U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One as they arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
April 24, 2019
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An architect of a still-secret U.S. plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took to Twitter again on Wednesday to disclose another element that it would not contain – a confederation with neighboring Jordan.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, had already tweeted “False!” on Friday to what he said were reports that the proposal would give part of Egypt’s Sinai desert to the adjacent Palestinian enclave of Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist Hamas group.
On Wednesday, Greenblatt denied that the plan envisages a confederation involving Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which administers limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.
“@KingAbdullahII & #Jordan are strong US allies. Rumors that our peace vision includes a confederation between Jordan, Israel & the PA, or that the vision contemplates making Jordan the homeland for Palestinians, are incorrect. Please don’t spread rumors,” Greenblatt wrote.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, another main architect of the peace proposal, said on Tuesday it would be made public after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends in June.
Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and spoke at a Time magazine forum in Washington, did not say whether the plan called for a two-state solution, a goal of past U.S. peace efforts.
Palestinian leaders have called for the establishment of an independent state alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who won a fifth term in an election two weeks ago, laid down a series of conditions for Palestinian statehood in a major policy speech in 2009.
But U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in 2014, partly over the expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied territory Palestinians seek for their state.
In a last-minute election campaign promise that angered Palestinians, Netanyahu said he planned to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank if he was again chosen as Israel’s leader.
The U.S. proposal, which has been delayed for a variety of reasons over the last 18 months, has two major components. It has a political piece that addresses core issues such as the status of Jerusalem, and an economic part that aims to help the Palestinians strengthen their economy.
Palestinian leaders have said Trump cannot be an honest broker after he broke with long-standing U.S. policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and moved the American embassy to the city last May.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Gareth Jones)
FILE PHOTO: The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney leaves after a news conference at the Bank of England in London, Britain February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool/File Photo
April 24, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is searching for a new governor of the Bank of England to succeed Mark Carney in early 2020.
Finance minister Philip Hammond is hoping that concerns about Brexit will not deter potential applicants.
Below are possible contenders to run the BoE which oversees the world’s fifth-biggest economy and its huge finance industry.
The former deputy BoE governor was tipped by analysts as Carney’s most likely successor. But delays to the search, after Carney extended his time in London, have raised questions about whether Hammond sees him as the best candidate.
Bailey, 60, was deputy governor with a focus on banks before becoming chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, a markets regulator.
While at the BoE, Bailey helped to steer Britain’s banks through the global financial crisis.
Heading the FCA is fraught with risks. Lawmakers criticised Bailey for not publishing all of a report into alleged misconduct by bank RBS. Bailey cited privacy restrictions.
As FCA boss, Bailey sits on important panels at the BoE that oversee banks. Although he has never been interest-rate setter, he once ran the BoE international economic analysis team.
Rajan, 56, headed the Reserve Bank of India from 2013 to 2016, and was chief economist at the International Monetary Fund between 2003 and 2006 when he warned of the risk of a financial crisis.
Now a professor at Chicago Booth business school, Rajan has published a book on dissatisfaction with markets and the state – touching on some of the underlying issues behind Brexit.
Rajan unexpectedly did not seek a renewal of his three-year term at the RBI, having faced hostility from some sections of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party who disliked his less nationalist stance and brief forays into political territory.
Rajan declined to comment when asked by Reuters last week whether he would consider a return to active policymaking.
Egyptian-born Shafik, 57, was a BoE deputy governor between 2014 and 2017, in charge of markets and banking, including the central bank’s asset purchase programme. She quit the job early to become director of the London School of Economics.
Between 2008 and 2011 she was the top civil servant at Britain’s ministry for overseas aid and was then deputy managing director at the International Monetary Fund, where she represented the fund in the Greek debt crisis.
Shafik would become the first woman to head the BoE, and was only its second female deputy governor.
BEN BROADBENT AND DAVE RAMSDEN
Broadbent, 54, and Ramsden, 55, are deputy governors for monetary policy and for markets and banking respectively.
Broadbent, a former Goldman Sachs economist who trained as a classical pianist, is respected for his economic analysis but has less experience on banking oversight.
