May's Brexit deal lives: Northern Irish kingmakers report 'good' talks with government

LONDON (Reuters) – The Northern Irish party that is crucial to Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes of getting her twice-defeated Brexit deal through parliament said it had good talks with British ministers on Friday but differences remained over the Irish border.

The United Kingdom’s divorce from the European Union has sown chaos throughout May’s premiership and the Brexit finale is still uncertain. Options include a long delay, exiting with May’s deal, leaving without a deal or even another referendum.

May has essentially handed Brexit supporters an ultimatum – ratify her deal by Wednesday or face a long delay to Brexit that would open up the possibility that Britain never even leaves.

To succeed, she must win over dozens of Brexit-supporting rebels in her own Conservative Party and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has 10 lawmakers in parliament.

“We have had good discussions today. Those discussions will continue,” DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said after talks with government ministers in London.

“We want to get a deal. There has been progress made,” he told reporters. “We don’t want to leave without a deal but a lot will depend in terms of what the government can do on providing those guarantees that are necessary.”

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He said the British government was “very focused” on addressing the issue of the Irish backstop, an insurance policy that sets out what happens to the Irish border after Brexit.

Aimed at avoiding post-Brexit controls on the border between the UK province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland, the backstop has been a constant sticking point as May tries to push her deal through. Many Brexiteers and the DUP are concerned it will trap the United Kingdom in the EU’s orbit indefinitely, and have sought guarantees it will not.

The DUP said Dodds was returning to Northern Ireland on Friday evening. He would be in phone contact with the government over the weekend and return to London for more talks on Monday.

After three dramatic days in parliament this week, lawmakers voted on Thursday to have the government ask the EU for a delay beyond the date Britain is scheduled to leave – March 29.


May says she wants to minimize any delay in leaving the EU to just three months, but to achieve that she will need parliament to back her deal at the third time of asking early next week, possibly Tuesday.

Her deal, an attempt to keep close relations with the EU while leaving the bloc’s formal structures, was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on Jan. 15 and by 149 votes on March 12.

She needs 75 lawmakers to change their vote. If she can swing the DUP behind her, along with several dozen hardliners in her own party, she will be getting close to the numbers she needs. A handful of Conservatives are unlikely ever to be satisfied but she may draw in a small number of opposition Labour lawmakers.

“There will be Conservatives who vote against it come what may, that’s why in order for it to pass three things have to happen: she has to get the DUP on board, she has to persuade as many as possible of the 75 (Brexiteer) Conservatives to vote for it, and she will almost certainly need more Labour MPs,” said John Whittingdale, a Conservative lawmaker and member of the pro-Brexit faction.

“If she can deliver those three things then it might scrape through, but it’s a hell of a big mountain to climb.”


May’s de-facto deputy, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, said he hoped the United Kingdom would leave in an orderly fashion but if May’s deal was not approved then a long extension was on the cards.

“I hope that MPs (lawmakers) of all parties will be over this weekend reflecting on the way forward,” Lidington told BBC radio, adding the legal default was still that Britain would leave on March 29, unless something else is agreed.

EU leaders will consider pressing Britain to delay Brexit by at least a year to find a way out of the domestic maelstrom.

Britons voted to leave the EU in a June 2016 referendum. However Brexit comes about, opponents of the divorce worry that it will divide the West as it grapples with the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.

Supporters of Brexit say that while it may bring some short-term instability, in the longer term Britain will thrive if it moves away from what they cast as a doomed experiment in European integration that is falling behind global powers such as the United States and China.

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Risk of no-deal Brexit recedes further, some banks say

(Reuters) – The risk that Britain will leave the European Union without an agreement on March 29 has receded further this week, some banks and asset managers say, citing the UK parliament’s resounding vote to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

At the end of January, banks informally canvassed by Reuters for their forecasts saw the “no-deal exit” probability as low but rising. Some of those banks have since revised down that risk.

Prime Minister Theresa May suffered another crushing defeat in parliament for her EU divorce deal this week. Since then, lawmakers have passed a non-binding motion ruling out a no-deal exit, and will now vote to seek to delay Britain’s departure beyond the March 29 deadline.

That expectation has helped sterling strengthen to nine-month highs against the dollar and 22-month peaks against the euro.

