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PM Gonsalves at news Conf Guadeloupe

OECS chairman on Antigua and Barbuda and Carnival Cruise Lines impasse

by staff writer

BASSE-TERRE, Guadeloupe, Mar 17, CMC – The chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he has held Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne regarding the issue involving the Florida-based Carnival Cruise Lines.

Gonsalves, who chaired the special two-day OECS summit here last week, told reporters that the matter between Antigua and Carnival Cruise Lines “was not specifically raised” at the meeting of the sib-regional leaders.


Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves (second from right) at news conference in Guadeloupe (CMC Photo)

“Though the Prime Minister and myself had a long discussion on the subject,” Gonsalves said, adding that he did not want to make any statement that would prejudice planned talks between the parties.

“But let me ask this question. Are we in such a state of servitude in the Caribbean that the prime minister cannot speak publicly in defence of what he perceives to be his country’s interest without reprisals?

“Unilateral reprisals. Is that where we are now? Is that old fashion colonialism replaced by some new species of neo-colonialism,? Gonsalves asked.

Last weekend, the Antigua and Barbuda government said it was prepared to hold talks with the Carnival Cruise Lines amid a confusion in that country as to whether or not the company had cancelled several schedule calls to the island.

Earlier, Tourism and Investment Minister, Henry Charles “Max” Fernandez, in a statement, said he wanted to condemn “unequivocally a misleading and scare-mongering statement” made by the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association (ABCTA), Nathan Dundas, regarding the cancellation of the cruise ships.

Dundas had said that the cruise line did not give a reason for the cancellation adding “so all four ships booked commencing next season November 2019 to 2020 – Breeze, Magic, Legend and Pride will be going to other ports.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas said the Gaston Browne administration was prepared to meet with the cruise line company at a mutually convenient location wither here or in the United States.

He said in the meantime, both parties have agreed to refrain from making any comments on the situation.

“We felt it necessary to engage them. Despite the hostilities we have continued to engage. We seem them as an important player. Their total brand and all of the ships that are under their control would constitute a significant portion of the existing passengers that come to Antigua under the existing protocol.

“So we do not consider them as being insignificant in the business. So we have continued to engage them. Accordingly based on a conversation that we had again yesterday at cabinet with senior officials we have both agreed to not only stay the hostilities but to have a meeting at a mutually agreeable point.

“It could be in Miami or it could be here in Antigua,” Nicholas said, noting that Carnival Cruise Lines have been complaining about the ports here for decades but have failed to assist in any significant way.

Last month, the Antigua and Barbuda government defended its decision to enter into a multi–million dollar agreement with the London-based Global Ports Holdings (GPH) for the development of the cruise port in the capital.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that the US$83 million agreement with GPH would change the landscape of the island.

The GPH, established in 2004, GPH promotes itself on its website as the world’s largest cruise port operator with an established presence in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Asia-Pacific regions, including extensive commercial port operations in Turkey and Montenegro.

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2-11-19-Edella-Allen-designer

Montserrat Youth Accepted to OECS Fashion Design Programme

“Local Business woman with regional impact”

Edella Allen

Miss. Edella Allen has been accepted to the first cohort of the OECS Fashion Design Programme which shall be delivered online from February 11th to September 18th 2019. Miss. Allen, a member of the Young Entrepreneur Association of Montserrat, is the owner of Classics Boutique, which already has a regional and international market for the sale of custom made outfits and fashion designs.

Participants in the programme will be provided with a broad range of support to include target market profile, collection conceptualization, trend forecasting, collection title/inspirational words, mood-board/inspiration board sketches/ technical flats, fabrication/sourcing, manufacturing/production and timelines/ completion, buyer and brand matching/ B2B and sales facilitation.

This CBU intervention is the latest in a series of events targeting the sub-sector since 2015 under the 10th EDF Regional Integration for Trade of the OECS.

The opportunity was promoted by MATHLE and the Youth and Sports Development Programme. Lyston Skerritt, Coordinator of the Youth and Sports Development Programme stated, “We are proud of Miss Allen and our continued success in recent regional opportunities. It shows Montserrat has the skills and talent to participate at the highest level.”

