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Posts tagged ‘Land of the British Empire’

British PM accepts key amendments from hardline Brexiteers

July 16, 2018

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accepted amendments to a customs bill put forward by Brexit hardliners who oppose her plan for a “common rule book” with the European Union after the country leaves the bloc.

Even with those unwanted concessions, the government only barely won a Monday night vote, gaining 305 votes in favor and 302 against. The bill would prevent Britain from collecting tariffs on behalf of EU nations unless the EU does the same for the UK

The government avoided what would have been an embarrassing defeat, but the razor-thin margin reveals the fragility of May’s support as she tries to find a way to move the complex Brexit process forward.

A Downing Street spokesman said the government accepted the amendments because it sees them as consistent with the prime minister’s plan as set out in a formal white paper last week. However, critics said May had caved in to pressure from Brexit supporters who want a complete break with Europe. They said the changes would greatly limit May’s ability to move forward with the plan that prompted two hardliners in her Cabinet to resign in protest last week — and fresh resignations of lesser figures Monday.

The amendments seek to limit the government’s ability to set up the customs arrangements May has advocated, which would keep close ties to Europe. They were proposed by the European Research Group, the research arm of May’s Conservative Party which is headed by lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Another Conservative Party legislator, Anna Soubry, who opposes the “hard” Brexit that would see Britain leave the EU without a trade deal in place, said the government’s acceptance of the four amendments mean that Rees-Mogg is now effectively “running Britain.”

May also came under fire Monday from a former Cabinet minister who called for a new Brexit referendum, an idea immediately rejected by the prime minister’s team. Former Education Secretary Justine Greening, also a Conservative, said the U.K. Parliament was “gridlocked” over the divisive issue. She said she and other senior Tory lawmakers favor a new vote.

Greening said she would campaign to keep Britain in the EU, if a new referendum were held. The day’s developments heaped additional pressure on the beleaguered May, whose party is deeply split and does not enjoy majority control in Parliament.

Her recent white paper outlining plans for a common rule book with the EU over trade in goods has infuriated those who favor a complete break even if it risks causing an economic shock. May defended her plan as she opened the Farnborough International Airshow. She said it would safeguard vital jobs in the aviation industry and keep Britain’s tradition as a nation in the forefront of the aviation industry.

The issue is sensitive because Airbus signaled in June that it would have to consider its long-term plans for Britain if there is no Brexit deal. May said the plan outlined in the white paper honors the wishes of British voters — who in June 2016 backed Brexit with 52 percent of the vote — while protecting industry and national security.

May’s authority has been weakened with the resignations of major figures Boris Johnson and David Davis and a series of lesser officials who disagree with her Brexit plan. The skirmishes are expected to continue Tuesday when a different trade bill is debated. There is also a move for Parliament to begin its summer recess several days early in a bid to curtail the chaos of recent weeks.

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10,000 protest Trump in Edinburgh; UK police seek paraglider

July 14, 2018

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — From the capital of Edinburgh to seaside golf resorts, thousands in Scotland staged colorful, peaceful protests against Donald Trump on Saturday as the U.S. president played golf at one of his luxury retreats.

Trump and his wife, Melania, are spending the weekend out of the spotlight at his Scottish golf resort at Turnberry, on the western coast, ahead of his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

On the beach outside the resort, a dozen demonstrators staged a “protest picnic,” chanting “Trump is a racist! Trump is a liar!” as hotel guests played golf just 100 meters (yards) away. A line of police, some on horseback, separated the protesters from the golf course. Snipers were also perched atop a nearby tower overlooking the vast property.

Police were still trying to find a paraglider who breached a no-fly zone Friday night and flew a Greenpeace protest banner over the resort. The glider carried a banner reading “Trump: Well Below Par” to protest his environmental and immigration policies. Greenpeace, in a statement, claimed the protest forced the president to take cover, saying “as the glider appears overhead, the president can be seen making for the entrance, breaking into a trot.”

The environmental group said it had told police about the stunt 10 minutes before the glider arrived. Detective Inspector Stephen McCulloch said the protester breached a no-fly zone over Turnberry hotel, committing a criminal offence.

On the eastern side of Scotland, dozens of others protested Saturday outside Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen. One woman climbed onto a wall surrounding the golf resort but was helped down by police.

A much larger demonstration was staged in Edinburgh, where 10,000 people weaved through the capital’s streets in an anti-Trump protest as amused tourists looked on and motorists beeped their horns in support. A choir, a bagpiper, a tambourine band and poetry readings added to the carnival spirit.

Protesters launched into the sky a 20-foot (6-meter) tall blimp depicting Trump as an angry orange baby holding a phone for tweeting. The same “Baby Donald” balloon flew Friday over anti-Trump protests in London, where thousands crammed the streets of the British capital to vent their anger over Trump’s first official visit to Britain.

