U.K. government says Brexit deal is “essentially impossible”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

U.K. government says Brexit deal is “essentially impossible”

London — Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office told British journalists Tuesday that reaching a Brexit deal with the European Union ahead of the upcoming October 31 deadline was “essentially impossible.” Johnson’s government was reacting to a call between the him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the day, during which Merkel reportedly said it was “overwhelmingly unlikely” any deal could be reached based on proposals Johnson sent to the EU last week.

The dire outlook presented by Johnson’s government sparked a war of words with European Council President Donald Tusk, who tweeted directly at the prime minister: “What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?” (Quo vadis is Latin for “where are you going.”)

Donald Tusk

@eucopresident

.@BorisJohnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?

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The U.K. is set to leave the EU on October 31, but legislation recently passed by Britain’s Parliament requires Prime Minister Johnson to ask Brussels for an extension if the House of Commons doesn’t endorse a deal or consent to a no-deal Brexit by October 19. It’s unclear whether Johnson’s government might be able to find a loophole in that legislation that would enable it to stick to his promise to pull Britain out of the EU, with or without a deal, on the 31st.

There was “skepticism” within EU circles over the U.K.’s description of Johnson’s call with Merkel, CBS News partner network BBC News reported. A spokesman for Merkel’s office declined to comment on confidential conversations.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the U.K. government published a “No-Deal Readiness Report,” outlining preparations it has made in the event the U.K. does leave the EU without an agreement.

Previously leaked government documents laid out the possibility of medicine and food shortages in the U.K. should Britain leave with no deal, as well as potential civil unrest.

The plan published Tuesday detailed what the government has done to try and avoid those worst-case scenarios — many of which had been previously discussed. The “Readiness Report,” for example, notes the government has created a dedicated unit to support suppliers of medical goods in Britain, which could soon need to jump through additional hoops to ensure the integrity of  their supply chains.

“While we remain optimistic, we are also realistic about the need to plan for every eventuality,” the author of the report, Parliamentarian Michael Gove, said in the preface. “If we cannot secure a good agreement with the EU, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.”

What comes next

Parliament is expected to be suspended Tuesday evening until October 14 to give Johnson’s government the chance to set out a new legislative agenda in a “Queen’s Speech.” This comes after the Supreme Court ruled Johnson’s previous request for a suspension of Parliament — or “prorogation” — was illegal, because it shut down debate for what it said was an unreasonable amount of time.

On October 17 and 18, a summit of EU leaders will take place in Brussels ahead of the crucial date of October 19, when Johnson must ask the EU for a Brexit delay if a deal, or a no-deal Brexit, hasn’t been approved by Parliament.

The U.K. is currently set to leave the EU, with or without a Brexit deal, on October 31.

Theresa May, Britain’s Prime Minister, Resigns: Live Updates

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Theresa May, Britain’s Prime Minister, Resigns: Live Updates

Mrs. May announced Friday morning that she would be stepping down, after repeatedly failing to win Parliament’s approval for a deal to withdraw Britain from the European Union.

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A successor to Theresa May will be chosen before Parliament’s summer break, the Conservative Party chairman said. She will continue as prime minister until the leadership contest is finished.

Prime Minister Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street in London on Friday. Her premiership has been beset by crises. Credit Simon Dawson/Reuters

Facing a cabinet rebellion, Theresa May announced on Friday morning her decision to leave office. She spoke briefly after meeting with Graham Brady, a powerful leader of backbench Conservative lawmakers.

Standing in front of 10 Downing Street, Mrs. May said it was in the “best interests of the country for a new prime minister” to lead Britain through the Brexit process. She announced plans to step down as the leader of the Conservative Party on June 7, with the process to replace her beginning the following week.

“I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that,” she added. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.”

Mrs. May’s voice cracked as she said she was honored to serve the country as the “second female prime minister, but certainly not the last,” and said the role had been the honor of her life.

Conservative lawmakers have been deeply frustrated by Mrs. May’s failure to deliver on Brexit, which became the government’s central — some would say its sole — preoccupation after the country voted to leave the union in a 2016 referendum.

But the breaking point has come at an awkward moment, with President Trump scheduled to arrive in Britain on June 3 for a state visit and to take part in events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings that preceded the end of World War II.

