London, May 23 (AP/UNB) — British Prime Minister Theresa May dug in Wednesday against a relentless push by rivals and former allies to remove her from office as her attempts to lead Britain out of the European Union appeared to be headed for a dead end.
May resisted calls to rip up her tattered Brexit blueprint and end her embattled premiership after her attempt at compromise was rejected by both her own Conservative Party and opposition lawmakers.
But it seemed only a matter of time. Amid a feverish mood as rumors and plots swirled through Parliament, Conservative lawmakers set up a showdown meeting with May for Friday, giving her less than 48 hours to announce she will go or face a renewed attempt to oust her.
And a senior Cabinet minister quit with an excoriating letter attacking May's failure to lead Britain out of the EU and hold her divided government together.
Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom alleged there had been "a complete breakdown of collective responsibility" in government, and said May's Brexit plan would not "deliver on the referendum result" that saw voters in 2016 opt to leave the EU.
Leadsom campaigned to leave the EU in the referendum and was a strong pro-Brexit voice in Cabinet.
Several other senior ministers were reportedly seeking meetings with May to express unhappiness with her Brexit plan — and possibly urge her to quit. But her spokesman, James Slack, said he was "not aware of any discussions" with Cabinet colleagues.
Lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, a leading Conservative moderate, said the only chance of delivering an orderly Brexit was for May "to go — and without delay."
"She must announce her resignation after Thursday's European elections. And the Conservative Party must fast track the leadership process to replace her," he wrote in the Financial Times.
In the House of Commons, May received a flurry of criticism and hostile questions as she implored lawmakers to support a bill implementing Britain's departure from the EU that she plans to put to a vote in Parliament in June.
Nearly three years after British voters opted to leave the EU, May said "we need to see Brexit through, to honor the result of the referendum and to deliver the change the British people so clearly demanded."
If Parliament rejected her deal, she said, "all we have before us is division and deadlock."
That could serve as a fair summary of Britain's current situation.
Lawmakers have already rejected May's divorce deal with the 27 other EU countries three times, and Britain's long-scheduled departure date of March 29 passed with the country still in the bloc.
In a last-ditch bid to secure support for her Brexit plan, May on Tuesday announced concessions including a promise to give Parliament a vote on whether to hold a new referendum on Britain's EU membership — something she has long ruled out.
"I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too," she said.
But there was little sign her plea was being heeded. Pro-EU and pro-Brexit lawmakers have only hardened their positions during months of political trench warfare, and they are in no mood to compromise.
Pro-Brexit Conservatives accused May of capitulating to pro-EU demands, and opposition Labour Party lawmakers dismissed her offer as too little, too late.
"The rhetoric may have changed but the deal has not," said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. "She did not seek a compromise until after she had missed her own deadline to leave, and by the time she finally did, she had lost the authority to deliver."
May's authority as Conservative leader has been shredded by her loss of the party's parliamentary majority in a 2017 election and her failure to lead Britain out of the EU as promised.
The party's powerful anti-EU wing wants to oust May and replace her with a staunch Brexit supporter such as former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.
May has said she will announce a timetable for her departure once Parliament has voted on her Brexit bill, but it looks increasingly unlikely she can hang on that long.
May survived a no-confidence vote among Conservative lawmakers in December, leaving her safe from challenge for 12 months under party rules. Some pro-Brexit lawmakers wanted the party's 1922 Committee, which oversees leadership contests, to change the rules when so that May can face a new challenge within days.
But the party committee decided instead to send its chairman Graham Brady to meet May on Friday before it decides whether to alter the rules.
If May stays on until next week, pressure is likely to increase when results come in from this week's elections for the European Parliament, with Conservatives expect to receive a drubbing. Many British voters on both sides of the Brexit debate look set to use the election to the EU legislature to express displeasure over the political gridlock. Opinion polls show strong support for the single-issue Brexit Party — largely from angry former Conservative voters — and for pro-EU parties including the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.
The election is being held Thursday in Britain, but results won't be announced until all 28 EU countries have finished voting late Sunday.
May insisted she would fight on. She said the Brexit withdrawal bill would be published Friday so that lawmakers can study it.
Despite speculation that May will scrap plans to bring it to a vote to avoid a crushing defeat, her office said a vote will be held during the week of June 3.
"In time, another prime minister will be standing at this despatch box," May told lawmakers, acknowledging that her days in the job are numbered.
But, she told Parliament, "in the end our job in this House is to take decisions, not to duck them.
