UK’s May says Brexit talks making progress; EU denies leak

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May take part in an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, in this October 20, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 October 2017
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UK’s May says Brexit talks making progress; EU denies leak

LONDON: Giving an upbeat verdict on an inconclusive European Union summit, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday she has “a degree of confidence” that Brexit talks will be able to move to their decisive second phase by December.
She told lawmakers that the talks on Britain’s divorce from the EU had made “important progress,” despite a judgment by the 27 other EU leaders that more needs to be done before the two sides can discuss trade and their future relations.
May said she had “a degree of confidence we are going to get to a point of sufficient progress by December,” allowing talks to move on.
With Britain’s March 2019 departure from the EU moving closer, Britain is eager to start discussing trade and future relations with the bloc. But EU leaders say there has not yet been “sufficient progress” on divorce terms, including the size of the bill Britain must pay to settle its commitments to the bloc.
Britain’s initial offer to cover its previous EU commitments of around 20 billion euros ($24 billion) falls far short of the EU estimate of 60 billion euros ($70 billion) or more.
May refused to commit to a figure, saying “we are going through our potential commitments line by line.”
May has been in need of a boost from the 27 other EU leaders as she tries to hold together a government, a Conservative Party and a country deeply divided over Brexit. At the EU meeting in Brussels last week, she told fellow leaders that both sides needed “an outcome we can stand behind and defend to our people.”
An EU official said, after last week’s dinner, all the leaders were aware of the difficulties May is facing at home. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were confidential, said there was a sense among EU leaders that they didn’t want to make life more difficult for May.
But May’s life was not made any easier by a German newspaper report claiming that EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who dined with May last week, saw her as “despondent” and “begging” the EU to help her make progress.
Juncker denied saying any such thing, insisting that his dinner with May in Brussels had not gone nearly as badly as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung suggested.
“She was neither tired nor beaten. She did her thing, and I did mine too,” Juncker said, speaking at the Institute of Political Studies in Strasbourg, France.
Juncker and his chief aide denied leaking the account of the meeting to the newspaper, and May’s spokesman declined to comment on it.
Meanwhile, Britain’s biggest business groups urged May’s Conservative government to quickly agree to a transition period of at least two years after Brexit to provide certainty about trade as companies make critical decisions about jobs and investment.
The letter sent to UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said an “agreement (on a transition) is needed as soon as possible, as companies are preparing to make serious decisions at the start of 2018, which will have consequences for jobs and investment in the UK“
May has requested a two-year transition period in which the two sides would trade on terms largely similar to current arrangements. But Britain and the EU have yet to discuss details of any such transition.


Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

Updated 17 min 21 sec ago
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Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

  • Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state
  • A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit the ruling coalition in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, blaming its regional partner for a rise in militancy and growing security concerns.
Shortly after the BJP withdrew support from the coalition it formed in early 2015, Mehbooba Mufti, head of its alliance partner the People's Democratic Party (PDP), resigned as the state’s chief minister.
The state will now be ruled by the governor until elections take place.
BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav said on Tuesday that continuing in government had become “untenable.”
“The security scenario has deteriorated causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life and free speech,” he said. “There is grave concern over the deteriorating security situation in the state.”
Kashmir has been at the heart of a dispute between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over territorial rights. In past months there have been several outbreaks of violence. More than 130 people have been killed in the state this year and at least 120 men have joined extrremist groups.
The BJP move came a day after New Delhi ended a cease-fire against militants for Ramadan.
Last week, extremists shot and killed the editor of a local Kashmiri newspaper and abducted and killed a Kashmiri soldier on his way home to celebrate Eid.
Experts say a political split has been on the cards.
“For the BJP it had become impossible to continue,” said Happymon Jacob, associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “Ideologically, the two are completely different parties.”
By aligning with PDP — viewed by many as a soft separatist party because it supports talks with Pakistan — the BJP lost face with its Hindu right-wing base, he said.
“But the biggest loser is the PDP. Mufti has no face left, no political mileage, and she will have no stakes in Jammu and Kashmir whenever fresh elections take place.”
The BJP, on the other hand, has now strengthened its rule in the state since the governor does what New Delhi tells him, Jacob said. That includes appointing advisers suggested by the BJP to act as de-facto ministers until a new government is formed.
“They are the victors here,” said Jacob.
Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state.
“We had always said muscular security policy will not work in Jammu and Kashmir. The state can’t be treated as enemy territory. Reconciliation is the key,” she told The Indian Express.
The BJP-PDP alliance, the report quoted her saying, was not for power but to get confidence-building measures put in place.
A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire. At the time, BJP’s state unit said the truce would “demoralize security forces.”