Posts Tagged ‘British Prime Minister Theresa May’

No trade talks but May wins gesture, warm words at EU summit

October 20, 2017

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, British Prime Minister Theresa May (C), and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat take part in an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium October 20, 2017. REUTERS/Julien Warnand/Pool

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU leaders shunned Theresa May’s summit plea to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal on Friday but sweetened the pill for the fragile British prime minister with warm words and a gesture toward future talks.

May asked the other 27 over dinner in Brussels on Thursday to help her quell calls in Britain for her to walk out of deadlocked talks on a divorce settlement by giving assurances they expect to get to a deal in the coming weeks. They obliged with some long anticipated language in a formal statement.

But perhaps as important for the Conservative leader, under fire from party rivals over her efforts to ease Britain gently out of the European Union in 2019, were markedly upbeat remarks from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and images, much reproduced in British media, of May engaged in animated, friendly conversation with Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

With talks on the divorce package deadlocked mainly over a refusal by May to detail how much she is willing to pay of the around 60 billion euros ($70 billion) that Brussels is demanding, she said again that a final figure would depend on what future relationship is negotiated — and urged the EU to move ahead and open talks on a post-Brexit free trade pact.

EU diplomats said some leaders present at the dinner understood that May had gone somewhat further than she did in a keynote speech last month in Florence, while others believed she had stuck to an insistence that the EU’s financial demands had “no legal framework” but that London would make a contribution.


Asked at a news conference whether she had improved her offer, which officials calculate as representing about 20 billion euros, May said she had repeated what she said in Italy — namely that the other 27 countries would not lose out in the current EU budget plan and Britain would “honour its commitments”. EU officials say she won’t say what those are.

She told reporters on Friday that she was “positive and optimistic” about getting a deal that would benefit both sides but added: “We still have some way to go.”

Merkel told a late-night news conference after the dinner: “In contrast to how it is portrayed in the British press, my impression is that these talks are moving forward step by step”.

The German chancellor said suggestions in Britain that talks should be broken off were “absurd”.

“I have absolutely no doubts that if we are all focused … that we can get a good result,” she said. “From my side there are no indications at all that we won’t succeed.”

After May left on Friday morning, the other 27 took less than two minutes to endorse a prepared statement that Britain had failed to make “sufficient progress” on offers to settle three key issues on a withdrawal treaty — namely rights for EU citizens in Britain, the new Irish border and the “Brexit bill”.

However, the leaders held open the hope of reaching a deal at the next regular summit in December. And in a move that could save weeks of delay, they ordered EU negotiators to start preparing for what Brussels will want in a transition period.

But they still want the money. The text read: “The European Union … notes that, while the UK has stated that it will honour its financial obligations taken during its membership, this has not yet been translated into a firm and concrete commitment from the UK to settle all of these obligations.”

Like Merkel, other leaders emphasised the positive too: Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called May’s speech her “best performance yet” and “a warm, candid and sincere appeal”. Ireland’s Leo Varadkar said it was “very strong”.

But others complained they had heard little new of substance and rejected May’s repetition of London’s view that demands for money from Brussels have “no legal framework”. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said “rhetorical progress” needed to be followed by “tangible conclusions”.

Analyst Mujtaba Rahman at Eurasia Group said: “The next eight weeks will be the most challenging for … Theresa May and the most consequential for Brexit.”

“May’s premiership will face maximum danger at the point her government concedes more ground on money, and prepares to better define the end-state agreement the UK will seek.”

Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Jan Strupczewski and Alastair Macdonald; Writing by Alastair Macdonald, editing by Elizabeth Piper


World leaders react to Donald Trump’s speech on Iran

October 14, 2017
October 13, 2017
Al Jazeera
A man walks past an anti-US mural in Iran's capital, Tehran [Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via Reuters]
A man walks past an anti-US mural in Iran’s capital, Tehran [Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via Reuters]

World leaders were quick to react to US President Donald Trump’s decision to “decertify” an international deal on Iran’s nuclear programme.

