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UK PM May fires Defence Minister Williamson over Huawei leak

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

(L-R) British Prime Minister Theresa May and Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson | Courtesy : Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May fired her Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, on Wednesday (May 1), saying an investigation suggested he was to blame for leaking discussions about Chinese telecoms company Huawei from her National Security Council (NSC).

Last week, it emerged that Britain would allow Huawei a restricted role in building parts of its 5G network, seeking a middle way in a bitter dispute between the United States and China over the next generation of communications technology.

The NSC is a forum in which senior Cabinet ministers discuss top secret national security information, and the leak sparked anger in parliament.

May wrote to Williamson that an investigation into the leaks had provided “compelling evidence suggesting your responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure.”

Williamson had repeatedly denied that he was responsible for the leak.

May appointed International Development Minister Penny Mordaunt to succeed Williamson as Defence Secretary, and named Prisons Minister Rory Stewart to Mordaunt’s former role. (REUTERS)

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UK parliament’s ‘Big Ben’ bell marks 160 years with silence amid restoration work

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2019

(London, England, UK) Big Ben’s clock face | Courtesy: Reuters

Britain’s parliament marks 160 years on Thursday (July 11) since its “Big Ben” bell first chimed. But the familiar bongs will not ring out to celebrate the occasion as the famous clock-tower is half way through a major restoration project.

That work has seen the 96-metre-tall Elizabeth Tower, one of the most photographed buildings in Britain, enveloped in scaffolding as the four clock dials are reglazed, ironwork repainted and intricately carved stonework cleaned and repaired.

It is the most extensive conservation programme ever carried out on the tower and has also involved removing the whole of its cast iron roof, made up of 3,433 pieces, for repairs.

The 13.7-tonne Big Ben bell will remain in place throughout the restoration works, which began in 2017 and are due to be completed in 2021, but has been largely silenced, sounding only for important events such as New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The Victorian clock mechanism has been removed to be serviced and to ensure it is not damaged by dust and dirt generated during the works, with an electric motor installed to drive the clock’s 4.2 metre-long hands while it is gone.

Specialist tradesmen clad in high-vis vests and hard hats working with panoramic views across the London skyline have completed the clock’s north dial, with 324 individual new pieces of mouth-blown and hand-cut glass installed into the frame.

The Palace of Westminster on the bank of the River Thames, home to parliament and Big Ben, is a world heritage site and major tourist attraction.

A 4 billion pound ($5 billion) restoration programme of the entire building, which suffers from crumbling stonework, leaking roofs and failing plumbing, is due to begin in the mid-2020s and will see lawmakers moved out into a temporary building nearby. (REUTERS)

(Production: Chris Read)

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Donald Trump arrives in Britain for state visit laden with diplomatic peril

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth | Courtesy : Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Britain on Monday (June 3) for a state visit laden with diplomatic peril, after humiliating outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit and demanding she be tougher in dealing with China’s Huawei.

Trump and his wife, Melania, who landed at London’s Stansted airport on Monday morning, will be treated to a display of British royal pageantry during the three-day visit: lunch with Queen Elizabeth, tea with heir Prince Charles, a banquet at Buckingham Palace and a tour of Westminster Abbey, coronation church of English monarchs for 1,000 years.

On Wednesday (June 5), Trump will join the queen and veterans to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in the southern English city of Portsmouth, before travelling to Ireland. He will then attend official D-Day ceremonies in France on Thursday (June 6).

Beyond the pomp, though, the proudly unpredictable 45th U.S. president also brings demands: He has praised a more radical Brexit-supporting potential successor to May, including former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, and his envoys have urged a tougher British stance towards Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

A meeting with either Johnson, favourite to succeed May, or Nigel Farage, a bombastic anti-establishment campaigner, would be seen as a snub for May who is bowing out after failing to negotiate a Brexit deal that parliament could ratify. (REUTERS)

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British PM May resigns, paving way for Brexit confrontation with EU

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, May 24th, 2019

A tearful Theresa May says goodbye to Downing Street | (c) 2019 Thomson Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday (May 24) said she would quit, triggering a contest that will bring a new leader to power who is likely to push for a more decisive Brexit divorce deal.

May set out a timetable for her departure: She will resign as Conservative Party leader on June 7 with a leadership contest in the following week.

“I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party on Friday, 7 June so that a successor can be chosen,” May said outside 10 Downing Street.

May, once a reluctant supporter of EU membership, who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit vote, steps down with her central pledges – to lead the United Kingdom out of the bloc and heal its divisions – unfulfilled.

She endured crises and humiliation in her effort to find a compromise Brexit deal that parliament could ratify, and bequeaths a deeply divided country and a political elite that is deadlocked over how, when or whether to leave the EU.

May’s departure will deepen the Brexit crisis as a new leader is likely to want a more decisive split, raising the chances of a confrontation with the European Union and a snap parliamentary election.

The leading contenders to succeed May all want a tougher divorce deal, although the EU has said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Treaty it sealed in November. (REUTERS)

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