Trump Hits Out At May After Leak Of Damning Cables

US President Donald Trump 
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Donald Trump launched an extraordinary attack Monday on outgoing British premier Theresa May, following the leak of diplomatic cables highly critical of his presidency.

London has been scrambling to stem the damage caused by the weekend release of confidential telegrams in which its envoy to Washington, Kim Darroch, described the US leader as “inept” and his White House as “uniquely dysfunctional.”

Visibly angered by May’s continuing support for her ambassador, Trump assailed the prime minister over her handling of fraught Brexit negotiations, and welcomed her impending departure from office.

“What a mess she and her representatives have created,” Trump fumed in a series of tweets. “I told her how it should be done, but she decided to go another way.”

“The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister,” he wrote.

As for London’s man in Washington, Trump declared he would have no further contact with him.

“I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S,” the president said, doubling down on weekend comments claiming his administration were “not big fans” of Darroch.

“We will no longer deal with him,” Trump vowed.

The cables’ publication in the Mail on Sunday newspaper came just a month after Trump enjoyed a state visit to Britain that included a 41-gun salute welcome at Buckingham Palace and a banquet dinner with the queen.

The incident threatens to complicate London’s efforts to strike a new trade agreement with key ally the United States, in hope of mitigating potential damage from Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

May’s office called the leak “unacceptable,” but said “the prime minister has full faith in her ambassador to Washington.”

– ‘Very serious consequences’ –
British officials defended Darroch as carrying out his duties by providing “frank” accounts of developments in Washington.

“Our ambassadors provide honest, unvarnished assessments of politics in their country,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“As you’d expect, contact has been made with the Trump administration setting out our view that we believe the leak is unacceptable.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the culprit, if identified, would face “very serious consequences.”

His US affairs deputy Alan Duncan told parliament police could launch their own investigation “if evidence of criminality is found.”

The Daily Telegraph newspaper said such memos are seen by up to 100 people working in the Foreign Office and other government departments.

“But it would require a single official or minister to have access to the whole cache, inevitably casting the spotlight on senior ministers,” it wrote.

The immediate suspicion of the London papers fell on Brexit-backing players in a power struggle within the governing Conservative Party.

– Coveted job –
British politics are in for a major revamp once May ends her three-year spell in power later this month.

Brexit-supporting former foreign minister Boris Johnson is the favorite to replace her in a leadership contest against Hunt.

The winner will get to appoint his own US envoy by the time Darroch’s term expires in January.

Commentators note that the official widely tipped for the Washington job was less enthusiastic about Brexit than Johnson or some members of his team.

“There have been reports that Mark Sedwill, the current cabinet secretary, is being lined up for the position,” The Guardian’s diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour wrote.

But Trump “may be suspicious of Sedwill, and would prefer a true Brexiter”.

Wintour wrote that Sedwill “may not fill that bill, but Nigel Farage — who pretty openly campaigned for the job before Darroch’s appointment in 2016 — does.”

Farage has met Trump on several occasions and has brandished his anti-EU credentials by leading his Brexit Party to victory in European elections in May.

Farage on Monday called Darroch’s memos “pretty irresponsible” even as he played down his interest in the job.

“I’m not a diplomat, and I think that’s quite an understatement,” he told BBC radio.

But Farage added that he “could be very useful” in forging a better relationship “with an administration that contains friends of mine.”

Stop ‘Destabilising’ UK, Allies, May Tells Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Theresa May hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019./ AFP

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that normal relations will not be restored until Moscow ends its “irresponsible and destabilising” activity, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The comments came as May met Putin for the first time since the row over the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.

READ ALSO: Merkel ‘Healthy’ After Recent Trembling, Says German Govt

“She told the president that there cannot be a normalisation of our bilateral relationship until Russia stops the irresponsible and destabilising activity that threatens the UK and its allies — including hostile interventions in other countries, disinformation and cyber attacks,” the spokesperson said.

May also told Putin, in the talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan’s Osaka, that Britain “has irrefutable evidence that Russia was behind the attack” on the former spy.

“The prime minister underlined that we remain open to a different relationship, but for that to happen the Russian government must choose a different path.”

London has made clear that May’s meeting with Putin does not represent a thawing of ties with Russia, despite calls from Putin for the two countries to “turn the page”.

