(EUobserver) German finance minister Olaf Scholz said at a press conference in Berlin that the idea of a banking union is moving forward and that an agreement might be possible in December, Bloomberg reports. “The time of the new presidency and the new commission of the European Union is the time to get all the necessary agreements and to start with the work on that question,” Scholz said.
- Europe is concerned that some U.S. tech companies may not be taking the proper steps needed to protect the personal information of its citizens, Raymond Knops, minister of the interior and kingdom relations in the Netherlands, said.
- But that does not mean Europe and the United States are headed for a “digital war”, he said.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week urged Europe to take control of its data from U.S. tech giants.
WATCH NOWVIDEO02:05Governments have to ‘speed up,’ regulate new tech: Dutch minister
Europe is concerned that some U.S. tech companies may not be taking the proper steps needed to protect the personal information of its citizens, a Dutch politician said on Wednesday.
But that does not mean Europe and the United States are headed for a “digital war” over the ownership of consumer data, Raymond Knops, minister of the interior and kingdom relations in the Netherlands, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Knops, the state secretary, took over the ministerial role from Kajsa Ollongren in November.
“What you can see is that Europe is self-confident about how we deal with our data and the data of our citizens,” Knops said. Last year, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation went into law, giving individuals sweeping new powers in controlling their data, including the right to demand companies tell them how that information is used.
“What we want is to protect this data of civilians, not be used too easily by private companies. Especially, when there was no consent from these people to deal with this data,” Knops added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week urged Europe to take control of its data from U.S. tech giants. She said the European Union should claim “digital sovereignty” by building its own technology products to manage data and reduce dependency on the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, the Financial Times reported.
Lawmakers in Europe are likely to keep big American tech firms under close scrutiny, according to experts.
When asked about the possibility of digital protectionism, Knops pointed out that Europe, as a continent, is “very much depending on international trade.”
“The last thing we would do is to isolate ourselves,” he said, re-emphasizing the focus lawmakers there have on protecting user data. “What we’ve seen in the last decade is that a lot of companies were not very careful with dealing with data of civilians.”
Global activists of Avaaz, set up cardboard cutouts of Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, on which is written ‘Fix Fakebook’, in front of the European Union headquarters in Brussels, on May 22, 2018.John Thys | AFP | Getty Images
Knops also explained that governments need to speed up their pace in keeping up with new technologies that are being developed in order to better regulate them. “Not to stop developments, but just to put it in the right direction.” He was addressing the trend of private companies, like Facebook, trying to launch new digital currencies and payments systems.
He explained that it’s not just the European Union that’s working to develop a set of principles and guidelines for companies and governments that deal with new tech like artificial intelligence — other countries are also exploring such options, Knops said.
In the event that U.S. tech firms fail to adhere to established principles and guidelines, Knops said there could be a potential consequence: “It’s not the intention but when you set a set of principles, and guidelines about transparency and respecting privacy, and companies don’t comply with that, the ultimate consequence could be that you say, ‘You’re not welcomed.’”
(EUobserver) European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday that US president Donald Trump will not impose tariffs European Union automotive goods. “Trump will ruffle a bit, but there will not be any automobile tariffs. He won’t do it. You’re talking to a fully-informed man,” he said.
(Economist) Europe is “on the edge of a precipice”, says France’s president. Is he right?
Today’s europe owes its existence to the United States. America fought two world wars on European soil; American diplomacy was midwife to what became the European Union; American arms protected western Europe from Soviet invasion; and American statesmen oversaw German unification. Now, in a dramatic plea to all Europeans, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has warned that America is cutting Europe loose. The old continent is “on the edge of a precipice”, he warns. Unless it wakes up, “we will no longer be in control of our destiny.”
In his Elysée Palace office, Mr Macron spoke to The Economist in apocalyptic terms (see article). nato, the transatlantic alliance, is suffering from “brain-death”, he says; Europe needs to develop a military force of its own. The eu thinks of itself as just a market, but it needs to act as a political bloc, with policies on technology, data and climate change to match. Past French presidents have argued that Europe cannot rely on America, and should look to France instead. Mr Macron is not just rehashing this view. He believes that America and Europe have shared interests and has worked tirelessly to keep good relations with President Donald Trump. But he argues that for the first time America has a president who “does not share our idea of the European project”. And even if Mr Trump is not re-elected, historical forces are pulling the old allies apart.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz outlined his proposal to break the deadlock on European banking union at Bloomberg’s Future of Finance event in Frankfurt. Speaking to Bloomberg’s Birgit Jennen, he explained that completing the banking union would support economic growth.
FILE PHOTO: Three men that Democratic Forces of Syria fighters claimed were jihadist fighters sit on a pick-up truck while being held as prisoners, Syria, February 18, 2016 -CopyrightREUTERS/Rodi Said
Britain and Belgium have repeated their argument that their nationals who fought for the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq should face justice in the countries where their crimes were committed, not returned home to face trial.
Britain’s Home Office and Belgium’s Foreign Ministry spoke to Euronews a day after Turkey threatened to send ISIS fighters captured during its offensive in northern Syria back to their home countries.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu warned Saturday that his country was “not a hotel for ISIS members” and accused Europe of leaving the Turkish authorities to deal with the prisoners alone.
“That is not acceptable to us. It’s also irresponsible,” he said.
Turkey has captured some escaped jihadists over the last month after it launched a military incursion in northeastern Syria.
Western nations have been wrestling with how to handle suspected militants and their families seeking to return from combat zones in Iraq and Syria.
The policy of many European countries thus far, notably France and Britain, had been to refuse taking back fighters and their wives – with exceptions made for children.
The reluctance felt in Europe may stem from the worry that much of the evidence against any returning fighters may not stand up in court, a number of experts have suggested.
In a written statement, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said: “Our priority is the safety and security of the UK and the people who live here.
“Those who have fought for or supported Daesh should wherever possible face justice for their crimes in the most appropriate jurisdiction, which will often be in the region where their offences have been committed.”
