UK – “Huawei risk can be managed”

Last November the New Zealand GCSB turned down Spark’s proposal to use Huawei equipment in it’s new 5G network. UK security chiefs say thaat the Huawei risk can be managed.

RNZ (30 November 2018) – Huawei 5G decision: Everything you need to know

The GCSB blocked Spark’s bid to use its equipment in the new 5G network and now the Chinese tech company is seeking an urgent meeting with the government.

GCSB Minister Andrew Little said the decision to turn down the overseas network provider was because the technology was too risky – not because the company is Chinese.

Mr Little won’t reveal what significant national security risks Huawei poses saying the information was classified.

But he said the decision had nothing to do with Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government.

Paul Buchanan (RNZ 29 November) – Huawei vs Five Eyes: NZ diplomatic ties at centre of dilemma

The Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) decision to recommend against using Huawei equipment for the 5G rollout because of national security concerns underscores the strategic role commercial telecommunications plays in modern society.

It also exposes the disconnect between local telecommunications providers and the Five Eyes signals intelligence network, as well as that between career intelligence professionals and the politicians who oversee them.

Now (BBC): Huawei risk can be managed, say UK cyber-security chiefs

Any risk posed by involving the Chinese technology giant Huawei in UK telecoms projects can be managed, cyber-security chiefs have determined.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre’s decision undermines US efforts to persuade its allies to ban the firm from 5G communications networks.

Australia, New Zealand, and the US have already banned Huawei from supplying equipment for their future fifth generation mobile broadband networks, while Canada is reviewing whether the company’s products present a serious security threat.

Most of the UK’s mobile companies – Vodafone, EE and Three – have been working with Huawei on developing their 5G networks.

They are awaiting on a government review, due in March or April, that will decide whether they can use Huawei technology.

As first reported by the Financial Times, the conclusion by the National Cyber Security Centre – part of the intelligence agency GCHQ – will feed into the review.

The decision has not yet been made public, but the security agency said in a statement it had “a unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cyber security”.

This has been portrayed as a split amongst Five Eyes partners.

Jacinda Ardern says that what the Uk is doing aligns with what NZ is doing –UK finds it can mitigate Huawei risks, NZ follows same processes: PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand was going through the same process as the UK in considering a bid by Huawei to be involved in the rollout of 5G.

New Zealand’s spy agency recommended rejecting a similar bid here unless Spark proved it could mitigate similar risks.

Ms Ardern said the two countries’ processes were similar in this regard.

“We have a process where an assessment is made by the GCSB, independent of ministers. Any vendor who has made an application is then told of the outcome of that assessment and is given a chance, if there are security concerns to mitigate those concerns,” she said.

“Spark has been given options to around mitigation of potential security concerns and now the ball is in their court.”

An issue lurking in the background of this is the alternative to Huawei equipment – US equipment. There have long been claims that that allows US security back doors access to communications equipment.

 

Tusk: Brexiters without a plan deserve a special place in hell…

…may be a bit over the top but Donald Tusk does have a point. It was madness to have a binding vote on Brexit without having any clear plan of how it could happen. And madness to call an election to get a mandate. And mostly a mad mess since.

 

This won’t be encouraging for Theresa May and her Government, but apart from the strong language this European condemnation is not a surprise.

BBC – Brexit: Donald Tusk’s planned outburst

They weren’t off-the-cuff remarks, but a planned outburst.

The softly-spoken politician who holds the authority of all EU countries has just completely condemned a chunk of the British cabinet, wondering aloud: “What that special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely”.

Sure, for a long time the EU has been frustrated with how the UK has approached all of this.

And sure, plenty of voters in the UK are annoyed too at how politicians have been handling these negotiations.

But it is quite something for Donald Tusk to have gone in like this, studs up, even though he sometimes reminisces about his time as a football hooligan in his youth.

Be clear, he was not intending to talk about voters who wanted to Leave, but politicians who were involved in the campaign.

He also had pretty stern remarks for those who’d been on the other side of the argument, accusing those who still want the UK to stay in the EU of having “no political force, and no effective leadership”.

But if you strip away the planned flash of temper, also in his remarks was an invitation to the prime minister to come forward with a different version of the backstop – a “believable guarantee”, a promise that a “common solution is possible”.

That is, on the face of it, in tone at least, more of an opening to the UK to put something new on the table than we have seen from the EU side.

