Spain’s PM Sanchez Repeats Brexit Veto Threat After May Talks

Leader of the Spanish Socialist Party PSOE Pedro Sanchez gives a speech during a debate on a no-confidence motion at the Lower House of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on June 01, 2018.
PHOTO: Emilio Naranjo / POOL / AFP

 

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez maintained his threat to scupper Britain’s draft deal to exit the European Union following a meeting with UK counterpart Theresa May on Thursday.

“After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit,” Sanchez wrote on Twitter after arriving for a historic state visit to Cuba.

Madrid is seeking a guaranteed veto on post-Brexit relations between the EU and Gibraltar, the British enclave on Spain’s southern tip.

Spain wants to retain what it sees as its right to negotiate the future of Gibraltar with Britain on a bilateral basis, which would give it an effective veto.

An original clause in the draft deal stipulated that after the UK left the bloc, any agreement between Britain and the EU could only apply to Gibraltar if it had previously been negotiated on a bilateral basis with Spain.

However, that clause has since disappeared from the final draft.

Although the legal service of the EU Council has tried to reassure Spain that the current text does not preclude this, Madrid wants that veto power clearly spelt out.

May is due to sign a treaty with EU leaders to leave the bloc on Sunday, but Spain holds the power to prevent that from happening.

“The negotiations are now at a critical moment, and all our efforts must be focused on working with our European partners to bring this process to a final conclusion,” May told Britain’s parliament, defending her draft deal.

Gibraltar is a tiny 2.6 square mile (6.8 square kilometre) territory that is home to about 30,000 people.

It was ceded to the British crown in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht that ended the War of the Spanish Succession with a more general agreement to preserve the balance of power in Europe.

Earlier on Thursday, Gibraltar’s chief minister accused Spain of being heavy-handed.

“Spain does not need a veto to get us to a table,” Fabian Picardo told the local parliament.

The euro zone’s fourth-largest economy “does not need a whip to get the smallest economy in Europe to sit around the table with it and have a meaningful discussion about cooperation,” he added.

AFP

UK PM Ready To Extend Post-Brexit Transition

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May photo: Ben STANSALL / AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed on Thursday she was considering extending the transition period after Brexit for a few months to give time to agree to a new trade deal with the European Union.

“A further idea that has emerged, and it is an idea at this stage, is to create an option to extend the implementation period for a matter of months,” she told reporters as she arrived for the second day of EU summit talks in Brussels.

AFP

May Appeals For Party Unity At ‘Toughest Phase’ Of Brexit

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May waves after giving her keynote address on the fourth and final day of the Conservative Party Conference 2018 at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, central England, on October 3, 2018.
Ben STANSALL / AFP

Prime Minister Theresa May appealed for her bickering party on Wednesday to unite at the “toughest phase” of negotiations aimed at averting economic chaos once Britain leaves the European Union in six months.

May danced a little jig to the strains of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” as she approached the podium for her address at the ruling Conservative Party’s annual gathering.

It was a self-deprecating dig at the ribbing she got for her robotic dancing during a visit to Africa.

It also appeared aimed at showing the prime minister to be at ease and in charge at a momentous moment for Britain.

“We are entering the toughest phase of the negotiations,” May said, drawing firm applause.

“If we stick together and hold our nerve, I know we can get a deal that delivers for Britain.”

It was one of the biggest speeches of her political career. May is buffeted from all directions, with European officials anxious that the two sides are heading for a messy divorce.

Following warnings of the potentially calamitous impact a no-deal Brexit would have on trade, France’s budget minister admitted on Tuesday that Paris was preparing “for the worst”.

But May’s immediate concern was to regain the confidence of her party and present a united front in crucial negotiations with Brussels over the next two weeks.

She mixed optimism with a show of determination in a sweeping hour-long address.

“I passionately believe that our best days lie ahead of us and that our future is full of promise,” May said.

‘Come together’

Yet May currently has a mini-revolt on her hands from some members of her party as well as facing pressure from EU officials determined to stick to their guns.

Eurosceptic MPs led by former foreign minister Boris Johnson have held a string of packed fringe meetings to argue against May’s proposal for Britain to follow EU trade rules on goods after it leaves.

Johnson and others say such a close partnership would ignore the wishes of voters who backed the Brexit referendum in 2016. They want a clean break.

EU officials argue that May is asking for too much: “cherry-picking” the benefits of a union while still leaving the bloc.

May insists her ideas offer the only way to protect jobs and trade while also avoiding physical checks on Britain’s land border with EU member Ireland.

“Even if we do not all agree on every part of this proposal, we need to come together,” May said.