“We are working closely with international partners to address issues associated with foreign terrorist fighters, including the pursuit of justice against participants in terrorism overseas”, the statement continued.
In a fact sheet published on its website, the British Home Office said it had a “range of powers available” to prevent the return of individuals assessed to pose a national security risk to the UK – including the withdrawal of British passports for those who hold dual citizenships or temporary exclusion orders.
Reached by Euronews, the Belgian Foreign Ministry said the country’s position was still to seek trial for IS fighters “near the place where they committed their crimes.”
“This must imperatively be done in fair conditions and in compliance with international law. Discussions are continuing and Belgium remains convinced that this is the solution that minimizes the risks for our society while respecting the rights of the defendant,” a ministry spokesman said.
European powers have launched talks with Iraqi officials to enable jihadists being held in Syria to face trial in Iraq – but progress appeared slow.
But the US withdrawal from Syria and Turkish military intervention is forcing Europe to rethink its strategy, raising the risk of jihadists escaping or returning home.
Kurdish officials have said almost 800 people fled a jihadist prisoner camp after the Turkish offensive into northern Syria targeted the area.
Iraq’s minister of foreign affairs, Ali Alhakim, said in an interview with NRC Handelsblad, that his country will only take back from Syria Iraqi Isis fighters. France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway have been working on having their Isis fighters being tried in Iraq, so that they did not have to let them back into Europe. According to Alhakim, “Iraqi justice does not allow this”.
Professor Xinning Song, director of the Confucius Institute at the Brussels University (VUB), can no longer enter Belgium after being accused of espionage for China, De Morgen writes. He had a 10-year tenure. Previously, there were complaints at the French part of the Brussels university (ULB) about Chinese pressure on academics working on China.
EU leaders have agreed in principle to extend Brexit until 31 January 2020 – meaning the UK will not leave as planned on Thursday.
EU Council President Donald Tusk said it was a “flextension” – meaning the UK could leave before the deadline if a deal was approved by Parliament.
It comes as MPs prepare to vote on proposals by Boris Johnson for an early general election on 12 December.
The SNP and Lib Dems have also proposed an election on 9 December.
A No 10 source said the government would introduce a bill “almost identical” to the Lib Dem/SNP option on Tuesday if Labour voted their plan down later, and “we will have a pre-Christmas election anyway”.
The UK was due to leave the EU on Thursday, but Mr Johnson was required to request an extension after Parliament failed to agree a Brexit deal.
The prime minister had repeatedly said the UK would leave on 31 October deadline with or without a deal, but the law – known as the Benn Act – requires him to accept the EU’s extension offer.
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The prime minister is trying to persuade MPs to agree to a new timetable for his Brexit deal legislation and an election on 12 December.
The Lib Dem/SNP plan does not include a new timetable for his legislation – the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
The BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said it was not clear whether the government would stick to a 9 December election date, but the move implied ministers would “give up [an] attempt to get the bill through”.
It was also not clear whether the government’s “almost identical” bill would amendable, allowing MPs to vote on issues like a customs union or another referendum.
Labour’s shadow cabinet are meeting to decide on their position, ahead of the Commons vote.
Boris Johnson’s “do or die” pledge to leave by 31 October is no more – it is dead.
Many will see this as a no-deal Brexit being taken off the table, at least until 31 January.
So it will increase the arguments in the Commons that with no-deal parked, Parliament now has to make a decision on an election.
And that is what Mr Johnson will be trying to argue over the next few days.
For the PM, there is a risk of calling an election without Brexit being resolved, as he may be punished for it at the ballot box.
So, while it buys more time, it also creates an element of uncertainty for the prime minister.
He will now campaign for an election in the knowledge that he has failed in his signature policy which he campaigned for in the Conservative leadership election.
The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, said the extension was “positive”, and “gives time for the UK to make clear what it wants”.
Downing Street said Mr Johnson had not yet seen the EU’s response to his request for a Brexit delay.
“The PM will respond once he has seen the detail,” his official spokesman said. “His view has not changed. Parliament should not have put the UK in this position and we should be leaving on 31 October.
“The PM secured a great new deal despite being told this impossible but Parliament has chosen more dither and delay.”
Mr Tusk will now seek the UK’s formal agreement to the decision, before formalising the extension through a written procedure among the 27 other EU nations.
An EU official said they hoped for the process to be concluded by Tuesday or Wednesday.Skip Twitter post by @eucopresident
The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a #Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020. The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure.16.5K9:23 AM – Oct 28, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy9,899 people are talking about thisReport
End of Twitter post by @eucopresident
MPs are due to vote on the prime minister’s election call after 18:00 GMT.
Labour has repeatedly said it will not back an early general election until a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table.
The SNP also said it would block the government’s election attempt.
But it has broken with the Labour position and joined forces with the Liberal Democrats to push for an election on 9 December.
Their bill that would tweak the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 – the law which sets the time-frame for elections.
If passed, it would enable an election to take place with only a majority of one, rather than two-thirds of MPs.
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said they would then fight an election “on the basis” of stopping Brexit.
He welcomed the extension from the EU, telling the BBC: “There is a responsibility on all of us to make sure we use that time to get out of the Brexit mess we are in and to get out of the impasse everybody is fed up of being in.”
Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna claimed the plan would also prevent the prime minister “ramming through” his Brexit bill, which the Lib Dems oppose, and changing the date of an election until after the UK had left the EU.
“The only way you can stop Brexit is through a democratic mandate of the people,” Mr Umunna told BBC News.
“We have tried to secure a People’s Vote [or further referendum] 17 times in Parliament… but we have simply not had the support. So, our best bet… is getting a new Parliament with a different arithmetic.”
His party leader, Jo Swinson, added: “We will keep fighting for a People’s Vote, but unless Labour wholeheartedly back it then a general election is the only way we can use this extension to stop Brexit.”
