British MPs Resume Debate On Key Brexit Law

Britain, EU Reach Historic Deal On Brexit Divorce Terms
British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) is welcomed by European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker at European Commission in Brussels 
EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

British MPs resumed discussions Tuesday on a landmark piece of legislation allowing Britain to leave the European Union, on the eve of a vote on the draft law.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is intended to transpose EU regulation into British law and will repeal the legislation enshrining Britain’s EU membership.

The bill, which also sets the date and time for Brexit on March 29, 2019, at 2300 GMT, is expected to be approved by the House of Commons on Wednesday despite trenchant opposition from pro-EU MPs.

Prime Minister Theresa May faced a setback last month when 11 of her own Conservative MPs voted with the main opposition Labour Party for an amendment to have a meaningful vote on the terms of Brexit.

Following pressure from pro-EU Conservatives, the government has also changed the bill to allow for the date and time of Brexit to be altered in case negotiations continue beyond March 29, 2019.

But the bill’s passage through the House of Lords in the coming weeks could be far harder because the upper chamber is dominated by the pro-EU opposition.

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading Brexit campaigner, warned that the House of Lords could face fundamental reform if it hampered Brexit.

“If the Lords in their wisdom — and a lot of them are very pro-European — decide to try and frustrate, then the Lords will, as an institution, get into difficulties,” Rees-Mogg said.

In a podcast on the website of the ConservativeHome political blog, Rees-Mogg also urged members of the House of Lords not to push for a second referendum.

“A second referendum would be very dangerous territory for the Lords because it would be seen as the characteristic European hatred of democracy, so if you vote the wrong way, you get made to vote again until you vote the right way,” he said.

AFP

Israel Law Tightens Hold On Occupied Jerusalem Sectors

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office                                                                                                                                                  ABIR SULTAN / POOL / AFP

Israel’s parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to legislation aimed at making it more difficult for the government to hand the Palestinians parts of Jerusalem under any future peace deal.

The bill, approved by a 64 to 51 vote, is the latest blow to remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s office said US President Donald Trump’s recent declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the new Israeli law amounted to a “declaration of war”.

Formulated by Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the far-right Jewish Home party, the new law comes weeks after Trump’s decision on Jerusalem sparked deadly protests in the Palestinian territories.

It also follows a vote earlier this week by the central committee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in favour of extending Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Likud vote was non-binding, but was a further expression of the hopes of many right-wing Israelis who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.

The law approved on Tuesday determines that any ceding of lands considered by Israel to be part of Jerusalem would necessitate a two-thirds majority vote in parliament — 80 out of 120 members of the Knesset.

It also enables changing the municipal definition of Jerusalem, which means that sectors of the city “could be declared separate entities”, a statement from parliament read.

Israeli right-wing politicians have spoken of unilaterally breaking off overwhelmingly Palestinian areas of the city in a bid to increase its Jewish majority.

However, the new law is not necessarily definitive. It can be changed by a regular parliamentary majority of 61.

‘Declaration of war’ 

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

It claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The issue is among the most contentious in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We’ve ensured the unity of Jerusalem,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Jewish Home, said after the vote.

“The Mount of Olives, the Old City… will forever remain ours,” he wrote on Twitter.

Abbas’s office said Trump’s recognition and the Israeli law amounted to a “declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its political and religious identity”.

The statement called the moves a “dangerous project for the future of the region and the world”.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the Israelis were moving ahead with such measures because the United States had stayed silent and signalled approval with Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, said Abbas should declare the end of the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s and withdraw the PLO’s recognition of Israel.

Trump’s December 6 decision upended decades of precedent and broke with international consensus, but maintains that Jerusalem’s final status would have to be decided in negotiations between the two sides.

It has led to deep anger among Palestinians, with Abbas saying the United States can no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process.

On Monday, Abbas said the White House “has refused to condemn Israeli colonial settlements as well as the systematic attacks and crimes of the Israeli occupation against the people of Palestine”.

