Posts Tagged ‘conservatives’

Theresa May expected to set out Brexit plan Friday after Cabinet agreement at Chequers

February 23, 2018


© AFP/File / by Alice RITCHIE | British Prime Minister Theresa May is under pressure to set out more details of her position before talks get underway on the future partnership in April, with Brussels warning Britain cannot have everything it wants
LONDON (AFP) – Prime Minister Theresa May will make a speech next Friday on Britain’s relationship with the EU following Brexit after her cabinet agreed a plan at a marathon meeting, her spokesman said.One minister who was not present said they had agreed Britain would seek to align itself with European Union rules in certain sectors of the economy, but will retain the right to diverge.

May is under pressure to set out more details of her position before talks get underway on the future partnership in April, with Brussels warning Britain cannot have everything it wants.

The prime minister gathered around a dozen of her senior Cabinet colleagues for eight hours of talks at her country retreat Chequers on Thursday, in a bid to thrash out their considerable differences.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has called for a clean break with Brussels, and Finance Minister Philip Hammond, who favours closer ties, were among those present.

“It was a very positive meeting and a step forward, agreeing a basis of the prime minister’s speech on our future relationship,” the spokesman said.

“The prime minister will be setting out more detail of the government’s position on Friday,” he added on her upcoming address.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who did not attend the gathering, said Britain would not be part of a customs union with the EU because it wanted to be able to agree trade deals beyond the bloc.

“It’s one way of getting frictionless trade but it’s not the only way,” he told BBC radio.

He acknowledged “divergent views” among ministers, but said: “The central common understanding is that there will be areas and sectors of industry where we agree to align our regulations with European regulations.

“The automotive industry is perhaps an obvious example because of supply chains that are integrated.

“But it will be on a voluntary basis, we will as a sovereign power have the right to choose to diverge, and what we won’t be doing is accepting changes in rules because the EU unilaterally chooses to make those changes.”

– Labour sets out plan –

The full Cabinet will discuss the plans, likely at their regular weekly meeting on Tuesday, before May makes her speech.

The address is expected to take place somewhere in Britain, after recent big Brexit speeches in Munich, Germany, and Florence in Italy.

A few days before, on Monday, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to set out his party’s vision for Brexit, with growing speculation he could call for maintaining some kind of customs union with the EU.

Any deal agreed with Brussels would have to be passed by the House of Commons, where May’s Conservatives have only a slender majority.

The prime minister has pledged to leave the EU’s single market and customs union, as she seeks to end free movement of migrants and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

But EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that these freedoms will come at a cost of “unavoidable” barriers to trade.

Members of the EU’s customs union — the bloc’s 28 states plus Turkey, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino — agree common customs duties, import quotas and other rules in return for allowing goods to move freely through the area.

Remaining in a customs union would resolve concerns about the return of checks on the border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, part of Britain.

But members of the customs union are precluded from signing their own independent trade deals, something many eurosceptics in Britain highlight as a crucial benefit of Brexit.

by Alice RITCHIE




Germany sharply caps refugee family reunions

February 1, 2018


© AFP | German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are in ongoing coalition talks the Social Democrats in hopes of launching a new joint government

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany’s parliament voted after a heated debate Thursday to resume family reunions for temporary refugees from mid-year but sharply restrict the number of relatives arriving at 1,000 a month.Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere defended the law, which passed by a margin of 376 against 298, as “a compromise between humanity and responsibility… between generosity and realism”.

The measure was agreed Tuesday in ongoing coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative camp and the Social Democrats, in the hope of launching a new joint government by late March.

Germany, which has taken in more than a million asylum seekers since 2015, stopped family reunions for such “subsidiary” status refugees in March 2016 to slow the mass influx.

Those with subsidiary status are not considered political or war refugees, but are temporarily spared deportation on safety grounds.

An increasingly heated debate on immigration has pitted left-leaning parties and pro-refugee groups against conservatives and the far-right, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

AfD lawmaker Christian Wirth argued that refugees should reunite with their families back in their home countries, for example in what he called “protected zones in Syria”.

