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.”


Flash floods kill at least 13 people in southwest France

Updated 6 min 1 sec ago
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Flash floods kill at least 13 people in southwest France

  • People had to be helicoptered to safety from the roofs of their homes as overnight storms dumped

PARIS: Flash floods tore through towns in southwest France, turning waterways into raging torrents that killed at least 13 people, nine of them in just one town, authorities said Monday. People had to be helicoptered to safety from the roofs of their homes as overnight storms dumped the equivalent of several months of rain in just a few hours.
Worst hit was the town of Trebes, east of the medieval walled city of Carcassonne. The rains that swept in from the Mediterranean killed nine people there, Interior Ministry spokesman Frederic de Lanouvelle said.
He told BFMTV that the floods in the Aude region also killed four other people in other locations, left one person missing and seriously injured five others.
In the town of Villegailhenc, witness Ines Siguet said the waters rose so quickly that people were stranded on the roofs of their homes and had to be helicoptered to safety. She posted video of a ripped-up road where a bridge used to be, torn away by a flood torrent that cut the town in half.
“There’s nothing left. There’s just a hole,” the 17-year-old resident told The Associated Press. “It was very violent.”
Other roads also were flooded, leaving the town cut off, she said. Siguet’s school was shut down amid the destruction. Two people were killed in the town, according to the Aude regional government.
Alain Thirion, the prefect of Aude, said some of the dead appeared to have been swept away by floodwaters. In the town of Conques-sur-Orbiel, the river rose by more than six meters (20 feet), he said.
Floodwaters were in some cases too powerful for emergency services to get through, even on boats, he said.
Television images showed waters coursing through towns and villages, with cars stranded in the floods and piled up on top of each other like children’s toys.
The French government rushed hundreds of rescue workers into the flood zone and helicopters buzzed overhead. Schools were closed and authorities were urging people to stay home.