Ramsden was the Treasury’s chief economic advisor.
The two other BoE deputy governors, Jon Cunliffe and Sam Woods, are less likely contenders. Woods focuses mostly on financial regulation while Cunliffe – a former British ambassador to the European Union – would be aged 66 at the start of the term which usually runs for eight years.
Vadera, 56, has no central banking experience but is seen as a contender due to her current role as non-executive chairwoman of Santander UK, one of Britain’s biggest banks, and her time as a junior business minister during the financial crisis.
Vadera served as a minister from 2007 to 2009 after a career in investment banking and a period at the finance ministry.
In 2008, she was part of a small group of ministers and officials who devised a plan worth hundreds of billions of pounds in loan guarantees to keep high-street banks in business.
The BoE’s chief economist, Haldane has developed a reputation for floating unconventional ideas, including the possibility that music apps such as Spotify and multiplayer online games might give central bankers just as a good a sense of what is going on in the economy as traditional surveys.
In 2012, he praised the anti-capitalist Occupy movement for suggesting new ways to fix the shortcomings of global finance. Haldane has experience of both sides of the BoE, having served as executive director for financial stability, overseeing the risks to the economy from the banking system. But he might be seen as too much of a maverick to take the job of governor.
A LABOUR PARTY GOVERNOR?
The prospect of the left-wing Labour Party taking power has grown as Prime Minister Theresa May struggles to break the Brexit impasse.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his would-be finance minister John McDonnell are socialists and have in the past proposed that the BoE should fund investment in infrastructure, a big change from its current focus on inflation.
Former members of Labour’s economic advisory committee included U.S. academic and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Ann Pettifor, a British economist who is an austerity critic, and former BoE rate-setter David Blanchflower.
(Writing by William Schomberg and David Milliken, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference following an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
April 24, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s governing Conservative Party will not change the rules governing leadership challenges but demanded a clear timetable for Prime Minister Theresa May’s departure if her Brexit deal is rejected in parliament, a lawmaker at a party meeting said.
The executive of the so-called 1922 Committee, which groups Conservative lawmakers, met on Wednesday to discuss whether to change the leadership rules after some demanded a change to oust May from her post earlier than current procedures allow.
But a Conservative lawmaker at a broader meeting of the 1922 Committee said the executive had told lawmakers that there would be no change to the rules, but that the committee would call for a “clear schedule” for May’s departure if her Brexit deal is not passed in parliament.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Kylie MacLellan; editing by William James)
People hold banners during a rally to support a nationwide teachers’ strike in central Warsaw, Poland April 24, 2019. Banner reads “Nationwide demonstration for the school”. Agencja Gazeta/Jedrzej Nowicki via REUTERS
April 24, 2019
WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s governing nationalists announced legislation on Wednesday to ensure final high school exams are held next month despite a teachers’ strike that has shut thousands of schools for more than two weeks.
Teacher demands for a pay rise of up to 1,000 zloty ($260)evoke the competing demands of various groups for a slice of the fast-growing prosperity of central Europe’s largest economy, at a time when the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) is expanding benefits for families and pensioners ahead of elections.
Critics say the government lacks incentive to find extra money for teachers as they broadly oppose the PiS over accusations that it is undermining Polish democracy by seeking to impose more political control over the judiciary, the state media and other public institutions. Meanwhile, the populist PiS has announced more payments for farmers who raise pigs and cows.
Teachers polled by the Rzeczpospolita daily say they earn 1,750-2,800 zloty a month after taxes. The average net salary in Polish enterprises amounts to around 3,700 zloty.
Students and parents are anxious to know whether final high school exams – allowing students to apply to university – will be held as planned at the beginning of May.
“The state must guarantee that in every school every exam candidate will be able to take their exam at the scheduled time, this is necessary for the peace of mind of students and parents and for the state to be seen as serious and responsible,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a televised speech.
He announced pending legislation that would allow school directors to grant permission for exams to go ahead if the teachers’ committees at schools remained on strike.
