How Boris Johnson Delivered Brexit Deal

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson speaks on Brexit at his residence on 10, Downing Street, London. Credit: AFP

 

Even for a maverick politician like Boris Johnson, backing Brexit four years ago was a huge gamble. But as Britain prepares to leave the European Union next week, it has paid off spectacularly.

The Conservative leader remains a divisive figure, hailed by many for his optimism and humour, accused by others of Trump-style populism and a blatant disregard for the truth.

But his name will be written in the history books for leading the campaign for Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum, and then, as prime minister, finally making it happen.

Negotiating a new trade deal with Brussels is likely to be an even greater challenge, but for now, the former London mayor is riding high.

 Early ambition 

For a man who as a child wanted to be “world king”, this moment of triumph has been a long time coming.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was born in New York in 1964 into a high-achieving family.

He spent his early years in Brussels, where his father worked for the EU, then attended the elite Eton school in England before studying classics at Oxford University.

He first worked as a journalist for The Times, where he was sacked for making up a quote, and moved on to become Brussels correspondent for the right-wing Daily Telegraph newspaper.

There he made his name by writing about “Euro-myths” — exaggerated claims about the EU.

He came to public prominence in the 1990s as a guest panellist on a satirical television show, where his eccentric and self-deprecating wit made him a national figure known just as “Boris”.

His first few years in politics did not go smoothly — in 2004, he was sacked from the Conservatives’ shadow cabinet for lying about an extra-marital affair.

But in 2008 he was elected mayor of multicultural, Labour-voting London, an achievement commentators put down to his unconventional style.

 Stoking controversy 

Johnson is not like other politicians, with his messy blond hair, jokey style and willingness to make himself look ridiculous — notably once getting stuck on a zip wire brandishing British flags.

He also differed from many of his Conservative colleagues with his pro-migration and socially liberal views, which resonated in London.

However, he has faced accusations of prejudice in his news columns over the years, describing gay men as “bumboys” and black African Commonwealth citizens as “piccaninnies”.

As recently as 2018, he drew criticism for writing that Muslim women in the full veil looked like “letterboxes”, even while he argued that they should be free to wear what they want.

But Johnson rejects accusations of racism, while supporters say he simply likes to stir things up.

In last month’s snap general election, he also proved he could still appeal to a broad range of voters by securing the Conservatives’ best result since the 1980s heyday of Margaret Thatcher.

With his promise to “Get Brexit Done”, be tough on law and order and invest in public services, he took back working-class seats that his party had not held for decades.

Brexit promises 

Johnson is known for his colourful private life. He is twice married, is believed to have five children — one from an affair — and currently lives with his girlfriend in Downing Street.

But his celebrity status has allowed him to shrug off scandals that would have destroyed many others.

More damaging have been questions about his competence, with a two-year stint as foreign minister after Brexit widely viewed as underwhelming.

The family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman held in Tehran for alleged sedition, say he jeopardised her case by misdescribing her job.

After becoming prime minister in July last year, however, he defied his critics by renegotiating the terms of Brexit that MPs had rejected three times.

“Those who did not take him seriously were wrong,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at the time.

Johnson still stands accused of brushing over the difficulties of untangling Britain’s EU membership, but dismisses his critics as “doomsters”.

He may face his most difficult task yet in negotiating a new trading relationship with Brussels, as well as with the United States.

And with the EU exit secured, and a bulging in-tray of domestic issues, the prime minister must now show he can deliver more than Brexit.

AFP

P&ID: UK Court Sets Timeline For Hearing Of Nigeria’s Application

Bauchi Assembly Crisis: Court Orders Parties To Maintain Status Quo
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

The Nigerian Government on Friday sent a representative to the United Kingdom High Court for a scheduled Case Management Conference (CMC).

The conference was held for the court to decide procedural issues relating to the government’s application to set aside the arbitral award on the basis that it was procured by fraud and corruption.

The spokesman for the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Dr Umar Gwandu, confirmed this in a statement.

According to him, the court has fixed a timetable for a hearing to decide if the Nigerian government’s application can be brought outside the normal time limits.

“This is another positive milestone in the Federation’s fight to overturn this award.

“Based on new and credible evidence discovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), it is increasingly clear that P&ID’s ‘contract’ was a highly orchestrated scam, involving a cover-up by ministers at the highest levels of office in the previous administration,” the statement said.

