LONDON

Ethiopian Red Cross workers carry a body bag with the remains of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash victims at the scene of a plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Red Cross workers carry a body bag with the remains of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash victims at the scene of a plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

March 19, 2019

By Omar Mohammed

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Financiers, passengers and industry partners are, for now, still backing Ethiopian Airlines’ quest to become Africa’s dominant carrier, despite a March 10 crash that killed 157 people.

The causes of the Flight 302 tragedy will likely take months to establish. While much of the international focus has been on U.S. planemaker Boeing and its 737 MAX 8 jet, the airline’s reputation could also hinge on the results of the investigation.

Although crash inquiries focus on preventing future accidents rather than attributing liability, any findings that the carrier fell short in plane maintenance or piloting could be damaging.

For the present, however, passenger confidence in Ethiopian Airlines, long regarded as one of the most reliable in Africa, has remained steady, according to the company. Cancellation and booking rates are unchanged since the crash, said spokesman Asrat Begashaw.

“We are operating as normal,” he told Reuters. “Our brand is keeping its level, and we are okay.”

Two banking sources with knowledge of the matter said that, barring a major new twist in the investigation with long-term fallout, banks were still comfortable lending to Ethiopian Airlines.

“Ethiopian is a solid company,” said one, an official from an international bank that helped finance the acquisition of some Ethiopian Airlines planes. “No reason to change the way the bank sees its credit risk at this point.”

A vote of confidence from lenders is important for the airline because its years of rapid expansion have largely been financed by international borrowing.

The second source, a top European aviation banker, said Ethiopian Airlines was “a good airline, with a good reputation”.

“So unless it (the crash) is a major problem of piloting or maintenance – and it is far too early to talk about that – they will still have access to financing,” the source added.

The sources declined to be identified because the matters are confidential.

FOREIGN INVESTORS

Ethiopian Airlines has borrowed from foreign banks including JP Morgan, ING Capital and Societe Generale over the past decade. It also has outstanding bonds worth $540 million, though none due until 2024, Refinitiv data shows.

The borrowing helped finance the acquisition of stakes in or establish partnerships with at least four African carriers, establishing hubs to feed traffic into Addis Ababa. Last year, the Ethiopian capital overtook Dubai as the main gateway for long-haul passengers into Africa.

The airline’s fleet grew from 35 planes in 2007 to 111 in 2019. It now flies to more than 119 international destinations, up from 52 a decade ago.

The expansion has made the state-owned carrier, founded in 1945, the most profitable major airline on the continent. Ethiopian’s net profit in the 2017/18 financial year rose to $233 million from $229 million the previous year; operating revenue jumped 43 percent to $3.7 billion.

Last year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced plans to sell a minority stake in the airline as part of a broad strategy to open up the country to foreign investors.

Industry analysts said it was too early to evaluate the impact of the crash on the airline’s long-term plans but said, for now, its reputation remained largely intact.

“It’s a very strong management team, with good vision,” said Nawal Taneja, an author and professor at Ohio State University’s Center for Aviation Studies. “We’ve got to look at the strength of the airline as a whole, not just this one incident.”

PARTNERS, BOEING BOOKINGS

Those who want to travel across Africa have few options other than flying. Conflict, poor roads, and limited cross-border train transport often make travel by land difficult.

Analysts said the crash was unlikely to damage Ethiopian’s partnerships with African carriers, key to a strategy that helped increase passenger numbers from 2.5 million a decade ago to 10.6 million last year, or with other industry players.

One such partner is ASKY, a Togo-based carrier which Ethiopian Airlines helped launch in 2010.

“Ethiopian’s accident has not affected our partnership in any way,” said Lionel Tsoto, the airline’s head of public relations. “We continue just as before.”

Global aviation leasing firm GECAS said the airline was a “close and valued partner who we look forward to working with in the future”.

The crash, which saw the Nairobi-bound flight go down minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa, triggered a global grounding of 737 MAX planes, wiping about 10 percent off Boeing’s share price. GRAPHIC: http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/testfiles/boeing737maxseries

Investigators have noted similarities with another deadly crash in Indonesia five months ago involving a plane of the same type owned by Lion Air, but safety officials stress the investigation is at an early stage.

