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March 12 – New Date for Vote on May’s Brexit Deal

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Theresa-Donald Brexit deal

Theresa May has delayed the date of vote in parliament on her Brexit deal to as late as March 12, which is exactly 17 days before the UK leaves the EU.

With MPs accusing May of running out the clock, the PM said “meaningful vote” will not take place this week. A series of Brexit votes would still be held in the Parliament on Wednesday, but May’s Brexit deal will not be a part of it.

While travelling to attend an EU-Middle East summit, May told reporters, “We won’t bring a meaningful vote to parliament this week but we will ensure that that happens by the 12th of March. It is still within our grasp to leave the European Union with a deal on the 29th of March and that is what we are working to do.”

When the withdrawal agreement was passing through the parliament, MPs obtained a promise from the government that a fair chance would be given to them to approve May’s deal that is known as “meaningful vote”.

Opposition has accused May of deliberately running out the clock, so that the parliament is forced to either go with the deal that has already been rejected or simply leave the EU without any deal.

After her historic defeat in January, when the parliament voted 432-202 on May’s Brexit deal, she promised to renegotiate the deal and bring it for MPs to approve in another vote.

An opposition Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper, who proposed a bill to stop a no-deal Brexit, said May’s “last minute announcement that she won’t put a deal to parliament this week, and is leaving it until just two weeks before Brexit day, is utterly shambolic and irresponsible”.

“She cannot just keep drifting and dithering like this or there is a real risk our whole country tumbles off a cliff edge into a chaotic no deal that no one is ready for and that would hit food prices, medicine supplies, manufacturing and security.”

Before May left for the summit, three members from May’s cabinet said they would side with opposition to block a no-deal Brexit. The three ministers – Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark – said if a breakthrough could not be achieved “in the next few days” then the article 50 notice period for leaving the EU must be extended.

“What we see around the cabinet table are strong views on the issue of Europe,” May said. “What we are doing as a government is ensuring we are doing everything we can to leave the European Union with a deal.

“People are talking about the extension of article 50 as if it solves the issue when of course it won’t. It defers the point of decision. There comes a point when we must make that decision.”

A source close to the European Council President Donald Tusk said that May has been told to give clarity to the EU that whatever the Brexit deal will offer would gain a majority in the UK parliament prior to the scheduled summit of the EU leaders on March 21-22.

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Theresa May to Announce Biggest Pay Rise in Six Years for Public Sector Workers

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The final countdown for Theresa May’s departure from the Downing Street has begun. The questions surrounding the legacy of May should come to rest after she announces a pay rise of worth £2 billion for the public sector next week.

The announcement for the raise, which is the biggest in six years, will be one of the final acts of May as the Prime Minister.

In 2010, the public sector did not see any raise for two years excluding the members of society, who were earning less than £21,000, following which the limit of 1 percent was imposed on the raise which is below the inflation rate.

Around two million workers comprising of police officers, soldiers, teachers and other school staff, and dentists and consultants will receive the pay rise. Soldiers will receive the highest raise of 2.9 percent; followed by raise of 2.75 percent to the teachers and other school staff; a raise of 2.5 percent to police officers, dentists and consultants and finally a raise of 2 percent to senior civil servants.

It is also believed that rise for the public sector is expected to come from the prevailing budgets. The only exception of the announcement is that an extra funding might be provided for the schools.  

Regarding May’s announcement, Jonathan Cribb, a senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, in lieu of the pay raise said, “These public sector pay rises are higher than last year’s and considerably higher than the 1 per cent for many years before that.”

“It is the highest nominal pay increase since the coalition. But these increases are still slower than pay rises that are happening on average in the private sector. With the partial exception of schools, there seems to be no new money to fund these pay rises, meaning savings will have to be made elsewhere.”

The move has led to various people speculating about the consequences and the real reason behind it. Some consider it to be a desperate attempt by May to save her legacy. On the other hand, many people think that the raise might have an impact on the budget of the public services.

With people still debating over the impact of the yet to be made announcement about the pay rise, the only thing which can be said with certainty is, May’s departure might bring some happiness for workers of the public sector.

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Tehran Shifts Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to Mental Health Ward from Prison

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Iranian officials’ act of abruptly arresting people with UK-Iran dual citizenship has strained the relations of both the countries. The British-Iranian national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who became a victim to such unfortunate detention in September 2016 in Tehran, has now been shifted to a psychiatric ward of a hospital in Iran.