Edella shows off her fashion

When asked about the opportunity, Miss Allen stated, “From this programme I would like to tap into a regional and international market and expand the success of the company”

In this programme, the CBU is targeting emerging as well as export-ready companies involved in the design and production of apparel and accessories in OECS Member States.

At the end of the intervention, the CBU hopes to help further strengthen the fashion and design value chain in the OECS and provide designers with an avenue for increased exposure of their various products and services.

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2-28-18-winair

St. Patrick’s Day festival preparations

As the preps heat up, plans are made to ensure people arrive ‘on time’

Testing docking ability Jaden Sun at Plymouth jetty in case bad seas overtake Little Bay port

Last year the St. Patrick’s Day festival was in celebration to mark the 250th anniversary of the failed slave rebellion on March 17, 1768, when authorities forecasted that “over 7,000 people will flock the island for the commemoration.” The actual arrival numbers were disputed eventually but there was no hold back on touting the revenue that resulted, especially when wooing Government to put more into the event.

As the bulk of people began to arrive on island from March 4, 2018 or thereabout, people became stranded in Antigua as the March seas struck again “over 100 passengers were stranded in Antigua on Wednesday, March 7, just like it did last year also in March, when that time the ferry successfully docked and landed passengers at the Plymouth jetty in the exclusion zone. This followed cancellations the week before when hundreds had already begun to arrive for the Festival.” (see: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/ferry-travel-to-montserrat-failed-for-high-seas/)

The wave when it broke scared many on shore at Port Little Bay, hid the ferry from view

The Access Division had arranged for the passengers who had been stuck in Antigua since high seas caused cancellation of the ferry service on Sunday, 4th to travel down and dock at Port Plymouth. But things went awry when that plan failed because of the timing. The ferry was unable to dock and after checking the situation at Little Bay which at first seemed calm, the sea again turned up and forced the ferry to return to Antigua with a reported number of 114 passengers.

This year, in anticipation of the known March conditions, we received the following information provided from a release from the DMCA on the ferry, captioned, “Ferry Does Test Run at Plymouth Jetty”. It is uncertain what media witnessed if any, but independent media was either ignored as had been attempted prior, or was just not informed of the event due to take place.

So, according to the report from the DMCA, the MV Jaden Sun ferry successfully docked at Port Plymouth in Zone V on Wednesday, February 27th, 2019, the following being information as provided.

According to Senior Disaster Management Coordinator at the Disaster Management Coordination Agency (DMCA), Astrid Wade, the ferry berthing at the Plymouth Jetty was to test the agency’s contingency plan for the docking of the ferry in the event of rough seas at Little Bay during Montserrat’s hosting of the 2019 St Patrick’s Festival in March.

He said the exercise also tested putting on fenders on the jetty to mitigate against any damage to the MV Jaden Sun.

The Senior Disaster Coordinator confirmed that a disembarkation and embarkation gangway was placed on the ferry to test the safe exit of passengers getting on and off the ferry.

Jaden Sun being secured at Plymouth Jetty in docking test

The exercise today led by the DMCA involved several key agencies on island namely the Montserrat Port Authority, Royal Montserrat Police Service, Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO), Montserrat Tourist Board (MTB), Access Division, Montserrat Customs and Revenue Service (MCRS) and Integrated Border Security (IBS) to ensure successful docking of the ferry, MV Jaden Sun, in the event circumstances warrant the use of the Plymouth facility if Little Bay is deemed unsuitable as a result unfavourable sea conditions.

Improved flight arrangements for the Festival season

As part of its St Patrick’s preparations and contingency planning, for such eventualities as experienced over the years, the Access Division, within the Office of the Premier, is encouraging additional support due to the level of demand outlined by customers for both air and sea travel.

Ferry Services:

The ferry service has increased its initial schedule from a six-day to a seven-day schedule for a two-week period surrounding the St Patrick’s festival. The service has seen a number of additional adjustments to better cater for the travelling public. Customers will be able to check and book via the live ferry service schedule online at www.ferry.ms. The ferry will run every day from the 5th March to the 24th March except on Sunday 17th March, when it will be hosting Scriber’s, “Round the island adventure tour”.