Speaking of the Likud vote, he said “we hope that this vote serves as a reminder for the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the US administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace”.

AFP

Islamist Attacker Stabs Tunisia Policemen Near Parliament

File Photo: Islamist Rebels

A hardline Islamist stabbed two Tunisian policemen on Wednesday in front of parliament, gravely wounding one of them, the interior ministry said.

“A Salafist attacked two policemen with a knife. One was struck on the forehead and the other stabbed in the neck and is in intensive care,” ministry spokesman Yasser Mesbah said, adding that the assailant had been arrested

Madrid Stocks Slide As Catalan Parliament Declares Independence

FILE PHOTO: Catalan Regional Government President Carles Puigdemont PAU BARRENA / AFP

The Madrid stock market sank on Friday, bucking an upward trend in Europe and the US as Catalan lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain but Madrid immediately moved to quash the breakaway bid. 

A motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and two abstentions, with Catalan opposition MPs walking out of the 135-seat chamber before the vote in protest at a declaration unlikely to be given official recognition.

Madrid’s benchmark IBEX 35 index of major companies ended the session around 1.5 percent lower.

Shares in Catalan banks were among the biggest losers. CaixaBank, Spain’s third largest lender, fell by around five percent while Sabadell, the country’s fifth biggest bank, fell roughly six percent.

“We are likely to see more sustained unrest, possibly including strikes, as well as more serious clashes between national police and pro-independence activists,” Eurasia Group analyst Federico Santi predicted in a note.

Nevertheless, elsewhere in Europe, the other main stock markets extended the previous day’s rally after the European Central Bank said it would soon start to taper its monetary stimulus program.

US markets were also upward bound, as blowout earnings by Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet and other tech giants propelled the Nasdaq 2.2 percent higher to an all-time record of 6,701.26.

Amazon alone surged 13.2 percent, adding nearly $62 billion in market capitalization in a single day after reporting only a modest rise in third-quarter profit but a 34 percent jump in revenues to $43.7 billion.

“Equities remain positive into the weekend, building on the recent recovery in bullish sentiment and rebounds from recent lows,” said Accendo Markets analyst, Mike van Dulken.

– Dollar strengthens –

The greenback shot up after the ECB said Thursday it will reduce from January its purchases of government and corporate bonds to 30 billion euros ($35 billion) a month, from 60 billion at present.

Policymakers, however, left themselves a nine-month horizon to decide on the next step for the quantitative easing (QE) policy.

The dollar added to those gains on Friday after US third-quarter economic growth came in at a better-than-expected 3.0 percent as the US economy absorbed the shocks of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Traders have also gotten more bullish on the greenback in light of progress in Washington on President Donald Trump’s tax cut, which has cleared a few preliminary hurdles in Congress but still faces many steps.

Next week’s US schedule of events is busy, with a Federal Reserve meeting and key data, including the October jobs report.

“Political developments may dominate the headlines, but there are also many US economic reports on next week’s calendar that will shed light on how well the US economy snapped back after the hurricanes,” said Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management.

– Key figures around 2100 GMT –

New York – DOW: UP 0.1 percent at 23,434.19 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.8 percent at 2,581.07 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 2.2 percent at 6,701.26 (close)

Madrid – IBEX 35: DOWN 1.5 percent at 10,197.50 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,505.03 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.6 percent at 13,2217.54 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.7 percent at 5,494.13 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 3,652.23 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.2 percent at 22,008.45 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.8 percent at 28,438.85 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3416.81 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1604 from $1.1652

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3131 from $1.3160

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 113.67 yen from 114.00 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP $1.26 at $53.90 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP $1.14 at $60.37 per barrel

AFP

Catalan Bank Shares Fall After Regional Parliament Declares Independence

Shares in Catalan banks fell sharply on Friday, dragging the entire stock market with them after Catalonia’s regional parliament declared independence.