Ties have been severely strained since the March 2018 poisoning of the former Russian spy and double agent Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury.

The incident led to dozens of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and a breakdown in already fragile relations between Moscow and London.

Russia has repeatedly denied any part in his killing.

Earlier this month, Putin said it was time to “turn the page” on the countries’ difficult relationship after the poisoning.

“Global issues related to national interests in the economic and social spheres and global security are more important than games of security services,” said the Kremlin leader.

Skripal sold secrets to Britain and moved there after a 2010 spy swap.

Last year, he and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent, the first use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II.

London says the attempted assassination was “almost certainly” approved by the Russian state.

The G20 will be one of May’s last trips as prime minister as Britain awaits a new leader.

Former foreign minister and London mayor Boris Johnson is the favourite to succeed her in an election that will be decided in a vote by members of the ruling Conservative party.

The winner will be announced on July 23, and will formally take office on July 24 and Putin has voiced hope relations could improve under a new PM.

UK May Not Hold Pivotal Brexit Vote, Says Fox

Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox arrives in Downing Street in London on March 14, 2019,/ AFP

 

British leader Theresa May’s government warned Sunday it might not have a planned Brexit vote this week unless it feels it could secure a win that avoids a lengthy delay to the EU pullout.

Britain has been paralysed by political inaction and chaos as it barrels toward the March 29 end of its 46-year involvement in the bloc without a plan.

Parliament has twice resoundingly rejected the separation terms May reached with the other 27 EU leaders last year.

She doggedly vowed to bring the lawmakers back by Wednesday for a third vote that — if it finally ended in success — would see her ask the EU for a “technical” Brexit delay until June.

READ ALSOBoeing 737 MAX Planes Banned From British Airspace

But May warned on Sunday that another defeat would almost certainly require Britain to take part in European Parliament elections in May.

This would mean “we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever,” May wrote in The Sunday Telegraph”.

Two of her top ministers then warned that May might not even submit her deal for a third vote unless she feels she has sufficient support from her own party members who previously voted against.

“It would be difficult to justify having a vote if you knew you were going to lose it,” International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told Sky News.

“We will only bring the deal back if we are confident that enough of our colleagues… are prepared to support it so that we can get it through parliament,” finance minister Philip Hammond added on the BBC.

“I mean we are not just going to keep presenting it if we haven’t moved the dial,” Hammond said.

Some EU leaders have suggested postponing Brexit until the end of 2020.

A delay that long could give Britain time to decide to either keep much closer EU ties or have Brexit reversed in a new national poll — two options welcomed by a range of European officials.

The 27 EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss their Brexit options.

UK Parliament Rejects Brexit Deal In Historic Vote

File photo/ PRU

 

Britain’s parliament on Tuesday resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, triggering a no-confidence vote in her government and plunging its plans to leave the EU into further chaos.

MPs voted 432 to 202 against May’s plan for taking Britain out of the European Union, the biggest parliamentary defeat for a government in modern British political history.

With a deal that took nearly two years to craft in tatters and her government’s future hanging in the balance, EU leaders sounded a note of exasperation, urging Britain to come out and say what it actually wants.

“If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” EU president Donald Tusk tweeted.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, warned of a heightened risk of a “no deal” Brexit — an outcome that could disrupt trade, slow down the UK economy, and wreak havoc on the financial markets.

The government of Ireland — the only EU member state with a land border with Britain — said it would now intensify preparations to cope with a “disorderly Brexit”.

And German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, representing the EU’s most dominant economy and leading political voice, called the vote “a bitter day for Europe”.

‘Catastrophic’ defeat 

Most lawmakers have always opposed Brexit, as have some leading members of the government, creating a contradiction that has been tearing apart Britain ever since a June 2016 referendum began its divorce from the other 27 EU states.

Moments after Tuesday’s outcome, which was met with huge cheers by hundreds of anti-Brexit campaigners who watched the vote on big screens, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn submitted a motion of no-confidence in May’s government, calling her defeat “catastrophic”.

The vote is expected on Wednesday at 1900 GMT.

May sought to strike a conciliatory tone, telling MPs they had the right to challenge her leadership and promising to hold more talks to salvage a workable solution by the rapidly approaching March 29 Brexit deadline.

She promised to hold discussions with MPs from across parliament to identify ideas “that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support in this House”.

“If these meetings yield such ideas, the government will then explore them with the European Union.”