But Labour Party Chairman Lavery said accused the Lib Dems of “getting into bed with the no-deal Brexit Conservatives and forgetting their chums” in the People’s Vote campaign.
He tweeted: “Moral of the story: Never trust a Tory and for heaven’s sake never trust the Lib Dems.”
MPs have already twice rejected a call from Boris Johnson to hold a general election.
(Express) GERMANY could be forced to double its payments to the next European Union budget as Brussels scrambles to replace Britain’s billions after Brexit.
Berlin faces having to hand over as much £28.5 billion, according to the latest government estimates. The Brussels’ plan has sparked fury in the German capital and four other rich governments who also face massive hikes in their budget contributions. Germany could be hit by a steep 100 percent rise – from £13 billion in 2020 to £28.5 billion by 2027 – whereas the Netherlands only faces a 50 percent increase.
Under the plan the Dutch government’s contributions to the EU’s multi-billion euro coffers would rise from just under £4.5 billion to almost £6.5 billion by 2027.PUBLICIDADE
Angela Merkel last week told EU27 leaders at a summit in Brussels that the European Commission’s plan would mean Germany would become the biggest per capital contributor to the bloc’s budget.Berlin is already the EU’s biggest contributor on a gross basis.
The German finance ministry said: “Due to Brexit and the Commission’s proposal to abolish permanent rebate, the financing burden on German would disproportionately rise, in comparison to other member states.”
Germany faces its EU budget contributions being doubled by 2027 to replace UK funds (Image: GETTY)
Angela Merkel warned she would block the budget if German loses its rebate (Image: GETTY)
Eurocrats want to increase the size of the bloc’s long-term budget to 1.11 percent of the EU’s gross national income to help fill the void left by the UK.
Work on the next budget, which runs from 2021 to 2027, is set to go into overdrive as diplomats and officials attempt to sign off the package in the coming months.
Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden are all set to rebel against the proposals and demand that contributions of just one percent of gross national income and permanent rebates must continue after Brexit.
The so-called “frugal five” are all net contributors to the bloc’s budgets, meaning they pay more in than they receive back.
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The Netherlands also faces a significant hike in its budget contributions (Image: REUTERS)
Britain is the second biggest net contributor to the EU budget and Brexit will leave a £10 billion blackhole in the bloc’s finances.
Senior eurocrats have previously warned that Brussels has no “plan B” to plug the extraordinary gap left by the UK.
The European Commission has yet to officially calculate the rise in net contributions of member states, according to a spokeswoman.
She added that the five rebate countries were “paying a lower share of their income to the EU budget than the other member states, despite being among the top eight EU countries in terms of relative prosperity”.
Emmanuel Macron has ordered EU to increase its budget (Image: GETTY)
European Union budget contributions LISTED (Image: EXPRESS)
Under the plans, France faces a less steep increase in its net contributions – rising from around £6.4 in 2020 billion to £8.6 billion in 2027.
France would also benefit from Brussels scrapping rebates because Paris is largely forced to foot the bill through a so-called “correction mechanism’, which was established by Margaret Thatcher to limit UK farming subsidies to the EU 35 years ago.
In a sign of further power struggle between Paris and Berlin, Mrs Merkel said Germany would block any budget deal that does not contain the rebate.
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France’s Emmanuel Macron at last week’s summit said a one percent contribution could not fulfil the EU’s ambitious goals to act as a “geopolitical” power.
Talks on the bloc’s next budget must be finalised before the end of 2020 and EU leaders are expected to hold a series of fiery negotiations once Britain has finally left.
- Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain are said to back Mr Macron’s short extension
- Germany and Ireland are among the countries backing a three month delay
- Boris Johnson’s Cabinet is reportedly split over whether to call a snap election
European leaders are juggling Britain’s immediate future today as they discuss how long to keep the country within the EU.
Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain are said to back Mr Macron – with the Netherlands reportedly drifting towards this position.
Germany and Ireland however, are among the countries that are more relaxed about the idea of a three month delay proposed by European Council president Donald Tusk.
It came amid reported splits within Mr Johnson’s Cabinet over whether to use the Brextension for a general election or a second attempt to get his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (Wab) through Parliament.
The ‘Grinches’ who stole Christmas? Schools could be asked to reschedule their NATIVITY plays to make way for polling stations
Schools could be asked to reschedule their nativity plays so that schools can be used as polling booths for a pre-Christmas general election, it emerged today.
Downing Street wants to go to the polls in December in the hope of getting a majority for a Brexit deal as soon as possible.
But Boris Johnson has been warned of the logistical problems a winter election could bring, including the need for external lighting at polling booths and contingency plans for bad weather, the Times reported.
It is thought the Prime Minister will lay down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn as soon as the EU grant another Brexit extension, a decision expected tomorrow.
Mr Johnson could put forward a motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act as early as tonight, according to The Times, leading to a potential election on December 5.
But Mr Johnson is facing mounting Tory resistance, with some believing his chief adviser Dominic Cummings is driving him towards the polls, whereas the PM might be more inclined to plough on with Brexit.
And Jeremy Corbyn is dithering over whether to back a pre-Christmas election last night – as Labour MPs warned him the party would get ‘smashed’ at the polls.
Mr Corbyn, who turned down the chance of an election three times last month, claimed this month he was ‘champing at the bit’ to go to the polls as soon as a fresh Brexit delay was in place.
But yesterday his spokesman refused to say if Labour would vote for an election next week, even if Brexit has been delayed until the end of January, which rules out the risk of an immediate No Deal.
And sources said more than half of Labour MPs had told the party’s whips they would not vote for an election now, even if Mr Corbyn ordered them to.
One shadow Cabinet minister told MailOnline: ‘It is awful. He could try, but he probably won’t have the numbers to get it over the line anyway. It just doesn’t stack up.’
French president Emmanuel Macron is leading a group of rebels who want a Brexit extension of as little as 15 days after Boris Johnson was forced by MPs to hand control to Brussels
It came amid reported splits within Mr Johnson’s Cabinet over whether to use the Brextension for a general election or a second attempt to get his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (Wab) through Parliament.
