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Countdown now starts in race for next British prime minister

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom -- Countdown for a race for Britain’s new prime minister seemingly has clicked, as Theresa May agreed to set a timetable in early June for her departure as the country’s prime minister after a painful showdown with backbench politicians of her Conservative Party on Thursday.

During a private meeting with the executive of the 1922 Committee, a body that represents Conservative backbench MPs in the House of Commons, May wanted to delay announcing her departure date before the Parliament’s voting on her Brexit bill on June 3, said Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the committee.

May had hoped for a clean handover to a new occupant after safely delivering the result of the 2016 referendum when people in Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU).

But even before it reaches the starting gate, May’s plan to try one last chance to get her controversial Brexit deal through the warring House of Commons is seen as being doomed to failure.

That last throw of the dice early June will signal the start of a race to take over as leader of the Conservative Party, and as Prime Minister. Pressure to persuade May to resign has come amid the deadlock over Brexit and the dismal local election results.

The party is also bracing itself for even worse results in next week’s European Parliament elections.

Ahead of the formalities, the race has already prematurely started, with former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson saying Thursday he will be a contender.

Other leading members of May’s front bench team have also indicated they will join the race.

May will present her Brexit withdrawal bill to MPs in the House of Commons during what will be a two-day debate in early June.

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LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May [front] attends the Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons in London. British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Wednesday she still wants Britain to leave the European Union (EU), but she rejected a second referendum or remaining in the EU’s customs union. May outlined her hopes during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. XINHUA PHOTO - UK PARLIAMENT - JESSICA TAYLOR
Brady told reporters that the meeting with May will take place after the June vote regardless of whether or not the EU withdrawal agreement bill is passed by MPs.

Mark Francois, vice chairman of the European Research Group of Conservative Eurosceptic MPs, said that, within his group of MPs, opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is increasing.

"Given that Labour have made plain they will oppose it, it seems incredibly unlikely it will receive a second reading in early June," he said.

"In which case, the Prime Minister will be out of options, and the executive of the 1922 Committee will almost certainly have to facilitate a leadership contest among the parliamentary party," said Francois.


Reaction swift after British Prime Minister Theresa
May reveals details of her new Brexit deal

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Reaction was swift Tuesday night to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s final bid to persuade Westminster politicians to back her under-fire Brexit deal.

May’s plan, rejected three times already by MPs, has been rebranded with a list of goodies in the hope she will finally strike it lucky.

In a keynote speech in London, May unwrapped a 10-point plan, backed by her senior ministers, saying it gave MPs one last chance to deliver Brexit.

Politicians will be offered a vote on whether to hold another referendum if they back the government’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill, said May.

But, if as widely predicted, MPs again reject the bill, a negotiated exit from the EU would be dead in the water and Brexit could be stopped, warned May, whose days as Britain’s prime minister are already certain to be numbered.

Describing it as finding common ground in Parliament, May said her plan was the only way to deliver the Brexit the people of Britain voted for in 2016.

Leading Conservative Brexiteer MP Charlie Elphicke said the deal would prevent Britain from agreeing trade deals with the fastest growing economies in the world.

In what was a curtain raiser to the response of the main opposition Labour Party, its leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday night described May’s bill as effectively repackaging of same old bad deal.

In his first reaction to May’s speech, Corbyn said:

"The prime minister’s proposal tonight seems to be largely a rehash of the government’s position in the cross party talks that failed to reach a compromise last week."

Corbyn said his party will look seriously at the details of the withdrawal agreement bill when it is published in several days.

"But we won’t back a repackaged version of the same old deal, and it’s clear that this weak and disintegrating government is unable deliver on its own commitments," said Corbyn.

Labour veteran politician, Dame Margaret Beckett was even more scathing, saying:

"May’s deal has no chance."

"It would be very dangerous to vote through a deal to leave the EU without any clear idea of our eventual destination, a blindfold Brexit that would only prolong uncertainty for families, businesses and Parliament," she said.

Leave-supporting Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of a group of Conservative MPs who want Britain to leave the EU, told the Daily Telegraph: "I wouldn’t put money on my backing the deal."

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, said on her social media site:

"The PM is asking MPs to vote for a bill that takes us out of the EU - in Scotland’s case against our will - out of the single market and possibly out of the Customs Union, and with no actual commitment to put the deal to a second referendum."

Nigel Dodds, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs at Westminster said the fundamental flaws of the draft Withdrawal Agreement treaty remain unchanged.

The DUP has a supply and confidence agreement with the governing Conservatives to give May’s minority government a majority in the House of Commons.


Boris Johnson throws hat in ring for Tory leadership

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Boris Johnson, Britain’s former foreign secretary who also served as mayor of London, on Thursday confirmed his intention to run for the Conservative Party leadership after Theresa May steps down.

He made the announcement at a business event in Manchester, saying he is going to "go for it" to be a candidate.

"I don’t think that is any particular secret to anybody," he said.

"But you know, there is no vacancy at present."

Prime Minister May has promised to resign unless the House of Commons votes for her Brexit deal.

Several contenders, including International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, have confirmed their intention to bid for the party leadership.