It seems an odd way of encouraging a new approach, but at least it attracted attention.

Guardian: Brexiters hit back at Tusk after he says they deserve ‘special place in hell’ for failing to have a plan

One thing seems clear – Brexit has become a hell of a mess for May and the UK.

Ardern in the UK

Jacinda Ardern has had a number of meetings on her visit to London, in particular with Theresa May but also tickling the celebrity coverage with a ‘secret’ meeting with Princess Megan.

Ardern’s official release:  NZ UK trade relations advanced in Prime Ministers’ meeting

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May have advanced trade and a range of other issues during a one hour meeting held in London today.

The key areas of discussion were a mutual commitment to the rules-based international system and the future of the trading relationship between New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

“We very much value our relationship with the UK. It is our longest-standing relationship, and still one of our closest,” Jacinda Ardern said.

There has been cooperation on some things, but the UK dumped New Zealand in preference of the European Union on trade in the 1970s, and is looking at repairing that with their exit from the EU.

“The clear message we imparted to Prime Minister May today was, whatever the outcome of the Brexit process, we will have an enduring relationship with the UK across trade and the full range of interactions our two countries share.

Another clear message is that until Brexit is sorted closer trade talks can only be talked about as future possibilities.

“The constant movement of people between our countries, the vitality of investment and business interests between us, and the significant links between our citizens and governments demonstrate the ties between our populations, making us natural partners in a post-Brexit environment.

“Our shared values allow us to work together to address global challenges such as the urgency of addressing climate change and defending the international rules-based system from those who would undermine it.

“New Zealand appreciates the close cooperation we have with the UK on defence and security matters.”

Jacinda Ardern confirmed she has spoken to PM May about New Zealand’s interests that will be affected by Brexit, the priority placed on continuity and stability, and New Zealand not being left worse off as a result.

“Both sides welcomed the signing today of the Veterinary Agreement and Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment Bodies. These will assist in ensuring trade continues to flow freely between our countries, once the UK has left the EU

“These agreements mean current trade-facilitating arrangements covering the export of products into the EU are maintained with the UK.

“They help to ensure New Zealand exporters will not be worse off in the immediate aftermath of Brexit and there will be a continuity of the existing rules. This is a very important arrangement for our exporters.”

The Prime Ministers also reaffirmed the commitment of New Zealand and the UK to launch negotiations on a free trade agreement when the UK is in a position to do so.

“The FTA will be a high quality, comprehensive and progressive agreement that delivers for all of our citizens, contributes to addressing global and regional issues of concern, such as environmental issues and labour standards, and supports sustainable and inclusive economic development.”

New Zealand also welcomed the UK’s interest in acceding to the CPTPP.

“New Zealand supports the expansion of CPTPP to parties willing and able to meet the high standards of the agreement.”

The Prime Ministers also discussed the importance of immigration policies that facilitate the flow of skilled migration.

“New Zealanders continue to contribute to the UK economy and we welcome large numbers of UK citizens to New Zealand, including on our popular working holiday scheme. I welcomed the recent announcement that New Zealand citizens will soon be able to use e-gates in the UK.

“We also discussed a range of domestic priorities where both countries will benefit from learning from each other’s experiences, including through better regulation.

“Today’s meeting was very warm. It was proof of the depth, breadth and longevity of our countries’ relationship and the ongoing importance of our shared history and friendship to both countries’ success in a post-Brexit environment,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 

Ardern competing with Brexit mess in trade talks with UK, EU

Jacinda Ardern is in the UK to have trade talks with Theresa May, but with the turmoil over Brexit there is probably not much that can be achieved at this stage.

NZ Herald:  PM Jacinda Ardern to meet Theresa May during time of Brexit tumult

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets her embattled British counterpart Theresa May tonight (NZT) she will be hoping the latter will not be too distracted by the Brexit turmoil in her own country to discuss trade.

Ardern, who is in the UK for a brief visit before heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has put trade at the top of her agenda, saying free-trade agreements with both Britain and the European Union are priorities.

But trade agreements are unlikely to be priorities for the UK or EU at the moment.

Ardern will be seeking a reassurance from May that New Zealand will be no worse off, including in trade, following Britain’s departure from the European Union.

May will be much more concerned about how ;worse off’ the UK may be if she doesn’t sort out her Brexit mess – or if she does sort it out.