The prime minister is also preparing new proposals on a plan B to keep the frontier open if and until a new trade deal could be agreed with the EU.

Speculation is growing that London may accept some checks on goods passing between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain.

These are meant to avoid such checks on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland itself — something all sides want to avoid.

But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on Tuesday appeared to reject the idea outright — a prospect that could kill any arrangement May reaches with the EU.

May’s party depends on the DUP for its majority in the House of Commons. MPs must approve any final Brexit deal.

But May also has her share of heavyweight supporters both inside the party and Brussels who think any alternative to her plan would make matters far worse.

May has surprised observers by surviving this far and many delegates at the conference — whatever their feelings on Brexit — are wary of a change at the top now.

“We underestimated Mrs. May’s resilience,” a senior European official told AFP.

AFP

Theresa May To Meet Emmanuel Macron Over Brexit Deal

May, Macron Announce Counter-terrorism Action Plan

 

French President Emmanuel Macron will host Theresa May on Friday, the Elysee Palace said Tuesday, as the British prime minister races to secure support for a deal on her country’s exit from the European Union.

The two leaders will hold a working meeting and private dinner at the presidential retreat at Bregancon, where Macron and his wife Brigitte will be spending their summer holidays.

May, who will attend with her husband Philip, will be the first foreign leader invited to the fort at Bregancon, perched on a small peninsula on the Mediterranean coast.

Macron’s office did not note any specific agenda items, but an agreement on Britain’s divorce from the EU — set for March 29, 2019 — must be forged in principle before a European summit in mid-October.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier last week rejected May’s proposal to keep the land frontier between the UK and EU member Ireland open and without a “hard border” that could severely hamper trade.

May’s visit comes after Britain’s new foreign minister Jeremy Hunt met his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris on Tuesday, one of several top British officials being dispatched by May to help drum up support amid difficult Brexit negotiations.

Hunt told French radio earlier Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit was “the last thing we want”, adding that May’s chosen strategy was to push for continued close ties.

AFP

Trump Told Me To Sue EU, Says May

US President Donald Trump (L) gestures as he speaks next to Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May (R) during a joint press conference following their meeting at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, near Ellesborough, northwest of London on July 13, 2018. Stefan Rousseau / POOL / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump told British Prime Minister Theresa May she should sue the European Union rather than negotiate with them, she said Sunday.

May said Trump’s self-declared “brutal” option in the Brexit negotiations was to sue Brussels, shedding light on his mysterious suggestion that has hung over their talks and his four-day visit to Britain.

“He told me I should sue the EU. Sue the EU,” May told BBC television.

The unknown Trump option had been hanging in the air for days.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper on Thursday ahead of his talks with May, Trump said he had told May how to deal with Brussels but she “didn’t listen”.

“I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. She wanted to go a different route,” he said.

“She probably went the opposite way.”

In a press conference after their talks Friday, Trump said it had been a suggestion rather than advice.

“I think maybe she found it too brutal,” he said, standing alongside May, without revealing the details.

“I could fully understand why she thought it was tough. And maybe someday she’ll do that. If they don’t make the right deal she may do what I suggested but it’s not an easy thing.”

 ‘Would have been great’ 

And when pressed in a newspaper interview afterwards, Trump still declined to reveal what his suggestion was.

“I recommended her something, I gave her an option, I’d rather not tell you what that option is, but I think she might,” he told The Mail on Sunday newspaper.

“I think it would’ve been great, but it’s not too late for her to do that, necessarily.”

May finally revealed what Trump had told her.

“He told me I should sue the EU. Sue the EU. Not go into negotiations, sue them. Actually, no, we’re going into negotiations with them,” she said.

“What the president also said at that press conference was don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from negotiations because then you’re stuck,” she added.

“So I want us to be able to sit down to negotiate the best deal for Britain.”

The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019.

May’s proposals for Britain’s future relationship with Brussels, published Thursday, foresee an overall “association agreement” with the EU encompassing different deals on different areas.

Britain and the EU would maintain a “common rulebook” for goods to ensure smooth trade including in agricultural, food and fisheries products.

AFP

U.S. Embassy In Jerusalem To Open On May 14

A worker installs decorations of Israeli and US flags in front of the US Consulate in Jerusalem where US officials will install the new US Embassy, on May 7, 2018. The embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is expected to occur on May 14. THOMAS COEX / AFP

 

Workmen on Monday put up street signs to the US embassy due to open in Jerusalem on May 14, a move hailed as historic by Israel but loathed by Palestinians.

Municipal workers erected signposts reading “US Embassy” in Hebrew, Arabic and English around the site, currently a US consular building, in the city’s Arnona neighbourhood.

