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UK parliament to hold third Brexit vote on Friday

London, United Kingdom – Members of parliament in the UK will on Friday vote on part of embattled Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union. Under terms set out by EU leaders after a summit last week, Britain would be granted an extension until May 22 if Parliament passes the withdrawal agreement – one…

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UK parliament to hold third Brexit vote on Friday

London, United Kingdom – Members of parliament in the UK will on Friday vote on part of embattled Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union.

Under terms set out by EU leaders after a summit last week, Britain would be granted an extension until May 22 if Parliament passes the withdrawal agreement – one of two separate documents that make up the prime minister’s deal – by March 29, the date the UK was originally scheduled to leave the bloc, or Brexit.

In a move that caused a stir in the House of Commons, the government announced on Thursday that MPs would be asked to only approve the 585 page-long withdrawal agreement, agreed by negotiators from the UK and the EU last year.

Along with the withdrawal agreement, which sets out the terms of departure, the Brexit deal also includes a 26 page-long political declaration, a non-legally binding text that sets out the terms of the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

MPs on Friday, however, will not be asked to vote on the political declaration.

Why have an un-meaningful vote?

According to Section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act, the government cannot ratify any deal until Parliament has approved it. This process has become known as a “meaningful vote”, which requires the House of Commons to approve both the withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship.

However, House Speaker John Bercow has ruled that asking MPs to vote twice on the same motion would breach parliamentary procedures.

May’s deal has already been twice rejected in meaningful votes.

Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, told MPs on Thursday the government’s move to split the deal aims at meeting the EU deadline for the UK to be granted an extension until May 22, just before European Parliament elections.

Should the UK extend beyond that date, it would be required to elect representatives in the EU Parliament, something the government wants to avoid.

“What you could do is use the withdrawal agreement bill, the legislation needed to implement the deal in domestic law, to amend the withdrawal act to say that you no longer need to approve the political declaration,” Maddy Thimont Jack, a researcher at the London-based Institute for Government, said.

“But you’d need a majority in the House of Commons to do that.”

If the deal is not passed, the EU wants Britain to set out an alternative path by April 12. As no deal remains the default option under Article 50, the part of the EU treaty that allows member states to leave the bloc, the UK could still crash out on that date.

Is May going to resign?

On Wednesday, May told members of her own Conservative party that she is willing to resign if MPs back her deal, in a last-ditch bid to win the support of hardline Eurosceptic rebels, who prefer a no-deal Brexit.

“I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that,” May told her fellow party members.

The prime minister has not specified what she would do if the deal was to be defeated a third time.

Crucially, her statement does not appear to have won the support she needs for her deal either.

Is the deal likely to pass tomorrow?

It’s very unlikely.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), May’s ally in Northern Ireland, holds many of the cards in that respect.

With 10 MPs in the House of Commons, the DUP is the only Northern Irish party represented in Westminster.

The party has opposed the backstop protocol of the withdrawal agreement, an insurance mechanism that aims at keeping an open border on the island of Ireland, for fear that it will lead to a break up of the UK as Northern Ireland would be treated differently from the rest of the country.

Hardline Brexiteer MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement, but in the wake of May’s offer to resign, some influential Brexiteers have said they will support the prime minister’s deal.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chair of the European Research Group (ERG) and Boris Johnson both said they will back the deal.

The main opposition Labour party, which has advocated for a closer future relationship with the EU than that which May has negotiated, also appears unlikely to give its support to the withdrawal agreement on Friday.

Keir Starmer, Labour MP and shadow Brexit secretary, said his party would not support “this latest desperate attempt by the prime minister”.

“To now split the withdrawal agreement and political declaration would leave us with the blindest of blindfold Brexits,” Starmer said during a speech at a British Chambers of Commerce conference on Thursday.

What happens next then?

If the withdrawal agreement does not pass on Friday, the UK will have to request a longer extension from the EU in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit on April 12, which could be granted on the condition it takes part in the upcoming European Parliament elections.

On Monday, Parliament will hold another series of so-called “indicative votes” to find out if it can produce a majority for alternative Brexit options.
The first round of votes on Wednesday ended with all eight options put to a vote being rejected. The top two were a customs union with the EU, which received 264 votes in favour and 272 against, and holding a second referendum, which lost 268 to 295.

However, the non-binding votes were never meant to be decisive, but the beginning of a process for Parliament to find a way out of the impasse.

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Saudi Aramco says customers unaffected by Houthi attack on Jeddah

Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah. One of the facility’s tanks…

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Saudi Aramco says customers unaffected by Houthi attack on Jeddah

Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah.
One of the facility’s tanks was hit by a missile in early on Monday.
The attack knocked out 10 percent of all fuel that was stored at the plant, a Saudi Aramco official said on Tuesday, adding that the tank – one of 13 at the facility – is currently out of action.
The official described the site as a “critical facility” that distributes more than 120,000 barrels of products per day.
A fire caused by the attack was extinguished in about 40 minutes with no casualties, he said.
The attack was confirmed by a Saudi official who told the Saudi state news agency (SPA) it was a “terrorist attack with a projectile”.
The oil company’s production and export facilities are mostly in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province, more than 1,000km (621 miles) away from Jeddah, across the country.
Announcing the attack, a military spokesman for the Houthis warned that “operations will continue”.
Yahya Sarea said the attack was carried out with a Quds-2 type winged missile. He also posted a satellite image with the label: “North Jeddah bulk plant-Saudi Aramco”.
“The strike was very accurate, and ambulances and fire engines rushed to the target,” Sarea said.
That facility is just southeast of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, an important site that handles incoming Muslim pilgrims en route to nearby Mecca.
Renewed violence
Yemen has been mired in conflict since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015 to restore the Yemeni government, which had been removed from power in the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces in late 2014.
Cross-border attacks by Houthi forces have escalated since late May when a truce prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic expired. The Saudi-led coalition has responded with air raids on Houthi-held territory.
The Houthis control most of north Yemen and most large urban areas. They say they are fighting a corrupt system.
Sarea said the attack was carried out in response to the Saudi-led coalition’s actions in Yemen.
The claimed attack came just after a visit by outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The kingdom also just hosted the annual G20 summit, which concluded on Sunday.

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US appoints first Venezuela ambassador in a decade amid tensions

The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations. James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a…

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US appoints first Venezuela ambassador in a decade amid tensions

The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations.
James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a US Senate voice vote.
The South Carolina native takes the job that he will carry out from the capital of neighbouring Colombia as Venezuela endures an historic economic and political crisis.
The US and Venezuela have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations first started to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.
The two nations totally broke diplomatic ties last year, each withdrawing its diplomats shortly after Washington backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s leader.
Story, 50, will likely play a key role in helping guide US policy on Venezuela during the transition of President-elect Joe Biden.
Biden’s win has sparked debate among those who back President Donald Trump’s hardline approach of isolating his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro and others who say it is time for a new course.
The critics say heavy sanctions have failed to remove Maduro from power, opening Venezuela to US competitors such as China, Russia and Iran, while making life harder on millions of residents of the South American nation.
The US leads a coalition of dozens of nations that rejected Maduro following his election in 2018 to a second term in a vote Washington called fraudulent.
The US has since heavily sanctioned Maduro, his inner circle and the state-run oil firm, attempting to isolate them.
The Trump administration offered a $15m reward for Maduro’s arrest after a US court indicted him on drug charges.

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‘UAE, Israel can stamp out Islamophobia, anti-Semitism’

People to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in change mindsets, Ban Ki-moon says. Countries like the UAE and Israel who have signed the Abraham Accords should stamp out anti-semitism and Islamophobia and devise curriculums to educate their youth on the significance of the peace deal, said former…

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‘UAE, Israel can stamp out Islamophobia, anti-Semitism’

People to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in change mindsets, Ban Ki-moon says.

Countries like the UAE and Israel who have signed the Abraham Accords should stamp out anti-semitism and Islamophobia and devise curriculums to educate their youth on the significance of the peace deal, said former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
He said that one of the major achievements of the deal – considered a huge political and diplomatic win – is that it opens up a “cooperative space not only for leaders but also for citizens of all the participating countries”
“The architects of this important agreement must ensure that the Accords is not an agreement just for their countries but for their people. Abraham Accords should serve as a launchpad for the sustainable peace and prosperity in the region,” Ban Ki-moon said while addressing a virtual conference on ‘The Abraham Accords: Advancing UAE-Israel, Regional, and Muslim-Jewish Cooperation’ organised by UK-based Emirates Society.
Stressing on the important role of education in building secure, peaceful, resilient and prosperous societies in both a short and long term, the Secretary General said it is his “sincere hope that the UAE and Israel and others redouble their sustained effort to educate their students and citizens – both young and old – about the significance of this important agreement and each other.”
“Devising curriculum and expanding global citizenship education as well as being aggressive about stamping out instances of anti-Semitism and islamophobia are important steps to take in this regard, he added.
He said people to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in helping to change mindset and begin a dynamic new era of cooperation.
Palestinian cause
The UAE is the first GCC country and the third Arab nation to establish diplomatic relations with Israel by signing the US-brokered Abraham Accords on September 15. Bahrain and Sudan also followed suit and have signed peace deals with Israel.
The deal is considered a game changer for peace and stability in the region, as in exchange, Israel has agreed to temporarily halt annexations in the West Bank.
Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, said the UAE continues to consider the issue of a Palestinian state as the most important one but without impeding opportunities for dialogue and open communication.
She said Abraham Accords was born from a “desire to change the business as usual approach” that has mired the countries of Middle East in conflict for long.
Even as the UAE continues to work for its own national agenda, Al Hashimi said the country is “really looking to learn from each other and also to explain to one another who we are and what matters to us”.
“And it does matter to the Arab and the Muslim world that a Palestinian state in its rightful place … exists.”
Ban Ki-Moon said it would be difficult to forge lasting peace without addressing the Palestinian question as well as issues like the final status of Jerusalem and West Bank settlement.
“To truly advance the vision of peace throughout the Middle East, we should not forget that the Palestinians must be involved in determining a future that is based on security and prosperity for all people in the region. I hope that Abraham Accords can function as a springboard for invigorated action on ensuring a negotiated two-state solution aligned with the relevant UN security council resolutions.”
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Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.

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