3 ministers may break with British PM over Brexit

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) gestures as he welcomes British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) after her arrival at the EU headquarters in Brussels to hold a meeting on Brexit talks on February 20, 2019. (AFP / JOHN THYS)
Updated 23 February 2019
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3 ministers may break with British PM over Brexit

  • The ministers have said they will side with opposition parties to stop Britain leaving without a divorce deal
  • Comments seen as a warning to hard-line Brexit faction in Conservative Party

LONDON: Three senior British Cabinet ministers suggested on Saturday they may break with Prime Minister Theresa May and back amendments to delay Brexit unless a deal is agreed to in the next week.

Their comments represent a serious Cabinet split ahead of a key week in Parliament and are seen as a warning to the hard-line Brexit faction in the Conservative Party.

The ministers indicated in a Daily Mail article published on Saturday that they will back plans to delay Brexit if lawmakers vote down May’s plan for a new deal with the EU.

Business Minister Greg Clark, Work and Pensions Minister Amber Rudd, and Justice Minister David Gauke signalled in the newspaper column that they will side with rebels and opposition parties next week to stop Britain leaving without a divorce deal on March 29 if necessary, adding their weight to calls for May to rule out a no-deal departure.

May is struggling against the clock to get a deal with Brussels on Britain’s exit from the world’s largest trading bloc that will pass parliamentary muster. 

She planned to meet Donald Tusk on the sidelines of an EU-League of Arab States summit on Sunday, but EU diplomats are not expecting any imminent breakthrough.

In the column headlined “If we don’t get a deal next week we must delay Brexit,” Clark, Rudd and Gauke wrote that a no-deal exit was a risk to business, security and British territorial unity, and accused some Parliament colleagues of complacency.

“Far from Brexit resulting in a newly independent United Kingdom stepping boldly into the wider world, crashing out on March 29 would see us poorer, less secure and potentially splitting up,” they said, referring to the threat of a new bid for Scottish independence.

“Our economy will be damaged severely both in the short and the long term. Costs will increase, businesses that rely on just-in-time supply chains will be severely disrupted and investment will be discouraged,” they wrote.

The ministers called on members of the European Research Group, formed by Conservative pro-Brexit lawmakers, to back the government’s deal in Parliament or risk seeing Brexit delayed.

Both May’s Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party are formally committed to delivering Brexit. In recent days Labour has appeared to soften its stance on a second referendum, although May has ruled such an option out.

Lawmakers from both parties, however, are deeply split over how or even whether Britain will leave, and no majority has so far emerged in Parliament for any comprehensive Brexit strategy.

May has promised that if she does not bring a revised deal back by Feb. 27, Parliament will have an opportunity to vote on the next steps. Some lawmakers are expected to use that to try to wrest control of the process from the government.


Drones disrupt flights at Singapore airport for second time in a week

Updated 47 min 47 sec ago
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Drones disrupt flights at Singapore airport for second time in a week

SINGAPORE: Unauthorized drone flying caused the second spate of delays and flight diversions in less than a week at Singapore’s Changi airport on Monday night, the city-state’s aviation authority said.
Around 18 departures and arrivals were delayed and seven flights were diverted from the global transit hub due to “bad weather and unauthorized drone activities,” the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said in a statement on Tuesday.
The disruption lasted about an hour, it said.
Last week Changi, one of Asia’s busiest hubs, closed one of its runways for short periods due to unauthorized drone flying, disrupting 38 flights.
It is against the law in Singapore to fly a drone within five kilometers (three miles) of an airport without a permit.
Authorities are investigating.
A surge in the availability of drones has become an increasing security concern for airports around the world.
In December, drone sightings caused three days of travel chaos at London’s Gatwick airport, resulting in the cancelation or diversion of about 1,000 flights at an estimated cost of more than 50 million pounds ($64 million).