Downing Street said May will then return to parliament with a new Brexit proposal on Monday.

 ‘Political poker’ 

With their nation again in turmoil, noisy supporters and opponents of Brexit rallied outside the ancient parliament building in London.

“It could end up being the day that will lead to us leaving with no deal!” said 25-year-old Simon Fisher, who backs a swift and sharp break with the EU.

A much larger rally nearby in support of a second referendum turned Parliament Square, dotted with statues of past UK leaders, into a sea of EU flags.

Economists said the scale of May’s defeat — on the upper end of most predictions — now also put pressure on Brussels to make more meaningful compromises.

The pound surged higher against the dollar and euro after the vote, seemingly buoyed by May’s promise to seek a compromise with her opponents.

“Markets project beliefs and the underlying belief is that nobody’s going to be committing economic suicide,” BK Asset Management’s Boris Schlossberg said.

But businesses voiced alarm about the outcome, which does nothing to resolve the uncertainty that has been dampening the UK investment climate for months.

“Financial stability must not be jeopardised in a game of high-stakes political poker,” warned Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, the body governing the British capital’s massive financial district.

 ‘Warm words not enough’ 

May made it her mission to carry out the wishes of voters after she became prime minister a month after the referendum, putting aside her own initial misgivings and stating repeatedly that “Brexit means Brexit”.

But her deal raised concern that Britain could end up locked in an unfavourable trading relationship with the EU.

Criticism of the deal was focused on an arrangement to keep open the border with Ireland by aligning Britain with some EU trade rules, if and until London and Brussels sign a new economic partnership — a tortuous process that could take several years.

Arlene Foster, head of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party upon which May relies for her parliamentary majority, said May needed to win binding concessions from Brussels to secure her vote.

“Reassurances whether in the form of letters or warm words, will not be enough,” said Foster.

“The prime minister must now go back to the European Union and seek fundamental change to the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Speculation is growing on both sides of the Channel that May could ask to delay Britain’s divorce from the EU after almost half a century of membership.

But a diplomatic source told AFP any extension would not be possible beyond June 30, when the new European Parliament will be formed.

AFP

Pound Stands Firm After May Loss, Asian Equity Markets Rise

 

The pound edged down Wednesday after the record defeat of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan but mostly held its ground as investors consider the next likely developments in the long-running saga.

The sterling tanked to a near two-year low soon after the government’s proposal on leaving the European Union was soundly beaten Tuesday evening, but it soon bounced back as traders bet there would not be a “no-deal” exit.

And while it was slightly lower in Asia, the pound managed to avoid the sort of pummelling many had predicted, and analysts say the positive news is that the options for the future are narrowing.

With May expected to win a vote of no confidence called by the opposition Labour Party on Wednesday, talk will move to what happens next.

Analysts say May could ask to delay Britain’s March 29 exit from the bloc as she looks for a more palatable agreement from her EU peers, while there is growing speculation of a general election and even another referendum.

“Momentum is shifting away from the harder Brexit route and towards a number of options ranging from postponement and second referendum. That is pound supportive,” said Gavin Friend at National Australia Bank.

But he added: “I don’t see the pound rallying much until markets are sure the (ruling) Conservatives have seen off the confidence motion.”

Meanwhile, London may still leave the bloc without a backup.

“We cannot ignore the fact that it takes very little effort for no-deal, whilst it takes a vast amount of effort to avoid it,” warned Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

Asian equity markets mostly rose after Tuesday’s rally that was fuelled by Chinese plans to cut taxes in a bid to support the stuttering economy.

However, traders are growing increasingly worried about the lack of movement in the US over the government shutdown, which is now in its fourth week, with both sides digging their heels in.

Tokyo ended off 0.6 percent, but Hong Kong rose 0.2 percent to build on Tuesday’s two percent rally while Shanghai was flat.

Sydney and Seoul each rose 0.4 percent, while Singapore added 0.3 percent and Wellington put on 0.7 percent with Mumbai 0.2 percent higher.

Investors are now gearing up for the start of the corporate earnings season and some are concerned that the effects of recent soft economic data globally — as well as the China-US trade war — will begin to show up in accounts.