For an interactive version of the chart below, click here

Below are the views from a selection of investment banks and asset managers:


Has left the probability of a no-deal Brexit at 10 percent. It sees a 10 percent chance of an early election, down from 20 percent earlier.


Has cut the probability of no-deal Brexit to 5 percent and sees a 35 percent probability that Britain will not leave. Raised the probability of May’s Brexit deal eventually being agreed to 60 percent.


Sees the chance of no-deal Brexit at 20 percent. It assigns a 15 percent probability to Brexit being revoked and a 65 percent probability for a deal being passed.


Maintains its view of a 20 percent chance of no-deal Brexit.


Has cut risk of no-deal exit to 15 percent. It also raised the probability of the UK staying in the EU to 25 percent.


The probability of no-deal exit is unchanged at 20 percent.


Still sees a 10 percent chance of a no-deal Brexit but reckons the probability of another referendum has increased to 15 percent.


Has cut the chance of no-deal Brexit to 10 percent, compared to 20 percent last month and 25-30 percent before that. It puts chance of a second referendum at 35 percent.


An outlier in that it sees 53 percent odds of no-deal exit. The probability of an extension that leads to new election or another referendum is put at 12 percent.


Europe’s largest asset manager at the end of February saw a 20 percent probability of no-deal Brexit, and a 40 percent chance of a “prolonged extension” to the March 29 deadline. It did not provide updated forecasts.

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UK's Hammond says possible EU will insist on long Brexit delay

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Philip Hammond said the European Union might insist on a long delay to Brexit if the UK government requests an extension to the process.

On Wednesday, Britain’s parliament rejected leaving the EU without a deal, further weakening Prime Minister Theresa May and paving the way for a vote that could delay Brexit until at least the end of June.

“This is not in our control and the European Union is signaling that only if we have a deal is it likely to be willing to grant a short technical extension to get the legislation through,” Hammond told Sky News on Thursday.

“If we don’t have a deal, and if we’re still discussing among ourselves what is the right way to go forward, then it’s quite possible that the EU may insist on a significantly longer period,” he said.

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Britain heads into Brexit unknown as parliament votes on no-deal exit

LONDON (Reuters) – British lawmakers were on Wednesday set to stave off the threat of a no-deal exit from the European Union on March 29 but the second defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce treaty has left the country heading into the Brexit unknown.

After two-and-a-half years of tortuous divorce negotiations with the EU and two failed attempts to get her exit deal ratified by parliament, May said she would vote against a no-deal exit that investors fear would spook financial markets, dislocate supply chains and damage the world’s fifth largest economy.

Lawmakers will vote shortly after 1900 GMT (3 p.m. ET) on a government motion which states that parliament rejects leaving the EU without a deal on March 29 but notes that leaving without a deal remains the legal default unless a deal is agreed.

While the motion has no legal force and ultimately does not prevent a no-deal exit, if lawmakers support it as expected then they will get a vote on Thursday on whether to delay Brexit, probably by months.

Finance minister Philip Hammond said he could free billions of pounds for extra public spending or tax cuts if parliament spared Britain the shock of leaving the world’s biggest trading bloc without an agreement to smooth the transition.

“Leaving with no deal would mean significant disruption in the short and medium term and a smaller, less prosperous economy in the long term, than if we leave with a deal,” Hammond told parliament.

Sterling was unmoved during Hammond’s speech, holding its earlier gains on the back of hopes that lawmakers will vote against a no-deal Brexit.

After lawmakers crushed her deal for a second time on Tuesday, May said it was still the best option for leaving in an orderly fashion.

“I want to leave the European Union with a good deal, I believe we have a good deal,” she told parliament. May said the government would not instruct her Conservative Party’s lawmakers how to vote.

Lawmakers have submitted alternative proposals, including a plan for a “managed” no-deal exit, which could also be voted upon on Tuesday.

As the United Kingdom’s three-year Brexit crisis spins toward its finale, diplomats and investors see four main options: a delay, May’s deal passing at the last minute, an accidental no-deal exit or another referendum.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “We have not given up the goal of an orderly exit (for Britain) but yesterday’s events mean the options have become narrower.”

