PM ac­cuses Rus­sia of ag­gres­sion

May em­barks on par­lia­men­tary Brexit clash

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LONDON, Nov 14, (Agen­cies): Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said on Mon­day the gov­ern­ment would main­tain its com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing Europe af­ter Brexit as she ac­cused Rus­sia of mil­i­tary ag­gres­sion and med­dling in elec­tions.

The prime min­is­ter said Bri­tain would con­tinue to pro­vide as­sis­tance to states that were vic­tims of ag­gres­sion.

“The UK will re­main un­con­di­tion­ally com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing Europe’s se­cu­rity,” May said in a speech at the Guild­hall in London’s fi­nan­cial district.

“The com­pre­hen­sive new eco­nomic part­ner­ship we seek will un­der­pin our shared com­mit­ment to open economies and free so­ci­eties in the face of those who seek to un­der­mine them.”

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment is play­ing one its strong­est cards in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions by of­fer­ing to put its de­fence and se­cu­rity as­sets at the dis­posal of the EU in the hope of win­ning con­ces­sions on fu­ture trad­ing and eco­nomic re­la­tions.

The coun­try has big­ger de­fence bud­gets than any other EU mem­ber state and its diplo­matic and in­tel­li­gence ser­vices are among the most ex­ten­sive in Europe.

Its gov­ern­ment also ar­gues it is one of the lead­ing EU con­trib­u­tors to a range of se­cu­rity mea­sures, such as data and ev­i­dence shar­ing, ex­tra­di­tion mea­sures and to the EU’s po­lice agency Europol.

May on Mon­day ac­cused Rus­sia of fo­ment­ing vi­o­lence in east­ern Ukraine, of re­peat­edly vi­o­lat­ing the na­tional airspace of sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries, and mount­ing a cam­paign of cy­ber at­tacks.

She also ac­cused Rus­sia of med­dling in elec­tions and hack­ing the Dan­ish de­fence min­istry, the Ger­man par­lia­ment and its state-me­dia of plant­ing fake sto­ries and pho­to­shopped images in an at­tempt to un­der­mine Western in­sti­tu­tions.

May said the gov­ern­ment is work­ing to re­form NATO so it is bet­ter placed to counter Rus­sian hos­til­ity and has stepped up mil­i­tary and eco­nomic sup­port to Ukraine.

“We will take the nec­es­sary ac­tions to counter Rus­sian ac­tiv­ity,” she said.

May also said she wanted bet­ter re­la­tions with Rus­sia if it worked to pro­mote peace.

“Rus­sia can, and I hope one day will, choose this dif­fer­ent path,” she said. “But for as long as Rus­sia does not, we will act to­gether to pro­tect our in­ter­ests and the in­ter­na­tional order on which they de­pend.”

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May be­gins a ma­jor par­lia­men­tary bat­tle over Brexit on Tues­day, fac­ing com­pet­ing de­mands by MPs to change her strat­egy as ten­sions rise among her scan­dal-hit min­is­ters.

MPs will have their first chance to scru­ti­nise the EU With­drawal Bill, which would for­mally end Bri­tain’s mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Union and trans­fer four decades of EU leg­is­la­tion into UK law.

The gov­ern­ment faces po­ten­tial de­feat on key amend­ments to the bill if rebel Con­ser­va­tive MPs ally with the main op­po­si­tion Labour Party, in­creas­ing the risks for May’s per­ilously weak mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

The gov­ern­ment said it would en­sure le­gal cer­tainty when Bri­tain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

But crit­ics warn the EU With­drawal Bill — also known as the Re­peal Bill — rep­re­sents a power-grab by min­is­ters, while oth­ers see the leg­is­la­tion as a chance to shape May’s Brexit pol­icy.

Law­mak­ers — in­clud­ing mem­bers of May’s own Con­ser­va­tive party — have tabled 188 pages of amend­ments to the bill, which will be de­bated in groups over eight days spread over the com­ing weeks.

The show­down comes as the prime min­is­ter, weak­ened by a June elec­tion in which she lost her par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity, strug­gles to as­sert her au­thor­ity even over her own cab­i­net.

Two min­is­ters have quit in the past fort­night — one over sleaze, the other ac­cused of ef­fec­tively run­ning her own for­eign pol­icy — while two oth­ers stand ac­cused of in­struct­ing May how to run Brexit.

The pre­mier is also un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from Brus­sels to come up with a fi­nan­cial of­fer to keep ne­go­ti­a­tions on track, with a crunch sum­mit of EU lead­ers loom­ing in mid-De­cem­ber.

Law­mak­ers in Bri­tain voted to im­pose a bud­get on North­ern Ire­land on Mon­day, in a move seen as a step to­wards tak­ing di­rect rule of the semi-au­ton­o­mous prov­ince, which has been dead­locked for months by a dis­pute be­tween na­tion­al­ists and union­ists.

North­ern Ire­land Sec­re­tary James Bro­ken­shire in­tro­duced the bud­get with “the ut­most re­luc­tance” and said there was “no other choice” af­ter the fail­ure of months of ef­forts to bring the two sides in Belfast’s power-shar­ing as­sem­bly to­gether.

“My strong pref­er­ence would be for a re­stored ex­ec­u­tive in North­ern Ire­land to take for­ward its own bud­get,” he told MPs dur­ing a de­bate.

North­ern Ire­land has been with­out an ex­ec­u­tive for more than 10 months.

Its two largest par­ties — the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party (DUP), cur­rently in a coali­tion with his rul­ing Con­ser­va­tive Party, and the na­tion­al­ists Sinn Fein — have failed to agree on a power-shar­ing ex­ec­u­tive, wran­gling over sev­eral is­sues in­clud­ing an Ir­ish lan­guage law.

Bro­ken­shire, who has warned for weeks that West­min­ster would be forced to step in, said the bud­get was needed to keep pub­lic ser­vices run­ning.

Op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties in West­min­ster sup­ported the bud­get bill but voiced con­cerns.

“If this is not di­rect rule, this is get­ting per­ilously close to it,” Owen Smith, Labour’s shadow North­ern Ire­land sec­re­tary, told MPs.

Baltic and Nordic coun­tries will join Ire­land in be­com­ing more vo­cal on the ben­e­fits of trade once mar­ket-friendly Bri­tain leaves the bloc, Ir­ish Fi­nance Min­is­ter Paschal Dono­hoe said on Mon­day.

While Ire­land is most wor­ried about the dam­age Brexit may do to its econ­omy and bor­der with the Bri­tish prov­ince of North­ern Ire­land, the loss of a ma­jor pro-busi­ness coun­try that has a big in­flu­ence on fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tion and trade is also a con­cern.

Dublin is re­spond­ing by boost­ing other al­liances. Dono­hoe joined a din­ner of his Nordic and Baltic coun­ter­parts at last week’s EU fi­nance min­is­ters’ meet­ing while Prime Min­is­ter Leo Varad­kar held a meet­ing with a sim­i­lar group, plus the prime min­is­ter of the Netherlands, at a re­cent EU lead­ers’ sum­mit.

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