcomer Macron in last month’s presidential poll.

Macron has joined forces with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pledging to put a post-Brexit EU back on track to deliver prosperity and security after years of austerity and crisis.

Macron and Merkel are expected to recommend another six-month rollover of tough economic sanctions imposed in 2014 against Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed 10,000 lives.

The French and German leaders will brief their peers on the Minsk ceasefire process, which has seen continued clashes between Kiev forces and Russian-backed rebels.

Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker are also expected to report on recent meetings with US President Donald Trump.

Trump’s “America First” approach and dismissive remarks about the EU and NATO have and bolstered calls for the European Union to take on an increased defence role, while his decision to pull out of the Paris climate pact infuriated Europe.

The EU leaders will also discuss plans to push internet firms to clamp down on online extremism, and Europe’s migration crisis.

The Latest: DUP Head Arrives for Talks With UK Leader May

June 13, 2017

LONDON — The Latest on the British election outcome (all times local):

Image result for Nigel Dodds , Downing Street, photos

Arlene Foster (left) and Nigel Dodds of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) at Number 10.

12:50 p.m.

The head of the Democratic Unionist Party has arrived for crucial talks on whether to support Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives in an alliance.

Arlene Foster and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds entered Downing Street at around 12:40 p.m. (1140 GMT, 7:40 a.m. EDT).

The Northern Ireland-based party is being courted by May to create an alliance to push through the Conservative Party’s agenda after a disastrous snap election left May short of a majority in Parliament.

May desperately needs the DUP’s 10 seats to pass legislation. The Conservatives are considering an arrangement in which the Northern Ireland party backs May on the budget and her confidence motions.

The talks with the DUP follow her apology to Conservative rank-and-file lawmakers in a meeting for the party’s poor election result.


9:30 a.m.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May will meet with a Northern Ireland-based party to see if they can together push through the Conservative Party’s agenda after a disastrous snap election left her short of a majority in Parliament.

The talks Tuesday with the Democratic Unionist Party follows her apology to Conservative rank-and-file lawmakers in a meeting which signaled she would be more open to consultation, particularly with business leaders demanding answers about the details on Britain’s departure from the European Union.

May is under pressure to take on a more cross-party approach to the negotiations surrounding Brexit. The Evening Standard, edited by ex-Treasury chief George Osborne, is reporting that Cabinet ministers have initiated talks with Labour lawmakers.

UK PM Theresa May accesed of acting like Henry VIII over Brexit — Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says refusing to commit to giving parliament a vote is beyond her cap[acity

December 29, 2016

Thu Dec 29, 2016 | 5:52am EST


Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is acting like Tudor King Henry VIII in refusing to commit to giving parliament a vote on the deal to leave the European Union, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

May told lawmakers earlier this month parliament would have “ample opportunity” to discuss her plans for Brexit but she stopped short of promising lawmakers a vote on any final agreement.

Corbyn told the Guardian newspaper on Thursday that any deal thrashed out between the British government and the 27 remaining countries in the European Union had to be endorsed by parliament.

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 Henry VIII — Art Gallery of Ontario

“It would have to come to parliament. She cannot hide behind Henry VIII and the divine rights of the power of kings on this one,” he said.

“The idea that on something as major as this the prime minister would use the royal prerogative to bypass parliament is extraordinary – I don’t know where she’s coming from.”

Henry VIII, who ruled from 1509 to 1547, is best known for his six wives and making himself head of the Church in England after breaking with Rome.

The British government is able in theory to take executive decisions without the assent of parliament using the “royal prerogative”, a concept originating in the personal power of the monarch to rule on his or her own initiative.

However, under Britain’s unwritten constitution, the scope of the prerogative is difficult to define and its use in specific cases has been decided by the courts.

May’s government is fighting a challenge to its decision to use prerogative powers to trigger Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The Supreme Court said earlier this month it would decide as quickly as possible whether May can lawfully invoke Article 50 without parliament’s assent, the first step in the process of leaving.a

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Janet Lawrence)


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Jeremy Corbyn says PM ‘cannot hide behind Henry VIII and the divine rights … of kings’ on Brexit deal. Photograph by Jonathan Brady for PA

You’re not Henry VIII,’ Jeremy Corbyn tells Theresa May

Labour leader accuses prime minister of behaving like an overbearing Tudor by refusing to commit to Commons vote on Brexit deal

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Theresa May of behaving like Henry VIII or a similar autocratic monarch because of her refusal to commit to putting a final Brexit deal to a vote in parliament.

In an interview with the Guardian, the Labour leader insisted that the prime minister could not be allowed to use the royal prerogative to bypass the Commons over the UK’s future relationship with continental Europe.

