Friday, 18 May 2018: Neil Hamilton ousted as Ukip leader in Welsh Assembly, EU to block Trump’s Iran sanctions by activating old law, Commission refers 6 countries to EU court over foul air, Torra sworn in as Catalan president


Neil Hamilton ousted as Ukip leader in Welsh Assembly: Neil Hamilton has been ousted as Ukip group leader in the Welsh Assembly. The former Conservative MP has been replaced by Caroline Jones. This comes after a day of wrangling over the Mid and West Wales AM’s future at the helm of the group, and after reports of a heated meeting of the party’s AMs on Wednesday. Speaking to BBC Wales, Jones confirmed she had won a majority vote of the group, which was taken on Thursday afternoon. Sources told BBC Wales that a heated meeting of Ukip AMs took place on Wednesday, which Gareth Bennett was said to have left before it ended when it became apparent that a leadership challenge was on the cards.

Bercow accused of making ’stupid woman‘ remark to Andrea Leadsom: Tension between the Speaker, John Bercow, and government ministers have flared into the open in an unprecedented series of exchanges in the chamber of the House of Commons over the past 48 hours. On Wednesday, Bercow was heard by some MPs calling Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House, a “stupid woman”. The aside apparently came after prime minister’s questions when Labour’s chief whip, Nick Brown, was complaining that the government was repeatedly breaching convention that time reserved for opposition debates should not be taken up with statements on government business. The Speaker’s office said that “strong and differing views” had been expressed in the chamber on an “unusual and controversial day” in the Commons.

McDonnell backs out of prison conference over ‚IRA apologist‘ claims: John McDonnell has withdrawn from speaking to the UK’s prison officers union following accusations from a delegate from Northern Ireland that he has supported the tactics of republican terrorists. The shadow chancellor travelled on Wednesday to the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) annual conference in Southport, Merseyside, expecting to address dozens of delegates. But he stood down from speaking following objections from a delegate and members, the union confirmed. One union member described him as “an IRA apologist”.

Business: Fracking planning laws should be relaxed say ministers
Commonwealth immigration: Windrush victim’s mother accuses UK government of racism
Grenfell Tower: Government will consult on cladding ban
Corbyn’s biggest union backer: Len McCluskey encourages Labour members to oust ’stale‘ MPs


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EU to block Trump’s Iran sanctions by activating old law: The EU Commission will on Friday launch a trade defence law in response to US economic sanctions against Iran in a bid to keep the nuclear accord with Tehran alive, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday in Sofia. EU leaders decided Wednesday night to activate the so-called blocking statute, which bans European companies from complying with the US sanctions against Iran. The EU is seeking to keep Iran in the 2015 accord by safeguarding the economic benefits Tehran gained in return for giving up its nuclear programme. French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out on Thursday any trade war with the United States over its withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal as a wave of European companies quit business with Tehran, fearing the global reach of US sanctions. Macron acknowledged the predicament of firms wanting to trade with Iran or invest there, especially multinationals with close business ties to the United States. But he made clear bigger matters were at stake.,,

Commission refers 6 countries to EU court over foul air: The European Commission will take France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Britain to the EU Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality limits, the EU executive said on Thursday. The move follows a summit in January in which the Commission said it would get tough on member states that were still in breach of targets introduced for 2005 and 2010. Germany, France and the UK were sent to the European Court of Justice for breaching EU standards for nitrogen dioxide limits. Italy, Hungary and Romania will face the court over breaching particulate matter standards. Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic avoided court by promising measures that would allow them to live up to EU air quality rules.,

Britain will leave customs union: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday Britain would leave the EU customs union after Brexit but a source said London was considering a backstop plan that would apply the bloc’s external tariffs beyond December 2020. Asked about reports that London would ask to stay in the European Union’s customs area beyond the end of a post-Brexit transition period in 2020, May denied she was “climbing down” on plans to leave. Earlier, the source, who is familiar with the discussions, said on condition of anonymity the government was trying to find a way to make the backstop arrangement more acceptable to Britain rather than seeking an extension of a transition period.

