Theresa May urged to set her own exit date to get Brexit deal

The United Kingdom, which voted 52-48 percent to leave the EU in the referendum, remains deeply divided over Brexit. (Reuters)
Updated 25 March 2019
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Theresa May urged to set her own exit date to get Brexit deal

  • British politics is at fever pitch, nearly three years since the 2016 EU membership referendum
  • ‘Time’s up, Theresa,’ Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper said in a front-page editorial
LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May was under pressure on Monday to give a date for leaving office as the price to bring Brexit-supporting rebel lawmakers in her party behind her twice-defeated European Union divorce treaty.
At one of the most important junctures for the country in at least a generation, British politics was at fever pitch and, nearly three years since the 2016 EU membership referendum, it was still unclear how, when or if Brexit will ever take place.
With May humiliated and weakened, ministers lined up to insist she was still in charge and to deny a reported plot to demand she name a date to leave office at a cabinet meeting at 1000 GMT on Monday.
“Time’s up, Theresa,” Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper said in a front-page editorial. It said her one chance of getting the deal approved by parliament was to name a date for her departure.
“I hope that the cabinet will tell the prime minister the game is up,” Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative lawmaker who supports Brexit, told Sky News.
“The prime minister does not have the confidence of the parliamentary party. She clearly doesn’t have the confidence of the cabinet and she certainly doesn’t have the confidence of our members out there in the country,” he said.
Ministers will discuss at 0900 GMT how to address parliament’s attempts to take control of Brexit before a meeting of May’s cabinet team, a government source said.
The United Kingdom, which voted 52-48 percent to leave the EU in the referendum, remains deeply divided over Brexit.
Just 24 hours after hundreds of thousands of people marched through London on Saturday to demand another referendum, May called rebel lawmakers to her Chequers residence on Sunday in an attempt to find a way to break the deadlock.
“The meeting discussed a range of issues, including whether there is sufficient support in the Commons to bring back a meaningful vote (for her deal) this week,” a spokesman for May’s Downing Street office said.
Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker attended along with ministers David Lidington and Michael Gove who had been reportedly lined up as caretaker prime ministers. They were forced on Sunday to deny they wanted May’s job.
May was told by Brexiteers at the meeting she must set out a timetable to leave office if she wants to get her deal ratified, Buzzfeed reporter Alex Wickham said on Twitter.
May told the lawmakers she would quit if they voted for her twice-defeated European Union divorce deal, ITV news said.
The Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, said some ministers were urging May to pivot to a no-deal Brexit as the only way to survive in power.
The deal May negotiated with the EU was defeated in parliament by 149 votes on March 12 and by 230 votes on Jan. 15.
To get it passed, she must win over at least 75 MPs — dozens of rebels in her Conservative Party, some opposition Labour Party MPs and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.
The Sunday Times reported 11 unidentified ministers agreed May should stand down, warning she has become a toxic and erratic figure whose judgment has “gone haywire.”
Brexit had been due to happen on March 29 before May secured a delay in talks with the EU. Now a departure date of May 22 will apply if parliament passes May’s deal. If she fails, Britain will have until April 12 to offer a new plan or decide to leave without a treaty to smooth the transition and avoid an economic shock.
Lawmakers are due on Monday to debate the government’s next steps on Brexit, including the delayed exit date. They have proposed changes, or amendments, including one which seeks to wrest control of the process from the government in order to hold votes on alternative ways forward.
Amendments are not legally binding, but do exert political pressure on May to change course.


Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

Algerian supporters celebrate in Guillotiere district in Lyon, central eastern France after the victory of their team over Nigeria during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) semi-final football match, on July 14, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 53 min 29 sec ago
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Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

  • Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening
  • Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe

PARIS: Thousands of extra French police are set to be on duty later Friday in Paris and other major cities following clashes involving Algerian football fans that have touched off a debate about national identity.

Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening with excitement high in France which is home to a huge Algerian-origin population due to the country’s colonial history.

Thousands of people partied in the streets when Algeria won its quarter-final on July 11 and then again for the semifinal on July 14, but the celebrations were later marred by pillaging and street clashes. “I call on people celebrating, even if I understand their joy, to behave themselves,” Paris police chief Didier Lallement told a press conference on Wednesday.

Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe where crowds set off fireworks and flew flags from car windows last Sunday, which was also France’s national Bastille Day.Clashes with police in the early hours, following pillaging the week before, saw more than 200 people arrested, leading to condemnation from the police and government, as well as far-right politicians.

The fact that the semifinal coincided with Bastille Day, which celebrates the French republic and its armed forces, irked nationalist politicians in particular who worry about the effects of immigration. “Like lots of French people, I was shocked to see French people take down the French flag and put up the Algerian one,” far-right politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan said on Friday morning.

Dupont-Aignan said the French-born Algeria fans, many of whom have dual nationality, could “go back” to north Africa if their preference was for Algeria. “I want to ask these young people, who are a minority I hope: France has welcomed you, fed you, educated you, looked after you, but if you prefer Algeria, if it’s better than France, go back to Algeria!"

Violence has flared in France in the past after major football games involving Algeria including during World Cup games in 2014, which led far-right leader Marine Le Pen to propose stripping rioters of their French nationality.

“Their victories are our nightmare,” a spokesperson for Le Pen’s National Rally party, Sebastien Chenu, said Monday. “Whenever there’s a match with Algeria... there are problems.”

A France-Algeria friendly in 2001 in Paris saw the French national anthem copiously booed in what was the first meeting on the pitch between the countries since Algeria’s independence in 1962 following 130 years of French rule.

The National Rally has called for Algeria fans to be barred from the Champs-Elysees on Friday, a demand dismissed as impractical and unfair by the Paris police force. “For me, the people coming to the Champs-Elysees are joyous citizens,” police chief Lallement told the press conference.

Others have pointed out that the overwhelming majority of fans marked Algeria’s last two victories in the Africa Cup peacefully and that many Franco-Algerians feel free to celebrate the successes of both countries. “We are saddened by the events of July 14,” Faiza Menai from Debout l’Algerie, a collective that unites members of the Algerian diaspora in France, told AFP on Thursday.

She recalled that France had seen six months of violent demonstrations during the so-called “yellow vest” protests against the government, which were supported by Le Pen and other far-right groups. The football violence was caused by not only by Algerians, she said, and was the result of an angry minority living frustrated lives in low-income and neglected suburban areas that ring French cities.

“It’s a pity that there are people who show up just to cause trouble. As in the case of the yellow vests, you have these young guys who missed the point — they come in from the suburbs and take advantage of the situation to get their revenge,” she said.

Her group plans to send out volunteers in florescent orange vests to the Champs Elysees to “try to limit the damage by raising awareness among supporters and lending a hand to authorities.”

Azouz Begag, a novelist and former minister in France’s government in 2005-2007, called on fellow Franco-Algerians to “state again after the match against Senegal that they are in their home in France, that they pay taxes and are voters.“The public spaces of the republic are theirs,” he wrote in Le Monde.