Posts Tagged ‘British Prime Minister Theresa May’

Theresa May shakes up government in crunch year for Brexit

January 8, 2018



© AFP / by Alice RITCHIE | British Prime Minister Theresa May is reshuffling her cabinet, a move sparked by the sacking of her deputy last month

LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May began a major shake-up of her ministers on Monday as she seeks to give fresh impetus to her government in a crucial year for the Brexit negotiations.The most senior foreign, finance and Brexit ministers were expected to keep their jobs, but many others were expected to move in a reshuffle sparked by the sacking of May’s deputy last month.

Damian Green was the third minister to leave the cabinet in a space of weeks, after the defence secretary and international development minister both quit — all three following separate scandals.

“The prime minister has started a refresh of her ministerial team,” said the official Downing Street Twitter feed.

The chairman of May’s Conservative party, Patrick McLoughlin, was the first to go, telling Sky News that his time in government had been a “great privilege”.

In a chaotic start, a new chairman was announced on Twitter — only for the tweet to be almost immediately deleted. A different minister, Brandon Lewis, was then confirmed to the role.

McLoughlin had been widely tipped for the sack after last summer’s disastrous snap election, in which the Tories lost their parliamentary majority.

He also drew fire after a protester interrupted May’s speech to the party conference in October — an address that was also marred by a coughing fit and a collapsing set.

It was one of several low points in a tough year for the prime minister, who took over the helm of a divided government and country in July 2016 after the EU referendum.

The cabinet reshuffle is being viewed as a chance at a fresh start, although it also brings risks of upsetting the delicate balance of eurosceptic and pro-European ministers.

May was reportedly set to create a new “no-deal” cabinet post with responsibility to prepare for a possible break-down in the talks with the European Union.

Britain is due to leave the bloc in March 2019, and although it has reached agreement on the key separation issues, the toughest talks on the future relationship have yet to begin.

Ahead of the reshuffle announcement, Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire revealed he was stepping down for health reasons.

He has failed to bring together feuding political parties in the British province, where the devolved government collapsed almost exactly one year ago.

– Brexit talks loom –

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit supporter, is expected to keep his job despite challenging the prime minister’s strategy last year.

Brexit minister David Davis is also like to remain, along with Finance Minister Philip Hammond and International Trade Minister Liam Fox.

After starting the two-year Brexit process in March last year, Britain struck a deal on the financial settlement, expatriate rights and the Irish border in December.

Negotiations on a transition deal to ease the break begin this month, while talks on a post-Brexit trade agreement between Britain and the EU are set to start in March.

However, many of May’s ministers disagree on the shape of the future relationship, and she has yet to make public what she wants beyond a “deep and special partnership”.

Monday’s reshuffle was sparked by the need to replace Green, a close ally of the prime minister who was forced to quit last month over a pornography scandal.

“Damian Green’s departure before Christmas means that some changes do have to be made, and I will be making some changes,” May told the BBC on Sunday.

Reports suggest she will seek to bring a wider range of talent into the cabinet, including more women and ethnic minorities, and some younger rising stars.

May has said she intends to stay in office “as long as people want me to serve”, but last year saw numerous reports of plots to oust her — and many ministers will have their eye on a future leadership challenge.

by Alice RITCHIE

UK PM Theresa May Says Trump Committed To Best Intersts of the United States

January 7, 2018

 JANUARY 7, 2018 12:15

LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she believed US President Trump was committed to the best interests of the United States, when asked about an author’s accusations that he is mentally unfit for office.

“When I deal with President Trump, what I see is somebody who is committed to ensuring that he is taking decisions in the best interests of the United States,” she told the BBC.

Trump has rejected accusations made by author Michael Wolff, who was granted unusually wide access to the White House during much of Trump’s first year, saying his business career and election victory showed he was “a very stable genius.”

Trump would be visiting Britain, as planned, May added without giving any new details of his trip.

EU’s Donald Tusk on Brexit: “Let us remember that the most difficult challenge is still ahead.”

