Posts Tagged ‘British Prime Minister Theresa May’

US believes Russia is ‘responsible’ for UK spy poisoning

March 15, 2018

The United States has told the UN Security Council that Moscow was behind a nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England. Russia vehemently denies it was involved.

Nikki Haley

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday that Washington believes Russia is to blame for the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter on March 4 in southern England.

“The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom, using a military-grade nerve agent,” Haley said in New York.

Former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are in critical condition in the hospital after being poisoned in Salisbury with what British authorities have identified as the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

Read moreSergei Skripal case adds to West’s ‘massive trust deficit’ against Russia

US President Donald Trump had pledged support to Britain and urged Russia to cooperate, but he did not suggest Russian culpability in the attempted murders.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN reiterated Moscow’s denial of any involvement in the attack. “Russia had nothing to do with this incident,” Vassily Nebenzia said. “We have nothing to fear, nothing to hide.”

Nebenzia said British Prime Minister Theresa May was creating a “hysterical atmosphere” when she said it was “highly likely” Russia was behind the attack and demanded information from Moscow about how a Cold War nerve agent was used in England.

“We do not speak the language of ultimatums,” Nebenzia said. He called on Britain to hand over samples of the nerve agent for analysis, and provide “material proof” of “the allegedly found Russian trace.”

‘No alternative conclusion’

During Wednesday’s emergency meeting, Haley called on the UN to hold permanent council member Russia accountable.

“It must account for its actions,” she said. “If we don’t take immediate, concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used.”

Read moreRussian press slams UK , West in nerve agent attack coverage

British Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen appealed to Security Council members for support.

He said there was “no alternative conclusion than that the Russian state was responsible for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter.”

He added that Russia was in breach of the chemical weapons convention for not declaring the Novichok program. “This was a reckless and indiscriminate act that put at risk the lives of civilians.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said this week it was “highly likely” Moscow was behind the attack. On Wednesday, May announced that the UK would expel 23 Russian diplomats after a Tuesday deadline for Moscow to provide an explanation was ignored.

nm/sms (Reuters, AFP)


Donald Tusk: “Hard border” for Ireland necessary part of Brexit

March 1, 2018


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Council President Donald Tusk warned Britain on Thursday that its plan to leave the EU’s customs union and single market on Brexit could mean a return to a “hard border” on the island of Ireland.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting

European Council President Donald Tusk with the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier

Addressing a business conference in Brussels before leaving for lunch in London with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the EU summit chair said an EU proposal on Wednesday to incorporate Northern Ireland within a “common regulatory area” with the EU was the best option to avoid border friction — but he would be asking in London if Britain could propose something better.

“Until now, no one has come up with anything wiser than that,” Tusk told the Business Europe event. “In a few hours, I will be asking London whether the UK government has another idea that will be as effective in preventing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

Tusk also confirmed that he will distribute negotiating proposals next week for a future trade relationship with Britain. That will follow May’s expected announcement of her proposals on Friday.

But, Tusk warned, May’s “red lines” of leaving the single market and customs union meant that some friction in EU-UK trade would be inevitable.

“There can be no frictionless trade outside of the customs union and the single market. Friction is an inevitable side effect of Brexit, by nature,” he said.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Samantha Koester; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek

Asian Markets Sell Off To Start March — Tokyo sank three percent; China Lower

March 1, 2018
© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP | Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell is due to appear before lawmakers again Thursday, days after his comments spooked global markets

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets saw in March with sharp losses on Thursday, extending a global sell-off on US interest rate hike fears, with energy firms taking another hit from plunging oil prices.After a couple of weeks of calm, the volatility that kicked off February has returned on worries that the strong US economy and Donald Trump’s tax cuts will lead the Federal Reserve to tighten borrowing costs more than previously thought.

The latest bout of selling came after new Fed boss Jerome Powell gave an upbeat assessment for the economic outlook as he appeared before lawmakers Tuesday. Similarly, markets went into spasms at the start of last month in reaction to a strong report on US jobs and wages growth.

Powell is due to speak on Capitol Hill again Thursday.

Adding to the unease are the relatively high valuations of stocks after a stellar 2017 and January, which saw some indexes hit record or multi-year highs.

“February finally cracked the volatility genie out of the bottle, and now the big question is: will he stay out for good?” Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial, asked in a note.

“The good news is that March kicks off two of the strongest months historically for equities, before we hit a period of seasonal weakness from May through October.”

On Wall Street, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all ended sharply lower for a second successive day, and Asia again followed suit.