He also charged that “Merkel’s 2015 decision to allow German borders to be overrun by a migrant flood… was a flagrant breach of the law” and accused her government and the EU of a plot to replace Europe’s population with Arabs and Africans.

The issue of how many subsidiary-status refugees are allowed to bring their spouses or children had become one of the most contentious in the coalition talks.

Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats also agreed in principle to cap Germany’s total annual intake at about 200,000 asylum seekers a year.

Under the new law, family reunions will remain suspended until the end of July, after which up to 1,000 relatives a month, plus an unknown number of yet to be defined “hardship cases”, will be allowed to come to Germany.

The refugee aid group Pro Asyl slammed the law as “absolutely insufficient” and a victory for the “hardliners” in Merkel’s Bavarian sister party the CSU.

The Greens party accused the Social Democrats of caving on the issue, while the parliamentary head of the far-left Die Linke party Dietmar Bartsch charged that “this law is arbitrary, morally questionable and inhumane”.

Top German Social Democrats urge party to back coalition talks with Merkel — Refusal by SPD delegates to hold further talks could lead to new elections or a minority Merkel-led government

January 17, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) – Leading German Social Democrats (SPD) urged delegates on Tuesday to back coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and warned that shunning another tie-up would further damage the party’s already dire ratings.

Image result for Martin Schulz, photos

Martin Schulz

SPD members will vote on Sunday on whether to back full-blown coalition talks with the conservatives. Last week they agreed to a coalition blueprint but some in the party have bashed, saying it does not bear sufficient hallmarks of their party and that they would be better off in opposition.

The SPD leadership has unanimously agreed to recommend they be given a mandate to pursue coalition talks.

SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil told Die Zeit newspaper’s online edition that he understood the widespread scepticism in his party about agreeing to a re-run of the ‘grand coalition’ that governed Germany in the last four years, but warned against the alternative.

“Before voting at the party congress SPD delegates should be aware that there are only two realistic scenarios: negotiating further or new elections,” he said.

The SPD had planned to reinvent itself in opposition after a poor election showing in September but was persuaded to enter coalition talks with the conservatives when Merkel’s attempt to form a coalition with two smaller parties failed in November.

The latest INSA poll showed the SPD slipping to 18.5 percent, its worst ever result in that particular survey, and weaker still than the 20.5 percent it fetched in September’s election – which was its poorest post-war performance.

Merkel needs the SPD to back the alliance if she is to shore up a fourth term after 12 years at the helm. Refusal by SPD delegates to hold further talks could lead to new elections or a minority Merkel-led government for the first time in the post-war era.

Edgar Franke, a spokesman for the SPD’s conservative “Seeheimer Kreis” wing, said if his party refused to join a grand coalition, it risked sliding to 15 or 16 percent in a new election.

“And it won’t recover from that in the long term,” Franke told Focus magazine.

The most divisive issues for the two blocs concern taxes, pensions, migration and healthcare but both parties are aware that a grand coalition is one of the last options on the table.

The coalition question has split the SPD, with branches in Berlin and the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt recommending their members vote against, and Brandenburg and Hamburg in favor of coalition talks.

Those against also argue that such an arrangement would allow the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) to become the largest opposition party.

Nevertheless there is a consensus at the top of the party that it should enter formal coalition talks, and this received a boost on Wednesday when a dozen SPD mayors from big cities called on delegates to vote in favor.

“We should not reject the opportunity to form Social Democratic policies for people, which is contingent upon participating in government,” the mayors in a joint statement.

SPD leader Martin Schulz has gone on a charm offensive in the biggest state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) to get its backing for talks but Norbert Roemer, head of the SPD’s parliamentary group there, said results of the exploratory talks did not make clear enough that there would be a fresh start.

He told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung: “In our party – and this is true of me too – there’s a lot of mistrust of Ms Merkel and her troops.”

Paul Ziemiak, head of the conservatives’ youth wing, urged the SPD to agree to a grand coalition, telling Tagesspiegel newspaper the SPD needed to stop talking about itself and adding: “Our country is at stake.”

