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The Guardian view on Brexit and the royal wedding: which is the real Britain? | Editorial

The royal wedding was newly inclusive. But Brexit seeks to close doors, not open them. Referendums in Britain and Ireland challenge those nations to decide where they are heading

Every ancient nation takes the long walk to modernity in its own roundabout way. None is as ramrod straight as the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park down which the royal newlyweds were driven through happy crowds on a memorable and sun-kissed Saturday. National journeys between past and present are more tortuous. Interruptions, setbacks and turns in the road abound. That’s one reason why the royal wedding should not be oversimplified as a transformative, nothing-more-need-be-said knockout blow for a modern tolerant Britain over the older uptight and status-ridden version. But let’s get real about what happened at the weekend. The racial inclusivity of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding was something new. It was a milestone moment on that long and winding walk to a fairer Britain.

It cannot be overlooked that Saturday’s uplifting events took place in a country disfigured by Brexit. The disjunction is real and painful. The same nation that proved it is now more at ease than ever with the different heritages of its modern self is also the nation that is split down the middle over whether to shut its doors on the world or remain confidently part of it. Part of the Brexit tragedy, Professor Robert Ford argued in our Observer sister paper this week, is that the more, as a people, we think about the migration issue, the more open we have become to a fairer, more liberal view of the subject. On that evidence, and on the evidence of Saturday’s events, this country’s long walk is now at a critical crossroads.

Related: As polls narrow before the abortion vote, is rural Ireland setting up a Brexit moment?

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Published on 20 May 2018 | 5:26 pm


The Observer view on the global threat to access to abortion |Observer editorial

Women’s reproductive rights are under widespread threat, not least in America. This is no time for complacency

During his eight years in the White House, one of the themes President Obama frequently reflected on in speeches was the non-linear nature of social progress. “Progress doesn’t travel in a straight line,” he told Rutgers students in his commencement address in 2016. “It remains uneven and at times for every two steps forward, it feels like we take one step back.”

The Observer is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791. It is published by Guardian News & Media and is editorially independent.

Related: Trump administration to revive Reagan-era abortion 'gag' rule

If American women are denied a safe abortion, it will send a terrible moral signal to the rest of the world

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Published on 20 May 2018 | 5:00 am


The Guardian view on the cabinet and Brexit: beyond a joke | Editorial

Downing Street says that ministers have agreed a customs regime strategy. That’s stretching the facts. The EU, MPs and the voters may also have their own views on the matter

There was a time, perhaps, when the government’s ineptitude over Brexit was almost funny. There is nothing funny about it now. For 15 months Theresa May has groped her way towards an approach that could reconcile her party’s Europe-loathers with her party’s Europe-pragmatists. All too predictably, none of her efforts have succeeded. Mrs May now has a month before the June European council at which the UK and the EU are due to review progress. She has five months before some kind of deal is struck. Progress? Deal? These words have lost all meaning. Getting two pandas to mate in captivity turns out to be a cinch compared with getting the Conservative party to agree what it wants.

Mrs May’s latest suggestions for turning Brexit dross into an agreement that can be marketed as golden is a so-called “time-limited goods arrangement”. Essentially, this is an attempt to keep the UK within the EU’s external tariff system after Brexit until it can come up with an effective technological alternative to a post-Brexit hard border in Ireland. That way, the loathers would get their Brexit, the pragmatists would get something they could call a frictionless Irish border, Mrs May would have a united party for a few weeks and the UK would not crash out of the EU unprotected.

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Published on 17 May 2018 | 5:20 pm


McDonnell backs out of prison conference over 'IRA apologist' claims

Delegate accuses shadow chancellor of supporting tactics of republican terrorists

John McDonnell has withdrawn from speaking to the UK’s prison officers union following accusations from a delegate from Northern Ireland that he has supported the tactics of republican terrorists.

The shadow chancellor travelled on Wednesday to the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) annual conference in Southport, Merseyside, expecting to address dozens of delegates.

Related: John McDonnell apologises ‘from the bottom of my heart’ for IRA comment

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Published on 17 May 2018 | 4:12 pm


Theresa May gains support with 'backstop' Brexit plan

UK prime minister makes progress on proposal to avoid hard border, despite claims of disarray over Brexit strategy

Stalemate; deadlock; impasse – or as Jeremy Corbyn put it at PMQs on Wednesday, complete disarray. The narrative about Theresa May’s approach to Brexit and the customs union has barely changed for weeks.

