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May’s Brexit ‘Moment of Truth’

Britain’s Theresa May scrambled Wednesday to sell to her Cabinet a draft Brexit divorce agreement British negotiators concluded after months of wrangling with their European Union counterparts.

But the 500-page draft remains a source of deep dispute within Britain’s ruling Conservative party and also in the country’s parliament, which will have the final say on whether to approve it.

As news emerged Tuesday that a text had been agreed, hardline Brexiteers lined up to attack the proposed agreement with former British foreign minister Boris Johnson, who resigned earlier this year, urging other ministers to join him in opposing the terms of the deal. Britain’s main opposition parties also announced their disapproval of the deal, which has not even been published yet. 

The agreement, if approved by the Cabinet and subsequently the British parliament, would see Britain remaining in a customs union for several years with the EU after it formally exits the bloc in March, but with an unclear legal path to quitting the customs arrangement while a fuller trade deal is negotiating.

Remaining in a customs union allows Britain and the EU to avoid introducing customs checks along the border separating Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and would also allow “frictionless trade” between Britain and its erstwhile partners in the EU.

Tough sell

But critics say it would reduce Britain to the status of a “vassal state” by requiring it to accept EU rules and regulations without having any say about them. It would also block Britain from signing trade deals with other countries while a trade agreement is concluded with the EU, which itself could take three or four years or even longer. Reaching trade deals independently with non-EU countries was a key selling point of Brexit for many who voted nearly two years ago in a referendum to relinquish EU membership.

“This is just about as bad as it could possibly be,” Johnson fumed Tuesday to reporters in the corridors of the British House of Commons. Other Brexiteers joined him to denounce the proposed deal, one they are determined to sabotage and which runs, they say, contrary to the Conservative Party manifesto they fought an election on a year.

“For the first time in a thousand years this place, this parliament will not have a say over the laws which govern this country. It is quite an incredible state of affairs,” Johnson added.

“She hasn’t so much struck a deal as surrendered to Brussels… the UK will be a slave state,” said Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Conservatives’ future at stake

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Theresa May. The draft agreement, May’s fate as Prime Minister and the longevity of the Conservative government are all hanging in the balance. The consequences of the process to get the draft agreement approved are difficult to guess and could end up sinking May, the Conservative government and even Brexit itself. “I don’t think anyone knows, to be truthful,” said Labour lawmaker Chuka Umunna.

May’s minority government relies on the votes in the House of Commons on a handful of lawmakers from a quirky Protestant-based Unionist party, which is also opposed to the draft deal.

Without the backing of the Democratic Unionist Party, and faced with an inevitable revolt by dozen of Conservative lawmakers, May will need to persuade opposition lawmakers to break with their party leaderships by arguing her deal is the best Britain can get.

Second vote?

But an increasing number of opposition lawmakers are jumping on the bandwagon of the People’s Vote movement, which is calling for a second Brexit referendum. Recent opinion polls suggest a majority of voters now, especially in traditional Labour heartlands, many of which voted in June 2016 for Brexit, now want Britain to retain EU membership, fearing the economic fallout from departure.

But even before seeking next month parliamentary backing for the draft customs union deal, May has to persuade her cabinet to back her — and that is not even a sure thing. On Tuesday — ahead of a full cabinet meeting called for Wednesday afternoon — May took a leaf out of the playbook of her Conservative predecessor Margaret Thatcher, who in 1990 called in ministers one by one to place them on the spot and demand their support. However, the tactic backfired on Thatcher and she was forced to resign. 

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith predicts May’s days will be numbered if she fails to reverse course and decides not to pursue a cleaner break from the EU. “If the cabinet agrees it, the party certainly won’t,” he said. Conservative lawmakers who want Britain to remain in the EU are also publicly opposing the draft agreement, placing May in a tight political vice.

Leave-supporting ministers were coming under intense pressure from hardline Brexiteers in the hours leading up to the cabinet meeting to reject the deal. They pointed to a leaked EU document outlining a strategy to force Britain to accept an almost permanent alignment with its rules and regulations governing state aid, environmental protection and workers’ rights.

In a note to EU ambassadors, Sabine Weyand, a deputy EU negotiator, said the customs union will form the basis for Britain’s future trade deal with the bloc. “They must align their rules but the EU will retain all the controls. UK wants a lot more from the future relationship, so EU retains leverage,” she wrote. 

 

 

 

 

 

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May’s Brexit ‘Moment of Truth’

Britain’s Theresa May scrambled Wednesday to sell to her Cabinet a draft Brexit divorce agreement British negotiators concluded after months of wrangling with their European Union counterparts.