Air Services:

Air services will also see additional flights due to increased customer demand. Both regular airline operators Fly Montserrat and SVG (ABM)Air have increased their daily flights.  Some additional support will be provided by WinAir on selected days, during the period March 5th to 21st.  Customers can check and book on each Operator’s website for available flights within the March period.

WINAIR flying to Montserrat for St Patrick’s Festival 2019

WinAir aircraft

This new flight arrangement may be coming somewhat late to serve as a true test of how beneficial it might be for travelers to, and for Montserrat. The decision, we have been reliably informed was made months ago, may even be over a year. However, attempts to block this development is a matter that raises its head to higher and in ways to devious behaviour by some who seek glory for themselves at the expense of Montserrat.

Such an option may be useful for those still trying to make bookings to fly in for St Patrick’s Festival. Here is another old but new option on WINAIR – back for a few select dates in March.

The first scheduled flight in between Antigua and Montserrat is Tuesday, March 5. The final scheduled flight is Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

The access division provides the following for reservations – book online at www.fly-winair.sx .

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Barbados joins other CARICOM countries in banning single-use plastic products

Barbados joins other CARICOM countries in banning single-use plastic products

by staff writer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jan 23, CMC – Barbados has become the latest Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to announce a ban on the importation, retail, sale and use of petro-based single use plastic products.

It said that products such as  single-use plastic cups; cutlery, including plastic knives, forks and spoons; stirrers; straws; plates; egg trays -both plastic and Styrofoam – and Styrofoam containers used in the culinary retail industry will be banned from April 1.

Jamaica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda are among CARICOM countries that have already instituted or announced plans to ban the use of these plastic products.

Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Minister, Kirk Humphrey, and Minister of the Environment and National Beautification, Trevor Prescod, made the announcement regarding the ban.

Humphrey said that with effect from January 1, 2020, there will be a ban on all petro-based plastic bags, with the exemption of those used for the packaging of pharmaceuticals/medicines, hygiene and the preservation of food.

In addition, a moratorium has been extended on the use of tetra pack straws, while poultry producers have been given more time to find alternatives to the Styrofoam trays used to package chickens.

“Barbados has to be a value-driven country. We have large expectations for ourselves. We have said that we want to be fossil fuel free by 2030; we want to have a renewable platform; we want to be a country that when we speak to the world we speak as an environmentally friendly country and destination.

“[Therefore] these are the things that we must do if our words and our actions are to be aligned.  And so, we have made ourselves clear as to where we stand on single-use plastic,” Humphrey said.

He said the decision came after months of consultation with stakeholders, including plastic bag manufacturers, persons in the poultry industry, the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Customs Department, and importers.

Humphrey said that the ban on petro-based plastic bags was extended until January 1, 2020, to allow manufacturers to come up with alternative ways of making plastic bags from a bio-based material that was environmentally healthy and friendly.

“We do not wish to coere to an established industry that employs Barbadians and deprive them of opportunity, but we also know that the cost of continuing to use these things in Barbados will outweigh any potential benefits,” he said.

Prescod said that plastic bottles used in the production of juices will not be subjected to the ban.  He added that the required legislation needed to be in place to allow consumers to take the bottles back to the suppliers to be part of a recycling process.

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Silver wind cruise ship

Silver wind cruise ship visits

The Government Information Unit is reporting that the recently refurbished Silver Wind, a small luxury cruise ship operated by Silversea Cruises, will be visiting our shores on Thursday, January 17, 2019.

There will be more and they will be bigger by 2020…as the Ministry of Communication and Works informs on the progressive development, following continuing announcements from the Premier, Governor. On Monday, DFID, FCO delegation began FAM budget talks here.

This visit will come on the heels of continuous dialogue between the Island of Montserrat Tourism Division, Cheryl Andrews Marketing Communications in Miami, Travel World Montserrat and the cruise liner which began since 2017. Travel World International will be the Tour Operator for the vessel and will be offering a selection of Tours to the guests. This is Silver Wind’s first visit to our shores.

