UK threatens to break International Law on Brexit | Daily News


 

UK threatens to break International Law on Brexit

Galwan Valley has seen an India-China standoff
Galwan Valley has seen an India-China standoff

The UK is drawing up legislation that will override the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union on Northern Ireland, a move that threatens the collapse of the EU - UK talks, and is widely regarded as a violation of international law, and so accepted by the Conservative cabinet secretary.

PM Boris Johnson will put an ultimatum to negotiators this week, saying the UK and Europe must agree a post-Brexit trade deal by October 15 or Britain will walk away for good.

Progress on the already fragile talks will be threatened by plans by the UK government’s controversial section of the internal market bill that will intentionally try to unpick parts of the Withdrawal Agreement signed in January, including elements of the special arrangements for Northern Ireland that are legally binding.

The UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told the House of Commons a new bill to amend the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU will “break international law”. He conceded it would go against the treaty in a “specific and limited way”.

Senior Conservative MPs and many legal experts urged the government not to go ahead with plans to drive through a change to the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland, after it has been conceded it would break international law.

Many analysts see this as moving towards a “No Deal” exit from the EU, which has been a key aim of Boris Johnson from the beginning of the Brexit process. There are also concerns this move would be a breach of the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace between the UK and the Irish Republic.

Former PM Theresa May warned the change could damage “trust” in the UK over future trade deals with other states.

The permanent secretary to the Government Legal Department, Sir Jonathan Jones, has announced his resignation in light of the bill, making him the sixth senior civil servant to leave Whitehall this year. Sir Jonathan, who is the government’s most senior lawyer, is understood to have believed the plans went too far in breaching the government’s obligations under international law.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer condemned the bill and accused No 10 of “reopening old arguments that had been settled”, saying the “focus should be on getting a [trade] deal done” with the EU.

The new UK moves are expected to “eliminate” the legal force of the Withdrawal Agreement in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs. As part of the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the region is expected to continue to follow some EU rules after the transition period ends in 2021 to ensure there is no hard border.

Labour said the prime minister was “threatening to renege on the UK’s legal obligations” and called it “an act of immense bad faith: one that would be viewed dimly by future trading partners and allies around the world”.

The news was condemned by Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, who helped broker the original Brexit settlement. He said any change would be “very unwise”.

It reported that the US will be opposed to this move, as it was very strongly supportive of the Good Friday Agreement, signed in 1998, between the British and Irish governments, and most of the political parties in Northern Ireland, on how Northern Ireland should be governed.

Key figures close to the negotiations have already warned that EU leaders and heads of state must intervene before the end of the month to save the talks from collapse. Industry leaders have previously said no deal would spell disaster for the UK, with tariffs imposed on goods sending costs for industry and consumers soaring.

Brexit negotiations reopen in London with a warning from the European commission president that Britain must respect international law. The EU’s Ursula von der Leyen said “I trust the British government to implement the withdrawal agreement, an obligation under international law & prerequisite for any future partnership,” as posted on Twitter. “[The] protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is essential to protect peace and stability on the island & integrity of the single market.”

Business leaders warned that a Brexit deal was essential for safeguarding Britain’s economic recovery from the coronavirus outbreak and avoiding higher prices in the shops for British consumers as pressure mounts on household finances. Manufacturers have warned that Brexit stockpiles had been depleted during the Covid lockdown and many firms were running out of cash and time to prepare for leaving the EU. Retailers warned that the price of food and drink could rise due to border disruption, the imposition of tariffs and a weaker pound.

The pound fell on Monday as City investors bet on the growing likelihood of the UK leaving the Brexit transition without a deal. Sterling fell about 1% against the US dollar on Monday to trade below $1.32, and fell by a similar amount against the euro to below €1.12 on the international currency markets.

India - China Talks

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi are set to come face-to-face at least three times in Moscow this week, with the bilateral meeting being seen as key to reducing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Himalayas.

Jaishankar and Wang will participate in a meeting of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Thursday morning, to be followed by a luncheon meeting of foreign ministers of the Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping.

This will be the first between Jaishankar and Wang since the standoff in Ladakh sector began in May. The two leaders spoke on phone on June 17, two days after the deadly clash in Galwan Valley that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and caused an unspecified number of Chinese casualties.

Ahead of his departure for Russia, Jaishankar emphasised the need for political contacts to reduce tensions and end the stalemate in the disengagement process along the LAC. The standoff goes against all understandings on border management dating back to 1993 and the serious situation calls for “very deep conversations...at a political level”, he said.

The RIC meeting between Jaishankar, Wang and their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov assumes significance as Moscow has pushed for dialogue between New Delhi and Beijing to ease the border tensions. Given its good ties with India and China, Russia also doesn’t want to be forced into taking sides, experts said.

