As voters in all 28 European Union countries elect a new shared parliament , here are some key races to watch in the battle to fill the 751 seats in the European Parliament: ITALY: Italy’s anti-migrant, anti-Islam interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has been campaigning hard to boost his right-wing League party to become the No. 1 party in Italy and possibly Europe. Salvini has been using his hard-line credentials to expand a parliamentary group of European populists that already includes far-right politicians in France, Germany and Austria. Salvini is promising to restore sovereignty over key issues like immigration to national capitals, thwarting the EU’s drive toward closer integration of its members. In Europe, the populists will find it difficult to deliver on their transformation promises. But Salvini is also looking to capitalize on the outcome of the European elections to boost his power at home in the League’s uneasy populist ruling coalition with the left-wing 5-Star Movement. Salvini could use European electoral gains to leverage his position in the government and pass policies important to his base of northern Italian entrepreneurs, like a flat tax or the high-speed train connecting Lyon, France, with Turin. Most analysts believe that Salvini is unlikely to seek an early election in Italy even with a big victory on the European stage. The 5-Star Movement, on the other hand, could decide to pull the plug on the coalition government. FRANCE: France is looking at an epic battle between pro-EU centrist President Emmanuel Macron and anti-immigration,
The end of Theresa May’s premiership will usher in an even more turbulent phase of Britain’s exit from the European Union as any new leader is likely to seek to strike a tougher divorce deal, and there could be an election within months. Ultimately, the United Kingdom will either leave with a transition deal of some kind to smooth its way out, leave abruptly without a deal, or not leave at all. Another delay is likely. Boris Johnson, the face of the official Brexit campaign in 2016 and the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed May, wants a harder divorce than May was proposing. Other top candidates for the job are Sajid Javid, Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt. Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to implement a range of classic socialist policies. He voted against EU membership in 1975, gave only reluctant backing to the 2016 campaign to remain in the EU, and has signalled only lukewarm backing for another referendum. 1) ‘NO-DEAL’ BREXIT Whoever succeeds Theresa May as Conservative Party leader will almost certainly have to demand a tougher Brexit deal from Brussels – yet the EU has repeatedly said it will not rework the Withdrawal Treaty. That means a confrontation of some kind with the bloc before the scheduled departure date of Oct. 31. To strengthen the hand of a future prime minister, some ministers want to step up preparations for a no-deal exit. This is the nightmare scenario for many big businesses; by stripping the world’s fifth-largest economy
British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected on Friday to announce her departure from office, The Times reported, without citing a source. May would remain as prime minister while her successor is elected in a two-stage process under which two final candidates face a ballot of 125,000 Conservative Party members, the newspaper said. May’s premiership had already been seen as hanging by a thread, with a high-profile Cabinet minister having quit and a growing revolt over Brexit looking set to force the U.K. leader from power. The resignation came from Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom, who said she no longer believed the government’s approach would honor the result of the 2016 referendum. Theresa May’s office said the prime minister was “disappointed” but would stay focused on delivering Brexit. Leadsom and other ministers spent much of Wednesday in private talks plotting to kill May’s last-gasp plan to use a possible second referendum to get her divorce agreement through Parliament. As the pro-Brexit faction within May’s Cabinet discussed how to coordinate their revolt, the most senior rank-and-file members of her Conservative Party held a crisis meeting to weigh up whether to throw her out altogether. The pound fell as investors braced for the prospect that a pro-Brexit hard-liner could succeed May, and might rip Britain out of the European Union with no deal to cushion the blow. It was a day when May’s authority could almost be seen draining away. As she spoke in the Commons, May’s colleagues paid
Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter said in a meeting on Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron that he cannot work toward a cease-fire because he has no one with whom to negotiate. Hifter opened a military offensive on the Libyan capital of Tripoli in early April despite commitments to move toward elections in the North African country. Libya is divided between Khalifa Hifter, whose self-styled Libyan National Army controls the east and much of the south, and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who runs the U.N.-supported but weak government in Tripoli. During a more than hour-long closed door meeting, Macron asked Hifter to work toward a cease-fire and a return to the political process, according to a statement from Macron’s office. When the question of a cease-fire is put on the table, “the reaction of … Hifter is ‘with whom can I negotiate a ceasefire today?’ ” an official of the presidential Elysee Palace said. Hifter considers the Sarraj government is being eaten from within by armed militias and considers “it’s not for him (Hifter) to negotiate with representatives of these militias,” the official said. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the delicate talks and asked to remain anonymous. The closed-door meeting came two weeks after Macron hosted Libya’s struggling U.N.-backed prime minister, who has denounced Hifter’s offensive as an attempted coup. Macron’s office has expressed support for Sarraj. The official rejected claims that France is secretly backing Hifter, saying that France is trying “to create a dynamic” between
