British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired an emergency security session on Monday to discuss how to respond to Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The meeting of security ministers and officials discussed how to secure shipping in the sensitive region, which is vital to the world’s oil supply. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt plans to brief Parliament on the Friday seizure of the Stena Impero tanker and its crew of 23, now in a heavily guarded Iranian port. Also on Monday, Iran released new video showing the ship’s crew for the first time, an apparent attempt to show they were unharmed. None of the 23 are British nationals but are mostly Indian and also Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationals. May’s official spokesman, James Slack, said Iran has seized a ship under false and illegal pretenses and it needs to release it and its crew immediately. He said giving an individual naval escort to all U.K.-flagged ships is not an option because of the volume of traffic. But he denied cuts have made the Royal Navy too small. “We have the largest military budget in Europe, and we are investing in a world-class Royal Navy,” he said. Britain is considering a number of options to raise the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran but officials say military operations are not being considered at the moment. Britain is also seeking support from key European allies in an effort to keep the Strait of Hormuz open to shipping. The
Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker was a response to Britain’s role in impounding an Iranian supertanker first, senior officials said Saturday, as newly released video of the incident showed Iranian commandos in black ski masks and fatigues rappelling from a helicopter onto the vessel in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The seizure prompted condemnation from the U.K. and its European allies as they continue to call for a de-escalation of tensions in the critical waterway. U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain’s response to Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz “will be considered but robust.” In comments on Twitter on Saturday, he said he spoke with Iran’s foreign minister and expressed extreme disappointment that the Iranian diplomat had assured him Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation but “they have behaved in the opposite way.” He wrote: “This has (to) be about actions not words if we are to find a way through. British shipping must & will be protected.” The free flow of traffic through the Strait of Hormuz is of international importance because one-fifth of all global crude exports passes through the waterway from Mideast exporters to countries around the world. The narrow waterway sits between Iran and Oman. The British-flagged Stena Impero was intercepted late Friday by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard forces. The ship’s owner, Stena Bulk, said the vessel was stopped by “unidentified small crafts and a helicopter” during its transit through the Strait of Hormuz. The vessel was seized
The chance that Britain will leave the European Union without a deal is the highest since October 2017, economists polled by Reuters say, as arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson looks set to take over as prime minister next week. Johnson was the face of the 2016 campaign to quit the EU and has said he would be willing to leave on Oct. 31 without a deal. The median forecast of that happening was 30% in the July 15-18 poll, up from 25% last month and 15% in May. “The likelihood of a Boris Johnson premiership and the rhetoric which has surfaced during the campaign suggests that this outcome is more likely than we previously believed,” said Peter Dixon at Commerzbank. With Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s rival for the premiership, also keen to display his credentials as a hard Brexiteer, sterling GBP= has plunged this week to lows not seen in over two years as investors price in the growing risk of a disorderly Brexit. Lawmakers voted on Thursday to make it harder for the next prime minister to try to force a no-deal Brexit, giving some support to sterling, and a strong majority of economists polled still think the two sides will eventually settle on a free-trade deal, as they have since late 2016, when Reuters first started asking the question. But in second place this month was the more extreme option of leaving without a deal and trading under World Trade Organization rules. The third most likely outcome was the other compromise
The battle to become Britain’s next prime minister enters the home stretch with both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt hardening their positions on Brexit, putting the future government on a collision course with Brussels. Ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson, the favorite to replace Theresa May, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are now both referring to Britain’s departure with no overall deal in place as a realistic prospect. The business community and many lawmakers fear dire economic consequences from a no-deal Brexit, which would lead to immediate trade tariffs for some sectors including the automotive industry. Johnson and Hunt are taking part in a final question-and-answer session later on Wednesday before the result of the vote by Conservative Party members is announced next Tuesday. The new party leader will be confirmed as prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II on the following day. Britain has twice delayed its scheduled departure from the European Union after 46 years of membership as May tried and failed to get her deal with Brussels through Parliament. The two candidates vying to replace her have vowed to scrap a “backstop” provision in the agreement that Brussels insisted upon to keep the Irish border open. Their latest attacks on the measure during a debate on Monday prompted a plunge in the value of the British pound. The currency fell again Wednesday to its lowest level against the dollar in over two years. “The tougher stance from both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt in terms of their rhetoric on Brexit