Ethiopian Airlines, which grounded its handful of remaining 737 MAX planes, said it would decide whether to cancel orders for 29 others after a preliminary investigation.

Analysts said it was unlikely that the carrier would cancel the orders, worth $3.5 billion at the current list price, because Boeing would have to fix any problems before regulators permit the jet to fly again.

Boeing will be keen to retain the airline as a customer; more than half of Ethiopian’s fleet are Boeing jets.

“Ethiopian have been very loyal to Boeing in the past,” said Phil Seymour, chief executive of the IBA Group, a Surrey-based aviation consultancy.

“They will be in control of the conversation with Boeing now,” he added. “I would suspect that the business decision is to stick with the order.”

(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher and Inti Landauro in Paris, Rachel Armstrong in London, Maggie Fick in Addis Ababa and John Zodzi in Lome; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Alexandra Zavis and Pravin Char)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: British and EU flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament in London
FILE PHOTO: British and EU flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

March 19, 2019

By Thomas Escritt and Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union governments are exasperated by British dithering over quitting the bloc but have little appetite for pushing it out on schedule next week without a divorce deal, senior figures said on Tuesday.

EU ministers in Brussels to prepare a summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday voiced frustration after the speaker of parliament threw up a new obstacle for her plan to get her Brexit deal ratified before the March 29 deadline.

“Our patience as the European Union is being sorely tested at the moment,” German Europe minister Michael Roth told reporters. “Dear friends in London, please deliver. The clock is ticking.”

But Roth also echoed comments in Berlin by Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU’s pre-eminent leader, who said she would “fight to the last minute” until midnight (2300 GMT) on March 29 to ensure an orderly exit for the EU’s second-ranked economy.

He said Germany’s main aim was to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would disrupt business across the continent.

However, after two defeats for the Withdrawal Agreement that May negotiated with the EU, and her difficulty in trying to get it through parliament on a third vote even before the speaker ruled that it must be substantially changed, it is not clear how May can avert this without asking fellow leaders for more time.

ALL DEPENDS ON MAY

Leaders expect to discuss such an extension at the two-day summit starting on Thursday afternoon. But if May has yet to make a concrete proposal on her next move then, then the summit can do little more than outline possible steps — such as a readiness to give her a couple of months, or maybe longer.

“If there is no move from London, the leaders can also decide to wait,” said Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. “It really depends on what May will say at the summit.”

Diplomats said member states were still discussing options for extension — possibly only for two to three months, if May persuades them she can clinch a deal at home, or for much longer if May accepts that radical reworking is needed. But these would come with conditions and might not be agreed until next week.

Merkel said there was “far too much in flux” to forecast the outcome of the summit, but her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, told reporters in Finland: “If more time is needed, it’s always better to do another round than a no-deal Brexit.”

EU diplomats say it is highly probable that leaders will unanimously support some sort of extension rather than see Britain lurch out of the bloc in 10 days’ time — even though some governments are starting to argue for ending the uncertainty and trusting to arrangements already put in place to mitigate the effects of a sudden, immediate exit.

Aides to French President Emmanuel Macron, a powerful voice on the Council alongside Merkel, say the onus is on Britain to say what it would do with more time.

“This uncertainty is unacceptable,” his EU affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau said in Brussels on Tuesday.

“Grant an extension? What for? Time is not a solution, it’s a method — if there’s an objective and a strategy. And it has to come from London.”

(Writing by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Mark Read, chief executive of WPP, leaves following the AGM in London, Britain, June 13, 2018
FILE PHOTO: Mark Read, chief executive of WPP, leaves following the AGM in London, Britain, June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Kate Holton and Pamela Barbaglia

LONDON (Reuters) – A series of buyout funds including U.S. firms Advent and Blackstone are in talks with advertising group WPP to explore bids for a majority stake in its data analytics unit Kantar, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The sale, led by Goldman Sachs, may value Kantar at up to 3.5 billion pounds ($4.7 billion), but some private equity investors are fretting over the decline in profits and revenues that the business has suffered in recent years.

Hellman & Friedman and CVC Capital Partners are also working on the deal, the sources said, while industry players have so far shied away from the process.