The shadow minister predicted that the leadership will wait till the last possible moment and hope events save them from having to make a decision.
PM blasted for pulling out of grilling by senior MPs for the third time
The Prime Minister’s decision to pull out of an appearance before senior MPs with less than 24 hours’ notice has been described as ‘extraordinary’.
Boris Johnson had been due to face questioning by the Commons Liaison Committee – made up of select committee chairmen – at Westminster on Thursday.
But in a handwritten note to the chairwoman, Sarah Wollaston, he asked for a new date to be arranged for ‘five or six months’ on from when he became Prime Minister.
Dr Wollaston said the public would have to ‘draw their own conclusions’ on whether he refused because he is running scared.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This is the only select committee that can call the Prime Minister, and this is now the third time that he’s cancelled, despite having given a clear reassurance during the leadership campaign that he would come at an early opportunity.
‘So I think that’s the point here. He knows that he’s been Prime Minister for months now, he’s only had two appearances at Prime Minister’s Questions, and again not facing this kind of detailed scrutiny, I don’t think it’s good enough, really.’
‘In principle an Opposition should always be wanting to face the electorate. That is pretty much our only reason for being.
‘But a lot of people are scared of what will happen. Splitting the party that badly would be the nightmare.
‘What is our excuse for not wanting an election? Once we have the extension, what are we going to say?’
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey was asked this morning if Labour would vote for a general election as soon as the Prime Minister asks for one after the EU grants an extension.
She told the Today programme: ‘That’s our position. But we also want the Prime Minister to look at the compromise that’s been offered that a lot of MPs support, and that’s the ability to be able to properly scrutinise the Bill.’
Mr Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, is reportedly leading calls to abandon attempts to get the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal through Parliament and go for an election.
But Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith is said to be among ministers arguing it is still possible to pass a bill ratifying the agreement, despite Tuesday’s defeat for Mr Johnson’s attempt to fast-track it through the Commons.
There are fears among Conservatives that if there is an election before the UK has left the EU, it will play into the hands of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
Even if Mr Johnson does decide to press for an early election there is no guarantee that he will succeed.
Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act he would need a ‘super majority’ of two-thirds of all MPs to call an election which would require Labour support.
Tory Party chairman James Cleverly kept his options this morning, saying it was still possible to leave on October 31, without revealing how.
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Jeremy Corbyn is dithering over whether to back a pre-Christmas election last night – as Labour MPs warned him the party would get ‘smashed’ at the polls.
Mr Cummings (pictured today) reportedly banging his fist in fury during a meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn when the PM suggested a compromise to the Brexit timetable
He told the Today Programme: ‘We’ve been calling for a general election, me personally, the Prime Minister at the ballot box, my friends and colleagues all around the country, for months now.
‘The Labour Party are running scared and I can completely understand why, their Brexit message is confused at best.’
He added that the Government has had to ‘ramp up’ its no-deal preparations because ‘the EU has not agreed an extension and therefore it is absolutely essential that we make sure that we are ready to leave’.
Mr Cummings reportedly banging his fist in fury during a meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn when the PM suggested a compromise to the Brexit timetable.
After Labour blocked Mr Johnson’s fast-track Brexit timetable on Tuesday night, it was alleged that Mr Johnson had asked Mr Corbyn how long it might take to get the deal passed, at which point, according to The Telegraph, Mr Cummings furiously shouted, ‘No!’
No10 doused the claims as ‘utter nonsense’ and added that the meeting with the Opposition leader was ‘a total waste of time.’
‘They’ve kicked away the ladder of redemption’: Nine former Tory MPs who voted down Boris Johnson’s bid to leave on October 31 have little chance of rejoining party, says No10 source
A senior government source said the rebels – who include former chancellors Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke, former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC and former development secretary Rory Stewart had ‘kicked away’ the ‘ladder of redemption’.
They all voted for the deal on Tuesday night but against the timetable motion.
One rebel, Antoinette Sandbach, offered to back Mr Johnson on both votes but only if she was given a guarantee she would be readmitted. The offer was refused
After losing that vote Mr Johnson announced he would have to ‘pause’ his legislation and wait for EU leaders to impose a Brexit delay.
The vote had divided the 21 former Tory rebels into ‘two very separate camps’, the source said.
‘We have those who lost the whip but have supported the government since in trying to get a deal through, and we have another group who seem to be totally opposed to Conservative policy and bent on inflicting a vindictive political defeat on the PM.
‘There a ladder of redemption and it follows that the first group has started to climb it, while the other group has kicked it away.’
One rebel, Antoinette Sandbach, offered to back Mr Johnson on both votes but only if she was given a guarantee she would be readmitted and could fight the next election as a Conservative, a source told the Mail.
This offer was refused.
Last night Miss Sandbach claimed her negotiations were ‘primarily’ about giving the House of Commons a bigger say on the post-Brexit relationship with the EU, avoiding No Deal at the end of transition and greater Parliamentary scrutiny of prerogative powers.
But she added: ‘Of course I wanted reassurance that longstanding issues in my association would be dealt with having raised these for over 12 months, as if they were not, returning the whip would be a purely symbolic act, I also wanted reassurance that there was still a place in the party for MPs like me on the one nation wing of the party.
‘As the policy issues weren’t dealt with I and others voted against the programme motion.’
Several local associations have already begun the process of selecting new candidates for the seats.
With an election looming, that process is set to accelerate in the coming weeks, according to a senior Tory source.
Mr Hammond defended his vote, arguing it was wrong to push the deal through at ‘breakneck speed’.
‘I believe in delivering Brexit, but I also believe in Parliamentary scrutiny,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘That’s why I voted for the Brexit bill to progress to the next stage, but against No10’s plan to rush it through at breakneck speed. Now’s the time for cool heads, to calmly consider the Bill.’
At Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, Mr Hammond stood alone behind the Speaker’s Chair, with Tory MPs appearing to avoid speaking to him during the one-hour session.
- Investment in gas and oil continues despite growing awareness of climate emergency (Photo: European Parliament)
The fossil fuel industry pumped €250m into lobbying the EU in the past 10 years to water down climate friendly laws and targets, according to a new report.
“A cool quarter of a billion over the last decade buys a lot of access and influence in Brussels,” said Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory, a Brussels-based NGO, and one of the authors of the report.
- French president Emmanuel Macron (r) was meant to be the anti-Orban in the EU firmament (Photo: Council of the European Union)
When people power forced out North Macedonia’s regime in 2016, this was an inspiration to dissatisfied citizens around the Balkans.
Other authoritarians such as president Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia took note and tightened their stranglehold on political and economic life, determined not to let the same happen in their countries.
North Macedonia’s incoming centre-left government then struck historic deals with neighbours Bulgaria and Greece; on Greek insistence, it changed its name and ended a dispute that had blocked its path toward the EU and Nato for almost a quarter of a century.
The EU responded by promising to open accession talks. Meanwhile, former prime minister Nikola Gruevski was whisked out of the country by Hungarian diplomats and evaded justice. He is today a guest of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, his ideological soulmate inside the EU.
At this week’s EU summit in Brussels, the EU’s promise was broken.
Whereas a decision had been twice postponed before, France has escalated to holding the whole collectively agreed enlargement process hostage, demanding a rethink of the accession method before talks begin with the two current candidates – North Macedonia and Albania.
If France’s vague demand stands, EU enlargement for those not already negotiating would evaporate.
The terms for those countries already in that process – Serbia and Montenegro – would be muddied rather than clarified in a useful way.
Finally, there is a serious risk of a Gruevski comeback in early elections that have, in the wake of France’s veto, been called for next April.
In a piece of unprecedented policy vandalism, Macron has killed off a policy that until recently was seen as a core function of the EU, and which is the EU’s only strategy toward its Balkan neighbours.
He is right that a policy review and recalibration is needed – the frontrunners in EU accession talks, Montenegro and Serbia, have both seen significant democratic and rule of law backsliding, which belies the theory that the closer a country is to joining, the stronger is the motivation to reform.
But Macron does not truly want to reform the process, he wants to wreck it.
This European Council has brought him a great deal closer to that goal. Contrary to many expectations, he did not blink when confronted by Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel. He held fast against almost all other member states in insisting that a decision be postponed until after a policy review.
What happened in Brussels this week indicates France’s attempt to transform a lowest common denominator approach to enlargement that amounted to containment into a formalised containment policy.
France says that both North Macedonia and especially Albania have not advanced far enough to start membership negotiations, and that the accession process is no longer adequate to the task at hand. Neither of these arguments is entirely without merit.
But nor do they constitute the true picture. The absence of critique of the two “frontrunners,” despite their manifest state capture, is one clue.
The way in which France’s assertions have been advanced – without any specifics of what the two candidates are supposed to do to meet French demands, and without specific proposals on how to reform the process – suggests that what’s at stake, for Macron, is France’s leadership role in a post-Brexit EU.
The Balkan states, and enlargement in general, are merely collateral damage – expendable in his quest for supremacy. If the EU is still talking accession with Serbia and Montenegro, there is no objective reason why it would not do so with North Macedonia and Albania.
The current mood inside the EU is dark. A number of illiberal democracies are emerging, none more fully captured than Hungary. All of them are in member states that joined in 2004 or after.
But the argument that the EU should therefore block enlargement is short-sighted. In fact, fighting for values and standards in the enlargement countries is of one piece with the fighting for the same values and standards inside the union.
Perversely for a president who has portrayed himself as the anti-Orban in the EU firmament, Macron has effectively allied with Orban and other illiberals on the EU periphery.
These include Serbia’s president Vucic.
It also includes Macron’s openness to ethno-territorial border shifts, beginning with a “land swap” proposed by Vucic and his recently weakened Kosovo counterpart president Hashim Thaci.
On this issue, Macron is even effectively allied with US president Donald Trump against Merkel. As such, he makes the national populist disease – and all its attendant effects, including climate crisis denialism – stronger in Europe, not weaker.
If Macron believes that this policy will protect him against this domestically or closer to home, he is likely to be disappointed.
Europe’s illiberals are allied and coordinated beyond the EU member states – indeed, beyond the confines of Europe.
Macron seems to believe he can better defend his vision of an EU as a Fortress Europe by eschewing alliances with popular exponents of the EU’s foundational values outside its ranks.
This policy is doomed to fail – weakening Europe when it needs to consolidate around its fundamental values to face unprecedented societal and civilisational challenge.
- Sterling dipped on Tuesday morning to 1.2955 against the dollar after breaking above $1.30 in the previous session.
- Boris Johnson has seen his plans scuppered on two different occasions over the last few days.
- In the meantime, the European Union is closely monitoring events in the U.K. Parliament.
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 19: Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for the House of Commons on October 19, 2019 in London, England.Peter Summers | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Johnson has seen his plans scuppered on two different occasions over the last few days, but now faces a vote on his Withdrawal Agreement Bill and then on whether he’s able to rush it through Parliament before the October 31 deadline. The bill would see his Brexit deal with Brussels last week turned into U.K. law.
The first vote will be on the bill that states how the U.K. will leave the European Union. Johnson is expected to win, but it would only be an approval for the bill to proceed in principle. Johnson lost a crucial vote on Saturday which now means that his deal needs to pass through the House of Commons before MPs (Members of Parliament) give their full consent. It would then pass to the upper chamber — the House of Lords — for further ratification.PUBLICIDADE
WATCH NOWVIDEO03:48UK parliament set to debate Withdrawal Agreement Bill
“Let’s go for a deal that can heal this country and allow us to believe in ourselves once again,” Johnson said Tuesday morning on Twitter. If MPs make major changes to the deal later this week, despite agreeing to it in principle on Tuesday, the government is expected to actually pull the bill.