Prime Minister Theresa May’s final Brexit gambit was in tatters on Wednesday just hours after her offer of a vote on a second referendum and closer trading arrangements failed to win over either opposition lawmakers or many in her own party. Nearly three years since Britain voted 52% to 48% to leave the European Union, May is trying one last time to get her divorce deal approved by the British parliament before her crisis-riven premiership ends. May on Tuesday appealed to lawmakers to get behind her deal, offering the prospect of a possible second referendum on the agreement and closer trading arrangements with the EU as incentives. Conservative and Labour lawmakers lined up to criticise May’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill, or WAB, legislation which implements the terms of Britain’s departure. Some upped efforts to oust her. “We are being asked to vote for a customs union and a second referendum. The Bill is directly against our manifesto – and I will not vote for it. We can and must do better – and deliver what the people voted for,” Boris Johnson, the bookies favourite to be Britain’s next prime minister, said. The deadlock in London means it is unclear how, when or even if Britain will leave the European club it joined in 1973. The current deadline to leave is Oct. 31. Britain’s labyrinthine crisis over Brexit has stunned allies and foes alike, and with deadlock in London, the world’s fifth largest economy faces an array of options including an exit
Prime Minister Theresa May set out on Tuesday a “new deal” for Britain’s departure from the European Union, offering sweeteners to opposition parties in her fourth attempt to break an impasse in parliament over Brexit. Three years since Britain voted to leave the EU and almost two months after the planned departure date, May is mounting a last bid to try to get the deeply divided parliament’s backing for a divorce deal and leave office with some kind of legacy. The odds do not look good. Despite offering what she described as “significant further changes”, many lawmakers, hardened in their positions, have already decided not to vote next month for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, legislation which implements the terms of Britain’s departure. Speaking at the headquarters of PricewaterhouseCoopers, May appealed to lawmakers to get behind her deal, offering the prospect of a possible second referendum on the agreement and closer trading arrangements with the EU as incentives. “I say with conviction to every MP or every party: I have compromised, now I ask you to compromise,” she said. “We have been given a clear instruction by the people we are supposed to represent, so help me find a way to honour that instruction, move our country and our politics and build the better future that all of us want to see.” By offering the possibility of holding a second vote on her deal and a compromise on customs arrangements, May hopes to win over opposition Labour lawmakers, whose votes she
Television comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of office as Ukraine’s new president on Monday, promising that as hard as he had worked in the past to make Ukrainians laugh, he would now work to keep them from crying. As his first act, he dismissed the parliament still dominated by loyalists of his defeated predecessor, setting up an election in two months in which his new party has a chance to win its first seats. The inauguration day was marked by informal moments that conveyed the outsider persona that helped carry the political novice to a landslide victory last month. He high-fived cheering supporters who held their arms outstretched outside the Soviet-era parliament building, and stopped for a selfie with the crowd. At one point he jumped up to kiss a man on the forehead. He later eschewed a motorcade to make his way to his new office on foot. “Dear people, during my life I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians smile,” he said in his speech to parliament. “In the next five years, I will do everything, Ukrainians, so that you do not cry.” Zelenskiy grew to national fame playing the role of a schoolteacher who unexpectedly becomes president after a pupil films him making a foul-mouthed tirade against corrupt politicians and posts the video online. His campaign exploited the parallels with that fictional narrative, portraying him as an everyman who would stand up to a crooked political class. In his inauguration speech, he called on officials
Nancy Holten is annoying — so annoying that residents of the small village in Switzerland she calls home voted, twice, to bar her from becoming Swiss. The 45-year-old was born in the Netherlands but moved to Switzerland when she was just 8 years old. She speaks fluent Swiss German, her children are Swiss and she says she feels Swiss. “Switzerland is my home,” she said in a recent interview in the small apartment she shares with her three teenage daughters in the northern village of Gipf-Oberfrick. So when she finally got around to applying for citizenship back in 2015, she expected the process to be easy. She was wrong. As part of Switzerland’s famous direct democratic system, some smaller municipalities leave naturalization decisions up to a vote by the town assembly. Critics say the system allows for more emotionally charged and potentially more discriminatory decisions. When Holten showed up for the vote in the village of around 3,500 inhabitants, her neighbors had turned out in unusually high numbers to reject her. The outspoken vegan and animal rights activist had rubbed many in the small, conservative community the wrong way with her alternative lifestyle and vocal criticism of the ultimate Swiss symbol: the cowbell. “These bells hurt their ears,” she said, picking up a heavy brass cowbell she had purchased. She passed the colorfully embroidered strap over her head and covered her ears as the bell clanged loudly around her neck. “I don’t mind traditions as long as they don’t hurt
