May on the brink as ministers threaten to QUIT over Brexit plan

heresa May (pictured in Downing Street this week) is facing probably the biggest test of her premiership, with just six days to go until a crucial EU summit

The PM is under fire from all sides as she races against time to thrash out a divorce deal with the EU that does not tear her government to pieces.

But her latest plan to break the deadlock has caused fury as it could see the UK commit to staying in the customs union beyond 2020 with no hard departure date.

The walls are closing on the premier with just days to go until a crunch EU summit that could decide the country's future.

Mrs May gathered her Brexit 'War Cabinet' last night to try and swing them behind her ideas for unlocking the negotiations.

Her new 'backstop' plan to avoid a hard Irish border would see the UK effectively remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit until a permanent solution to the Irish border problem can be found.

A previous commitment that the UK will have cut ties by the end of 2021 'at the latest' is set to be dropped after fierce resistance from Brussels.

Sources insist that backstop would still be 'temporary' and is likely to last 'months, not years'. 

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom (pictured right), and Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt (left) - who were not invited to the meeting last night - are believed to be considering whether they can go along with the compromise

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey (pictured) is also believed to have serious doubts about Mrs May's approach

But Liam Fox, Sajid Javid, Gavin Williamson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab all voiced concern about the concession.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, and Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt - who were not invited to the meeting last night - are believed to be considering whether they can go along with the compromise.

No formal proposal was put to the ministers, but they were asked to agree the 'direction of travel' as negotiators seek agreement with the EU.

One Cabinet source predicted the issue could lead to resignations in the coming days, saying: 'This is going to be a big test for some ministers. Are they willing to accept assurances that this is temporary if those words have no legal force? If not, then they surely have to resign.'

The PM's backstop proposal is designed to ensure there is no hard Irish border.

It would see the whole of the UK stay in the customs union 'temporarily' until a wider trade deal is struck.

Northern Ireland would effectively remain in the single market to avoid regulatory checks on the border with the Republic.

The government's previous plan said that it wanted the UK to stay in the customs union until 2021 'at the latest'.

But it is not clear whether the UK would be subject to rules that stop countries striking their own trade deals outside the bloc.

It also remains to be seen whether free movement rules would still apply in Northern Ireland. The Common Travel Area already protects movement between Northern Ireland and the Republic.  

The blueprint would reduce friction on the Irish border but lead to greater checks across the Irish Sea.

These would include health and sanitary inspections for animals and animal products.

The backstop is designed to fall away when a wider trade pact is agreed - which Mrs May says should be based on her Chequers plan for a 'combined customs territory' with the EU.

International Trade Secretary Dr Fox, whose plans for trade deals outside the EU would be severely limited inside a customs union, has told friends the proposal would 'make life very difficult for me'.

However, Government Chief Whip Julian Smith last night urged Tory MPs and ministers to rally round, saying: 'The Prime Minister and the Government are conducting a complex negotiation that is going well and we should be backing the Prime Minister.' 

Proposals for a so-called 'temporary customs arrangement' were first announced in June as part of 'backstop' plans to resolve the Irish border problem.

At the time, the then Brexit secretary David Davis threatened to resign unless a clear end date was inserted, forcing Mrs May to accept the plan would be 'time limited'.

But Brussels has been implacable in its opposition to an end date, saying the 'backstop' plan must be 'all-weather'. 

Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said: 'Income tax was supposed to be temporary. Gladstone said it would expire in 1860. 

'Likewise, the 1911 Parliament Act says it is temporary. Both are still here.'

Chancellor Philip Hammond today signalled that the EU and UK were getting closer to agreement - and held out the prospect of a 'deal dividend' for the economy if a settlement is reached.

'What has happened over the last week, 10 days, is there has been a measurable change in pace,' he told the BBC. 

'There is a real sense now of engagement from both sides, of shared enterprise in trying to solve a problem rather than posturing towards each other. A really important step change. 

'But that shouldn't conceal the fact that we have some big differences left to resolve. Process is a lot more positive this week, substance still very challenging. 

'If we are able to get to a good deal for Britain as we leave the European Union I believe there will be a dividend, a deal dividend for us.' 

As pressure mounted on Mrs May last night, a DUP MP called for her to be replaced with a new Tory leader.

The party has become increasingly alarmed that Mrs May will accept Northern Ireland staying in the single market while mainland Britain leaves - something they say would split the UK. 

