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London, July 12, 2018 (News Wires) - British Prime Minister Theresa May will publish details on Thursday of her long-awaited Brexit blueprint to restart talks with the EU, after facing down a revolt by eurosceptic ministers that could still unseat her.

In a policy paper, the government will outline proposals for a free trade area and a "common rule book" with the EU in goods after pressure from businesses to allow cross-border trade to continue as normal.

But Britain would still plan to leave the EU single market and customs union and set its own path on the far bigger services sector, hoping to be able to curb EU immigration and strike its own trade deals with third countries.

For the City of London the plan would propose "a looser partnership" with the EU rather than original proposals for "mutual recognition" of British and EU rules after Britain leaves the bloc in March, the Financial Times reported.

"We're making sure we've got a bespoke relationship with the EU," Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who was only appointed on Monday after his predecessor David Davis quit in protest over the plan, told BBC radio.

"It's a credible proposal. It's bold, it's ambitious but it's also pragmatic," he said.

The plan has caused outrage among eurosceptic members of May's Conservative party, and foreign minister Boris Johnson joined Davis in dramatically quitting this week in protest.

Their departures, followed by a clutch of junior aides, destabilised May's government and revived talk of a leadership challenge against her.

The prime minister is also likely to face some opposition in Brussels, where officials have repeatedly warned Britain to lower its expectations about how close ties can be.

"Of course the EU-27 is open to compromise but not one that can undermine the main pillars of the single market," an EU official said on condition of anonymity.

An EU source said: "We will look at these things constructively, and in a way that is helpful to the prime minister."

May has briefed leaders including EU President Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her plan and reported a positive response, although they are awaiting the detail.

Britain does not have long to argue its case -- both sides are aiming for a deal by October, to allow time for its ratification by the British and European parliaments.

Failure to agree would see Britain leave the EU without a deal, with the risk of huge economic disruption on both sides of the Channel.

The Financial Times has reported that one contingency plan being examined in case of a no-deal Brexit is using barges to help keep the lights on in Northern Ireland in case there is disruption to electricity imports from the Republic of Ireland.


LONDON, June 11, 2018 (News Wires) — Prime Minister Theresa May will urge her Conservative Party Monday to show unity when parliament votes on changes to her Brexit blueprint, a potential showdown that could reshape her approach to Britain’s departure from the EU.

Lawmakers will vote Tuesday and Wednesday this week on amendments to the EU withdrawal bill, legislation to sever ties with the bloc by essentially copying and pasting the bloc’s laws so that Britain’s legal system can function after March next year.

Her government is most vulnerable over an amendment, introduced by the upper house of parliament, to change the so-called “meaningful vote” on any final Brexit deal by handing the lower house more power to set the “direction” of the government if it rejects the agreement.

She will also be tested by rebels in her own party over her commitment to leave the EU’s single market and customs union, which will transform Britain’s future trading relationship for many years to come.

May is expected to address a meeting of Conservative members called the 1922 Committee later on Monday and will repeat her stance that the EU withdrawal bill is purely technical “to ensure a smooth and orderly transition as we leave”.

“The message we send to the country through our votes this week is important. We must be clear that we are united as a party in our determination to deliver on the decision made by the British people,” she is expected to say.

“They want us to deliver on Brexit and build a brighter future for Britain as we take back control of our money, our laws and our borders.”

May is struggling to unite not only her party but her top team of ministers over how to leave the EU, particularly over the future customs arrangements which have pitted those wanting closer ties with the EU against others who demand a clean break.

She got backing over the weekend, when two Conservative lawmakers from either side of the debate—Amber Rudd, a former pro-EU campaigner and interior minister, and Iain Duncan Smith, a leading eurosceptic, joined forces to urge members to “march in lockstep behind the prime minister as she delivers on the vote”.

But with only 10 months left before Britain is due to leave, her government is under pressure from EU negotiators, businesses wanting clarity, and from many in the country to start taking decisions on its preferred future trading ties.

May’s decision to leave the customs union, which sets tariffs for goods imported into the EU, has also been criticised for raising the prospect of a “hard” border on the island of Ireland, which some fear could reignite sectarian violence.

She was forced into crisis meetings with her pro-Brexit ministers last week over fall back measures that would ensure no return to a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is in the EU.

The opposition Labour Party wants Britain to negotiate a new customs union with the EU and there are several Conservative lawmakers who want the close ties the, or a, customs union offers to offer certainty to businesses.

The government is trying to overturn 14 amendments handed down by the House of Lords, but may swallow a defeat on the customs union because of the vague wording which only requires ministers to report what efforts they had made to secure a customs union by the end of October.

LONDON, May 2, 2018 (Reuters) - Pro-Brexit members of parliament heaped pressure on British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday over her future customs plans with the European Union, calling on her to drop what some say is her preferred proposal.

May’s decision to leave the EU’s customs union, which sets tariffs for goods imported into the bloc, has become one of the main flashpoints in the Brexit debate in Britain, pitting companies and pro-EU campaigners against a vocal group of hardline eurosceptic MPs.

With the added pressure of trying to prevent the return of a “hard” border in Ireland and find something Brussels might agree to, May has delayed putting any firm plans for future customs arrangements on the table, hoping to plot a route that could at least please more than one side.

Pro-Brexit MPs called on May to drop one of her proposals which would see Britain essentially act as the EU’s tariff collector.