Bain Capital has also expressed interest in making a bid for Kantar, another source said, adding Bain might later decide to team up with one of the other buyout funds in the race.

WPP sent out confidential information packs this week, with non-binding offers expected in April, one of the sources said.

WPP, Blackstone, Advent and CVC declined to comment, while representatives at Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman were not immediately available.

WPP, the owner of agencies including JWT, Finsbury and Ogilvy, is in the middle of an overhaul launched by its new boss Mark Read following several profit warnings in 2017 and 2018.

The London-based group wants to sell a majority stake in Kantar to reduce debt as it braces for a tough year with revenue expected to drop by between 1.5 and 2 percent in 2019.

Kantar, a leading player in market research, provides brand and marketing communications research for some of the world’s largest advertisers.

Yet it has suffered a decline in revenue in recent years, with underlying sales down 2 percent last year to 2.6 billion pounds and operating profit down 14 percent to 301 million.

“The deal poses some challenges for private equity funds as it’s been on a downward trajectory for a while,” one source said.

Private equity investors are examining the turnaround potential of a possible deal, the sources said, and would value the business at up to 10 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), hoping to reignite growth within the first three years of their investment.

Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker said in February that Kantar could fetch more than 3 billion pounds, with WPP raising close to 2.1-2.2 billion pounds from a 60 percent stake sale.

WPP boss Read aims to complete the sale by the end of the summer as he needs cash to steer the world’s biggest advertising group back to growth.

Read took the helm of WPP last year, pledging to spend 300 million pounds to restructure the group and bring it back in line with peers by the end of 2021.

Founder Martin Sorrell, 74, remains a major WPP shareholder but is now running a new company which last year beat WPP in the race to buy Dutch digital agency MediaMonks.

(Editing by David Holmes)

Source: OANN

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech at the annual Global Solutions Summit in Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech at the annual Global Solutions Summit in Berlin, Germany, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

March 19, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday she would fight for an orderly Brexit right up until Britain’s planned departure from the European Union on March 29.

Merkel, asked whether she was ready to offer British Prime Minister Theresa May a new Brexit deal, said she “noted with interest” a ruling by the speaker of parliament that May must change her twice-defeated divorce deal to put it to a third vote.

“Now, we will see what Theresa May says to us, what her wishes are – we will try to respond to those,” Merkel added, speaking at a conference in Berlin.

“We will follow very closely how the British government reacts to what was said yesterday in parliament,” she added. “As to how deal with the situation, I can’t assess how it will be (at an EU summit) on Thursday – there is far too much in flux.”

In a move that added to the sense of crisis in London and exasperation in European capitals just days before the March 29 exit date, Speaker John Bercow shocked May’s government on Monday by ruling it could not put the same Brexit deal to another vote unless it was substantially different.

“I will fight until the last minute of the time to March 29 for an orderly exit,” Merkel said. “We haven’t got a lot of time for that, but still some days.”

Asked if she would be prepared to grant Britain a delay to Brexit, Merkel replied that she wanted to have very good relations with Britain even after Brexit.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Michelle Martin)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The HSBC bank is seen in the financial district of Canary Wharf
FILE PHOTO: The HSBC bank is seen in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London, Britain, July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

March 19, 2019

By Sinead Cruise and Lawrence White

LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC is stepping up a root-and-branch overhaul of its global banking and markets division, naming 83 new managing directors in a 1,300-strong promotions spree aimed at revitalizing its investment banking franchise.

After another year of underwhelming performance in 2018, HSBC’s management team – bolstered by new finance chief and ex-investment banker Ewen Stevenson – are plotting a push to recover ground lost to rivals, with a revamp of its trading floor seen as top priority, sources close to HSBC said.

Samir Assaf, chief executive of global banking and markets, distributed a memo last Monday pointing out the significant rise in the number of women promoted this year.

HSBC is trying to close a gender pay gap of 61 percent, the worst among major British firms and largely caused by a lack of women in senior, higher paid roles.

Around a third of the 83 new managing directors are female, the memo seen by Reuters showed, a 13 percentage point rise from the previous year, according to a source at the bank with knowledge of the matter.

