EU Calls on US Congress to Preserve Iran Nuclear Deal

EU foreign policy chief Mogherini addresses a news conference during a EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels

London- European Union foreign ministers, following a closed-door meeting on Monday, appealed to the United States Congress to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran and avoid a return to the sanctions option, stressing EU’s commitment to maintaining the agreement on the Iranian program after US President Donald Trump on Friday decided not to certify it.

Also on Monday, Britain and France said they were firmly committed to the 2005 nuclear deal with Iran and would work to ensure its implementation.

The British premier’s office said in a statement that during a telephone discussion, “the leaders expressed their firm commitment to a nuclear deal with Iran.”

“Prime Minister May and President Macron agreed to continue close cooperation to ensure proper compliance with the deal and to prevent Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, including its ballistic missile program,” the statement added.

The announcement follows a telephone call between May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who both underlined the need to maintain the Iranian nuclear deal.

EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini chaired the closed-door talks on Monday which discussed how the EU countries would deal with Trump’s threats to the nuclear agreement. The ministers are also scheduled to review the means to tackle Iran’s missile program and its regional role.

“This agreement is necessary for the security of the region,” Mogherini said, without elaborating on the role the EU could play in countering Iran’s regional activities.

“Clearly EU ministers are concerned that messages on JCPOA [Iran’s nuclear deal] might affect negatively opening negotiations or even the space [for] opening negotiations with DPRK,” Mogerhini said, using the abbreviation for the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “One of the key elements of multilateralism is the predictability of maintaining agreements.”

In a joint statement, Paris, London and Berlin expressed concern about the “repercussions on the security of the United States and its allies” that would result from the actions demanded by Trump.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the EU needed to put real pressure on the US Congress.

“We hope that Congress will not call this agreement into question because … non-proliferation [of nuclear weapons] is a major element of global security,” he said.

German Foreign Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that threats from the US president to pull out from the Iran nuclear accord could provoke military confrontation.

“As Europeans together, we are very worried that the decision of the US President could lead us back into military confrontation with Iran,” Gabriel told reporters ahead of the meeting with his European counterparts.

The World Applauds King Salman’s Order Allowing Women to Drive

Washington, London, Berlin – Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive was widely supported around the world, as international leaders have officially welcomed the King’s order.

US President Donald Trump commended the royal order to apply the traffic system and its executive regulations – including issuance of driving licenses – for both males and females alike, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This is a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we will continue to support the Kingdom in its efforts to strengthen the Saudi society and economy through reforms like this and the implementation of the Saudi Vision 2030,” Trump said, according to the statement.

The US Department of State has also welcomed the Saudi royal order.

In the daily press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert stressed that this decision was a great step and a very positive sign.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, for his part, tweeted that ending the restrictions represented an “important step in the right direction.”

In London, UK Prime Minister Theresa May described the Saudi decision as an “important step towards gender equality.”

“The empowerment of women around the world is not only an issue I care deeply about, it is also key to nations’ economic development,” she said.

From Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman welcomed Saudi Arabia’s order to grant women the right to drive as “a big step for Saudi society.”

Spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday that Merkel has repeatedly brought up the situation of women during visits to Saudi Arabia. “It is a particularly important issue to her,” he stated.

Meanwhile, a political researcher at Georges Washington University told Asharq Al-Awsat that King Salman’s move to allow Saudi women to drive was a “courageous decision and will open up social and economic prospects for women in Saudi Arabia.”

Leaked Brexit Papers Reveal Gap between London, Brussels

London- Brussels seems to insist on focusing on separation cases related to the Brexit and rejecting London’s proposal of a more flexible exit.

The Guardian disclosed five leaked European documents, only one day after the newspaper itself published a bunch of documents related to the British government intentions after exiting the European Union (EU) and its dealing with individual freedom in moving between EU countries.

It appeared that the UK is willing to impose restrictions on low-skilled European labor and to limit European household access after the Brexit become effective. Although the documents are nothing more than discussions and don’t reflect the British government policies, they did embarrass the government.

The newspaper reported that when the EU issues the five documents during the upcoming period, it will have to face escalations with the UK on its exit from the EU. Among the papers, there is one that urges London to find solutions – after Brexit – for the common border between Ireland and North Ireland (part of the UK).