Yet officials were congratulating themselves quietly on Thursday about making incremental progress on a closely interlinked issue – the Irish border.

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Published on 17 May 2018 | 1:18 pm


Irish PM warns UK could crash out of EU without Brexit deal if no progress soon

EU ‘yet to see anything that remotely approaches’ a solution to Irish border issue, taoiseach says

The Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has raised the prospect of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal if UK government infighting continues over the next few weeks.

With the Brexit negotiations stalling and Theresa May failing to offer any further solutions to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the republic, Varadkar made his growing concern clear before meeting the UK prime minister at an EU summit in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.

Counties and customs

Related: Theresa May denies customs union climbdown

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Published on 17 May 2018 | 9:54 am


Theresa May denies customs union climbdown

PM speaks after reports she was preparing for UK to remain in customs union after 2021

Theresa May has denied climbing down over membership of the customs union after Britain leaves the EU.

The prime minister spoke after the Telegraph reported that she was preparing for Britain to remain in the customs union after 2021 as the row over the Irish border continues.

Related: Lords inflict 15th defeat on government over EU withdrawal bill

A customs union is an agreement by a group of countries, such as the EU, to all apply the same tariffs on imported goods from the rest of the world and, typically, eliminate them entirely for trade within the group. By doing this, they can help avoid the need for costly and time-consuming customs checks during trade between members of the union. Asian shipping containers arriving at Felixstowe or Rotterdam, for example, need only pass through customs once before their contents head to markets all over Europe. Lorries passing between Dover and Calais avoid delay entirely.

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Published on 17 May 2018 | 8:28 am


Corbyn finds the formula to fire up the Maybot. Just ask after Brexit | John Crace

The Labour leader has a cunning plan for PMQs – keep it simple, inquire about Brexit, cue groans of despair from the Tories

Jeremy Corbyn has a stubborn streak. Critics might call him a slow learner. But even he can recognise when he’s on to a winning streak. After months – years – of rambling on about something sent in by Susan of Solihull that goes on for so long no one can remember quite what his original point was, the Labour leader has twigged that prime minister’s questions isn’t really that complicated. Especially when you’re up against someone as hopeless as Theresa May.

Last week, Corbyn broke with the habit of a lifetime by asking six short questions about Brexit and had the best PMQs of his time as leader. So quite understandably, he opted for doing the same thing this week. With precisely the same result. At this rate Wednesdays could become a cushy number for the Labour leader. Why bother to spend hours mugging up on the NHS or Windrush, when all you need to do is casually inquire how the prime minister thinks Brexit is coming along and then sit back and wait for everyone to start sniggering.

Related: Jeremy Corbyn mocks Theresa May over Brexit divisions in cabinet

The Maybot stumbled on. An incoherent death spiral of free association. The Art of Mindlessnessnessness

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Published on 16 May 2018 | 5:50 pm


No new cameras on Irish border after Brexit, Karen Bradley says

Northern Ireland secretary’s comments appear to cast doubt on ‘max fac’ customs proposal

There will be no new cameras on the border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, has said, warning that any physical checks on the border could be targets for criminal activity.

However, she said physical infrastructure could be needed away from the border to implement whatever customs deal is struck in the Brexit negotiations.

A customs union is an agreement by a group of countries, such as the EU, to all apply the same tariffs on imported goods from the rest of the world and, typically, eliminate them entirely for trade within the group. By doing this, they can help avoid the need for costly and time-consuming customs checks during trade between members of the union. Asian shipping containers arriving at Felixstowe or Rotterdam, for example, need only pass through customs once before their contents head to markets all over Europe. Lorries passing between Dover and Calais avoid delay entirely.

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Published on 16 May 2018 | 1:55 pm


Post-Brexit blueprint to be published before EU summit, says May

White paper ‘most significant’ publication on UK relationship with EU since the referendum

Theresa May has announced plans to publish, ahead of a critical Brussels summit next month, a Brexit white paper setting out her priorities for Britain’s future relationship with the European Union.

In an attempt to get on the front foot in negotiations, the government will for the first time present a “detailed, ambitious and precise” explanation of what it hopes the final deal will deliver. The blueprint is expected to include a plan for a customs relationship that avoids re-establishing a hard Irish border, although the prime minister’s cabinet remains bitterly divided over how best to achieve this.