A spokesman for HSBC declined to comment.

The wave of promotions comes just weeks after the bank axed dozens of sales and advisory jobs in London following an extended period of turmoil in its investment banking operations.

Last year saw an exodus of high-profile dealmakers in Europe, with sources saying there was frustration at a lack of a clear strategy.

36 of the promotions are in HSBC’s global banking business, which includes its mergers and acquisitions and equity advisory bankers.

The bank has also poached senior hires from rivals, including former JPMorgan banker Greg Guyett as head of global banking and former Goldman Sachs banker Peter Enns as the global head of its financial institutions group.

HSBC tumbled further in investment banking league tables in some key market segments in 2018, with its fourth quarter performance in equities particularly weak.

Revenues there fell 20 percent from a year earlier, the second worst performance among major investment banks after France’s BNP Paribas.

HSBC slipped to 20th among global equity deal bookrunners in 2018 from 16th the previous year, according to Refinitiv data. It also fell to 24th from 19th in the rankings for advising on completed mergers and acquisitions.

The bank fared better in its traditional stronghold of debt underwriting, placing 6th according to Refinitiv data, with revenues growing 14 percent in its transaction banking business.

MOOD LIFT

Investors are pinning their hopes on Georges Elhedery to improve productivity and lift the mood in the bank’s global markets business, after he took over the division from caretaker boss Thierry Roland on Friday.

Elhedery, who is relocating to London from Dubai to take up the role, is filling a position vacated by veteran HSBC banker Thibaut de Roux in September last year.

25 of the new promotions are in global markets, and other high-ranking appointments are in progress.

Nathalie Safar, one of the investment bank’s most senior women, is leaving her position as global equities chief operating officer after eight years in the role, a second staff memo seen by Reuters showed.

She will take up a newly-created position of head of front to back resource and cost management, focusing on making savings that will fund investments in the bank’s growth areas.

A search for her successor is underway, the memo said.

(Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

Source: OANN

The British union flag and the EU flag are seen flying near the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain
The British union flag and the EU flag are seen flying near the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 19, 2019

By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is uncertain nearly three years after the 2016 Brexit vote.

Most diplomats and investors think the United Kingdom faces three main options: leaving with a divorce deal, throwing the question back to the people or exiting without a deal.

Graphic on no-deal Brexit probabilities from major banks: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UIhlyz

Following are the main scenarios:

1) BREXIT WITH A DEAL – May gets her deal approved at a third attempt and the United Kingdom leaves in an orderly fashion after a modest delay.

May’s divorce treaty, the product of more than two years of negotiations with the EU, was defeated by 149 votes on March 12 and by 230 votes on Jan. 15.

She had been intending to put the deal to another vote in parliament as early as this week, but the speaker ruled on Monday that she could not do so unless the deal was re-submitted in fundamentally different form. [nL8N2153SV]

Unless May can find a way around Speaker John Bercow’s ruling – such as adding an addendum or starting a new session of parliament – she will have to ask the EU to delay Brexit to avoid a no-deal exit on March 29.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Tuesday played down the possibility of cutting the parliamentary session short in order to start a new one.

Because May must now spice any deal with additional legal and procedural innovation, Bercow’s ruling means she is likely to get just one more chance to put the deal to a vote.

She had warned lawmakers that unless they approved her divorce deal, Britain’s exit could face a long delay which many Brexiteers fear would mean Britain may never leave.

May could discuss a delay and seek to get last-minute concessions at a March 21-22 EU summit, though with such chaos in London a crunch decision on Brexit might be delayed until the following week.[nL8N2154G1]

The EU has repeatedly said the Withdrawal Agreement is the only deal on the table and May’s spokesman said Britain would not be seeking to renegotiate the most contentious part – the Irish border plan.

If May is looking for a legal fix, though, she could seek a change to the accompanying Political Declaration.

Sources in Brussels said on Monday that Britain could ask for a Brexit delay even after the summit, suggesting that the decisive moment for Brexit might still be some days ahead.

One possible way out for May would be a Brexit delay until the end of 2019, with an option to leave earlier should her deal get passed. Ultimately, May might have to offer a date for her own resignation to win enough Conservative votes for her deal.