CaixaBank, Spain’s third-largest lender, fell by around five percent while Sabadell, the country’s fifth-biggest bank, fell roughly six percent.

Shares in the two banks have fallen since Catalonia’s separatist government went ahead with an independence referendum in the wealthy northeastern region on October 1, despite it having been deemed illegal by Madrid and the courts.

Some clients withdrew their deposits from the banks, prompting the two lenders to move their legal headquarters out of Catalonia to other parts of Spain.

Neither CaixaBank nor Sabadell have revealed how much money was withdrawn, but they said the flow stopped after they moved their headquarters.

Nearly 1,700 companies have moved their headquarters outside of Catalonia since the referendum.

The International Monetary Fund warned earlier this month that Spain’s strong economic recovery could be dealt a setback if the political turmoil over Catalonia’s independence push continues.

Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people in the region bordering France, generates about 20 percent of Spain’s economic output.

As a separate country, its gross domestic product would be about as big as Portugal’s or Finland’s.

AFP

Ukraine Protesters Set Up Tent Camp Outside Parliament

Hundreds of disgruntled Ukrainian activists gathered on Wednesday in a tent camp outside parliament to demand a more forceful fight against government graft.

Some had spent the night there following a rally on Tuesday that drew nearly 5,000 people and saw calls for President Petro Poroshenko to resign.

The protesters have set up several dozen khaki-green tents in a park and street that run alongside the parliament building — and they appeared intent on staying put until their demands were met.

An AFP team saw activists sip tea and chat outside parliament while hundreds of riot police officers with batons watched.

But national police chief Sergiy Knyazev and Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said they had no intention of touching the tents.

Lutsenko called the right to protest “one of the main achievements” of the February 2014 pro-EU revolution that toppled Kiev’s Kremlin-backed regime and pulled Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit.

Large tent camps featured prominently during that revolt as well as one in 2004 that forced the authorities to annul the results of a disputed election claimed by the Kremlin-backed candidate.

Their return underscored a growing sense that the promises made during the 2014 uprising have gone unfulfilled by Poroshenko and his Western-backed team.

“Elements from Ukraine’s ‘old’ system are defending their interests and seeking retribution against anti-corruption actors,” the London-based Chatham House international affairs institute said in a report on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman meanwhile reaffirmed his commitment to the fight against corruption.

But Groysman also accused some of those leading the rallies of having a “thirst for power and — what is worst of all — trying to use their slogans to destabilise the situation in the country”.

AFP

Man Sets Himself On Fire Outside New Zealand Parliament

A man who set himself on fire outside New Zealand’s parliament was in a critical condition on Thursday, police said, just two days before the country’s general election.

Fire and ambulance officers rushed to the man, who journalists at the Wellington building said was a lone protester.

Radio New Zealand said witnesses reported seeing the man holding a placard relating to the family court.

One unnamed bystander told the radio station he saw the incident from the nearby Backbencher hotel.

“Everyone was looking out the windows then people started rushing out of the Backbencher with buckets of water and stuff like that,” he said.

“I hadn’t actually seen what was happening but then when the smoke cleared there was a guy lying on the ground and he’d obviously been burned.”

Police would not comment on whether the man’s identity was known, or what his motives were.

Senior sergeant Glen Turner told reporters security footage would be examined as part of the investigation.

“Things like this are highly unusual and extremely unfortunate,” Turner added.

New Zealand is in the midst of a tightly contested election campaign in which conservative Prime Minister Bill English is battling a challenge from centre-left rival Jacinda Ardern.

AFP

Myanmar Parliament Ballots To Keep Army Veto

Myanmar Parliament Ballots To Keep Army VetoThe parliament in Myanmar has voted to retain the army’s veto over constitutional change, dealing a blow to Aung San Suu Kyi’s hopes of running for the presidency.

Myanmar is a country with over 100 ethnic groups which has Naypyidaw as its capital. It was formerly called Burma and located in South-east Asia bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand.

