Brussels, Nov 13 (AP/UNB) — Britain and the European Union appeared to be inching toward agreement on Brexit on Monday, but British Prime Minister Theresa May faced intensifying pressure from her divided Conservative government that could yet scuttle a deal.
Britain leaves the EU on March 29 — the first country ever to do so — but a deal must be sealed in the coming weeks to leave enough time for the U.K. and European Parliaments to sign off. May faces increasing domestic pressure over her proposals for an agreement following the resignation of another government minister last week.
The British leader had been hoping to present a draft deal to her Cabinet this week. But no Brexit breakthrough was announced Monday after talks between European affairs ministers. The two sides are locked in technical negotiations to try to bridge the final gaps in a move laden with heavy political and economic consequences.
May said talks were in their "endgame" but that negotiating a divorce agreement after more than four decades of British EU membership was "immensely difficult."
May told an audience at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London that "we are working extremely hard, through the night, to make progress on the remaining issues in the Withdrawal Agreement, which are significant.
"Both sides want to reach an agreement," May said, though she added she wouldn't sign up to "agreement at any cost."
The main obstacle to a deal is how to keep goods flowing smoothly across the border between EU country Ireland and Northern Ireland in the U.K.
Both sides have committed to avoid a hard border with costly and time-consuming checks that would hamper business. Any new customs posts on the border could also re-ignite lingering sectarian tensions. But Britain and the EU haven't agreed on how to achieve that goal.
"Clearly this is a very important week for Brexit negotiations," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters after the meeting in Brussels. "The two negotiating teams have really intensified their engagement ... There is still clearly work to do."
And Martin Callanan, a minister in Britain's Brexit department, said all involved were "straining every sinew to make sure that we get a deal but we have to get a deal that is right for the U.K., right for the EU and one that would be acceptable to the U.K. Parliament."
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier didn't speak to reporters Monday and a planned news conference with him was canceled.
Instead, EU headquarters issued a short statement saying that Barnier explained to the ministers that "intense negotiating efforts continue, but an agreement has not been reached yet."
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said the two sides "are getting closer to each other."
"But in negotiations there is only a deal if there is full agreement," Blok said. "There is only a 100-percent deal. There is not a 90-percent deal or a 95-percent deal."
Earlier, France's EU affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, stepped up pressure on May. "The ball is in the British court. It is a question of a British political decision," she said.
The EU is awaiting Barnier's signal as to whether sufficient progress has been made to call an EU summit to seal a deal.
Rumors have swirled of a possible top-level meeting at the end of November. But Austrian EU affairs minister Gernot Bluemel, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said "so far progress is not sufficient to call in and set up another (summit)."
In recent days there have been signs of progress behind the scenes, but all parties have remained tight-lipped about the developments, given the politically charged atmosphere.
In Britain, pro-Brexit and pro-EU politicians alike warned May that the deal she seeks is likely to be shot down by Parliament.
Boris Johnson, a staunch Brexit supporter, wrote in a column for Monday's Daily Telegraph that May's plan to adhere closely to EU regulations in return for a trade deal and an open Irish border amounts to "total surrender" to the bloc.
The proposed terms are scarcely more popular with advocates of continued EU membership.
Former Education Secretary Justine Greening on Monday called May's proposals the "worst of all worlds," and said the public should be allowed to vote on Britain's departure again.
"We should be planning as to how we can put this final say on Brexit in the hands of the British people," Greening told the BBC.
Johnson's younger brother, Jo Johnson, resigned last week backing calls for a second referendum on whether the country should leave the EU. May has consistently rejected the idea of another nationwide vote on Brexit.
Paris, Nov 11 (AP/UNB) — World leaders with the power to make war but a duty to preserve the peace gathered by the dozens Sunday to mark the end of World War I's slaughter 100 years ago, turning Paris in the epicenter of global commemorations that drove home a powerful message: never again.
Over 60 heads of state and government were taking part in a solemn ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the mute and powerful symbol of sacrifice to the millions who died from 1914-18.
The Paris weather — grey and damp — seemed aptly fitting when remembering a war fought in mud and relentless horror.
The commemorations started late, overshooting the centenary of the exact moment when, 100 years earlier at 11 a.m., the eerie silence of peace replaced the thunder of guns on the Western France. As bells marking the armistice hour started ringing out across Paris and in many nations hit by the four years of slaughter, French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders were still on their way to the centennial site at the Arc de Triomphe.
Under a sea of black umbrellas, a line of leaders led by Macron and his wife, Brigitte, marched in a stony silence on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees, after dismounting from their buses.
U.S. President Donald Trump arrived separately, in a motorcade that drove past two topless protesters with anti-war slogans on their chests who somehow got through the rows of security and were quickly bundled away by police. The Femen group claimed responsibility.
Last to arrive was Russian President Vladimir Putin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was positioned in pride of place between Trump and Macron, a powerful symbol of victors and vanquished now standing together, shoulder to shoulder. Overhead, fighter jets ripped through the sky, trailing red, white and blue smoke.
