British Finance Minister Hammond Resigns

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond leaves 11 Downing street in London on July 24, 2019. Niklas HALLE’N / AFP

 

Philip Hammond’s resignation Wednesday as UK finance minister thrusts the understated political veteran into the frontlines of a brewing revolt against new Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy.

The 63-year-old Oxford University graduate is one of Britain’s most respected officials among European leaders and a champion of London’s strategically vital financial hub.

Both hope he finds a way to keep Johnson from pulling Britain out of the European Union without a divorce agreement on October 31 — the “no-deal” option that experts think will sink markets and cripple trade.

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Former London mayor Johnson was sworn into office Wednesday after pledging not to seek any further Brexit extensions, “do or die, come what may”.

But Hammond — nicknamed “Spreadsheet Phil” for his dogged devotion to strict budgets — has been that nagging voice who has kept telling Johnson that his promises of a bright no-deal Brexit future are misguided and dangerous.

“I will do everything I can from the backbench to ensure that parliament blocks a no-deal,” Hammond said a few days before he formally quit.

  Swashbuckling spirit 

Hammond’s bookish looks and gentlemanly charm go along with an entrepreneurial spirit and a fervent belief in Britain’s ability to be a forceful voice on the world stage.

The Financial Times newspaper once called him “the product of Britain’s swashbuckling (Margaret) Thatcher era: a risk-taker whose business ventures sometimes did not pay off.”

Most of them initially did not — one venture to sell trips to Iran was thwarted by the 1979 Islamic revolution.

He eventually stumbled onto a profitable property development venture that reportedly made him into a millionaire with the confidence to enter politics.

There he excelled like few in his generation.

He was elected to parliament in 1997 and became transport minister when the Conservatives returned to government in 2010 under prime minister David Cameron.

Hammond later served as defence minister and then foreign secretary — a post that saw him cross paths with Iran again when Britain helped negotiate the 2015 accord with other world powers that limited Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

But he leaves the halls of power for the backbenches of parliament with a feeling of mission not quite accomplished.

“There’s quite a sense of things that we wanted to do, things that I wanted to take further,” he told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast earlier this month.

“I hope we’ve started them, but it would have been nice to have seen some of them finished,” he said.

“Yeah — a bit of sadness about that.”

Political gravitas 

Yet Hammond could still play a key role in deciding Britain’s future over the coming months.

A few dozen Conservative MPs are also openly trying to strip their own incoming party leader of the option of leaving with no-deal when the already twice-delayed Brexit deadline strikes next on October 31.

Hammond has the political gravitas and the ideological credentials to lead them.

He instinctively mistrusts European political institutions and their reams of red tape.

Hammond told the BBC he was once “quite happy to see the EU as something quite alien that was done to us”.

But he also argues that his nation of 66 million has become too “dependent” on the other 27 EU member states over the past 46 years to simply break away overnight.

Fears about losing access to the single European market of 500 million people saw Hammond vote “Remain” in the 2016 EU membership referendum.

Johnson fronted the “Leave” effort and now surrounds himself with fellow Brexit supporters who have spent weeks angling for Hammond’s coveted portfolio.

Hammond said with self-deprecating humour that losing ministerial privileges such as the chauffeured limousine might come as a slight shock.

“You know you are no longer a government minister when you get in the back of the car and it fails to move away from the kerb,” he joked in the BBC podcast.

“Probably just re-grounding yourself, in reality, is not a bad thing.”

UK Finance Minister Says Will Quit If Johnson Becomes PM

 

British finance minister Philip Hammond said Sunday he would make a point of resigning before Boris Johnson became prime minister, saying he could never agree to his Brexit strategy.

Johnson is widely expected to win the governing, centre-right Conservative Party’s leadership contest on Tuesday and be named as prime minister once Theresa May resigns the premiership on Wednesday.

Hammond has become an increasingly fierce critic of Johnson’s Brexit strategy — leaving the European Union with or without a deal on October 31 — and would never have expected to remain as chancellor of the Exchequer in a Johnson government.

But the fact that the second-most senior figure in the government is making a point of resigning rather than wait to be moved on in the incoming prime minister’s reshuffle is a significant gesture — and an indicator of the opposition Johnson could face in pursuing his Brexit strategy.

“I’m sure I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point,” Hammond told BBC television.

“Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next prime minister, I understand that his conditions for serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on the 31st of October.

“That is not something that I could ever sign up to.

“It’s very important that the prime minister is able to have a chancellor who is closely aligned with him in terms of policy, and I therefore intend to resign to Theresa May before she goes to the palace to tender her own resignation on Wednesday.”

May will head to Buckingham Palace in London on Wednesday to see Queen Elizabeth II, the head of state, and relinquish her office.

Johnson’s rival for the premiership is Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has said that Britain should prepare for a no-deal Brexit if a deal seems unlikely by the end of September.

Hunt would be prepared to delay Britain’s departure date if a deal seemed within reach but is also prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a divorce deal.

Hunt has not said who he wants running the Treasury should he win the leadership contest.

New Prime Minister Names Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary

Boris_JohnsonNew Prime Minister, Theresa May has made Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, foreign secretary in her new government.

