Tuesday, 12 February 2019: May preparing to resign in the summer, say reports, UK and Switzerland sign trade agreement, Spain’s PM may call snap elections, Pompeo raises concerns about Russia in Hungary


May preparing to resign in the summer, say reports: Cabinet ministers believe that Theresa May is preparing to resign as British Prime Minister this summer so she can influence who succeeds her, „The Sun“ newspaper reported on Monday. Under the suspected plan, May would call time on her premiership shortly after finally delivering Brexit. At least two senior figures in the cabinet have come to that conclusion from hints the PM has personally given them, „The Sun“ has been told. In January, British lawmakers rejected May’s original Brexit deal that set out the terms by which Britain would leave the EU.
uk.reuters.com, thesun.co.uk

Labour has looked into 673 cases of alleged antisemitism: The Labour Party has received 673 complaints in ten months alleging acts of antisemitism by its members. The party revealed the figures in an email to MPs, and suggested no earlier figures could be compiled because there was no consistent and comprehensive system for recording and processing cases of antisemitism. However, the party’s former general secretary Iain McNicol disputed that claim in a private meeting with Labour MPs on Monday night, saying such a system had been in place. Labour has struggled to contain a long-running row over anti-Semitism. At a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party last week, MPs unanimously passed a motion urging the leadership to do more to tackle it.
bbc.com, theguardian.com

Grayling urged to quit as spending on Brexit ferry deal consultants revealed: Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is facing calls to resign after auditors found his department spent £800,000 of public money on consultants assessing the bid of a company with no ships that was temporarily awarded a Brexit-related ferry contract. A report by Whitehall’s spending watchdog found the Department for Transport spent approximately £800,000 on its external consultants Slaughter and May, Deloitte and Mott MacDonald. The emergence of the spending appears to contradict Grayling’s statement in the House of Commons on Monday, when he said: „We haven’t spent any money on this contract“.

Food banks: Amber Rudd links universal credit to rise in food bank use bbc.com
Fiona Onasanya: Peterborough MP to appeal against conviction bbc.com
Government proposals: Taxi and private hire drivers to face enhanced checks bbc.com


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UK and Switzerland sign trade agreement: Britain and Switzerland have signed a deal to continue trading after Brexit as they did before it. The deal reflects Switzerland’s strategy of ensuring seamless trade ties with Britain, regardless of whether London is able to strike and approve a formal exit agreement with Brussels. The UK is seeking to replicate about 40 EU free trade agreements, covering more than 70 countries. The government said last month it expects Britain will have most of the agreements it needs to replicate existing trade deals between the EU and third countries ready by the end of March. British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that Britain should be ready to use military force to support its global interests after Brexit, adding that the boundaries between peace and war are becoming blurred. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday appeared to welcome the idea of a customs union arrangement with Britain. He said something had to give on the British side of the negotiations if the Brexit impasse is to be broken.
bbc.com, uk.reuters.com (Trade deal); euractiv.com (Military); dw.com, theguardian.com (Barnier)

EU finance ministers discuss eurozone budget: European Union finance ministers discussed Monday how to set up a budget for countries sharing the single euro currency to help the euro one integrate more closely. The starting point is an agreement by EU leaders from December, under which a eurozone budget would be part of the broader, seven-year EU budget, with a yet to be decided exact size and features. France, representing the most ambitious view, has been pushing hard for a large, separate pool of money for the eurozone, financed from dedicated taxes and national contributions.

EU could hit Cambodia with trade sanctions: The European Union has started an 18-month process on Monday that could lead to the suspension of Cambodia’s duty-free trade access over its record on human rights and democracy. Launching the process does not entail an immediate removal of tariff preferences, which would be the option of last resort. Instead, it kicks off a period of intensive monitoring and engagement. Cambodia benefits from the EU’s „Everything but Arms“ (EBA) trade regime, which allows the world’s poorest countries to sell any goods, except weapons, tariff-free into the bloc. EBA preferences can be removed if beneficiary countries fail to respect core human rights.
reuters.com, europa.eu

Countries push to take Saudis off EU money laundering blacklist: Britain is leading a group of European Union states who are trying to block an EU plan to include Saudi Arabia and 22 other jurisdictions on a blacklist of countries that pose money-laundering and terrorism financing threats, „Reuters“ reported. The EU Commission adopted last month a draft list that adds Saudi Arabia, Panama and small Pacific and Caribbean islands to the existing list of 16 states, which currently includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and North Korea. The list needs the endorsement of a majority of the 28 EU nations but Britain and other heavyweights of the bloc, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain, are raising concerns.

Trade agreement: EU opens new loophole for financial investors in Singapore handelsblatt.com
Ifo Institute for Economic Research: World economic climate suffers another setback handelsblatt.com


Given the prevailing strategic outlooks in Washington, Beijing, and Moscow, expectations of a new era of great power competition are seeming to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A new age of competition between major global powers like China, the United States and Russia leaves the world facing an unpredictable and more hostile future, according to a report for the Munich Security Conference.


Spain’s PM may call snap elections: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is considering calling a snap election for mid-April, news agency EFE said on Monday, as the government scrambles to find the support it needs to get a pivotal vote on the 2019 budget through parliament. Sanchez’s ruling Socialists hold less than a quarter of the seats in the lower house, and there has been speculation about whether it will serve a full term since it took office last summer when the conservative People’s Party lost a confidence vote. Leaders of the Catalan independence movement will go before Spain’s Supreme Court this week to face criminal charges including rebellion and violating court orders. The trial, set to begin on Tuesday in Madrid, is likely to revive debates and stir emotions over Catalonia’s botched secession attempt in 2017.
reuters.com, nytimes.com

Right-wing parties win regional Italian election: A coalition of right-wing Italian parties has won a regional election in the Abruzzo region. The right-wing alliance, which includes the League, the Brothers of Italy and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, won 48%. The League won almost 28% of the vote, but its national ruling coalition partner, the anti-establishment 5Star Movement, finished third with just over 20%, about half its score in the general election. The contest in Abruzzo, a small mountainous region to the east of Rome, was the first in which the 5Stars and the League have competed against each other since they teamed up to form the national government last June. Meanwhile, the Italian government is considering using Italy’s gold reserves to plug budget holes.
politico.eu (Regional election), reuters.com (Gold)

Pompeo raises concerns about Russia in Hungary: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Hungary on the first leg of a five-nation European tour during which he will raise concerns about China and Russia’s growing influence in Central Europe. Pompeo met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other senior officials in Budapest on Monday to stress the importance of promoting democracy and the rule of law. Washington is also concerned about China’s growing presence, in particular the expansion of „Huawei“ in Hungary and Poland. The US is spearheading a drive to ban or restrict the engagement of Chinese firms such as „Huawei“ in the West following the company’s alleged espionage activities in Poland. Pompeo also voiced concerns about energy ties with Moscow, and urged Hungary to not support the TurkStream pipeline, part of the Kremlin’s plans to bypass Ukraine.
washingtonpost.com, euronews.com

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Spain joins France and Germany on new fighter jet: Spain will join a Franco-German project to build a new fighter plane to replace the Eurofighter and Rafale, the Spanish defence ministry said Monday. The project launched in July 2017 is known as the „Future Combat Air System“, which in addition to a new combat aircraft also plans to include drones and cruise missiles. A first contract worth 65 million euros was awarded to Airbus and Dassault Aviation in February to develop the design of the combat system.
welt.de, france24.com

Italy: Government seeks changes to Nato defence spending rules politico.eu
North Macedonia: Skopje prepares for name change by removing signs foxnews.com


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Italian farmers dump milk in protest over falling prices: Sardinian farmers and shepherds continued their protests against low milk prices on Monday, dumping thousands of litres of milk from an overpass onto a highway. Producers are currently getting 50 cents for a litre of milk, a price one protester said is the lowest since the 1970s. The protest follows a weekend in which hundreds of protesters dumped milk on highways and threw milk at a milk processing plant.



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