The emergency bill is expected to be put to a vote on Thursday. Given the PiS’s majority of 237 seats in the 460-strong lower house of parliament, the announced legislation is likely to be passed.
Despite a majority of Polish schools not holding lessons for a third week, final exams for children finishing primary and middle schools were held without disruptions.
Thousands of teachers took to the streets of Warsaw on Wednesday as the strike stretched into its 17th day, brandishing placards with slogans such as “Without respect and money, education drowns in poverty”.
In recent months, some opinion polls conducted before the European Parliament election in May have raised the possibility that PiS might lose power after Poland’s national election due in October or November. It is the first such signal since the strongly conservative party took office in 2015.
($1 = 3.8296 zlotys)
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May attends the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, Northern Ireland April 24, 2019. Charles McQuillan/Pool via REUTERS
April 24, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – British government talks with the opposition Labour Party on finding a Brexit compromise cannot be open ended, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said on Wednesday.
The spokesman said working groups from both sides were pressing on with the talks this week, including a meeting to discuss financial services on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, writing by William James)
A mourner wearing a Gryffindor scarf holds an order of service as she arrives for the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, Northern Ireland April 24, 2019. Brian Lawless/Pool via REUTERS
April 24, 2019
By Amanda Ferguson
BELFAST (Reuters) – The leaders of Britain and Ireland joined hundreds of mourners on Wednesday at the funeral of journalist Lyra McKee whose killing by an Irish nationalist militant gunman has sparked outrage in the province.
The New IRA group, which opposes Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord, admitted one of its members shot 29-year-old McKee dead in Londonderry on Thursday when they opened fire on police officers during a riot McKee was watching.
The killing, which followed a large car bomb in Londonderry in January that police also blamed on the New IRA, has raised fears that small marginalized militant groups are exploiting a two-year political vacuum in the province and tensions caused by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
In a statement issued ahead of the funeral, McKee’s family described the writer and lesbian and gay rights activist as a smart, strong-minded woman who believed passionately in justice, inclusivity and truth, and would not wish ill on anyone.
“We would ask that Lyra’s life and her personal philosophy are used as an example to us all as we face this tragedy together. Lyra’s answer would have been simple, the only way to overcome hatred and intolerance is with love, understanding and kindness,” they said.
Northern Ireland’s political parties, which are broadly split between Irish nationalists aspiring to unite the British region with Ireland and unionists who want it to remain British, have called for calm in a rare joint statement condemning the murder.
The party leaders joined British Prime Minister Theresa May, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Irish President Michael D. Higgins and the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, at the funeral in McKee’s native Belfast.
(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson, writing by Padraic Halpin; editing by Kate Holton)
FILE PHOTO: Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the far-right League Party, speaks as he launches campaigning for the European elections, in Milan, Italy April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo/File Photo
April 24, 2019
By Giuseppe Fonte and Gavin Jones
ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s government approved an economic growth plan in the early hours of Wednesday after a bad-tempered cabinet meeting that exposed divisions in the ruling coalition and fuelled speculation about a government collapse.
The infighting overshadowed media coverage of the “growth decree” which called for tax breaks and investment incentives and for simplified procedures for public tenders.
The ruling parties, the right-wing League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, are feuding as they compete for votes ahead of European Parliament elections on May 26, stoking investor fears that the government could fall.
The government had presented the decree as a landmark in its efforts to kickstart Italian growth, which has lagged euro zone peers for two decades, but it instead served to underline an intensifying feud between the coalition partners’ leaders.
5-Star chief Luigi Di Maio showed up for the meeting more than an hour late, after using a TV appearance to call for a junior League minister to resign over a corruption scandal. League leader Matteo Salvini has refused to sack the minister.
“It’s official – there are two governments,” read the front-page headline in national daily newspaper La Repubblica.
Di Maio and Salvini repeatedly say they want the alliance to continue even as they attack each other on a range of issues, and they have shown no willingness to compromise over the future of the League official at the centre of the scandal.
Armando Siri, a transport ministry undersecretary and economic adviser to Salvini, has been put under investigation for allegedly accepting bribes to promote the interests of renewable energy firms. Siri denies any wrongdoing.