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (left) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (right) raised concerns during 'robust exchanges' at last night's War Cabinet meeting

Chief whip Julian Smith (pictured in Downing Street last night) has urged colleagues to get behind Mrs May as she tries to get a deal with the EU

Senior ministers Jeremy Hunt (left), Gavin Williamson (centre) and Philip Hammond (right) were at the 'war cabinet' meeting where Mrs May outlined her backstop proposals

The party's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said a new Conservative leader could 'heal the wounds' between the two parties.

A new leader taking a 'different direction' on Brexit would 'ensure that the agreement could stay in place', Mr Wilson said.

But Tory MP and former minister Nick Boles delivered an angry response, saying: 'Conservative leaders are chosen by Conservative MPs and Conservative Party members.

The dates of elections used to be decided by the Prime Minister - with the proviso that there had to be one every five years.

But the Coalition introduced the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which sets out a more formal arrangement.

Elections are now held on the first Thursday in May every five years - with the next one due in 2022.

Under the law, early elections can only triggered in two ways.

The first is at least two-thirds of the 650 MPs passing a motion in the Commons.

The other way is for a motion of no confidence to be passed by a simple majority.

That fires the starting gun on a two-week period in which the existing parties can try to form another government.

Only if the 14 days pass with no replacement administration in place is a national vote called.

The arrangements effectively mean that the DUP could vote no confidence once without risking an election that would let Jeremy Corbyn into power.

'Not by MPs of any other party. And we respond no better to threats than proud Ulster men or women do.'

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green insisted Mrs May would not give ground on keeping the UK together.

'She is a very unionist PM, we are the Conservative and Unionist Party,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today. 

'She and the DUP are as one in wanting to make sure than Northern Ireland isn't in some way treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom in trade or customs terms and that is an absolutely key point in these negotiations, as the DUP have pointed out.'

Earlier yesterday, Conservative MP Mark Pritchard underlined the growing levels of unrest by pointing out a Tory leadership contest could be rushed through in as little as a fortnight.

Brussels and London have been trying to play down expectations of a major breakthrough at next week's summit - but the two sides are thought to be closer than ever before to a divorce deal.

Even if Mrs May can secure an agreement with the EU and win over the DUP, she will still be left haggling over the 'political declaration' setting out the framework for a future trade deal.

She wants that declaration to be based on her Chequers blueprint - which would effectively keep the UK in the single market for goods, but diverge on services.

But the EU is resisting the plan, and Tory Brexiteers are implacably opposed, meaning it is it is far from certain the whole package will get past Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn says he would oppose arrangements that do not keep the UK more closely tied to Brussels - although there are claims that dozens of Labour MPs could defy him.

A band of more than 30 Remain-supporting Tory MPs are forming a movement to bring about a second referendum.

Organisers say the group will vote down whatever Brexit deal Mrs May secures from the European Union.

Meanwhile, Britain's official economic forecaster suggested last night a 'no-deal' Brexit could be as disastrous as the three-day week was in the 1970s. The Office for Budget Responsibility warned there was no precedent for what it referred to as a 'disorderly Brexit', making accurate forecasting difficult.

But it said it was 'worth noting' that the three-day week of 1974 led to a fall in output of 3 per cent.

The OBR warned a no deal could lead to higher prices, banks reducing credit and shortages of vital goods.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, pictured on a visit to Brussels on Tuesday, has warned that her line against anything that would risk splitting the UK is 'blood red'

Britain would stick to EU rules on goods by adopting a 'Common rulebook' with Brussels, but not in the services sector.

Theresa May says this would allow the UK to strike free trade deals globally, but the scope would be limited by commitments to the EU.

The blueprint should minimise the need for extra checks at the borders - protecting the 'just in time' systems used by the car industry to import and export parts.

The UK Parliament could choose to diverge from these EU rules over time.

But there is an admission that this would 'have consequences'.

Britain would set up something called a 'facilitated customs arrangement'.

This would see the UK effectively act as the EU's taxman - using British officials to collect customs which would then be paid on to the bloc. 

The borders between the UK and EU will be treated as a 'combined customs territory'.

The UK would apply domestic tariffs and trade policies for goods intended for the UK, but charge EU tariffs and their equivalents for goods which will end up heading into the EU.

Mrs May says her plan will prevent a hard Irish border, and mean no divergence between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

There would be no need for extra border checks, as tariffs on goods would be the same.