"So I will put those decisions to this House. Because that is my duty and because it is the only way that we can deliver Brexit."
Anchorage, May 22 (AP/UNB) — An Alaska air carrier involved in two deadly floatplane crashes in a week has voluntarily suspended operations, federal officials said Tuesday.
The halt of flightseeing and commuter flights is in place indefinitely, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The action comes after the passenger and the pilot of a Beaver floatplane operated by Taquan Air were killed when the single-engine aircraft crashed in Metlakatla Harbor on Monday afternoon during a 22-mile (35-kilometer) commuter flight from Ketchikan.
Witnesses reported to federal investigators that one of the two floats on the plane dug into the water during landing, causing the right wing to hit the water and then the aircraft to cartwheel several times, according to Clint Johnson, chief of the National Transportation Safety Board in Alaska.
Johnson said witnesses also reported the Beaver floatplane landed upside down and became submerged in water. An NTSB investigator arrived at Metlakatla late Tuesday morning, he said.
In a statement, Taquan Air confirmed it suspended all operations. The company said it "was reeling" from not only Monday's crash, but a midair collision last week involving another Taquan plane that killed six.
"It's been a really heavy and heartbreaking time for us," the company wrote. "Our priority has been our passengers and their families and our internal staff, and pilots."
The passenger was identified by her employer and relatives in California as Sarah Luna. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium said in a statement that Luna joined the group nearly a year ago as a senior epidemiologist in the liver disease and hepatitis program. Luna, 32, had flown to Metlakatla to provide health services to the community.
"Sarah embodied the characteristics most valuable to our team, as a person committed to improving the health and well-being of Alaska Native people," the organization wrote. "For those who worked most closely with Sarah, this loss is immeasurable."
Metlakatla Police Chief Bruce Janes identified the pilot as 51-year-old Ron Rash of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The crash occurred in light winds and 10-mile (16-kilometer) visibility, Johnson said. The plane also was carrying a load of cargo and was supposed to also pick up other passengers after landing.
Johnson said it was "way too early" to determine a cause. He anticipates the preliminary report into the crash to be released by the end of the week.
Monday's crash followed the May 13 midair collision of a Taquan Air Otter floatplane with another floatplane. Six people died in that crash and another 10 people were injured. Both planes were carrying sightseeing cruise ship passengers.
Johnson said the NTSB is investigating both crashes as separate cases.
Last summer, all 11 on board another Taquan Air flight survived when the 72-year-old pilot confused snow on a mountain with a body of water and crashed on a rocky mountainside on Prince of Wales Island near the southern tip of the Alaska Peninsula.
A pilot and eight cruise ship passengers died June 25, 2015, when a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter operated by Promech Air Inc. crashed into mountainous terrain about 24 miles (38 kilometers) from Ketchikan, also as it was returning from Misty Fjords.
The NTSB later determined that pilot error, the company's culture and lack of a formal safety program were among the causes of that crash. Taquan Air purchased the assets of Promech in 2016, and currently employs three pilots who worked for Promech, a company spokeswoman said last week.
Copenhagen, May 20 (AP/UNB) — Swedish authorities on Monday issued a request for a detention order against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is now jailed in Britain, a Swedish prosecutor said.
Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson says if the Swedish court decided to detain Assange "on probable cause suspected for rape ... I will issue a European Arrest Warrant."
The development sets up a possible future tug-of-war between Sweden and the United States over any extradition of Assange from Britain.
Assange was evicted last month from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been holed up with political asylum since 2012. He was then immediately arrested by British police on April 11 and is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.
The Australian secret-spiller also faces a U.S. extradition warrant for allegedly conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer.
Persson said Monday that British authorities will decide any conflict between a European arrest warrant and U.S. extradition request for Assange.
On May 13, Swedish prosecutors reopened a preliminary investigation against Assange, who visited Sweden in 2010, after two Swedish women said they were the victims of sex crimes committed by Assange.
While a case of alleged sexual misconduct against Assange in Sweden was dropped in 2017 when the statute of limitations expired, a rape allegation remains. Swedish authorities have had to shelf it because Assange was living at the embassy at the time and there was no prospect of bringing him to Sweden.
The statute of limitations in the rape case expires in August next year. Assange has denied wrongdoing, asserting that the allegations were politically motivated and that the sex was consensual.
Persson said the day and time for the detention hearing at the Uppsala District Court north of Stockholm that will make the decision has not yet been decided.