During his visit to Ireland, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that talks about the border would be exceptional and complex. Another leaked document shows that the EU asked the UK to protect around 3,000 European food and drink products.

British commercial groups expressed concerns over the draft and pointed to imposing restrictions on immigration from the EU.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said during its speech in front of the parliament that those who voted in favor of Brexit last year wished to impose restrictions on immigration. Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, expressed the federation’s concern towards the suggested proposals in the document.

Wright added that if this represents the government’s intellect, then this reveals a pressing need to understand the vital contribution of the European immigrant laborers.

UK’s Brexit Predicament

The Brexit talks between the UK and the European Union haven’t gone well. The March 2019 deadline for concluding an agreement is approaching, and progress has been much too slow. Prime Minister Theresa May needs to get a grip on this process.

Britain’s government faces two crucial obstacles. It’s in May’s power to break through both.

The first is the EU’s insistence that Britain’s exit payment in settlement of liabilities should be substantially agreed — the formula is that “sufficient progress” should have been made — before talks move on to post-Brexit arrangements. The second is uncertainty over the form of a transitional post-Brexit deal to govern relations until the two sides can fashion a permanent new agreement — a task bound to take at least several more years.

The UK is dithering on both points, and it’s clear why: Each of these questions is politically toxic — and May’s political capital, after this year’s general-election debacle, stands at roughly zero.

Public opinion in Britain solidly opposes an exit payment in the mid- to high tens of billions of euros, which the EU has said it expects. And many of those who voted for Brexit are skeptical about a transitional deal that leaves the UK’s obligations to the EU substantially in place, seeing this as a continuation of EU membership by other means.

So far, May has done nothing to prepare public opinion for the substantial exit payment that the UK will probably have to endure. And she’s done nothing to make the case for a so-called off-the-shelf transition, which mostly just freezes existing arrangements.

On the exit payment, she should propose to settle the matter through independent international arbitration. This was suggested earlier this year by Andre Sapir of the Bruegel Institute — before it was certain that the issue would in fact cripple the talks. Now that it has, May should take up Sapir’s idea.

Arbitration has great substantive advantages. It recognizes, for instance, that the question of what is actually owed is enormously complicated, that the parties start from positions that are very far apart, and that a lot of face is at stake on both sides. It gives Britain, especially, cover for backing down. The resulting terms would not be a surrender to EU bullying, but a principled compliance with a legitimate process both sides agreed to invoke. The International Court of Justice, a United Nations body, or the Permanent Court of Arbitration, as Sapir suggests, would be the appropriate body.

On the form of the transition, May should come down squarely in support of her chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond — and against other ministers, notably Liam Fox.

After Brexit, for a period of several years, Britain would remain in the EU’s single market and customs union, would keep paying its membership dues, accept free movement, recognize the existing rights of EU citizens in the UK — and have no say in EU decision-making.

Brexit hardliners, inside and outside May’s Conservative Party, would denounce that as overthrowing the referendum result. May would say: It does no such thing. Of course, she would say, this outcome is completely unacceptable as a long-term arrangement — and that’s precisely why it’s guaranteed to be temporary. It’s merely the price of executing Brexit with the least possible short-term disruption.

And she could patiently explain why Brexit hardliners should be open to this approach. Their resistance to EU demands for liabilities to be settled, and their preference for a complex bespoke transition that dissolves the U.K.’s existing rights and commitments at the outset, are leading in one direction only — to the so-called cliff-edge Brexit that will, at a minimum, impose enormous short-term disruption on the U.K. economy. And that, as John Springford of the Centre for European Reform has argued, might be the worst possible outcome for hardliners. It would lead voters to conclude that Brexit was a terrible mistake after all — an error that they might then decide to put right.

It ought to be obvious: The hardliners have a bigger stake in a smooth Brexit than anybody else. The price for securing it is modest — a little patience. Is it really beyond the prime minister to see this, take charge, and make the case?

Bloomberg View

Trump’s First Official Visit to Britain Pushed to 2018


US President Donald Trump will make his first official state visit to Britain in 2018, a senior British government source revealed according to Sky News on Tuesday.