The 2015 deal, reached between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union (EU), saw Tehran curtailing its nuclear programme in exchange for the easing of crippling economic sanctions.

In a White House address on Friday, Trump struck a blow against the accord in defiance of other world powers, and despite the UN nuclear watchdog’s repeated confirmations that Iran was complying with its obligations under 2015’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Trump’s move does not amount to a withdrawal from the deal, but instead pushes action to US Congress, which could reimpose sanctions that were lifted under the pact.

He threatened, however, that if a deal could not be reached with Congress or US allies, he would walk away from the accord.

Trump’s speech put him at odds with US allies in Europe, as well as Iran and Russia, with leaders saying they would stick by the landmark pact.

“We encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement,” French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a joint statement.

In Brussels, Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chiefsaid the Iran deal is an international agreement and “it is not up to any single country to terminate it”.

She added: “It is not a bilateral agreement, it does not belong to any single country … The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one.”

In a statement after Trump’s speech, Russia’s foreign ministry said there was no place in international diplomacy for “threatening” and “aggressive” rhetoric, adding that such methods were doomed to fail.

“It is a hangover from the past, which does not correspond to modern norms of civilised dealings between countries,” the statement said.

“We viewed with regret the decision of the U.S. President not to confirm to Congress that Iran is fulfilling in good faith” the nuclear deal, it added.

The ministry said Trump’s decision to de-certify the deal would not have a direct impact on implementation of the agreement but that it ran counter to its spirit.

OPINION: What Trump’s decision on Iran will mean for the world

For his part, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hit back at Trump’s new strategy on Iran.

“What was heard today was nothing but the repetition of baseless accusations and swear words that they have repeated for years,” Rouhani said in a televised address from Tehran.

“The Iranian nation does not expect anything else from you,” he added.

Rouhani said that despite the US president’s aggressive rhetoric, Tehran remained committed to the nuclear agreement for the time being.

“We respect the JCPOA … so long as it remains in keeping with our national rights and interests,” he said.

‘Most robust nuclear verification regime’

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “very much hopes” the nuclear deal with Iran can be salvaged, his spokesman said.

Stephane Dujarric said Guterres considers the deal to be a “very important breakthrough to consolidate nuclear non-proliferation and advance global peace and security”.

“The secretary-general very much hopes that it will remain in place,” Dujarric added.

Also reacting to Trump’s speech, Yukiya Amano, chief of the UN atomic watchdog, reiterated that Iran was under the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime”.

“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,” said Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In Washington, DC, Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, called Trump’s move “a grave mistake” that threatens the country’s security and credibility.

Pelosi said Trump ignored “the overwhelming consensus of nuclear scientists, national security experts, generals and his own cabinet, including, reportedly, his secretary of defense and secretary of state”.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told a Senate committee last week that it is in the US’ national security interests to stay a part of the international accord.

Pelosi said Washington’s allies in Europe have no intention of leaving the seven-nation pact, adding that if Trump’s judgment leads to an unraveling of the deal, it will be the US that’s isolated, not Iran.

Israel, Saudi Arabia praise Trump

Trump, however, got support from Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“President Trump has just created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement.

Saudi Arabia also welcomed what it called Trump’s “decisive strategy” towards Iran and alleged lifting sanctions had allowed Tehran to develop its ballistic missile programme, step up its support for groups including Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen, and attack global shipping lanes.

The Riyadh government said in a statement it had supported the nuclear agreement, “but Iran took advantage of the economic gain from raising sanctions and used it to continue destabilising the region”.

It said it would continue to work with allies to achieve the goals announced by Trump and end Iran’s “hostile activities”.


UK’s May signals foreign minister Boris Johnson could be sacked — “Are we really going to be stampeded myopically over the edge of the gorge, with an election that no one wants?”

October 9, 2017


British PM May vows to stay as party plotters attempt to topple her

October 6, 2017

By Guy FaulconbridgeAlistair Smout


LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday she would stay on as leader to provide stability after a former chairman of her Conservative Party said he had garnered the support of 30 lawmakers who wanted her to quit.