Related: Pessimism about Brexit customs impasse after Rees-Mogg remarks

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Published on 15 May 2018 | 7:30 pm


The Guardian view on Brexit and devolution: wanted – joined-up thinking | Editorial

Brexit is not only about the hard/soft argument. It is also about who gets the last word in the different nations of Britain

Britain’s Brexit argument began life as a dispute between remaining in the European Union and leaving it. After the vote to leave in 2016, that original dispute has gradually been overlaid by the battle between a hard and soft Brexit. The House of Lords debates on the EU withdrawal bill, which have significantly softened the bill, and which come to an end on Wednesday, can best be understood in that hard/soft context. When the bill returns to the Commons (Conservative factions are still squabbling over the terms) the arguments will continue along this same hard/soft axis.

However, hard/soft is not the only axis. In the devolved nations there is a different issue. This asks which should have the final word on Brexit: Westminster or the devolved governments – and in what combination? The answers differ in each devolved country. Though Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, its unionist leaders have backed Theresa May for a hard Brexit. After initial objections to Mrs May’s centralist approach, the Welsh government won concessions that were reflected in a government climbdown; it has now struck a deal. The Scots, however, said those were insufficient, so dispute still rages unresolved there. On Tuesday the Scottish parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject the Brexit bill altogether, with the Conservatives dissenting.

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Published on 15 May 2018 | 5:42 pm


Gove casts doubt on merits of customs partnership proposal

Criticism of May’s preferred model brings cabinet customs union breakthrough into question

Michael Gove has cast fresh doubt on the possibility of a breakthrough in the cabinet customs deadlock, saying there were “significant question marks” about proposals for a customs partnership.

The environment secretary expressed scepticism about the merits of Theresa May’s preferred customs partnership model, saying the proposal had flaws and needed to be tested.

Related: Customs union only way to prevent hard border in Ireland, says Major

EU members (plus Turkey, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino) trade without customs duties, taxes or tariffs between themselves, and charge the same tariffs on imports from outside the EU. Customs union members cannot negotiate their own trade deals outside the EU, which is why leaving it – while hopefully negotiating a bespoke arrangement – has been one of the government’s Brexit goals. See our full Brexit phrasebook.

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Published on 13 May 2018 | 4:45 pm


May rejects Williamson criticism over Troubles-era killings consultation

Plan launched amid cabinet rift over omission of statute of limitations for service personnel

Theresa May faced down criticism from the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, to launch a long-delayed consultation on a new unit to investigate Troubles-era killings, which sources close to the process said would leave veterans vulnerable.

The four-month consultation was launched on Friday, amid a bitter cabinet rift over the omission of a statute of limitations for service personnel.

Related: Investigations into the Troubles are vital – and that includes ex-soldiers | Kieran McEvoy

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Published on 11 May 2018 | 5:01 pm


Investigations into the Troubles are vital – and that includes ex-soldiers | Kieran McEvoy

A statute of limitations for state actors would be a de facto amnesty for all involved in past killings in Northern Ireland

“Betrayal of our soldiers – again!”. This was the Daily Mail’s front-page headline on the reported cabinet splits over plans to omit a statute of limitations for former soldiers from proposed legislation on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. A statute of limitations, a mechanism that negates criminal liability for past crimes, is an amnesty by another name. The thing is, such an amnesty was never supposed to be in the legislation in the first place. The “betrayal” in question was an attempt by Conservative politicians and some allies in the DUP to shoehorn in something that none of the Northern Ireland parties or the Irish government ever signed up to in the first place.

Related: Troubles investigations are skewed against veterans, May says

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Published on 11 May 2018 | 2:03 pm


Rees-Mogg: I need not visit Northern Ireland to understand Brexit issue

Critics say leading Brexiter’s refusal to visit Northern Ireland border is out of touch

The Eurosceptic Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he does not need to visit Northern Ireland to understand the challenges Brexit has posed for communities on the border, in comments described as arrogant and judgmental by people living there.

In an interview with BBC Northern Ireland, he declared: “I don’t think my visiting the border is really going give me a fundamental insight into the border beyond what one can get by studying it.”

Related: Customs union only way to prevent hard border in Ireland, says Major

When did @Jacob_Rees_Mogg last visit the Irish border?