On Saturday, the U.K. Parliament decided not to have a clear yes or no vote on the deal that the prime minister negotiated with the EU, arguing that politicians should first approve the necessary legislation to leave the bloc. A majority of parliamentarians pushed for this in order to prevent a no-deal scenario at the end of the month as it triggered a law that meant Johnson had to request a deadline extension with the EU.
On Monday, Johnson was then turned down in his request to hold another decisive yes or no vote by the House Speaker.
WATCH NOWVIDEO02:35‘The ship is sinking’ over Brexit, UK lawmaker says
The second vote will be on whether Johnson is allowed to push his legislation through the House of Commons before the end of play Thursday — a relatively short period of time due to the impending Brexit deadline. It would then proceed to the House of Lords and remain on track to pass in time and allow Johnson to keep his promise of a Brexit before the end of the month.
A rejection of this timeframe would effectively mean a deadline extension is inevitable. Some lawmakers have voiced their opposition against what they believe is a rushed schedule.The Commons is not ready. So don’t blame the (European) Parliament, maybe blame Westminster.Guy VerhofstadtBREXIT COORDINATOR FOR THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
“Ministers are trying to bounce MPs into signing off a Bill that could cause huge damage to our country,” Keir Starmer, from the opposition Labour party, said on Twitter Monday about what he describes as pressure from the government to approve what Johnson negotiated with the EU.
“Boris Johnson knows that the more time people have to read the small print of his deal, the more it will be exposed for the risks it represents to our economy and communities,” Starmer also said.
What about the EU?
In the meantime, the European Union is closely monitoring events in the U.K. Parliament. The other 27 EU member states want to move on with the U.K.’s departure from the bloc, but they will not ratify the Withdrawal Agreement until there’s a clear position from Westminster. The EU Parliament still needs to approve the deal despite EU leaders already doing so last week.
WATCH NOWVIDEO02:09EU Parliament’s chief Brexit official: Don’t blame UK Parliament, blame Westminster
“The Commons is not ready. So don’t blame the (European) Parliament, maybe blame Westminster,” Guy Verhofstadt, who coordinates the European Parliament’s position on Brexit, said Monday.
The EU and the U.K. had previously negotiated a deal with former U.K. leader Theresa May in 2018, but that got rejected three times by U.K. lawmakers.
Johnson, who entered Downing Street in July, renegotiated the most controversial part of that deal — the so-called Irish backstop — with his EU counterparts last week. The European Parliament could approve that deal next week, if needed, but will not do so until Westminster approves the revised text.
Sterling dipped on Tuesday morning to 1.2955 against the dollar after breaking above $1.30 in the previous session and trading at five-and-a-half month highs.
Boris Johnson said he would introduce legislation on Brexit this week in Parliament. Meanwhile, Labour party lawmakers said they would back a second referendum amendment.…
BERLIN (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said the European Union needed to discuss a possible discount for Germany as part of budget negotiations because Germany would be “disproportionately burdened” by an increase in the bloc’s budget.
Raising the European Union’s budget to 1% of the bloc’s economic strength without contributions from Britain in future would overly burden Germany, Merkel told lawmakers in Berlin’s lower house of parliament ahead of a EU summit on Thursday.
“That’s why we need to have a discussion about a fair distribution of burdens on the funding side and also about a discount for Germany,” she said.
(GUA) PM will hope to pass his deal on Saturday but knows rejection will set him up for a general election
Boris Johnson’s team were pasty-faced with exhaustion as they briefed journalists about the details of the Brexit deal in Brussels on Thursday afternoon – but the PM himself was unable to suppress a beam of triumph, as he glad-handed his fellow leaders.
Just a week after Johnson’s meeting with the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, at a wedding venue on the Wirral, Downing Street hopes it has now engineered that rare thing in politics – a win-win situation.
If the PM’s deal is passed by MPs on Saturday, he’s well on the way to getting Brexit done (the slogan “Get Brexit Done” was plastered on every available surface at the Tory conference in Manchester last month).
If it’s rejected, and he is forced by the Benn act into requesting an extension against his wishes, it will provide a clear, public demonstration of his claim that he wants to get on and take Britain out of the EU – and recalcitrant MPs have stopped him.Advertisement
This weekend’s vote will be extremely tight, without the support of the DUP, which Number 10 had hoped they might secure, right up until Arlene Foster released her downbeat statement early on Thursday morning.
One source said the DUP had been “run over by a convoy of juggernauts” and that the party had committed a tactical misstep when it agreed, two weeks ago, to yield on its opposition to regulatory alignment with the EU in exchange for a veto in Stormont.
“Whoever persuaded them to do this, and it has a whiff of Dominic Cummings, knew that once they had dropped one red line they couldn’t object in principle to the customs red line. They must also have known that a veto in Northern Ireland would never have flown. They were duped,” said the source.
Meanwhile, Johnson and his aides were taking an increasingly emollient tone towards Dublin. Michel Barnier disclosed that Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar agreed in their summit in the Wirral that there would be no customs checks at the land border.
This suggests that the prime minister had agreed to cross a DUP red line before he and Arlene Foster had their first of three sets of meetings in Downing Street. “He calculated that he needed a deal more than he needed the DUP,” said one source.
If he is to win without Foster’s 10 MPs, Johnson will need many of the hardliners in the European Research Group (ERG) to forget their fealty to the DUP. He’ll also have to win over a handful of Labour MPs, which explains why its is the cabinet’s softer Brexiters – Matt Hancock and Robert Jenrick, for example – who have been sent out to defend the deal on the media.
Johnson’s political secretary, Danny Kruger, has already been reaching out to some Labour MPs; and Downing Street hinted at the possibility of more concessions on workers’ rights and other issues close to the hearts of Labour MPs as the withdrawal agreement bill makes its way through parliament.