December 8, 2017


© AFP | British Prime Minister Theresa May was welcomed by European Council President Donald Tusk at the European Council in Brussels, as the EU reached a deal on the terms of Brexit

BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU President Donald Tusk warned that talks on a post-Brexit trade deal and transition period would be even more difficult than a hard-won agreement on divorce terms that was sealed on Friday.”Let us remember that the most difficult challenge is still ahead. We all know that breaking up is hard but breaking up and building a new relation is much harder,” Tusk said.

Issuing guidelines for the talks ahead, Tusk said Britain will have to follow all EU laws, including new ones, during the two-year transition period London has requested to reassure businesses.

He said it must also respect budgetary commitments and judicial oversight during a transition in which the remaining 27 European Union member countries continue to meet and make decisions without Britain.

In a sign of the challenges ahead, the former Polish premier said: “We need more clarity on how the UK sees our future relation after it has left the single market.”

He warned that time was of the essence before Britain’s scheduled withdrawal from the bloc on 29 March 2019.

“So much time has been devoted to the easiest part of the task. Now to negotiate a transitional arrangement and the framework for our future relationship we have de facto less than a year,” he said.

The first phase of negotiations began 29 June, about a year after Britain’s shock vote to leave the bloc, and finally wrapped up when British Prime Minister Theresa May rushed to Brussels early Friday.

The European Commission, the EU executive, said it “recommends sufficient progress” had been made by Britain on separation issues including the Irish border, Britain’s divorce bill, and citizens rights.

The agreement paves the way for EU leaders at a summit on December 14-15 to open the second phase of Brexit negotiations, covering trade talks and a transition period.

Britain voted in June 2016 to become the first state to leave the EU, after more than four decades of membership, but the talks have been slow moving and often acrimonious so far.

UK PM Theresa May Will Talk To Donald Trump on Jerusalem Issue

December 6, 2017
DECEMBER 6, 2017 14:45 Jerusalem Time
Related image

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she intended to speak to US President Donald Trump about the status of Jerusalem, which she said should be determined as part of a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

May said the ancient city should ultimately be shared between Israel and a future Palestinian state. She said there should be a sovereign and viable Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.

“I’m intending to speak to President Trump about this matter,” May said. “The status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” “Jerusalem should ultimately form a shared capital between the Israeli and Palestinian states,” May said.

British PM May faces calls to soften Brexit after DUP blocks deal and deadline looms

December 5, 2017


© Tolga Akmen, AFP | Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds (C) speaks to journalists outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on December 5, 2017, as demonstrators wave a Union (L) and European Union (EU) flags behind.


Latest update : 2017-12-05

Just hours after a Brexit deal crumbled, British Prime Minister Theresa May came under pressure on Tuesday from opposition parties and even some allies to soften the EU divorce by keeping Britain in the single market and customs union after Brexit.

May’s ministers said they were confident they would soon secure an exit deal, though opponents scolded May for a chaotic day in Brussels which saw a choreographed attempt to showcase the progress of Brexit talks collapse at the last minute.

The Northern Irish party that props up May’s minority government said it was only shown the draft of a deal promising regulatory alignment for both parts of Ireland late on Monday morning and that it had told the government that it was unacceptable.

But the opposition Labour Party said one way for alignment of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland to be acceptable was for the whole of the United Kingdom to stay in the single market and the customs union.

“What an embarrassment – the last 24 hours have given a new meaning to the phrase ‘coalition of chaos,’” Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer told parliament. “Yesterday, the rubber hit the road: Fantasy met brutal reality.”

“Will the Prime Minister now rethink her reckless red lines and put options such as a customs union and single market back on the table for negotiation?” Starmer asked.

Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of Scotland’s devolved government, said May’s failure could signal a push to keep Britain in the single market and customs union.

“This could be the moment for opposition and soft Brexit/remain Tories to force a different, less damaging approach – keep the UK in the single market and customs union,” Sturgeon said on Twitter. “But it needs Labour to get its act together. How about it @jeremycorbyn?”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who has been tipped as a potential future leader of May’s party, also suggested May should consider keeping the United Kingdom in both the single market and customs union.

