UK and EU in ‘Brexit’ breakthrough

Report of a breakthrough in talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union that will allow ‘Brexit’ to progress to the next stage.

BBC – Brexit: ‘Breakthrough’ deal paves way for future trade talks

PM Theresa May has struck a last-minute deal with the EU in a bid to move Brexit talks on to the next phase.

There will be no “hard border” with Ireland; and the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU will be protected.

The so-called “divorce bill” will amount to between £35bn and £39bn, Downing Street says.

The European Commission president said it was a “breakthrough” and he was confident EU leaders will approve it.

They are due to meet next Thursday for a European Council summit and need to give their backing to the deal if the next phase of negotiations are to begin.

Talks can then move onto a transition deal to cover a period of up to two years after Brexit, and the “framework for the future relationship” – preliminary discussions about a future trade deal, although the EU says a deal can only be finalised once the UK has left the EU.

A final withdrawal treaty and transition deal will have to be ratified by the EU nations and the UK Parliament, before the UK leaves in March 2019.

But it is still not simple from here due to the precarious position of the May led Government.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose opposition on Monday led to talks breaking down, said there was still “more work to be done” on the border issue and how it votes on the final deal “will depend on its contents”. Mrs May depends on the party’s support to win key votes in Westminster.

What has been agreed?

  • Guarantee that there will be “no hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic and that the “constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom” will be maintained.
  • EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa will have their rights to live, work and study protected. The agreement includes reunification rights for relatives who do not live in the UK to join them in their host country in the future
  • Financial settlement – No specific figure is in the document but Downing Street says it will be between £35bn and £39bn, including budget contributions during a two-year “transition” period after March 2019

Brexit: All you need to know

The cost is high:

A figure is not mentioned in the text of the agreement but Downing Street says it will be between £35bn and £39bn – higher than Theresa May indicated in September but lower than some estimates. It will be paid over four years and the precise figure is unlikely to be known for some time.

The prime minister said it would be “fair to the British taxpayer” and would mean the UK in future “will be able to invest more in our priorities at home, such as housing, schools and the NHS”.

So Brexit still has a difficult and potentially very expensive path to follow.

UK to lose banking and medicine agencies

The European Union is set to take prestigious agencies off the United Kingdom as the separation from the EU progresses.

And the EU is playing hard to get on trade talks in repercussions following the Brexit vote and UK government formerly proceeding with a separation.

Guardian: Britain set to lose EU ‘crown jewels’ of banking and medicine agencies

The EU is set to inflict a double humiliation on Theresa May, stripping Britain of its European agencies within weeks, while formally rejecting the prime minister’s calls for early trade talks.

The Observer has learned that EU diplomats agreed their uncompromising position at a crunch meeting on Tuesday, held to set out the union’s strategy in the talks due to start next month.

The European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency employ about 1,000 people, many of them British, and provide a hub for businesses in the UK. It is understood that the EU’s chief negotiator hopes the agencies will know their new locations by June, although the process may take longer. Cities such as Frankfurt, Milan, Amsterdam and Paris are competing to take the agencies, which are regarded as among the EU’s crown jewels.

And trade talks look stalled at this stage.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Britain failed to secure the backing of any of the 27 countries for its case that trade talks should start early in the two years of negotiations allowed by article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. The position will be announced at a Brussels summit on 29 April.

The UK will have to suffer deal with the consequences of their distancing from the EU.

UK and Scottish parliaments clash over second referendum

UK Prime Minister has repeatedly said that “now is not the time” for another Scottish referendum on independence, but the Scottish Parliament has just voted in favour of “seeking permission” for a referendum before the UK leaves the European Union.

BBC: Scottish Parliament backs referendum call

Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second referendum on independence for Scotland had been formally backed by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs voted by 69 to 59 in favour of seeking permission for a referendum before the UK leaves the EU.

Ms Sturgeon says the move is needed to allow Scotland to decide what path to follow in the wake of the Brexit vote.

But the UK government has already said it will block a referendum until the Brexit process has been completed.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who met Ms Sturgeon for talks in Glasgow on Monday, has repeatedly insisted that “now is not the time” for a referendum.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is not seeking confrontation.

