UK PM faces backlash over Brexit compromise

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London on October 10, 2018 ahead of the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) session in the House of Commons. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
0

UK PM faces backlash over Brexit compromise

  • Negotiations in Brussels have stepped up in recent days ahead of a high-stakes EU summit next week
  • Some euroskeptics, notably House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, are said to be considering quitting.

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May will not “trap” Britain in an endless customs union with the European Union after Brexit, her office insisted Friday amid growing unease in her cabinet and party that this might be the price of a divorce deal.
Negotiations in Brussels have stepped up in recent days ahead of a high-stakes EU summit next week, with both sides seeking a breakthrough less than six months before Brexit in March 2019.
May briefed selected members of her cabinet late Thursday on the talks, at which several ministers reportedly expressed deep unease at a plan to avoid frontier checks with EU member Ireland.
Some euroskeptics, notably House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, are said to be considering quitting.
Britain has proposed that it continue to follow EU customs rules after Brexit as a fall-back option to keep open the land border with Ireland, until a wider trade deal is agreed that avoids the need for frontier checks.
May says this will only be temporary, but her spokeswoman was forced to clarify the point after media reports that the final “backstop” arrangement will have no legal end date.
“The prime minister would never agree to a deal which could trap the UK in a backstop permanently,” she said.
The Downing Street spokeswoman repeated that Britain wanted a new trade deal by the end of December 2021 at the latest, although she declined to confirm the backstop would be “time-limited.”
Her careful words only fueled speculation of a compromise with Brussels, although Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab later said the backstop would have to be “finite,” “short” and “time-limited.”
Brussels has insisted that, as an insurance plan, the backstop cannot by its very nature have an end date.
However, euroskeptics in May’s Conservative party are wary of being tied to the bloc indefinitely.
“That won’t wash. The British people voted to take back control over money, laws, borders and trade,” said former Brexit minister Steve Baker, one of a powerful group of euroskeptic Conservative MPs in parliament.


Mongolia invites North Korea’s Kim to visit

Updated 2 min 1 sec ago
0

Mongolia invites North Korea’s Kim to visit

  • The invitation was sent to Kim Jong Un on October 10, though no specific date was proposed
  • The two countries celebrated 70 years of diplomatic ties this year

ULAANBAATAR: Mongolia has invited Kim Jong Un to visit the nation’s capital, which once hoped to host the historic summit between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump, an official said Tuesday.
The invitation comes amid expectations that Kim and Trump, who met in Singapore in June, will hold a second summit — a time and location for which have yet to be determined.
According to Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga’s office, the invitation was sent to Kim on October 10, though no specific date was proposed.
The North Korean leader can visit “whenever he feels convenient,” an official from the president’s office said, confirming a report published Monday by North Korea’s KCNA state news service.
Mongolia had offered to host Trump and Kim for their landmark summit in June, but they ended up picking Singapore, where they agreed to a vaguely-worded statement on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Trump said last week that three or four unspecified locations have been short-listed for their next meeting, but it would “probably” not be in Singapore again, and he did not give a date.
Kim’s only other known foreign trips since taking power in 2011 was three visits to China this year.
He has also met South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone separating their countries, where he momentarily crossed into Pyongyang’s southern neighbor.
Mongolia, a democratic nation wedged between China and Russia, is one of the few countries that has normal relations with the authoritarian regime in North Korea.
The two countries celebrated 70 years of diplomatic ties this year.
Kim’s grandfather, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, visited Mongolia when it was still a Soviet state in 1988.
In October 2013, Mongolia’s then-president Tsakhia Elbegdorj visited Pyongyang and was the first head of state to meet with Kim since the North Korean leader succeed his late father, Kim Jong Il, two years prior.
Almost 1,200 North Koreans were living and working in Mongolia at the end of last year, before UN sanctions against Pyongyang required them to leave.