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May to meet Merkel, Macron, seek Brexit extension

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British PM Theresa May

London, April 8 (IANS) British Prime Minister Theresa May will travel to Paris and Berlin on Tuesday to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to seek a “short extension to Brexit”, the media reported.

May will meet them ahead of an emergency European summit on Wednesday to make the case for extending Article 50 — the legal mechanism through which Brexit is taking place — for a few months, according to the Guardian.

The report said the UK leader could argue that “talks with opposition Labour Party are on the brink of a breakthrough”. However, no formal meetings were scheduled to restart negotiations, stalled at the end of last week.

“This is obviously a unique European council specifically focused on Brexit. The Prime Minister has set out a clear task in terms of an extension and it is important that she set out the rationale for that,” said May’s official spokeswoman.

Her request for Brexit extension till June 30 was earlier rejected and EU leaders said they would rather grant a longer extension of about a year, potentially with a break clause if the UK ratifies a deal during that time.

If no extension is granted, the UK is set to leave the EU without a deal on April 12. It could be stopped only through MPs voting for a revocation of Article 50.

Macron had also demanded earlier that May set out a clear purpose for an extension, which could be a general election or second referendum. But the Downing Street is likely to argue that talks with Labour are reason enough for a short delay, the Guardian says.

On Sunday, Rebecca Long-Bailey, a member of Labour’s negotiating team, described the mood (to find a Brexit deal) as “positive and hopeful” and indicated more talks were likely early this week. This was despite the fact government proposals “have not been compliant with the definition of a customs union”, the Labour’s key demand, she told the BBC.

That would allow tariff-free trade in goods with the EU, but limit the UK from striking its own deals. Long-Bailey also suggested Labour could be prepared to cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50 if the UK was heading towards a no-deal scenario on Friday.

Her remarks came after May tweeted a video message on Sunday, explaining her decision to negotiate with Labour. “We absolutely must leave the EU…that means we need to get a deal over the line and that’s why we’ve been looking for new ways — a new approach — to find an agreement in Parliament.

“People didn’t vote on party lines when it came to the Brexit referendum. I think members of the public want to see their politicians working together more often,” May said.

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Abe’s visit to India to be postponed

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Tokyo: The Japanese government has planned to postpone Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s upcoming visit to India, amid “intensifying violence in parts of the country” he was due to visit, a media report said on Friday.

Abe was due to leave Japan for India on Sunday for the three-day trip, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said in the report.

He was expected to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Guwahati which has become the epicentre of the street protests in the aftermath of the passing of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

The Army had to be brought in to quell the violent protests which also claimed the lives of two persons.

Friday’s development comes a day after it was reported on Thursday that Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momin had cancelled his trip to India.

As per the Bill, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

The legislation was passed by Rajya Sabha on Wednesday and by the Lok Sabha in a midnight sitting little past Monday.

It got President Ram Nath Kovind’s nod on Thursday night.


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UK’s ruling Conservatives win overall majority in general election

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Boris Johnson

London: The UK’s ruling Conservative Party on Friday won an overall majority in the general election as Prime Minister Boris Johnsons gambit to bolster his parliamentary support appeared to have paid off, while the opposition Labour Party earned its worst results since 1935.

The Conservatives have gained a 74-seat majority in the House of Commons for a total of 334 (a 45-seat gain) as the right-wing party snatched traditional strongholds from dozens of Labour candidates, Efe news reported.

“It does look as though this One-Nation Conservative government has been given a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done,” a jubilant Johnson said after he was easily re-elected to his seat in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

The Prime Minister said that his party’s victory would provide a “chance to respect the democratic will of the British people, to change this country for the better and to unleash the potential of the entire people of this country”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, appeared solemn as he announced he would not be leading the party into a future general election after leaving it at just 201 seats (a net loss of 57) – the lowest tally since 1935, when Clement Attlee, who would later on become premier in the aftermath of World War II, won 154 seats.

Until now, Labour’s worst results in the post-war era had been in 1983, during the apex of Margaret Thatcher’s rule, when it obtained 209 MPs.

“Obviously it is a very disappointing night for the party,” Corbyn told supporters at his Islington North counting party. “But I want to say this… in the election campaign we put forward a manifesto of hope.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats leader, Jo Swinson, narrowly lost her seat to the Scottish National Party (SNP) in East Dunbartonshire, a constituency she had represented for over 12-years.