These officials, Gwandu said, were entrusted to safeguard the future and assets of the country.

Rather, he alleged that they knowingly entered into the ‘sham GSPA’ and deliberately failed to defend Nigeria in the ensuing arbitral proceedings.

The spokesman for the office of the AGF insisted that P&ID has said nothing to rebut the allegations of fraud.

“These issues will now be before the court to consider in relation to the Federation’s challenge to this award.

“P&ID has 28 days to respond to the application for the extension of the time to challenge the arbitral award. Thereafter, the court will set a date for the hearing of the application,” the statement added.

US, UK Sign Deal To Protect Titanic Wreck

 

Britain on Tuesday hailed a new treaty with the United States that seeks to protect the wreck of the Titanic from damage by explorers and tourists.

The remains of the ship lie largely intact 2.5 miles (four kilometres) below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean after it hit an iceberg in 1912.

But there have been growing concerns about visitors taking artefacts, leaving rubbish and even placing plaques in memory of the 1,500 people who died.

An international treaty to limit access was signed by Britain in 2003 but only ratified by the United States in November last year.

During a visit to Belfast in Northern Ireland, where the Titanic was built, British maritime minister Nusrat Ghani said it was a “momentous agreement”.

It meant the site “will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives”, she said, according to a government statement.

“The UK will now work closely with the other North Atlantic States to bring even more protection to the wreck of the Titanic.”

Built by Harland and Wolff, the Titanic was the largest and most luxurious passenger vessel of its time and described as “unsinkable”.

It set sail on its maiden voyage from the English port of Southampton on April 10, 1912, bound for New York but it never arrived.

The ship, carrying around 2,224 passengers, hit an iceberg on April 15, broke apart and sank to the bottom of the ocean.

The wreck was discovered in September 1985 about 350 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland, in Canada.

Several countries have been negotiating an international deal to protect it since then, while it is also protected by UNESCO.

Britain and the US have now both passed legislation giving them the power to grant or deny licences authorising people to enter the hull sections of the Titanic and remove artefacts, UK officials said.

AFP

Facebook To Boost Site Safety With 1,000 More UK Staff

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the opening keynote introducing new Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram privacy features at the Facebook F8 Conference at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California on April 30, 2019.  Amy Osborne / AFP

 

Facebook on Tuesday said it plans to create 1,000 more London-based jobs this year to improve safety on the social network with the aid of artificial intelligence.

The new roles will increase the number of staff at the company’s largest engineering hub outside the United States to more than 4,000.

“The UK is a world leader in both innovation and creativity. That’s why I’m excited that we plan to hire an additional 1,000 people in London this year alone,” said Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

She said that many of the new roles would help Facebook to “address the challenges of an open internet and develop artificial intelligence to find and remove harmful content more quickly.

“They will also help us build the tools that help small businesses grow, compete with larger companies and create new jobs.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the move, saying that “the UK is successfully creating both homegrown firms at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, whilst attracting established global tech giants like Facebook”.

AFP

Greater UK Engagement In Nigeria’s Economy Would Bring Jobs To Under-Tapped Sectors – Buhari

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari says he is seeking a new settlement with the United Kingdom following the UK’s imminent exit of the European Union.

In a statement on Sunday, President Buhari said the new settlement he seeks aims not only at building stronger ties but also at unleashing trade.

The President stated: “The United Kingdom’s exit of the European Union is now all but certain. Only the passage of time will reveal what their new relationship shall be. But with this new arrangement, I – like many other Commonwealth leaders – also seek a new settlement: not only of closer relations between the UK and my own nation but of unleashing trade within the club in which we together shall remain”.

President Buhari further stated that the relations between Nigeria and the UK are close and longstanding, most recently reiterated in both nation’s 2018 bi-lateral security pact and the collaboration in anti-trafficking.

He, however, noted that in recent years, the relationship – particularly economically – has become increasingly defined by Britain’s membership of the European Union.

READ ALSO: PHOTOS: Buhari Visits Prince Of Wales

According to President Buhari a new free trade agreement would reconfigure this, presenting new opportunities for both countries.

“As the largest economy in Africa, my country of nearly 200 million people has a great deal to offer: Nigeria’s vast natural energy and mineral resources, unbarred through the ending of customs barriers, could help supply growth for companies in all corners of the UK. Greater access would also be forthcoming to one of the world’s fastest expanding groups of consumers – the Nigerian middle classes.

