UK cabinet minister floats ‘Plan B’ before key vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal

A close ally of British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday became the first cabinet minister to float a possible Plan B if, as expected, parliament next week rejects her proposal to leave the European Union. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 08 December 2018
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UK cabinet minister floats ‘Plan B’ before key vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal

  • May insists her deal, laboriously negotiated with the EU over many months, is the only one on the table
  • Senior officials on both sides of the EU-UK negotiations on May’s deal have voiced skepticism

LONDON: A close ally of British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday became the first cabinet minister to float a possible Plan B if, as expected, parliament next week rejects her proposal to leave the European Union.
With her own future in the balance, May insists her deal, laboriously negotiated with the EU over many months, is the only one on the table and that the alternatives are a painful ‘no-deal’ exit from the EU or possibly no Brexit at all.
However, members of parliament, including from May’s own Conservative Party, look set to reject her deal, which envisages continued close ties with the EU, in a move that would pitch the world’s fifth-largest economy into even deeper uncertainty.
While agreeing with May that her deal provides the best option for exiting the EU, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions minister, said a Norway-style relationship with the bloc might also offer a way out of the current deadlock.
“If it (May’s plan) doesn’t get through anything could happen: people’s vote, Norway plus, any of these options could come forward,” she told BBC radio on Saturday.
Rudd told The Times newspaper in an interview her own preferred option, if May’s deal failed, was the “Norway Plus” model, adding it “seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are.”
Norway is not an EU member but is in the bloc’s single market, which allows for free movement of goods, capital, services and people. ‘Norway plus’ envisages Britain also staying in the EU’s customs union, which Norway is not in.
Senior officials on both sides of the EU-UK negotiations on May’s deal have voiced skepticism to Reuters about the “Norway pivot” idea, saying it seems far removed from British demands for more control over rules and could need lengthy new talks.
Some pro-EU lawmakers have also expressed support for a second referendum on EU membership, or ‘a people’s vote’.

MAY’S LEADERSHIP QUESTIONED
The Times reported on Saturday that plans were being made across party lines to vote against May’s leadership if she loses Tuesday’s vote. The Daily Telegraph quoted a senior Conservative lawmaker as saying she might be forced to resign.
Rudd said she believed May should stay on as prime minister even if parliament rejects her Brexit deal. “There is no question of her going,” Rudd told the BBC.
The Times said the main opposition Labour Party was seeking an alliance with rebel Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party, the small Northern Irish party which props up May’s minority government, to call a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister.
That vote would not be binding but would place enormous pressure on May to resign, it added.
Conservative lawmaker and former leader Iain Duncan Smith was quoted in the Telegraph as saying her leadership could come into question if she lost Tuesday’s vote.
“I believe that if (May’s) response is ‘we’ve lost but we will do this all over again’, it will become a leadership issue,” he was quoted as saying.
The newspaper also said three ministers were considering resigning in opposition to her deal, without citing sources.
If the Brexit deal is rejected, ministers have 21 days to state how they intend to proceed. The government has previously said that if the agreement is rejected, Britain will leave the EU without a deal.
May’s spokesman said on Friday the vote would go ahead next week despite calls from some lawmakers for it to be delayed to avoid a defeat so big that it might bring down the government.


‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

Updated 9 min 49 sec ago
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‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

  • Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise
  • It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago

COLOMBO: One month after the Sri Lanka suicide attacks that killed more than 250 people, investigators have told AFP the bombers used “Mother of Satan” explosives favored by the Daesh group that are a new sign of foreign involvement.
Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise.
They named the explosive as triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, an unstable but easily made mixture favored by Daesh militants who call it “Mother of Satan.”
It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago.
Daesh has claimed the Sri Lankan bombers operated as part of its franchise. But Sri Lankan and international investigators are anxious to know just how much outside help went into the attacks that left 258 dead and 500 injured.
“The group had easy access to chemicals and fertilizer to get the raw materials to make TATP,” an official involved in the investigation told AFP.
Sri Lankan detectives say the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), local militants blamed for the attacks, must have had foreign help to assemble the bombs.

“They would have had a face-to-face meeting to transfer this technology. This is not something you can do by watching a YouTube video,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Investigators had initially believed that C4 explosives — a favored weapon of Tamil Tiger rebels — were used, but forensic tests found TATP which causes more burning than C4.
Police have also confirmed that 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives found in January in the island’s northwest was TATP.
They are checking the travel records of the suicide bombers as well as foreign suspects to see when and where bomb-making lessons could have been staged.
“It looks like they used a cocktail of TATP and gelignite and some chemicals in the Easter attacks. They were short of the 100 kilos of raw TATP that were seized in January,” said the investigator.
Sri Lankan security forces have staged a series of raids since the bombings. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Sunday that 89 suspects are in custody.
Army chief Mahesh Senanayake said last week that at least two suspects have been arrested in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, underscoring the international link.
On April 26, six militants, three widows of the suicide bombers and six of their children were killed at an NTJ safe house near the eastern coastal town of Kalmunai.
Police found large quantities of chemicals and fertilizer there that was probably meant to make bombs, authorities said.
The government has admitted that Indian warnings of the looming attacks in early April were ignored.
But President Maithripala Sirisena has said eight countries are helping the investigation. A US Federal Bureau of Investigation team is in Sri Lanka and Britain, Australia and India have provided forensic and technical support.
China offered a fleet of vehicles to bolster the mobility of the security forces tracking down militants.

The Sri Lankan who led the attacks, Zahran Hashim, was known to have traveled to India in the months before he became one of the suicide bombers.
Moderate Muslims had warned authorities about the radical cleric who first set off alarm bells in 2017 when he threatened non-Muslims.
He was one of two bombers who killed dozens of victims at Colombo’s Shangri-La hotel on April 21.
Army chief Senanayake said Hashim had traveled to Tamil Nadu state in southern India and been in contact with extremists there.
Hashim, one of seven bombers who staged the attacks, also appeared in an Daesh group video that claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Another bomber who was meant to have hit a fourth hotel, has been named as Abdul Latheef Jameel who studied aviation engineering in Britain and Australia.
Authorities in the two countries are investigating whether he was radicalized whilst abroad.
Jameel blew himself up when confronted at a hideout after the attacks.