Single market origin rules and regulations would also be sufficiently aligned to avoid infrastructure.

Britain would strike a Canada-style trade deal with the EU, meaning goods flow both ways without tariffs.

As it is a simple free trade deal, Britain would not be bound by most of the rules and red tape drawn up in Brussels.

The arrangement would be a relatively clean break from the EU - but would fall far short of full access to the single market.

Eurosceptics have suggested 'Canada plus' in key areas such as services and mutual recognition of standards.

The UK would have broad scope to strike free trade deals around the world.

Technology would be used to avoid extra customs checks on the borders.

As a result goods travelling into the UK from the EU and vice versa would be tracked and customs paid without extra checks.

The EU says the Canada model would mean border controls are required between Northern Ireland and the Republic to protect the single market and customs union.

It insists Northern Ireland must stay in the bloc's customs jurisdiction in order to prevent that.

Mrs May has signalled she agrees with the analysis - seemingly the reason she is reluctant to go down this route.

But Brexiteers point out that there is already a tax border between the UK and Ireland, and say technology and trusted trader schemes can avoid the need for more infrastructure. 

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October 12, 2018

Sources: Daily Mail

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  • &apos;Halloween&apos; star Jamie Lee Curtis goes where the love is, after sobriety changed &apos;everything&apos;

    &apos;Halloween&apos; star Jamie Lee Curtis goes where the love is, after sobriety changed &apos;everything&apos;

    nection. She will relate, she will pound her fist on the table, she will declare herself. She turns 60 next month, and the real bone chiller is leaving this earth with ideas left on the table.</p><p>“I want to die having said something,” she says firmly.</p><p>It’s a beautiful, weird, emotional time for her. “Halloween” arrives in theaters Friday, a sequel that critics have hailed as the best installment of the horror franchise since the 1978 original, with an 86% fresh rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes. This is the franchise that made her famous at age 20. Her first real job.</p><p>The new “Halloween” finds Laurie Strode as a grandmother who stockpiles weapons (and, yes, that includes guns) and escape plans, knowing that one day the murderous, masked Michael Myers will return. (The new film basically ignores the plot structures of all sequels that came before it.) She has pushed away her daughter (Judy Greer), who considers her paranoid and unstable. She is close only to her granddaughter (Andi Matichak).</p><p>In one scene, Laurie waits in her car as Michael is transferred by bus from his asylum to a new prison. Rage courses through her like the booze in her cup; a gun waits by her side. It was Curtis' last day of shooting, and to honor her, the crew donned name tags that read, "I am Laurie Strode." </p><p>"They didn’t say a word," Curtis says. "And what they were saying was: 'We love you. We love Laurie. We are all traumatized. And we are all together with you.'"</p><p>"Halloween" is a film that pulses with the repercussions of trauma. It's a horror movie, sure, but the film's timeliness is arresting; Curtis reminds that this interview is taking place on the exact one-year anniversary of when Harvey Weinstein’s world imploded and just after Bill Cosby went to jail. A week after Christine Blasey Ford testified on Capitol Hill.</p><p>In the original "Halloween," Laurie, 17, once a promising, curious, college-bound teen, "became a freak," Curtis says, after Michael's killing spree. The latest film bookends the causal effect of Laurie's nightmare, offering a very 2018 twist in its bloody finale. "It was beautiful to watch what happened with Laurie Strode and her daughter and her granddaughter and watch three women take back the power from a perpetrator," she says.</p><p>Curtis knows she’s talking about fictional suffering as she makes the rounds for "Halloween." “But do you really think it’s fiction for me?” she asks.</p><p>Curtis will go down in history as a legendary scream queen; she knows it's inevitable. “All I hear is the grading, the rank ordering in my industry. A-list. A-listers. I’m in B-movies. That’s how I’ve buttered my bread. And horror movies are like at the bottom end of the scale.” </p><p>Breakout films like "True Lies," "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Trading Places" were hard-won. She’s grateful, says Curtis, who is married to filmmaker Christopher Guest ("This Is Spinal Tap," "Mascots"). “But I’m saying there are many directors I admire. I am a film lover, I am a reader, I was born and raised here, I married a film director, we have friends, we are in circles, we know people – none of them have ever hired me."</p><p>Her gaze is unwavering. "And at some point you have to be OK with it. Because if not, it will make you crazy. I have accepted long ago to go where the love is. Be with people who love you, meaning be with people who want to work with you." </p><p>Over the past 20 years, her sober years, Curtis – the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh – confronted a new normal. She recalls being a new mom on a "hamster wheel" of work, marriage and motherhood: "I think I was replicating my mom and really trying to just make everybody happy," says the actress, mother of Annie, 31, and Thomas, 22.</p><p>Take 1987, the summer she shot "A Fish Called Wanda," the John Cleese comedy that showcased her talents inside a brainy comedy.</p><p>"My memory of 'A Fish Called Wanda' is that I cried every day to and from work. Not that I laughed, not that it was super-fun, nothing," she says. "My memory of 'A Fish Called Wanda' was leaving my sleeping 6-month-old daughter, going to work an hour away and then working 12 hours, sometimes more, and then an hour back, often to a child asleep again. And that was like the beginning of it all for me."</p><p>A brutal alcohol and opioid addiction followed. “As soon as I got sober, which is 20 years coming up in February, everything changed," she says. "Because it was a big, big acknowledgment that I could not do all of the things I was trying to do."</p><p>Curtis calls herself lucky. To have hit bottom while she was still employed and loved. To have had access to help. "I have made shifts along the way," she says, but acknowledging and honoring her personal bandwidth: "That’s the single greatest accomplishment of my life.”</p>