Iranian authorities arrested Nazanin at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport, while she was travelling with her daughter in April 2016. Since then the British-Iranian mother has been detained in Iran’s capital Tehran, facing charges of spreading “propaganda against the regime”, despite her continuous attempts of denying the allegations.

Having spent almost three years away from her family in prison, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has incurred various health issues. Observing her worsening condition, Iranian officials transferred her from Evin prison to the mental health ward of Imam Khomeini hospital on Monday.

Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe claimed that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have been preventing her relatives, including Nazanin’s father from contacting her. The practice of political prisoners being guarded by Revolutionary Guard Cops rather than the regular prison guards seemed an unusual practice to Nazanin’s relatives, who further raised serious concerns over her health.

Before being transferred to the ward she said, “I was healthy and happy when I came to Iran to see my parents. Three and a bit years later and I am admitted to a mental health clinic.

“Look at me now, I ended up in an asylum. It should be an embarrassment. Prison is getting harder and harder for me. I hate being played in the middle of a political game. I just hate it,” Nazanin added.

On Wednesday, Richard Ratcliffe said, “Nazanin hoped that her hunger strike would move the Iranian authorities, and it clearly has.”

“Hopefully, her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don’t know what is going on.”

Earlier, prime-ministerial candidate Boris Johnson’s inaccurate comments further complicated Nazanin’s case, when he told the media that she was teaching people journalism in Iran. However, he later corrected his statements.

Recently, a similar case as that of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffehas been witnessed in Iran. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards arrested Fariba Afelkhah, a Franco-Iranian citizen, as a hostage, restricting Afelkhah’s contact with the French consular staff.

With Iranian officials’ misusing their powers by making hostages and not giving any satisfactory response for the arrests to the respective nationals, the issue has become a subject of international concern. There is a need for all the European countries to act together and abolish the irrelevant practice that has been prevailing in Iran.

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Cricket World Cup Final Winner Was New Zealand; Proves Picture

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Nerve wrecking Cricket World Cup final that had all the flavours of a cricket match, the 12th edition of the tournament that crowned England as the champions, for the first time in 44 years, should have actually gone otherwise.

In a quest for World Cup glory at Lord’s, Mecca of cricket, as both sides traded sweat for sweat – the Kiwis’ should have emerged out as winners; with England falling a run short of their original target.

One of the vital moments of the game in England’s innings came off the third-last bowl from Trent Boult, when Martin Guptill’s throw accidentally deflected from Ben Stokes’ bat to reach the boundary, whilst he was rushing back to complete his second run.

The event meant that English Lions were awarded six runs in all- two for the runs completed by Stokes and Adil Rashid, and four for the deflected overthrow. The incident reduced the equation for England to three runs off two balls, with the home side going on to tie both the match and super over, and eventually winning the match via margin of boundaries (26-17) in their favor.

However, it has now come forward that England should have actually banked 5 runs and not six from the dramatic delivery. As per the MCC Rule 19:8, in an event of overthrow, the runs scored are the allowance for the boundary and “the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act,” should add up to form the total number of runs scored.

As per the proofs available, Stokes and Rashid did not cross each other when the Kiwi fielder, Guptill, threw back the ball from the boundary, meaning England were awarded an extra run in the event.

“It’s a clear mistake, it’s an error of judgment,” said former international umpire Simon Taufel, in an interview with Fox Sports Australia. “In the heat of what was going on, they thought there was a good chance the batsmen had crossed at the instant of the throw. Obviously TV replays showed otherwise.”

“The difficulty umpires have here is you’ve got to watch batsmen completing runs, then change focus and watch for the ball being picked up, and watch for the release of the throw,” he added.

Though the Cricket World Cup final result cannot be changed now, but it raises a serious question on umpires who could have made use of the available technology before awarding a crucial extra run to England.

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UK to Release Iranian Oil Tanker Following No Law Violation Guaranty

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The UK on Saturday attempted to ease off the increasing Iranian tensions that have intensified due to various sanctions imposed on Iran. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s comments of possible attempts to progress the release of a captured Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, in return of an assurance that the ship would avoid breaching the European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, brought a relief to the Iranians.