But if the prime minister loses, he will aim to call a snap general election – a request Labour would be reluctant to block for a third time, once a Brexit delay has been secured – and campaign on the basis of getting his deal done.
The Brexit party leader, Nigel Farage, was already due to speak at a big rally in Westminster on Friday evening, and he will no doubt use it to cry betrayal and seek to outflank the Tories with the promise of a clean-break Brexit (essentially a no deal).
Farage trounced Theresa May’s Conservatives in May’s European elections, and much of Johnson’s strategy since arriving in Downing Street has focused on trying to reunite the leave vote.
Number 10 believes the theatre around this week’s deal – the fact Johnson succeeded in reopening the withdrawal agreement and securing concessions (albeit by making a few of his own) – will help to convince most Brexit voters that he’s on their side.
The whipless wonders – the rebel ex-Tories who were disciplined for backing the Benn act – have some concerns about the deal.
But that there is now an agreement with the EU27 will assuage their worst fear: that the next Conservative manifesto would advocate a no-deal Brexit.
If they return to the fold, they could go on to campaign on the basis of the Conservatives’ domestic policy commitments, on schools, hospitals and crime.
When Johnson tabled his “final offer” at the Tory party conference (not that he ever used that language himself), the reaction from many MPs was that he was deliberately setting himself up to fail because his ultimate aim was to secure a no-deal Brexit.
Yet while his mercurial adviser Cummings may have been relaxed about the implications of no deal, Johnson became increasingly convinced it would be too risky, and prepared to make concessions.
Most crucially, rather than waffling about “alternative arrangements”, the government made clear it was ready to swallow customs checks in the Irish Sea: something May had suggested no prime minister could possibly sign up to.
Clad in his trademark gilet and rumpled white shirt, Cummings was in Brussels on Thursday to watch the deal being done. He, like many of the other Vote Leave veterans in Number 10, sees his task in Downing Street as completing the job they began during that 2016 campaign.
As those explosive briefings from “Downing Street sources” about Johnson’s tetchy phone call with Angela Merkel made clear, they were ready to trash relations with Britain’s EU partners if it got Britain out, “do or die” by 31 October.
But while Johnson does want to fulfil the promises of the Vote Leave campaign with which he will always be so personally associated, he also wants to secure himself a nice comfortable majority, and a five-year term behind the big black door. It may be just weeks before voters get the chance to decide whether to give it to him.
The UK Government and the European Commission today published the text of a revised Withdrawal Agreement and a revised Political Declaration, coming just in time for the start of today’s European Council Summit. The revised deal is expected to be brought before the House of Commons on Saturday. The Government also released a unilateral declaration concerning the operation of the ‘consent mechanism’ contained in the new Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
While the successful negotiation of a new deal represents a political victory for Prime Minister Boris Johnson – including the re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement – the reality is that both sides have made compromises to get to this stage. The Prime Minister still faces a huge challenge in winning the support of a majority of MPs in the House of Commons, particularly as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has confirmed that its MPs will vote against the deal. Some of the so-called ‘Spartans’ in the European Research Group (ERG) have indicated they will support the deal – in spite of the DUP’s opposition – but the Government will still need to secure the support of a number of Labour MPs to get it through Parliament, many of which see this as a “harder” Brexit than Theresa May’s deal.
There is also the question of time. While the Prime Minister may be open to a short technical extension to get the deal ratified, he has ruled out asking for an extension on any other basis. There is speculation that he may seek to persuade the EU not to grant an extension (other than the purposes of ratifying the deal) to force a choice between this deal, revoking Article 50, or No Deal. However, the possibility of a General Election before ratification cannot be ruled out, and it is also possible that the House of Commons could take further action against the Government before 31 October.
The key features which distinguish the new Brexit deal from the previous one negotiated by Theresa May are that:
- The backstop has been replaced with a ‘frontstop’ special arrangement for Northern Ireland which will come into force immediately after the end of the transition period. It ensures that Northern Ireland will leave the EU’s Customs union along with the rest of the UK, but the UK will have to enforce EU Customs procedures at points of entry into Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland’s consumers will be able to benefit from UK tariff rates and trade deals with third countries, and businesses there will continue to enjoy unfettered access to the market in Great Britain. The region will also follow the EU’s regulatory framework in certain respects, meaning there will be no regulatory or customs border with the Irish Republic.
- The special arrangements will be subject to the consent of the people of Northern Ireland and include an exit mechanism, with the devolved Assembly being granted the right to opt out of the Northern Ireland-specific procedures on the basis of a majority vote. The absence of a ‘DUP veto’ – requiring cross-community support for the continuance of the arrangements after 4 years – may explain why the party felt that the consent provisions were not sufficient to secure their support.
- The Withdrawal Agreement no longer includes a customs union as the default basis for the future UK-EU relationship, which was included under the backstop. The potential future UK-EU relationship is only addressed in the non-binding Political Declaration, which points to a free trade agreement rather than a customs union, but this is a matter which will remain open to negotiation in the transition period, presumably after a UK General Election. Consequently, the level playing field obligations that accompanied the proposed UK-EU customs union under the backstop have been removed in the revised Withdrawal Agreement and to the Political Declaration as an issue for further negotiation in the context of the future UK-EU relationship.
Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh has produced a “track change” document which compares the new Protocol to the backstop negotiated by Theresa May. Although large parts of the Protocol text are unchanged, there are two important points to consider:
- Many of the unchanged sections are not related to trade in goods – for example, provisions on the Common Travel Area, the Single Electricity Market, and some of the arrangements for the implementation and governance of the Protocol. These parts of the Protocol were never controversial.
- Other provisions, notably regulatory alignment on goods, are the same as before in a technical sense, but are now subject to the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The rest of the Withdrawal Agreement is unchanged. The standstill transition period lasts until December 2020, with the option of extension up to December 2022; the references in the Protocol to transition extension have been deleted, but their legal basis elsewhere in the Withdrawal Agreement remains. The financial settlement is unchanged, although the extension to Article 50 means that the total payment is likely to be in the region of £33 billion, not the oft-quoted “£39 billion” figure. The provisions for citizens’ rights, Gibraltar and governance are as before.