Trump reassures and warns Kim Jong Un: US President Donald Trump on Thursday said US and North Korean officials are continuing to prepare for a scheduled diplomatic summit next month, even as North Korea threatened in recent days to pull out of what would be a historic first meeting between a North Korean leader and US president. Trump also reassured Kim Jong Un the North Korean leader would remain in power if he abandons his nuclear weapons programme. Trump on Thursday said he will know “very soon” whether his much-anticipated meeting with Kim Jong Un will take place in Singapore next month, after the North Korean leader threatened to abandon the historic summit. In a media blitz Wednesday night and Thursday, Trump’s lawyer Rudolph Giuliani told Fox and CNN he had received assurances that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will not indict the president while he is in office. The US Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel as the next CIA director.,,,

European Commission secretary-general: EU watchdog confirms Selmayr probe
Data: Facebook’s Zuckerberg bound for Brussels
Tax: Apple to fight EU Irish tax case without US support role


I’m in favour of us Europeans putting an offer on the table. Before announcing that we are raising tariffs across the board, I would rather suggest lowering tariffs across the board.
The European Union should present an offer to the United States to secure lower tariffs on a broad spectrum of goods and avoid a spiral of trade barriers, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Thursday.,


Torra sworn in as Catalan president: Quim Torra has been sworn in as the 131st president of Catalonia. Torra, a hardline Catalan nationalist handpicked by the region’s deposed president, Carles Puigdemont, was elected by 66 votes to 65 on Monday and assumed office at a low-key ceremony in Barcelona on Thursday. Torra pledged to be „loyal to the will of the Catalan people and its representatives in parliament“. The oath did not mention loyalty to the Spanish king nor to the country’s constitution, as it was the tradition until Torra’s predecessor, Carles Puigdemont. Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy has offered talks with Torra although he stressed that they would have to be within the law.,,

Italian parties agree government programme: Italy’s two anti-establishment parties agreed the basis for a governing accord on Thursday that would slash taxes, ramp up welfare spending and pose the biggest challenge to the EU since Britain voted to leave the bloc two years ago. However, Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio said Italy’s populist parties have yet to agree on a candidate for prime minister. The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the far-right League plan to halt the sale of Italy’s insolvent national airline Alitalia, which has already received three offers, the League’s economics chief Claudio Borghi said on Thursday.,,

Bosnia says it will stop illegal migration amid increase: Bosnia police will increase patrols along its borders with Serbia and Montenegro to prevent a growing influx of migrants illegally trying to reach Western Europe, a top official said Thursday. Migrants have recently turned to Bosnia to avoid more heavy guarded routes and borders in other Balkan countries. Hundreds have been camping outdoors in Sarajevo, the capital, and other towns. There are fears the migrant influx could put strain on Bosnia’s economy which remains weak more than two decades after the 1992-95 war.

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Greece and Macedonia inch closer to name accord: Greece and Macedonia said on Thursday they had made progress in talks to settle a decades-old name dispute, though Athens cautioned it was early to talk of a deal. “I believe we have covered a great part of the distance, but we have more to cover,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told journalists. He said progress had been substantive but that negotiations were complex and ‘multi-layered’. The name of Macedonia has been a source of contention between the two countries for decades, frustrating hopes of the tiny but strategically placed Balkan state of joining Nato, and the European Union, where Greece has veto rights.

French parliament adopts sexual harassment initiative: France’s National Assembly has voted in favour of a legislative proposal that will make unwanted advances on women in the public space a punishable offence. The proposal, spearheaded by French Minister for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa, establishes a minimum penalty of €90 for sexual harassment and acts of sexism in the public space. Punishable offences would include unwanted gestures or comments on another person’s physical appearance, whistling, and following a person from a distance, among other behaviours. The proposal requires a police officer to witness acts of harassment first-hand in order to issue a fine.

France: Police arrest two female suspects after knife attack
Compensation: Greece convicted of bad prison conditions for HIV-positive people
Germany: Prosecutors drop probe into AfD leader accused of inciting hatred

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Meghan Markle’s father will not be at her wedding: Meghan Markle has finally confirmed her father will not attend her wedding to the UK’s Prince Harry. Thomas Markle had been due to walk his daughter down the aisle in front of a congregation of senior royals, celebrities, friends and a TV audience of hundreds of millions. The announcement has ended days of speculation that have overshadowed the build-up to the ceremony. The couple are due to get married on Saturday in the 15th-century St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.



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