May asks for time on Brexit

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - International -

LONDON — With Brexit just 47 days away, the Bri­tish govern­ment asked law­mak­ers on Sun­day to give Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May more time to re­work her di­vorce deal with the Euro­pean Union.

Com­mu­ni­ties Sec­re­tary James Bro­ken­shire said Par­lia­ment would get to pass judg­ment on Ms. May’s Brexit plan “no later than Feb. 27.”

The prom­ise is a bid to avert a show­down on Thurs­day, when Par­lia­ment is set to de­bate and vote on next moves in the Brexit process. Some law­mak­ers want to try to seize con­trol and steer the coun­try to­ward a softer exit from the bloc.

Bri­tain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but Par­lia­ment has re­jected Ms. May’s di­vorce bill, leav­ing the prime min­is­ter to seek changes from the EU. The U.K.’s bid for last-minute changes has ex­as­per­ated EU lead­ers, who in­sist the legally bind­ing with­drawal agree­ment can’t be changed.

France re­calls diplo­mat

France re­called its am­bas­sador to Italy for “med­dling” in its do­mes­tic af­fairs, a sur­prise move that drags re­la­tions be­tween two found­ing mem­bers of the Euro­pean Union to a more than seven decade low.

The re­sponse comes af­ter months of ver­bal at­tacks where Ital­ian pop­ulist politi­cians, ea­ger to make gains in Euro­pean par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, have been bait­ing the French be­cause it plays well with vot­ers — or so the polls shows — and dis­tracts at­ten­tion away from the re­ces­sion.

“This is un­prece­dented since the war,” the Paris­based for­eign min­istry said in a state­ment on Thurs­day. “Hav­ing dis­agree­ments is one thing, but us­ing the re­la­tion­ship for elec­toral pur­poses is quite an­other.”

Pom­peo in Cen­tral Europe

WASHINGTON — U.S. fears about China and Rus­sia’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in Cen­tral Europe will top Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo’s agenda as he heads to the re­gion this week, Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials say.

Mr. Pom­peo left Sun­day on a five-na­tion tour of Europe that will be­gin in Hun­gary and Slo­vakia where he will raise those con­cerns and the im­por­tance of pro­mot­ing democ­racy and the rule of law to counter Bei­jing and Moscow’s ef­forts to pull the coun­tries away from the West and sow divi­sions in the Euro­pean Union and NATO.

The cen­ter­piece of the trip will be a con­fer­ence on the fu­ture of the Mid­dle East in Poland on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day that is ex­pected to fo­cus on Iran and will also be at­tended by Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Mideast peace team of se­nior ad­viser and son-in-law Jared Kush­ner and spe­cial en­voy for in­ter­na­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions Ja­son Green­blatt.

But in Bu­dapest and Bratislava on Mon­day and Tues­day, Mr. Pom­peo will specif­i­cally point to is­sues re­lated to Cen­tral Europe’s reliance on Rus­sian en­ergy and the pres­ence of the Chi­nese high-tech tele­com firm Huawei, par­tic­u­larly in Hun­gary, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cials, who were not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss Mr. Pom­peo’s travel and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The of­fi­cials said Mr. Pom­peo hoped to re­verse what they called a decade of U.S. dis­en­gage­ment in Cen­tral Europe that cre­ated a vac­uum that Rus­sia and China have ex­ploited. Over the course of the past 10 years, the of­fi­cials said Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Chi­nese lead­ers have be­come much more ag­gres­sive in the re­gion and mak­ing in­roads.

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