The vessel has a capacity of 290 passengers and 208 crew. In welcoming Silver Wind to our shores, the Hon. Premier will present a plaque to the Captain of the vessel. The Tourism Division will also welcome the guests and assist with dispatching tours to Tour and Taxi Drivers. The tourism division craves help and says, Let’s help welcome them as we can and show how #MontserratNice.

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GoM funds available for Montserrat Innovators and Small Business Owners

The Government of Montserrat (GoM) has earmarked $200,000 has been earmarked for entrepreneurs to receive through the GoM’s Business Support Facility Fund.

A release from the government stated that “supporting micro, small and medium size enterprises (MSMEs) should be pivotal in any government’s policy. As such, The GoM has launched the Business Support Facility Fund. Under this fund grants will be awarded to deserving and innovative businesses on island to assist in their start-up and development.”

Business Manager Agatha Aspin in a radio release explains, ‘Entrepreneurs and applicants with innovative business ideas can receive up to $15,000. Others in need in the startup and development phase could receive up to $10,000. She said Managers/owners of Innovative Small businesses interested in accessing the funds are invited to submit their business plans as a precondition for funding by Monday, January 14, 2019 during the hours of 8:30am to 4:30 pm daily.

Further information provided says, businesses accessing the grant funding must be registered with the Financial services Commission. Business Plan may be simple, but at a minimum include:

  • Identification of goods to be produced or service to be provided
  • Identification and assessment of the market
  • Marketing and advertising arrangements
  • Pricing
  • A simple budget showing funds required and use of funds over time.

According to Aspin, the successful applicants will also be assigned a mentor to match them with their business. A select committee has been appointed by Cabinet to made decisions on the applicants. If additional support is needed, Mrs Aspin will be able to assist in setting up their business plan.

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Cruise ships lie at anchor at the terminal in Lisbon in Portugal

British pensioners arrested after ‘large amount of cocaine’ found in cruise ship cabin

Pair aged 70 and 72 held on arrival at Lisbon after Caribbean voyage

Cruise ships lie at anchor at the terminal in Lisbon in Portugal
Cruise ships lie at anchor at the terminal in Lisbon in Portugal ( EPA )

Two British pensioners have been arrested on a Caribbean cruise ship after “a large amount of cocaine” was found in their cabin.

The suspects, aged 70 and 72, were detained on suspicion of international drug trafficking moments after the vessel docked at the terminal in Lisbon, Portugal.

Portuguese police said a search revealed the cocaine had been “ingeniously concealed” within four suitcases. Top articles4/5READ MOREI’m A Celebrity winner odds: Harry Redknap favourite to win 2018 final

The authorities did not identify the pensioners but indicated the suspects have already appeared before a judge and remain in custody.

“The National Drugs Trafficking Unit has identified and arrested a foreign couple who were travelling on a cruise line doing a circuit between the Caribbean and Europe and on which there was a strong suspicion of international drugs trafficking,” the Policia Judiciaria said in a statement.

Read more

“The arrests took place moments after the vessel had landed at the cruise terminal in Lisbon and following a search of the cabin that was occupied by the suspects.

“Officers located four suitcases in whose structures was ingeniously concealed a large amount of cocaine.

“The suspects, aged 70 and 72, were present at the first judicial interrogation and detained in preventive custody.”

The Policia Judiciaria said the arrests followed an “exchange of information” with the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

It did not reveal when the arrests took place, the cruise ship involved or exactly how much cocaine had been seized.

UK news in pictures

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10 December 2018

The NCA refused to comment on the investigation because it is led by the Portuguese authorities but said in a statement: “The NCA works with a wide range of international partners and routinely both shares and receives information.”

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A boat-filled harbour photographed from the air, west of St George

Complacency kills: Caribbean gears up for tsunamis

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-46356998

BBC News

By Philippa Fogarty
Kingston, Jamaica

8 December 2018

A boat-filled harbour photographed from the air, west of St George's, Grenada, in February 2018
Image caption – Island nations like Grenada hope to be tsunami-ready by 2020

The last time a major tsunami hit the Caribbean region was in 1946, after an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola.

At Playa Rincón, the sea rushed 700m (2,300ft) inland, according to a man who clung to the top of an almond tree to survive. Waves were 5m high in places and 1,600 people died across the north-east coast. Small tsunami waves were also recorded in Puerto Rico, Bermuda and even New Jersey.