The bill received a majority of Myanmar’s Parliament (MP) votes but not the 75% needed to pass.

Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was expected to see big gains against the ruling party in an election likely to take place in the autumn.

The NLD swept the last free general election in 1990, but the then-ruling military junta ignored the results.

MP continued to be dominated by the army and former generals despite dramatic reforms in 2011 that ended outright military rule.

Yoruba Leaders Say Election Must Hold As Rescheduled

yoruba leadersYoruba leaders in south-west Nigeria have stressed the need for the rescheduled elections to hold without any delay on March 28 and April 11, expressing their commitment to a smooth transition and purposeful leadership.

After an extensive summit at the historic parliament building in Ibadan on Thursday, it was concluded that no excuse would be entertained for any shift of the date, as it could be a recipe for disaster.

In his address at the Pan Yoruba Summit that, the convener of the conference, General Alani Akinrinade (Rtd), said the summit was necessary because the current leadership had made Yorubas “victims of arrested development, with significant retrogression which must be stopped”.

He expressed hopes that the meeting would arrive at a common narrative that would outline the demand of the Yorubas for development in an emerging Nigeria, with purpose driven goals for regional and national progress.

Retrogressive Measures Of The Government

The Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who hosted the event, condemned recent violent protest involving OPC in Lagos. He lamented what he called a state of servitude of his people which made it possible to turn them against one another .

Governor Ajimobi further said that despite the rich historical repertoire of the Yorubas and its contribution to national development, the region had suffered a great deal in the last 16 years of democracy.

The convergence of eminent Sons and Daughters of the Yoruba race at the House of Chiefs, Parliament Buildings Secretariat in Ibadan was called by the Yoruba elders to urgently address issues affecting the growth and unity of the race.

It was an avenue for the Yoruba leaders to register their displeasure with the retrogressive measures of the government at the centre to the south-west and by extension all Yoruba kits and kins across the world.

In a communique signed by the convener at the end of the summit, the elders agreed unequivocally that; elections must hold as scheduled, states must be allowed to grow and prosper at their pace while an end must be put to alienation and repression of the race.

Yemen Movement Announces Takeover Of Parliament

movementYemen’s Shia Houthi rebel movement has announced on Friday that it is taking over the government, dissolving the parliament and creating new interim assembly, a move that could ease a power struggle that forced the president to step down last month.

The rebel movement in a televised statement said that a presidential council would act as the government for an interim period.

The movement made it known in a television statement that the new assembly will elect a five-member interim presidential council to manage the country’s affairs in a transitional period of up to two years.

The Houthis has set a Wednesday deadline for political parties to reach an agreement on ending the country’s political turmoil, threatening to act unilaterally otherwise.

The Shi’ite Muslim movement, which is backed by Iran, had set a Wednesday deadline for political factions to agree a way out of the crisis, otherwise, the group said, it would impose its own solution.

The rebel movement took control of the capital Sanaa in September, forcing the resignation of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi last month.

Powerful Sunni and southern political parties have not recognised the takeover by the Houthis, who are minority Shia from the north.

Iran has been accused of alleged financial and military support to the Houthis, something both have denied.

Yemen has been in political limbo since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the government of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah resigned after the Houthis seized the presidential palace and confined the head of state to his residence in a struggle to tighten control.

The Houthis, who became power brokers when they overran Sanaa in September, had been holding talks with main political factions trying to agree on a way out of the stand-off.

Defection Of Politicians Is Not Based On Ideological Conviction – Eyiboh

A Former Spokesman for the House of Representatives, Eseme Eyiboh, on Wednesday said that those defecting from one party to another, particularly from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress are only doing so for selfish interests, as the move is not based on any ideological conviction.

Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Eyiboh complained that the main issues, including internal democracy and party management, had been abandoned for other matters.

He said that neglecting key issues of the management of political parties and internal democracy of the parties would lead to a “poor leadership recruitment process where you have wrong people in right places.”