Breaking with decades of US diplomacy and international consensus President Donald Trump announced on December 6 the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the embassy, located until now in Tel Aviv.

The embassy is to get a festive inauguration next Monday, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel.

Small in size, it will initially occupy part of the consular workspace pending planning and construction of a purpose-built embassy, a long-term project according to the US State Department.

Trump’s unilateral decision delighted the Israelis and enraged the Palestinians, who want to make the eastern, mainly Palestinian, part of the city the capital of their future state and who say Trump’s decision ignores their demands.

The question of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian leaders are refusing to meet Trump’s peace negotiators because of the embassy row.

AFP

Macron, May Demand Fight Against Chemical Weapons

Theresa May (L) and Emmanuel Macron (R)                                                                               Credit: AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday urged the world to keep up the fight against chemical weapons on the anniversary of an international convention banning their use.

“On the 21st anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and following Douma and Salisbury, Theresa May and I call with one voice for the world to join us in upholding the vital global prohibition on chemical weapons use,” Macron tweeted in English and French, referring to recent chemical attacks in Syria and Britain.

May’s office tweeted a similar statement, also in both languages, saying “we should never go back” on ending the production, stockpiling and use “of these terrible weapons.”

Chemical weapons, such as mustard gas, were first used on the battlefields of World War I and also in 1988 by late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against civilians in Halabja, Iraq.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) convention, which oversees the destruction of such arms, came into effect on April 29, 1997.

Macron’s and May’s statements came two weeks after the United States, France and Britain carried out missile strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime over its suspected use of chemicals in an attack near Damascus on April 7 in which over 40 people died.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which oversees the application of the 1997 convention, are currently in Syria to probe the assault, which Syria and Russia say was staged.

Russia has also denied accusations that it used a Soviet-made nerve agent to poison a former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Western countries expelled scores of Russian diplomats over the attack.

AFP

Trump, Theresa May Not Invited To Royal Wedding

FILE COPY Prince Harry and his fiancee, Meghan Markle Photo Credit: AFP

 

United States’ President, Donald Trump and British Prime Minister, Theresa May, have not been invited to the wedding of Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle, British media reported on Tuesday.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for Kensington Palace, the prince’s official residence, said: “It has been decided that an official list of political leaders — both UK and international — is not required for Prince Harry and Ms. Markle’s wedding”.

Then prime minister David Cameron was invited to the 2011 wedding of Harry’s brother Prince William, who is second in line to the throne after their father Prince Charles.

Harry’s place in the line of succession makes this wedding less politically significant and the couple have instead invited youth workers and military veterans to attend.

Harry is fifth in line to the throne and will soon find himself in sixth place after William’s wife Kate gives birth as expected later this month.

Kensington Palace also said on Tuesday that 2,640 people would be invited on the day into the grounds of Windsor Castle, where the couple will be married in St George’s Chapel on May 19.

Of those, 1,200 have been picked out by royal officials from around the country and the remainder will be members of the public, guests from charities associated with the couple.

Among the invitees is 30-year-old Philip Gillespie, a military veteran who lost his right leg in an explosion in Afghanistan and was a participant in the Invictus Games for wounded service personnel, which Harry founded.

Another is Rosie Ginday, 34, the founder of “Miss Macaroon”, a charity that provides culinary training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged young people in Birmingham.

Twelve-year-old Amelia Thompson who was caught up in last year’s Manchester Arena terror attack in which 23 people were killed and hundreds more injured, is also on the list.

The invitees will be able to watch the arrivals of the bride and groom and their wedding guests at the chapel and the carriage procession as it departs from the castle after the service.

AFP

British PM Begins Reshuffle By Naming New Party Chairman

British Prime Minister Theresa May began a major reshuffle of her cabinet by replacing the chairman of her Conservative Party, ahead of more ministerial changes expected later on Monday.

Junior immigration minister Brandon Lewis will take over the post from Patrick McLoughlin, whose departure had been anticipated following the party’s poor performance in a June general election.

AFP

May Says 2018 Brexit Progress Will Renew British Pride

British Prime Minister Theresa May Photo: Bjorn LARSSON ROSVALL / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP

Prime Minister Theresa May said 2018 would be a year of “renewed confidence and pride” for Britain as it confronts the challenges of negotiating Brexit, in her New Year message out Sunday.

Divorce talks between London and Brussels are set to move on to transition arrangements, trade and security next year as Britain prepares to leave the European Union in March 2019.

May said 2017 had been a year of progress for Britain as it struck agreement on its departure bill, Northern Ireland and the rights of EU citizens, in the first phase of Brexit negotiations.