Since then, a handful of tsunamis have occurred – in Panama and Costa Rica in 1991 after an earthquake, and in Montserrat in 1997 after a landslide of volcanic debris. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, sub-sea landslides generated waves that killed three people.

Over the same period, populations have more than doubled and tourist numbers on Caribbean beaches have soared, passing 30 million in 2017. In most places, infrastructure is concentrated in coastal areas.

Experts warn that the region runs the risk of complacency over the tsunami threat.

“The potential for tsunamis is significant and has to be taken seriously,” says Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, who oversees the Puerto Rico-based Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program under the US National Weather Service.

“Within the Caribbean and bordering the Caribbean, there are major fault structures and also volcanoes that could generate a tsunami at any time.”

Multiple risks

Key areas are along the north-eastern and eastern boundaries of the Caribbean where the North American and South American plates interact with the Caribbean plate.

Tsunamis in the Caribbean

Presentational grey line

These boundaries include areas of subduction (where one plate is forced under another, as in the Indian Ocean in 2004) and strike-slip motion (where plates are side by side, like the San Andreas fault).

One area to watch is the subduction zone east of the Lesser Antilles, says Dr Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS catastrophe risk modelling consultancy and the author of a 2015 report on mega-tsunamis. “We strongly suspect this area is potentially prone to these really large earthquakes, which would be associated with a major regional tsunami.”

Haitian presidential guards lower the Haitian flag on April 19, 2011 in front of the destroyed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince
Image captionHaiti has struggled to recover from the damage caused by a devastating earthquake in 2010

Another series of faults lie north of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and includes the 8,400m-deep Puerto Rico Trench. While this area is not a straightforward subduction zone and there has not been a really significant earthquake along this boundary, there is evidence of massive submarine landslides into the trench and historical reports of local tsunamis, says Dr Muir-Wood.

Big earthquakes have also occurred off the Caribbean coast of Central America and Venezuela.

“The Caribbean is clearly a place where both [regional and local] types of tsunamis can be anticipated, and the key is that simply because an event hasn’t happened in the last 300 years of history doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” says Dr Muir-Wood.

Warning time

Before 2004, Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade says tsunami warning systems in the Caribbean were “basically non-existent”. But the Indian Ocean disaster sparked action and a regional body on tsunami risk was established under Unesco in 2005.

Significant work has been done to increase the data flow to the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), which provides alerts to the region.

“Every single country has opened up its seismic data and that has been absolutely critical,” says Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade.

Today there are 80 sea-level stations and 125 seismic stations sending information, up from five and 10 respectively in 2004. “That has permitted us to reduce our lead time – the time it takes to issue the initial [tsunami warning] product – from 10-15 minutes to under 5 minutes.”

Once PTWC has issued an advisory, responsibility for local alerts devolves to national governments. At this level, Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade says, capabilities “vary greatly throughout the region”.

A car drives on a damaged road in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Humacao, Puerto Rico, on October 2, 2017
Image captionHurricane Maria resulted in thousands of deaths on Puerto Rico after it hit in 2017

Some places, like Puerto Rico, have well-established protocols. Other places are less practised.

In January, when PTWC issued its first international tsunami threat message to the region after a 7.6 earthquake off Honduras, governments in the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, for example, faced questions over their response.

Some governments “had a little bit more difficulty deciding what product they should issue, if they should issue a product, if there really was a real threat”, says Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade. “Strengths and weaknesses were identified.”

Funding vital

One early aim of the regional body was to establish a centre like PTWC in the Caribbean, but that has been sidelined in favour of improving education. Local tsunamis can potentially reach shore before an alert, and lives can be saved if residents know to seek high ground.

Central to this educational push is the annual tsunami exercise, Caribe Wave, and the Tsunami Ready programme, now adopted by Unesco, which sets out guidelines for communities to meet. So far Puerto Rico, Anguilla, St Kitts & Nevis and the Virgin Islands are certified as Tsunami Ready, while pilot projects have taken place in Haiti and Grenada.