Roman Babushkin, the Russian deputy chief of mission, said on Tuesday his country wasn’t directly mediating between India and China but was “focusing on the creation of a positive atmosphere through SCO, Brics and RIC for practical cooperation”. He added: “Any kind of dialogue would be better than escalation.”

China and India have accused each other of firing shots on their flashpoint Himalayan border in a further escalation of military tension between the nuclear-armed Asian rivals.

The situation between India and China has deteriorated since the combat clash in the Ladakh region in June this year, where 20 Indian troops were killed. There are no confirmed reports of Chinese troops killed there.

Beijing’s Defence Ministry accused India of ‘severe military provocation’ saying soldiers crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western border region on Monday and “pened fire to threaten border defence patrol officers”. According to the Chinese, Chinese troops approached the India side for negotiations, when some Indian troops fired at the Chinese side.

New Delhi has given a swift response, accusing Chinese border forces of ‘blatantly violating agreements’ and ‘firing a few rounds in the air’ to intimidate the Indian troops. “It is the PLA that has been blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres” the Indian Army said on Tuesday.

Both sides have sent thousands of troops to the disputed Himalayan border, which sits at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres (13,500 ft).

US Polls

Less than two months to go before the US presidential election, former Vice-President Joe Biden, the Democratic party’s nominee, is polling ahead of incumbent Republican President Donald Trump in key battleground states, though he has seen his lead narrow in some states since the summer.

National polls show Mr. Biden at a significant advantage. White seniors in particular, a group that helped propel Mr. Trump to victory in 2016, have shown signs of disapproval towards the president’s handling of the pandemic. The Black Lives Matter activist actions have dual reactions, with increased support for Joe Biden among mixed communities, and the anti-Black and Law & Order supporters for Trump, especially from the White communities. Reports of President Trump making disparaging remarks about US soldiers who were captured or killed in battle, have brought a major negative for him in the current polling.

According to The Atlantic magazine, Mr. Trump cancelled a visit to a US cemetery outside Paris in 2018 because he said it was “filled with losers”. During a visit to France in 2018, Mr. Trump cancelled a visit to the Aise-Marne American Cemetery, and at the time the White House blamed poor weather. However The Atlantic reported he rejected the idea of visiting because the rain would dishevel his hair, and he did not believe it important to honour America’s war dead.

But in a tweet, the president denounced the claims as “made up fake news”. Speaking with reporters, Mr. Trump called The Atlantic’s report “unthinkable”.

“To think that I would make statements negative to our military and our fallen heroes when nobody’s done what I’ve done with the budgets, with the military budgets, with getting pay raises for our military,” said the president. “It is a disgraceful situation by a magazine that’s a terrible magazine.”

These reports and the responses to them from US Forces personnel, and some Republicans too, have placed Trump in a tough situation in drawing voter support, which is also affected by has bad handling of the Covid 19 pandemic, with the US having the highest numbers infected more than 6,350,000 and more than 190,869 dead.

September 7 - the Labour Day holiday, signifies the beginning of the most aggressive stretch of campaigning in the presidential poll. In the campaigning from this day Trump is largely engaged in claims of a sooner-than-expected coronavirus vaccine, and the hurling of insults at rival candidate Joe Biden, and his Vice President candidate Kamala Harris. He has called Biden a ‘stupid person’.

Joe Biden is attacking Trump as one who is ‘not made of the same stuff’ as working Americans, and has obtained support of the country’s largest trade union federation. Biden has said that Trump, a billionaire, ‘lives by a code of lies, greed and selfishness’ and is ‘not made of the same stuff’ as the US working class.

The National polls are a good guide as to how popular a candidate is across the country as a whole, but they’re not necessarily a good way to predict the result of the election. In 2016, for example, Hillary Clinton led in the polls and won nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump, but she still lost - that’s because the US uses an electoral college system, so winning the most votes doesn’t always win you the election. In the electoral college system the US uses to elect its president, each state is given a number of votes based on its population. A total of 538 electoral college votes are up for grabs, so a candidate needs to hit 270 to win.

Belarus protests

Mass protests continue in Belarus against President Alexander Lukashenko who claimed to win a national election by 80 percent more than a month ago.

Amidst protests this week, Maria Kolesnikova, a prominent female Belarusian opposition leader, resisted efforts to deport her to Ukraine, by ripping up her passport at the border. The Interfax-Ukraine agency reported: “When attempting to deport her, she tore her passport and could not be allowed into the territory of Ukraine by border guards.”

Deputy Ukrainian Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said in a Facebook post that Ms. Kolesnikova, who had been missing for the past 24 hours, successfully prevented “a forcible expulsion from her native country”.

“Maria Kolesnikova was not able to be deported from Belarus as this brave woman took steps to prevent herself from being moved across the border,” he said. “She remained on the territory of the Republic of Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko is personally responsible for her life and health.”