One protester in Edinburgh, posing as Spider-Man, carried a placard reminding the president that “with power comes responsibility.” “I came to Edinburgh with my daughter to show her it’s important to stand up against men like Trump,” said Caroline Blake, 31, a beautician with her 4-year-old daughter. “Anybody who thinks it’s OK to grab women and talk about them like Trump does isn’t fit to be a president of anything.”

Jonathon Shafi of the group Scotland Against Trump said he wanted to show solidarity with Americans against Trump. “It’s not acceptable that a president talks about grabbing women, separates children from their families and gives encouragement to fascist, racists, misogynists and homophobes,” he said. “We are not anti-American, just against Trump and his divisive regime.”

Some walking by viewed the demonstration as a waste of time. “I don’t see the point,” said Beth Anderson, 43, an office administrator from Edinburgh. “What Trump does and says in America is a matter for the Americans. They say he hates women and is racist, but we’ve got people like that here too.”

But others say it was important to send a message — even if it never reaches Trump himself. “I don’t think anything gets the message across to Trump, but I hope demonstrations like these encourage people in the States to fight the Trump regime,” said Eli Roth, a 56-year-old from California who is living in Edinburgh. “We need to show that there are people outside America who care about what is happening and that Trump has a global impact.”

Sylvia Hui contributed from London.

Demonstrators march against Trump, mock with giant balloon

July 13, 2018

LONDON (AP) — A giant balloon depicting U.S. President Donald Trump as a screaming orange baby flew over London Friday as tens of thousands marched through the streets to protest the American leader’s visit to the U.K.

The diaper-clad infant, with a quiff of hair and a mobile phone for tweeting, was the centerpiece of demonstrations protesting Trump’s policies on issues ranging from immigration and race relations to women and climate change.

“Depicting Trump as a baby is a great way of targeting his fragile ego, and mocking him is our main motivation,” said Matthew Bonner, one of the organizers. “He doesn’t seem to be affected by the moral outrage that comes from his behavior and his policies. You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him.”

Anger over Trump’s visit has already had consequences. Just a week after Trump’s inauguration, Prime Minister Theresa May invited the president for a state visit, the type of event that normally includes glittering horse-drawn carriages and a state dinner hosted by the monarch. That morphed into this two-day “working visit” with much less pomp and circumstance amid concern about security and crowds in central London.

Protest organizers say they plan to stage demonstrations in some 50 cities around the U.K. “We hope that wherever Donald Trump goes, he hears and sees the strength of a British opinion that rejects not just him as a person and however distasteful he is as a person, but the policies and politics that he represents,” said Asad Rehman, organizer of UK Protests Against Trump’s Visit.

Carrying placards reading “Dump Trump,” and “Can’t comb over sexism,” joyous crowds blew whistles before starting from Portland Place heading toward Oxford Circus. Phil Bond, 65, a musician, said that he knows that it is unlikely that the demonstrations will make any difference to the president, but he believes people in the United States will notice. He said he just wants to add “my little drop of water to the 50 gallons.”

Not everyone was protesting against Trump, however. Augustine Chukwuma Obodo, who wore a “Make America Great Again! hat and a Trump for president in 2020 shirt, said he wanted make clear that not everyone found the protest amusing. He said he wanted to add his voice to those who are more quiet, but believe Trump is doing a good job on issues such as pushing NATO members to pay more.

“America is not a cashpoint,” he said. A march in support of Trump will start at the U.S. Embassy on the south bank of the River Thames and end near the prime minister’s residence at Downing Street on Saturday.

Trump, in an interview with Britain’s Sun newspaper, criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan, saying he had not been “hospitable” to the U.S. government. Khan refused to block the Trump baby balloon. “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” Trump said in an interview published Friday.

Khan, who has often been a target of Trump’s ire, backed the protests but said those who want to cause trouble are not welcome. “The U.S. has always stood by our side as a beacon for tolerance, openness and respect. This protest is not anti-American – far from it. Most of those marching on Friday will love the United States, just as I do,” Khan said. “But having a special relationship means that we expect the highest standards from each other, and it also means speaking out when we think the values we hold dear are under threat.”

After his meetings in and around London, Trump will fly north for a round of golf at his Turnberry resort in Scotland. That won’t help him escape protesters who have scheduled demonstrations outside the golf course, as well as George Square in Glasgow and near the U.S. consulate in Edinburgh.

William, Kate’s third child Prince Louis christened

July 09, 2018

LONDON (AP) — The third child of Prince William and wife Kate was christened Monday at a royal chapel. The service for Prince Louis was attended by guests including Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, and newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan.