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Additional reporting by Holger Hansen; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Germany: Conservatives reject coalition deal amendments

January 15, 2018

Angela Merkel’s conservatives rule out amendments to preliminary coalition deal

Angela Merkel’s conservatives have insisted they won’t make any more concessions to the Social Democrats before formal coalition negotiations begin. SPD delegates are set to vote next week on the preliminary agreement.

Abschluss der Sondierungen von Union und SPD (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Gambarini)

Senior figures in Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) called on Sunday for amendments to the party’s preliminary coalition agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc.

SPD lawmakers said they hoped that the parties could still agree on a new social security scheme and firmer employee contracts in the would-be coalition’s policy blueprint.

Read more: Critics weigh in on Germany’s coalition talks ‘breakthrough’

However, Germany’s conservative bloc — made up of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) — swiftly dismissed the calls, insisting that the SPD first vote on whether to move on to formal negotiations before demanding more concessions.

“The CDU/CSU and the SPD were in serious talks and not singing ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’ in the playground,” CDU lawmaker Thomas Strob told the German media group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. “What we have agreed upon with each other is valid,” he said, adding that anything not discussed during the week of preliminary talks “won’t become part of a coalition contract.”

Meanwhile, deputy CDU leader Julia Klöckner took to Twitter to call out the SPD. “We’re counting on reliability,” she tweeted. “Everything was negotiated in a package, no cherry picking please!”

Das Sondierungspapier ist von CDU/CSU und SPD einstimmig am Freitag Morgen angenommen worden. Diejenigen, die aus der SPD-Sondierungsgruppe nur wenige Stunden danach massive Änderungen darin fordern, stellen sich selbst ein sehr schlechtes Arbeitszeugnis aus!

Wer dem Sondierungspapier zugestimmt hat, aber nun nachverhandeln will, war wohl nur körperlich bei den Sondierungsverhandlungen anwesend. Macht keinen guten Eindruck. Wir setzen auf Verlässlichkeit. Alles wurde im Paket verhandelt, kein Rosinenpicken bitte!

On Friday, SPD leader Martin Schulz heralded the 28-page policy blueprint that leaders of the CDU, CSU and SPD drew up after five days of negotiations. Key policies included a freeze on tax hikes, limiting the influx of asylum seekers to between 180,000 and 220,000 per year, and supporting France’s push for comprehensive eurozone reforms.

SPD split?

Nevertheless, major figures within the SPD remain very reluctant to enter into another coalition with Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc, particularly after all three parties suffered their worst election results in decades in last September’s vote.

Schulz has promised to let the party have the final say on whether to re-enter a grand coalition. On Sunday, 600 delegates will be asked to give the green light to enter formal talks, while party members are expected to get a vote on a deal if and when it is finalized.

Infografik Weg zur Koalition ENG

Several SPD figures said they wanted to make some of the outstanding issues front and center at Sunday’s party conference.

Malu Dreyer, an SPD member and premier of Rhineland-Palatinate, told Germany’s Funke media group, “We will try to make more gains in the coalition negotiations.” SPD General-Secretary Lars Klingbeil said social security and employee rights had to be “part of the conversation.”

Read more: Opinion: German coalition talks, a tale of success and reluctance

Berlin’s mayor, Michael Müller, meanwhile, said that the preliminary talks fell well short of party expectations, particularly when it came to living conditions, immigration and integration. Speaking to Berlin’s Tagespiegel newspaper, Müller also refused to rule out the possibility of talks collapsing and the need for new elections.

In a further sign of the difficulties that lie ahead before next week’s votes, the SPD delegates in Saxony-Anhalt on Saturday rejected the would-be coalition’s policy blueprint and narrowly voted against starting formal talks with Merkel’s conservatives.

dm/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

Lord Heseltine implies he would prefer a Jeremy Corbyn government to that of Theresa May in latest row over Brexit

December 27, 2017

Lord Heseltine suggested a Labour government might be preferable to Brexit


Theresa May is under pressure from her own MPs to withdraw the Conservative whip from Lord Heseltine after he implied he would prefer a Jeremy Corbyn government to Brexit.

The former deputy prime minister was accused of “outright sabotage” by an influential Tory think-tank, which said he could not go unpunished if Mrs May wants to be “taken seriously” in Brexit negotiations.