To get her deal through parliament, May must win over at least 75 lawmakers: dozens of rebels in her own Conservative Party, some Labour lawmakers, and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of eurosceptics in Britain’s House of Commons, signaled he could fall in behind the deal. [nL8N2152DJ]

Many banks and investors still say her deal could be struck and approved, and cite previous EU crises such as the Greek debt crisis, where solutions were found at the eleventh hour.

“I think MPs (lawmakers) will see sense and approve the Meaningful Vote before March 29,” said Matthew Elliott, the head of the 2016 campaign for leaving the European Union, told Reuters after Bercow’s ruling.

“The most likely outcome at this juncture is the deal going through,” Elliott said. “When it becomes apparent that the only extension on offer from the EU is long, tortuous and with lots of conditions, I suspect enough MPs will get behind the deal for it to pass.”

If May’s deal fails, or if another vote on the same deal is prevented, another option is that parliament at some point takes control of Brexit and lawmakers seek a closer relationship with the EU, staying in the EU customs union.

Lawmakers could seek indicative votes on a way forward and there might be a majority for a softer Brexit than May’s deal. To avoid that, May could call a snap election, though her party does not want one.

Another option, being pushed by some lawmakers is a referendum on May’s Brexit deal, though such a vote, were it ever called, would effectively become a referendum on EU membership.

2) BREXIT REFERENDUM – May’s deal fails and a long delay allows the campaign for another referendum to gain momentum.

It is far from clear how the United Kingdom would vote if given another chance.

An often chaotic set of votes in parliament last week has shown that none of the alternatives to May’s deal – such as leaving with no deal, a referendum or allowing parliament to decide how to leave – can muster a majority among lawmakers yet.

In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 51.9 percent, backed leaving the EU while 16.1 million, or 48.1 percent, backed staying.

While many surveys ahead of the vote incorrectly predicted that the United Kingdom would vote to stay in the club it joined in 1973, polls now suggest no great desire for a second referendum and indicate that many voters, fatigued by the political squabbling, would be happy to leave without a deal.

Corbyn, who voted against membership in 1975 and gave only reluctant backing to the 2016 campaign to remain in the EU, has given ambiguous backing for another referendum, saying he would push for one alongside a national election.

When asked if he would vote to remain in the EU in a possible future referendum, Corbyn said on Sunday: “It depends what the choice is in front of us.”

At the highest levels of government, there are worries that a second referendum would exacerbate the deep divisions exposed by the 2016 referendum, alienate millions of pro-Brexit voters and stoke support for the far-right.

Already, many supporters of Brexit, and even some lawmakers, say the elite has sabotaged the EU divorce and is trying to subvert the will of the people.

It is far from clear how the United Kingdom would vote and even if it did vote to remain, Brexit supporters might demand a third and decisive vote.

A new party backed by Nigel Farage, the insurgent who helped shove Britain towards the EU exit, has a message for the country’s leaders: The foundations of the political system will explode if Brexit is betrayed.

3) NO-DEAL EXIT – The chaos in London is such that parliament cannot find a way to approve May’s deal or find another divorce deal option, and after one or more delays, the EU says it will extend no longer. The United Kingdom then leaves without a deal.

Lawmakers on Wednesday voted 321 to 278 in favor of a motion that ruled out a potentially disorderly “no-deal” Brexit under any circumstances.

While the approved motion has no legal force and ultimately may not prevent a no-deal exit, it carries considerable political force.

Still, as the March 29 exit date is set in law, the default is to leave on that date unless May agrees a delay or parliament changes the law.

“You either have a deal, you have no deal, or you have no Brexit,” said Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay.

While an extension would avoid a no-deal exit on March 29, the potential for a no-deal Brexit would remain if the British parliament was unable to approve a deal.

And the European Union’s 27 other members must unanimously approve a delay to Brexit.

Barclay has said Britain should not be afraid of leaving without a deal if it cannot get a divorce deal approved.

No-deal means there would be no transition so the exit would be abrupt, the nightmare scenario for international businesses and the dream of hard Brexiteers who want a decisive split.

Britain is a member of the World Trade Organization so tariffs and other terms governing its trade with the EU would be set under WTO rules.