The government had initially said the visit would take place later this year, but media has reported the trip could be postponed for various reasons ranging from fears over protests to Prime Minister Theresa May’s weakened authority after an ill-judged election gamble.

Asked about the Sky report, May’s spokesman repeated the government’s position that an invitation had been made and accepted, but no date had been set.

There has been speculation Trump was deferring the state visit, an occasion filled with pomp that involves a banquet with Queen Elizabeth II, amid concerns that it would draw protests over his presidency.

Questions about the trip also arose after it got no mention in the Queen’s annual speech to parliament in June, when it is customary for the monarch to list upcoming state visits.

But Trump confirmed he would be visiting Britain at the G20 in Hamburg, where he met with May, saying he “will be going to London”. Asked when, he replied: “We’ll work that out.”

May extended the invitation when she visited Washington just days after Trump’s inauguration in January, but a date has yet to be set.

The government source said both sides had been unable to arrange a date for 2017 and were now looking for dates in 2018.

May has been derided for seeking to curry favor with Trump and has come under fire for inviting him for a state visit so soon into his presidency.

Opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, the smaller Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party have all called for the state visit to be canceled, as have some from May’s own Conservative Party.

The Speaker of the House of Commons previously said he was “strongly opposed” to allowing Donald Trump to address members of parliament during the US president’s state visit later this year.

More than 160 of parliament’s 650 MPs have signed a parliamentary motion opposing an address by Trump, citing the travel ban and his comments on torture and women.

A speech to both Houses of Commons and Lords has been a feature of many previous state visits, including one by Barack Obama in 2011.

More than 1.8 million people have also signed an online petition saying Trump should not make the state visit as it “could cause embarrassment” to the monarch.

May Extends Hand to Opposition as Brexit Beckons


British Prime Minister Theresa May has turned to the opposition as the country gears up to exit the European Union.

The appeal comes nearly a year after May took office, and just over a month after she suffered a setback from voters in a snap election.

She plans to use a speech on Tuesday to urge the opposition to help hone policy, saying the government’s ideas can be “clarified and improved” through debate and discussion. Extracts of the speech were released in advance by May’s Downing St. office.

“My commitment to change in Britain is undimmed,” May will say on Tuesday.

As her minority government prepares to start the difficult task of passing Brexit through parliament, the PM will remind Britons of her promise to build a fairer society, seeking to repair a reputation damaged by an ill-judged snap election.

May became British leader on July 13, 2016 through a Conservative Party leadership contest after predecessor David Cameron resigned when voters decided, against his advice, to quit the EU. She called an early election for June 8 in an attempt to bolster her majority and strengthen her authority during EU exit talks.

The gamble backfired when voters stripped the Conservatives of their majority in parliament and boosted the number of seats held by the left-of-center Labor Party.

The result means May must rely on deal-making and compromises to pass legislation, and is struggling to persuade her party that she is not a lame duck.

“In this new context, it will be even more important to make the case for our policies and our values, and to win the battle of ideas both in parliament as well as in the country,” May will say.

The defeat has emboldened opponents of Brexit, who hope to make the government take a more conciliatory line in divorce talks with the EU.

The election setback has led the government to abandon many of the pledges May campaigned on, including plans to reform secondary education and make seniors pay more for their long-term care.
Instead, the government says it will devote its energy to trying to pass the laws needed to pave the way for Brexit — due to take place in March 2019.

Now, May is seeking to re-boot her premiership, harking back to a promise on her first day in office to “forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world and … make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.”

Acknowledging that the election result “was not what I wanted,” May on Tuesday will urge opposition parties “to contribute, not just criticize.”

“We may not agree on everything, but through debate and discussion — the hallmarks of our parliamentary democracy — ideas can be clarified and improved and a better way forward found,” she plans to say.

May’s most senior Cabinet Minister, Damian Green, said Monday that the speech was an appeal for “a grown-up way of doing politics.”

And despite rumors of Conservative plots to oust May, Green told Sky News that “the prime minister is determined to carry on to lead the party and the country for many years to come.”

The first stage of the Brexit process will come later this week when a key piece of legislation, which translates EU law into British law, is presented to parliament.

Green told Sky News he was confident the government could get the legislation through.

