May: Back My Brexit Deal, Let Britain ‘Turn a Corner’

British Prime Minister Theresa May urged lawmakers on Monday to back her Brexit deal, promising that it would allow the country to “turn a corner” and let the government focus on solving domestic problems such as housing and a skill shortage.

May made the appeal in a New Year’s message little more than two weeks before a make-or-break vote in parliament on her plan for Britain’s exit from the European Union which is due to happen on March 29.

The vote, which May postponed in December to avoid defeat, will be a pivotal moment for the world’s fifth-largest economy: it will determine whether Britain follows her plan for a managed exit and relatively close economic ties, or faces massive uncertainty about the country’s next step.

“New Year is a time to look ahead and in 2019 the UK will start a new chapter. The Brexit deal I have negotiated delivers on the vote of the British people and in the next few weeks MPs (members of parliament) will have an important decision to make,” May said in a video released by her office. “If parliament backs a deal, Britain can turn a corner.”

Conservative Party

Attempting to appeal to those within her Conservative Party who have criticized her leadership, and responding to criticism from opponents that Brexit has stalled her domestic agenda, May stressed her desire to move beyond the EU exit debate.

“Important though Brexit is, it is not the only issue that counts,” she said, highlighting policies to address a lack of housing, skills shortages and strengthen the economy. “Together I believe we can start a new chapter with optimism and hope.”

The vote on May’s Brexit deal with the EU is scheduled to take place in the week beginning Jan. 14.

May is still seeking reassurances from Brussels that a deeply unpopular fallback arrangement within her proposed deal, over the Northern Irish border, would only be temporary.

Northern Ireland

It seeks to prevent the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland if a better solution to keep trade flowing freely cannot be agreed.

The so-called backstop is the main obstacle between May and a victory in parliament, costing her the support of dozens of members of her own party and the small Northern Irish party that props up her minority government.

The government and businesses are ramping up preparations in case a deal cannot be reached to smooth Britain’s exit from the bloc, amid warnings of delays at borders and disruption to supplies of medicines, food and components.

 

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May: Back My Brexit Deal, Let Britain ‘Turn a Corner’

British Prime Minister Theresa May urged lawmakers on Monday to back her Brexit deal, promising that it would allow the country to “turn a corner” and let the government focus on solving domestic problems such as housing and a skill shortage.

May made the appeal in a New Year’s message little more than two weeks before a make-or-break vote in parliament on her plan for Britain’s exit from the European Union which is due to happen on March 29.

The vote, which May postponed in December to avoid defeat, will be a pivotal moment for the world’s fifth-largest economy: it will determine whether Britain follows her plan for a managed exit and relatively close economic ties, or faces massive uncertainty about the country’s next step.

“New Year is a time to look ahead and in 2019 the UK will start a new chapter. The Brexit deal I have negotiated delivers on the vote of the British people and in the next few weeks MPs (members of parliament) will have an important decision to make,” May said in a video released by her office. “If parliament backs a deal, Britain can turn a corner.”

Conservative Party

Attempting to appeal to those within her Conservative Party who have criticized her leadership, and responding to criticism from opponents that Brexit has stalled her domestic agenda, May stressed her desire to move beyond the EU exit debate.

“Important though Brexit is, it is not the only issue that counts,” she said, highlighting policies to address a lack of housing, skills shortages and strengthen the economy. “Together I believe we can start a new chapter with optimism and hope.”

The vote on May’s Brexit deal with the EU is scheduled to take place in the week beginning Jan. 14.

May is still seeking reassurances from Brussels that a deeply unpopular fallback arrangement within her proposed deal, over the Northern Irish border, would only be temporary.

Northern Ireland

It seeks to prevent the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland if a better solution to keep trade flowing freely cannot be agreed.

The so-called backstop is the main obstacle between May and a victory in parliament, costing her the support of dozens of members of her own party and the small Northern Irish party that props up her minority government.

The government and businesses are ramping up preparations in case a deal cannot be reached to smooth Britain’s exit from the bloc, amid warnings of delays at borders and disruption to supplies of medicines, food and components.