For my country, greater UK engagement in its economy would bring jobs to under-tapped sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing. Millions of highly skilled, English-speaking but underemployed young people, are eager to work but without the opportunities that foreign investment can bring to create jobs and build businesses.

“Yet there is also a case to be made that our two Commonwealth countries should try, with other members, to deliver more – collectively. In 2015, I became the first head of a new Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council tasked with boosting trade and investment within the wider organisation. Now with the United Kingdom – the Commonwealth’s largest economy – no longer obliged to ringfence its economy with tariffs, this mission will be given a jolt of vitality.

“However, we must be realistic: the commonwealth will not suddenly become a multilateral-free trade zone. Today many members reside within regional free trade and customs zones of their own. Yet without any of us needing to relinquish these ties, we can work together to minimise – consistent with respective memberships – as far as possible many of the tariffs and barriers on commodities, products, and services. Because member countries’ national laws are built on the principles of English jurisprudence, we might work together from this common platform to better align regulations on investment, certification, and trade.

“A renewed sense of Commonwealth solidarity would also be of enormous benefit to the large and vital diasporas – particularly from Africa and the Indian subcontinent – that live in Western Commonwealth countries such as Britain, Canada and Australia. These communities still maintain the strongest of cultural and family links with the countries from which they and their forebears emigrated.

“Yet visa restrictions and customs barriers must be reduced to fulfill the potential these connections could bring to the nations where they today reside. As an African leader I have an obligation to speak of the fact that while many in the African Diaspora enjoy considerable benefits from life in the West, they do not always feel at the heart of the community. A renewed sense that there are ties that bind us through the Commonwealth, and a concerted effort to grow those links through trade, could act as a spur to encourage togetherness and the certainty of belonging,” President Buhari stated.

The President also said that the new year provides two critical summits in which this new determination could take seed.

He noted that in January, London shall play host to the UK-Africa Investment Summit. (The continent is the Commonwealth’s largest constituent, providing over a third of its membership.) And then back to Africa, where Rwanda will welcome countries to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

President Buhari was of the opinion that it is at this biennial summit that many of the organisation’s milestones have been achieved – particularly in democracy and human rights.

He said the 2020 summit could be the wrench that begins to tighten both nations’ economic structures, drawing strength from shared bonds of history, friendship, and language.

President Buhari was also of the opinion that time will tell if Britain’s new ability to strike free trade deals directly with other countries once it departs the EU can be built into more than bilateral economic cooperation.

He, however, added that there is no reason why, collectively, both Nigeria and the UK should not try nor should both nations dismiss the potential for making the Commonwealth of Nations more than a voluntary organization of equals based on a shared history that it is today.

The President also noted that it is in the people’s interests to labour, dispassionately, to increase focus on lowering barriers to achieving what truly brings freedom, friendship, and equality: prosperity through trade.

Buhari Meets With Service Chiefs Before London Trip

President Muhammadu Buhari attends a meeting with the service chiefs and others at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on January 17, 2020.

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday met with the nation’s Service Chiefs, ahead of his scheduled trip to the United Kingdom.

The President met with the security chiefs at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), led the services chiefs to the meeting which had the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, in attendance.

Also present were the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; and the Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ekwe Ibas.

Others included the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu; and Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr Yusuf Bichi.

The meeting, which reviewed the operations of security agencies in the country, was also attended by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha.

President Buhari is expected to travel to London after the meeting to participate in the inaugural UK-Africa Investment Summit scheduled for Monday next week.

According to the organisers, the event hosted by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, will bring together African leaders, international business chief executives and heads of international organisations “to create new partnerships that will deliver more investments and jobs” to the benefit of people and businesses in African countries and the United Kingdom.

See more photos of the security meeting below:

Buhari To Attend UK-Africa Investment Summit In London

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja Friday for London to participate in the inaugural UK-Africa Investment Summit holding on Monday, January 20, 2020.

Hosted by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, the event, according to the organisers, is expected to bring together African leaders, international business chief executives and heads of international organisations “to create new partnerships that will deliver more investments and jobs” to the benefit of people and businesses in African countries and the United Kingdom.