The geographical spread of the leaders in attendance showed how the "war to end all wars" left few corners of the earth untouched but which, little more than two decades later, was followed so quickly and catastrophically by the even deadlier World War II.
On the other side of the globe, Australia and New Zealand held ceremonies to recall how the war killed and wounded soldiers and civilians in unprecedented numbers and in gruesome new, mechanized ways.
Those countries lost tens of thousands of soldiers far away in Europe and, most memorably in the brutal 1915 battle of Gallipoli, in Turkey.
In Paris, the jewel that Germany sought to capture in 1914 but which the Allies fought successfully to defend, the armistice commemorations were being followed by the afternoon opening of a peace forum pushed by the host, French President Emmanuel Macron.
Trump will be the most notable absentee at the forum, where Macron's defense of multilateralism will take center stage. Trump lives by an "America First" credo, and plans to visit the American cemetery at Suresnes on the outskirts of Paris before heading home.
On Saturday, he was criticized for canceling a visit to the Belleau Wood battleground northeast of Paris because of rain.
In the four years of fighting, remembered for brutal trench warfare and the first use of gas, France, the British empire, Russia and the United States had the main armies opposing a German-led coalition that also included the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Almost 10 million soldiers died, sometimes tens of thousands on a single day.
The United States came late to the war, in April 1917, but over 1½ years it became a key player in the conflict and tipped the scales for the allies. When the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, the U.S. armed forces was on the cusp of becoming the major military power in the world.
Even though Germany was at the heart of provoking two world wars over the past century, the nation has become a beacon of European and international cooperation since.
On Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the head of the United Nations, born from the ashes of World War II, and the president of Serbia. It was a Serb teenager, Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated the Austro-Hungarian crown prince in Sarajevo in 1914 to set off events which led to the outbreak of war.
Savannah, Nov 11(AP/UNB) — The cause of a military plane crash that left nine people dead outside Savannah, Georgia, was pilot error, according to a report by the U.S. Air Force Accident Investigation Board.
Nine airmen from the Puerto Rico National Guard died May 2 when the plane plunged onto Georgia Highway 21 shortly after takeoff from the Savannah airport.
"The purpose of the investigation was to identify the cause and contributing factors that led to this tragic and unfortunate incident," said Accident Investigation Board team leader Brig. Gen. John C. Millard. "By conducting a thorough review and investigation, we hope to provide answers to the families of brave Airmen that lost their lives and prevent future occurrences and tragedies."
Millard's team spent close to a month reviewing an array of evidence including interviews, logs, video, briefing materials, and inspection of aircraft wreckage before assembling a detailed sequence of events surrounding the crash.
According to the report, the left outermost engine experienced problems and investigators found that the crew's mismanagement of the malfunction deviated from standard procedures. Failure to follow those procedures made further action by the pilot result in loss of control of the aircraft, causing it to crash.
The plane was assigned to a crew from the 156th Airlift Wing in Muniz Air Base from Puerto Rico. Their mission was to deliver the C-130 plane from Savannah to an Air Force base in Arizona commonly referred to as the "Boneyard", where it would be decommissioned.
The pilot of the plane was previously identified as Maj. Jose R. Roman Rosado, of Manati, Puerto Rico.
All nine crew members had helped with hurricane recovery efforts as part of the 198th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the Bucaneros, which flies out of Base Muniz in the northern coastal city of Carolina, said Adjutant Gen. Isabelo Rivera, commander of the Puerto Rico National Guard. The squadron used the plane to rescue Americans from the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma, and later supplied food and water to Puerto Ricans desperate for help after Hurricane Maria.
London, Nov 10 (AP/UNB) — A former U.K. minister says others may step down from the government to protest Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan.
Jo Johnson told BBC radio Saturday it is up to members of Parliament to take a stand.
He said that if others decide to resign, "good on them."
Johnson, the younger brother of Boris Johnson, stepped down as a transport minister Friday and called for a second Brexit referendum. He said May's Brexit plan would damage Britain's national interest.
He said the plan is so different from what had been promised during the 2016 referendum that a second vote is needed.
May has rejected all demands for another vote, saying the 2016 vote in favor of leaving the European Union is definitive.
Difficult negotiations between Britain and the EU continue.
Barcelona, Nov 10 (AP/UNB) — Police in Barcelona have briefly clashed with Catalan separatists who are protesting a rally by Spain's national police forces in the Mediterranean city.
Catalan regional police used batons to drive back a group of separatists in the city center Saturday, stopping them from advancing toward a march by an association of Spain's national police forces demanding higher pay.
In September, a similar protest by separatists of another march by the same national police association ended in clashes with regional security forces. The violent run-ins left 14 people injured and six arrests.
Spain has been mired in a political crisis since last year, when Catalonia's separatist lawmakers failed in a breakaway bid.
Polls and recent elections show that the wealthy northeastern region's 7.5 million residents are roughly equally divided by the secession question.