EU rebuffs May, says no-plan Brexiteers deserve ‘place in hell’

EU Council President Donald Tusk gives a statement after a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 07 February 2019
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EU rebuffs May, says no-plan Brexiteers deserve ‘place in hell’

  • Tusk: Brexiteers deserve a “special place in hell“
  • Brexiteers: Leaving the EU will be heaven

BRUSSELS: The European Union will make no new offer on Brexit and those who promoted Britain’s exit without any understanding of how to deliver it deserve a “special place in hell,” European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday.
The United Kingdom is on course to leave the EU on March 29 without a deal unless Prime Minister Theresa May can convince the bloc to reopen the divorce agreement she reached in November and then sell it to skeptical British lawmakers.
But as Tusk’s pointedly blunt language showed, frustration runs deep among European leaders over the British parliament’s rejection of the divorce deal and May’s demands that the EU now give up on key principles or face disruption in just 50 days.
As companies and governments across Europe step up preparations for a disorderly no-deal exit, diplomats and officials said Britain now faces three main options: a no-deal exit, a last-minute deal or a delay to Brexit.
Rebuffing May’s bid to renegotiate just a day before she is due in Brussels, Tusk said he had abandoned the hope he has often expressed that Britain’s exit might be stopped and said his priority was now to avert a “fiasco” when it leaves.
“I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely,” Tusk said at a joint news conference with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
The remark by Tusk, who chairs summits of the EU’s national leaders, angered Brexit supporters in Britain.
Veteran Brexiteer Nigel Farage retorted: “After Brexit we will be free of unelected, arrogant bullies like you — sounds like heaven to me.”
While Tusk was clear the EU would not reopen the divorce deal, he also said he still believed a common Brexit solution was possible.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker rammed home Tusk’s message, saying the legal withdrawal agreement would not be reopened, and May knew that.
Varadkar said Britain’s political instability further proved the need for a “backstop” insurance policy — the main obstacle to a deal — to keep the border between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland open after Brexit.
May will visit Dublin on Friday, Varadkar said.
For May, failure to deliver a revised deal would shatter the fragile unity in her Conservative Party, leaving her already-diminished authority in tatters, and ramping up uncertainty in financial markets over the fate of the British economy, the world’s fifth largest.
Rating agency Standard and Poor’s said a no-deal Brexit could result in negative revisions of their outlooks on Britain’s credit ratings, but that there remained a very strong incentive for both sides to reach a deal.

IRISH UNITY?
In another stark indication of the stakes for Britain of a disorderly Brexit, Irish nationalists warned May that if she allowed a no-deal Brexit then there would have to be a referendum on Irish unity.
“In the event of a crash... she must as a democrat return to the Good Friday Agreement and she must begin preparation for a referendum on Irish unity,” Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said, referring to the peace accord signed in 1998 that ended three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU has strained ties between its constituent parts: England and Wales voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay.
May has said she will seek an alternative arrangement which avoids the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland, or legally binding changes to the backstop to introduce a time limit or create an exit mechanism.
Brexit has snagged on the 310-mile (500-km) frontier because there is disagreement on how to monitor trade without physical checks on the border, which was marked by military checkpoints before the Good Friday peace agreement.
Under the divorce deal agreed in November, the ‘backstop’ would come into effect if the two sides failed to come up with a better idea to keep the border open.

ALTERNATIVE IDEAS
But the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up May’s government says it could endanger the province’s place in the United Kingdom, while Brexit supporters in May’s Conservative Party worry it locks the country into EU rules.
At a meeting in Belfast on Thursday, DUP leader Arlene Foster told May the backstop needed to be replaced, but said their discussion had been useful.
The Sun newspaper said British ministers were examining a plan drawn up by Japan’s Fujitsu to track trade across the border. The Telegraph said ministers had discussed delaying Brexit by eight weeks.
EU officials are asking May to embrace a proposal by the opposition Labour Party to join a permanent customs union with the bloc.
Such a move could remove the need for the backstop and, some in the EU believe, may win approval in Britain’s parliament. But officials have low expectations ahead of the prime minister’s visit to Brussels on Thursday.
“Theresa May is not delivering on what she agreed with us,” a senior EU diplomat said. “Her inability to build a cross-party agreement is staggering.”