Tokyo finished the morning session 1.6 percent lower, with a stronger yen hitting exporters, while Hong Kong fell 0.4 percent, Sydney shed 0.8 percent and Singapore slipped 0.6 percent.

Wellington, Taipei, Manila and Kuala Lumpur were also well down. Shanghai was flat.

– Oil prices sink –

Among the biggest losers were petroleum-linked firms, tracking their counterparts in New York, which were hit by data showing a bigger-than-expected rise in US stockpiles. Hong Kong-listed CNOOC, PetroChina and Sinopec were all down around two percent, while Inpex in Tokyo sank three percent.

Both main contracts have been taking a hit recently as a ramp-up in US shale production offsets the effects of a key OPEC-Russia cap, while gains in the dollar against higher-yielding currencies make the commodity more expensive. Brent lost more than one percent and WTI more than two percent Wednesday.

Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, said: “Traders are hypersensitive to crucial inventories data, especially top-side builds, given the market’s refocusing on shale production output as the US remains on course to be the world’s largest oil producer.”

On currency markets the pound continues to struggle against the dollar after falling Wednesday on worries about faltering Brexit talks.

British Prime Minister Theresa May rejected a draft EU proposal over the tricky Northern Ireland issue, while the bloc’s chief negotiator said the pace of trade talks needs to pick up to reach a deal this year.

“Brexit is going to get really ugly or it’s not going to happen,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

“First, the UK government is making a mess of the negotiations… (and) second is that the EU clearly does not want the UK to leave, is making it as difficult as possible for it to do so and has just delivered a poison pill to … May it knows she cannot swallow.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.6 percent at 21,714.97 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 30,716.08

Shanghai – Composite: FLAT at 3,260.65

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2189 from $1.2201 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3749 from $1.3769

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.63 yen from 106.71 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN four cents at $61.60 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 11 cents at $64.62 (new contract)

New York – DOW: DOWN 1.5 percent at 25,029.20 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,231.91 (close)

Davos: Saudi youth want to achieve ambitions ‘now’ — Foreign minister says — “Competing visions” for the future of the Middle East — one characterized by light, the other by darkness

January 25, 2018

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir addressing the World Economic Forum. (WEF)

DAVOS: Empowering young people and removing barriers to their success is key to the transformation of Saudi Arabia, the foreign minister told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

Saudi youth “have hopes, they have dreams, they have ambitions — and they want it now,” Adel Al-Jubeir told the forum.

“They expect transparent government, efficient government … You have to open up the path and get out of the way. That’s how our country will rise,” he said.

“And in order to do this you have to have a fundamental transformation of your country, you have to open up areas that previously were not open: Entertainment, recreation, open up the media space, allow more public discussion, and deal with corruption in a very clear and strong manner.”

Al-Jubeir described the two “competing visions” for the future of the Middle East — one characterized by light, the other by darkness.

“The vision of darkness is sectarianism, it’s trying to restore an empire that was destroyed thousands of years ago, it’s using sectarianism and terrorism in order to interfere in the affairs of other countries so that you can promote this revolution and this imperialistic expansion,” Al-Jubeir said.

“That’s the dark vision … it’s called Iran.”

Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s minister of defense, said her country also sees “a lot of problems” with Iran. “We share many, many worries about Iran, without any question,” she said.

But von der Leyen said the 2015 agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear program was important in tackling such worries. “The Iran deal encapsulates the core problem, and therefore we think we should stick to the deal as long as Iran sticks to the deal too,” she said.

US President Donald Trump is expected to raise the need to address Iran’s mounting influence in the Middle East when he arrives in Davos this week. Trump will meet world leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May, and will deliver a speech on Friday.

During his meeting with Netanyahu, Trump will “reiterate America’s strong commitment to Israel and efforts to reduce Iran’s influence in the Middle East and ways to achieve lasting peace,” US national security adviser H.R. McMaster said.

Trump has been outspoken in his criticism of the Iranian regime, and tweeted his support for protesters during demonstrations across Iran in December and January.

The US president believes the nuclear agreement, the signature foreign policy of the Obama administration, has serious flaws, and has threatened to withdraw from the deal unless those flaws are fixed.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri was interviewed at Davos on Wednesday, where he spoke of US sanctions against the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group, which he said were not targeting the wider Lebanese economy.

“I am not worried,” he said. “The focus of the United States is Hezbollah, it’s not the Lebanese people or the Lebanese economy.”


US officials defend trade moves as Davos braces for Trump

January 24, 2018

The Associated Press

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.