“My argument is simply this: when the nature of the change that is made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, that change should not be imposed upon us, we should have the right to decide the nature of that change.

“The people of Scotland should have the right to choose between Brexit – possibly a very hard Brexit – or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and create a true partnership of equals across these islands.”

She added: “I hope the UK government will respect the will of this parliament. If it does so, I will enter discussion in good faith and with a willingness to compromise.

“However, if it chooses not to do so I will return to the parliament following the Easter recess to set out the steps that the Scottish government will take to progress the will of parliament.”

But this looks like a clash of wills between her and Theresa May, and between the Scottish and UK parliaments.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to make the formal request for a section 30 later this week – after Mrs May formally starts the Brexit process by triggering Article 50.

Scottish voters rejected independence by 55% to 45% in a referendum in 2014, but Ms Sturgeon believes the UK voting to leave the EU is a material change in circumstances which means people should again be asked the question.

There certainly has been a material change in circumstances.

While May and her UK government prefers no split it may make sense to find out if that is what the Scots want and take that into account with exit plans from the EU.

Her Scottish secretary, David Mundell, has said that the timescale could include “the Brexit process, the journey of leaving and people being able to understand what the UK’s new relationship with the EU is, so they can make an informed choice if there was ever to be another referendum”.

He added: “We are not entering into negotiations on whether there should be another independence referendum during the Brexit process.

The Scottish Parliament vote may or may not change that position.

There may be some chicken and egg here.

Would plans for the UK exit from the EU be easier if they knew whether Scotland was going to split or remain?

Or should another Scottish referendum wait until they know what the exit from the EU is going to look like for them and the UK?

 

UK & Europe – the Brexit process

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The Guardian explains the Brexit process.

What is article 50?

In just 264 words in five paragraphs, article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out how an EU member can voluntarily leave the European Union. It specifies that a leaver should notify the European council of its intention, negotiate a deal on its withdrawal and establish legal grounds for a future relationship with the EU.

What is ‘triggered’ by article 50?

Once a country gives notice it wants to leave it has two years to negotiate new arrangements, after which it will no longer be subject to EU treaties.

How and when will article 50 be triggered?

The Brexit starting pistol is fired on Wednesday 29 March, when the government delivers a letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European council.

Then what?

On Thursday the Brexit secretary, David Davis, will publish the government’s “great repeal bill”. This will set out an end to the authority of EU law by converting all its provisions in British law once the UK leaves.

How will the EU respond?

Tusk has promised that he will respond by Friday with “draft Brexit guidelines”.

How long will they take?

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said he envisages there being less than 18 months of real negotiating time. The crucial window is likely to be the year from October 2017, after the German elections on 24 September.

What are the key sticking points?

It’s a long list, and even the topics for negotiation are subject to negotiation.

For example, the UK wants trade talks to be part of the leave discussions, but senior figures in the EU think trade should be discussed separately. While the UK is still part of the EU it is not allowed to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries.

Another key topic that will need urgent resolution will be the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British subjects living abroad. The government ruled out giving EU citizens guaranteed protections before the start of talks, giving rise to fears that they will be used as bargaining chips.

Other pressing but tricky issues include security, migration and border controls.

Brexit: everything you need to know about how the UK will leave the EU

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UK can’t blame EU for problems that led to Brexit, says Juncker

British politicians sowed the seeds for Brexit by blaming the European Union for problems over which the bloc has little control and while building an economy dependent on foreign labour, the president of the European commission has said.

Writing exclusively for the Guardian as EU leaders meet to celebrate the bloc’s 60th anniversary in Rome, Jean-Claude Juncker warns that “for too long” politicians at a national level have allowed the EU to be a scapegoat, and that the consequences can now be seen.

Putin welcomes Le Pen to Moscow with a nudge and a wink

The expression said it all. Even by Vladimir Putin’s standards, it was a knowing smirk of epic proportions as he shook hands with Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin on Friday.

In his remarks, Putin noted that France was currently involved in an election cycle and that Russia did “not want to influence events in any way”. The sentiment sounded slightly less than genuine given that it came as part of a one-on-one Kremlin meeting with the far-right presidential candidate one month before the vote.