But the 500-page draft remains a source of deep dispute within Britain’s ruling Conservative party and also in the country’s parliament, which will have the final say on whether to approve it.

As news emerged Tuesday that a text had been agreed, hardline Brexiteers lined up to attack the proposed agreement with former British foreign minister Boris Johnson, who resigned earlier this year, urging other ministers to join him in opposing the terms of the deal. Britain’s main opposition parties also announced their disapproval of the deal, which has not even been published yet. 

The agreement, if approved by the Cabinet and subsequently the British parliament, would see Britain remaining in a customs union for several years with the EU after it formally exits the bloc in March, but with an unclear legal path to quitting the customs arrangement while a fuller trade deal is negotiating.

Remaining in a customs union allows Britain and the EU to avoid introducing customs checks along the border separating Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and would also allow “frictionless trade” between Britain and its erstwhile partners in the EU.

Tough sell

But critics say it would reduce Britain to the status of a “vassal state” by requiring it to accept EU rules and regulations without having any say about them. It would also block Britain from signing trade deals with other countries while a trade agreement is concluded with the EU, which itself could take three or four years or even longer. Reaching trade deals independently with non-EU countries was a key selling point of Brexit for many who voted nearly two years ago in a referendum to relinquish EU membership.

“This is just about as bad as it could possibly be,” Johnson fumed Tuesday to reporters in the corridors of the British House of Commons. Other Brexiteers joined him to denounce the proposed deal, one they are determined to sabotage and which runs, they say, contrary to the Conservative Party manifesto they fought an election on a year.

“For the first time in a thousand years this place, this parliament will not have a say over the laws which govern this country. It is quite an incredible state of affairs,” Johnson added.

“She hasn’t so much struck a deal as surrendered to Brussels… the UK will be a slave state,” said Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Conservatives’ future at stake

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Theresa May. The draft agreement, May’s fate as Prime Minister and the longevity of the Conservative government are all hanging in the balance. The consequences of the process to get the draft agreement approved are difficult to guess and could end up sinking May, the Conservative government and even Brexit itself. “I don’t think anyone knows, to be truthful,” said Labour lawmaker Chuka Umunna.

May’s minority government relies on the votes in the House of Commons on a handful of lawmakers from a quirky Protestant-based Unionist party, which is also opposed to the draft deal.

Without the backing of the Democratic Unionist Party, and faced with an inevitable revolt by dozen of Conservative lawmakers, May will need to persuade opposition lawmakers to break with their party leaderships by arguing her deal is the best Britain can get.

Second vote?

But an increasing number of opposition lawmakers are jumping on the bandwagon of the People’s Vote movement, which is calling for a second Brexit referendum. Recent opinion polls suggest a majority of voters now, especially in traditional Labour heartlands, many of which voted in June 2016 for Brexit, now want Britain to retain EU membership, fearing the economic fallout from departure.

But even before seeking next month parliamentary backing for the draft customs union deal, May has to persuade her cabinet to back her — and that is not even a sure thing. On Tuesday — ahead of a full cabinet meeting called for Wednesday afternoon — May took a leaf out of the playbook of her Conservative predecessor Margaret Thatcher, who in 1990 called in ministers one by one to place them on the spot and demand their support. However, the tactic backfired on Thatcher and she was forced to resign. 

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith predicts May’s days will be numbered if she fails to reverse course and decides not to pursue a cleaner break from the EU. “If the cabinet agrees it, the party certainly won’t,” he said. Conservative lawmakers who want Britain to remain in the EU are also publicly opposing the draft agreement, placing May in a tight political vice.

Leave-supporting ministers were coming under intense pressure from hardline Brexiteers in the hours leading up to the cabinet meeting to reject the deal. They pointed to a leaked EU document outlining a strategy to force Britain to accept an almost permanent alignment with its rules and regulations governing state aid, environmental protection and workers’ rights.

In a note to EU ambassadors, Sabine Weyand, a deputy EU negotiator, said the customs union will form the basis for Britain’s future trade deal with the bloc. “They must align their rules but the EU will retain all the controls. UK wants a lot more from the future relationship, so EU retains leverage,” she wrote. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Britain’s May Seeks Cabinet Approval for Brexit Deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a test Wednesday as she tries to get approval from her Cabinet for a draft agreement on the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Negotiators from Britain and the EU reached the deal Tuesday after lengthy negotiations, but details have not been made public.

May must convince her senior ministers to support the agreement, which would later also need to be approved by Britain’s parliament.

