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Crucial Brexit vote and EU divisions over tax haven blacklist | Europe briefing

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Crucial Brexit vote and EU divisions over tax haven blacklist | Europe briefing
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1. Brexit: Parliament to vote on May's tweaked deal

British lawmakers are preparing for a crucial vote on a divorce deal after Prime Minister Theresa May won last-minute assurances from the EU on Monday.

Many Eurosceptic MPs said they would base their final decision on the legal advice of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox but on Tuesday the UK’s top lawyer said the revised divorce deal had not given Britain legal means of exiting the so-called backstop arrangement unilaterally if "intractable differences" arose.

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up May's minority government, had a cautious reaction to the last-minute arrangement. Two DUP MPs raised the prospect of delaying Brexit vote to scrutinise assurances.

READ: Brexit endgame? British MPs set for fresh vote on EU divorce deal

2. EU countries’ divisions likely to delay tax haven blacklist

REUTERS

EU finance ministers are unlikely to adopt a new blacklist of tax havens at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, the meeting chair, Romanian Finance Minister Eugen Teodorovici said.

The statement surprised EU officials who expected a final compromise on Tuesday over a decision that requires the backing of all 28 EU states.

The largest review of the blacklist since its adoption in December 2017 was expected to see the number of jurisdictions triple from the current five.

EU governments have been divided over some of the countries that would be added. EU documents show that Italy and Estonia object to the new list, as they are pushing not to add the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

READ: Romania pushes for delay of EU tax haven blacklist

3. Hungary's Orban to meet bloc leader over anti-EU dispute

REUTERS
A pedestrian walks past an anti-Hungary's PM Orban billboard in BrusselsREUTERS

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban was due to meet this Tuesday with the head of the European Parliament's main conservative group, which has threatened to expel his party over his anti-EU and anti-immigrant election campaigning.

It will be their first face-to-face meeting since Manfred Weber, a German conservative who heads the European People's Party (EPP) grouping, last week demanded Orban's nationalist Fidesz Party apologise for its rhetoric.

Hungary's government triggered the dispute with election billboards accusing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros of plotting to destroy European civilisation through immigration.

READ: Orban meets Weber in Budapest on Tuesday

4. French jihadist convicted to life for Jewish museum attack

REUTERS
Belgian Public Prosecutors during the trial of Mehdi Nemmouche in BrusselsREUTERS

French citizen Mehdi Nemmouche was sentenced to life in jail late on Monday for shooting dead four people in a Jewish museum in 2014. "Life goes on," were his last words to the jury.

Defence lawyers, who had alleged that Nemmouche was framed in a settling of accounts between spies including Mossad agents, said he would not appeal the sentence.

The attack in May 2014 was the first by a Western European who fought with Islamist militant factions in Syria's civil war and returned home.

READ: Frenchman found guilty of killing four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels

5. British Police investigate alleged parcel bombs claim by IRA

Four parcel bombs have been recovered in various London locations and in Glasgow, the Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement, adding that it was investigating the IRA's claim of responsibility following a report by a Northern Irish newspaper.

"The Metropolitan Police and Police Scotland are aware of the claim of responsibility for the devices that were received at three buildings in London and at the University of Glasgow on 5 and 6 March," the statement said.

"Given the packages received last week bore similarities to devices sent in the past which were linked to dissident groups associated with Northern Ireland-related terrorism, officers were already looking at this as a line of enquiry. However, we continue to keep an open mind and enquiries continue," Police said.

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