 

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Australia Raises Concern for Detained Canadians in China

Australia has issued a statement raising concerns about China’s detention of two Canadian citizens after foreign policy experts questioned why Canberra had been silent. 

The arrests of entrepreneur Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, a former former diplomat, earlier this month came after Canada detained a Huawei executive in Vancouver at the request of the United States.  

There was swift condemnation of the arrest of two Canadians by the European Union, Britain, Germany and France. They were concerned about the apparent political motivation of their detention. China accused Spavor and Kovrig of endangering state security.   

Despite the international outcry, Australia — another of Canada’s key western allies — stayed silent. There was no official explanation, but a group of 30 academics and former diplomats signed a petition urging Canberra to call for the pair to be freed.

Shoulder-to-shoulder

Rory Medcalf, the head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, says Australia must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Canada.

“If middle-sized democracies do not stand together against offensive behavior by China on the international stage, then one-by-one we will be subjected to similar punishment or bullying on those occasions when our interests clash with China’s,” Medcalf said.

In response, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a brief statement, which does not back Canada’s call for the two men to be immediately released.

“The Australian government is concerned about the recent detention of two Canadian citizens in China,” Payne said. “We would be very concerned if these cases were related to legal proceedings currently under way in Canada involving a Chinese citizen, Ms Meng Wanzhou.”

Trading partners

China is Australia’s biggest trading partner. But relations have soured in recent times over allegations that Beijing has meddled in Australia’s domestic politics, while Canberra has been accused by China of cyber espionage. 

Earlier this month, Australia said its companies were among the global victims of an extensive campaign of cyber espionage attacks backed by the Chinese government. 

Canberra said cybercrime had “the potential to undermine global economic growth, national security and international stability.”

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Australia Raises Concern for Detained Canadians in China

Australia has issued a statement raising concerns about China’s detention of two Canadian citizens after foreign policy experts questioned why Canberra had been silent. 

The arrests of entrepreneur Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, a former former diplomat, earlier this month came after Canada detained a Huawei executive in Vancouver at the request of the United States.  

There was swift condemnation of the arrest of two Canadians by the European Union, Britain, Germany and France. They were concerned about the apparent political motivation of their detention. China accused Spavor and Kovrig of endangering state security.   

Despite the international outcry, Australia — another of Canada’s key western allies — stayed silent. There was no official explanation, but a group of 30 academics and former diplomats signed a petition urging Canberra to call for the pair to be freed.

Shoulder-to-shoulder

Rory Medcalf, the head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, says Australia must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Canada.

“If middle-sized democracies do not stand together against offensive behavior by China on the international stage, then one-by-one we will be subjected to similar punishment or bullying on those occasions when our interests clash with China’s,” Medcalf said.

In response, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a brief statement, which does not back Canada’s call for the two men to be immediately released.

“The Australian government is concerned about the recent detention of two Canadian citizens in China,” Payne said. “We would be very concerned if these cases were related to legal proceedings currently under way in Canada involving a Chinese citizen, Ms Meng Wanzhou.”

Trading partners

China is Australia’s biggest trading partner. But relations have soured in recent times over allegations that Beijing has meddled in Australia’s domestic politics, while Canberra has been accused by China of cyber espionage. 

Earlier this month, Australia said its companies were among the global victims of an extensive campaign of cyber espionage attacks backed by the Chinese government. 

Canberra said cybercrime had “the potential to undermine global economic growth, national security and international stability.”

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France’s Macron Pledges More Reform Medicine in ‘Decisive’ 2019

France’s embattled president, Emmanuel Macron, vowed on Monday to press on with his reform agenda in 2019 despite a spate of “yellow vest” protests that have challenged his government and extended a plunge in his approval ratings.

Promised overhauls of France’s unemployment benefits, civil service and public pensions will be undertaken in the coming year, Macron said in his televised New Year message.

Unapologetic tone

Confounding some expectations of a more contrite message, Macron struck an unapologetic note as he urged voters to face up to economic realities underpinning recently enacted reforms of French labor rules, and others yet to come.

“In recent years, we’ve engaged in a blatant denial of reality,” Macron said in the address, delivered — unusually —  from a standing position in his Elysee Palace office.

