Fishing Rights Top Of The Menu As Brexit Talks Continue

Photo: Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

Last-ditch Brexit trade talks continued in London on Sunday with fishing rights remaining an “outstanding major bone of contention,” according to British foreign minister Dominic Raab.

European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters that “work continues, even on a Sunday,” as he arrived for the second day of talks.

Barnier had arrived in London on Friday following a spell in self-isolation after a member of his team contracted coronavirus and ahead of the resumption of talks with British counterpart David Frost on Saturday.

Both men warned that a deal could not be reached without major concessions from the other party.

There are only five weeks to go until the end of the current transition period, during which trade relations have remained largely unchanged.

The two key sticking points remain post-Brexit access to British fishing waters for European vessels and the EU’s demand for trade penalties if either side diverges from common standards or state aid regulations rules.

Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday that this could be the final week of “substantive” talks, with time running out to agree and ratify a deal.

“There’s a deal to be done,” he said.

“On fishing there’s a point of principle: as we leave the EU we’re going to be an independent… coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters,” he added.

Barnier told envoys last week that London was asking that European access to UK waters be cut by 80 percent, while the EU was willing to accept 15 to 18 percent, according to a Brussels source.

A British official called the demands “risible”, according to the domestic Press Association, adding that the “EU side know full well that we would never accept this.”

“There seems to be a failure from the Commission to internalise the scale of change needed as we become an independent nation,” said the source.

However, Raab was cautiously optimistic over the “level playing field” issue, saying “it feels like there is progress towards greater respect” for Britain’s position.

A failure to reach an agreement would see Britain and the EU trading on World Trade Organization terms, with tariffs immediately imposed on goods travelling to and from the continent.

As it stands, Britain will leave Europe’s trade and customs area on December 31, with no prospect of an extension.

A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos, with customs checks required at borders.

Concern is particularly acute on the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, where the sudden imposition of a hard border threatens the delicate peace secured by 1999’s Good Friday Agreement.

The talks have already dragged on much longer than expected and time is running out for ratification of any deal by the European Parliament by the end of the year.

AFP

UK Says Russian State Link Likely In Navalny Poisoning

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab delivers a speech on the first day of the annual Conservative Party conference at the Manchester Central convention complex in Manchester, north-west England on September 29, 2019. Conservative party MPs and activists gathered Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, promising to “get Brexit done”. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Britain on Sunday said Russia had “a very serious set of questions to answer” about the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, suggesting some form of state involvement in the high-profile case.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was “clear” the Kremlin critic was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, which was previously used in an attack against a Russian former double agent in Salisbury, southwest England, in 2018.

Germany, where Navalny is being treated after falling ill last month, has said there was “unequivocal evidence” of the use of the agent but Moscow has said there was no proof of poisoning.

“It’s very difficult, when it comes to the question of attribution, to think of a plausible explanation of being anyone other than some emanation of the Russian state, simply because Novichok is hard to get your hands on, hard to control,” Raab told Sky News television.

“And so what is clear right now is that Russian government has a very serious set of questions to answer.”

Raab spoke to his German counterpart Heiko Mass on Thursday and said Britain would work with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to push Russia for answers.

The probe would establish whether there was state involvement, he said, calling the use of chemical weapons “abhorrent” and “pure gangsterism”.

British relations with Russia have been strained since the attempted murder, allegedly by Russian agents, of former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury two years ago.

READ ALSO: Russia Accuses Germany Of Stalling Navalny Probe

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, survived the attack, in which Novichok was thought to have been smeared on a door handle at their home in the city.

A police officer also fell ill and recovered but one woman died four months later after coming into contact with a perfume bottle thought to have contained the chemical weapon.

The attack came 12 years after Russia was suspected of being behind the radiation poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London. Russia denied involvement in both attacks.

London earlier this year accused Russia-linked hackers of attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine research from UK, US and Canadian labs, and of trying to interfere in last year’s general election.

It also slapped sanctions on 25 Russians for their alleged involvement in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail in 2009 after uncovering alleged large-scale tax fraud by Russian officials.

AFP

UK Rejects ‘Fraudulent’ Belarus Vote, Warns Of Sanctions

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab delivers a speech on the first day of the annual Conservative Party conference at the Manchester Central convention complex in Manchester, north-west England on September 29, 2019. Paul ELLIS / AFP.

 

The UK said Monday it did not recognise the “fraudulent” Belarus presidential vote which saw Alexander Lukashenko re-elected and denounced the “grisly repression” of unprecedented protests over the result.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab also threatened sanctions against those responsible and called for an independent international probe.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, claimed victory in the August 9 election with 80 percent of the vote, despite wide opposition to his rule.