May is trying to face down a rebellion by some of her own lawmakers just as Britain enters a crucial stage in Brexit talks, 18 months before the country leaves the European Union and must redefine its place in the world.

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Theresa May. Credit PA Wire – PA Images

Some Conservative plotters say her authority is shattered beyond repair after a disastrous speech at her party’s conference, which comes after she called a snap election and lost her party its majority in parliament.

Speaking from her parliamentary constituency of Maidenhead in southern England, May said in a televised statement: “What the country needs is calm leadership and that’s what I‘m providing with the full support of my cabinet.”

Senior ministers rallied around May, who has just over a year to agree a divorce deal with the EU ahead of Britain’s exit in March 2019. May said she planned to hold a scheduled meeting about Brexit with business leaders on Monday in Downing Street.

But former party chairman Grant Shapps told BBC radio: “I think she should call a leadership election.”

After May’s bungled election, her failure to unite the cabinet and a poor party conference “the writing is on the wall,” he said.

May’s authority was already diminished by her decision to call a snap election in June that lost her party its majority in parliament days before Brexit talks opened.

Though no Conservative ministers have publicly indicated any support for the plot, such a blunt demand for May to quit indicates the extent of her weakness while she attempts to navigate the intricacies of the negotiations to leave the EU.

Her survival has so far been dependent on the absence of an obvious successor who could unite the party and the fear of an election that many Conservatives think would let opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn into power.

Sterling fell earlier in the day but then rallied by around a quarter of a cent against the U.S. dollar following May’s remarks.


May’s speech to activists on Wednesday was ruined by coughing fits, a comedian handing her a bogus employment termination notice and by letters falling off the slogans on the set behind her.

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble

She had hoped to use the speech to her party in the northern English city of Manchester to revive her premiership.

“Look, I’ve had a cold all this week,” May said, adding that she would be updating lawmakers next week on her Brexit plans and introducing a draft bill to cap domestic energy prices.

Shapps, who chaired the party between 2012 and 2015, said the plot to remove her existed before this week’s party conference and included both supporters and opponents of Brexit. He said the group did not have a unified view on who should replace May.

To trigger a formal leadership challenge, 48 Conservative lawmakers need to write to the chairman of the party’s so-called 1922 committee.

“Number 10 must be delighted to learn that it’s Grant Shapps leading this alleged coup,” Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the 1922 committee, told BBC radio.

“Grant has many talents, but one thing he doesn’t have is a following in the party, so really I think this is now just going to fizzle out to be perfectly honest.”

If May stays, talks on leaving the European Union will be guided by one of the weakest leaders in recent British history. EU diplomats and officials expressed astonishment about the uncertainty in London.


Supporters, including her most senior ministers, said she should remain in charge to deliver Brexit.

Under the headline ‘Theresa May will stay as Prime Minister and get the job done,’ interior minister Amber Rudd wrote in The Telegraph newspaper that “she should stay”. May’s de facto deputy Damian Green said she would carry on. Environment Secretary Michael Gove also said he hoped she would continue.

“I know that she is as determined as ever to get on with the job, she sees it as her duty to do so and she will carry on and she will make a success of this government,” Green, the first secretary of state, told BBC television.

Many Conservative activists fear a leadership contest would exacerbate the divide in the party over Europe, an issue that helped sink the previous three Conservative prime ministers – David Cameron, John Major and Margaret Thatcher.

A leadership contest could also pave the way for an election that some Conservatives worry could be won by Corbyn, whom they cast as a Marxist who would reverse decades of free market policies.

“The Conservatives have no plan for Britain and their posturing will not deliver the change our country is crying out for,” Corbyn said on Friday.