But that task will not be easy with lawmakers sharply divided on the so-called Brexit, including criticism of May’s approach by both those who want Britain to leave the bloc and those who would rather it remain an EU member.

May has sought to keep as close a relationship as possible to the EU when Brexit becomes official on March 29, 2019.

One of the major sticking points in negotiations has been what to do about Northern Ireland, which shares a border with EU member Ireland. With Britain leaving the EU, an area that currently allows freedom of movement for people and goods requires new rules governing how those activities can continue.

Irish broadcaster RTE said the draft agreement includes a customs arrangement with special conditions for Northern Ireland.

During the negotiations, Britain has sought some sort of time limit for such an arrangement, while the EU has said it would need to be permanent.

May’s party does not have a majority in parliament and relies on the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

DUP leader Arlene Foster said a potential customs arrangement would weaken Britain and that the prime minister could not argue it is in the interest of the nation.

“It would be democratically unacceptable for Northern Ireland trade rules to be set by Brussels,” she said in a statement. “Northern Ireland would have no representation in Brussels and would be dependent on a Dublin government speaking up for our core industries.”

Former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson expressed similar views in calling a customs deal “utterly unacceptable to anyone who believes in democracy.”

But May’s chief whip, Julian Smith, expressed optimism the agreement with the European Union will succeed.

“I’m confident we’ll get this through parliament and that we can deliver on what the prime minister committed to on delivering Brexit, but making sure that that is in the best interests of companies, businesses and families,” Smith said.

 

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Britain’s May Seeks Cabinet Approval for Brexit Deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a test Wednesday as she tries to get approval from her Cabinet for a draft agreement on the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Negotiators from Britain and the EU reached the deal Tuesday after lengthy negotiations, but details have not been made public.

May must convince her senior ministers to support the agreement, which would later also need to be approved by Britain’s parliament.

But that task will not be easy with lawmakers sharply divided on the so-called Brexit, including criticism of May’s approach by both those who want Britain to leave the bloc and those who would rather it remain an EU member.

May has sought to keep as close a relationship as possible to the EU when Brexit becomes official on March 29, 2019.

One of the major sticking points in negotiations has been what to do about Northern Ireland, which shares a border with EU member Ireland. With Britain leaving the EU, an area that currently allows freedom of movement for people and goods requires new rules governing how those activities can continue.

Irish broadcaster RTE said the draft agreement includes a customs arrangement with special conditions for Northern Ireland.

During the negotiations, Britain has sought some sort of time limit for such an arrangement, while the EU has said it would need to be permanent.

May’s party does not have a majority in parliament and relies on the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

DUP leader Arlene Foster said a potential customs arrangement would weaken Britain and that the prime minister could not argue it is in the interest of the nation.

“It would be democratically unacceptable for Northern Ireland trade rules to be set by Brussels,” she said in a statement. “Northern Ireland would have no representation in Brussels and would be dependent on a Dublin government speaking up for our core industries.”

Former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson expressed similar views in calling a customs deal “utterly unacceptable to anyone who believes in democracy.”

But May’s chief whip, Julian Smith, expressed optimism the agreement with the European Union will succeed.

“I’m confident we’ll get this through parliament and that we can deliver on what the prime minister committed to on delivering Brexit, but making sure that that is in the best interests of companies, businesses and families,” Smith said.

 

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EU Court Rules Taste Cannot Be Copyrighted

The European Union’s highest court has ruled that the taste of a food cannot be protected by copyright.

The European Court of Justice said Tuesday “the taste of a food product cannot be identified with precision of objectivity,” thus making it ineligible “for copyright protection.”

Dutch cheese maker Levola had argued that a rival company copied its herbed spread called Heksenkaas or witches’ cheese. The company claimed Heksenkaas was a work protected by copyright and asked the Dutch courts to insist that the rival firm cease production and sale of its cheese.

But the judges ruled that unlike books, movies, songs and the like, the taste of food depends on personal preferences and the context in which the food is consumed, “which are subjective and variable.”

“Accordingly, the court concludes that the taste of a food product cannot be classified as a ‘work,’ and consequently is not eligible for copyright protection under the directive,” the judges said.

This is not the first time the European Court of Justice had to settle disputes about food.

In July, it ruled Nestle could not trademark the four-finger shape of its KitKat chocolate bars.

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EU Court Rules Taste Cannot Be Copyrighted

The European Union’s highest court has ruled that the taste of a food cannot be protected by copyright.

The European Court of Justice said Tuesday “the taste of a food product cannot be identified with precision of objectivity,” thus making it ineligible “for copyright protection.”