Amid the Brexit impasse, May held talks on Thursday with senior Tory MPs, who called on her to set a date for her departure from the prime minister’s office.

United Kingdom cross-party Brexit talks end without agreement

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The cross-party discussions over Brexit on Friday ended without any agreement six weeks after they started.

The British Opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May that talks with the government to find a compromise over Brexit "have gone as far as they can".

He said talks could not carry on because of "the increasing weakness and instability" of the government.

The latest development came one day after May promised to set a timetable for leaving Downing Street following a Parliament vote on the Withdraw Agreement Bill—the legislation needed to implement her deal—next month.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May to make
fourth bid to get go-ahead for her Brexit deal

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Wednesday she still wants Britain to leave the European Union (EU), but she rejected a second referendum or remaining in the EU’s customs union.

May outlined her hopes during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, just a week before her Conservative Party is preparing for dismal results in European Parliament elections.

Widespread media reports in London Wednesday said May is to put her Brexit proposals to MPs in early June for what will be the fourth time.

The Daily Telegraph said May was trying to buy herself time with the new vote in Parliament, but it already looked set for another defeat.

May met main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn for cross-party talks Tuesday night during the latest round of bi-lateral talks between Labour and her Conservative party.

The talks, aimed at finding a consensus that would lead to parliament agreeing a withdrawal deal, have so far failed to make a breakthrough.

During the talks May told Corbyn she would table a vote on a Brexit Bill early next month with or without a deal with Labour.

May has also told her most senior ministers it was imperative the Brexit legislation is passed before the British Parliament breaks for its long summer recess.

Downing Street said the government plans to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week beginning June 3 to force MPs into a choice between the deal on the table or the possibility of Brexit being cancelled.

The Democratic Unionist Party that gives May her slender majority in the House of Commons is reported to have made clear they do not plan to back the bill.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiator to explore
future European Union relations amid Brexit impasse

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The chief Brexit negotiator for British Prime Minister Theresa May is traveling to Brussels on Tuesday to discuss changes to the political declaration on Britain’s future relationship with the European Union (EU).

The latest travel by Olly Robbins comes amid the ongoing cross-party talks between the British ruling and opposition parties to break a current impasse.

The declaration, published with the British government’s withdrawal agreement that has been vetoed by the parliament three times, sets out the parameters for the future relationship between Britain and the EU. It is not legally binding.

Media reports said Robbins will explore how quickly changes could be made to the political declaration, if the government and Labour can reach an agreement.

As Conservative-Labour talks are expected to continue on Tuesday to find a formula to end Britain’s Brexit deadlock, officials have revealed a record for the British Parliament.

The current session of parliament is the longest since the English Civil War in the 1600s.

The continuing impasse over Britain’s departure from the EU means that till Friday, the House of Commons had sat for 298 days, researchers at Parliament’s library said.

Brexit Party rises ahead in polls, delivering blow on major parties in Britain

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Britain’s newly-formed Brexit Party has raced ahead in two separate opinion polls Sunday as the country will participate in the upcoming European Parliament election, delivering a major blow on the two main parties.

The Brexit Party, which was launched by Nigel Farage in mid April, has overtaken Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party in a national poll, with Farage predicted to win 49 seats in a general election.

The survey carried out by ComRes found that if a May-led election campaign took place now the Conservatives would face their worst result in history, falling to third place in terms of vote share.

Main opposition Labour Party would become the largest party by a margin of 137 seats, with leader Jeremy Corbyn taking over at 10 Downing Street to lead a minority government.

The poll also found that the Conservatives would fall to fourth place in the European Parliament elections scheduled for May 23, with the Brexit Party gaining the highest share of the vote.

The poll, commissioned by Brexit Express, asked people of their voting intentions in the Euro election.

Top came the Brexit Party with 27 percent, followed by Labour with 25, the Liberal Democrats with 14 percent and May’s Conservatives just 13 percent.

Farage co-founded the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in 1993 to campaign for Britain’s departure from the European Union.

He quit as chairman after the 2016 referendum delivered its shock result showing 52 percent backed leaving against 48 percent wanting to keep the link with Brussels.

Andrew Hawkins, chairman of ComRes, described the poll as a "disaster," commenting:

"If the Conservative leadership contenders are not careful, there will be no party for them to lead."

A second poll for the Observer newspaper Sunday by Opinium showed the Brexit Party would be one point behind the Conservatives in a general election for British parliamentary seats.

The Opinium survey showed Labour would be leading with 28 percent support, followed by the Conservatives with 22 percent and the Brexit Party on 21 percent.

In the European elections, the Opinium poll shows the Brexit Party racing ahead into first place with 34 percent support, in results almost mirroring the ComRes results.

Labour comes second with 21 percent, a seven point fall compared with a previous poll two weeks ago.

The Liberal Democrats take third position with 12 percent, a five-point rise.

The Conservatives have dropped three points to stagger into fourth place with 11 percent support.

More than 600 chairmen and chairwomen of local Conservative associations, along with councilors and party activists have accused May and her advisers of "sticking their fingers in their ears."