    1 October 18, 2018
  • U.N. Syria Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, Announces Resignation

    U.N. Syria Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, Announces Resignation

    Mistura, said Wednesday that he would step down at the end of November, becoming the third diplomat to leave the job since Syria’s civil war began in 2011.</p><p>Mr. de Mistura announced his resignation as special envoy during a meeting of the Security Council after four years and four months in the role, at a time when the future of Syria is uncertain. His departure could complicate efforts to negotiate an end to the war as it is winding down.</p><p>While his predecessors left the job out of frustration, Mr. de Mistura, 71, said he was leaving for “purely personal reasons,” adding, “I will definitely not say goodbye or engage in reflections today.”</p><p>The conflict, which began as a popular uprising in 2011 before degenerating into civil war, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.</p><p>The United Nations-backed peace process, the so-called Geneva talks, are the longest running attempt at peacemaking in Syria and have been convened eight times with no significant progress. While the talks have deadlocked, the Syrian government, with its Iranian and Russian allies, has nearly succeeded in defeating the opposition.</p><p>Those Russia-led talks also created a framework to establish a committee to write a new Constitution for Syria, a goal Mr. de Mistura has pushed for.</p><p>Mr. de Mistura had previously served as a deputy foreign minister in the Italian government and as the head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan.</p><p>Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who worked closely with him, expressed admiration for his “herculean effort, every day, every night, every weekend” for four years trying to bring parties to the Syrian conflict to the negotiating table.</p><p>“It’s been the same uphill battle his predecessors faced, but against all the odds, there have been a number of achievements,” Mr. Egeland said.</p><p>He said that Mr. de Mistura had made the peace process more inclusive, bringing in civil society groups and women, and had also spoken bluntly about atrocities and abuse of civilians.</p><p>“It’s been one crisis and horror after another, from Homs to Aleppo, to Raqqa to Eastern Ghouta to Daraa and now Idlib,” Mr. Egeland said. “There never seems to be a good time to step down.”</p><p>Mr. de Mistura said that he had not given up on the peace process, and that he would spend his last month in the job working to create a “credible and balanced” constitutional committee for Syria.</p><p>“A month can be a century in politics,” he said. “We will still have a very intense and, hopefully, fruitful month ahead. I am not laying down the charge until the last hour of the last day of my mandate.”</p><p>Megan Specia reported from New York, and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.</p>

    1 October 18, 2018
  •  Greek far-left extremist seeks release on health grounds

    Greek far-left extremist seeks release on health grounds

    life terms in a maximum-security Athens prison, is severely disabled.</p><p> Xiros was badly injured when a bomb he was trying to plant exploded prematurely in 2002 in Athens. He was arrested and his interrogation led to the quick unravelling of the previously elusive group that killed 23 Western diplomats and Greeks between 1975 and 2000.</p><p> Two of Xiros' brothers were among the group's members.</p><p> Recent legislation designed to ease overcrowding in Greek prisons has made it quicker to release convicts on health and other grounds.</p>

    1 October 18, 2018


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