“The world has watched with horror at the violence used by the Belarusian authorities to suppress the peaceful protests that followed this fraudulent presidential election. The UK does not accept the results,” Raab said.

He said any investigation into the election should be carried out by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“The UK will work with our international partners to sanction those responsible, and hold the Belarusian authorities to account,” said Raab.

London’s statement follows a weekend of protests against the official election result in the Belarus capital, Minsk.

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters gathered for a huge protest rally against Lukashenko on Sunday, described by one news website as the largest in the history of Belarus.

Since the result was announced there has been a violent police crackdown which has seen more than 6,700 people arrested, hundreds wounded and two people dead.

There have also been widespread strikes.

On Monday, the main challenger to Lukashenko, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, said she was ready to take over the country’s leadership in a video posted from exile in Lithuania, where she fled in the immediate aftermath of the election.

AFP

UK To Unveil Sanctions Against Human Rights Violators

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab delivers a speech on the first day of the annual Conservative Party conference at the Manchester Central convention complex in Manchester, north-west England on September 29, 2019. Paul ELLIS / AFP.

 

Britain will on Monday name the first individuals to be sanctioned under a new regime targeting people who violate human rights, with Russians and Saudis reportedly on the list.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will set out the new sanctions powers in parliament and reveal a list of individuals who will immediately be subject to UK asset and visa bans.

“From today, the UK will have new powers to stop those involved in serious human rights abuses and violations from entering the UK, channelling money through our banks and profiting from our economy,” Raab said in a statement.

“This is a clear example of how the UK will help to lead the world in standing up for human rights.

“We will not let those who seek to inflict pain and destroy the lives of innocent victims benefit from what the UK has to offer.”

The Foreign Office declined to say in advance who would be on the list.

But the Financial Times said it is expected to include people believed by Britain to be implicated in the deaths of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Magnitsky was arrested after detailing an alleged large-scale tax fraud by Russian officials. He died in jail in 2009.

Khashoggi was a Saudi insider-turned-critic who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Five people were sentenced to death for his killing in Saudi Arabia last year, but 20 more, including two former aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are currently on trial in Turkey.

The new sanctions regime, set up under a 2018 British law, will also target figures from North Korea but not China, the FT and the BBC reported.

The Foreign Office said: “Future targets of the regime may include those who commit unlawful killings perpetrated against journalists and media workers, or activity motivated on the grounds of religion or belief.”

Overall, the regime could apply to those who “facilitate, incite, promote, or support these violations/abuses, as well as those who financially profit from human rights violations and abuses”.

AFP

Restarting Premier League Will Boost Morale – UK Minister

A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaking during a remote press conference to update the nation on May 5, 2020.  Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP
A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaking during a remote press conference to update the nation on May 5, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP

 

Restarting the Premier League would be a boost to Britain’s morale amid the coronavirus crisis, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Tuesday.

Premier League chiefs have targeted a June return to action as they bid to finish the season over the summer.

England’s top-flight has been suspended since March 13 and there are still 92 matches remaining, with the title, relegation and Champions League qualification all to be resolved.

Some critics have questioned whether the Premier League is trying to return too soon after the top tier seasons in France and the Netherlands were abandoned.

But Raab sees merit in the Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’.

“I think it would lift spirits of the nation and people would like to see us get back to work and children can go to school safely but also past times like sport,” he said during a government press conference.

“I know the government has had constructive meetings with sports bodies to plan for athletes return to training when it’s safe.”

However, Raab emphasised sport in Britain could only resume once it can be done safely.

“I can tell you that the Culture Secretary has been working on a plan to get sport played behind closed doors when we move to second phase so that is something we are looking at,” he said.

“Of course, the key point though, we can only do it when the medical advice and scientific advice is that it can be done safely and sustainably but certainly that is something under active consideration.”

 

AFP

UK Will Not Align With EU Rules, Says Raab

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab delivers a speech in Manchester, north-west England on September 29, 2019.  Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Britain began an uncertain future outside the European Union on Saturday, as it gears up for likely gruelling negotiations on future relations with the EU after the historic end to almost half a century of membership.

There was joy and sadness on Friday night as the EU’s often reluctant member became the first to leave an organisation set up to forge unity among nations after the horrors of World War II.

Little has changed yet as the UK is now in an 11-month transition period agreed as part of the divorce.

Britons will be able to work in the EU and trade freely — and vice versa — until December 31, although the UK will no longer be represented in the bloc’s institutions.

But legally Britain is out, with attention now turning to what are set to be tough talks with Brussels this year on the future relationship.

British newspapers reported late Saturday that the government was readying for a bruising battle.

The eurosceptic Sunday Telegraph said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had already become “privately infuriated” at perceived EU attempts “to frustrate a comprehensive free trade deal”.