Foreign ministers from the Council of Europe, the continent’s chief human rights watchdog, reached an agreement on Friday that opens the way for Russia to return to the organisation, resolving a dispute that began after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea. The agreement follows efforts by France and Germany to find a compromise among the 47-nation group and means Russia will likely take part in a meeting of the council’s parliamentary assembly in June, when key new appointments will be made. Russia has indicated it will resume payment of its membership dues as a result. It stopped payment nearly two years ago after its voting rights in the council were suspended over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Ukraine, supported by six other countries, tried unsuccessfully to block the agreement, which was approved by a qualified majority, diplomats said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed the move. “We do not intend to leave the Council of Europe as some people are trying to suggest by spreading false rumours. And we are not refusing to fulfil a single obligation, including financial ones,” Lavrov said in Helsinki, where the meeting was held. Finland currently chairs the council. The Russian spat has prompted questions about the future and durability of the 70-year-old Council of Europe, the guardian of the European Convention on Human Rights and the creator of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It also left a 90 million euro hole in the council’s budget since Russia accounts for around 7%
Britain’s tumultuous divorce from the European Union was again in disarray on Friday as last-ditch cross-party talks teetered on the brink of failure in the twilight of Prime Minister Theresa May’s premiership. Nearly three years after the United Kingdom unexpectedly voted in a referendum to leave the EU, it is still unclear how, when or if it will ever indeed quit the European club it joined in 1973. Brexit talks between May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party are about to close without an agreement, the BBC said, hours after May agreed on Thursday to set out a timetable for her departure in early June. “If the talks are not going anywhere, from my point of view that leads to only one conclusion,” Hilary Benn, the chairman of parliament’s Brexit committee, told BBC radio. “There are only two ways out of the Brexit crisis that we’ve got: either parliament agrees a deal or we go back to the British people and ask them to make the choice.” After the Brexit deal that May struck with Brussels was defeated a third time by parliament, she announced on April 2 that she would open talks with Labour. But the two parties have failed to agree on major issues such as the opposition party’s demand for a post-Brexit customs union. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist who voted against membership of the EU in 1975, has said that May refused to budge on key demands. May’s hands have been tied, knowing that
Brexit-supporting rebels in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party said on Wednesday they would vote down her European Union divorce deal when she brings it back to parliament next month. Britain had been due to leave the EU on March 29 but parliament has three times rejected the withdrawal agreement May struck with Brussels. The United Kingdom is now scheduled to leave, with or without a deal to smooth the exit, by Oct. 31. Defeat in the vote would likely spell the end of May’s divorce deal and probably her premiership. May will bring a Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), which implements the departure terms, to parliament for a vote in the week beginning June 3, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said, just as U.S. President Donald Trump begins a divisive state visit to Britain. “I have talked to colleagues, some of whom voted for it last time, and they think it is dead and they will vote against it this time,” Peter Bone, a Conservative lawmaker and Brexit supporter, told Talk Radio. “It seems absurd to bring it back. It is the same thing again, again and again.” May, who became prime minister in the chaos that followed the 2016 referendum in which Britons voted 52% to 48% to leave the EU, is under pressure from some of her own lawmakers to set a date for her departure. As well as the Brexit deadlock, the Conservative Party suffered major losses in local elections this month and is trailing in opinion
A new European Union military pact risks shutting American companies out of defence contracts and undermining NATO, the United States has told the bloc, hinting at possible retaliation. In a May 1 letter, the U.S. government said limitations on the involvement of non-EU countries under consideration in the European pact amounted to “poison pills”. “It is clear that similar reciprocally imposed U.S. restrictions would not be welcomed by our European partners and allies, and we would not relish having to consider them in the future,” said the letter from two U.S. Department of Defense undersecretaries, Ellen Lord and Andrea Thompson, to the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini. Any rules limiting U.S. defence contractors’ participation would also amount to “a dramatic reversal of the last three decades of increased integration of the transatlantic defence sector,” said the letter, seen by Reuters. Mogherini said the American concerns over the EU accord – agreed in December 2017 and aiming to fund, develop and deploy armed forces together – were unfounded. “The European Union is and remains open to U.S. companies and equipment,” she told reporters on Tuesday, adding the European procurement market is more open than that of the United States, which is already dominant in the global weapons trade. EU defence ministers, who discussed the rules governing the pact on Tuesday, are trying to agree legislation by June on how to allow the involvement of non-EU countries, including Britain after it leaves the bloc and the United States. Dutch Defence Minister