Lord Heseltine suggested a Corbyn government would be less “damaging” than Brexit because Labour would only cause “short-term” damage whereas Brexit would cause “a long-term disaster”.

The Europhile peer has been a constant critic of Brexit, and was sacked as a Government adviser in March after leading a Lords rebellion calling for a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal.

Read the rest:

The Bow Group, a conservative think-tank whose patrons include Lord Tebbit, Lord Lamont and John Redwood MP, called for him to be banned from the…

Brexit: Theresa May Again Meets EU Leaders — talks that could be hampered by divisions at home

December 14, 2017

Theresa May will urge European Union leaders to approve an agreement to move Brexit talks on to a second phase after an embarrassing parliamentary defeat.

The Prime Minister will repeat her case for moving the talks on to trade negotiations, which she sees as crucial to offering certainty for businesses.

The 27 other EU leaders are all but certain to approve the deal to move to “phase two” on Friday, after Ms May has left Brussels, launching a new stage of talks that could be hampered by divisions at home and differences with the EU.

Live Updates

Brexit should be cancelled, Austrian prime minister says

Austria’s prime minister has said he hopes that Brexit can be reversed, hours after British MPs voted to give themselves a veto on Theresa May’s final deal. Arriving at European Council summit in Brussels Christian Kern said Brexit would likely throw up problems that are “not easy to solve”.

Arriving at the summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there were “still a few questions remaining open” about the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, but there was “a good chance that the second phase can now begin”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “not simply a council about Brexit”, stressing that his focus was on issues of EU defence and migration policybeing discussed on Thursday evening.

UK must accept EU laws to prevent ‘dramatic and damaging’ impact on economy after Brexit, MPs warn

A transition period after Brexit where the UK continues to accept EU rules would be a “price worth paying” for economic stability, an influential Commons committee has said. Cross-party MPs on the Treasury Committee said the Government should consent to a “standstill” transition deal with Brussels, which would likely include remaining in the single market and customs union, and accepting judgements from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

Tory former minister who rebelled against May warns she faces second defeat

Conservative ex-cabinet minister Dominic Grieve has said he does not care about “knives being out for me” over his role in forcing changes to Theresa May’s Brexit plans, as he warned the Prime Minister she faces a second defeat.

All you need to know about the Brexit bill’s Amendment 7 and why it has just humiliated Theresa May

Theresa May’s government was handed a defeat on the Brexit bill as 11 MPs rebelled and backed an amendment to give Parliament a much greater say in leaving the European Union (EU).  Amendment seven, tabled by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, requires any Brexit deal to be approved by a separate Act of Parliament before it can be implemented.

High Court just ruled Government policy of deporting homeless EU citizens is illegal

The IndependentThe High Court has ordered the Government to stop deporting homeless EU citizens under a controversial policy that has been ruled unlawful. Mrs Justice Lang said measures introduced last year were discriminatory and violated European law, following a challenge by two Polish men and a Latvian. The three men were all facing removal because they were found by police and immigration officers sleeping rough.

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, said a transition period needs to be closer to five years than two.
Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, he insisted that businesses need time to adapt to any new realities in the context of Brexit.
He also said that, in his view, the commitments that the UK Government has made to Ireland and the rest of the EU are “cast-iron”.

Watch the moment Theresa May was defeated by her own MPs in humiliating Brexit vote

The Independent — This is the moment that the government lost its key vote on its Brexit bill after a rebellion by 11 Conservative MPs. In front of a packed House of Commons in the end the Government was defeated by 309 votes to 305, a margin of just four votes. Cheers erupted as the result was announced.

This is from the FT’s Brussels Correspondent. Luxembourg’s PM says the EU will not renegotiate a deal with Britain if Parliament rejects the one on offer. 

Luxembourg’ PM Bettel asked if EU will renegotiate exit deal if rejected by parliament: “No”.

Tory former minister who rebelled against May warns she faces second defeat

Conservative ex-cabinet minister Dominic Grieve has said he does not care about “knives being out for me” over his role in forcing changes to Theresa May’s Brexit plans, as he warned the Prime Minister she faces a second defeat.

Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with the Archbishop of Canterbury (see 9.22am) a Downing Street spokesman said:

“The Government understands there are strong feelings on both sides, we continue to listen to views and move forward to secure the Brexit deal the country needs.”

The Tories have sacked their own vice-chairman after he helped defeat the Government over Brexit

Tory MP Stephen Hammond has been sacked as a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party after he rebelled against the Government on a key Brexit vote. The former transport minister voted in favour of Dominic Grieve’s amendment seven, to back his attempt to ensure MPs have a “meaningful vote” on the withdrawal deal. Before the news broke, Mr Hammond said the rebels had been prepared to work with the Government to ensure a meaningful vote.

Read more:

Brexit: Theresa May’s EU summit marred by embarrassing defeat at hands of Tory rebels

December 14, 2017

The Prime Minister has been forced to give Parliament a greater role in EU withdrawal after losing a critical vote

By Joe Watts Political Editor

The Independent

Theresa May is heading to a key EU summit after being embarrassed by her own MPs
  • Watch the moment Theresa May is defeated by her own MPs in Brexit vote

Theresa May is set to arrive in Brussels for a key EU summit on Thursday having suffered a damaging defeat in Parliament over her central piece of Brexit legislation.

The Prime Minister is to use the EU event to try and make the case for moving Brexit talks on to trade negotiations quickly, but European leaders will now be left wondering if she still has the political support in London to deliver any deal.

There were cheers from opposition MPs in the House of Commons when it emerged the Government had been forced to accept changes to its EU Withdrawal Bill, which it is now claimed will guarantee Parliament a “meaningful” final vote on any Brexit deal Ms May agrees.

The embarrassing defeat – the first inflicted on Ms May as she pushes through her Brexit plans – came after Jeremy Corbyn ordered Labour MPs to back an amendment to her legislation proposed by ex-Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve.

The result immediately exposed deep divisions on the Conservative benches, with reports of a heavy-handed Government whipping operation creating tension, blue-on-blue clashes in the Commons and one Tory rebel sacked from his senior party position within moments of opposing Ms May.

Rebels braced themselves for a wave of abuse from the Brexit-backing media, but insisted they had no choice but to put principle before party and vote against the Government.

Ms May was supposed to enjoy something of a victory at the EU council summit on Thursday, expected to rubber-stamp the judgment that “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues to move on to the next phase of talks.

But with difficult obstacles already arising in Brussels, the defeat in London lays bare the difficulties Ms May will have in delivering anything she agrees on the continent.

Following the blow, the Government immediately hinted it may try a parliamentary counteroffensive later in the legislative process to undo the change forced upon it.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed that Parliament has voted for this amendment despite the strong assurances that we have set out. We are as clear as ever that this Bill, and the powers within it, are essential.

She added: “We will now determine whether further changes are needed to the Bill to ensure it fulfils its vital purpose.”

The key vote in the Commons came over Mr Grieve’s amendment seven, with the legal expert insisting it was necessary to prevent Ms May’s flagship Brexit legislation becoming a “very worrying tool of executive power”.

Up to now Ms May had promised Parliament a say of sorts over the final deal she agrees in Brussels, but as it stood it would be a ‘take it or leave it’ vote and ministers would retain powers to enact any deal without first gaining Parliament’s permission.

The change means the terms of any Brexit deal must now first be approved with a full Act of Parliament –effectively allowing MPs to re-write parts of the deal before any of it is implemented by Ms May.

Ministers are now under heavy pressure to drop another part of Ms May’s proposals that would fix 29 March 2019 as Brexit day – opening the way for the Article 50 period to be extended to ensure Parliament can approve any deal before the UK drops out of the EU.

That part of the Bill was to be voted next week, but after the defeat Downing Street may conclude it will lose that too.

Ms May’s whips applied heavy pressure on Conservative rebels and Justice Minister Dominic Raab offered minor concessions in the Commons, but rebels said it was too little too late.

In the end the Government was defeated by 309 votes to 305, a margin of  just four votes. In total 11 Tory MPs voted against the Government, including eight former frontbenchers. A further Conservative MP abstained.