Louis’s siblings Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 3, also watched the ceremony at The Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace. Kate’s parents and siblings were also there, including her sister Pippa Middleton, who is pregnant. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip didn’t attend.

Louis was dressed in a cream, frilly lace royal christening gown — a replica of the intricate robe made for Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter in 1841. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby welcomed the royals at the entrance to the chapel.

As Kate chatted to the archbishop while holding Louis, she could be heard describing her sleeping son as “very relaxed and peaceful.” The duchess added, with a smile: “I hope he stays like this.” The royal couple also named six close friends and family members to be godparents to Prince Louis, who was born in April.

Out as UK foreign secretary: One more twist in Boris saga

July 09, 2018

LONDON (AP) — The bombastic Boris Johnson is out as foreign secretary, but few if any suggest Monday’s resignation means the last has been heard from one of the best known figures in British politics.

The politician, whose shaggy, unkempt appearance does little to mask fierce personal ambition, has broken with Prime Minister Theresa May over Britain’s exit from the European Union — he favors a much harder, more radical break with the bloc — just as he fell out with college chum and Prime Minister David Cameron in 2016 when Johnson made the fateful decision to jump on the Brexit bandwagon.

The foppish Johnson — an articulate campaigner — helped lead Brexit forces to victory in the June 2016 referendum that effectively ended Cameron’s career and set in motion more than two years of tortuous negotiations with the EU.

Now that he has resigned, and is no longer required to show loyalty to May, Johnson is likely to focus on his long-term goal of becoming prime minister. He is one of the most visible and vocal figures in the Conservative Party, but he has made more than a few enemies along the way, and no one knows if he can ultimately get the party’s backing for the top spot the next time a vacancy arises.

His last big gamble came in February 2016, when he dramatically parted ways with Cameron. The safe course for the ambitious former London mayor would have been to back his longtime political ally Cameron’s bid to keep Britain inside the EU in the referendum and let the prime minister sink or swim.

Instead, Johnson decided to lead the “leave” campaign and use his considerable clout to try to pry Britain out of the EU and, at the same time, push Cameron underwater — a tactic that eventually worked, even if it was May, and not Johnson, who moved into 10 Downing Street after the moving vans took Cameron’s furniture away.

The 54-year-old Johnson has managed to use his disarranged, slightly comical hair as a helmet, shielding him from more serious scrutiny. It lets him come across as an unconventional politician even as he carved a straightforward political path, moving from elite colleges into journalism, then Parliament, then City Hall, finally back to Parliament and ultimately a major Cabinet position.

He is (almost) always willing to play the buffoon, not minding when he’s photographed stranded on a zip line looking ridiculous and happy to speak extremely elementary Greek to Greek constituents. Johnson emphasizes his American connections with American visitors (he was born in New York City’s posh Upper East Side) and talks comfortably about his Turkish great-grandfather with Muslims, sometimes pointing out that his ancestor studied the Quran.

Throughout his career, Johnson has managed to surmount the sort of gaffes that have brought other politicians down. In his newspaper days, Johnson called Africans “piccaninnies” and referred to people from Papua New Guinea as cannibals. As a member of Parliament, he offended an entire British city when he complained that people from Liverpool were wallowing in “victim status” after a Liverpudlian was taken hostage and slain in Iraq.

He has apologized — a lot — and seems to have been forgiven, a lot. Now he can add a stint as foreign secretary to his resume — and not many expect him to leave it at that.

Boris Johnson quits as UK’s May faces mounting Brexit crisis

July 09, 2018

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May dug in her heels Monday after the resignation of two top government ministers over Brexit negotiations whipped up a storm that threatened to topple her fragile minority government

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson quit with a resignation letter accusing May of flying “white flags” of surrender in negotiations with the European Union. He said “the Brexit dream is dying, suffocated by needless self doubt ”

Johnson followed Brexit Secretary David Davis out the door as a hard-won government consensus on future trade ties with the bloc disintegrated less than three days after it was forged, and nine months before Britain is due to leave the EU.

Davis resigned late Sunday, saying May’s plan to maintain close trade and regulatory ties with the EU gave “too much away, too easily.” If Davis’s resignation rattled May, Johnson’s shook the foundations of her government. The tousle-headed blond Johnson is one of Britain’s best-known politicians, and one of the most prominent advocates for Brexit. Some euroskeptic lawmakers dream of replacing May with a staunch Brexiteer such as Johnson, a populist, polarizing figure who has never made a secret of his ambition to be prime minister.

“It is as though we are sending our vanguard into battle with the white flags fluttering above them,” Johnson wrote in a letter that underscored his credentials as a champion of full-speed Brexit. “The government now has a song to sing,” he said. “The trouble is that I have practiced the words over the weekend and find that they stick in the throat.”