“We can’t work less, earn more, cut taxes and increase spending.”

In a veiled attack on the far-left and hard-right groupings active on the fringes of the often violent protests, Macron also decried self-appointed “spokespeople for a hateful mob” who he said had targeted foreigners, Jews, gays and the press.

Popularity at all-time low

Almost 20 months after he became France’s youngest president, Macron’s popularity is at the lowest level recorded in modern French history.

It stood at just 24 percent in late December compared to 47 percent a year earlier, according to a Journal du Dimanche aggregate of polls, as he struggled to draw a line under numerous setbacks.

The current wave of demonstrations, which have brought disruption and destruction to Paris and other major cities, has yet to abate despite fiscal giveaways and an increase in the wage for the poorest workers.

Protesters were expected to join the New Year crowds thronging Paris’s Champs-Elysees Avenue overnight, amid a heavy police presence.

Bodyguard scandal

A scandal over Macron’s former bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, who was eventually fired after video emerged of him beating protestors, has resurfaced with the revelation that he continued to travel on diplomatic passports and exchange messages with Macron long after his dismissal.

Macron said efforts to bolster international controls on immigration and tax evasion would be at the heart of European Union proposals he plans to announce in “coming weeks” — to be pursued in parallel with a domestic agenda reconciling ambitious reform with France’s commitment to social solidarity.

“This is the line I have followed since the first day of my mandate, and which I plan to keep following,” he said. “This coming year, 2019, is in my view a decisive one.”

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Videos Show Staff Dragging, Shoving Immigrant Kids

Arizona authorities said Monday they sent prosecutors the results of an investigation into a now-shuttered shelter for immigrant children where videos showed staffers dragging and shoving kids.  

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office investigated incidents that took place on three days in September. Prosecutors will now decide whether to file charges.

The videos first obtained by The Arizona Republic are blurry but show staffers dragging children on the ground and shoving a boy against a door. In one video, a staffer is seen sitting at a conference room table, fidgeting with her hair, while another staffer drags a child into the room. The treatment continued even after the child falls to the ground. 

Facility closed in October

The shelter, known as Hacienda del Sol, was operated by Southwest Key and located in the metro Phoenix area before it was closed in October. It held immigrant children who came to the U.S. without a parent or in some cases were separated from family.

Southwest Key has been under fire in Arizona after a series of investigations into abuse of children in its care.

​The Texas-based organization is the largest provider of shelters for immigrant children in the country and agreed this year to give up licenses at two of its biggest Arizona facilities at a time when the U.S. government is holding more children in its care and for longer periods of time.

Before the investigations, Southwest Key had about 1,600 kids in 13 facilities in Arizona. That number was cut in about half by the end of the year. 

Shelter shuttered

Southwest Key was forced to shutter Hacienda del Sol in an agreement with the state health department after an investigation found the organization hadn’t properly done background checks on all of its employees. It also was required to take other steps to ensure the safety of children in its care.

Southwest Key spokesman Jeff Eller said Monday that staff members who monitored video at Hacienda del Sol immediately notified police and the government agencies about the incidents seen on the videos.

He said the organization cooperated with the investigation and quickly suspended, and later fired, the two employees in the video. 

“We wholeheartedly welcomed the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s decision to suspend operations at Hacienda del Sol and are working to thoroughly retrain our staff,” Eller said.

Southwest Key has also arranged an independent review of procedures, hiring and training at its Arizona shelters, he said.

 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is in charge of caring for immigrant children, said its focus is on the safety and best interest of each child. 

“These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances,” it said in a statement. “When any allegations of abuse or neglect are made they are taken seriously, investigated and swift action is taken.”

Sexual abuse allegations

Immigration facilities in Arizona have been targeted by numerous allegations of sexual abuse, including one by the government of El Salvador, which said it received reports of three children, 12 to 17, who were sexually abused at unnamed shelters.

In August, police arrested a 33-year-old man on suspicion of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl at the same Southwest Key shelter where just weeks earlier first lady Melania Trump had taken a tour.

In September, a former youth care worker was convicted of sexually abusing seven teenage boys at a Phoenix-area shelter for immigrant children.

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