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LONDON (Reuters) – The future of Britain’s exit from the European Union hung in the balance on Tuesday as lawmakers prepared to vote on a divorce deal after Prime Minister Theresa May won last-minute assurances from the European Union.
Scrambling to plot an orderly path out of the Brexit maze just days before the United Kingdom is due to leave, May rushed to Strasbourg on Monday to agree ‘legally binding’ assurances with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
British lawmakers, who on Jan. 15 voted 432-202 against her deal, were on Tuesday studying the assurances with lawyers. The government’s top lawyer, Geoffrey Cox, is due to give his opinion on Tuesday ahead of the vote due around 1900 GMT.
“We have secured legal changes,” May said in a late night news conference in Strasbourg beside Juncker, 17 days before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29.
May said the assurances created an arbitration channel for any disputes on the backstop, “entrenches in legally-binding form” existing commitments that it will be temporary and binds the UK and EU to starting work on replacing the backstop with other arrangements by December 2020.
After two-and-a-half years of haggling since the 2016 Brexit referendum, Juncker cautioned this was the last chance for Britain. “It is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all,” he said.
Sterling rose 1.5 percent against the dollar and to a near two-year high against the euro.
If lawmakers vote down May’s deal, she has promised a vote on Wednesday on whether to leave without a deal and, if they reject that, then a vote on whether to ask for a limited delay to Brexit.
Homosexuality is still illegal in nearly 40% of countries in the United Nations, while being gay is punishable by death in a number of US-allied countries, such as Saudi Arabia.
Donald Trump appeared unaware of his own administration’s plans to push for global decriminalization of homosexuality.
When asked about it by a reporter on Wednesday, Trump said: “I don’t know which report you’re talking about. We have many reports.”
NBC News reported the White House’s plans to campaign for a change in laws in dozens of countries where it is illegal to be gay.
LGBT activists have expressed skepticism of the campaign in light of Trump’s policies in the US, which have appeared to be anti-LGBT.
AIWA! NO!|US President Donald Trump seemed unaware of his own administration’s plans to end the criminalization of homosexuality around the world when asked about it on Wednesday.
Following reports that the Trump administration will launch a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality, a reporter asked Trump in the Oval Office: “Mr. President, on your push to decriminalize homosexuality, are you doing that? And why?”Trump asked the reporter to repeat the question, and then said: “I don’t know which report you’re talking about. We have many reports.”
NBC News reported on Tuesday that the Trump White House would campaign for a change in laws in dozens of countries where it is illegal to be gay, citing administration officials.
The campaign is aimed in part at denouncing Iran’s human rights record, NBC News said.
Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, who is openly gay, plans to lead the campaign and discussed the effort with a dozen LGBTQ activists from around Europe at a dinner in Berlin on Tuesday night, The New York Times reported.
But the Times noted that the State Department in Washington has not announced a new global campaign, making it unclear how official or powerful the ambassador’s plan is, or how it differs from current US policy.In an interview with NBC News, Grenell said that the effort would be much broader than putting pressure on Iran. “This is not just about Iran,” he said. “This is about 71 countries, and Iran is one of them.”
Homosexuality is still illegal in nearly 40% of countries in the United Nations, while being gay is punishable by death in a number of US-allied countries, such as Saudi Arabia. It is not clear how much pressure the US would put on these allies.
Grenell said that the Trump administration has the backing of Republicans to lead the efforts.
LGBT activists have expressed skepticism of the campaign in light of Trump’s policies in the US.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) told NBC News: “We’d believe that the Trump administration will work to protect LGBTQ people around the world if they had not attacked LGBTQ people in the US over 90 times since taking office.”
While he campaigned on a platform of helping LGBT people, Trump has faced widespread criticism for moves like banning transgender service people from the military and for promoting anti-LGBT figures to key posts in his administration.
Stuart Milk, an LGBT activist and nephew of civil rights leader Harvey Milk, who was at Grenell’s dinner in Berlin, told NBC News that he would support any campaign for decriminalization but noted that it is “unique” to have a right-leaning administration “leading the charge on an issue that does make a difference in people’s lives.”
“My criticism of the Trump administration has been steady,” Milk said. “I have actually said that policies coming out of the White House and statements have been life-negating, not just for LGBT people but for many, many communities.”
“But when any administration does something right, we’re going to be there.”
AIWA! NO!| Rancor and recriminations were the order of the day with allies as well as adversaries turning on each other in one of the most important gatherings of the Munich Security Conference in recent years.
Efforts were supposed to be made, at least among western countries, to find common ground on a range of issues from the Middle East after the end of the Isis caliphate to cyber warfare, Brexit, extremism and climate change.
Instead the US vice president Mike Pence attacked European states for not joining Washington in pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran and failing to fully follow the American line on the Venezuelan crisis.
Repeatedly praising Donald Trump for his allegedly “remarkable” and “extraordinary” qualities which have made “America stronger than ever before”, enabling it to “lead on the world stage again”, Mr Pence derided Nato allies.
His speech was greeted with muted cheering, with Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner clapping enthusiastically, but a significant number of those present staying silent and some of his remarks being greeted with whispered mockery.
The criticism was not just one way.
Angela Merkel warned of the dangers in American isolationism and staunchly defended multilateral institutions under threat from US policy.
The German chancellor defended the Iran deal, condemning Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from it, and questioned his decision to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. Ms Merkel also rebuffed US demands that her government scrap a gas deal with Moscow under which a new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, being built under the Baltic, will bring Russian gas directly to Germany.