Additional reporting by Costas Pitas, David Milliken, Polina Ivanova, Michael Holden and William Schomberg; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Janet Lawrence


Conservative plot to oust British PM: former party chairman

October 6, 2017


© AFP/File / by Dario THUBURN | Calls on Theresa May to resign are gaining momentum
LONDON (AFP) – A plot by around 30 Conservative MPs including former cabinet ministers to call on British Prime Minister Theresa May to resign is gathering momentum, a former party chairman said on Friday.Grant Shapps, identified as the ringleader of the effort to oust May amid her faltering performance at the party’s conference this week and continued cabinet infighting over Brexit, publicly urged her to resign in several interviews.

Senior party figures contradicted Shapps, however, with Environment Secretary Michael Gove pointing out that the “overwhelming majority” of Conservative MPs, including the “entirety” of the cabinet, still backs May.

“A growing number of my colleagues, we realise that the solution isn’t to bury our heads in the sand and just hope things will get better,” Shapps told BBC radio after details of his plot were leaked to British media.

“It will have to be her decision. I had rather hoped that we would be able to get to the point where we could go to her privately and have this conservation,” said Shapps, a former minister.

He added there was increasing support among a “broad spread” of Conservative MPs for a leadership contest in the first open declaration of an organised effort to oust May since her poor performance in a June general election.

Her leadership has also been strained in recent weeks by Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, who publicly undermined efforts to present a united front over Brexit with several newspaper columns and interviews setting out his own stance on the issue.

– Brexit strategy divisions –

Speculation around May’s position then intensified in recent days after a chaotic address to the Conservative party’s autumn conference on Wednesday marred by coughing fits, a falling set and a prankster’s interruptions.

Under the party’s rules, a leadership race can be triggered if at least 48 MPs express their support.

But leading figures in the Conservative party disagreed with Shapps.

“I really think this is now just going to fizzle out,” said Charles Walker, deputy head of the party’s powerful 1922 Committee, which would initiate any leadership contest.

A former interior minister, May came to power last year after her predecessor David Cameron stepped down in the wake of the Brexit referendum in which he had campaigned for Britain to stay in the European Union.

Her position has been badly weakened in this year’s general election in which she ended up losing her parliamentary majority and her cabinet has been riven with divisions over Brexit strategy in recent weeks.

by Dario THUBURN

Prepare for ‘very hard Brexit’: German industry group — Blames infighting in London

October 5, 2017


© AFP/File | The European Parliament recently said Brexit talks had not made enough progress to begin trade negotiations

FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) – The head of Germany’s powerful BDI industry federation warned companies Thursday to prepare for a “very hard Brexit”, pointing to persistent infighting in London over what Britain wants from EU exit talks.

“German firms must prepare for the worst-case scenario of a very hard exit, anything else would be naive,” BDI chief Joachim Lang said in a statement.

Britain’s governing Conservative party is “at odds” with itself on Brexit strategy, leaving the outcome “completely open” in London-Brussels talks set to end in March 2019, the statement said.

“Whatever kind of Brexit there is, it will bring a significant number of legal, economic and business problems with it,” Lang said.

The industry federation is making its own preparations, with a taskforce split into 10 teams hoping to head off “potential and acute dangers” for future trade between the two countries, he said.

Germany exported 116 billion euros ($136.2 billion) of goods and services to Britain in 2016, and imported some 60 billion euros from there, according to figures published by the country’s central bank, the Bundesbank.

And German companies are well-represented in Britain, employing around 400,000 people in the island nation.

Carmakers and other industries have warned that new barriers to trade — from customs levies to regulatory differences — could disrupt EU-spanning supply chains that see goods and components cross national borders multiple times before reaching buyers.

Lang’s comments come as Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed her government was preparing for “every eventuality”, including not reaching a deal by the 2019 deadline, in a gaffe-ridden party conference speech Wednesday.

The threat of walking away without agreement has been echoed by other ministers in her cabinet.

And the prime minister’s own position is shaky after a disastrous snap election which left her Conservatives without an overall majority in parliament and foreign minister and Brexit hard-liner Boris Johnson snapping at her heels.