He replaces Philip Hammond, who becomes chancellor. Ex-Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has been appointed home secretary.

No 10 said ex-Chancellor George Osborne had resigned from the government.

On arriving at Downing Street, Mrs May vowed to lead a “one nation” government that works for all not just the “privileged few”.

The UK’s second female prime minister promised to give people who were “just managing” and “working around the clock” more control over their lives.

Michael Fallon continues as defence secretary, and Liam Fox, who resigned as defence secretary in 2011, has a new role as international trade minister.

H-Bomb Test: South Korea Resumes Propaganda Broadcasts

South KoreaSouth Korea has resumed loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts into North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s claim of a hydrogen bomb test.

The move has led North Korea to begin similar broadcasts of its own.

North Korea started its own loudspeaker broadcasts on the shared border, the South’s Yonhap News Agency said on Friday.

Although it is not certain North Korea carried out the test as claimed, its actions have been condemned internationally with the UN agreeing to draw up new measures against it.

If the underground test is confirmed, it would be the North’s fourth nuclear test and its first of the H-bomb, which is more powerful than an atomic bomb.

“We’re putting out critical messages about Kim Jong-un’s regime and its fourth nuclear test, saying North Korea’s nuclear weapons development is putting its people in more difficult times economically,” a military official said.

British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond has urged the South to show restraint, as resuming the broadcasts was “simply rising to the bait”.

The cross-border broadcasts blare out an eclectic mix of everything from K-pop and weather forecasts to snippets of news and critiques of the North Korean regime.

Their use during a dangerous flare-up in cross-border tensions last year infuriated Pyongyang, which at one point threatened artillery strikes against the loudspeaker units unless they were switched off.

British Embassy In Tehran Reopens

British embassyNearly four years after it was closed, Britain has reopened its embassy in Iran.

British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, is in Tehran with a delegation of business leaders for a ceremony to mark the reopening.

It held about the same time, Iran was also reopening its embassy in London.

The UK embassy was closed in 2011 after it was stormed by protesters during a demonstration against sanctions.

Mr Hammond is the first UK Foreign Secretary to visit Iran since 2003.

The visit came weeks after Iran reached a deal with six world powers aimed at curbing its nuclear programme.

Earlier, Mr Hammond said the  nuclear deal and the election of Hassan Rouhani as President in June 2013,  had drawn greater engagement with the western world and had been “important milestones” in the improved relations between the two countries.

In November 2011 Iran announced it was expelling the UK’s ambassador in retaliation for British support for tougher sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme.

Hundreds of protesters stormed embassy compounds two days later, smashing windows, torching cars and burning Union flags.

The UK responded by closing the Iranian embassy in London later that month.

But following the election of Rouhani and an agreement on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme, the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, proposed the reopening of the embassy in June last year.

Since then, the reopening of the embassy had been held up by technical problems over visa policy and communications equipment, Mr Hammond said.

Egypt Pledges To Support Nigeria In Fight Against Boko Haram

boko haramThe Egyptian government has promised to collaborate with the administration of President Muhamadu Buhari in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists and to strengthen business relationship between the two countries.



Addressing reporters in Abuja during a press conference on Saturday, the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Shoukri Sameh, who also represented his President during the Nigeria’s Presidential inauguration, said that he was convinced that the new government would respond to the needs of Nigeria and also project African interest.

According to Mr Sameh, both Nigeria and Egypt have common challenges and interests which stronger relationship between both countries could address.

Egypt is one of the countries that have declared their support for the new administration in the fight against the Boko Haram.

Shortly after the inauguration of the Nigerian President on Friday, the UK Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said his country was ready and willing to help in the fight against the terrorist group.

Nevertheless, President Buhari in his inauguration speech said: ”Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires,” reiterating his commitment to ending the over five years insurgency in the oil-rich nation’s north-east.

 

 

UK’s Health Department Tests Dead Air Passenger For Ebola Virus

ebola tAn Ebola Virus test carried out after the death of a female passenger that arrived in the UK from Gambia has come out negative, the UK Department of Health said on Monday.

The passenger’s symptoms had not suggested she was an Ebola victim until the test was carried out because she had travelled from West Africa.

Over 728 people died of Ebola in different countries such as, Guniea, Liberia and Sierra Leone this year, in the worst-ever outbreak disease.

The Department for Health said the test on the elderly woman, who landed at Gatwick Airport, came back negative on Sunday afternoon.

According to the Public Health office in England, the risk to UK remains very low.

Ebola virus spreads through human contact with a sufferer’s bodily fluids.

The symptoms can lead to external hemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure. The current mortality rate is about 55%.

The Director of Global Public Health at Public Health England (PHE), Dr Brian McCloskey,  said: “There was no health risk to other passengers or crew, as the passenger did not have symptoms during the flight.

“It was considered very unlikely to be a case of Ebola but testing was done as a precaution, and was negative.

“The correct procedures were followed to confirm there was no reason to quarantine the airplane, the passengers or staff. PHE can confirm there was no public health risk around the sad death of this individual.”

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, said the government is taking the outbreak, and the threat to the UK, “very seriously”.

The Ministers, have discussed what precautionary measures could be taken if any UK nationals in West Africa becomes infected with Ebola.