A summary of the key aspects of the new Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is detailed below.
- Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the UK, and can be included in UK FTAs with third countries – provided those FTAs do not disrupt the Protocol.
- There will be no customs duties or checks on trade between NI and the EU, including Ireland. NI will continue to apply the Union Customs Code.
- Goods moving from GB to NI, or from outside the EU to NI, will only be subject to checks and duties if they are “at risk” of being subsequently moved into the EU.
- By default, goods moving to NI from outside the EU are considered to be “at risk” of subsequently entering the EU – with some exceptions:
- Personal property of UK residents, and consignments of negligible value, are not subject to any duties.
- The Joint Committee of UK and EU representatives will establish criteria for further exemptions from duties, particularly for goods which will not be subject to commercial processing in NI.
- Customs duties collected by the UK on GB-NI trade are not paid to the EU. Instead, the UK may reimburse NI traders whose goods can be shown not to have entered the union, and compensate or waive other costs for traders (subject to EU rules on state aid).
- NI remains aligned with certain single market regulations covering trade in goods and agri-food products, as previously. However, this would now be subject to consent from the NI Assembly, which can decide to opt out of EU alignment.
- Previous clauses on ‘protection of the UK internal market’ remain. The UK is not prevented from ensuring unfettered market access for goods moving from NI to GB. The EU and UK also commit to use their “best endeavours” to facilitate trade and minimise checks between NI and GB as far as possible.
- The Protocol applies for an initial four years after the transition period – i.e. until 31 December 2024 if the transition is not extended, and 31 December 2026 at the latest.
- Within 2 months before this end date, the UK will test democratic consent for the continued application of Articles 5-10 of the Protocol (the customs and regulatory arrangements, plus VAT, the Single Electricity Market and State Aid) from the NI Assembly.
- If the Assembly is not sitting at the time, the UK government will recall the Assembly’s members for a special plenary vote on the arrangements.
- Neither community has a “veto.” Consent to continue the arrangements requires a simple majority of Members of the Assembly present and voting. If this consent is given, the arrangements will continue for a further four years.
- Alternatively, if there is cross-community consent to continue the arrangements, they will continue for a further eight years.
- In either scenario, consent will continue to be tested on a rolling basis, with votes every four or eight years.
- If the Assembly votes (by simple majority) against the arrangements continuing, then a two-year “cooling off period” begins, after which the arrangements will cease to apply. The earliest date at which the arrangements could end is therefore 31 December 2026.
- During this two year period, the UK and the EU will put in place alternative measures. In doing so, they may consult the institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement, including the Assembly.
- The UK-EU relationship is only addressed in the Political Declaration, which is non-binding. The future relationship is subject to negotiations in the next phase, and, most likely, the outcome of an imminent General Election. Although the Political Declaration makes reference to the UK leaving the single market and customs union, it would be open to a future UK government to negotiate a closer relationship if it so wished.
- The parties envisage a future relationship based on an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible” Free Trade Agreement, with zero tariffs or quantitative restrictions, together with co-operation on security, foreign policy and defence.
- Unlike the previous Political Declaration, there is no reference to a customs union as the baseline of the future relationship. References to the UK considering alignment with EU regulations to facilitate trade have also been removed. However, the parties remain committed to co-operation on customs arrangements, and to going beyond WTO agreements in the reduction of non-tariff barriers.
- Binding all-UK commitments to non-regression in the areas of social and environmental policy, tax, competition and state aid have been removed from the Withdrawal Agreement.
- The only level-playing field commitments in the Protocol apply to Northern Ireland alone, and even here only on state aid.
- The level-playing field obligations in the previous deal were only included in the Withdrawal Agreement because of the presence of a UK-wide customs union in the backstop, which gave the UK tariff-free access to the Single Market. Without a binding UK-wide customs union, there was no reason for binding commitments to level-playing field measures.
- However, the two sides commit to a level-playing field in the Political Declaration, as part of the future relationship. This will be subject to negotiation in the next phase; the closer the future relationship, the stronger the corresponding obligations. Both sides will seek to link level-playing field commitments to levels of market access.
In a statement, the Democratic Unionist Party, which the government relies on for support in key votes, said: “These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union.” It added: “Saturday’s vote in Parliament on the proposals will only be the start of a long process to get any Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons.” A Brexit deal has been agreed between the UK and EU before a meeting of European leaders in Brussels. Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker called it a “fair” outcome – and the EU Commission President said there was no need to extend the Brexit deadline. He said: “We have a deal so why should we have a prolongation.” This will be a boost for the PM, but he still faces a battle to get the deal through Parliament on Saturday, with the DUP opposing it. Mr Johnson urged MPs to “come together” and “get this excellent deal over the line”. He added: “Now is the moment for us to get Brexit done and then together to work on building our future partnership, which I think can be incredibly positive both for the UK and for the EU.”
(LeSoir) Le Parlement européen actera ce mercredi après-midi que la Commission von der Leyen ne sera pas investie comme prévu la semaine prochaine. Ce qui formalisera la prolongation de l’équipe Juncker.
C’était devenu une évidence au fil des derniers jours, ce sera officiel aujourd’hui. Ce mercredi à 15 heures, la conférence des présidents – les chefs de groupes politiques – du Parlement européen (PE) arrêtera l’ordre du jour de la session plénière qui se déroulera la semaine prochaine à Strasbourg. Et cet ordre du jour ne comprendra pas l’investiture de la nouvelle Commission européenne, dont le vote était prévu de longue date pour le mercredi 23 octobre. Conséquence logique et légale : la Commission Juncker va donc rester en place au-delà de la date du 1er novembre où elle aurait dû céder la place, conformément aux traités, à la Commission von der Leyen.