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If Britain does seek a delay, all the bloc’s other 27 members must agree to it.

The EU would prefer a short extension, with the deadline of EU-wide parliamentary elections due May 24-26. It is unclear how such a short extension could solve the Brexit impasse in London.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc would need to know why Britain wanted to extend talks and it was up to London to find a way out of the deadlock.

“If the UK still wants to leave the EU in an orderly manner, this treaty is – and will remain – the only treaty possible,” Barnier told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

As Brexit uncertainty spills into foreign exchange, stock and bond markets across the world, investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are offering different probabilities on the outcomes.

“We continue to see a 55 percent chance that a close variant of the prime minister’s Brexit deal is eventually ratified, after a three-month extension of Article 50,” Goldman said. Its best guess was that a reversal of Brexit had a 35 percent probability and a no-deal Brexit a 10 percent probability.

Brexit minister Stephen Barclay said no-deal remained preferable to staying in the EU.

“If you pushed me to the end point where it’s a choice between no deal and no Brexit … I think no deal is going to be very disruptive for the economy and I think no deal also has serious questions for the union,” he told BBC radio.

“But I think no Brexit is catastrophic for our democracy. Between those very unpleasant choices, I think no Brexit is the bigger risk.”

The EU said there could be no more negotiations with London on the divorce terms.

Britons voted by 52-48 percent in 2016 to leave the bloc, a decision that has split the main political parties and exposed deep rifts in British society.

Many fear Brexit will divide the West as it grapples with both the unconventional U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China, leaving Britain economically weaker and with its security capabilities depleted.

Supporters say it allows Britain to control immigration and take advantage of global trade opportunities, while keeping close links to the EU.

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Ireland disappointed at Brexit vote outcome

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland’s foreign minister said he was disappointed at Britain’s parliament voting down a Brexit deal on Monday.

“The predictions were consistent enough over the last few days that this would be a heavy defeat,” Simon Coveney told the BBC.

“We now need to be patient and calm to allow this process in Westminster to take its course.”

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UK lawmakers table 'managed no-deal' plans before Wednesday vote

LONDON (Reuters) – A group of UK lawmakers set out plans on Tuesday to test whether parliament wants to implement an exit plan that would see Brexit delayed and mitigate the consequence of leaving without a deal by seeking ‘standstill arrangements’ with the EU.

The so-called amendment could be voted upon on Wednesday when lawmakers discuss whether Britain’s parliament should approve leaving the European Union without a deal.

It called for Brexit to be delayed until 1059 GMT on May 22, and for the government to offer to pay Brussels to strike standstill agreements with the EU lasting until no later than the end of 2021.

The group of lawmakers included leading Conservative eurosceptic Steve Baker, Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds and pro-EU Conservative Nicky Morgan, indicating a wide base of support.

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Britain should show Shamima Begum 'mercy' after baby's death, her mum demands

ISIS bride Shamima's three-week old son Jarrah died last week in hospital following breathing problems, after she begged to be allowed back into Britain for the NHS to take care of him.

She did several media interviews showing no remorse for fleeing to join the terror group.

And she even called the 2017 Manchester Arena massacre of 22 people attending a pop concert “justified", sparking a furious row about whether she should be allowed to come back to the country.

But days later her UK citizenship was revoked by the Home Secretary.

Yesterday it was revealed that two other ISIS brides have also been stripped of theirs too.

But now lawyers acting on behalf of her mum have written to the Home Office demanding that they give her "mercy" and reconsider her situation after her baby's death, Sky News revealed today.

The legal letter said: "We write specifically on behalf of Mrs Begum, Shamima Begum's mother to ask you to reconsider your previous decision dated 19 February 2019 to deprive her daughter Begum of her British citizenship…

"Ms Begum requests this reconsideration, as an act of mercy, on the basis of the following new information, namely the death of her new-born son".

The letter added: "it is extremely unlikely that Shamima will be in a fit state to make any rational decisions."

And they argued there were "immediate fears for Shamima's health and safety" as she remained in the warzone.

The lawyer acting on behalf of the family, Tasnime Akunjee, said it was to "avoid further tragedy".

Her family have said they will appeal the decision to prevent her from returning to the UK.