Hurricane Emily is shown in this computer generated NOAA satellite illustration made available July 14, 2005 over the south-eastern Caribbean Sea
Image captionHurricane Emily hit Grenada in 2005

In Grenada the area chosen was St Patrick’s Parish, 8km (5 miles) south of rumbling submarine volcano Kick ‘Em Jenny. Educational billboards, evacuation maps and signs have been posted and an awareness programme carried out.

“We had to get down on the ground and interact with all of the community groups, we worked with the churches, the schools, the fisherfolk, the farmers,” says Senator Winston Garraway, minister of state with oversight of disaster management and information. “From the senior people to the children, they have the information now and they know exactly what has to be done.”

The government wants the whole island to be Tsunami Ready by 2020, starting with a southern parish potentially vulnerable to a tsunami generated off Venezuela. Mr Garraway also wants to establish a nationwide siren system to complement alerts disseminated via radio and TV.

Aerial views of the slopes of the Soufriere Hills showing the destruction and complete loss of the capital of Monserrat, Plymouth and St Patrick's village
Image captionA tsunami hit Monserrat in 1997 after there was a landslide of volcanic debris

But resourcing is a major problem for small island nations like Grenada, which must also address twin challenges of hurricanes and the impact of climate change. “Most of what we have to do, we do not have the ready resources,” says Mr Garraway. “Grant funding is extremely important for us at this time.”

Regionally, work remains to be done. Scientists still do not have the data needed to accurately size very large earthquakes and their type of movement quickly. Tsunami protocols for cruise ships are needed. Better understanding of bathymetry (water depth and shore height) would enable better scenario modelling, but some nations do not have that information.

“Every single country and territory in the region has room for improvement,” says Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade.

“Tsunamis don’t occur that frequently, so it’s very easy to become desensitised. But the reality is that a tsunami could kill many more people than any hurricane could.”

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Theresa May said at the lord mayor’s banquet that there remained ‘significant issues’ to resolve in the Brexit talks.

Brexit: time running out as Theresa May claims talks in ‘the endgame’

PM says negotiations with EU ‘immensely difficult’ as summit deadline comes under threat

Theresa May said at the lord mayor’s banquet that there remained ‘significant issues’ to resolve in the Brexit talks.
Theresa May said at the lord mayor’s banquet that there remained ‘significant issues’ to resolve in the Brexit talks. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Theresa May’s efforts to secure a Brexit deal by the end of March have suffered a serious setback after it emerged that UK and European Union negotiators were struggling to bridge the gap over the Irish border backstop in time for a November summit.

The prime minister was forced to admit that “significant” issues remained despite talks that went on until the early hours of Monday morning. Unless there is dramatic progress by the end of Wednesday, the exit timetable will become increasingly squeezed.

Cabinet members, who had been expecting to sign off the final Brexit negotiating position on Tuesday, were told that the issue would hardly be discussed at the meeting beyond an update of the UK’s preparedness for no deal.

Negotiators stayed up until 2.45am on Monday in pursuit of a breakthrough that did not come as the EU made a series of last-minute demands by attaching fresh conditions to the customs backstop, which is designed to come into force if no long-term free trade deal can be signed by the end of 2020.

That failure to progress the talks almost certainly delays agreement at an EU level until a summit scheduled for 13/14 December and makes it increasingly difficult for the critical “meaningful final vote” of MPs on May’s deal to be held before Christmas.

Addressing the lord mayor’s banquet at the Guildhall in London on Monday night, May said: “The negotiations for our departure are now in the endgame”. But in remarks aimed at Brussels negotiators, she added that they could not expect concessions this week just to keep the idea of a November Brexit summit alive.

“We are working extremely hard, through the night, to make progress on the remaining issues in the withdrawal agreement, which are significant,” the prime minister said. “Both sides want to reach an agreement, but what we are negotiating is immensely difficult.”

May’s remarks came as No 10 tried to accuse the EU of trying to bounce the UK into a deal. There had been a brief flurry of speculation at lunchtime, following a report in the Financial Times, that a deal could be close, based on one account of a briefing given by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, to European ministers. One witness said that Barnier had said “the parameters of a possible agreement are very largely defined”, but No 10 said any suggestion that a deal was close should be taken with “a bucket of salt”.

