Nearly 200 Conservative lawmakers indicate support for PM May: Reuters tally

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May has secured indications of support from nearly 200 of her lawmakers, which would be enough to ensure she wins a confidence vote on Wednesday, based on statements made to the media and on social media.

May needs a simple majority – from 159 of 317 Conservative lawmakers – to remain leader. A secret ballot is being held between 1800 and 2000 GMT.

However, some lawmakers who have backed May publicly have said in private that they will vote against her, according to British political commentators.

The latest Reuters tally of 198 is drawn from statements made to national media and local newspapers, as well as lawmakers’ own Twitter and Facebook posts.

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London police say man arrested in grounds of Parliament for 'trespassing'

LONDON (REUTERS) – London police said a man detained by officers using a stun gun in the grounds of the British Parliament on Tuesday (Dec 11) was arrested on suspicion of trespassing at a protected site.

“Inquiries into the circumstances continue,” police said in a statement.

The House of Commons said on Twitter that the incident was now over and was being handled by the police.

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Brexit begins to bite as workers turn to voting with their feet

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – For Mr Julio Manuel Rios de la Rosa, Brexit changed everything.

The 28-year-old scientist arrived in Manchester five years ago and went on to work in a joint project of the university and AstraZeneca Plc. Although his contract had two more years to run, he quit and moved to Madrid in March, joining a small Spanish company testing cancer treatment.

“Before Brexit, I thought I would settle down in the UK because of its cutting-edge research, its global reach and the network,” Mr Rios de la Rosa said. “But the idea of going through a tedious process of constant paperwork held me back.”

Net immigration from the European Union to Britain fell to the lowest level in six years as the UK came closer to leaving the bloc and sterling dropped – even as Prime Minister Theresa May sought to reassure workers their status was safe even in a no-deal scenario.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has warned that the UK is at risk of facing net emigration, hurting the economy, in a worst-case scenario of a disorderly departure from the EU.

Eight out of the 12 British nations and regions saw a net outflow of talent overseas in October, according to a LinkedIn report on Monday (Dec 10). The biggest exodus came from Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East, and Wales and London is still losing international talent, LinkedIn said.

Since 2015, interest in British jobs among Europeans seeking work has dimmed, according to hiring website Indeed Inc, which tracks clicks on postings. Ireland and Poland led the decline.

“Our findings will make worrying reading for employers in the UK’s health-care and construction sectors,” said Mr Pawel Adrjan, an economist at Indeed. “Both are already suffering skills shortages, and our research suggests this problem may worsen as more Europeans return to strong labor markets in their own countries or choose not to leave for the UK in the first place. “

CITIZENS LEAVING

It is not just foreigners walking off. British geneticist Emma Bell, 28, is preparing to move to Toronto to work as a cancer researcher. She has been thinking about leaving the UK since the Brexit referendum in 2016 – three of her colleagues have already relocated to Germany.

“We need basic chemicals in order to do research and I have absolutely no confidence that we’re going to be able to get those in the year after March 29,” she said, referring to Brexit day. “That’s going to be detrimental to my career as well as cancer research in the UK for a good chunk of time.”

To be sure, many are still drawn to Britain. Some 273,000 more people arrived in the year to June than left, the Office for National Statistics said last month. Non-EU citizens made up the bulk of those numbers but net migration from the bloc remained positive as well.

Seeking to end lingering uncertainty, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has guaranteed the rights of EU citizens and their family members to “continue to work, study and access benefits and services on the same basis as now” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Yet Mrs May has said there will be no preference granted to EU nationals under Britain’s post-Brexit immigration regime, which will be based on skills and the needs of employers.

Mr Rios de la Rosa has already made his decision.

“After the referendum, I was in shock, not only for the implications it had at a personal level – if we would need a visa or not, for instance – but also because the UK would be left out of research programmes,” he said.

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Brexit in turmoil as UK PM May pulls vote on her divorce deal

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May abruptly postponed a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal on Monday, throwing Britain’s plan to leave the European Union into chaos after admitting that she faced a rout.

May’s move on the eve of the scheduled parliamentary vote opens up an array of possible outcomes ranging from a disorderly Brexit without a deal, a last-minute deal clinched just weeks before Britain’s March 29 exit, or another EU referendum.