Outgoing German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday set out her political objectives on a greener, gender-equal Europe where the rule of law continues to hold sway, in an attempt to woo enough legislators at the European Parliament to secure the job of European Commission President The Christian Democrat of the European People’s Party is seeking to become the first woman to hold perhaps the most important post in the 28-nation EU by gathering the requisite 374 votes out of 747 in a secret vote later in the day. Ursula von der Leyen was a last-minute candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker that EU leaders agreed as part of a package of top jobs that were decided on early this month. Under the package, the free-market liberal Renew Europe group got Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel as Council President and the Socialists won the top parliament job. France’s Christine Lagarde was put forward as head of the European Central Bank. Von der Leyen told lawmakers in Strasbourg Tuesday that the gender element will be essential if she is elected Commission President overseeing a team of 28 Commissioners. “I will ensure full gender equality in my College of Commissioners. If member states do not propose enough female Commissioners, I will not hesitate to ask for new names,” Ursula von der Leyen said. Pointing out that since its inception in 1958, less than 20 percent of Commissioners had been women, she said: “We represent half of our population. We want our
“This emergency mobilization of ordinary citizens, driven to action by the threat of climate breakdown and ecological collapse, will demand the government take immediate action to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gases to net zero by 2025,” the Extinction Rebellion group said.
Britain’s ambassador to the United States resigned Wednesday, just days after diplomatic cables criticizing President Donald Trump caused embarrassment to two countries that often celebrate having a “special relationship.” The resignation of Kim Darroch came after Trump lashed out at him on Twitter, describing the ambassador as “wacky” and a “pompous fool.” The criticism came after leaked documents revealed the envoy’s dim view of Trump’s administration, which he described as dysfunctional, inept and chaotic. “Since the leak of official documents … there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding my position and the duration of my remaining term as ambassador,” Darroch said in his resignation letter. “I want to put an end to that speculation. The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.” Prime Minister Theresa May said the resignation was “a matter of regret,” underlining that “good government depends on public servants being able to give full and frank advice.” Darroch had been set to retire at the end of the year. It’s unclear whether May will have time to replace Darroch before she leaves office later this month. Appointing ambassadors usually involves a formal civil service process with advertisements, applications and interviews, though Simon McDonald, head of Britain’s diplomatic service, said the post of ambassador to the U.S. wasn’t always chosen that way. “History shows that there are often bespoke procedures for filling the embassy in Washington, DC,” he said. Though the matter had been brewing for
With a string of sausages round his neck and holding packs of “Boris bangers”, Boris Johnson extolled the virtues of new business in northern England as part of his pitch to become Britain’s next prime minister. A day later, the man whose stint as foreign minister was marked by gaffes which have prompted some of his critics to question his suitability for high office couldn’t quite remember where the factory making the sausages was. At a hustings on Friday in the northeastern town of Darlington, most of the Conservative members amassed to hear him and his rival, current foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, were sympathetic to the slip, laughing when he said he had been at the factory “somewhere in Yorkshire” the day before. For others, it was yet another sign that the would-be prime minister, who has promised to take Britain out of the European Union “do or die” by Oct. 31, has little grasp of the detail needed to run a country going through turbulent times. “He can’t even remember where he was. I can remember where I was at that time yesterday and I don’t want to be prime minister,” said William Oxley, 65, from the market town of Malton in the northern English region of Yorkshire, who is “prone” to backing Hunt. “Don’t get me wrong, Boris is fabulous and there’s a huge place for Boris in British politics, but I don’t think it’s as prime minister because I think he is prone to get things wrong,