British PM survives crucial Brexit vote in parliament

May had warned that any attempt to tie her hands would undermine her chances of a good deal in the Brexit talks. (Reuters)
Updated 20 June 2018
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British PM survives crucial Brexit vote in parliament

  • Brexit Secretary David Davis issued a statement offering a clarification that the rebels said would ensure parliament would have a ‘meaningful vote’
  • Pro-Europeans are determined that parliament be given the opportunity to intervene to stop Britain crashing out of the bloc

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government saw off a rebellion by her pro-European MPs on Wednesday after making further concessions over parliament’s role in the final Brexit deal.
MPs in the House of Commons voted to reject a motion that would have strengthened the power of lawmakers to intervene if no deal is reached with Brussels before Brexit in March 2019.
Just hours earlier, Brexit Secretary David Davis issued a statement offering a clarification that the rebels said would ensure parliament would have a “meaningful vote.”
In the end, MPs voted by 319 to 303 reject a rebel amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which sets the legal framework for Brexit.
The government’s proposal was passed through without a vote.
Winning the vote is a huge relief for the prime minister, who has struggled to maintain her authority over a deeply divided government.
A defeat would also have been a humiliating setback as she heads to a summit next week with fellow EU leaders, although she still faces tough negotiations with Brussels.
May has offered parliament a vote on the final terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, but has been engaged in months of negotiations over what happens if it is rejected.
Pro-Europeans are determined that parliament be given the opportunity to intervene to stop Britain crashing out of the bloc, which they say could have catastrophic consequences.
But May had warned that any attempt to tie her hands would undermine her chances of a good deal in the Brexit talks, while euroskeptics accused the rebels of trying to block Britain’s exit.
The government last week agreed to an amendment stating that if there is no deal by January 21 next year, ministers must put a statement to a vote in parliament.
This vote would be on a “neutral motion,” however, meaning it would not be open to any amendments that might force the government into a course of action.
Pro-European rebels in the ruling Conservative party said this rendered the vote meaningless, and warned they would vote against it and instead back their own rebel proposal.
In his last-minute statement, Davis acknowledged that under House of Commons rules, “it will be for the Speaker to determine whether a motion... is or not amendable.”
Leading rebel Conservative Dominic Grieve said this was an “obvious acknowledgement of the sovereignty of this place (parliament),” and confirmed he would back the government.
Another rebel, former minister Nicky Morgan, tweeted: “On this basis parliament’s vote is meaningful — and I will support govt amendment.”
While May won the day, the high-stakes vote is a reminder of how difficult her situation is.
Her Conservative party commands only a slim majority in the 650-seat Commons and relies on the support of Northern Ireland’s 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs.
In a sign of how close Wednesday’s vote was, heavily pregnant and sick MPs were called in to cast their ballots, including one in a wheelchair.
Further clashes are due in the coming weeks, notably when bills on Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU are debated by MPs.
The main opposition Labour party had backed the rebel amendment on Wednesday but has its own euroskeptic rebels.


Brazilian police arrest fugitive US has linked to Hezbollah

Updated 21 September 2018
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Brazilian police arrest fugitive US has linked to Hezbollah

SAO PAULO: Brazilian police on Friday arrested a fugitive sought in Paraguay who is accused by US officials of belonging to Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and of being a key financier of terrorism.
Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the border city of Foz do Iguacu, which is home to the famous Iguazu Falls and sits where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet.
Authorities in Paraguay are seeking Barakat on allegations of false representation, police said, and Brazil's Supreme Court authorized his arrest earlier this month. The Brazilian federal prosecutor's office said in a statement that Barakat's case meets the requirements for an arrest with a view to extradition.
In Paraguay, Barakat is accused of presenting a declaration of incorrect nationality and omitting information about the loss of nationality, the prosecutors' statement said. Barakat was born in Lebanon but has lived in South America for years.
Prosecutors said they had information that Barakat applied for refugee status in Brazil when he learned of Paraguay's arrest warrant, but that only the recognition of refugee status would prevent his extradition, which was not the case here.
In 2004, the US Treasury Department accused Barakat of serving as a treasurer for Hezbollah, which it considers a terrorist organization, and ordered American banks to freeze any of his assets found in the United States. At the time, Barakat was serving time in a Paraguayan prison for tax evasion. Two years later it added several of his associates to its watchlist, on which Barakat remains.
Brazilian police said Argentine authorities have accused associates of Barakat of laundering $10 million in a scheme in casinos, and they have frozen the group's assets.
Barakat was extradited from Brazil to Paraguay in 2003 and was convicted of tax evasion. He returned to live in Brazil in 2008 after he was released from prison, police said.