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
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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.


3 rebels, civilian die in Kashmir amid battle, clashes

Updated 10 min 40 sec ago
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3 rebels, civilian die in Kashmir amid battle, clashes

  • Fighting erupted on Sunday after troops cordoned off a village in southern Kulgam area
  • India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety

SRINAGAR, India: Three suspected rebels were killed on Sunday in a gunbattle with government forces in disputed Kashmir, triggering violent anti-India protests.
The fighting erupted after troops cordoned off a village in southern Kulgam area on a tip that rebels were hiding there, the Indian military said. The exchange lasted for several hours in which three militants were killed and two soldiers injured, the military said.
Residents said soldiers blasted a civilian home with explosives while fighting the rebels, a common charge by Kashmiris who deeply resent the Indian army’s presence.
As the fighting raged, anti-India protesters tried to reach the site of the standoff. They threw stones at government forces hoping to help the trapped rebels escape. Government forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the protesters, leaving at least 35 injured.
As counterinsurgency police and soldiers hastily left the place after the fighting was over, hundreds of civilians converged on the site. An explosion occurred as people tried to extinguish fire at the blasted house, residents said, killing at least one civilian and wounding five others who were hospitalized in critical condition.
S.P. Pani, a top police officer, said the civilians assembled at the site despite repeated requests to stay away as soldiers were still clearing the area. “Someone from the crowd fiddled with an unexploded explosive substance resulting in the tragic incident,” he said.
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.