May has repeatedly said Britain will leave both the single market and the customs union when the United Kingdom ends its membership of the EU at 2300 GMT on March 29, 2019, though she has called for a bespoke economic partnership.

Brexit minister David Davis said voters had chosen to leave the EU and that included both the single market and the customs union.

Davis said the government would never allow one part of the United Kingdom to remain in the single market after Brexit though he did allow that regulatory alignment for Northern Ireland could apply to the whole of the United Kingdom.

Sterling rebounded from a six-day low against the euro on Tuesday to trade flat on the day, with investors cautiously optimistic that a deal on opening up talks on post-Brexit trade would be reached by the end of the week.

DUP tail wagging the dog?

May, who is now scrambling to thrash out a deal with the EU while keeping the DUP and her own party onside, may return to Brussels as early as Wednesday to continue talks, a Downing Street official said.

“We’re very confident that we will be able to move this forward,” finance minister Philip Hammond said as he arrived for a meeting with EU counterparts in Brussels.

A European Commission spokesman said it was ready to resume Brexit negotiations as soon as London signals it is ready.

But the EU will only move to trade talks if there is enough progress on three key issues: the money Britain must pay to the EU; rights for EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in the EU; and how to avoid a hard border with Ireland.

All sides say they want to avoid a return to a hard border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, which might upset the peace established after decades of violence.

“We will not allow any settlement to be agreed which causes the divergence politically or economically of Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom,” Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said.

Dodds said the party would work for as long as needed to get the Brexit deal right but accused Dublin of acting in a reckless and dangerous way that was putting years of Anglo-Irish cooperation in danger.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the ball was in London’s court now while Labour’s Starmer said the DUP tail was now “wagging the Tory dog”.

“As things stand, the ball is very much in London’s court. There is time to put this agreement back on track and we await to hear from London as soon as they’re ready,” Varadkar told parliament.



Brexit chaos: DUP says it only saw proposed Irish border deal ‘late yesterday morning’ — Westminster blamed the Irish Government and European Union

December 5, 2017

The Telegraph

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds and fellow Westminster DUP MPs speaking in Victoria Gardens, central London CREDIT: JONATHAN BRADY/PA 


The DUP was shown the proposed Irish border deal “late yesterday morning” and on “immediate receipt” of it found it to be “clearly unacceptable”, Nigel Dodds has revealed.

The party’s leader in Westminster blamed the Irish Government and European Union for the delay in seeing plans the party later rejected, because they would have shifted Northern Ireland’s customs border to the Irish…

Read the rest (Paywall):


Weakened May scrambles to shore up Irish Brexit deal

December 5, 2017


© AFP / by Alice RITCHIE | British Prime Minister Theresa May is scrambling to salvage an agreement on the status of the Irish border after Brexit

LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May scrambled Tuesday to salvage a deal over the post-Brexit border in Ireland after it was rejected by her DUP allies, exposing the weakness of her position in EU negotiations.May was expected to hold talks with Northern Ireland’s small Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which keeps her Conservative minority government in office, after it blocked agreement on a major issue holding up Brexit talks.

Sources said Britain had agreed to keep EU trade rules for British-controlled Northern Ireland, even if the country as a whole withdrew from the European single market and customs union.

This followed a demand from Dublin for guarantees that Brexit would not lead to the return of frontier checks, amid fears of inflaming sectarian tensions in a region plagued by violence in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

But as May sought to close the deal over lunch with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Monday, the DUP made clear that any special deal for Northern Ireland was unacceptable.

“As I understand it, the DUP were spoken to about the proposal but the precise wording it seems was not made clear,” former British Brexit minister David Jones told BBC radio on Tuesday morning.

“Clearly the prime minister has got a lot of talking to do with (DUP leader) Arlene Foster today.”

Ireland said it would not change the text agreed with the EU and London, but European affairs minister Helen McEntee told the state broadcaster RTE that “further clarification was needed”.

May met her cabinet on Tuesday morning, and British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said the government was still “very confident” of reaching a deal.