Ten years ago, Swiss hairdresser Christine Dousse feared guns. Then her daughter convinced her to join a 400-year-old local shooting club. Now she shoots twice a week. “When I am lying in the stall, facing the target, alone with my rifle … I don’t know how to describe it, but it just helps me forget a bad day,” said the 50-year-old. “It helps me completely let go of the stress and negative things.” Dousse and many of the 500 other participants at a marksmanship contest in Romont this month believe their heritage is under threat from tighter gun rules Swiss voters are expected to support in a binding referendum on Sunday. Even though Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in Europe, polls suggest two out of three voters back controls the European Union embraced in 2017 after militant attacks in Paris and elsewhere. The new European rules make it harder to buy semi-automatic rifles and easier to track weapons in databases. Non-EU member Switzerland’s parliament and government back the regulations, but shooting enthusiasts fear a dangerous trend towards disarming them altogether. More is at stake than just guns. Switzerland must adopt the rules to remain part of Europe’s Schengen open-border system, otherwise weapons on the restricted list could reach the EU from Swiss gun shops. Leaving Schengen would disrupt travel, hurt tourism and crimp cross-border police cooperation, proponents say. Failure to adopt the rules could also force Switzerland out of common rules for handling asylum requests
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart discussed ways to reduce tension in Syria’s Idlib province, the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, after the biggest military escalation in northwest Syria in nearly a year. Russia has backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has backed some rebels in Syria’s eight-year civil war, but they have recently worked together to try to contain fighting in the country’s northwest. That effort has been strained by the surge in violence in Syria’s last major insurgent stronghold in recent weeks. The offensive by the Syrian army and its allies, backed by Russia, has uprooted more than 150,000 people, the United Nations says, while rescue workers and civil defence officials say more than 120 civilians have been killed. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the attacks by Syrian forces a flagrant violation of a September ceasefire that had averted a government offensive. He said in a tweet on Tuesday it went counter to the spirit of Turkey’s efforts to work with Russia and Iran to reduce hostilities and casualties in Idlib and neighbouring areas. On Monday, rebels said they mounted a counterattack against government forces. A senior rebel commander said on Tuesday the offensive showed an array of rebel forces – from Turkey-backed rebels to jihadists – were still able to prevent the army from making major advances despite heavy air strikes. “We conducted this lighting offensive to show the Russians we are not easy prey and throw the
The British Council has confirmed one of its employees has been convicted and jailed in Iran for espionage charges. Head of the British cultural organization Ciarán Devane said in a statement on Tuesday that Aras Amiri, a 32-year-old employee of the London-based Council, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran more than a year after she was arrested in the country for espionage. The statement came a day after a senior Iranian judiciary official said an Iranian woman had been convicted after she was found guilty of spying for Britain. Gholamhossein Esmaili, who serves as the spokesman for the Iranian Judiciary, said the unidentified woman had been “cooperating with Britain’s foreign intelligence service,” while working for the Iran Desk at the British Council. Esmaili said the woman had made “clear confessions” about her recruitment and “the instructions that the English security agency had given her.” “The person was involved in contacting theater and art groups to implement cultural infiltration projects,” said the official, adding that the woman had repeatedly traveled to Iran under aliases. The British council, however, denied espionage charges against Amiri. The agency said it will remain in contact with Britain’s foreign ministry to pursue the issue. “We firmly refute the accusation levied against her,” Devane said, adding, “The British Council does not do any work in Iran and Aras did not travel to Iran for work.” Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also reacted to the news of the jail sentences for Amiri, saying late
Britain will eventually leave the European Union and agree a free-trade deal with the bloc, according to the vast majority of economists polled by Reuters who were, however, split on whether the two sides would divorce on Oct. 31.
Prime Minister Theresa May failed to get her Withdrawal Agreement ratified by the British parliament on three attempts so the EU allowed a Brexit delay until the end of October, giving May time to try to convince lawmakers to reach agreement.
When asked if the latest deadline - delayed from March 29 - would be extended, 17 of 33 economists who answered an extra question in the May 3-10 Reuters poll said it would not.
“Failure to come to an agreement runs the risk that the EU will simply lose patience in October and not grant any extension,” said Peter Dixon at Commerzbank.
“We are by no means out of the woods.”
The UK has been designing a space defense mechanism to protect its satellites from possible attacks by Russia and China, leaked documents show.
According to a leaked Ministry of Defense document seen by The Times, London’s frist ever space defense strategy London names missile launches by Russian and Chinese military forces among the top ten risks to British satellites.
“Both China and Russia have admitted testing ground-based interceptor missiles that have the potential to target satellites,” the leaked memo noted.
“Such systems will create significant amounts of orbital debris, putting many hundreds of other satellites at risk,” it added.