The mixed messaging appears to be a deliberate strategy, and is similar to some of the Russian rhetoric around the allegations that the Kremlin intervened to get Donald Trump elected. There is both an outburst of fury at those who would dare to voice such allegations, and a simultaneous revelling in them.

Back in December, Putin first said it was absurd to suggest Russia intervened on Trump’s behalf, but immediately followed up by saying “nobody believed in him, except us”.

What we knowThe attack, the victims and the investigation

Here is what the Guardian has been able to confirm:

  • Five people have died, including a police officer and the attacker.
  • Police say at least 50 people were injured, with 31 requiring hospital treatment. Two of these remain in a critical condition, one of whom has life-threatening injuries. Two police officers are among those still in hospital.
  • The assailant was Khalid Masood, 52, who was born in Kent with the birth name Adrian Russell Ajao. He was believed to have been living recently in the West Midlands.
  • He drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing three people – two of whom died at the scene and one who died of his injuries in hospital – before crashing it outside parliament and trying to enter the building, armed with two knives.
  • He stabbed an unarmed police officer who later died from the injuries. Police then shot the attacker. The dead officer was identified as PC Keith Palmer, 48, who had 15 years of service with the parliamentary and diplomatic protection service and was a husband and father.
  • Another victim was named as Aysha Frade, 43, who worked at a sixth-form college in Westminster. The mother of two had family in Betanzos, Galicia, north-west Spain, and her death was confirmed by the mayor of the town.
  • A third person killed by the attacker was named as Kurt Cochran, a tourist from Utah in the US. He and his wife, Melissa, were on the last day of a trip to Europe to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Melissa remains in hospital with serious injuries.
  • On Friday, police said a fourth victim, Leslie Rhodes, 75, from Clapham in south London, had died in hospital overnight. He was a retired window cleaner who had apparently been crossing the bridge to catch a bus after visiting a friend in St Thomas’ hospital.
  • The Metropolitan police said Masood had a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH, possession of offensive weapons and public order offences. His most recent was in December 2003 for possession of a knife.
  • Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. It released a statement through the Amaq news agency, which it uses to broadcast propaganda, calling the attacker “a soldier of Islamic State”. The claim is unverified.
  • The attacker is believed to have acted alone but police are investigating possible associates. May said there was no reason to believe further attacks on the public were planned.
  • Police have searched several addresses in Birmingham, London and other parts of the country. Five men and three women were arrested overnight on Wednesday and early on Thursday on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts. Two men were arrested overnight on Thursday – one in the West Midlands and one in north-west England – and a woman was detained in Manchester on Friday morning. Ten people remain in custody after one woman was released on bail.

The list goes on.

UK & Europe – London terrorism

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Man arrested in Antwerp after driving at high speed towards a crowd of people in the main shopping street. (1342 GMT)

BBC reporting the man is of North African origin

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39369202

The attacker has been named as 52 year old Khalid Masood after ISIS claimed him as one of their soldiers

Aljaz: More info since released. 52 years old, came originally from Kent, then lived in Birmingham, West Midlands, has previous convictions for violent offences, last came to attention of authorities in 2003.

He is apparently from Birmingham, which goes with other reporting this morning that said neighbours of one of the residences searched by police in Birmingham thought that the person in the flat might be the attacker.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4340858/Armed-police-seal-Birmingham-ongoing-incident.html

  • Missy & Geeza

 

UK & Europe

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UK & Europe – Trump meets Merkel

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From Gezza:

The White House has assured the UK Government it will not repeat allegations that GCHQ spied on Donald Trump, in a bid to avoid a major diplomatic row.

Downing Street said it had told members of Mr Trump’s team that the allegations were “ridiculous” and should be “ignored”, after the claims were repeated by White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

Theresa May’s official spokesman would not confirm whether the administration had offered an apology, but did indicate Mr Spicer had been told not to raise the claims again.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/white-house-gchq-donald-trump-uk-wiretap-claims-spies-theresa-may-sean-spicer-a7634866.html