“I believe 2018 can be a year of renewed confidence and pride in our country,” the premier said.

“A year in which we continue to make good progress towards a successful Brexit deal, an economy that’s fit for the future, and a stronger and fairer society for everyone.

“And whatever challenges we may face, I know we will overcome them by standing united as one proud union of nations and people.”

However, the British Chambers of Commerce, which represents thousands of firms across the country, warned that business was losing patience waiting for clarity on what will happen once Britain leaves the EU.

“That patience is now wearing thin. Businesses want answers,” director general Adam Marshall told The Observer newspaper.

“Getting the twin challenges of Brexit and the economic fundamentals right will require leadership, consistency and clarity — after a year in which business has been dismayed by what it sees as division and disorganisation.”

– Vow on harassment, prejudice –
May said 2017 had been a year of progress in which her Brexit objectives had been pursued with a steady purpose

“Making a success of Brexit is crucial, but it will not be the limit of our ambitions,” she said.

May said she wanted a “balanced approach” to public spending, reducing Britain’s debt pile while investing in schools, hospitals and state healthcare.

May said she wanted to sweep harassment from the workplace and “eliminate all prejudice and discrimination from our society”.

Internationally, she said Britain would work to tackle extremism, climate change and plastic waste in the oceans.

Meanwhile opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the prospect of a “new Britain” was “closer than ever before”.

“We are a government in waiting, while the Conservatives are weak and divided and stuck in an outdated rut,” the veteran leftist said.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable used his new year message to push for a second referendum on EU membership.

“There’s still time to offer people the choice of an exit from Brexit,” he said.

AFP

May, Trump Agree On Need For Quick Post-Brexit Trade Deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump “agreed on the importance of a swift post-Brexit bilateral trade deal” during talks Tuesday, her Downing Street office said.

The leaders discussed a future trade deal between the two countries during a phone call which focused on several other issues including Jerusalem, a spokesman said.

It was their first conversation since a rare public row erupted last month after May criticised Trump’s retweeting of a fringe British far-right leader’s anti-Muslim messages, which provoked an angry response from the president.

“The prime minister updated the president on the recent good progress of the Brexit negotiations, and the president set out the progress he had made on his economic agenda,” the spokesman said.

“They agreed on the importance of a swift post-Brexit bilateral trade deal.”

Earlier Tuesday, May chaired the first detailed cabinet discussion on Britain’s future trade ties, after European Union leaders last week approved an interim agreement on the terms of their separation, and agreed to move talks on to trade next year.

London wants to secure “the best possible trading terms with the EU” that enable Britain “to set rules that are right for our situation and facilitates ambitious third-country trade deals,” Downing Street said after the meeting.

The transatlantic phone call also touched on Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital earlier this month, which May previously called “unhelpful” and said the British government disagreed with.

“They discussed the different positions we took on the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and agreed on the importance of the US bringing forward new proposals for peace and the international community supporting these efforts,” the Downing Street spokesman added.

May and Trump also talked about Yemen, with May “highlighting our ongoing deep concerns at the humanitarian situation,” according to Downing Street.

“They agreed on the vital importance of reopening humanitarian and commercial access to prevent famine and alleviate the suffering of innocent Yemenis,” the spokesman said.

AFP

May Seeks ‘Ambitious Plans’ For Brexit Talks

FIle: Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May at 10 Downing Street Ben STANSALL / AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday that she wanted European Union leaders meeting in Brussels to set out “ambitious plans” for Brexit negotiations in the coming weeks.

“We will be looking at the concrete progress that’s been made in our exit negotiations and setting out ambitious plans for the weeks ahead,” she said as she arrived for the two-day EU summit.

“I particularly want to see an urgency in reaching an agreement on citizens’ rights.”

The 27 other EU leaders are due to decide whether there has been “sufficient progress” in the first stage of Brexit talks and if they can move on to discussing Britain’s future trading relationship.

But after five rounds of negotiations, there remains a deadlock, notably on the question of Britain’s financial commitments, and the decision is expected to be delayed until the next EU summit in December.

May is due to plead her case with her fellow leaders at a working dinner on Thursday evening, before leaving them to make their decision without her on Friday morning.

The prime minister made a speech on Brexit in Florence last month, offering some concessions on the money and the rights of around three million European citizens living in Britain.

In a letter directly addressing European citizens on Thursday, May said Britain was within “touching distance” of a deal on guaranteeing their future and vowed again that anyone living lawfully in Britain would not be asked to leave after Brexit.

But questions remain about their status if there is no deal before Britain automatically leaves the EU in March 2019.

AFP