Apart from highlighting new perspectives on UK-Africa Partnership for Prosperity, issues of Sustainable Finance and Infrastructure; Trade and Investment; Future African Growth Sectors and Clean Energy and Climate, are expected to dominate presentations and discussions during the Summit.

READ ALSO: Buhari Pledges To Sustain Efforts To End Child Marriage

With the expected take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in mid-2020, the London investment summit will provide Nigeria with the opportunity to project itself as a leading investment destination for new industries.

In addition, the summit will deepen Nigeria-United Kingdom investment ties post-Brexit given that Africa currently represents just two per cent of British trade activity, with Nigeria accounting for only 10 per cent of that total.

The Nigerian delegation to the investment meeting will further showcase what the Federal Government has done through policies and legislations to improve the investment and business climate in the country.

While in the United Kingdom, President Buhari will hold a meeting with the Head of the Commonwealth, Prince Charles in Glasgow, Scotland.

The President and his delegation will also have bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Johnson as well as heads of multilateral organisations.
President Buhari will be accompanied to the Summit by Governors Yahaya Bello, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya and Okezie Ikpeazu of Kogi, Gombe and Abia States respectively.

Also on the presidential entourage are the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd); and the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.

President Buhari is expected back in Abuja next Thursday.

UK To Ban Use Of Credit Cards For Gambling

Credit cards behing held in the air in front of a keyboard. Saxony’s State Criminal Office (LKA) gave a press conference on the topic of a large scale operation against online fraudsters. AFP

 

Britain will from April ban the use of credit cards to pay for bets, its gambling regulator announced on Tuesday, the latest clampdown on the industry.

“The Gambling Commission has announced a ban on gambling businesses allowing consumers in Great Britain to use credit cards to gamble,” a statement said.

The ban comes into effect on April 14 and follows a measure introduced last year by the British government to slash the maximum stake on electronic casino-style games aimed at curbing their addictive appeal.

On banning the use of credit cards, Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said Tuesday:

“Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.”

McArthur said that 22 percent of Britain’s online gamblers using credit cards are “problem gamblers”.

“There are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability,” he said.

“There is also evidence that the fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent.”

The Commission noted that 24 million adults in Britain gamble, including 10.5 million online.

“Whilst millions gamble responsibly, I have also met people whose lives have been turned upside down by gambling addiction,” Culture Minister Helen Whately said in Tuesday’s statement.

“We will not hesitate to take any further action necessary to protect people from gambling harm,” she added.

Share prices in British gambling firms slid in early trading on Tuesday in reaction to the latest measure.

UK Parliament Approves Historic Brexit Deal

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) reacting after his Government won the vote on the third reading of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, in the House of Commons in London on January 9, 2020.  HO / PRU / AFP

 

Britain’s parliament finally approved Brexit on Thursday, allowing it to become the first country to leave the European Union later this month, ending years of arguments that toppled two governments and splintered society.

The House of Commons erupted in cheers after MPs ratified Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s divorce deal with Brussels by 330 votes to 231, turning the page on an extraordinary era of political drama and chaos.

For much of the time since the 2016 Brexit referendum, lawmakers have been at each others’ throats over how, when or even if Britain should leave its closest trading partners after nearly 50 years.

Some view Brexit with horror, fearing it will strip them of their European identities and turn Britain into an insular, less important nation.

Others embraced it with fervour, viewing it as a chance to “take back control” from officials in Brussels and see Britain regain some of its past might.

Businesses and governments in Europe, puzzled by Britain’s struggles over what they viewed as a self-inflicted wound, hoped that Brexit could still somehow be undone.

 A smile and a nod 

But Johnson’s comprehensive victory in last month’s general election brought an abrupt end to the turmoil, giving his Conservatives a parliamentary majority with which to push it through.

MPs gave their initial blessing to the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill before Christmas, and the government set aside just three days this week for detailed scrutiny of the complex text.

But few even bothered to turn up on Tuesday and Wednesday, with both sessions ending early.

The momentous day on which Johnson effectively won permission to abandon the European integration project was all but ignored in Thursday’s media.

Instead, it became a footnote to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s decision to quit royal front-line duties — christened “Megxit” and shaping up to be equally complicated and divisive.

“We will be leaving the EU on January 31. We will have delivered on the PM’s commitment to get Brexit done,” a government spokesman said, echoing Johnson’s election mantra.

Britain’s main opposition Labour party, bruised by its worst beating at the polls since 1935, voted against Brexit on Thursday knowing the battle had been lost.