Labour, meanwhile, is to step up the pressure on the government by launching a bid on Tuesday to force ministers to publish the government’s legal advice on May’s Irish backstop plan before MPs vote to approve her Brexit deal, saying it would be unacceptable for MPs to be kept “in the dark” on how any agreement was reached.

In Brussels, Barnier told European affairs ministers for the 27 EU members that the negotiators had so far failed to make the decisive progress. “Barnier explained that intense negotiating efforts continue, but an agreement has not been reached yet,” a statement said.

No 10 is faced with a series of emerging demands from the EU, which wants to attach new conditions to the backstop.

Brussels wants the UK to sign up to “dynamic” alignment with state aid and future environmental, social and labour regulations, which would in effect force parliament to cut and paste EU rules into British law.

A commitment on the side of the British to provide the European fishing fleet with access to UK seas after Brexit has also been proposed by member states as a condition for agreement on the customs union.

It is not yet agreed how the backstop can be terminated and there are growing concerns across the Conservative party that it could be used to keep the UK in a long-term customs union with the EU without a say in its regulation. More than 50 hard Brexiters have said they will vote against the Chequers plan, which proposed to keep the UK aligned with EU rules on food and goods after Brexit.

Jo Johnson, the former rail minister who resigned from the government on Friday to support a second referendum , will speak to a rally in Westminster on Tuesday opposing the prime minister’s plan to take Britain out of the EU.

“I am concerned that a Conservative government is preparing to leave the British people ill-informed over the consequences, with the decision not to publish evidence showing this is a worse deal that the one we already have inside the EU,” Johnson wrote in an article for the Times.

Earlier on Monday, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, became the second cabinet minister in two days to warn that the prime minister did not have a completely free hand in her negotiations with Brussels.

“The important thing is that there’s two checks on this deal – there’s cabinet and there’s parliament. And so cabinet’s job is to put something to parliament that is going to deliver on the referendum result. We need to work together as a cabinet to do that,” Mordaunt said.

Brexiter Andrea Leadsom said on Sunday that she was “sticking in government” to ensure the UK was not trapped in a customs arrangement against its will.

UK sources said last week that they hoped Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, could make a visit to Brussels on Tuesday to unveil a deal and prepare the way for a Brexit summit. But No 10 said on Monday that there were no plans for him to make that journey.

EU capitals also want time to examine any agreement made between the European commission and the UK before it is published. France and Germany are understood to have made the point forcefully to Barnier.

The withdrawal agreement, the draft exit treaty, is already running to more than 400 pages of dense legal text. It is expected to be published when a deal is agreed in principle between the UK and the EU, accompanied by a political declaration about the future trade relationship between the two.

Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for the EU, said the member states had made “many compromises but the room for manoeuvre is very much limited and our British friends know exactly where our discussions are”.

Belgium’s deputy prime minister, Didier Reynders, told reporters: “We have time but not so much, so for this moment it’s very difficult to make real progress but before Christmas I’m hoping that it will be possible”.

Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said it was “a very important week for the Brexit negotiations”.

“There is clearly work to do between the two negotiating teams and I think we need to give them time and space now to finish that job,” he said.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Featured, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, TOURISM, UK - Brexit0 Comments

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No access to areas south of Belham Valley

Important Notice especially for visitors, tourists and sightseers

This will be a setback for tourists on the Windstar Vessel due to arrive on Tuesday, Crafters, and especially taxi drivers who according to DiscoverMNI were urged to be ready!

 Further to potential flood warnings – comes this news later in the day

The Disaster Management Coordination Agency (DMCA) in consultation with the Commissioner of the Royal Montserrat Police Service (RMPS) has taken a decision to cease access to areas south of Belham Valley.

 The decision was taken due to the road being compromised and also to allow the authorities to carry out remedial work on the road in an effort to ensure the safety of all users.

 The road at Belham Valley will, therefore, be closed from 5 o’clock this afternoon and a further update will be given in due course.

 Persons, south of Belham are asked to make their way to the north immediately.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Climate/Weather, Environment, Featured, Government Notices, International, Local, News, Regional, TOURISM, Travel0 Comments

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