Announcing the delay, May was laughed at by some lawmakers when she said there was broad support for her deal reached with the EU last month, the result of 18 months of tortuous negotiations, and that she had listened carefully to different views over it.

With her position at home in open jeopardy, May said she would go back to the EU and seek reassurances over the so-called Irish backstop, aimed at ensuring there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland as a result of Brexit.

“If we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow the deal would be rejected by a significant margin,” May told parliament, adding that she was confident it was the right deal.

“We will therefore defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the House at this time,” May said. The United Kingdom would meanwhile step up contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit when it is due to leave on March 29.

The vote postponement marks what many lawmakers cast as the collapse of May’s two-year attempt to forge a compromise under which the United Kingdom would exit the EU while staying largely within its economic orbit.

Sterling skidded to its weakest level since April 2017, falling to $1.2527. It was trading at $1.50 on the day of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Yields on U.S. 10-year bonds dropped to the lowest since late August.

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MORE TALKS?

It was not immediately clear whether the EU’s 27 other members, which have a combined economic might six times that of the United Kingdom, would countenance changes which would convince her domestic opponents to support a deal.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said Britain no longer had “a functioning government” and called on May to “make way” for a Labour government.

Other smaller parties, such as the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, said they would support a vote of no confidence in May’s government.

May indicated she was seeking further assurances from the EU on the working of the backstop – an insurance policy to avoid a return to border checks between the British province of Northern Ireland and the EU-member Irish Republic, and would seek to give the British parliament more power over its application.

May said that other EU leaders were open to a discussion about the backstop, though Germany’s foreign minister said he could not see what could be changed in the 585-page deal.

“Please, prime minister, really do start listening and come back with changes to the withdrawal agreement or it will be voted down,” said Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Northern Irish party which props up May’s minority government.

The Democratic Unionist Party are upset as the backstop could align Northern Ireland more closely with the EU than the rest of the United Kingdom.

The EU is due to hold a summit on Dec. 13-14.

DELIVER BREXIT?

May said the deeper question was whether parliament wanted to deliver on the will of the people for Brexit, or open up the divisions in the world’s fifth largest economy with another referendum.

“If you take a step back, it is clear that this house faces a much more fundamental question: does this house want to deliver Brexit?” May asked.

Her decision to halt the vote came just hours after the EU’s top court, the Court of Justice, said in an emergency judgment that London could revoke its Article 50 formal divorce notice with no penalty. [nL8N1YF1JY]

“The United Kingdom is free to revoke unilaterally the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU,” the court said.

The timing of the ruling on the eve of the British parliamentary vote was no coincidence – the court said it had ruled with unprecedented haste to ensure that British lawmakers would understand their options.

May said the result of the 2016 referendum, in which 17.4 million voters, or 52 percent, backed Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48 percent, backed staying in the EU, should be honored. The United Kingdom will leave as planned on March 29, she said.

John Bercow, speaker of the lower house of parliament, called for lawmakers to be given a vote on the decision to defer the vote on the deal itself.

“I politely suggest that in any courteous, respectful and mature environment, allowing the house to have a say would be the right and, dare I say it, the obvious course to take,” Bercow said.

A spokesman for May said no vote was required to delay the Brexit vote and that a new date would depend on when her government got the assurances it needs to satisfy parliament.

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UK cabinet minister floats 'Plan B' before key vote on May's Brexit deal

LONDON (REUTERS) – A close ally of British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday (Dec 8) became the first cabinet minister to float a possible Plan B if, as expected, parliament next week rejects her proposal to leave the European Union.

With her own future in the balance, May insists her deal, laboriously negotiated with the EU over many months, is the only one on the table and that the alternatives are a painful’no-deal’ exit from the EU or possibly no Brexit at all.

However, members of parliament, including from May’s own Conservative Party, look set to reject her deal, which envisages continued close ties with the EU, in a move that would pitch the world’s fifth-largest economy into even deeper uncertainty.

While agreeing with May that her deal provides the best option for exiting the EU, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions minister, said a Norway-style relationship with the bloc might also offer a way out of the current deadlock.

“If it (May’s plan) doesn’t get through anything could happen: people’s vote, Norway plus, any of these options could come forward,” she told BBC radio on Saturday.

Rudd told The Times newspaper in an interview her own preferred option, if May’s deal failed, was the “Norway Plus”model, adding it “seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are”.