We “may not win many votes in parliament just now, but we can win the moral argument”, said Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, a potential successor to Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.

Johnson attended the session but did not speak, savouring his victory from the front bench, where he smiled and nodded before the historic but all-but ceremonial vote.

The Brexit bill must still be passed by the unelected House of Lords and the European Parliament, which is seen as a formality.

 Turning to trade 

All eyes are now on another major challenge: the negotiation of a new relationship between Britain and the remaining 27 EU nations, which form the world’s largest single market.

The Brexit deal covers separation issues such as EU citizens’ rights and Britain’s financial settlement, and sets out an 11-month transition period in which to agree a wider partnership.

Brussels warns the current deadline of December 31 this year is extremely tight, and has given London the option to ask for more time.

But Johnson insists there will be no extension of the transition period, saying that Britain must be free of EU rules as soon as possible.

Ahead of talks with Johnson on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it would be “basically impossible” to agree everything within London’s timeframe.

“We will have to prioritise,” she said in a speech to the London School of Economics university, warning of “tough talks ahead”.

In response, Johnson’s office indicated that it could accept a partial trade deal.

London does not want the EU’s long-standing policy that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” — intended to stop one side cherry-picking bits of a deal they like — to define the coming negotiations, a spokesman said.

“We are very clear we want to get on in terms of negotiating a deal,” he said.

AFP

Indonesian Jailed For Life As UK’s ‘Most Prolific’ Rapist

 

An Indonesian student described as Britain’s most prolific rapist was jailed for life on Monday for a catalogue of sex offences on unsuspecting men he drugged and assaulted.

Manchester Crown Court in northwest England was told Reynhard Sinaga may have attacked as many as 195 men, luring them into his flat with the offer of a place to stay or alcohol.

Judge Suzanne Goddard described the 36-year-old from Indonesia’s Jambi province as “an evil sexual predator” who preyed on drunken young men on nights out.

He is thought to have used sedatives to render his victims unconscious before filming the attacks. Most knew nothing about the assaults. He was caught only when one victim woke up.

“One of your victims described you as a monster,” Goddard said. “The scale and enormity of your offending confirms this as an accurate description.”

She recommended he serve at least 30 years behind bars.

Sinaga was convicted of 159 offences, including 136 rapes and eight attempted rapes, at four separate trials, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The first trial began in June 2018. The last ended last December. None could be reported until restrictions imposed to avoid prejudicing juries were lifted on Monday.

The CPS said Sinaga was suspected of attacking “scores” more men since he moved to Britain in 2007, calling him “the worst-known sex offender in the country’s history”.

The deputy chief crown prosecutor for northwest England, Ian Rushton, said: “Reynhard Sinaga is the most prolific rapist in British legal history.”

‘Playing Dead’

“His extreme sense of sexual entitlement almost defies belief and he would no doubt still be adding to his staggering tally had he not been caught.

“Sinaga’s unthreatening demeanour duped these young men — many of whom thanked him for his kindness in offering them a place to stay — into thinking this monster was a Good Samaritan.

“But once back at his flat he used victims as objects purely for his own gratification — then appears to have derived further twisted pleasure from re-watching his films in court and putting victims through the trauma of giving evidence.”

Sinaga, a slightly built, young-looking doctorate student, had claimed his mainly heterosexual victims were acting out his sexual fantasy to play dead during intercourse.

But four trial juries rejected his defence and a character testimony from a local church he had attended in Manchester.

He was arrested in 2017 after the victim who woke up managed to snatch his mobile phone and took it to police.

The CPS said detectives discovered 3.29 terabytes of graphic material of the sexual assaults equivalent to 250 DVDs or 300,000 photos. One of the assaults lasted for eight hours.

UK Calls For Calm Following US Raid On Baghdad

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 Friday called for calm after a US strike in Baghdad killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, increasing tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Foreign minister Dominic Raab said London had “always recognised the aggressive threat” posed by Soleimani and his Quds Force, adding: “Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is none of our interests.”

Meanwhile, the world has reacted with alarm to the development, with many governments appealing for restraint.

Although, the attack was praised by US President Donald Trump’s Republicans and close ally Israel, but elsewhere there were sharp warnings it could inflame regional tensions.