Speaking after the vote Mr Grieve struck a sorrowful tone, saying he “didn’t wish to rebel against the Government, it’s not something I make a habit of doing”.

He added: “To my mind I had no option but to continue with this. I had hoped even during the course of the afternoon that the Government would try to do something.

“But the proper thing to do was to table their own amendment, and so when five minutes before the end they come along and say well actually they are going to make a concession that was not fully explained, and I have to say falls a bit short of what’s needed, I had to make an immediate decision.”

Dominic Grieve led the Tory rebellion on the Brexit bill (Getty)

Another ex-minister Stephen Hammond was sacked from his party role of Conservative vice-chairman after he rebelled with a “heavy heart”.

He said afterwards: “I made it very clear that for me this was a point of principle and just occasionally in one’s life, one has to put principle before party.

“I know that sounds pompous, but I’ve never done it before.”

He added: “The Government could have been a little bit swifter of foot. I think there was a way out of this, we were all very close, but the Government chose not to go that way.”

Conservatives Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry also voted against the Government (Getty)

Ex-cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, also among Conservatives who refused to budge, tweeted that Parliament had acted to take back “control of the EU Withdrawal process.”

Meanwhile Anna Soubry MP said the Government had “got to stop playing silly games” and realise that times had changed since the Bill was drafted before the election, when Ms May had a Commons majority.

Labour said their whips’ efforts to convince Brexiteers in their own party to vote for Mr Grieve’s amendment had been crucial.

Leave-supporting Labour MPs all backed the Tory backbench amendment to inflict defeat on the Government.

David Davis on Brexit: ‘You don’t have to be very clever to do my job’

Mr Corbyn said: “This defeat is a humiliating loss of authority for the Government on the eve of the European Council meeting.

“Labour has made the case since the referendum for a meaningful vote in Parliament on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said: “This is a momentous day for Parliament and a humiliating defeat for Theresa May.”

Conservative rebels were braced for a deluge of abuse from the Leave-backing media on Thursday, with Brexiteers in their own party already attacking them in and outside the chamber.

Tonight, the Tory rebels have put a spring in Labours step, given them a taste of winning, guaranteed the party a weekend of bad press, undermined the PM and devalued her impact in Brussels. They should be deselected and never allowed to stand as a Tory MP, ever again.

Nadine Dorries demanded her fellow Tory MPs be stripped of their seats in Parliament, tweeting that they had, “put a spring in Labours step, given them a taste of winning, guaranteed the party a weekend of bad press, undermined the PM and devalued her impact in Brussels.”

Sir Desmond Swayne told the Commons the rebel amendments simply aimed to delay Brexit, dismissing them as “sanctimonious guff” and their Conservative backers as “idiots”.

He added: “Now we see the real motive and of course he was assisted by others, who comrade Lenin would have properly referred to as useful idiots.”

Senior Tory Bernard Jenkin said: “To dress this attempt to reverse Brexit as an argument in favour of parliamentary sovereignty is nothing but cant.”

Desmond Swayne, former International Development Minister (House of Commons)

Hours after the vote, Ms May was on her way to Brussels to push European leaders to begin discussing the EU’s future trade deal with Britain.

The Prime Minister needs Brexit talks to move on to trade as quickly as possible, but European negotiators are warning that how the ‘transition period’ plays out must be decided first.

It is an early sign that the withdrawal agreement – reached after torturous negotiations and including a UK commitment to pay some £39bn to Brussels – has not automatically opened the way to trade talks.

PMQs: Theresa May refuses to back down on Brexit amendments in exchange with Anna Soubry

A leaked draft of a text to be considered by the EU27 leaders on Friday suggests that trade talks may not start until after a subsequent summit in March.

The Cabinet, let alone the wider Conservative party in the Commons, is split over how the transition will take place, giving rise to concerns over how easy it will be for Ms May to deliver an agreed position in the light of the Commons defeat.

The European Parliament’s chief Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: “British Parliament takes back control.

“European and British Parliament together will decide on the final agreement. Interests of the citizens will prevail over narrow party politics. A good day for democracy.”


The Telegraph

Theresa May suffers major Commons defeat after Tory Brexit rebellion

Theresa May is heading to a major Brussels summit today after pro-European Tory MPs delivered the prime minister her first Commons defeat and boasted that Parliament had “taken control” of Brexit.