Earlier this month, May repeatedly refused to commit to a parliamentary voteduring a select committee hearing – prompting Corbyn to conjure up an image of the prime minister acting as if she was an overbearing Tudor.

“It [a final Brexit deal] would have to come to parliament. She cannot hide behind Henry VIII and the divine rights of the power of kings on this one,” he said, pointing out that MEPs in the European parliament would have a vote on the proposed settlement.

“The idea that on something as major as this the prime minister would use the royal prerogative to bypass parliament is extraordinary – I don’t know where she’s coming from.”

Read the rest:

PM Theresa May: Parliament must accept Brexit vote was legitimate

November 6, 2016


Sat Nov 5, 2016 | 8:08pm EDT

Parliament must accept that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union was legitimate and let the government get on with delivering Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday.

May has said she is confident of overturning a British court ruling that the government needs parliamentary approval to start the process of leaving the EU.

The government, which has given little away about its plans for Britain’s future relationship with the EU, has said that having to set out a detailed negotiating strategy to parliament would put it at a disadvantage in talks with the bloc.

“While others seek to tie our negotiating hands, the government will get on with the job of delivering the decision of the British people,” May said in a statement ahead of her first trade trip to India on Sunday.

“It was MPs (members of parliament) who overwhelmingly decided to put the decision in their hands. The result was clear. It was legitimate. MPs and peers who regret the referendum result need to accept what the people decided.”

May will use her first bilateral trade trip since taking office to try to boost ties with India before Britain leaves the EU and to pave the way for a free trade deal as soon as possible once Brexit is completed.

Parliament could in theory block Brexit as most members supported staying in the EU in June’s referendum, although it is unlikely to do so. The ruling could allow lawmakers to temper the government’s approach, however, making a “hard Brexit” – where tight controls on immigration are prioritized over remaining in the European single market – less likely.

A government appeal against the High Court ruling is expected to be considered by Britain’s Supreme Court early next month. May has said she still plans to launch talks on the terms of Brexit by the end of March.

“We need to turn our minds to how we get the best outcome for our country,” she said.

“That means sticking to our plan and timetable, getting on with the work of developing our negotiating strategy and not putting all our cards on the table – that is not in our national interest and it won’t help us get the best deal for Britain.”

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Catherine Evans)


European Council President Donald Tusk Tells PM Theresa May EU Ready To Begin Brexit Talks

September 8, 2016


Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May (L) greets European Council President Donald Tusk in Downing Street in London, Britain September 8, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall
By Elizabeth Piper and Kylie MacLellan | LONDON

Britain should start talks to leave the European Union as soon as possible, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Thursday, adding weight to calls for Prime Minister Theresa May to start the formal divorce procedure.

In London, Tusk met May for their first head-to-head meeting since Britain voted to leave the bloc in a referendum on June 23 which led to the resignation of her predecessor David Cameron. Tusk and May are keen to discuss what steps might be taken over the next few months, officials said.

May has said Britain will not trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty to start the exit procedure this year to give her government time to come up with a negotiating stance for the complicated talks that will shape the country’s future standing.

“Our goal (is) to establish closest possible EU-UK relations. Ball in UK court to start negotiations. In everybody’s best interest to start ASAP (as soon as possible),” Tusk said on Twitter.

As head of the European Council, which groups heads of EU states and governments, Tusk leads the body that defines the bloc’s political direction and priorities.

EU officials are keen to move quickly on the talks, fearing uncertainty over future relations is hurting investment.

But some data suggests that Britain’s economy, while slowing sharply, has recovered from the initial impact of the vote. Reports published on Thursday showed firms increasing the number of permanent staff and house prices rising, albeit from low levels.

Lawmakers who had lobbied for Britain to leave the EU in the run up to the referendum have taken the economic data as proof that the ‘remain’ campaign had tried to frighten voters into staying by forecasting economic difficulties.

One, Liam Fox, who is now trade minister, said Britain was pressing on with plans to reach agreements with some of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies. He told parliament the government had set up a working group with India.

On Wednesday, May’s spokeswoman said the meeting with Tusk would not only cover Britain’s exit, or “Brexit”, but would also discuss issues on the agenda for the October meeting of EU leaders, suggesting that Britain still plans to play a role.

May has said she will not show her hand before starting the Brexit talks, giving few details of what her government wants when it leaves the EU.

She says reducing immigration into Britain is crucial after millions of Britons expressed their frustration in the vote over what they say is the stress on schools, hospitals and housing from high numbers of people settling in the country.

But May, a former interior minister who was in charge of the ruling Conservative Party’s immigration policy, also says she wants the best trade deal for Britain, refusing to say whether the country will remain in the EU’s lucrative single market.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, writing by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Toby Chopra)