Yesterday Begum's dad, speaking from Bangladesh, said she should have never been allowed to leave Britain and begged the UK to forgive her – days after saying it was RIGHT for her to have her citizenship revoked.

He said: "She was underage at that time, she couldn't understand that much. I suppose someone influenced her to do that."

The Home Secretary has defended the move to strip terrorist fighters' brides of British citizenship, and insisted it won't make them stateless.

Home Office officials have said she had dual nationality with Bangladesh through her parents.

Sajid Javid has vowed to do all he can to protect the public from the ISIS terror group, and said that anyone returning to the UK can be a huge risk to security.

The Home Office said the Home Secretary "has the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship where it would not render them stateless", adding: "We do not comment on individual cases, but any decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are based on all available evidence and not taken lightly."

Begum had earlier discussed her fears that she could lose the boy, saying: "This is really not a place to raise children, this camp."

She fled to join the terror group when she was just 15 and went on to have three children, all of whom have died in Syria.

Last week in a message to British politicians the teen said: "I would like them to re-evaluate my case with a bit more mercy in their heart, you know."

Yesterday Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said children of jihadi brides could be brought back to Britain after Begum's baby's death.

Amid a growing backlash the Foreign Secretary defended the decision not to send British officials into a Syrian refugee camp to save Ms Begum’s three week-old baby, whose UK citizenship remained.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.


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UK 'not impressed by Barnier's tweets' on Irish backstop: government source

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain was “not impressed” by proposals from the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier saying the bloc was ready to give Britain the unilateral right to leave the customs union, a British government source said on Friday.

Barnier added in a series of tweets that Britain would still need to honor its commitment to preserve a border free of controls between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland – something that in previous negotiations led to proposals to place a customs border “in the Irish Sea” between the island of Britain and its province.

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Britain hands jailed British-Iranian aid worker diplomatic protection

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will hand diplomatic protection to British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to underline the government’s belief that Iran has behaved unjustly in its treatment of her, foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday.

Hunt said while the move, a little-used way for governments to seek protection on behalf of their nationals, was unlikely to be a “magic wand,” it may help Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit.

She was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News.

“I have today decided that the UK will take a step that is extremely unusual and exercise diplomatic protection,” Hunt said in a statement, adding that the move signaled to Tehran that “its behavior is totally wrong”.

“It is unlikely to be a magic wand that leads to an overnight result. But it demonstrates to the whole world that Nazanin is innocent and the UK will not stand by when one of its citizens is treated so unjustly.”

Diplomatic protection is a mechanism under international law through which a state may seek reparation for injury to one of its nationals on the basis that the second state has committed an internationally wrongful act against that person.

Earlier this year, Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on hunger strike in protest at her treatment in jail.

“We have been working hard to secure her release but despite repeated efforts have not been successful. We have not even been able to secure her the medical treatment she urgently needs despite assurances to the contrary,” Hunt said.

“No government should use innocent individuals as pawns for diplomatic leverage so I call on Iran to release this innocent woman so she can be reunited with her family.”

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UK government loses House of Lords vote calling for EU customs union

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s House of Lords passed an amendment on Wednesday calling for the government to negotiate a customs union with the European Union, giving Prime Minister Theresa May a potential new headache in her Brexit plans.

The upper parliamentary chamber backed a cross-party amendment to a trade bill, calling for the government to take all steps to enable the United Kingdom to participate in a new EU customs union after it leaves the bloc.

May has ruled out any such union which would be an anathema to eurosceptic lawmakers in her Conservative Party, although the idea has the support of some pro-EU Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party.

The Trade Bill, which focuses on transposing outside countries’ trade deals with the EU into bilateral deals with Britain, is due to be passed before Britain leaves the bloc on March 29.

The Lords’ amendment can be overturned by parliament’s elected House of Commons but it means lawmakers could now have a vote on the issue and boost the hopes of those who want a Brexit which sees Britain still closely aligned to the EU.

May’s divorce deal was overwhelmingly rejected by lawmakers in January and she has promised to bring back a revised version by March 12, although talks at securing changes have made no headway according to EU officials.

If her treaty is rejected again, lawmakers will then be given the chance to vote for a no-deal Brexit and for extending the date of the divorce.

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