The Iranian super tanker was carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, when the British Royal Marines seized it off from Gibraltar earlier this month.

Hunt claimed that the UK would resolve the situation by following due process in Gibraltar courts, only if they could get sufficient guarantees from Iran. “This was about the enforcement of EU Syria sanctions: action was taken because of where the oil was going – a sanctioned Syrian entity – – not because it was from Iran,” Hunt said.

The news came amid European nations’ calls for new talks to de-escalate the growing tensions in the Persian Gulf. Troubled by the attacks that have led to the deterioration of the security in the Gulf, the leaders of Britain, France, and Germany called for talks to end “the escalation of tensions” on Sunday.  

Post the seizing of the Iranian oil tanker, the Iranian paramilitary attempted to hinder the British oil tanker’s path, which was travelling through the Strait of Hormuz. However, the verbal warnings from British navy, accompanying the ship forced the Iranian vessels to turn away.

In an effort to ease up the chaos created by seizing of the Iranian oil tanker, Hunt held a “constructive call” with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, reassuring him by saying, “our concern was the destination, not the origin, of the oil”.

In return, Zarif also cleared the false beliefs saying Iran also wants to end the ongoing rifts in the Gulf.

Describing his talks with Zarif, Hunt wrote, “Was told by FM Zarif that Iran wants to resolve issue and is not seeking to escalate. Also spoke to [Gibraltar’s chief minister] Fabian Picardo who is doing an excellent job coordinating issue and shares UK perspective on the way forward.”

The Iranian tensions have been escalating after US’ withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal, wherein the latter failed to keep its promise of halting the production of enriched uranium.

The threatening circumstances advanced by the US sanctions have not only affected the Iranian economy but also severed Iran’s relations with other nations. Furthermore, seizing of the Iranian oil tanker by the UK was seen as an act of adding fuel to the fire.

The UK’s attempt to resolve the issues have been highly appreciated by other nations. Though the question remains as to whether these steps would permanently bring an end to the intensified situations in the Gulf, improving the UK-Iran relations or vice-versa.

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Is HMS Ducan Moving to Relieve or Stay with Montrose?

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HMS Duncan

In a sign that the UK is not going to back off its presence in the Gulf, the nation might further aggravate a conflict with Iran; via its recent move to send a second warship to the region. HMS Ducan, a type 45 destroyer, is due to sail to the strategic waters of the Persian Gulf in coming days and its progress is highly likely to ignite UK-Iran tensions.

The move comes after the UK government said that Iranian boats tried to hinder a British oil tanker in the Gulf on Wednesday.

On the other hand, Iran has called the UK to repatriate its warships, and not enter a “dangerous game”. The warning comes after HMS Montrose was forced to drive off Iranian patrol boats to impede the progress of a British tanker.

HMS Ducan, which is being sent to the region to relieve the HMS Montrose, is expected to “overlap” and work together with the other warship, as per the cabinet sources.

Movement of the ship also follows the decision by Prime Minister Theresa May of entering talks with the US about building a presence in the Gulf, especially as diplomatic tensions vow to become an obstacle.

The Prime Minister’s deputy spokeswoman said the UK had been holding talks with a number of countries. “We are talking to the US about building on our presence in the face of recent threats to shopping in the area,” the spokeswoman said. She added: “We are concerned about the threats that they are making to disrupt shipping in the area and we have been urging them to de-escalate the situation in the region.”

The situation in the Gulf waters has been destabilizing in recent days after an Iranian tanker was barred by Royal Marines from moving to Syria. The oil vessel was suspected of violating the European Union sanctions, and is seen as a catalyst of UK-Iran tensions.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “We have a responsibility to protect British shipping and, with our allies, to protect the waterways and seaways of the world, so we have to react according to the threats that we face.

“But this is not an Iran-specific issue – notwithstanding the broader tensions in the region – this is about Syria and about a breach of the sanctions against Syria, which of course is a country that Iran is active in,” he added.

Iran-US and now the UK entering the conundrum suggests that despite demands for de-escalation, the conflict will only multiply in near future. Besides, with the intense pressure applied on Iran, the nation might crumble to a further low or even retaliate with continuous enrichment of uranium. Also, if HMS Ducan stays back and to work together with HMS Montrose, Iran’s retaliatory moves might exceed all limits to put backward pressure.

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