He said that May would return to Brussels later this week for fresh talks.

The frenzied diplomacy caused the pound, which had rallied on Monday on hopes of a deal, to fall on the currency markets against the euro and the dollar.

– Special deal for ‘entire UK’ –

May’s domestic critics seized on her failure to secure a deal on Ireland, one of three issues on which she must make progress if EU leaders are to agree to open trade talks with Britain at a summit next week.

“Each passing day provides further evidence that Theresa May’s government is completely ill-equipped to negotiate a successful deal for our country,” said main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

A deal on Britain’s financial settlement is largely agreed, although differences remain on the role of the European Court of Justice in securing the rights of EU citizens in Britain after Brexit, UK officials say.

However, failure to reach a deal on Ireland could hold up the entire process — and if trade talks cannot start later this month, it makes it much harder for Britain to secure a trade deal before it leaves the EU in March 2019.

May cannot just ignore the DUP. She needs their 10 MPs to pass legislation through the House of Commons, after her Conservatives lost their majority in a June snap election.

“The fact that they managed to stall the negotiations yesterday I think demonstrates the precise strength of their position,” Jones said.

Some Conservative MPs are also threatening trouble over a proposal that would effectively move the trade border from Ireland into the Irish Sea, jeopardising the territorial integrity of Britain.

“The government doesn’t have a majority for that,” leading Brexit supporter Jacob Rees-Mogg said.

One unnamed senior MP told The Times that if May went too far, “then we and the DUP will withdraw support and there could be a leadership change this side of Christmas”.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also weighed in on Tuesday, warning that while nobody wanted a hard border in Ireland, “jeopardising the UK’s own internal market is in no-one’s interest”.

The leaders of Scotland, Wales and London have said they would seek special status for their own regions if it were granted to Northern Ireland.

Davidson, who opposed Brexit, went further, saying: “If regulatory alignment in a number of specific areas is the requirement for a frictionless border, then the prime minister should conclude this must be on a UK-wide basis.”

by Alice RITCHIE

No breakthrough in Brexit talks, says EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker — Sadiq Khan says London could stay in single market 

December 4, 2017

The head of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, signaled a failure in reaching a . But the UK’s premier Theresa May said she is “confident” that a fair deal will be reached.

Belgien Brexit-Verhandlungen (picture-alliance/AP Photo/V. Mayo)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Monday that negotiations on the UK’s departure from the EU have failed to reach a breakthrough amid a looming two-year deadline.

“Despite our best efforts and the significant process we and our teams have made in the past days on the remaining withdrawal issues, it was not possible to reach a complete agreement today,” Juncker said during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Read more: Brexit: What’s the ‘no deal’ fallout for the UK and EU?

The British premier told reporters that while there was no deal yet, she is optimistic at the chances of finalizing an accord to prevent what analysts have called a “hard Brexit,” or the UK’s divorce from the EU without an agreement on relations.

“As President Juncker has said, we have had a constructive meeting today. Both sides have been working hard in good faith, we’re been negotiating hard,” May told reporters. “We will reconvene before the end of the week and I am also confident that we will conclude this positively.”

Deal in the making?

Juncker backed May’s statement, saying he could also see a deal on the horizon, adding that it could take place even before a summit of EU member states slated for mid-December.

In June 2016, British citizens narrowly voted in favor of the UK leaving the 28-nation bloc, prompting a wider political debate in European capitals on the EU’s future.

Juncker’s remarks come after what appeared to be a deal on the border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which forms part of the UK.

The Irish question

However, officials from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland effectively torpedoed rumors of a deal, saying they would not accept different terms post-Brexit.

“We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom,” said DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Read more: Northern Ireland’s fragile peace ‘all about the border’

The DUP forms a crucial part in May’s government. If it chooses to withdraw from a coalition government with the premier’s Conservatives, it would place turn May’s government into a minority one.