May named one of her most loyal ministers, Jeremy Hunt, to replace Johnson in the job of Britain’s top diplomat. Hunt had been health secretary, and is a leading government backer of a compromise “soft Brexit.”

May met with Conservative lawmakers in a packed room at Parliament, in a bid to calm the feverish atmosphere in the deeply divided party. Under Conservative Party rules, a confidence vote in a leader can be triggered if 48 Conservative lawmakers write a letter requesting one. But leading pro-Brexit lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg said he didn’t think she would face a leadership challenge.

“My concern is about the policy rather than the individual,” he said. With Britain due to leave the 28-nation bloc on March 29, 2019, EU officials have warned Britain repeatedly that time is running out to seal a deal spelling out the terms of the divorce and a post-split relationship.

Two years after Britain voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the European Union, May is trying to find a middle way between two starkly differing views —within her party and the country — of the U.K.’s relationship with Europe. Pro-Europeans want to retain close economic ties with the bloc and its market of 500 million people, while some, but not all, Brexit supporters want a clean break to make it possible to strike new trade deals around the world.

The resignations came just days after May announced Friday that she had finally united her quarrelsome government behind a plan for a divorce deal with the EU. Government unity began to fray within hours. Brexit-supporting lawmakers were angered by the proposals, saying they would keep Britain tethered to the bloc and unable to change its rules to strike new trade deals around the world. They also argued that the proposals breach several of the “red lines” the government had set out, including a commitment to leave the EU’s tariff-free customs union.

In his resignation letter, Davis said the “‘common rule book policy hands control of large swathes of our economy to the EU and is certainly not returning control of our laws in any real sense.” Johnson said in his letter that May’s plan to keep close economic ties with the bloc means Britain is heading for a “semi Brexit” that would leave Britain with the “status of a colony” of the EU.

May defended her Brexit plan to lawmakers in the House of Commons on Monday, with Johnson absent from his usual place on the Conservative front bench. She said she and the two departed ministers “do not agree about the best way of delivering our shared commitment to honoring the result of the referendum” in which U.K. voters opted to leave the EU.

May’s plan seeks to keep the U.K. and the EU in a free-trade zone for goods, and commits Britain to maintaining the same rules as the bloc for goods and agricultural products. May said the plan would deliver frictionless trade with Europe and was the “only way to avoid a hard border” between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. Working out how to keep the currently invisible border free of tariffs and customs checks has been a major stumbling block in negotiations.

Rebuffing claims that her proposals make too many concessions to the EU, May said her “smooth and orderly Brexit” would leave Britain free to make its own laws and trade deals. Britain and the EU hope to reach broad agreement by October so the national parliaments of the remaining countries can ratify a deal before Britain leaves. The timetable increasingly looks overly optimistic, and EU frustration with British division and chaos is growing.

European Council President Donald Tusk said Monday that “the mess caused by Brexit is the biggest problem in the history of EU-UK relations and it is still very far from being resolved.” Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the government was incapable of delivering Brexit.

“How can anyone have faith in the prime minister getting a good deal with 27 European Union governments when she can’t even broker a deal within her own Cabinet?” he asked. May has hung on to power longer than many expected after she lost her majority in a June 2017 snap election that she had called in hopes of strengthening her hand in Brexit talks.

But May’s allies fear more resignations may follow. Steve Baker, a junior Brexit minister, resigned along with Davis. May appointed staunchly pro-Brexit lawmaker Dominic Raab as the country’s new Brexit secretary.Many pro-Brexit lawmakers were furious at what they saw as a sell-out of the clean Brexit they desire. Euroskeptic Conservative lawmaker Peter Bone said party activists felt “betrayed” by the government plan.

May was asked by an opposition lawmaker Monday whether she would contest a vote of confidence if one came rather than resign. “Nice try,” she said with a touch of bravado. “But I’m getting on with delivering what the British people want.”

Associated Press writers Lorne Cook and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

Raging wildfire threatens moorlands in northern England

July 01, 2018

LONDON (AP) — Some 120 firefighters are trying to contain a wildfire that has been declared a “major incident” as it spreads in the moorlands of northern England. British fire officials said two large fires had merged because of high winds and extremely dry conditions as much of England is gripped by a heat wave. The fire is in the Winter Hill area, 220 miles (355 kilometers) northwest of London.

Lancashire fire officials said late Saturday that “we are dealing with a rapidly developing aggressive fire across all vegetation types, including woodlands.” About two dozen fire engines are on the scene and steps are being taken to protect nearby properties. Officials are asking residents not to come to try to help because of the threat to public safety.

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