“My visit to the UK is an opportunity to underline New Zealand’s position as a natural and long-standing partner for the country as it redefines its global role post-Brexit,” Ardern said in a statement last week.

That ignores the fact that the UK dumped New Zealand “as a natural and long-standing partner” in the 1970sw as they turned to Europe and the EU.

While May will hear Ardern’s reminder that New Zealand is high on the list of countries Britain wants to negotiate free trade agreements with, it likely won’t be high on her list of short-term priorities.

Before Britain is in any position to negotiate free trade agreements, the House of Commons must first agree on a way forward or face a so-called “hard Brexit” on March 29 – that is leaving the European Union with no plan.

Ardern is at Davos for two days before heading to Brussels for meetings with European Council and Commission leaders.

Where she will also probably struggle to make much trade headway.

Some nice things will probably be said after both the UK and EU meetings, but it is unlikely much of substance will come out of either at this time.

 

Tricky time for Ardern for trade talks in Europe

In the UK Brexit is in disarray, and this mess will cause difficulties working out future trade alliances there and in Europe. But all this up in the air Jacinda Ardern is going to try.

RNZ: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heading to Europe with a focus on trade

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heads to London this weekend where she’s expected to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the wake of her surviving a no-confidence vote.

While there Ms Ardern will push for certainty that New Zealand will be left no worse off in respect of trade following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).

I doubt that trade with New Zealand will be much of a priority for May or for the UK right now. They don’t know what they are doing for themselves let alone what they might be able to do with countries on the other side of the world.

She will then head to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, along with the Finance Minister Grant Robertson, where the focus will be progressing a free trade agreement with Europe.

The prime minister will then head to Brussels for high-level meetings.

“My visit to the UK is an opportunity to underline New Zealand’s position as a natural and long-standing partner for the country as it redefines its global role post-Brexit,” Ms Ardern said.

What ‘post-Brexit’ will look like is anyone’s guess right now.

“I will be using my engagements to enhance New Zealand’s profile as a likeminded partner to the EU across a wide range of issues, including climate change, social policy, trade and our commitment to the rules-based system,” she said.

“There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners, so a key focus of this whole trip is to speak to European Commission and individual country leaders to shore up support for our ongoing negotiations and ensure New Zealand exporters achieve a great deal.”

Ardern is probably on the mark saying “There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners”.

She has too make the most of her trip to London and Europe, but it is going to be difficult making much progress on trade deals.

Unless Ardern can sort out Brexit for May and the EU while she is there.

May loses Brexit vote badly, now faces no confidence vote

As expected the Withdrawal Vote (Brexit plan) was defeated in the UK parliament, the only surprise being how badly the loss was:

  • Ayes 202
  • Noes 432

That’s the worst defeat by a Government in Britain in 95 years. In normal times that degree of humiliation would result in a rapid resignation by the Prime Minister, but these are not normal times. Theresa May is hanging on defiantly.

Soon after the loss Jeremy Corbyn and party leaders tabled a vote of no confidence:

This will be debated and probably voted Wednesday in the UK (Thursday NZ time). It is predicted that May may survive this, but her Government and the Brexit plan (or lack of) are both in tatters.

Telegraph:

Theresa May’s future rests in the balance after Jeremy Corbyn tabled a no-confidence motion on Tuesday night, just minutes after the Government suffered an unprecedented defeat over its Brexit deal.

With MPs voting by 432 to 202 to reject the draft withdrawal agreement, Mr Corbyn raised a point of order requesting that a vote be held on Wednesday,  after Prime Minister’s Questions.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Corbyn highlighted that the defeat was the largest inflicted on any Government since the 1920s, adding that Mrs May had “lost the confidence of this House and this country.”

We may find out by morning, NZ time.

Morning update from BBC:

  • Government faces vote of no confidence after PM’s huge parliamentary defeat on Tuesday
  • The Commons rejected Mrs May’s EU withdrawal agreement by 432 votes to 202
  • MPs now debating Labour’s no confidence motion ahead of vote at 19:00 GMT
  • Government expected to survive, with DUP and Tory Brexiteers backing PM
  • Labour says further no-confidence votes could follow if this one fails
  • European leaders have reacted with dismay at the voting down of the deal

Guardian – Brexit: MPs debate no-confidence motion after May’s deal defeat

MPs should be given indicative votes on what happens next, says Brexit committee

Next move ‘has to come from London,’ says EU

It isn’t just the Conservatives who are divided.