Members of the European Research Group, a group of Brexit MPs in May’s Conservative Party, said they were not issuing her an ultimatum with their demands, rather presenting their argument that such a customs partnership would not work.

“It is more of a statement of our position, with supporting arguments,” a member of the ERG said.

May is not only under pressure at home. She also faces increasingly urgent demands from Brussels to come up with a customs plan to avoid a return to a hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. There are fears that reintroducing checks on what will be Britain’s only land border with the EU could reignite sectarian violence.

LONDON, March 29, 2018 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May promised Britain bright prospects outside the European Union yesterday as she toured a country still profoundly divided about its future as the countdown to Brexit enters its final 12 months.

Britain is on course to leave the European Union at 2300 GMT on March 29, 2019, severing ties that helped define its national identity, its laws, and its international stature over 46 years of integration with European neighbours.

The people of Britain, the world’s sixth-largest economy, caused a major global shock in 2016 by voting narrowly to quit the EU after a fevered referendum campaign that sharpened regional divisions, pitted young against old and exposed a deep distrust between voters and the political establishment.

In the 21 months since the referendum, May, who became prime minister in the resulting political chaos, has struggled to unite the country behind a single vision of Brexit.

Voters’ disparate views on leaving are entrenched, and few have any certainty about Britain’s long-term future.

May will meet voters in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on a whirlwind tour designed as a rallying cry for the union between the four nations of the United Kingdom, and to paint a positive post-Brexit vision.

“I am determined that our future will be a bright one,” she said ahead of the roughly 800-mile (1,280 km) trip ending in London.

Starting her tour in Scotland, May met workers in a textile factory, focussing on the future benefits she said Brexit could bring for trade.

“I believe that we can negotiate a good agreement which is tariff-free and as frictionless trade as possible, so we maintain those markets in the EU, but also that we open up market around the rest of the world. Brexit provides us with opportunities,” she told broadcasters.

The EU maintains that by leaving its single market and customs union, Britain will be making trade more difficult.

EU Council President Donald Tusk has remarked that any trade deal with Britain would be the first in history to loosen economic links rather than strengthen them.

May, 61, has 12 months to plot a successful course through difficult political and economic terrain.

Brexiteers fret that the EU divorce is taking too long and could be reversed. Pro-EU campaigners still push for a less radical exit or a second referendum.

A ComRes opinion poll published on Thursday showed 44 percent of people thought the government’s handling of the negotiations had been “a total shambles”. Only 29 percent were optimistic their households would be better off after Brexit.

Britain’s economy has defied pre-referendum predictions of a swift plunge into recession, buoyed in part by stronger global growth. But longer term forecasts show growth grinding lower over the next five years and lagging international rivals.

At home, May only has a small majority in parliament and must find a way to corral her Conservative Party, which is still split over the best Brexit plan, into backing legislation that will prepare Britain for life outside the bloc.

That task has so far swamped her government and its administrative machine, leading to accusations she has taken the eye off the ball on domestic policy and given the socialist-led Labour Party a chance to build support ahead of a 2022 election.

LONDON, March 28 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government will introduce new counter-terrorism legislation to parliament in the coming weeks and months, Security Minister Ben Wallace said on Wednesday.

“You will see them very soon, we have put together quite a strong package,” Wallace told the BBC. “In the near future, in the next few weeks or months is when you’ll see it.”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said last year that counter-terrorism laws need to be updated to keep pace with modern online behavior and to address the issue of online radicalization.

BRUSSELS, March 23, 2018 (AP) — Several European Union countries said Friday they plan to take measures against Russia over the poisoning of a former spy, and some may follow the U.K.'s lead in expelling Moscow's diplomats.

At a summit in Brussels, the 28 EU leaders agreed with Britain that it is "highly likely Russia is responsible" for the nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. They remain unconscious in critical condition.

The bloc has recalled its ambassador from Moscow for consultations over an incident it called "a grave challenge to our shared security."

The president of Lithuania said Friday that individual EU countries plan to take their own actions against Russia within days. Dalia Grybauskaite said that "from the beginning of next week, a lot of countries, we will go for our national measures."

Grybauskaite has said Lithuania may expel Russian diplomats over the attack on the former double agent and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Artyom Kozhin said Friday Russia had not been approached by other countries about potential expulsions.

Britain and Russia have expelled 23 of each other's diplomats since the attack, which has sparked an east-west diplomatic crisis reminiscent of the Cold War. Britain says the 23 expelled Russians, who left London earlier this week, were undeclared intelligence agents.

Several minibuses left the British embassy in Moscow on Friday, reportedly carrying the expelled U.K. diplomats.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said his country would conduct a security assessment of Russian diplomats with a view to possibly expelling those who are not legitimate.

"We will make that decision, I would say, in the early part of next week," he said.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said his country would also consider "whether we should take unilateral steps."

The EU leaders' statements came after a summit dinner where May shared information about why Britain is convinced Moscow was behind the attack, including the type of poison used — a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok — and intelligence that Russia has produced it within the past decade.

"We got more detailed information from the prime minister May and it was very good information," Grybauskaite said.

May said that since the incident Britain had been "sharing on intelligence channels what intelligence we can share with our colleagues."

"What is crucial is that there was recognition around the table last night about the threat that Russia poses," May said.

"I think it is clear that Russia is challenging the values we share as Europeans, and it is right that we are standing together in defense of those values."