Mrs. May’s authority was profoundly undermined in 2017, when she unexpectedly called a general election, then conducted a poor campaign and lost the majority in Parliament that she had inherited from her predecessor, David Cameron. The Conservatives remained in power with the support of a small Northern Ireland party.

Deep divisions in her Cabinet over the approach to Brexit weakened her at home. By contrast, the European Union remained remarkably unified in its negotiating strategy, and it remains doubtful that another British leader will get a deal any more palatable than the one Mrs. May agreed to.

Her ability to soak up political punishment and plow on regardless won her admiration, even from some of her many critics. But the pressure on her increased after disastrous local election results this month, when the Conservatives lost more than 1,300 seats in municipalities around the country and voters vented their frustration over the Brexit infighting and deadlock.

Then, the government announced that Britain would, after all, take part in elections to the European Parliament this week — another symbol of Mrs. May’s failure to achieve a withdrawal. Britons voted on Thursday, but the results will be announced on Sunday, after all the European Union countries have gone to the polls. They are expected to be catastrophic for the Conservatives.

Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary who would like to take Mrs. May’s place, described her statement as “dignified.” Credit Simon Dawson/Reuters

It has been a long time since so many prominent political figures had nice things to say about Mrs. May.

Compliments poured in from opposition lawmakers who have tried to oust her, and from fellow Conservatives who have undermined her and hope to take her place. Some were backhanded, some barbed, and still others gave no hint of the history of animosity behind them.

“Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party,” tweeted Boris Johnson, who quit Mrs. May’s cabinet over Brexit and who has never concealed his ambition to be prime minister.

Boris Johnson

@BorisJohnson

A very dignified statement from @theresa_may. Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party. It is now time to follow her urgings: to come together and deliver Brexit.

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Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, retweeted Mr. Johnson with the comment, “What a hypocrite.”

Two other Conservatives who quit Mrs. May’s cabinet over Brexit and would like to take her place, Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom, described her statement as “dignified.”

“An illustration of her total commitment to country and duty,” Ms. Leadsom tweetedMr. Raab wrote, “She remains a dedicated public servant, patriot and loyal Conservative.”

The statement from Tom Watson, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, was no bouquet of roses, saying that Mrs. May “had an unenviably difficult job, and she did it badly,” and scolding “those who have plotted her downfall to further their own ambitions. But even he added, “she tried to do what was right for our country,” and “she was honorable in her intentions.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, dispensed with any pretense of a tribute. “She’s now accepted what the country’s known for months: She can’t govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.”

Boris Johnson, the hard-line Brexit supporter and former foreign secretary, is one of the candidates to replace Mrs. May.Credit Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Mrs. May’s departure could set off a ferocious succession contest within her governing Conservative Party, though lawmakers have been positioning themselves for this eventuality for months as her authority steadily weakened and several of her cabinet ministers stepped down.

Several prominent Conservatives are already campaigning actively to succeed her as party leader and prime minister. Candidates for party leadership have to be nominated by two other members of Parliament, though if there is only one candidate, he or she automatically becomes the new leader. If more than two candidates emerge, lawmakers vote among themselves to narrow the field and then put two candidates to a vote by all Conservative Party members, who number approximately 120,000.

Most analysts expect a new leader to be in place by the end of July. Hard-line Brexit supporters will be determined to replace Mrs. May with someone from their ranks, with the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson; the former Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab; and Andrea Leadsom, who left her cabinet post as leader of the House of Commons on Wednesday, seen as likely contenders.

But less ideological figures are likely to put themselves forward, too, including Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, and Sajid Javid, the home secretary.

A pro-Brexit rally near Parliament in London in June 2016, before the referendum. Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

David Cameron, the prime minister who called the 2016 referendum and campaigned to remain in the bloc, resigned the day after the vote. Mrs. May had also argued for remaining, but after emerging victorious from a brief but chaotic leadership contest, she appointed a cabinet with several leading Brexit campaigners and set out an agenda that implied a comprehensive break with the bloc.

She then gave herself a two-year legal deadline to complete withdrawal negotiations, only to have to postpone Britain’s exit twice after failing to persuade Parliament to accept the terms she had negotiated, painstakingly, with the European Union.