John Woodcock, who was an elected as a Labour MP but who now sits as an independent after leaving the party because of his opposition to Jeremy Corbyn, has told the Commons that he will not be voting for the motion of no confidence in the government this evening. He said he thought Corbyn and John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, were not fit to hold high office.

Here is the full transcript of what Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, told the European parliament this morning about the Commons Brexit vote. He said “the risk of a no deal has never been so high.”

Withdrawal Vote expected in UK today

The vote in the UK parliament on the Withdrawal Agreement, which is crucial for Brexit, is expected this morning New Zealand time (after 7 pm Tuesday evening UK time).

Missy reports:


The vote on the Withdrawal Agreement will take place sometime after 7.00pm local time.

Yesterday the PM presented to Parliament letters from Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker stating that the intent is that the Irish Backstop is not meant to be permanent. This has not appeased those against the agreement as it is not a legal document but rather a political assurance, meaning that if there is a dispute the letters will not hold up in court.

Some of the MPs that will be voting against the agreement believe that the EU will come back to the UK with last minute concessions to the agreement. They point to precedents set by the EU where they have agreed to concessions in international agreements at the last minute making way for the agreements to be passed. The most recent example being the Canadian FTA where they agreed the day before Canada was due to walk away.

The EU do respond to brinksmanship, that the UK Government and Remain MPs are not willing to do that is cowardice. They have been brainwashed by the fear mongering, most of which has been debunked.

It will be interesting to note Ireland’s reaction to a vote against the deal, so far they have played the brinksmanship game the best. Ireland have told the EU they will need millions in bailouts and aid in the event of a no deal Brexit, that Ireland have been the most stubborn on the backstop has meant they have garnered very little sympathy in Britain. However, it is possible that if the deal is voted down and a no deal looks more likely then Varadkar would be more inclined to compromise. The next election for Ireland is in 2021, so two years after Brexit, if Varadkar is any sort of politician he will be looking to that as any downturn in the wake of a no deal Brexit may harm him if he is seen as the cause of it.

One of the biggest mistakes that May made was postponing the vote on the deal. If she had held the vote last December and it had failed by a very large margin then she could have used that as leverage to try and get the EU to agree to concessions.

By postponing the debate she has led to the problems of MPs trying to usurp her – and the Government’s – authority on Brexit.

 

Divisions in Europe and the rise of the extreme right and left

From Missy in the UK:


The political discourse in Europe is getting more intense as divisions are pushing people more and more to the extremes of left and right.

In the UK the Brexit debate has led to the divisions coming to the fore, however, this isn’t new in politics here, as many who were around in Thatcher’s time will remind you. Social Media has given a wider audience to it though, and the anonymity for some on social media has given the opportunity for language to become more and more abusive, something that is now spilling over into real life.

Those on the far left are happily calling political opponents fascists, far right, nazis, meanwhile some anti Brexit supporters are talking about killing all Leave voters, whilst others are calling Leave voters racists, xenophobes, nazis, fascist (that word again).

Some far left activists and activist groups have publicly called for Conservative politicians to be harassed wherever they go, they have sent death threats, and wished their children dead, whilst some on the far right (not as organised in groups as the far left extremists) have threatened rape and violence to those that they disagree with. This is not sudden either, several years ago when a back bench MP, the now Shadow Chancellor called for direct action against Conservative MPs calling them social criminals, he has also been filmed repeating a dubious ‘joke’ calling for violence against a female Conservative MP using the phrase ‘lynch the bitch’. When MPs are using language like this against their colleagues in the House of Commons who can blame their followers for thinking it is acceptable?

Anna Soubry, a pro Remain conservative MP has reportedly used extreme language to describe leave voters, (I have not seen any video evidence of her reported comments as I have of McDonnell’s), she also referred to her own Conservative colleagues that support Brexit as extremists and called for them to be slung out of the party. There is also a report that about 3 or 4 years ago she referred to her constituents as racists.

Yesterday during an interview on College Green Anna Soubry was shouted down by Brexit supporters and called a nazi. This has gained a lot of media coverage, which is prompting much condemnation, but also a bit of bemusement as to why the media have not covered as extensively pro Brexit MPs being shouted down and abused, or why the term nazi is suddenly so distasteful to pro Remain supporters when many of them have been using it for the last 3 years to denigrate Leave supporters. The bemusement and the whataboutery isn’t good for discourse, but it shows up the hypocrisy of many on the extremes of politics, where the language they use against those they disagree with is not okay when it is used against them.

