Britain’s May seeks to broaden Brexit talks amid deadlock

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would hold a number of meetings in Brussels progress in the talks, which must be completed well before Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2017
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Britain’s May seeks to broaden Brexit talks amid deadlock

BRUSSELS: British Prime Minister Theresa May stepped up her lobbying efforts Friday to broaden Brexit negotiations with the EU to include future relations and trade, as the talks remained bogged down on the divorce bill and other preliminary issues.
May said she would hold a number of meetings in Brussels, including with EU Council President Donald Tusk, about progress in the talks, which must be completed well before Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.
She will also meet the leaders of Belgium, Denmark and Lithuania.
May sidestepped questions about how much Britain would be willing to pay to settle its EU financial accounts, saying her talks will look “ahead to the future deep and special partnership that I want with the European Union.”
Britain has suggested that it would be willing to pay around €20 billion (SR88.12 billion) to settle the divorce bill, while the Europeans are seeking anywhere from €60 billion-€100 billion to clear London’s tab.
May said Britain and the EU “must step forward together.”
But EU leaders are set to decide in three weeks if the negotiations have made “sufficient progress” — on the divorce bill, the status of Irish borders and the rights of citizens hit by Brexit — for the talks to be expanded. Currently, it seems unlikely that will happen.
“There is still some work to do to bring us closer on certain points,” said Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
Asked by British reporters whether their country should pay more, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said: “Yes of course you should, it’s an easy answer.”
The big sticking point for Ireland is to ensure that no barriers to trade are set up after Brexit between it and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, especially given the sectarian tensions that have long simmered in the region.
“We are not going to allow a border to remerge on the island of Ireland, and we have a shared responsibility with Britain to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.
“If progress isn’t made in terms of more clarity, and more credibility in terms of how these issues can be resolved in a way that prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, well then we cannot move on to phase 2,” he said.
Coveney said that Ireland has the firm backing of its 26 EU partners.
“We have seen no suggestion that other countries are moving away from that position of solidarity, absolutely not,” he added.
Only European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker offered a hint of optimism, saying of the Brexit negotiations: “they are making progress.”


Philippine president bolsters security, defense ties with Malaysia

Updated 21 min 27 sec ago
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Philippine president bolsters security, defense ties with Malaysia

  • Both Southeast Asian leaders have a dented human rights reputation globally although Mahathir has softened his strongman outlook
  • Piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region remains an ongoing issue for leaders in Southeast Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reaffirmed to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation when they met for the first time in Putrajaya on Monday.

The meeting took place at the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office, where both strongmen “renewed and reaffirmed the long-standing brotherhood and friendship between the Philippines and Malaysia.”

“President Duterte likewise renewed the commitment to further strengthen defense and security cooperation at the bilateral and regional level,” according to a statement from Duterte’s office.

The two neighbors have enjoyed a good relationship despite the change of government in Malaysia, as the over-60-year rule by the National Front coalition ended abruptly during Malaysia’s elections on May 9.

Both Southeast Asian leaders have a dented human rights reputation globally, although Mahathir has softened his strongman outlook since he was put in power for the second time in May.

The newly formed government led by the world’s oldest leader, Mahathir Mohamad, has vowed to restore the “rule of law” in Malaysia.

Duterte pointed out in his statement “the need to address terrorism and violent extremism in the region, as well as transnational crime such as piracy and armed robbery at sea and the illegal drug trade.”

Piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region remains an ongoing issue for leaders in Southeast Asia as oil and supplies worth billions are lost in the sea each year.

Southeast Asia has become a hotbed for Daesh-inspired terrorist activities and threats, and Duterte and Mahathir reaffirmed the need to boost the security and defense ties of both nations in the Southeast Asia region.

Malaysia’s state of Sabah is facing kidnapping threats from the Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

In 2017, a large-scale kidnapping plan in Sabah and Central Philippines was uncovered by military intelligence.

The same year, Marawi was under siege from Daesh-inspired militants. The Philippines declared Marawi “liberated” from terrorism. The aftermath cost 1,000 lives with more than 350,000 people in the city displaced.

Meanwhile, Malaysia played an important role when it became the third-party broker of a long-awaited peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.

“President Duterte expressed appreciation for Malaysia’s sustained support for the quest for the just and lasting peace and development in Mindanao,” his official statement said.

Both leaders stressed the need toward “working closely together bilaterally and at ASEAN” in a region of more than 500 million where “greater stability and security in the region” is of the utmost importance.

The two countries are quietly in a land-lock over an 1878 land lease agreement on Sabah since the Federation of Malaysia was officially formed in 1963. Nevertheless, the Philippines’ long-standing claims over Sabah were off the plate during the bilateral discussion between Duterte and Mahathir.

On Sunday night before the meeting, both strongmen enjoyed watching the fight between Philippines’ world-renowned boxer Manny Pacquiao and Argentina’s fighter Lucas Matthysse.