He averred that the trend of defection was good for both the ruling and opposition parties but insisted that the trend was based on selfish interests and not the welfare of the people or on any ideological conviction.

“It is not all about the issue of the people. It’s about your heart being where your mouth is” he said, stressing that “none of these persons is doing it either out of ideological conviction or because of the mandate of that people,” he stressed.

On the possibility of the opposition party, APC, being a better party than the ruling PDP, Eyiboh said “APC, as a matter of fact is not a solution because APC is unable to provide an alternative to what they believe is wrong with the PDP controlled government.”

He further stated that the “APC shot itself in the foot by allowing PDP to reinvent itself” through the new party chairman, “a businessman who stoops low to conquer.”

Speaking on controversy and issues surrounding the defection of 11 senators to the APC, which the PDP opposed, although it had benefitted from similar defections in the past, Eyiboh said “the scenario is different in the sense that some members of the APC went to court (to stop their seats from being declared vacant) and PDP also went to court saying they should not defect from PDP.”

“We can’t deny the fact that there are other subsisting issues before the court of law and because it is so, it becomes unnecessary for you to begin to talk about it because the matter will be sub judice. In previous cases, there has never been such circumstance,” he said.

On the Senators’ insistence that their letter of defection be acknowledged and read on the floor of the House, Eyiboh said the Senate President was not under obligation to do it by their prompting.

He continued by saying, “it is a communication, it will definitely be done but he has to look at all the exigencies. In this case, he has to look at the matter before the court and other matters bordering on the roles of the Senate.

He further argued that “we must have a clear difference between politics and governance.”

National Conference Will Check Violence Rate In Nigeria – Wale Oshun

Nigeria’s proposed national conference billed to start in March has been described as a solution to the lingering security challenges.

On Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, a former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Mr Wale Oshun,  said that the conference was necessary as it could help resolve the crisis that had be-deviled Nigeria particularly in the military interregnum and in particular the violation that took place during the time that General Ibrahim Babangida was in office.

“The issue to have a conference to resolve all the lingering crisis of confidence in nation building started as far back as 1993,” he said.

Mr Oshun said Nigeria’s structure was difficult to operate because of its multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic makeup and that the conference was aimed at addressing and resolving the disenchantment that these multiplicities had caused.

Suffering Grave Consequences

According to him, “people resort to violence because there are no other options of being listened to,” saying “anyone can start a mob action, but it becomes difficult to stop”.

When asked if the decline in governance was as a result of disenchantment of the citizens, he said “the position is that any country that is multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic, must have a fairly and a truly practical federal system if you  must run it and not have the clog on the wheel of progress like Nigeria has which has been since the military intervened in 1966″.

“We have all these factors of differences in religious, culture, ethnicity and yet we have an over centralisation that have made us a completely a unitary state,” he further said.

Mr Oshun said the nation was suffering grave consequences because of shift from the federal system of government that was once in practice.

“We have moved completely away from the federal state we had when we got independence, when every federating unit could pursue its idea of development. The consequence is the Boko Haram, oil theft, militancy, kidnapping and the unrest all over the place. Because we don’t have a system of government that takes into consideration the objectives, beliefs and differences of the units of the federation, people go into voilence. There is a need to respect the differences, as the bonds that bind us together should be a voluntary one and not out of compulsion,” he insisted.

Explaining the amalgamation treaty of 1914, the former lawmaker said the amalgamation was not an act of parliament, as the provision was that the ruling sovereignty at that time could be revoked, altered or amended.

“It was not an act of parliament but an order in council which was submitted for the information of parliament. It was not sacrosanct. It will be sacrosanct if all the federating units agree to come together. It therefore meant that if any portion is dissatisfied, it could discuss or revoke the amalgamation treaty. If a people chooses within the ambit of their own belief to be ruled in a particular way, they should be allowed to,” he stressed.