Dutch cheese maker Levola had argued that a rival company copied its herbed spread called Heksenkaas or witches’ cheese. The company claimed Heksenkaas was a work protected by copyright and asked the Dutch courts to insist that the rival firm cease production and sale of its cheese.

But the judges ruled that unlike books, movies, songs and the like, the taste of food depends on personal preferences and the context in which the food is consumed, “which are subjective and variable.”

“Accordingly, the court concludes that the taste of a food product cannot be classified as a ‘work,’ and consequently is not eligible for copyright protection under the directive,” the judges said.

This is not the first time the European Court of Justice had to settle disputes about food.

In July, it ruled Nestle could not trademark the four-finger shape of its KitKat chocolate bars.

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Norway Says Russia Jammed GPS Signal During NATO Drill

The Norwegian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that Russian forces in the Arctic disturbed GPS location signals during a recent large NATO drill in Norway.

The ministry said that Norway’s Foreign Ministry earlier had raised the issue with Russian authorities.

In an email Tuesday to The Associated Press, the ministry said it “was aware that that jamming has been recorded between Oct. 16 and Nov. 7 from the Russian forces” on the Arctic Kola peninsula.

NATO’s huge exercise Trident Juncture, which included soldiers from 31 countries, was staged in Norway from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7. Finland and Sweden, which are not NATO members, also took part in the drill.

The jamming of the location signals is not believed to have caused any accidents.

Over the weekend, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said his country’s GPS location signals were intentionally disrupted in the northern Lapland region.

Finland’s state Air Navigation Services issued a warning to civilian air traffic earlier last week.

Without providing any further evidence, Sipila said Sunday that neighboring Russia may have been to blame.

“It’s possible Russia was the disrupting party,” Sipila said in an interview with Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has called for a thorough investigation into the incident.

The Russian Defense Ministry could not be reached Tuesday for comment on Norway’s claim. The Kremlin on Monday denied involvement in the Finnish GPS disturbance.

“We know nothing about Russia’s possible involvement in those GPS failures,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said according to TASS news agency. “There is a trend to blame all mortal sins on Russia.”

Russia is known to have substantial capabilities for electronic warfare. Experts say it has in recent years invested heavily in technology that can affect GPS location signals over a broad area.

The northern Arctic regions of Finland’s Lapland and Norway’s Finnmark are adjacent to Russia’s Kola peninsula, which is home to Russia’s Northern Fleet with major naval and submarine bases and other Russian military installations.

Asked about Finland’s claims, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Monday that cyber and electronic warfare are becoming more and more widespread, “therefore we take all these issues very seriously.”

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Norway Says Russia Jammed GPS Signal During NATO Drill

The Norwegian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that Russian forces in the Arctic disturbed GPS location signals during a recent large NATO drill in Norway.

The ministry said that Norway’s Foreign Ministry earlier had raised the issue with Russian authorities.

In an email Tuesday to The Associated Press, the ministry said it “was aware that that jamming has been recorded between Oct. 16 and Nov. 7 from the Russian forces” on the Arctic Kola peninsula.

NATO’s huge exercise Trident Juncture, which included soldiers from 31 countries, was staged in Norway from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7. Finland and Sweden, which are not NATO members, also took part in the drill.

The jamming of the location signals is not believed to have caused any accidents.

Over the weekend, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said his country’s GPS location signals were intentionally disrupted in the northern Lapland region.

Finland’s state Air Navigation Services issued a warning to civilian air traffic earlier last week.

Without providing any further evidence, Sipila said Sunday that neighboring Russia may have been to blame.

“It’s possible Russia was the disrupting party,” Sipila said in an interview with Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has called for a thorough investigation into the incident.

The Russian Defense Ministry could not be reached Tuesday for comment on Norway’s claim. The Kremlin on Monday denied involvement in the Finnish GPS disturbance.

“We know nothing about Russia’s possible involvement in those GPS failures,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said according to TASS news agency. “There is a trend to blame all mortal sins on Russia.”

Russia is known to have substantial capabilities for electronic warfare. Experts say it has in recent years invested heavily in technology that can affect GPS location signals over a broad area.

The northern Arctic regions of Finland’s Lapland and Norway’s Finnmark are adjacent to Russia’s Kola peninsula, which is home to Russia’s Northern Fleet with major naval and submarine bases and other Russian military installations.

Asked about Finland’s claims, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Monday that cyber and electronic warfare are becoming more and more widespread, “therefore we take all these issues very seriously.”

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