Monday, 20 May 2019: May prepares last-ditch offer to MPs on Brexit bill, Austria to hold snap elections in September, Thousands take part in pro-Europe demonstrations, Switzerland votes for stricter gun laws


May prepares last-ditch offer to MPs on Brexit bill: Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a new and improved Brexit deal will be put to MPs when they vote on the EU withdrawal agreement bill in early June. Writing in the “Sunday Times”, May said the bill would be a bold offer. With the Conservatives on course for a drubbing in Thursday’s European elections, the prime minister hopes the results will focus the minds of her own MPs and persuade them to support the long-awaited bill. Cabinet minister Rory Stewart told the BBC he hoped extra guarantees on workers’ rights would enable sensible Labour MPs to support the government. But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would oppose the bill. May’s new Brexit offer to UK lawmakers retains the Northern Irish backstop and does not add anything new on customs arrangements, the “Telegraph” reported on Sunday. Ireland’s deputy prime minister has ruled out any renegotiation of the Brexit withdrawal deal if May is replaced as UK prime minister.,,,

Labour MP denies claims he was Czech spy: Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson has denied claims that he was a Cold War spy who passed confidential government files to communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960s. A report in “The Mail on Sunday” claimed Robinson passed information to the Czech StB state security service between 1966 and 1969 while working in Labour’s research department. Citing documents from the Czech archives, the paper alleged that material given to the communist authorities included sensitive details relating to Britain’s Polaris nuclear deterrent as well as Nato briefing notes. A spokesman for Robinson called the claims a lie in a strongly worded statement. Last year in a separate development, the Labour Party denied claims that party leader Jeremy Corbyn had either been a collaborator or an agent of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s.,

MEP calls for investigation into Farage’s undisclosed gifts: Nigel Farage could be investigated by the EU Parliament for failing to disclose 450,000 pounds worth of lavish gifts from insurance tycoon and Leave.EU co-founder Arron Banks, the “Independent” reported. Farage did not report a number of gifts from Banks, including a chauffeur-driven car, rent, and bills on a 4.4m pound Chelsea home, and lavish trips to the United States. Farage has denied the allegations, according to Channel 4 News, but a spokesperson for Banks confirmed the total amount of the gifts and their uses to the BBC, adding that it was an honour to help. Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder has called for a formal investigation.

Conservatives: Tories urge leadership contenders to prioritise climate emergency
European election: Corbyn defends Labour’s bid for both leavers and remainers


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Austria to hold snap elections in September: Austria will hold fresh elections following the collapse of the ruling coalition. President Alexander Van der Bellen said Sunday that he recommends snap parliamentary elections be held in early September following the Ibiza video scandal that has brought down the coalition government. The scandal prompted the resignation of Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) — the junior coalition partners in the ruling coalition. Strache also resigned as head of the FPÖ. Secretly filmed footage appeared to show Strache offering government contracts to a woman purporting to be a Russian investor in exchange for favours. At one point he proposes that she buy a controlling stake in Krone Zeitung, Austria’s top selling newspaper, and replace critical journalists with ones friendly to his party. It is unclear who set up the meeting, which allegedly took place at a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza in July 2017. The scandal is a blow to the FPÖ, one of Europe’s most successful nationalist groups, ahead of the European Parliament elections.,,,

Thousands take part in pro-Europe demonstrations: One week before voters head to the polls for the EU Parliament elections, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Germany on Sunday to voice their support for Europe and to send a message against nationalism and the far-right. The marches took place under the banner of “One Europe for Everyone: Your Voice against Nationalism,” with over 100 civil society organisations and political parties backing the demonstrations. Marches and other pro-EU events took place in cities across Europe. In Warsaw, EU Council President and Poland’s former prime minister, Donald Tusk, and numerous opposition figures led the “Poland in Europe” march through the downtown area. In Italy, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini led a rally of right-wing populist leaders Saturday, pledging to close Europe’s borders to migrants if Salvini’s League wins not just the most votes of any party in Italy, but also of Europe., (Pro-Europe rallies); (Nationalists)

EU’s Brexit negotiator says UK has right to an EU Commissioner: The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he is in favour of the UK nominating a new European Commissioner, along with other EU member countries, in an interview published Sunday by “Bild am Sonntag”. The UK had all the rights and responsibilities as long as it was an EU member, Barnier said. This included the right to a commissioner and the right to be represented by members of the EU Parliament. Barnier also said the current Brexit deal was the only way for the UK to leave the EU in an orderly manner.


Nationalism is the enemy of the European project.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on European politicians to stand up decisively to far-right populists.


Switzerland votes for stricter gun laws: A majority of voters in Switzerland have backed a tightening of gun laws to conform with EU regulations. New rules will restrict semi-automatic and automatic rifles and make it easier to track weapons in national databases. There will be exceptions for shooters, hunters and collectors. The vote was part of Switzerland’s regular referendums that give citizens a direct say in policymaking. Swiss voters have also approved a government plan to eliminate certain tax breaks for multinational companies, a measure aimed at bringing the country in line with international norms. The government plans to scrap special tax status for foreign companies that pay corporate rates in individual cantons as low as 7.8% to 12%, compared with 12% to 24% for “normal” Swiss companies., (Guns);, (Taxes)

Merkel’s European election campaign appearance in Croatia: German Chancellor Angela Merkel used an appearance at a rally in the Croatian capital Zagreb on Saturday to urge Europeans to reject nationalism when they vote in the European election next week. She said European voters faced a choice between liberal values and destructive nationalism. Merkel appeared at the rally alongside Manfred Weber, the EPP candidate for EU Commission President. Although Merkel warned of the dangers of nationalism, the rally also contained some nationalist elements. Loudspeakers played controversial song “Lijepa li si” (“How beautiful you are”) by nationalist singer Marko Perkovic, known as Thompson. The song refers to part of Bosnia-Herzegovina as the “proud heart” of Croatia.,

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Exxon evacuates staff from Iraqi oil field: Iraq’s Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban has criticised Exxon Mobil’s decision to evacuate all of its foreign staff from Iraq’s West Qurna 1 oil field. He said the withdrawal of staff happened for political reasons and had nothing to do with the security situation or a threat to the oil fields. Exxon has a long term contract to improve the West Qurna 1 field. Its evacuation came days after Washington sent non-essential staff home from the US embassy in Baghdad over what it said was a security alert caused by threats from Iran, which has close ties to Shiite militia groups operating in Iraq. US President Donald Trump issued a new threat to Iran on Sunday, tweeting that a conflict would be the “official end” of Iran. The heightened rhetoric follows last week’s attacks on Saudi oil assets and the firing of a rocket on Sunday into Baghdad’s heavily fortified “Green Zone” that exploded near the US embassy. Iran has denied involvement in either incident. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday invited Gulf and Arab leaders to convene emergency summits in Mecca on 30 May to discuss implications of the attacks.,,

Ukraine: Inauguration of Zelenskiy as president on Monday
Italy: “Sea Watch” migrants are allowed to go ashore in Lampedusa

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Problems with another German government plane: An inaugural visit to Bulgaria by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was held up on Sunday after a problem was found on the plane he was due to fly on to Sofia. The plane’s pilot said an auxiliary turbine failed, forcing engineers to arrange a workaround. Maas ended up flying from Berlin to Sofia an hour later on the Bundeswehr Airbus A321. He was still able to meet Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, although the meeting had to be postponed by one hour. The foreign minister’s bad luck is only the tip of the iceberg. The German government’s aging fleet of fourteen planes that carry ministers and the president has encountered numerous problems over the past few months.,


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