Time and time again, Mrs. May survived challenges to her leadership, escaping a seemingly inevitable end to her tenure as her Brexit plans repeatedly floundered. But the final push toward Mrs. May’s ouster came this week after she rolled out the latest iteration of a Brexit deal that lawmakers had thrice rejected by large margins.

Her hopes of trying once more to push her deal through Parliament were dashed after changes she unveiled on Tuesday, which opened the door to a second referendum on Brexit, were rejected by Brexiteers as a betrayal and by Remainers as simply not enough. Mrs. May had framed the changes as “one last chance” to deliver on the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

Plans to publish her new plan on Friday were quickly shelved when it became clear they managed to alienate pro- and anti-Brexit factions alike. But Mrs. May has really been on her way out since her third failed attempt to get the plan approved — on the very day in March that Britain was initially scheduled to leave the European Union. She had offered to step aside if lawmakers voted for her proposal.

Ellen Barry and Benjamin Mueller contributed reporting from London.

Stephen Castle is London correspondent, writing widely about Britain, including the country’s politics and relationship with Europe. @_StephenCastle  Facebook

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

By Kate Holton and David Milliken | LONDON

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will fail to win a parliamentary majority in Britain’s election, according to an exit poll on Thursday, a shock result that would plunge domestic politics into turmoil and could delay Brexit talks.

The exit poll predicted May’s party would not win a majority of the 650 seats in parliament to take office alone, meaning she would have to form a coalition or attempt to govern with the backing of other smaller parties.

The exit poll predicted the Conservatives would win 314 seats and the Labour Party 266, meaning no clear winner and a “hung parliament”.

The exit poll sent shockwaves through financial markets. Sterling fell more than two cents against the U.S. dollar. .

It was an extraordinary failure for May, who was enjoying opinion poll leads of 20 points and more when she called the snap election just seven weeks ago.

But her lead had gradually shrunk over the course of the campaign, during which she backtracked on a major social care proposal, opted not to take part in a high-profile TV debate with her opponents, and faced questions over her record on security after Britain was hit by two Islamist militant attacks that killed 30 people.

“If the poll is anything like accurate, this is completely catastrophic for the Conservatives and for Theresa May,” George Osborne, who was the Conservative finance minister from 2010 to 2016 when he was sacked by May, said on ITV.

Analysts were treating the exit poll with caution. In the last election, in 2015, the corresponding poll predicted May’s predecessor David Cameron would fall short of a majority. But as the night wore on and the actual results came in from constituencies, it became clear he had in fact won a majority, albeit a small one of just 12 seats.

That outcome was a triumph for Cameron though, because he had been predicted to fall well short. For May, who went into the campaign expecting to win a landslide, even a narrow win later in the night would leave her badly damaged.

Until the final results become clear, it is hard to predict who will form the next government.

“It’s difficult to see, if these numbers were right, how they (the Conservatives) would put together the coalition to remain in office,” said Osborne.

“But equally it’s quite difficult looking at those numbers to see how Labour could put together a coalition, so it’s on a real knife edge.”

Political deadlock in London could derail negotiations with the other 27 EU countries ahead of Britain’s exit from the bloc, due in March 2019, before they even begin in earnest.

A delay in forming a government could push back the start of Brexit talks, currently scheduled for June 19, and reduce the time available for what are expected to be the most complex negotiations in post-World War Two European history.

The poll forecast the Scottish National Party (SNP) would win 34 seats, the center-left Liberal Democrats 14, the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one.

If the exit poll is correct, Labour, led by veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, could attempt to form a government with those smaller parties, which strongly oppose most of May’s policies on domestic issues such as public spending cuts.

May called the snap election to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with the other 27 EU countries and to cement her grip on the Conservative Party after she took over as prime minister in the wake of last year’s Brexit referendum.

If she fails to win a majority, that could call into question her position as Conservative leader and might mean a second election in Britain this year.

If Corbyn’s Labour does take power with the backing of the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, both parties adamantly opposed to Brexit, Britain’s future will be very different to the course the Conservatives were planning and could even raise the possibility of a second referendum.