Many on the left of politics in the UK tend to take the moral high ground on abuse against politicians, pointing to the murder of Jo Cox as evidence the left don’t do violence, only the right do. This is a dangerous position to take as we see in the violence of groups like Momentum and Antifa.

Today a story came out from Germany. Yesterday a German politician was badly beaten by three masked men in Bremen, he was saved by a construction worker who came to his aid, it was reported he was left half dead. The politician? Frank Magnitz, the leader of the AfD in Bremen.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46792556

It is not healthy for our democracy to descend into this level of abuse, words are used to shut down debate or invalidate someone’s opinion and it becomes the loudest that are heard and considered the voice of the majority, even though they are most likely the minority on the extremes. When words like racist, xenophobe, nazi, fascist are used to describe people who want to have legitimate discussions on topics like immigration the meaning of these words are diluted, and then they are no longer listened to or taken as credible descriptors of someone’s beliefs.

Britain trying to go global after Brexit

The British Secretary of Defence has said that Britain needs to ‘recast themselves in a different way’, turning from European to global influence – something they retreated from when turning way from their prior colonies to embrace Europe starting in the 1970s.

The Telegraph:  Britain to become ‘true global player’ post-Brexit with military bases in South East Asia and Caribbean, says Defence Secretary 

Britain will open two new military bases in the Caribbean and South East Asia as the country looks to step up its military presence overseas after Brexit, Gavin Williamson has revealed.

The Defence secretary urges Britons to stop downplaying the country’s influence internationally and recognise that the UK will stand tall on the world stage after leaving the European Union.

In an interview with The Telegraph in his Ministry of Defence office, Mr Williamson says: “We have got to be so much more optimistic about our future as we exit the European Union.

“This is our biggest moment as a nation since the end of the Second World War, when we can recast ourselves in a different way.”

New Zealand relied heavily on Britain for export and import trade as a colony and later as a semi-independent country, but were dumped when Britain united with Europe.

We may see some advantages in improving trade with Britain now, but that will only be as one of a number of trading regions and partners, if it gets anywhere.

I don’t know how a greater British military presence will be seen in South East Asia, but that shouldn’t cause us any problems here.

EU leaders agree to UK Brexit proposal

RNZ: UK’s Brexit deal agreed by EU leaders

EU leaders have approved an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal and future relations – insisting it is the “best and only deal possible”.

After 20 months of negotiations, the 27 leaders gave the deal their blessing after less than an hour’s discussion.

hey said the deal – which needs to be approved by the UK Parliament – paved the way for an “orderly withdrawal”.

Theresa May said the deal “delivered for the British people” and set the UK “on course for a prosperous future”.

Speaking in Brussels, she urged both Leave and Remain voters to unite behind the agreement, insisting the British public “do not want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit”.

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

The EU officially endorsed the terms of the UK’s withdrawal during a short meeting, bringing to an end negotiations which began in March 2017.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said anyone in Britain who thought the bloc might offer improved terms if MPs rejected the deal would be “disappointed.

The UK Parliament is expected to vote on the deal on 12 December, but its approval is far from guaranteed.

Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, the DUP and many Conservatives MPs are set to vote against.

Mrs May has appealed to the British public to get behind the agreement – saying that although it involved compromises, it was a “good deal that unlocks a bright future for the UK”.

At a news conference in Brussels, she said the agreement would:

  • end freedom of movement “in full and once and for all”
  • protect the constitutional integrity of the UK, and
  • ensure a return to “laws being made in our country by democratically elected politicians interpreted and enforced by British courts”.

The agreement, she added, would not remove Gibraltar from the “UK family” – a reference to a last-minute wrangle with Spain over the territory.

The EU leaders have approved the two key Brexit documents:

  • The EU withdrawal agreement: a 599-page, legally binding document setting out the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. It covers the UK’s £39bn “divorce bill”, citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland “backstop” – a way to keep the Irish border open, if trade talks stall
  • The political declaration, which sets out what the UK and EU’s relationship may be like after Brexit – outlining how things like UK-EU trade and security will work

There was no formal vote on Sunday, with the EU proceeding by consensus.