UK ministers attack Britain’s upper house over Brexit vote

File photo showing the Houses of Parliament in London (Reuters)
Updated 01 May 2018
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UK ministers attack Britain’s upper house over Brexit vote

LONDON: Ministers criticized the upper house of parliament on Tuesday due to its vote to give parliament powers to block or even stall Brexit, saying the move would tie the government’s hands in negotiations with the European Union.
The House of Lords voted overwhelmingly on Monday in favor of an amendment to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint, or the EU withdrawal bill, to offer what some peers said was a truly “meaningful vote” on any final deal.
It was seventh of nine defeats in the last two weeks for the government, which says the EU withdrawal bill is purely a technical document to “copy and paste” EU law into British law and guarantee a smooth Brexit.
At a meeting of May’s top cabinet ministers, the prime minister and her Brexit secretary, David Davis, led the expressions of disappointment over the Lords’ vote.
“Cabinet expressed its strong disappointment at the defeats inflicted on the EU withdrawal bill in the House of Lords, saying they risked tying the government’s hands behind its back in negotiations with Brussels,” May’s spokesman told reporters.
He added, “The prime minister said when the bill returns to the House of Commons, the government will be robust. She said it was vital to ensure the legislation is able to deliver the smooth Brexit which is in the interests of everybody in the United Kingdom.”
He declined to comment directly on whether the government would try to overturn the amendment which, if passed by the lower house, would allow parliament to send ministers back to the negotiating table in Brussels or halt the Brexit process.
“As for individual amendments, we have said we will look at those and discuss those in due course,” the spokesman said, adding that if the government’s hands were tied in the talks, “that’s not something we believe is in the UK’s interest.”
The government has said parliament will get a vote on any final deal with the EU, but only to “take it or leave it.” Some peers in the House of Lords, and lawmakers in the lower house, want parliament to be given a bigger say in the process.
Earlier, May’s trade minister, Liam Fox, accused the unelected peers in the upper house of “trying to block the democratic will of the British people.”


No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

Updated 32 min 19 sec ago
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No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

  • ‘The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern’
  • The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery

VIENNA: The UN’s nuclear watchdog said it had not seen any indication that nuclear activities in North Korea have stopped despite its pledges to denuclearize.
“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” said a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), referring to North Korea’s official name.
The report, published late Monday, by the director general of Yukiya Amano is to be submitted to an IAEA board meeting in September.
In 2009 Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear site and has since refused to allow IAEA inspections on its territory.
The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery, it said.
“As the Agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear program is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,” it said.
Between late-April and early-May, there were indications of the operation of the steam plant that serves the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon site, according to the report.
However, the duration of the steam plant’s operation was not sufficient to have supported the reprocessing of a complete core from the experimental nuclear power plant reactor, it added.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump held a groundbreaking summit in Singapore in June.
At the meeting the pair struck a vague agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but there has been little movement since.
Before this, Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April for their first summit. They agreed to push for a declaration of an end to the Korean War this year.