(Editing by Anna Willard and Giles Elgood)

Source: OANN

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is pictured next to the Swiss Federal Palace in Bern
FILE PHOTO: The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is pictured next to the Swiss Federal Palace (Bundeshaus) in Bern, Switzerland December 7, 2018. Picture taken December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

March 19, 2019

ZURICH (Reuters) – The Swiss National Bank will leave its ultra-loose policy alone on Thursday, said all the economists polled by Reuters, and most don’t expect any change until at least 2021.

All 32 economists polled by Reuters expect SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan to maintain the bank’s negative interest rates and readiness to intervene in currency markets to restrain the safe-haven Swiss franc.

They expect the SNB to keep its target range for the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) locked at -1.25 to -0.25 percent, the same level since it ditched its minimum exchange rate of 1.20 Swiss francs to the euro four years ago.

None of the respondents expect any change until the end of this year, especially in view of the European Central Bank’s slowing of its own policy normalization. Most forecast it will come in 2021 at the earliest.

“We do not expect the SNB to change interest rates before the end of 2020. In fact, if we are correct in our assessment that the ECB will be forced to re-start QE next year, upward pressure on the franc – and SNB concerns about deflation – are likely to intensify into 2020,” said Jack Allen at Capital Economics.

“This means the SNB may have to delve into its toolbox to ease policy next year,” Allen said. He thinks the SNB might take rates even further into negative territory if necessary.

There was also no disagreement about the negative interest rate the SNB charges on sight deposits. All the economists expect -0.75 percent to be maintained this week.

All but one expected the bank to retain its description of the franc as “highly valued”. That one expected it will be described as “significantly overvalued”. The franc has gained 3 percent against the euro in the last 12 months to trade around 1.1360.

A strong franc weighs on Switzerland’s export-reliant economy and also adds deflationary pressure. The SNB is expected to cut its 2019 inflation forecast on Thursday from its current view of 1 percent.

The SNB will have to wait at least until the ECB starts its monetary policy tightening — now delayed to 2020 at the earliest — before it begins its own path to normalization, analysts said.

“Pressure on the SNB is mounting from two sides: on the one hand, the financial industry and pension funds are increasingly coming under pressure, which puts pressure on the SNB to end the negative interest rate phase as early as possible,” said Alessandro Bee at UBS.

“On the other hand, the weakness in European growth and the various political risks lead to a higher risk of a Swiss franc appreciation. The SNB is between a rock and a hard place.”

(Reporting by John Revill, polling by Manjul Paul and Richa Rebello, editing by Larry King)

Source: OANN

Speaker of the House John Bercow speaks ahead of a vote on Brexit in Parliament in London
FILE PHOTO: Speaker of the House John Bercow speaks ahead of a vote on Brexit in Parliament in London, Britain, March 13, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. Reuters TV via REUTERS

March 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government must submit a different proposition to parliament to the one it lost last week if it wants to hold another vote on its Brexit plans, the parliament’s speaker, John Bercow, said on Monday.

Bercow, the ultimate arbiter of whether the government can ask parliament again to pass Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal to leave the European Union, said ministers could not submit the same proposition again.

“This is my conclusion: if the government wishes to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same, nor substantially the same as that disposed of by the house on the 12th of March, this would be entirely in order,” he said.

“What the government cannot legitimately do is to resubmit to the House (of Commons) the same proposition or substantially the same proposition as that of last week which was rejected by 149 votes.”

According to precedents stretching back to 1604, parliamentary rules say that substantially similar proposals cannot be presented for a vote more than once during the same session of parliament.

“This ruling should not be regarded as my last word on the subject,” Bercow said.

“It is simply meant to indicate the test which the government must meet, in order for me to rule that a third meaningful vote can legitimately be held in this parliamentary session.”

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, writing by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Harry arrives with girlfriend actress Meghan Markle at the wheelchair tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry (R) arrives with girlfriend actress Meghan Markle at the wheelchair tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Lisa Richwine and Rollo Ross

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Fascination, pride and the best soap opera in the world have many Americans eagerly awaiting the impending birth of Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s first child.