Norway is not an EU member but is in the bloc’s single market, which allows for free movement of goods, capital, services and people. ‘Norway plus’ envisages Britain also staying in the EU’s customs union, which Norway is not in.

Senior officials on both sides of the EU-UK negotiations on May’s deal have voiced scepticism to Reuters about the “Norway pivot” idea, saying it seems far removed from British demands for more control over rules and could need lengthy new talks.

Some pro-EU lawmakers have also expressed support for a second referendum on EU membership, or ‘a people’s vote’.

MAY’S LEADERSHIP QUESTIONED

The Times reported on Saturday that plans were being made across party lines to vote against May’s leadership if she loses Tuesday’s vote. The Daily Telegraph quoted a senior Conservative lawmaker as saying she might be forced to resign.

Rudd said she believed May should stay on as prime minister even if parliament rejects her Brexit deal. “There is no question of her going,” Rudd told the BBC.

The Times said the main opposition Labour Party was seeking an alliance with rebel Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party, the small Northern Irish party which props up May’s minority government, to call a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister.

That vote would not be binding but would place enormous pressure on May to resign, it added.

Conservative lawmaker and former leader Iain Duncan Smith was quoted in the Telegraph as saying her leadership could come into question if she lost Tuesday’s vote.

“I believe that if (May’s) response is ‘we’ve lost but we will do this all over again’, it will become a leadership issue,” he was quoted as saying.

The newspaper also said three ministers were considering resigning in opposition to her deal, without citing sources.

If the Brexit deal is rejected, ministers have 21 days to state how they intend to proceed. The government has previously said that if the agreement is rejected, Britain will leave the EU without a deal.

May’s spokesman said on Friday the vote would go ahead next week despite calls from some lawmakers for it to be delayed to avoid a defeat so big that it might bring down the government.

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UK teenager jailed for bomb threats to British and US schools

LONDON (REUTERS) – A British teenager who sent hoax bomb threats to schools across Britain and the United States and caused a security scare at an American airport was jailed for three years on Friday (Dec 7), prosecutors said.

George Duke-Cohan, 19, e-mailed thousands of schools in the UK with a bomb threat in March, Luton Crown Court had heard.

He was arrested just days later but while still under investigation, he sent more e-mail threats to British and US schools, claiming a pipe bomb had been planted on their premises.

His calls led to the evacuation of more than 400 British schools.

He was arrested again but after being released on bail Duke-Cohan caused havoc at San Francisco Airport with a call claiming a US-bound flight had been hijacked.

“His actions and complete lack of regard for other people caused widespread and unnecessary worry,” said Anne McCracken of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). She added in a statement that Duke-Cohan had made the calls “in the hope of notoriety.” Duke-Cohan pleaded guilty to three offences of making bomb threats.

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Chinese ship arrives to rescue British solo yachtswoman in Pacific

WELLINGTON (AFP) – A Chinese cargo ship has reached a British solo around-the-world sailor whose yacht was crippled in a ferocious storm as she crossed the Pacific, race organisers said Friday (Dec 7).

Susie Goodall was briefly knocked unconscious when mountainous seas upended her yacht DHL Starlight early Thursday, tearing off its mast and trashing much of her equipment.

Chilean rescue authorities diverted the Chinese container ship Tian Fu to pick up Goodall as she patched up her crippled vessel, race organisers said.

The master of the Hong Kong-flagged Tian Fu was hoping to use a crane winch to pick her up.

Goodall had managed to get her engine running but it failed after just 20 minutes, which is likely to complicate the rescue effort.

“Without the engine DHL Starlight must drift at about 1 knot with the sea anchor and the master of the ship will need to maneuver the 40,000 tonne ship to meet Susie!,” race organisers tweeted.

Goodall was attempting to navigate the southern Pacific’s notorious Roaring Forties at the time as part of the Golden Globe Race.

The 29-year-old, the youngest competitor in the race and the only woman, sent frantic text messages to race organisers throughout her ordeal.

“Taking a hammering! Wondering what on Earth I’m doing out here,” she texted as the storm hit.

When concerned organisers finally managed to contact her by satellite phone several hours later, she confirmed her boat had been dismasted but said the hull had not been breached.

“The boat is destroyed. I can’t make up a jury rig,” she said. “The only thing left is the hull and deck which remain intact.