“Not recently.... I don't think my visiting the border is really going to give me a fundamental insight into the border beyond what one can get from studying it"@MarkCarruthers7 #Brexit @bbctheview pic.twitter.com/OhHeNHUQZ8

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Published on 11 May 2018 | 1:34 pm


Customs union only way to prevent hard border in Ireland, says Major

Brexiters must recognise the ‘collateral damage’ leaving the EU will cause in Northern Ireland, says former PM

Sir John Major has warned that a hard border in Ireland will be unavoidable unless Brexiters start to take on board the “collateral damage” that exiting the EU will cause in Northern Ireland.

He said that the words “customs union” had become “toxic” and that efforts to find an alternative solution to the border amounted to “limp promises”.

Counties and customs

A customs union is an agreement by a group of countries, such as the EU, to all apply the same tariffs on imported goods from the rest of the world and, typically, eliminate them entirely for trade within the group. By doing this, they can help avoid the need for costly and time-consuming customs checks during trade between members of the union. Asian shipping containers arriving at Felixstowe or Rotterdam, for example, need only pass through customs once before their contents head to markets all over Europe. Lorries passing between Dover and Calais avoid delay entirely.

Related: Brexit plan drawn up for border checks between NI and rest of UK

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Published on 10 May 2018 | 11:06 pm


Labour backbenchers urge Jeremy Corbyn to back remaining in EEA

As poll finds slim majority wants vote on Brexit deal, MPs say EEA option should be on table

Pro-Europe Labour backbenchers are fighting to keep the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to reconsider his opposition to membership of the European Economic Area, as new polling for the People’s Vote campaign confirms majority support for a vote on the Brexit deal.

The poll, by Opinium, finds a small overall majority of 53% in favour of a vote on the deal, with 31% opposed.

Staying in the single market and customs union

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Published on 10 May 2018 | 11:01 pm


Troubles investigations are skewed against veterans, May says

PM appears to back concerns that ex-soldiers may be soft targets for new NI investigations unit without further protections

Theresa May has given her tacit backing to cabinet ministers concerned that veterans may be unfairly pursued under plans for a new unit to investigate killings in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, calling the current system “patently unfair”.

Cabinet ministers are divided over plans for the creation of a historical investigations unit, which the government agreed to establish in 2014 as part of the Stormont House agreement, to investigate the unsolved murders.

Related: Saved for posterity … 40,000 memories of the Troubles

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Published on 9 May 2018 | 3:15 pm


Sex without consent is rape. Courts around the world must catch up | Cathy Camera

While some judicial systems acknowledge that ‘no means no’, they don’t seem to understand that ‘no’ can be conveyed in more than just words

As Saxon Mullins bravely told her rape story on Four Corners, Twitter lit up in horror and disbelief. This young woman was shining a light on the issue of consent and how it is interpreted by our judicial system. Her story was powerful and moving, and the next day the NSW attorney general, Mark Speakman, called for public submissions to review consent in sexual assault cases.

Just as the public was incensed by the result in Saxon Mullins’ case, two gang rape trials on the opposite side of the world earlier this year also earned the ire of the public.

Movies and crime shows teach us that women being raped scream and fight against their attackers

Related: NSW to review sexual consent laws after searing Four Corners testimony

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Published on 9 May 2018 | 3:42 am


EEA membership could bridge the Brexit divide | Letters

Professor Eric Goodyer argues for EEA membership, Robert Gildea sees an opportunity for Labour, Fawzi Ibrahim is sick of Brexiters being patronised, and Phelim J Brady writes that the island of Ireland must remain within the customs union

UK membership of the European Economic Area is the only policy that respects the referendum and delivers a “jobs-first Brexit” (Boris Johnson attacks Theresa May’s ‘crazy’ customs plan, 8 May). It removes the threat of an Irish border by allowing EU-wide frictionless free trade. It does not require membership of the common agriculture and fishing policies, monetary union (euro), or adherence to the European court of justice.

Significantly for the Labour party, it does not block state aid whose purpose is “to promote the economic development of areas where the standard of living is abnormally low or where there is serious underemployment”. EEA membership respects the wishes of the majority of Labour members and voters who voted remain, and in no way blocks Jeremy Corbyn’s desire to use state aid and nationalisation to promote economic and social policies within the UK.

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Published on 8 May 2018 | 5:04 pm








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