After some 29 million Americans watched the televised May 2018 wedding of Harry to Californian actress Markle, the prospect of the first British royal baby born to an American mother is proving even more compelling.

“It’s going to be massive,” said J.D. Heyman, deputy editor of People magazine. “When Meghan presents the baby, when Meghan and Harry step out onto a balcony … I think what you will see is an enormous outpouring of affection for both of them.”

“The excitement around this equals the births of certainly Prince William’s babies and, frankly, Harry and William’s birth(s)” more than 30 years ago, Heyman added.

Despite America’s War of Independence fought against Britain some 240 years ago, Americans have long been obsessed with British royals, who regularly feature on the front pages of celebrity magazines.

British producer Nick Bullen, a co-founder of subscription streaming service True Royalty TV, which launched last summer, said a colorful and dramatic history with larger-than-life figures such as King Henry VIII drives the modern fascination with the royal family.

“The British royal family is the best soap opera in town,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

True Royalty TV is based in London but draws its largest number of subscribers from the United States.

While celebrity media outlets are chronicling Markle’s pregnancy with daily pictures and speculation over the baby’s sex and due date, True Royalty TV plans documentaries and talk-show discussions on topics including: how will the royal couple raise their first child?

“Imagine raising an American royal in Britain,” Bullen said. “It’s hard enough I think for a lot of Americans to come to London and get to grips with boarding schools and prep schools and little caps and little shorts and how we raise children in the UK.

“Will Dorian, Meghan’s mum, be involved in the baby’s raising?” Bullen said. “Will it have holidays in California? Will it be doing baby yoga? People want to know all that level of detail.”

Not everyone is getting caught up in royal baby fever.

“I actually don’t have too much of an opinion about it,” shrugged Evan Jorgensen, as he strolled along the Venice Beach boardwalk in California on Monday.

But most people Reuters spoke to said they were excited and pleased. Americans feel tremendous affection toward Markle, said Heyman.

“There’s a personal pride that many people feel, that an average American girl of a multiracial background has risen to this position,” he said.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Rollo Ross; Writing by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Nick Carey)

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Residents hold US and North Korean flags while they wait for motorcade of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un en route to the Metropole Hotel for the second US- North Korea summit in Hanoi
Residents hold US and North Korean flags while they wait for motorcade of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un en route to the Metropole Hotel for the second US- North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kham

March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two senior U.S. senators called on Monday for the Trump administration to correct a slowing pace of U.S. sanctions designations on North Korea, saying there had been a marked decline in the past year of U.S. engagement with Pyongyang.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Ed Markey called for a recommitment to robust enforcement of U.S. and United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

The senators, the chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, complained that the pace of sanctions designations on North Korea had “slowed considerably” in the past year of U.S. diplomatic engagement with the country.

They cited research by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank saying that the Trump administration had sanctioned 182 persons and entities for North Korea sanctions violations since March 31, 2017, but only 26 since Feb. 23, 2018, “despite ample evidence of illicit behavior from Pyongyang and its enablers.”

The letter pointed to a 2019 U.N. report which found that North Korea had continued to defy U.N. sanctions with a massive increase in smuggling of petroleum products and coal and violation of bans on arms sales.

While welcoming U.S. diplomatic efforts aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, the senators’ letter said “the status quo is unacceptable and is contrary to the administration’s ‘maximum pressure and engagement’ doctrine.”

U.S.-North Korea engagement has appeared to be in limbo after a second summit in the past year between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down last month over conflicting demands for sanctions relief and denuclearization.

The State and Treasury Departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Senators’ letter.

Pompeo said in a radio interview on Monday that the administration had “the toughest economic sanctions in history,” on North Korea “but the most promising diplomatic engagement in history” with the country as well.

Speaking to B98 FM in Kansas, Pompeo said Washington aimed to reengage with Kim. Pompeo said on March 5 that he was hopeful he could send a team to North Korea “in the next couple of weeks,” but there has been no sign of such direct engagement since the Feb. 27-28 summit.

The State Department said the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who has led working-level talks with Pyongyang, would travel to London on Tuesday to meet British, French, and German counterparts to discuss coordinated efforts to advance North Korean denuclearization.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN


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