In a sign of bitter recriminations Stephen Hammond, one of the rebels, was immediately sacked as Vice Chairman of the Conservative Paty after he backed the amendment guaranteeing Parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal.

One Brexit-supporting Tory called for the rebels to be deselected and never allowed to stand as Conservatives again as they were accused of handing Labour a “victory” in the Commons.

Mr Hammond was one of 11 Tory MPs who joined Labour and the Liberal Democrats on Wednesday in backing an amendment that guarantees Parliament a “meaningful vote” on Brexit.

At least two more abstained. The Government said it was “disappointed” as senior Conservatives raised concerns that the vote…

Read the rest:

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.

 Image result for Priti Patel, photos
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

Merkel sends positive signal to May on Brexit talks

October 20, 2017


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a markedly positive response on Friday to an EU summit appeal by Prime Minister Theresa May for help with Brexit, said talks with Britain were moving forward and were unlikely to break down.

Macron, May and Merkel

May shares a joke with Macron and Merkel on Day 1 (Thursday)

Merkel made her comments at the end of the first day of a European Union summit and after May had appealed to her fellow leaders to help her silence critics at home and break a deadlock in the talks.

“In contrast to how it is portrayed in the British press, my impression is that these talks are moving forward step by step,” Merkel told a late-night news conference, dismissing as “absurd” suggestions in Britain that the talks should be broken off.

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

Arriving for the second day, others emphasized 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”.

After May leaves the summit on Friday, the other 27 leaders are expected to rule that there has not been sufficient progress to push the talks forward but will call on their staff to prepare for talks on a transition period that would smooth Britain’s exit in 2019.

May made no comment as she arrived for a breakfast meeting with summit chair Donald Tusk. Near midnight, speaking at the end of a dinner of butternut squash gnocchi and pheasant, she had sought to calm fears Britain would use its departure in March 2019 to undercut the EU economy by lowering standards.

She appealed to EU leaders to respond in kind to her efforts to break the Brexit stalemate, making clear she was disappointed at their plan to announce on Friday that talks have not yet made enough progress to move on to a discussion of future trade ties.

The EU is seeking a clearer commitment from Britain that it will settle financial obligations linked to its exit. Leaders will on Friday set a target of December for London to improve its divorce settlement offer.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk pose before a bilateral meeting at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 20, 2017. REUTERS/Olivier Hoslet/Pool

But they will also make a gesture by launching internal preparations for the next phase of the negotiations.


In choreography that contrasted with images of May standing isolated in Brussels at previous summits, Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were filmed by television cameras engaging the British prime minister in an animated conversation at the start of the summit.

Merkel said the three had been discussing the need to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last week to “decertify” it.

It was a response May was looking for after explaining over dinner the “difficult political background” she faces if she returns home empty-handed and how she had worked hard to get the talks back on track after realizing their perilous state at the end of the summer.

“I took stock, listened to what the people in the UK were saying and what my friends and partners in Europe were saying and I made a step forward,” she was quoted as saying by a British official, referring to a speech she made in Florence on Sept. 22.

There was no discussion after May spoke, according to an EU diplomat. Tusk said only that the leaders took note of her comments.

Weakened after losing her Conservatives’ majority in a June election and by failing to rally support at a party conference, May needs to keep the talks on the road to silence the voices calling for her to walk away from the negotiations.

Unwilling now to increase her offer on the divorce bill, May instead proposed more moves to protect the rights of EU citizens in Britain — one of three issues the bloc says must be settled before moving to discuss a future trading relationship.

“There is increasingly a sense that we must work together to get to an outcome we can stand behind and defend to our people,” May told the other leaders, according to the British official.

Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Jan Strupczewski and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Catherine Evans


 (Day 1)

See also:

EU SUMMIT 2017: Theresa May faces Tusk as Juncker says there will be NO Brexit ‘miracle’

May and Tusk have met for a 15 minute meeting EP

May and Tusk have met for a 15 minute meeting

Angela Merkel EBS

Merkel arrives in Brussels for the second day of talks

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