Since the contested vote on August 9, large protests have taken place in the former Soviet country, which borders Russia and has been ruled by Mr. Lukashenko since 1994.

Some 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets at the weekend and the protest movement shows no sign of waning after four weeks of mass demonstrations and strikes.

Emboldened by the backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Lukashenko has denied vote-rigging and accused foreign powers of trying to topple him in a revolution.

It is now reported that Belarusian, Russian and Serbian military forces will take part in joint military exercises in Belarus, the RIA news agency cited Belarus’ defence ministry as saying on Tuesday.

The Russian and Serbian forces would arrive in Belarus from September 10 to 15.

Opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who claimed to have won a decisive first-round victory with at least 60% of the vote, and called on Lukashenko to start negotiations. Her campaign subsequently formed the Coordination Council to facilitate a transfer of power and stated that it was ready to organise “long-term protests” against the official results.

She has called for people to demonstrate peacefully over the weekend while accusing the authorities of turning the protests into a “bloodbath”. Tikhanovskaya fled to Lithuania after publicly denouncing the results which handed victory to the incumbent Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in office for 26 years.

India - France - Aussie talks

India, France and Australia on Wednesday jump started a new strategic alliance proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron two years ago, with the first meeting of top foreign ministry officials of the three countries. Maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region got the top billing at Wednesday’s video conference.

The officials spoke about “enhancing maritime security cooperation” including maritime domain awareness, mutual logistics support and capacity building of other friendly countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

There was broad agreement among the three partners that they should look at a multi-polar world where countries join hands for mutual benefit and support rather than a unipolar or multipolar world.

China did figure in the discussions but the meeting wasn’t focussed on one country. The virtual meeting was co-chaired by India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, secretary-general in French ministry for Europe and foreign affairs François Delattre, and secretary in Australian department of foreign affairs Frances Adamson.

French President Macron was among the first to call for building a strategic alliance between the three countries that could respond to challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and the growing assertiveness of China. On a visit to Australia back in May 2018, President Macron had spoken about the need for the partners to ‘organise’ themselves. “We’re not naive: if we want to be seen and respected by China as an equal partner, we must organise ourselves”. He also said: “This new Paris-Delhi-Canberra axis is absolutely key for the region and our joint objectives in the Indian-Pacific region”.

Visiting India later, President Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a blueprint to step up cooperation in the Indian Ocean to counter China’s growing influence in the region. “The Indian Ocean, like the Pacific Ocean, cannot become a place of hegemony,” President Macron said, as the two countries signed pacts that gave Indian warships access to French naval bases in the Indian Ocean.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Indian Foreign Secretary Shringla underscored PM Modi’s vision for the Indo-Pacific that he had articulated at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018 to promote the concept of Security and Growth for All in the Region or SAGAR.

South Africa / India - Covid impact

South Africa has become the worst hit country on its economy and growth due to Covid 19. South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 51.0% in the second quarter of 2020, due to the impact of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions which were imposed from late March 2020 until June.

The manufacturing industry contracted by 74.9% in the second quarter, and all ten manufacturing divisions reported negative growth rates in the second quarter,” the statistics agency said. The trade, catering and accommodation industries decreased by 67.6%.

The mining and quarrying industry decreased by 73.1% contributing to -6.0 percentage points to GDP growth.

South Africa’s latest Covid 19 infections are 642, 431 and 15, 168 deaths.

India rise...

India on Thursday recorded its biggest one-day COVID-19 case rise yet, with nearly 96,000 fresh cases in the last 24 hours bringing the total number to date to 4.4 million. Indian Health Ministry figures Thursday morning showed that 95,735 new cases and 1,172 deaths were recorded in the country.

This is for the first time India has witnessed such a huge increase on a single day. With a massive increase of coronavirus cases on a daily basis, the country recently surpassed Brazil to become the country second-worst hit by the virus. Total COVID-19 related deaths in India have now reached 75,062.

Indian experts say that by the end of September India may even surpass the US – the worst-affected country worldwide – in the severity of the pandemic.

Navalny

Doctors treating Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny say he is out of an induced coma and his condition, since being poisoned, has improved.

Mr. Navalny, 44, was flown to Germany after falling ill on a flight in Siberia in August. German doctors say the Putin critic was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said there was a “substantial chance” the poisoning of Navalny was ordered by senior Russian officials. Pompeo reiterated that the United States and its European allies all wanted Russia to “hold those responsible for this accountable” and said Washington would also try to identify the perpetrators.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said the Russian ambassador was being summoned over the incident. “It’s completely unacceptable that a banned chemical weapon has been used and Russia must hold a full, transparent investigation,” he said in a statement. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said last week there was “unequivocal evidence” that Navalny, a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin, had been poisoned using the Soviet-era nerve agent. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied responsibility, with a spokesperson on Monday denouncing “absurd” attempts to link the poisoning to Putin.


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