She highlighted a statement by a US official that German cars were a security threat to America, to show the attitude to trade held by some in Washington. “We are proud of our cars and so we should be … If it is viewed as a security threat to the United States then we are shocked,” said Ms Merkel, adding that many were manufactured in the US and exported to countries like China.
Warning of attacks on international organisations of the type Mr Trump is in the habit of making, Ms Merkel commented: “We cannot just smash it, we need to cooperate … Now that we see pressure on the classic order we are used to, the question now is, ‘Do we fall apart into pieces of a puzzle and think everyone can solve the question best for himself alone?’”.
It would be wiser, she said, “to put yourself in the others’ shoes … and see whether we can get win-win solutions together”.
Germany is among international powers – along with Britain, France, Russia and China – which signed the nuclear agreement with Tehran. All these countries, as well as the UN Atomic Energy Authority, stress that the deal was working in preventing Iran developing a nuclear arsenal and that Tehran was abiding by its obligations.
European countries have organised a payment mechanism under which businesses and banks would, in theory, be able to trade with Iran without incurring American sanctions. Mike Pence said: “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure. The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining US sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime.”
When Mr Pence went on to accuse Iran of sponsoring terrorism there were some whispered comments among some in the room about Gulf states, which are major purchasers of American arms, funding extremist Islamist groups. There were also sotto voce comments about the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi for which officials close to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, an American ally close to Mr Kushner, have been blamed.
Mr Pence is part of the largest American delegation ever sent to the Munich conference. It includes senior Democrats like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi who are vocal critics of Mr Trump. Mr Biden is expected to criticise current US policy in a number of fields, including foreign policy, when he speaks at a session.
It was not surprising, in this acrimonious atmosphere, to hear the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov round on the west for a catalogue of alleged wrongdoing past and present, from the “illegal bombing of Serbia” and “organising a coup in Kiev” to the “aggressive” stance being taken by western politicians.
British defence secretary Gavin Williamson, who had attacked Russia in a speech at the conference on Friday for its role in a number of conflicts, got a special mention. “If you listen to some people like the minister of war – sorry the minister of defence – of the United Kingdom then you might get an impression that nobody except Nato has the right to be anywhere,” said Mr Lavrov.
The open letter sent to The Times – signed by businessmen, politicians, and others – argues that “from the bottom of our hearts” Britain should not leave the political and economic bloc.
“Britain has become part of who we are as Europeans,” the letter says. “We would miss Britain as part of the European Union, especially in these troubled times. Therefore Britons should know: from the bottom of our hearts, we want them to stay.”
The impassioned plea also makes reference to the U.K.’s role in post-war Europe and the two countries’ shared histories.
“Without your great nation, this Continent would not be what it is today,” they wrote, adding that the U.K. did “not give up on us” and welcomed Germany back into the European community.
“This we, as Germans, have not forgotten and we are grateful.”
The letter was also somewhat tongue-in-cheek, saying that they would also miss “the legendary British black humor,” after-work trips to the pub, as well as “tea with milk and driving on the left-hand side of the road.”
“And we would miss seeing the panto at Christmas,” the letter continues. “But more than anything else, we would miss the British people – our friends across the Channel.”
Annegret Kramp-Karrenauer, who became the leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union last month and will likely succeed Merkel as German chancellor, was the most high-profile signatory of the letters. Others included business leaders like the president of the Federation of German industries and senior executives at Daimler and Airbus, as well as former German soccer player Jen Lehmann and singer Campino.
The letter comes as former U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Theresa May’s Brexit deal – which failed in a parliament vote earlier this week – is “deceased” and urged her to return to Brussels and use the defeat as leverage for a better deal from the E.U. leaders.
He dodged a question of whether he would support May as party leader if a sudden general election is called, saying one wouldn’t be necessary.
“Go back to Brussels and get a better deal,” he urged May, even though E.U. leaders have said the withdrawal agreement won’t be renegotiated.
May will publish her revived Brexit blueprint on Monday, before lawmakers debate it on Jan. 29.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang
Although it can be difficult to sit through an entire episode, Question Time is a great chance to gauge the opinions of the nation outside of the Westminster bubble.
A perfect example of this occurred on Thursday night where audience members in Derby, first applauded the journalist Isabel Oakeshott for suggesting that a no deal is the only option left for Theresa May in her Brexit negotiations.
Just moments later Anand Menon, the director of the Brexit thinktank UK in a Changing EU, made a brilliant point about how bad a no deal would be for the UK and won even more praise for this short explanation.
I think it is very, very important to be clear about a no deal. No deal isn’t like buying something.
It isn’t like going to a shop and if you don’t find anything you don’t like you walk home again. You don’t end up back where you started.
No deal with the European Union means all the laws that govern our interaction with the EU, whether you can fly, whether you can trade, whether you can shop, whether you can travel, cease to exist.
I don’t know what people voted for when they voted to leave, the voted for lots of different reasons and they were told by the leave campaign that a deal would be easy and I don’t believe all of them voted for no deal.
If you think no deal is fine, that’s great but be aware of what it means. It means severe disruption and from the EU’s point of view, you are absolutely right, a no deal will hurt the Europeans in Calais, in Belgium, in Amsterdam.
One of the reasons the EU has remained united is that some member states don’t trade with us so they’ve got better things to worry about but no deal will hit is far worse than it will hit them.
The clip has already been viewed over 62,000 times on Twitter and people have been showering praise on Menon for his simple breakdown of what no deal would constitute.