Asked about media reports of plots to oust her, he said it was simply “gossip and chatter” at summer parties.

“There is no credible plot going on,” he said. “The prime minister is determined to carry on, to lead the party and the country for many years to come and the overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs (lawmakers) are behind her in that.”

May will make the appeal for national backing at the launch of a report into how the government should protect workers affected by a shift to different employment models, including the “gig economy” championed by the likes of Uber and Deliveroo.

The report is a key element of May’s plan to address dissatisfaction expressed at the referendum by working class Britons who felt left behind by globalization.

“At this critical time in our history, we can either be timid or we can be bold,” May will say. “We will act with an unshakable sense of purpose to build the better, fairer Britain which we all want to see.”

Trump to Visit UK Despite Controversy

US President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May sit at the start of the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017.

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday he still planned on going to London for a state visit, which was in doubt after British Prime Minister Theresa May’s conservatives lost a majority in parliament.

“I will be going to London,” Trump said in a pool report on a meeting between the president and May at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. A date for the visit is still be worked out, he added.

Trump said that he and May have developed a “very special” relationship. He said that they would have tremendous talks on a “very powerful deal” on trade.

Trump and May first discussed a state visit during May’s visit to the White House earlier this year. However, no date had been set.

Confirming that the two countries are currently working on an agreement, he said he would visit London in the near future.

“There is no country that could possibly be closer than our countries,” Trump said. “We have been working on a trade deal which will be a very, very big deal a very powerful deal, great for both countries and I think we will have that done very, very quickly.”

The US president said he and May “have developed a very special relationship,” adding that he believed “trade will be a very big factor between” the two countries.

Following her meeting with Trump, May said she was looking forward to welcoming Trump to London, but noted both sides still are working to find a “suitable date.”

She said she was optimistic about possible future trade pacts with Washington and other countries.

May, in a pointed rebuke of critics, has played up the prospects of increasing trade with “old friends and new partners” like China, India and Japan after the UK leaves the European Union.

Trump Had ‘Tremendous Meeting’ with Putin, Eyes Swift UK Trade Deal

Fresh from his lengthy head-to-head encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump on Saturday was meeting with a long list of world leaders, as he wraps up his second trip abroad.

Trump said he had a “tremendous meeting” with Putin as he sat alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May for a morning exchange on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

It marked Trump’s first comments on his high-profile talks with Putin in which he raised the issue of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections and discussed plans for a ceasefire agreement in Syria.

Noting his “special relationship” with May, the president said his visit to Britain will go ahead.

He added that he and May were working on a trade agreement that he described as a “very, very big deal, very powerful, great deal for both countries.”

May was the first foreign leader to visit Trump at the White House and he told her he would soon “be going to London” once details were worked out.

Independent trade negotiations between the two countries are a possibility as Britain exits the European Union — a move Trump has supported.

Trump’s long list of meetings with world leaders on Saturday included President Xi Jinping of China, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore.

He also attended a women’s entrepreneurial finance event, a project spearheaded by his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders also attended.

Trump praised Merkel for organising the G20 summit, despite violent protests that blocked his wife Melania for hours.

Merkel organised the summit “so professionally and without much interruption despite a few people (who) seemed to follow your G20s around,” said Trump, telling Merkel that she has “been amazing and done a fantastic job”.

Britain Launches Campaign against Crime, Terrorism Financing

London – Britain is set to put forward new regulations on Monday against the financing of crime and terrorism, and would require banks, estate agents, financial institutions and accountants to increase inspection operations on financial transactions.

The government said that although the concerned companies and institutions were very vigilant, the new regulations would further improve the quality of inspection operations to guarantee the tracking and reporting of suspicious transactions.

UK Economic Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said the Government was “cracking down on terrorists and criminals funneling money through our financial system”.

“Terrorist financing and money laundering are a significant threat to our national security, and we are determined to make the UK a hostile environment for illicit finance,” Barclay said on Sunday.

“These new rules will tighten our defenses, protect the integrity of our financial system and help protect the British public from terror attacks and criminal activities,” he added.

Britain has suffered a series of attacks in recent months, with 35 people killed by extremists in London and Manchester, while a man killed one and injured several others when he drove a van into Muslim worshippers leaving a London mosque.