“We were pitchpoled (rolled end over end) and I was thrown across the cabin and knocked out for a while.” While “beaten up and badly bruised” she was safe and had managed to bring flooding under control and get her engine going, giving her some manoeuvrability when the rescue ship arrives, race organisers said.

In text updates, Goodall said she endured “a looong night”.

“In need of a good cuppa tea! But sadly no cooker,” she messaged.

The Golden Globe Race involves a gruelling 30,000-mile solo circumnavigation of the globe in yachts similar to those used in the first race 50 years ago, with no modern technology allowed except the communications equipment.

Entrants set off from France on July 1 and are expected to finish in April next year.

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Northern Irish party DUP says would not topple British government in confidence vote

LONDON (REUTERS) – The Northern Irish party that props up Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government would not vote to topple her in a confidence vote even if she loses a key vote on her Brexit deal next week, DUP lawmaker Sammy Wilson said.

“We would certainly not vote to topple the government because we would have no reason to do so,” he told BBC radio.

But Mr Wilson said the DUP reserved the right to withdraw support for the government at a future date.

Mrs May wants to secure Parliament’s approval in a Dec 11 vote for her deal to keep close ties with the EU after leaving in March, but opposition is fierce, with Brexit supporters and opponents alike wanting to thwart or derail her plan.

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Britain's PM May urges lawmakers to back her Brexit deal but rebels remain unconvinced

LONDON (REUTERS) – British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday (Dec 6) urged lawmakers to back her agreement to leave the European Union, but made little headway with a bid to coax rebellious members of her party into supporting her deal.

May has repeatedly warned that if lawmakers reject her deal with Brussels, which would see Britain exit the EU on March 29 with continued close ties, the only alternatives are leaving without a deal or reversing Brexit.

The British Parliament is mid-way through a five-day debate on the Brexit deal, ahead of a crunch vote on Dec 11 which will define Britain’s departure from the EU and could determine May’s own future as leader. She currently looks set to lose that vote.

The day before the vote, on Dec 10, the European Court of Justice of Justice will deliver a judgment on whether Britain can unilaterally reverse its move to leave.

“There are three options: one is to leave the European Union with a deal… the other two are that we leave without a deal or that we have no Brexit at all,” May told BBC radio.

May said she was speaking to lawmakers about giving Parliament a bigger role in whether to trigger a so-called Northern Irish backstop arrangement or extend a transition period during which more EU membership terms would apply.

CHARM OFFENSIVE?

Concerns about the backstop are a key driver of opposition to the deal among both May’s own Conservative lawmakers and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

Supporters of a clean break with the EU say the backstop, intended to ensure no hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the EU-member Irish Republic, could leave Britain forced to accept EU regulations indefinitely, or Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of Britain.

“There are questions about how decisions are taken as to whether we go into the backstop, because that isn’t an automatic,” she said.

“The question is: do we go into the backstop? Do we extend… the implementation period?”

On Wednesday, May’s top parliamentary enforcer, or chief whip, Julian Smith, spent an hour meeting with pro-Brexit Conservative and DUP lawmakers, listening to their concerns about the deal. But lawmakers who attended the meeting said he did not offer a solution to persuade them to back it.

“This was not about doing deals, it was about listening,” said one leading pro-Brexit lawmaker.

Another said it was “too little, too late”.

May’s minority government governs with a working majority of 13 thanks to its deal with the 10 DUP lawmakers.

The DUP says it will vote against the deal but would support May in a vote of confidence if the deal fails.

During the first two days of debate, 15 of May’s own lawmakers have explicitly said they intend to vote against it. She will either need to win them back or win over a substantial number of opposition lawmakers, which appears unlikely.

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UK minister says government is looking at ways of making Brexit backstop more acceptable

LONDON (Reuters) – British interior minister Sajid Javid said on Wednesday the government was listening and continuing to explore ways to make the so-called backstop arrangement in the Brexit deal more acceptable to lawmakers in a Northern Irish Party.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up the government, has shown its deep anger over the backstop arrangement to prevent the return of a hard border between the British province and EU member Ireland, arguing that it would essentially split the province from the rest of the mainland.

“I think again .. it’s right that we look and continue to explore whether there are other arrangements as well that can lead to more permanent and more easily acceptable outcome,” he told parliament.

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