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Theresa May, Britain’s clueless Prime Minister, starts to unravel

Theresa May’s sudden capitulation on taxes exposes her again as a weak and clueless Prime Minister.

Alexander Mercouris

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Back in December 2016 I wrote an article for The Duran in which I wrote of how Theresa May’s inability to articulate a clear Brexit plan exposed her as someone with no clear idea of the way forward.

In the weeks following that article the Supreme Court decision forced Theresa May to present a Brexit plan to the House of Commons, something which up to then she had been loathe to do, almost certainly because she had no plan to present.  The plan was essentially one for a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ – with Britain quitting both the EU and the European Single Market – so as to give itself the power to reimpose control of its borders.

In my opinion that has been the only politically viable Brexit plan all along, since it is quite clear to me that the demand for Britain to regain control of its borders was a key factor in causing Leave to win the Brexit referendum, and that any idea of somehow reconciling that demand with Britain remaining a part of the European Single Market was fanciful to the say the least.

The point is that it was only the High Court and Supreme Court decisions that finally forced Theresa May to spell this out.  Had the High Court and the Supreme Court not made those decisions, it is likely that Theresa May would have invoked Article 50 sometime this month without making clear what sort of Brexit she wanted.  The uncertainty would have been further prolonged, further souring the political climate and the course of the Brexit negotiations.

The trouble is that this inability to chart a firm course on Brexit – a serious enough matter in itself – is now becoming increasingly the pattern of Theresa May’s approach to government.  On issue after issue – Brexit, relations with Russia, Hinkley Point – Theresa May appears to stake out a firm position, only to retreat from it at the first sign of trouble.

We now have the most spectacular example of this.

Just seven days ago Chancellor Philip Hammond, Theresa May’s Finance Minister, announced an increase in national insurance contributors for self-employed people.  At a time when Britain’s budget remains under stress, with deficits now expected to continue into the all but indefinite future, and with Britain’s health and education services experiencing a severe funding crisis, this small tax increase makes complete sense even if the amount it raises is small.

In the event the move provoked a wholly predictable outcry from certain sections of the Conservative media and amongst some MPs of Theresa May’s own Conservative Party.  Where a strong Prime Minister – a Margaret Thatcher say – would have brushed such protests aside, Theresa May took just seven days to capitulate to them, cancelling the tax increase whilst getting her staff to brief against Hammond, whom they have unfairly blamed for the whole debacle.

The result is that Theresa May today has been humiliated, whilst her relationship with Philip Hammond – previously thought to be a close ally and the single most important minister in the government apart from Theresa May herself – has now been soured.

Theresa May has up to now been an undeservedly lucky Prime Minister.  The intense hostility of the British political class to the Labour Party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn, the strong if ultimately unsustainable growth of the British economy since the Brexit referendum, the popularity of the Brexit policy Theresa May has because of the court decisions stumbled into, and the misleading appearance of strength and competence Theresa May has up to now successfully managed to convey, have concealed her weakness, and made her popular.

The result is that though the essential characteristic of her government is drift, with Theresa May failing to chart a course for Britain post-Brexit and invariably taking the line of least resistance on any issue, there is no obvious challenger or alternative to her, and she looks certain to remain Prime Minister for a long time.  This even as nothing is done to prepare Britain for life after Brexit, as the negotiating strategy for Brexit remains a closed book, and as Scotland looks increasingly likely to secede.

It was once said of the Habsburg empire that shortly before its fall administration had replaced government, with the empire’s ministers concerning themselves with purely routine matters as the multiple crises that threatened the empire’s existence steadily built up.

Whether that was ever actually true of the Habsburg empire is highly debatable.  It is however increasingly becoming true of Britain.  Under Theresa May administration has replaced government.

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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