Those attacks have increased pressure on British Prime Minister Theresa May whose popularity has severely dropped in the wake of her political party’s weak performance in the parliamentary elections.

The Sunday Times quoted some leading members of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party as saying that they wanted Chancellor Philip Hammond to become prime minister, replacing May.

Citing some members of May’s top team, the Sunday Times said Hammond should be appointed as a caretaker prime minister to lead the government until 2019, when Britain officially leaves the European Union.

Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, was sidelined for months by the British premier during the election campaign. He had been widely expected to be fired after the vote. However, the Conservative Party’s poor election results have pushed him back into the spotlight.

Five London Tower Blocks Evacuated over Safety Fears after Grenfell Fire


Thousands of residents from 650 London flats were evacuated Saturday due to fire safety fears in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, but dozens refused to leave their homes, according to local officials.

Four of the five Chalcots Estate towers in Camden, north London, were deemed unsafe after they were found to use cladding similar to that on Grenfell, widely blamed for the rapid spread of the massive blaze last week.

Some 34 high-rise buildings in 17 local authorities in England have already failed urgent fire tests conducted after Grenfell, the government announced Saturday, raising fears that thousands more may need to leave their homes.

Around 4,000 residents from all five Chalcots towers were initially evacuated, but one of the five was deemed safe and residents allowed to return.

Evacuated residents faced chaos, with temporary accommodation offered in a local leisure center and hotels, but some refused to move.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould told BBC News that 83 residents had refused to leave, adding the situation “will become a matter for the fire service”.

Camden council is the first to evacuate its tower blocks after the Grenfell fire, which is believed to have killed at least 79 people. Police have consistently said the death toll is expected to rise.

Councils across the country have been urgently checking tower blocks for any material that could have helped the fire spread through the 24-story Kensington block. More than a dozen buildings in nine local authorities have so far been identified as having been fitted with similar cladding or insulation to Grenfell.

Outside one of the leisure centers, evacuees accused the authorities of sowing “panic”.

Speaking as she waited for a taxi at 4 am on Saturday, Zega Ghebre, 42, who has lived in one of the evacuated Camden blocks for two years, said: “It’s unbelievable, hard to describe. We were just told, no warnings, no nothing. I’ve got three children, 11-year-old, nine years old and one and a half. We couldn’t pack anything because we didn’t know where we are going, but hopefully we will get back and have a chance.

“We have been offered a hotel in Wembley now. Hopefully it won’t be long. If I’m there for weeks I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it, it’s too far away. The thing that makes me angry is that we watched the news, we tried to evacuate and they sent us back, they said they were only taking Taplow.

“We asked again and again and they gave us all different reasons. We were told ‘There’s nothing to worry about, you’re not going to evacuate’. It’s hard to trust anyone now, because if they come and tell me something, we won’t know. It’s hard who to trust, who to believe.”

Peter Bertram, 94, who served with the Royal Air Force in the second world war and has lived on the estate for 46 years said it felt terrible to leave his home in Bray Tower.

“It was a rush, I didn’t know anything. My neighbor told me ‘get this and that’. It happened so quick, I don’t have the energy for that now. It’s an experience, but it’s getting settled in again though,” he said.

“I’ve got all my medication and I’ve got some clothes. They reckon I can go back to the flat again tomorrow, because I’ve got some more medication to get.

“It was a shock really, it happened so quick. I’ll just have to accept it now. It will be three or four weeks [until I can go back]. I don’t know what’s going to happen, that’s the trouble. Everybody’s been good, they’ve been helpful.”

Meanwhile, Theresa May has said her “thoughts are with the residents” being evacuated from the five Camden Tower blocks, adding that the government is supporting local authorities to ensure those evacuating have somewhere to stay.

The Prime Minister who is currently in Brussels for Brexit negotiations took to Twitter to express her sympathies.

“My thoughts are with residents being evacuated in Camden while their homes are made safe tonight,” she said via her official UK Prime Minister account.

“We will work with and support the emergency services and relevant authorities to safeguard the public.”

She added that she has asked Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to keep her regularly updated and “ensure we are offering every support we can to residents & those working onsite.”