A leaked memo from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab orders UK diplomats to make an immediate break with former European allies, in ways such as not sitting alongside them at international summits, the Sunday Times said.

It instructed them to “adopt a stance as a confident independent country,” the paper added.

 ‘Stunning success’ 

British voters backed Brexit by a narrow margin in a 2016 referendum, sparking several years of domestic political gridlock about how, or even whether, to deliver it.

Johnson — whose decisive December election victory finally paved the way for Britain’s long-stalled departure — marked the occasion by holding a private party in his Downing Street office.

A clock projected on the walls outside counted down the minutes to Brexit becoming a reality at 11 pm (2300 GMT) — midnight in Brussels.

In a televised address to the nation, the British premier hailed a “new era of friendly cooperation”, acknowledging there could be “bumps in the road ahead” but predicting the country would make it a “stunning success”.

Thousands of people waving Union Jack flags packed nearby Parliament Square and sang the national anthem to herald the occasion.

But Brexit has unleashed deep divisions in British society, with many fearing the consequences of ending 47 years of ties with their nearest neighbours.

Some pro-Europeans, including many of the 3.6 million EU citizens who have made their lives in Britain, marked the occasion with candlelit gatherings.

There was a sombre atmosphere on one of the last ferries to leave the European mainland pre-Brexit and make the 42-kilometre (26-mile) journey across the Channel.

“It’s very depressing what’s happening today,” said Alessio Bortone, an Italian who has lived in Britain for 10 years.

 Trade talks loom 

Brexit has also provoked soul-searching in the EU about its future after losing a country of 66 million people with global diplomatic clout and the financial centre of the City of London.

French President Emmanuel Macron described it as a “historic warning sign” that should force the bloc and its remaining nations of more than 440 million people to stop and reflect.

Britain’s diplomatic mission in Brussels on Saturday changed the building’s nameplate to read “UK Mission to the European Union”, signalling its new non-member status.

Meanwhile, Joao Vale de Almeida, the newly named EU ambassador to Britain, said on Twitter he looked forward to “laying the foundations for a solid EU/UK relationship”.

Getting to this point has been a traumatic process and, while the divorce terms have been agreed, finding consensus on future relations with the EU — its largest trading partner — could be equally hard.

Both London and Brussels will set out their negotiating positions on Monday.

But Johnson, a polarising figure accused of glossing over the complexity of leaving the bloc, has given himself just 11 months to seal a deal — not enough time, according to his critics.

London is also now free to strike trade agreements around the world, including with the United States, whose President Donald Trump is an enthusiastic Brexit supporter.

One of his top envoys on Friday hailed an “exciting new era”.

At a special Brexit day ministers’ meeting in northeast England, Johnson discussed an aim to get 80 percent of Britain’s commerce covered by trade agreements within three years, a spokesman said.

 ‘Goodbye & good luck’ 

In Scotland, where a majority voted to remain in the 2016 referendum and Brexit has revived calls for independence, pro-EU campaigners rallied in Edinburgh on Saturday.

“It’s a sad day for Scotland to be taken — or dragged out, as I would say — out of the EU,” said protester David Eakins, 74.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland — soon to be a new EU frontier — there are fears Brexit could destabilise a hard-won peace after decades of conflict over British rule.

“They’re going to have problems probably, sorting everything out with the border up the Irish Sea,” said Thomas Glover, 77, alluding to possible trade frictions between mainland Britain and the divided island.

“I hope we can make the new realities work,” Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney tweeted, adding: “Goodbye & good luck.”

AFP

UK Condemns Use Of Live Rounds In Hong Kong Protests

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab delivers a speech in Manchester, north-west England on September 29, 2019.  Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Britain on Tuesday criticised police tactics against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, warning that the use of live rounds could heighten long-running tensions.

“Whilst there is no excuse for violence, the use of live ammunition is disproportionate, and only risks inflaming the situation,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

Hong Kong, a former British colony which was handed back to China in 1997, has been gripped by a wave of protests over the last four months.

Increasingly violent confrontations between demonstrators and the police saw a young protester shot on Tuesday, just hours after China marked 70 years of Communist Party rule.

Raab said the shooting again showed the need for “constructive dialogue” between both sides.

“We need to see restraint and a de-escalation from both protesters and the Hong Kong authorities,” he added.

AFP

Theresa May Appoints Dominic Raab As Britain’s New Brexit Minister

Britain’s new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) Dominic Raab leaves his new office at 9 Downing Street after attending 10 Downing Street in central London on July 9, 2018 following his appointment. Tolga AKMEN / AFP

 

Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday appointed 44-year-old eurosceptic junior minister for housing Dominic Raab to be Britain’s new Brexit minister, hours after his predecessor David Davis resigned.

“The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Dominic Raab MP as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union,” May’s Downing Street office said in a statement.

AFP