Amid the power games in London, Brexit talks have only inched forward in Brussels.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier told European Parliament lawmakers Tuesday that negotiators had so far failed to achieve “sufficient progress” for leaders to authorise moving on to the post-2019 relationship.


UK papers count cost of May’s ‘speech shambles’

October 5, 2017


© AFP | May was interrupted by a comedian handing her a notice of unemployment.

LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May’s “excruciating” conference speech dominated Thursday’s newspapers, which had sympathy for her bad luck but bleak warnings about what the string of misfortunes signalled for her leadership.

“May on final warning after speech shambles — Tory dismay as PM falls victim to prank, coughing fits and faulty set,” said the Times headline.

May was hoping to use the Conservative Party conference speech to reassert her authority following a dismal election showing, but was interrupted by a comedian handing her a notice of unemployment before succumbing to a persistent cough in front of a collapsing set.

“A leader’s conference speech should be an affirmation of purpose and authority,” said the centre-right paper’s editorial.

“Theresa May projected little of either in Manchester. She united the Conservatives in sympathy when what she needed was authority. She must soldier on, on borrowed time.”

Popular tabloid The Sun carried a front-page picture of the sign behind May, which fell apart as she spoke, above the headline “PM’s nightmare as sign collapses.”

“No one can fault Theresa May’s courage,” said the paper.

“It was impossible not to admire her for ploughing on gamely. What worries is us the lack of ambition in what she said. The Tories need a truly game-changing idea, depressingly, Mrs May hasn’t found it yet”.

May made light of her coughing attack, tweeting a picture of a range of cold remedies underneath the caption *cough*.

The Daily Mail, usually supportive of May, carried a double page spread of photographs documenting the disaster, under the headline “every cough and spit of that nightmare speech”.

Even the left-wing Guardian had some sympathy, calling it “an excruciating public agony” in its editorial.

“The prime minister handled that shock (stage invader) with aplomb, but her ensuing coughing fits and losses of voice, surely triggered by the interruption, threatened to make the speech almost impossible to watch or listen to.

“It is almost inevitable that the distractions will unfairly damage Mrs May, reinforcing her vulnerability and her image as an accident-prone loser,” it added.

The centre-right Daily Telegraph headline read “Luckless May centre stage in tragic farce”.

The paper carried a front-page piece from its parliamentary sketchwriter, which said: “Weeks, months, even years from now, perhaps for the rest of my life, I will still be jolting awake in the night: heart pounding, pyjamas soaked in sweat, and lungs gasping frantically for breath, as I relive, in agonising slow-motion, the full screaming nightmare of that speech.”

Conservative conference 2017: Theresa May interrupted by man trying to give her P45 — Her voice sabotaged the rest of the speech

October 4, 2017

The Guardian

Play Video
 Man interrupts Theresa May’s speech to hand her P45 – video

British PM May’s voice repeatedly fails in keynote speech

October 4, 2017
Theresa May cough
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May coughs as she addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May struggled to deliver her keynote speech to the Conservative Party’s annual conference on Wednesday, repeatedly coughing and losing her voice.

With the party members applauding to keep May going, she had to stop on several occasions to drink water and take a cough sweet which she said came from Chancellor Philip Hammond.

“Shows what good the chancellor’s cough sweet is,” she said, as she continued to attempt to give her speech.

Earlier in the speech she was heckled by a protester who held up a P45 paper in front of her, a document handed out to employees leaving a job.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Reporting by Kate Holton and William James; editing by Guy Faulconbridge


Full Text of Theresa May’s Speech, October 4, 2017

Theresa May Confident of Winning Brexit Deal That Works for Britain, EU

October 4, 2017

MANCHESTER, England — British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday she understood that some are finding the Brexit talks frustrating but that she was confident of getting a deal that will work for both Britain and the European Union.

According to the text of her closing speech at the Conservative Party annual conference, she told members that the government was planning for every eventuality in the Brexit talks and said EU citizens living in Britain were welcome.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison)