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May hails Brexit talks ‘progress’ but no breakthrough

BRUSSELS: Prime Minister Theresa May said she had made ‘progress’ in talks with the EU on Wednesday as she sought to extract concessions on the terms of Britain’s divorce, but as expected there was no major breakthrough.
With less than six weeks until Brexit day, May met European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker hoping for movement on the Irish backstop issue after EU leaders insisted they would not restart negotiations.Fears are growing that Britain could yet crash out without a deal, and there was fresh drama just before May headed to Brussels as three of her MPs resigned from her Conservative party in protest over Brexit to join a new independent group of lawmakers.Citing the risk of a hard Brexit, ratings agency Fitch on Wednesday warned it could downgrade Britain, while the pound slipped against the US dollar.A joint statement from May and Juncker called their meeting constructive, striking a slightly more positive tone than when they met a fortnight ago.How Europe reacted to Brexit deal defeatThe two leaders agreed that talks had been constructive, and they urged their respective teams to continue to explore the options in a positive spirit, the statement said,Separately, May said she had stressed the need for legally binding changes to the backstop though the EU has ruled this out.Weve agreed that work to find a solution will continue at pace, time is of the essence and its in both our interests that when the UK leaves the EU it does so in an orderly way.And so weve made progress, May said.May and the other 27 EU leaders approved a Brexit withdrawal agreement at a summit on November 25 last year, but the British leaders own parliament rejected it overwhelmingly on January 15.Since then, May and her ministers have repeatedly met EU leaders and their negotiator Michel Barnier to urge them to reopen the text to find a way to appease eurosceptic MPs.The main stumbling block has been the Irish backstop, which provides for Britain to remain in the EU customs union until a way is found such as a future free trade deal to ensure that Irelands border with Northern Ireland remains open.
Brexiteers in Mays own Conservative party see this as a trap to keep Britain tied to the bloc indefinitely, and have demanded a time limit or exit clause.But such a clause would be seen in Brussels as a betrayal of EU member Ireland and has consistently been given short shrift by EU officials.May and Junckers statement indicated a fresh push to see what guarantees the EU could offer on the backstop to convince sceptical MPs it will not be used to trap Britain.In sadness, EU leaders approve Brexit dealIt also suggested the political declaration outlining plans for future EU-UK ties could be beefed up to increase confidence that both sides will try to reach a future deal as soon as possible, so the backstop never has to be used.May said her Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox would be back in Brussels on Thursday just three days since their last visit as the pace of negotiations picks up.A European source said Cox, whose legal analysis of Mays deal confirmed Brexiteer fears, will have a key role to play.
If Brussels does enough on the backstop to persuade Cox to soften his advice, it could help swing the parliamentary arithmetic behind the prime minister.Without a deal, Britain is due to leave the Union abruptly after four decades on March 29, with no follow-on agreement or transition period to manage trade and economic relations.Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will meet Barnier on Thursday.Officials in both Brussels and London have played down talk that an EU-Arab League summit in Egypt this weekend could become a Brexit in the desert meet, insisting the issue would not hijack the gathering.Both sides have said they want to avoid a no deal Brexit, and many experts foresee economic chaos, even warning of food and medicine shortages or a renewed threat of unrest in Northern Ireland.Manufacturing supply chains could be disrupted, and Brexit uncertainty has already been cited as a contributing factor in the closure or departure of several British-based businesses.One option to avoid no deal would be for Brussels to accord Britain an extension to the March 29 deadline, although May insists she will not request a delay.A delay could keep Britain inside the EU for May 23-26 elections for a new European Parliament, which will start sitting from July 2, presumably without any British members.

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Brexit: Theresa May to return to Brussels for further talks

Prime Minister Theresa May will return to Brussels later to continue Brexit talks with the European Union. She is trying to renegotiate the Irish backstop – the insurance policy to prevent the return of customs checks on the Irish border./news/uk-politics-47292833Read more about sharing.
These are external links and will open in a new window Related Topics Brexit Getty Images Mrs May is expected to request legally-binding assurances that the backstop will not extend indefinitely.However, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he does not expect a “breakthrough” in talks.
The backstop policy is part of the withdrawal agreement Mrs May agreed with the EU, and became one of the main reasons her Brexit deal was voted down in Parliament in January.Critics fear it would leave the UK tied to a customs union with the EU indefinitely and see Northern Ireland treated differently.
MPs gave their backing for Mrs May to renegotiate the policy in a vote earlier this month and said she was “working hard to secure the legally binding changes” that Parliament wants.But the EU has consistently refused to make changes.Tories ‘manipulated by Brexit zealots’Sturgeon to urge EU citizens to stay Brexit: A really simple guideChancellor Philip Hammond said on Tuesday evening the government accepted the EU will not agree to replace the backstop arrangements for the Irish border with technological alternatives in time for the scheduled date of Brexit on 29 March.The so-called “Malt house Compromise” – proposed by Remainers and Leavers – included proposals to use technology and checks away from the border to ensure the backstop was never activated.
But Mr Hammond said he hoped the technological solution would form part of negotiations over the following 21 months on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.He added that legally-binding changes to ensure the backstop does not become permanent “would deliver the core of a majority for a deal in the House of Commons”.
Leading Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker insisted they were happy with this arrangement, saying the Malt house proposals were “alive and kicking”.Media playback is unsupported on your device,Media caption Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics Jeremy Corbyn also announced he would be going to Brussels to meet the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Thursday.
The Labour leader said they would discuss his party’s Brexit proposals – including a permanent customs union and a strong relationship with the single market – and that it was a “necessity” to take no deal off the table.The meeting, on the issue of the Irish backstop, was described as “productive” but Mr Barnier “expressed concerns”.At the time, a European Commission spokesman said: “The EU 27 will not reopen the withdrawal agreement. “We cannot accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause – and further talks will be held this week to see whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council.
“Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a speech in Berlin later, will say all sides in the Brexit process have a “heavy responsibility” to ensure an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal is successfully reached.The PM has promised to return to Parliament to update MPs again on 26 February and, if she had not got a new deal by then, to give them a say on the next steps in non-binding votes.

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Gross or Savvy? Theresa May’s mouldy food confession shocks Britain

The 62-year-old delved into her eating habits this week during a cabinet meeting on food waste where she offered up a controversial piece of advice.
Source: Getty British Prime Minister Teresa May has shocked residents across the UK with a mouldy food confession that has left people cringing.
Not wanting to waste seemingly good food, May claimed instead of dumping a jar of jam in the bin when it has gone off she simply scrapes away the mouldy part on top and continues to eat what’s underneath, BBC reports.The prime minister explained to the cabinet that the rest of the jam is “perfectly edible” and that it’s not always the best idea to follow use by dates as they can sometimes be incorrect, leading to more wasted food.Her admission has shocked many Brits who have questioned her habits labelling her decisions “disgusting” and contemplating how the jam went mouldy in the first place.“If she actually does scrape the mould off the top of the jam, she is disgusting,” one person wrote on .“Take you own jar next time the prime minister invites you over for afternoon tea,” another joked. While a third said: “If you jar the jam properly you don’t get mould.”

However, there have been others who claim May’s technique is actually quite savvy and prevents an abundance of food waste and money down the drain.For those born in the post war generation in particular, wasting food was very much frowned upon.
It was not uncommon to simply cut off a mouldy piece of cheese or ditch a slice of mouldy bread and keep the rest.That is the argument that some put forward when hearing of May’s food waste preventative measure.“What is she supposed to do? Eat it? Or throw away an otherwise good jar of jam? Having grown up with little money, I was taught to do the same. Wasting food is wrong,” someone argued.Never thought Id say this, but: bravo Theresa May!If people were willing to scrape the mould out of jam there wouldnt be any need for foodbanks.until, of course, brexit harms the poor, whom I care about very deeply.
February 13, 2019A second praised the prime minister adding:  “Never thought I’d say this, but: bravo Theresa May! If people were willing to scrape the mould out of jam there wouldn’t be any need for foodbanks… until of course, Brexit harms the poor, whom I care about very deeply”.Another claimed there is absolutely nothing wrong with what May does, and eating the mould itself wouldn’t even be a bad idea.
“I work for a jam manufacturer,” they said. “Simple fact is that most fruit jams are naturally acidic, and therefore the mould is likely harmless.
”It turns out they’re correct too as mould expert Dr Patrick Hickey previously told the BBC that jam that has developed mould on top is safe to eat as long as you scrape it off and ensure there is none left in the jar. This is because the high acidity levels in the fruit help keep harmful bacteria at bay.

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