“Some will be celebrating the wave of nationalism sweeping both sides of the border, and I do congratulate all those elected,” Swinson said. “But let me say now, for millions of people in our country, these results will bring dread and dismay, and people are looking for hope.”

The national vote share after 622 of the 650 constituencies stood at 43.3 per cent for the Conservatives (a 1.2-per cent increase compared to the June 2017 election), 32.9 per cent Labour (a 7.9-point slump), 11 per cent Liberal Democrats (+4.1), 3.9 per cent SNP (+0.9), 2.7 per cent Greens (+1.1) and 2.1 per cent for the Brexit Party.

Turnout during the election on Thursday hovered at 67 per cent of the 47.59 million registered voters who had been called to the ballot box, 1.6 per cent less than in the 2017 general election.

US President Donald Trump seemed happy with the preliminary results, tweeting: “Looking like a big win for Boris in the UK.”

Johnson inherited a minority government from his predecessor Theresa May, who lost her majority in a miscalculated decision to call a snap election in 2017 in a bid for a mandate to proceed with Brexit.

She stepped down earlier this year after the lower chamber of lawmaking rejected her Brexit withdrawal deal three times.

With a comfortable majority, Johnson should have little issue pushing the withdrawal deal through, finalizing the terms of the divorce with the European Union before starting the process of negotiating a new trade deal with the European bloc.

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Republicans fail to eliminate abuse of power charge against Trump

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US Navy, US President Donald Trump,Pentagon,Navy Secretary Richard Spencer,Navy SEAL,

Washington, Dec 13 : The Republican minority on the House Judiciary Committee has tried – but failed – to eliminate the “abuse of power” accusation against President Donald Trump in the debate before the vote on the articles of impeachment against him for exerting improper pressure on Ukraine.

The impeachment charges will probably be easily approved by the committee, which has an overwhelming Democratic majority, and then the impeachment case will be ready for a vote by the full House, which is also controlled by the Democrats, Efe news reported.

During the two-hour debate in committee on that amendment, GOP legislators, ardent supporters of Trump, argued vehemently against including the abuse of power article in the two-article impeachment case against the president.

However, despite their efforts – which consisted largely of using the committee proceedings as a forum to denounce the impeachment process and to attempt to erode the Democrats’ case against the president – the committee voted 23-17 along party lines to reject the amendment that would have removed the abuse of power charge.

Republican lawmaker Jim Jordan of Ohio presented the amendment to remove the abuse of power charge claiming that it “ignores the truth.”

Lawmakers then launched into a bitter debate on the matter, which conservatives on the committee took as an opportunity to denounce a process that they claim is unfair to Trump and to try to undermine the Democrats’ case.

“It’s obvious to all of the American public that this is a railroad job,” said Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin in support of Jordan’s amendment.

“The facts speak for themselves. There was no impeachable offense here,” he added.

Meanwhile, Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee insisted that “the president abused his power and is a continuing threat, not only to democracy but also to our security.”

The Republicans plan to put forward other amendments to the impeachment articles, but they are all virtually certain to be rejected by the committee in unwavering party-line votes.

In September, Democrats announced the opening of an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions after an anonymous whistleblower revealed to US intelligence services the content of a July telephone call between the president and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zeleneky.

In that call, Trump asked Kyiv to launch an investigation of his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter for alleged corruption in the East European country, a claim for which no evidence has yet been shown to exist and which Ukrainian officials have rejected.

During both the closed-door and public hearings in which assorted witnesses testified before several House committees, lawmakers heard details about how Trump conditioned already-approved US military aid and a White House visit for Zelensky to the launching of the probe of the Bidens’ activities.

If the impeachment articles are approved in the Judiciary Committee, which in all likelihood will be the result, the case will move to the full House, which will have to vote on an as yet unspecified date on whether or not to hold an impeachment trial of Trump in the US Senate.

Thanks to the Democratic majority in the House – where they hold 235 seats versus 198 for the Republicans – it is expected that the impeachment case will be handed to the Senate, where the chances of the president’s conviction are significantly lower, given that a two-thirds majority of lawmakers would be required to remove him from office and the GOP dominates the chamber with 53 of the 100 seats.

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