London, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — Leading Brexit-supporting lawmakers insisted Wednesday that they aren't about to topple Prime Minister Theresa May, despite strong opposition to her plan for taking Britain out of the European Union.
A faction of May's Conservative Party opposes her proposal to keep the U.K. aligned to EU rules after Brexit in return for free trade in goods. They say that would keep Britain tethered to the bloc and unable to strike new trade deals around the world.
Several dozen rebel lawmakers have discussed attempting to trigger a no-confidence vote in May in hope of replacing her with a strongly pro-Brexit politician such as former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a fierce critic of May's Brexit blueprint.
But pro-Brexit Environment Secretary Michael Gove said Wednesday that speculation about a leadership challenge is just "loose talk."
He said May is doing a "great job at the moment."
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis, who quit the government in July over differences with May, said she is a "very good" prime minister who "should stay in place because we need stability."
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but divorce talks have foundered amid Conservative divisions over how close a relationship to seek with the bloc.
Hopes are fading that Britain and the EU can strike a deal at an EU summit in October as originally planned, but there are growing expectations that the EU is planning another meeting for November.
EU leaders have issued encouraging statements recently, saying a deal is possible in the next two months if both sides are realistic.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that EU negotiators "stand ready to work day and night to reach a deal."
"I welcome Prime Minister May's proposal to develop an ambitious new partnership for the future after Brexit," Juncker said during a speech in Strasbourg.
But a deal is far from done, and the U.K. has stepped up planning for a "no-deal" Brexit, which could disrupt trade, transport and other sectors of the economy. The chief executive of automaker Jaguar Land Rover on Tuesday called a no-deal Brexit a "horrifying" scenario that could cost tens of thousands of jobs.
Conservative opponents of May's "Chequers" plan — named for the country-house retreat where it was drawn up — are trying to show they have an alternative proposal for breaking free of the EU.
The "hard Brexit"-supporting European Research Group on Wednesday published its plan for solving one of the thorniest outstanding issues — the border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. Britain and the EU both say there must be no customs posts or other infrastructure along the currently invisible frontier, but they have not agreed on how that can happen once the U.K. leaves the bloc's tariff-free customs union.
The Brexit-backing group said technology and "trusted trader" programs could remove the need for border posts, and a U.K-EU agreement on common biosecurity standards would allow the smooth movement of agricultural products.
"It can all be done electronically," said lawmaker Owen Paterson, a former Northern Ireland secretary. "There is absolutely no need for new physical infrastructure at the border."
Critics said the EU has already rejected similar measures as inadequate to protect the open border, a cornerstone of Northern Ireland's peace process.
Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of business group the Confederation of British Industry, said the proposals were "too superficial to be of use in practice."
Robert Hannigan, former director of Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency, said Wednesday that a hard border would lead to a rise in smuggling, increase tensions between Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists and "fray around the edges of the peace process."
"So it's a very unhealthy development," Hannigan told the BBC.
Hanoi, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — A senior Myanmar official has confirmed that the country's leader, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, will not attend the U.N. General Assembly session beginning next week in New York.
Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin, who is accompanying Suu Kyi at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Vietnam, said "She has no plan to go there."
He was responding to a report in the Myanmar newspaper 7 Days citing a Myanmar foreign ministry official as saying that Suu Kyi would not attend the U.N. meeting, which starts Sept. 18. No reason was given.
Suu Kyi, who took office in 2016, also did not attend last year's General Assembly meeting.
Myanmar is facing international pressure over human rights abuses allegedly committed by its military against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
About 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar's western state of Rakhine last year after the army launched a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in response to August 2017 attacks by Rohingya militants on security forces.
The army is accused of committing mass rape, murder and setting fire to thousands of homes. A report issued two weeks ago by a specially appointed U.N. human rights team recommended prosecuting senior Myanmar commanders for genocide and other crimes.
Last year, Suu Kyi's office said her reason for not attending the 2017 General Assembly session was because she had to handle domestic security issues after the attacks that triggered the army crackdown.
Although the violence in Rakhine state has eased, Myanmar has to deal with its aftermath, especially the repatriation of the Muslim Rohingya who fled and the underlying causes of tension that makes them targets of discrimination and repression in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar.
The 7 Days newspaper article said the Myanmar delegation to the General Assembly meeting would "explain about current developments on repatriation and cooperation with international organizations." U.N. agencies have an agreement with Myanmar's government to help resettle the Rohingya when they are repatriated.
Berlin, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — A report on sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church in Germany details 3,677 abuses cases by clergy between 1946 and 2014, two leading German media outlets said Wednesday.
Spiegel Online and Die Zeit said the report they obtained — commissioned by the German Bishops Conference and researched by three universities — concludes that more than half of the victims were 13 or younger and most were boys. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, both weeklies reported. Some 969 abuse victims were altar boys, Die Zeit wrote.