Key figures around 0710 GMT 

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2856 from $1.2871 at 2140 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 20,442.75 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 26,980.43

Shanghai – Composite: FLAT at 2,570.42 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1408 from $1.1413

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.44 yen from 108.72

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP six cents at $52.17 per barrel

Oil – Brent Crude: UP 10 cents at $60.74 per barrel

New York – DOW: UP 0.7 percent at 24,065.59 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 6,895.02

AFP

Meghan, Prince Harry Expecting Baby By Beginning Of May

Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, view products displayed for sale as they officially open ‘Number 7’, a ‘Feeding Birkenhead’ citizens’ supermarket and community cafe, during their visit to Birkenhead, northwest England on January 14, 2019.
Anthony Devlin / POOL / AFP

 

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex told well-wishers on Monday she was six months pregnant and was expecting her baby at the end of April or beginning of May.

Clutching her growing baby bump on a visit in northwestern England, the glamorous former US television actress also said she does not know if she is expecting a boy or a girl.

“She said she is six months pregnant and due at the end of April, beginning of May,” Kim Thompson, who was among the people the royal couple met with, told British media.

Harry and Meghan also spoke to a group of children from St Anne’s Catholic Primary School in Birkenhead and were asked about the sex of their unborn child.

Kitty Dudley, 9, said: “I asked her if she was having a girl or a boy and she said she didn’t know”.

Harry and Meghan married in a fairytale wedding that broke with royal traditions at Windsor Castle in May last year and announced in October that they were expecting a baby.

Kensington Palace, their official residence in London, said at the time that the duchess was due in spring 2019.

Royal officials never reveal the precise due date.

Meghan last week was seen as becoming a fully-fledged member of the royal family by taking up her first patronages.

The charities she will lend her name to are involved in education, theatre, women’s empowerment and animal welfare.

AFP

Theresa May Warns Against Call For Second Referendum

File Photo of Theresa May

 

Prime Minister Theresa May will on Monday warn MPs against supporting a second referendum, saying it would do “irreparable damage” to British politics.

“Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum,” she is expected to tell parliament, according to extracts from her speech released by Downing Street.

“Another vote… would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics,” she will say, adding that a second vote “would likely leave us no further forward”.

She will warn that another referendum would also “further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it”.

Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum in 2016 and is set to leave on March 29 next year, although May is struggling to get parliament to accept a divorce agreement she struck last month.

May has faced calls for a second referendum to resolve the impasse but has argued that this would betray the 2016 result and undermine public confidence in politics.

Campaigners for a referendum said May’s comments on Monday showed that the idea is being taken seriously.

“A new public vote would be different from the referendum in 2016 because we now know more about what Brexit means,” said Margaret Beckett, an MP from the main opposition Labour Party and “People’s Vote” supporter.

“Any effort to force Brexit over the line without checking that it has the continued consent of the British people will only reinforce divisions,” she said.

Dozens of MPs from all the main parties also support a second referendum, as do former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair.

There have also been reports that government officials are considering giving the public a vote.

May has delayed a crucial vote by MPs on the draft Brexit deal until next month, leaving the political scene in limbo.

If parliament fails to approve the text, Britain will crash out of the European Union regardless — a prospect that experts warn could lead to serious trade disruption and trigger a financial crisis.

But former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit campaigner, said anyone considering a second referendum was “out of their minds”.

“A second referendum would provoke instant, deep and ineradicable feelings of betrayal,” he wrote on Monday in his weekly column in the Daily Telegraph.

AFP

EU President To Meet May Ahead Of Brexit Summit

President of the European Council Donald Tusk poses at the European Council headquarter on December 12, 2018 in Brussels ahead of a meeting.  Aris Oikonomou / AFP

 

EU President Donald Tusk will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May Thursday for “last-minute talks” to try to help save her beleaguered Brexit deal ahead of a crucial European summit.

“Ahead of #EUCO I will meet PM @theresa_may for last-minute talks,” Tusk tweeted.

May comes to the EU summit in Brussels after postponing an attempt to ratify the Brexit treaty, only to have to face down a bid from fellow Conservative MPs to unseat her.

The other 27 EU countries have drawn up a six-paragraph statement designed to appease concerns about the “Irish backstop” in the Brexit withdrawal and ease the deal’s passage through the British parliament.

According to European diplomats, the leaders will not allow the backstop nor the deal itself — which was only agreed at the end of last month — to be renegotiated at this stage.