The Irish border remains one of the biggest issues for Brexit negotiators on both sides of the divorce, along with the rights of EU citizens in the UK and trade relations. Scotland and London, both which voted against Brexit, have called for special status that would allow them to remain in the EU’s single market, similar to proposals offered on Northern Ireland.


The Telegraph

There has been no agreement on the Brexit “divorce deal” in talks in  Brussels after a proposed solution for the Irish border met fierce resistance from the Democratic Unionist Party.

Theresa May said she was “confident that we will conclude this positively”, although some differences remain.

The Prime Minister and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker both expressed confidence that sufficient progress will have been made in time for trade talks to get the green light next week.

It comes amid reports that Britain has conceded there…

Read the rest:

EU leader optimistic of breakthrough in Brexit talks

December 4, 2017

The Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union chief Donald Tusk said Monday he was “encouraged” by last-minute progress in divorce talks with Britain, saying that the sides were within reach of a breakthrough that would clear the way to start discussing future trade relations.

The comments came as British Prime Minister Theresa May made a diplomatic push in Brussels, where she was meeting with top European Union officials in an effort to break an impasse, especially in the thorny issue of the Irish border.

May met with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and will later speak with EU Council President Tusk amid hopes of progress on the divorce issues: Britain’s exit bill, the Irish border and the rights of citizens. Only then will the EU agree to move on discuss future relations, including trade.

Tusk said a breakthrough had come in the talks on the Irish border, as reported to him by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

“Tell me why I like Mondays!” Tusk wrote in an optimistic Twitter message after his phone call with Dublin. “Getting closer to sufficient progress,” he said. “Sufficient progress” is short for what the EU wants to see on the divorce issues before trying to get a new trade deal ahead of Britain’s official departure on March 29, 2019.

The 27 other EU leaders will decide at a summit on Dec. 14-15 whether those preconditions have been met.

The breakthrough under discussion would allow for the border between the EU’s Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland to remain transparent for trade. Both sides would promise to keep the trading rules compatible.

“Basically the British government would commit to maintain the full alignment of legislation where pertinent,” said Belgian member of the European Parliament Philippe Lamberts.

Lamberts said he was “optimistic that the European (summit) can now agree to move discussion on to the UK’s future relationship.”

“It seems the British government is now coming to terms with reality,” he said.

May’s government has long said there will be no “hard border” with Ireland once Britain leaves the EU’s tariff-less single market and the customs union, a looser trading bloc that includes non-EU states like Turkey. Ireland and other EU countries are insisting the U.K. provide details of how customs checkpoints and other border obstacles can be avoided.

One solution would be to allow Northern Ireland to stay in the customs union when the rest of the U.K. leaves. But that would be unacceptable for Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party — upon which May’s minority government relies on to stay in power.

Diplomats have been negotiating relentlessly over the past days to meet an EU-imposed deadline of Monday to find “sufficient progress” on the divorce issues.

The European Parliament’s chief Brexit official said it was “50/50 to have something.” Guy Verhofstadt added that a financial settlement on the divorce was as good as done — “it seems, yes” — while the talks on citizens’ rights and Ireland’s border still had outstanding issues to solve.

Yet Monday was still fraught with difficulties. Juncker first met with Brexit experts from the European Parliament, which will eventually have to endorse any departure deal.

And Verhofstadt warned that unless all issues are solved “there will be no green light in October 2018.” A decision on any new deals with Britain would have to be reached by the fall of next year to give individual member states enough time to approve all the measures in their parliaments before the final date on March 2019.


Jill Lawless contributed from London

EU’s Tusk cancels Mideast trip due to Brexit crunch

December 4, 2017

President of the European Council Donald Tusk arrives at a press conference at Government buildings in Dublin, Ireland, Dec. 1, 2017. (Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne)

BRUSSELS: European Council President Donald Tusk canceled a trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories planned for this week due to a “critical moment” in Brexit negotiations, an EU official said on Monday.

Tusk, who scheduled a meeting in Brussels at short notice on Monday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, will chair an EU summit next week that London hopes will give the go-ahead to opening talks on post-Brexit trade relations.
On Wednesday, Tusk had been due to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.