May had promised to clinch a Brexit deal that prioritized control over immigration policy, with Britain leaving the European single market and customs union, and said no deal would be better than a bad deal.

Labour said it would push ahead with Brexit but would scrap May’s negotiating plans and make its priority maintaining the benefits of both the EU single market and its customs union, arguing no deal with the EU would be the worst possible outcome.

It also proposed raising taxes for the richest 5 percent of Britons, scrapping university tuition fees and investing 250 billion pounds ($315 billion) in infrastructure plans.

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle, William Schomberg, Andy Bruce, William James, Alistair Smout, Paddy Graham, writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

London Mayor (Rightfully) Suggest (Trump The Ignorant) Not Be Allowed In The UK

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN AND TIME NEWS AGENCIES)

London’s Mayor Suggests Cancelling President Trump’s State Visit After His Criticisms on Twitter

Updated: 7:49 AM ET | Originally published: Jun 05, 2017

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has suggested that U.S. President Donald Trump should not be welcomed to the U.K. because his policies are incompatible with British values, as a planned state visit approaches. The mayor’s comments follow criticism from Trump on Twitter over Khan’s response to a terror attack Saturday that left seven people dead in the British capital.

Speaking to Britain’s Channel 4 News on Monday, Khan said the U.S. President was wrong about “many things.” According to the Guardian, he added that he doesn’t think Trump should be welcomed to the country.

“I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the President of the U.S.A. in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,” he said.

President Trump criticized Khan on Sunday after the mayor told Londoners that an increased police presence on the streets was “no cause for alarm.” Trump misleadingly suggested that Khan was downplaying the act of terrorism, which saw a van crash into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men exited the vehicle and attacked several people in nearby Borough Market.

After the mayor’s office contextualized Khan’s remarks, Trump went on the offensive again, tweeting on Monday that the explanation was a “pathetic excuse.”

Read more: President Trump’s Attack on London Mayor

Prime Minister Theresa May told British tabloid The Sun on Tuesday that even though Trump was “wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan” his official state visit to Britain will still go ahead. “The relationship with America is our deepest and most important defence and security relationship” she told the newspaper. “Having said that, I think Donald Trump is wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan, in relation to the attack on London Bridge.”

Trump’s attack on Khan has drawn sharp criticism not in the U.K. but also from American officials. The acting U.S. Ambassador in London, Lewis Lukens, issued a statement on Twitter offering praise and support for Khan: “I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack,” it read.

I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack. – LLukens 3/3 https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/871270734835965952 

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents 1,400 communities across the country, also sent Khan an unequivocal message of support.

“[Khan] has risen above this crisis of death and destruction, as mayors continue to do, to alleviate fear, to bring comfort to his people of London and to give support to the first responders who continue to protect, defend and provide emergency care to his people of London,” the statement read. “Thank you, Mayor Khan, for your leadership during this crisis.”

[Guardian]

China And The UK Implement Program To Connect Young Entrepreneurs

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

CHINA and the UK will implement a program to connect young entrepreneurs from the two countries from next year.

Wu Chen, deputy director of The Great Britain China Center, the British partner behind the initiative, told Shanghai Daily yesterday the first steps toward realizing cooperation include talking to potential partners, determining mechanisms of cooperation and working out concrete programs.

The initiative is jointly fostered by the All-China Youth Federation and was announced at the Sixth China-UK Young Leaders Roundtable, an event during the Fourth Meeting of the China-UK High-Level People-to-People Dialogue in Shanghai.

“Encouraging exchanges of entrepreneurs and organizing startup competitions are just some of the ideas at this stage‚” Wu said.

“We’re looking to bring British universities and government organizations working to promote innovation on board because they’re interested in cooperating with China.”

Pei Huan, deputy secretary-general of the China Foundation for Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment and a panelist at the roundtable, said the foundation’s first overseas China Community for Youth Entrepreneurship will open in London tomorrow.

He said the community underlines the growing interest and efforts in establishing incubators benefitting young entrepreneurs from both countries.

Pei said the incubator, run by London-based Cocoon Networks, will help startups access foreign markets and drive international equity investment.

Representatives from politics, NGOs and business at the roundtable discussion also suggested establishing joint venture capital funds between China and the United Kingdom.