May to tell British parliament Brexit ‘95 percent’ settled, faces party mutiny

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, center, speaks with European Council President Donald Tusk during a summit at the European Council in Brussels on Friday, October 19. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2018
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May to tell British parliament Brexit ‘95 percent’ settled, faces party mutiny

  • ‘Ninety-five percent of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocols are now settled,’ according to a partial transcript released by her office
  • Talks have stalled over how to stop its land frontier with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, becoming a hard border again

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May will tell Britain’s parliament on Monday that Brexit negotiations are “95 percent” complete but that she cannot accept the European Union’s Northern Ireland border proposals — as she faces down an increasingly mutinous faction within her own party.
May has been on the receiving end of a furious backlash from Brexit hardliners in her own party after indicating at an EU summit last week that she could accept a longer post-divorce implementation phase than previously envisaged.
Her shift aimed to break an impasse in negotiations between London and Brussels over how to keep the Irish border open after Brexit, by giving the two sides more time to agree their future relationship.
But it infuriated Brexiteer colleagues who fear remaining tied to the EU for years after Britain’s formal departure next March.
Several Sunday newspapers said rebellious MPs were preparing a fresh bid to topple her leadership this week, many carrying colorful off-record quotes from the plotters.
In a bid to calm passions, May will address MPs in the House of Commons on Monday where she will say the divorce deal with Brussels is nearly done.
“Ninety-five percent of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocols are now settled,” she will tell parliamentarians, according to a partial transcript released by her office late Sunday.
Highlighting progress in the year-long talks, she will say agreements have now been reached across a broad range of issues including with Spain on the status of the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, and with Cyprus on the UK’s military bases there.
“We have broad agreement on the structure and scope of the future relationship, with important progress made on issues like security, transport and services,” she will say.
But on Ireland she will seek to reassure MPs in her own party that she will not bow to the EU’s current proposals.
“As I set out last week, the original backstop proposal from the EU was one we could not accept, as it would mean creating a customs border down the Irish Sea and breaking up the integrity of the UK,” she will say.
“I do not believe that any UK Prime Minister could ever accept this. And I certainly will not.”
The so-called backstop is a proposal to keep either Northern Ireland or all of Britain in a customs union should future trade talks end in deadlock.
Talks have stalled over how to stop its land frontier with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, becoming a hard border again.
London believes customs and other checks can be avoided through a new trade agreement with Brussels, but accepts the need for a fallback plan until that deal is agreed.
However, the two sides have so far been unable to settle the terms of this so-called backstop.
France’s Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau told the BBC Sunday that the bloc needs “definitive answers, or at least no temporary measures which disappear and we don’t know what to do afterwards.”
Despite voting in favor of a split from Europe, the British public remain deeply polarized on Brexit.
On Saturday more than half a million anti-Brexit protesters hit the streets of London, the largest demonstration since 750,000 people showed up against the Iraq war in 2003.


Finns held in Muslim Malaysia over ‘Christian pamphlets’

Updated 21 November 2018
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Finns held in Muslim Malaysia over ‘Christian pamphlets’

  • hey are accused of breaking laws that forbid people from disturbing religious harmony, and could be jailed for up to five years
  • Issues related to race, religion and language are considered sensitive in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Four Finns have been arrested on a holiday island in Muslim-majority Malaysia for allegedly distributing pamphlets about Christianity, police said Wednesday, and may face up to five years in jail.
Religion is a deeply sensitive issue in Malaysia, where more than 60 percent of the populaton is Muslim, and critics say rising conservatism has chipped away at a traditionally tolerant brand of Islam in recent years.
Authorities detained the two men and two women on Tuesday after receiving complaints from members of the public that they were handing out Christian materials on the popular resort island of Langkawi, said local police chief Mohamad Iqbal Ibrahim.
“Police have arrested four Finnish nationals in Langkawi for allegedly distributing religious material in a public place,” he told AFP.
“They were distributing pamphlets related to Christianity.”
The Finns, aged between 27 and 60, were arrested at a hotel and police seized pens, notebooks and a bag.
They are accused of breaking laws that forbid people from disturbing religious harmony. If found guilty, they could be jailed for between two and five years.
The suspects have been remanded in custody while police investigate.
Langkawi, a jungle-clad island in northwest Malaysia, attracts millions of tourists to its palm-fringed beaches every year.
Malaysia, home to about 32 million people, has sizeable ethnic Chinese and Indian communities who have long complained about rising Islamization.
In 2010, three churches were attacked with firebombs, causing major damage to one, as Muslims sought to prevent Christians from using the word “Allah.”
Issues related to race, religion and language are considered sensitive in Malaysia, which witnessed deadly riots between members of the majority Malay community and ethnic Chinese in 1969.