“I plan to govern for a full mandate and I have no intention of sending Italians to (early) elections,” Salvini told reporters on Wednesday.
He added that he would not push for a cabinet reshuffle to have more weight in government after the EU elections, where the League is likely to be the largest party, opinion polls suggest.
He said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte – an academic who is from neither ruling party but is close to 5-Star – had not asked for Siri’s resignation. Shortly afterwards Conte said he would speak to Siri, without giving further details.
DEBT RELIEF CHANGE
The growth decree contained few surprises, though the dispute was reflected in a change to one of the decree’s major measures – debt relief for the municipality of Rome, which is run by 5-Star.
The decree was less generous than an original draft of the plan after criticism from the League.
Cabinet also broadened the scope of its plan to compensate savers hit by the country’s recent banking crisis, making the money available to those with an annual income of up to 35,000 euros ($39,000) or with assets of up 200,000 euros.
The asset test was raised from 100,000 euros in the original draft, but it later emerged the amended scheme with the higher threshold would be conditional on EU approval.
The decree also gave the green light for the government to potentially take an equity stake in any vehicle set up to rescue loss-making airline Alitalia. The government is desperate to save the carrier and avoid mass layoffs.
Italy last year unveiled a big-spending budget for 2019, rattling the euro and other financial markets, but it has so far had little impact on growth. The economy slipped into technical recession at the end of 2018 and is now barely expanding.
Italy, the euro zone’s second-most indebted nation after Greece, had public debts equalling 132.2 percent of GDP in 2018, up from 131.4 percent in 2017.
($1 = 0.8923 euros)
(Editing by Giselda Vagnoni, Mark Bendeich and Alison Williams)
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo
April 24, 2019
By Stephen Kalin and Saeed Azhar
RIYADH (Reuters) – Global finance chiefs who boycotted a Saudi investment summit last year following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi returned to Riyadh this week as the Gulf kingdom gets business back on track.
Dozens of Western politicians and business executives pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s showcase summit in October amid global uproar over Khashoggi’s killing at the hands of Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate three weeks earlier.
A Saudi court has charged 11 suspects in a secretive trial and Western allies imposed sanctions on individuals. But Riyadh still faces criticism with some Western governments saying Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder. Saudi authorities have denied any connection to the country’s de facto ruler.
Big investors in Saudi Arabia appear to be focused on potential deals in the largest Arab economy and the world’s top oil exporter as it opens up under a transformation drive led by Prince Mohammed.
HSBC CEO John Flint and Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, who had stayed away from last year’s event, joined panels at the two-day financial forum that began on Wednesday, as did co-president of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Daniel Pinto.
“This is an economy that we have a lot of confidence in, I think the future is bright,” Flint told the gathering. “We are excited about the role that we can continue to play here.”
Fink told another panel: “The changes here in the kingdom in the last two years are pretty amazing.”
The CEO of the London Stock Exchange, who had pulled out of last year’s event, is also scheduled to speak at the financial conference. Also slated to attend is the chairman of Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, whose CEO decided to abstain from the October summit.
Riyadh has been trying for months to refocus attention on its reforms, sending a senior delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos and unveiling an industrial plan to attract hundreds of billions of dollars in investments in January.
The summit is taking place days after Saudi security forces thwarted an attack on a state security building in central Riyadh province, which authorities blamed on Islamic State.
On Tuesday Saudi Arabia announced it had executed 37 people in connection with terrorism crimes, the majority of whom were Shi’ite Muslims. Amnesty International criticized the executions as a “gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent” in the kingdom.
Asked how Saudi Arabia was addressing national security issues, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told the audience the Gulf region is “one of the safest worldwide”.
“These incidents will happen,” he said of the Riyadh province attack. “We are working with the world to make sure that we combat the financing of terrorism… and we work very closely with the West and the regional forces to make sure that we intercept and fight terrorism.”
Earlier this month, state oil giant Saudi Aramco received more than $100 billion in orders for its first international bond issue, a record breaking vote of market confidence.
Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told the forum that Aramco would be active in debt markets and that the $12 billion it raised in its debut bond issue was “only the beginning”.
The Saudi stock market has also seen an upsurge in foreign fund flows since the start of 2019 as the market enters global emerging market benchmarks. The index is up nearly 18 percent year-to-date, one of the best performing markets in the region.
The domestic financial sector is seeing a relative uptick in activity this year, fueled by an economic recovery from higher oil prices and government-led spending on big projects.
Jadaan told the forum that the ministry is launching a 12.5 billion riyal($3.33 billion)initiative to support private sector growth in the kingdom.
While some foreign investors are pushing ahead, other firms continue to keep Saudi Arabia at arm’s length, fearing a potential backlash at home over Khashoggi’s murder, the Yemen war and Riyadh’s detention of women’s rights activists.
Virgin Group last year suspended talks with the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) over a planned $1 billion investment. Hollywood talent agency Endeavor and PIF “parted ways” after talks on the fund investing $400 million, a source familiar with the matter has said.
(Editing by William Maclean)
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves church in Sonning, Britain April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
April 24, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May wants to get her Brexit deal with the European Union approved by British lawmakers in time to avoid taking part in next month’s European Parliament elections.
To do so, she needs to get a law passed through the British parliament. Here is some information about that legislation:
WHAT IS THE ‘WAB’?
The ‘European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill’, known as the WAB, formally ratifies Britain’s exit agreement with the EU. It gives legal effect to the transition period, due to run until December 2020, the rights of EU citizens, a financial settlement with the bloc and an agreement on how to avoid a hard border in Ireland if a future trade deal with the EU cannot be concluded in time.
WHEN COULD IT BE INTRODUCED TO PARLIAMENT?
Parliament has rejected May’s Brexit deal three times since the start of the year. The government is now holding talks with the opposition Labour Party aimed at reaching a compromise on the way forward.
May’s spokesman said her team of ministers had agreed the WAB should be put before parliament as soon as possible. A government source said this could be as early as next week.
Introducing the legislation directly would bypass the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ on May’s deal, which the House of Commons speaker has ruled cannot be brought back for another vote without substantial changes.
It would put pressure on lawmakers to support the legislation to ensure Britain leaves the EU before the European Parliament elections. It would also enable compromise to be reached through amendments, or changes, to the bill, which could be put forward by pro- and anti-Brexit factions in parliament, giving the legislation a better chance of gaining support.
HOW QUICKLY COULD IT BE PASSED?
To avoid holding European Parliament elections on May 23, the bill would have to pass through all its stages in both the lower House of Commons and upper House of Lords to ratify the deal and leave the EU. Timing is tight.
Parliament is due to sit for just 15 days before May 23. Several previous bills on Britain’s relationship with Europe have taken more than 30 days to pass.
Legislation can be rushed through, although many provisions in the bill are expected to be contentious. Lawmakers are likely to object to not having the opportunity to give it enough scrutiny.
If it is not passed by May 23, Britain must take part in the European elections. Its EU membership is due to end on Oct. 31, with or without a deal. If it does not take part in the elections and has not ratified an exit deal, Britain will leave without an agreement on June 1.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE BILL IS VOTED DOWN?
Without a breakthrough in talks with Labour, it is risky for the government to introduce the legislation. If it is voted down, rules dictate that the same bill cannot be brought back during this parliamentary session.
Britain cannot leave the EU with a deal if it does not pass the bill to ratify the agreement.
In order to bring back the bill, the government would have to ‘prorogue’ parliament to end the session and start a new session. This process could take several days and is likely to end any hope of it passing before May 23.
Proroguing could bring problems: May’s Conservatives do not have a majority in parliament and its agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up the government is due to be reviewed at the start of any new session. The DUP oppose May’s deal.
DOES THERE STILL HAVE TO BE A ‘MEANINGFUL VOTE’?
The legal requirement to hold a ‘meaningful vote’ in parliament to approve May’s deal would remain, but the government believes that if lawmakers have voted to approve the legislation, passing a meaningful vote would become a formality.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Janet Lawrence)