In a joint letter to the Sunday Telegraph they warned that if May cannot deliver a clean exit from Europe, MPs at Westminster must replace her urgently or risk disaster.

They said in their letter: "Unless we urgently change direction, there is now an existential threat to the party.

"If we deliver an honest Brexit successfully, we will see members and support flood back.

"More importantly, we will secure the long-term success of both the country and the party."

"We must give the people the Brexit for which they voted without delay.

"If Theresa May cannot and will not do that, then she must be replaced.

"MPs must do that urgently or risk disaster at the next election," they said.

Downing Street announced Saturday night that talks between the Conservative government and Labour to find a way through the Brexit deadlock would resume on Monday afternoon.

So far the two main parties have failed to reach a consensus deal that could be put before the House of Commons to pave the way for Britain to leave the EU.

Leading Brexit Party reveals dissatisfaction with mired exit talks

by Xinhua writer Gui Tao LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British eurosceptic Nigel Farage and his party have once again successfully cemented themselves as the main voice for dissatisfied voters in Britain.

Recent opinion polls have shown that Farage’s newly-founded Brexit Party may win more votes in the coming European elections than Britain’s two biggest parties combined.

The ex-leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a key figure in forcing Britain’s 2016 referendum on European Union (EU) membership three years ago, shocked Westminster again.

It was Farage who led the UKIP to victory in the last European Parliament elections in 2014, the first time that neither the Conservatives nor Labour topped the ballot in a nationwide election since 1906.

Capitalizing on a clear pro-Brexit position, Farage is projected to hold at least one third of the votes in the coming European parliament election.

There must be a reason behind the popularity of the man and his party, whom some media portray as the mouthpiece of angry, malcontent British voters.

Leaving the EU is the first step, if not the last, to solve Britain’s problems, according to advocates of Farage and his Brexit Party that was launched in April.

Brexit has torn apart support for the big, traditionally competitive parties.

It is obvious that a significant chunk of voters who backed the Conservatives in the last general election are now dismayed with the party’s Brexit strategy and the lengthy Brexit process and mired negotiations.

Their defections to the Brexit Party have contributed to one of the worst performances by a ruling party in the European parliament election.

The latest case in point of the growing disenchantment among Tory supporters is Jeremy Hosking, a prominent City of London financier and one of the Conservative Party’s most prominent financial backers, who reportedly donated 200,000 pounds (259,919 U.S. dollars) to the Brexit Party.

Earlier this month, voters vented their fury over the ongoing Brexit stalemate during the local elections.

The two major parties have undergone a drubbing at the ballot boxes.

The punishment continues.

United Kingdom relations with China are as
important as Brexit: leading sinologist

by Gui Tao and Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- A leading British sinologist on Tuesday decried his country’s apathy and urged it to consider its ways of working with China, saying the relationship is as important as the looming Brexit.

"My argument is that, important as leaving the European Union (EU) is, it is the way Britain shapes and crafts its relationship with China that will have the larger long-term impact," said Professor Kerry Brown in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Brown, a professor of Chinese studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College of London, explained: "Unlike the EU, China is fundamentally changing the world in which we live far beyond the confines of Europe."

"The UK needs to have a knowledge about China that it does not have at this moment," he added.

Brown noted that Britain needs to have "a much clearer idea" of what it wants from China, whether it is a technology partnership or market access.

He believed that the British government should also strive for a more balanced relationship with China.

Britain, with its expectations of embarking on an era of global involvement and engagement after leaving the EU, should use Brexit as a chance to develop a passion towards Sino-UK relations which seems to merit much more engagement, urged the sinologist.

"We need to adjust our mindsets, revise our vocabularies, and reset our standard map of the world," he said.

"Opposition to China or attempts to exclude it is futile."

If, or when, Brexit is implemented, Brown noted, Britain needs to find different relationships outside the EU, and its relationship with China is obviously one of the key ones.

In a newly published book The Future of UK-China Relations, Brown, who is an associate of the Asia Pacific Program at London’s world-leading think tank Chatham House, urged a new kind of relationship between the two countries "where the past is so heavy."

As Britain recalibrates its long-established international relationships, it is worth remembering that China and Britain have much in common, he wrote.

For the UK, a constructive relationship with China in finance, intellectual partnerships, sports and the creative industries could provide a path to a brighter future," he added.

Brown believes that Britain, with positive events and mutual successes, has the potential to offer a model for the rest of the world in terms of how to work with the world’s second largest economy.

This is in spite of the drastically different social systems.

Regretting the "extraordinary knowledge imbalance" in the relationship between China and Britain, Brown said the number of students of Chinese language at UK universities has remained static at 300 despite the exponential growth in China’s economy.

"The UK does not understand China as well as China understands the UK," said Brown, who was professor of Chinese politics and director of the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney from 2012 to 2015.

"Chinese leaders are speaking of an era in modern history when China is finally resurgent, prominent and has its global status restored," he said.

"But much of the world, much like the UK, does not have a story to relay back to China about their engagement with it.

"Nor have they thought more clearly of what they might themselves want from this new China, beyond trade and money."



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