But the statement, which could be issued at the summit, would declare that any backstop “would only be in place for a short period and only as long as strictly necessary.”

And it will add: “The union stands ready to examine whether any further assurances can be provided. Such assurances will not change or contradict the withdrawal agreement”.

This would not be the legally binding promise that British eurosceptics are seeking that the measure to keep the Irish border open would not be used to bind the UK into a customs union indefinitely.

“This is incredibly innocent language. Nothing of this is new. There is no end date for the backstop,” one European source told AFP.

“Not even the wording is different. There is the word temporary, but this is already in the withdrawal agreement,” he noted.

But the diplomat said that, in the likely event that the statement will not assuage the concerns of May’s parliamentary opponents, then a legal “interpretation” of the deal could be produced.

This would only be published in January, he said, as if it were released too soon, the Brexiteers might immediately seek more concessions, pushing approval of the plan still further back.

AFP

May Seeks EU Compromise To Save Brexit Deal

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May / AFP

 

Bloodied but not yet beaten, Prime Minister Theresa May comes to Brussels for the second time in three days on Thursday, battling to save her Brexit deal and her career.

The British leader, who survived a confidence vote staged by her own party’s MPs late on Wednesday, now needs to turn a narrow victory on home turf into an unlikely away win.

May’s 27 counterparts will join her in Brussels for a European Union summit less than three weeks after a November 25 meeting at which they approved the Brexit divorce papers.

The accord was hailed as the end to a 17-month negotiation, and leaders dared hope they had saved Britain from crashing out of the union on March 29 with no ongoing trade arrangements.

But when May brought the hard-fought compromise back to Britain she ran into renewed opposition from hardline Brexiteers on her own backbenches and balked at putting it to parliament.

Now she wants Europe to sweeten the offer with “reassurances” that the so-called “backstop” — measures to prevent the return of a hard border with Ireland — will not last indefinitely.

Negotiators said the leaders would listen to May and see what they can offer her in terms of a statement, but insist the 585-page withdrawal agreement itself can not be renegotiated.

“The margin is really tight, it will be an exercise in presentation,” one senior European diplomat confided on Wednesday.

They will, however, hear May out, setting aside time on Thursday during a summit they had hoped would deal with migration, budgets and eurozone reform to talk about Brexit once again.

“The discussions in Britain… do not make the situation any easier, but we should nevertheless do everything we can to avoid a hard Brexit,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

Austria holds the rotating EU presidency and Kurz arrived in Brussels ahead of the summit to talk with host Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, about the agenda.

“It is clear that the withdrawal agreement will not be opened up and amended but there are, of course, other ways of moving towards one another that are in the interests of both sides,” Kurz said.

Backstop sell-by date?  

After May made a desperate three-capital European tour on Tuesday to seek assistance from fellow leaders, Tusk had said he would love to help her, but “the question is how”.

On Wednesday, Kurz suggested the secret may lie in the question of the backstop.

When asked what could be clarified, he said: “For example the question: ‘When does the backstop end?’.”

“I think there is a certain room to move towards each other.”

But determined to remain loyal to continuing member Ireland, European officials insist in public and in private that the backstop must stay. “The idea of a sell-by date won’t stand,” one said.

And any modification or addendum to an agreement on plans for future UK-EU relations will not be legally binding, negotiators say.

Anything May does come away with must convince her own party, its angry Northern Irish allies and a majority of British MPs to back the deal if and when it returns to Westminster.

If the agreement is still found wanting not only would Britain and its main trading partners face economic chaos, but May could be finished off by a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

On Thursday, May won the backing of 200 Conservative lawmakers, but 117 voted to oust her — and only after she had conceded she would step down before 2022 elections.

 Go to see the Queen 

She said she wanted to “get on with the job of delivering Brexit”, and to see “politicians on all sides coming together”.

But her hardline opponents claimed the vote against her had been higher than expected and that most back members — who do not hold jobs in May’s government — want her gone.

“She ought to go and see the Queen and resign urgently,” leading Brexit rebel Jacob Rees-Mogg told the BBC.

Eurosceptics hate the divorce deal agreed last month, which they fear risks tying Britain to the bloc for years after Brexit.

Their confidence vote followed the prime minister’s decision on Monday to postpone a planned vote in the House of Commons in the face of what May feared would be a crushing defeat.