Sri Lanka police hunt 140 after Easter bombings as shooting erupts in east

Updated 31 min 1 sec ago
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Sri Lanka police hunt 140 after Easter bombings as shooting erupts in east

  • Muslims in Sri Lanka were urged to pray at home Friday after warning of possible car bomb attacks
  • President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters some Sri Lankan youths had been involved with Daesh since 2013

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police are trying to track down 140 people believed linked to Daesh, which claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed 253, as shooting erupted in the east during a raid.
Muslims in Sri Lanka were urged to pray at home after the State Intelligence Services warned of possible car bomb attacks, amid fears of retaliatory violence.
And the US Embassy in Sri Lanka urged its citizens to avoid places of worship over the weekend after authorities reported there could be more attacks targeting religious centers.
Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told reporters he had seen a leaked internal security document warning of further attacks on churches and there would be no Catholic masses this Sunday anywhere on the island.

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The streets of Colombo were deserted on Friday evening, with many people leaving offices early amid tight security after the suicide bombing attacks on three churches and four hotels that also wounded about 500 people.
President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters some Sri Lankan youths had been involved with Daesh since 2013. He said information uncovered so far suggested there were 140 people in Sri Lanka involved in Daesh activities.
“Police are looking to arrest them,” Sirisena said.
Nearly 10,000 soldiers were deployed across the Indian Ocean island state to carry out searches and provide security for religious centers, the military said on Friday.
The All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ullama, Sri Lanka’s main Islamic religious body, urged Muslims to conduct prayers at home in case “there is a need to protect family and properties.”
Illustrating the tension that has gripped the country, shooting erupted between security forces and a group of men in the east during a search and cordon operation, a military spokesman said.
The raid took place in the town of Ampara Sainthamaruthu near Batticaloa. The spokesman said there was an explosion in the area and when soldiers went to investigate they were fired upon. No details of casualties were immediately available.
Police have detained at least 76 people, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt, in their investigations so far.
Daesh provided no evidence to back its claim that it was behind the attacks. If true, it would be one of the worst attacks carried out by the group outside Iraq and Syria.
The extremist group released a video on Tuesday showing eight men, all but one with their faces covered, standing under a black Daesh flag and declaring their loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
The government said nine homegrown, well-educated suicide bombers carried out the attacks, eight of whom had been identified. One was a woman.
Authorities have so far focused their investigations on international links to two domestic extremist groups — National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim — they believe carried out the attacks.
Government officials have acknowledged a major lapse in not widely sharing an intelligence warning from India before the attacks.
Sirisena said top defense and police chiefs had not shared information with him about the impending attacks. Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned over the failure to prevent the attacks.
“The police chief said he will resign now,” Sirisena said.
He blamed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government for weakening the intelligence system by focusing on the prosecution of military officers over alleged war crimes during a decade-long civil war with Tamil separatists that ended in 2009.
Sirisena fired Wickremesinghe in October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supreme Court.
Opposing factions aligned to Wickremesinghe and Sirisena have often refused to communicate with each other and blame any setbacks on their opponents, government sources say.
Cardinal Ranjith said that the church had been kept in the dark about intelligence warning of attacks.
“We didn’t know anything. It came as a thunderbolt for us,” he said.
The Easter Sunday bombings shattered the relative calm that had existed in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since the civil war against mostly Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended.
Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.
Most of the victims were Sri Lankans, although authorities said at least 38 foreigners were also killed, many of them tourists sitting down to breakfast at top-end hotels when the bombers struck.
They included British, US, Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals. Britain warned its nationals on Thursday to avoid Sri Lanka unless it was absolutely necessary.
Fears of retaliatory sectarian violence have already caused Muslim communities to flee their homes amid bomb scares, lockdowns and security sweeps.
But at the Kollupitiya Jumma Masjid mosque, tucked away in a Colombo side street, hundreds attended a service they say was focused on a call for people of all religions to help return peace to Sri Lanka.
“It’s a very sad situation,” said 28-year-old sales worker Raees Ulhaq, as soldiers hurried on dawdling worshippers and sniffer dogs nosed their way through pot-holed lanes.
“We work with Christians, Buddhists, Hindus. It has been a threat for all of us because of what these few people have done to this beautiful country.”