"However, in my view, the Swedish case can proceed concurrently with the proceedings in the U.K.," Persson said in a statement.
Kiev, May 20 (AP/UNB) — Ukrainian TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy was sworn in as the country's new president on Monday, promised to stop the war in the country's east against Russian-backed separatists and immediately disbanded parliament, which he has branded as a group only interested in self-enrichment.
Even before he disbanded the Supreme Rada, which had been one of his campaign promises, the 41-year-old Zelenskiy had upended the traditions of Ukrainian politics.
He ditched the idea of a traditional motorcade to his inauguration, walking to the parliament through a park packed with people. Flanked by four bodyguards, he was giving high-fives to some spectators and even stopped to take a selfie with one of them.
Before he made the announcement, Zelenskiy asked the Supreme Rada to adopt a bill against illegal enrichment and support his motions to fire the country's defense minister, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service and the Prosecutor General. All of them are allies of former President Petro Poroshenko, who lost the presidential election in a landslide to the comedian with no previous political experience.
In a feisty speech after his inauguration, Zelenskiy told the Rada that his main goal for the presidency is to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for five years.
"I'm ready to do everything so that our heroes don't die there," he said. "I'm ready to lose my popularly and, if necessary, I'm ready to lose my post so that we have peace."
Zelenskiy garnered 73% of the vote at the presidential election last month in a victory that reflected Ukrainians' exhaustion with politics-as-usual. For years, he has played the Ukrainian president in a popular television show.
The new president wrapped up his speech at parliament by referring to his career as a comedian.
"Throughout all of my life, I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians laugh," he said with a smile. "In the next five years I will do everything so that Ukrainians don't cry."
Rome, May 20 (AP/UNB) — The Italian interior ministry vowed Sunday to press ahead with a new decree formalizing the closure of Italian ports to aid groups that rescue migrants, even after U.N. human rights investigators said it violated international law.
Ministry officials said the security decree was "necessary and urgent" and was expected to be approved at a Cabinet meeting Monday.
In a May 15 letter to Italy's government released Saturday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Italy to withdraw the decree, calling it "yet another political attempt to criminalize search and rescue operations."
The decree "further intensifies the climate of hostility and xenophobia against migrants," said the letter, which was signed by several U.N. human rights rapporteurs.
It was issued as a ship carrying more than 40 migrants from the German aid group Sea-Watch remained off the island of Lampedusa waiting for a port to disembark its passengers. Sea-Watch said it had flouted Italy's ban and entered Italian territorial waters on Saturday for humanitarian reasons.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a hard-line populist, proposed the decree before the European Parliament elections this week, where nationalist, anti-migrant parties are hoping to make strong gains. Salvini's League has soared in popularity in part because of his hard-line migration policy, which has involved boosting the Libyan coast guard's ability to rescue migrants and bring them back.
Among other provisions, the decree leaves it to the interior minister to limit or prohibit entry into Italian territorial waters any ships for public security reasons. It foresees fines of up to 5,500 euros ($6,145) for each migrant transported.
The U.N. letter says the measures would violate migrants' human rights, which are enshrined in U.N. conventions that Italy has signed. It said Italy is obliged to rescue migrants in distress and can't impede others from doing so. And it says that Libya can't be considered a safe port for migrants rescued at sea, particularly after the recent spike in fighting.
In a statement late Sunday, the Italian foreign ministry said the letter carried no juridical weight and suggested it was based on imprecise information. It noted that since Jan. 1, 2018, Italy has received eight such letters, whereas the U.S. has received 30, Britain 16 and France 12.
Interior ministry officials told journalists in a statement Sunday that Turkey and North Korea similarly punish border violations and that Italy has long had fines in its legal code, which have merely been updated.
"The hope is that the authoritative U.N. dedicates its energies to the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela rather than engage in electoral campaigning in Italy," they said.
Meanwhile, British and French authorities have stopped 61 migrants who tried to cross the English Channel in five small boats over the weekend.
The British Home Office said 52 migrants on four boats were intercepted Saturday and Sunday off the Kent Coast and handed to immigration officials. The migrants said they were from Iraq and Iran.
The French maritime authority for the Channel and North Sea said a patrol ship spotted a boat carrying nine migrants Sunday off the coast of Cape of Gris-Nez. The nine were suffering light hypothermia and were handed over to border police in Calais.
Several of the migrants were children.
Illegal migrant crossings across the English Channel are on the rise in recent weeks despite joint British-French efforts to crack down on them.