She has promised to hold that vote before January 21 — when she may yet still lose, plunging the Brexit process into fresh crisis.

AFP

UK’s May Claims Win Over EU On Fishing Rights

File Photo of Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May will argue on Wednesday that she managed to secure broader fishing rights for Scotland in the face of firm EU opposition in tough Brexit talks.

May has embarked on a nationwide campaign to sell skeptical Britons on the EU divorce arrangement she secured in Brussels last weekend.

She will spend part of Wednesday in Scotland, whose small nationalist party in the British Parliament rejects the agreement, and where fishing is a particularly emotive issue.

Lawmakers will debate May’s Brexit deal on December 11, with early vote counts stacking up against the British premier.

“At long last, we will be ‘an independent coastal state’ again — taking back full sovereign control over our waters, and free to decide for ourselves who we allow fishing in our waters,” May will say in an address near Glasgow, extracts of which were released by Downing Street.

“The EU maintained throughout the negotiation process that it wanted to link overall access to markets to access to fisheries. It failed in the withdrawal agreement and it failed again in the political declaration,” May will say.

“I have been robust in defending the interests of Scottish fisherman so far — and I will always be so.”

May had promised to make sure Britain leaves the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy after Brexit enters into force on March 29.

But under the deal sealed on Sunday, that will only happen after a transition period scheduled to end in December 2020.

Scottish fishermen are furious they will have to continue obeying EU rules during these 21 months, including much-despised quotas and allowing European vessels access to UK waters.

AFP

Save Our Brexit: May Urges UK Public To Back Her

 

Prime Minister Theresa May made a dramatic direct appeal to the British public to support her deal to exit the European Union on Sunday even as backing from her own party for the agreement appeared to elude her.

May is meeting the other 27 EU leaders in Brussels this weekend to sign off on a divorce treaty and political declaration to end more than 40 years as part of the world’s biggest trading bloc.

In an open letter to the nation, May said she would campaign “heart and soul” to get her Brexit deal through Britain’s parliament – an increasingly unlikely prospect given stiff opposition from some of her own Conservative Party lawmakers and allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) alike.

“It will be a deal that is in our national interest – one that works for our whole country and all of our people, whether you voted “Leave” or “Remain,” she said.

Sunday newspapers said different factions in her own party were preparing alternative Brexit plans to keep Britain closer to the EU should her deal fail as most expect.

That included a plan being hatched by close allies such as finance minister Philip Hammond and work and pensions minister Amber Rudd, reported The Sunday Times without citing sources.

The Sunday Telegraph said there were plans on both sides of the English Channel for a “Plan B”. One such was a Norway-style relationship with Brussels, under which Britain would have a more certain “exit mechanism” from the EU’s rules but would be unable to end the free movement of workers from the bloc – the most politically contentious element of Brexit.

EU Leaders Seal Brexit Deal, Urge Britons To Back May

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May / AFP

 

European Union leaders formally agreed to a Brexit deal at a Brussels summit on Sunday, urging Britons to back Prime Minister Theresa May’s package, which faces furious opposition in the British parliament.

The 27 leaders took barely half an hour to rubber-stamp a 600-page treaty setting terms for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union on March 29 and a 26-page declaration outlining a future free trading relationship. May joined them shortly afterwards for what will be a brief meeting to seal the accord.

“This is the deal,” European Union chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on his way into the meeting, saying he believed May would get it through parliament and ruling out big new concessions.

“Now it is time for everybody to take responsibility — everybody,” said Michel Barnier, the Frenchman who has ground out the withdrawal treaty over the past 18 months.

Juncker called it “a sad day”, saying Brexit was a “tragedy” and tough on both sides.

“I believe that the British government will succeed in securing the backing of the British parliament,” Juncker said, declining to comment on what might happen if May fails.

“I would vote in favour of this deal because this is the best deal possible for Britain,” he added.

In a sign of worries ahead, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite tweeted after the deal was endorsed in the summit chamber that the exit process was “far from over”.

Barnier called the package a basis for close future ties, insisting: “We will remain allies, partners and friends.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said the Brexit vote showed Europe needed reform. He stressed that Paris would hold Britain to tight EU regulations, notably on the environment, in return for giving it easy trade access.

The departure of a nation long sceptical of deeper EU integration was, Macron said, neither a moment for celebration nor mourning, but Britons’ free choice.