The report also says that the actual numbers of victims was likely much higher, according to the research by experts from the Universities of Giessen, Heidelberg and Mannheim.
The German Bishops Conference had no immediate comment but said it was preparing a response. It had wanted to present the report on Sept. 25, both magazines reported.
Die Zeit also reported that researchers were not allowed to look at the original church files but had to provide questionnaires to the dioceses, which then provided the information.
In their conclusions, the researchers write that there was evidence that some files were manipulated or destroyed, many cases were not brought to justice, and that sometimes abuse suspects — primarily priests — were simply moved to other dioceses without the congregations being informed about their past.
The Catholic Church has been struggling with sex abuse by its clergy for a long time.
In 2010, the Catholic Church in Germany was roiled by a sex abuse scandal triggered by the head of a Jesuit school in Berlin who went public about decades-long sexual abuse of high school students by clergy. Following that, a whole wave of victims who were sexually abused by members of the Catholic Church spoke out across the country, with the scandal soon spreading beyond Germany and rocking the Catholic Church globally.
An investigation in the United States last month, found rampant sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by about 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania.
Earlier this week, the Vatican said it is preparing the "necessary clarifications" about accusations that top Vatican officials including Pope Francis covered up the sexual misconduct of a now-disgraced American ex-cardinal.
La Trinidad, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — At least 14 people, mostly elderly villagers, died when the brakes of an overloaded passenger van failed while traveling on a winding road, sending it down a ravine in a mountain province in the northern Philippines, police said Wednesday.
Twenty-four other passengers, including the driver, were injured in the accident Tuesday afternoon in Balbalan town in Kalinga province, said Police Chief Superintendent Rolando Nana. Most of the dead were retired villagers in their 60s and 70s returning home after collecting their government pension from a bank.
Thirteen passengers were pinned to death while another died on the way to a hospital after being retrieved from the 80-meter-deep (262-foot-deep) ravine, police said.
Deadly road accidents in the region have been blamed on weak enforcement of traffic rules, poorly maintained public transport and long-neglected upland roads dangerously perched beside deep ravines.
Berlin, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — Chancellor Angela Merkel assured parliament Wednesday she takes seriously Germans' concerns about crimes committed by migrants and pledged a strong response, but condemned recent demonstrations as "hateful," saying there is "no excuse" for expressions of hate, Nazi sympathies or violence in response.
The comments come after the killing of a German man for which an Iraqi and a Syrian have been arrested prompted days of anti-migrant protests in the eastern German city of Chemnitz that at times turned violent.
Neo-Nazis were seen giving the stiff-armed Hitler salute in the largest demonstration, the day after the killing, which attracted some 6,000 people, and on the sidelines of the protest masked men threw stones and bottles at a kosher restaurant yelling "Jewish pig, get out of Germany."
The day before, in spontaneous protests by hundreds immediately after the killing, several foreigners were attacked and injured in the streets.
Merkel assured lawmakers that her government was equally aware of its responsibility to take the wider concerns of the public seriously, and that it was working with "all resolution" on the issue.
"We are especially troubled by the severe crimes in which the alleged perpetrators were asylum-seekers," she said. "This shocks us... (and) such crimes must be investigated, the perpetrators have to be taken to court and punished with the severity of the law."
But she said the concerns were "no excuse" for the demonstrations that followed the killing in Chemnitz.
Merkel dismissed as semantics an argument over whether the foreigners were "hunted" in the streets by the protesters — a reference to her domestic spy chief's comments last week questioning the characterization used by her spokesman in describing the events — and condemned the demonstrations as "hateful."
"There is no excuse or justification for hate, for the use of violence by some, Nazi symbols, hostility against people who look different, who own a Jewish restaurant, attacks on police — and heated debates about whether it's hate or a hunt don't help," Merkel said to applause.
Alexander Gauland, a leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany party whose members marched alongside the neo-Nazis in Chemnitz, defended their participation, saying they were exercising their "democratic right to freedom of assembly."
"There were a couple of aggressive idiots among the demonstrators who were yelling 'foreigners out' and who gave the Hitler salute, nobody disputes that," he said. "That is distasteful and criminal, but it was a minority who were neither representative of the demonstration as a whole nor able to delegitimize the majority of the protesters."
He accused the "political mainstream" parties in parliament of making too much of the neo-Nazis involved for their own purposes.
"If it weren't for these idiots and dunderheads, if only the normal citizens were demonstrating, it would be a catastrophe for you," he said.
Social Democrat lawmaker Martin Schulz slammed Gauland's comments as harking back to the Nazi era, saying "similar rhetoric has been heard in this house before."
"I think it's time for democrats in this country to defend themselves against this kind of rhetorical escalation, which will result in the abandonment of inhibitions in the end and lead to violence on the streets," Schulz said, to a standing ovation.