British PM hopes to hold fourth vote on Brexit deal

Sinn Fein Northern Leader Michelle O'Neill (C) joins protesters against any border between Ireland and Northern Ireland because of Brexit at the Carrickcarnan border between Newry in Norther Ireland and Dundalk in the Irish Republic on March 30, 2019. (AFP / Paul Faith)
Updated 30 March 2019

British PM hopes to hold fourth vote on Brexit deal

  • Britain's MPs on Friday resoundingly rejected PM Theresa May’s deal
  • Three years after Britain voted to leave the EU in a historic referendum, the process is deadlocked by a stand-off between the government and Parliament

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday mulled a possible fourth attempt to get her Brexit agreement through Parliament, faced with the growing risk of a chaotic no-deal exit in less than two weeks’ time.

MPs on Friday resoundingly rejected May’s deal, although by a substantially lower margin than on two previous occasions in January and March.

“We believe the best way to respect the referendum is to deliver the deal,” Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis told BBC radio on Saturday.

Noting the growing support for her deal despite the defeat, May’s spokesman said on Friday: “We are at least going in the right direction.”

MPs are due to gather again on Monday to consider possible changes to the deal that could ensure it is adopted, including support for closer economic ties with the EU after Britain leaves.

The government is opposed to revisions of its Brexit strategy and May pointed out on Friday that any options would still require first that Parliament approve her withdrawal agreement — the document spelling out the terms of the divorce.

The withdrawal agreement allows for a long transition period which would temporarily maintain the status quo to give individuals and businesses time to adapt to the future UK-EU relationship.

Three years after Britain voted to leave the EU in a historic referendum, the process is deadlocked by a stand-off between the government and Parliament.

May should step down immediately after negotiating a temporary extension to Britain’s EU membership, the Daily Telegraph newspaper said in its Saturday edition.

“She must now see — or must be told — that while she can meet with the EU to negotiate an extension for Brexit, that is the natural end of the road. She must then bow out, for the sake of Brexit, for her party and for democracy itself,” the newspaper said in an editorial column.

The Telegraph has traditionally been seen as the preferred newspaper of members of May’s Conservative Party.

Thousands of flag-waving protesters rallied outside Parliament on Friday to accuse MPs of betraying Brexit by delaying it, holding up signs saying “Give Our kingdom Back” and “Free Britain now.”

“Brexiteers” in May’s party oppose the deal because they believe it does not go far enough in severing ties with Brussels, while “Remainers” want closer ties with the EU, like Norway or Switzerland.

Some would prefer Brexit is stopped altogether.

Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, a former Cabinet minister, told BBC radio that a government of national unity may be required to break the impasse.

“There have been periods in our history when we have had national unity governments or a coalition for a very specific issue,” she said.

Britain had been due to leave the EU on Friday, the long-heralded March 29 “Independence Day,” but with paralysis in Parliament May asked European leaders last week for a little more time.

She now faces having to explain what happens next, after EU Council President Donald Tusk called a Brussels summit for April 10.

The EU has set a deadline of April 12 for a decision, with two likely options: Britain leaves with no deal at all, or agrees a lengthy extension to allow time for a new approach.

The prime minister has said it would be “unacceptable” to ask voters to take part in European Parliament elections in May.

MPs have repeatedly rejected a “no-deal” outcome, fearing catastrophe if Britain severs ties with its closest trading partner with no plan.

However, this remains the default legal option.

Following the vote, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said it was “a growing possibility.”


Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

The wreckage of the car where six French aid workers, their local guide and the driver were killed by unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2020

Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

  • Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group of aid workers as they drove through the giraffe reserve
  • France has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert

NIAMEY: French and Nigerien soldiers searched through a giraffe reserve and the surrounding area in Niger on Monday for traces of the gunmen who killed six French aid workers, a French military source said.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor also opened an investigation into the incident, in which attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group as it drove through the reserve located 65 km (40 miles) from the capital Niamey — an area considered safe by the Niger government.
The French aid workers were employed by the charity ACTED. A local driver working for the relief group and a guide were also killed. ACTED called the murders “senseless and cowardly.”
“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” said ACTED, which has worked to help vulnerable populations in the country since 2010.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assault. But France and other countries have warned people against traveling to parts of Niger where militants including Boko Haram and an affiliate of Daesh operate.
“Military operations are ongoing today,” the military source said.
In the clearest sign yet that France believes a militant group was behind the attack, the office of France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said it was launching an investigation on suspicion of the involvement of a terrorist group.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he shared their families’ grief. “Our determination to combat armed terrorist groups is resolute. The fight continues,” Macron tweeted.
The reserve southeast of Niamey is home to West Africa’s last sizeable population of giraffe in the wild. In the wet season, thick green acacia bushes dot the flat, sandy plains.
It is a popular attraction in Niger, a vast country that borders seven states in an unstable region including Libya, Mali, Chad, Algeria and Nigeria.
France, a former colonial power in the region, has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013. The United States also has soldiers based in Niger.
Nonetheless, militant violence has been on the rise.