Following are some of the reactions from around the world:

 ‘Terminated’ 

US President Donald Trump said Soleimani was “terminated” when he was on the verge of attacking US diplomats but insisted that Washington is not seeking to topple Iran’s government.

But among Democrats, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the killing risks provoking a “dangerous escalation of violence”.

“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” his 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden said.

 ‘Aggravate situation’ 

“This action can seriously aggravate the situation in the region,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to a Kremlin readout of a phone conversation with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

 ‘Cannot afford another war’ 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of the need to avoid war in the Gulf.

“This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” a spokesman for Guterres said in a statement.

 ‘Remain calm’ 

“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

“We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions.”

He said Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected.

‘Spark a devastating war’ 

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said the US strike, which also killed an Iraqi commander, would “spark a devastating war”.

“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander in an official post is an aggression against the country of Iraq, its state, its government and its people,” he said.

It was a “flagrant violation of the conditions authorising the presence of US troops” on Iraqi soil, he added.

‘Cycle of violence’ 

“The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped before it spirals out of control,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“The EU calls on all the actors involved and on those partners who can have an influence to exercise maximum restraint and show responsibility in this crucial moment.”

 ‘Will not be forgotten’ 

The Syrian regime condemned the killing and heaped praise on the Iranian general.

The Syrian people “will not forget that he stuck by the side of the Syrian Arab army”, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a letter of condolences sent to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

 ‘Avoid aggravating situation’ 

Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia cautioned against “anything that could aggravate the situation” while the foreign ministers of Bahrain and Qatar also called for “restraint.”

The Jordanian foreign ministry also called for efforts to be  made to avoid an escalation.

 ‘Meting out punishment’

“Meting out the appropriate punishment to these criminal assassins… will be the responsibility and task of all resistance fighters worldwide,” the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Shiite militant group, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a statement.

“We will carry a flag on all battlefields and all fronts and we will step up the victories of the axis of resistance with the blessing of his pure blood.”

 ‘Threaten peace and stability’ 

“Pakistan has viewed with deep concern the recent developments in the Middle East, which seriously threaten peace and stability in the region,” the foreign ministry said.

“Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity are the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, which should be adhered to. It is also important to avoid unilateral actions and use of force.”

The foreign ministry in neighbouring India said: “We have noted that a senior Iranian leader has been killed by the US. The increase in tension has alarmed the world.”

 ‘Against foreign intervention’ 

“It is manifest that the operation carried out by the US will increase insecurity and instability in the region… Turkey has always been against any foreign intervention in the region, assassinations and sectarian conflicts,” the foreign ministry said.

‘Act with restraint’ 

French President Emmanuel Macron urged restraint after Soleimani’s killing.

In his telephone call with Putin, Macron said there should be no “new dangerous escalation of tensions” and “called on all the parties to act with restraint,” the Elysee said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said London had “always recognised the aggressive threat” posed by Soleimani and his Quds Force. “Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

AFP

 

New UK Government Raises Minimum Wage

Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson speaks during a campaign event to celebrate the result of the General Election, in central London on December 13, 2019.  DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Britain’s minimum wage is to increase by more than four times the rate of UK inflation from next year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government announced Tuesday.

A 6.2-percent increase from April takes the so-called national living wage for workers aged 25 and over from £8.21 to a minimum £8.72 ($10.79 to $11.52, 9.63 euros to 10.27 euros).

Johnson, whose Conservative party’s recent general election victory came with support from economically struggling pro-Brexit areas, said it was the biggest increase since 2016.

The new government said almost three million people would benefit from the increase.

UK annual inflation stands at 1.5 percent, with consumers’ purchasing power under pressure from higher import prices following the EU referendum in 2016, which has weighed on the pound.

Johnson has been advised to repay the trust of voters in more disadvantaged areas, particularly in northern England, after he secured the Conservatives biggest majority since the 1980s.

The December 12 vote saw swathes of working class, traditionally left-wing Labour-supporting places, switch to the right-wing Tories because of Brexit.

During the election campaign, Johnson pledged more investment to reverse nearly 10 years of austerity measures under his predecessors.

But the British Chambers of Commerce said above-inflation pay increases came at a difficult time for hard-pressed businesses amid economic uncertainty.

“Raising wage floors will pile further pressure on cashflow and eat into training and investment budgets,” said the trade body’s co-executive director Hannah Essex.

“For this policy to be sustainable, government must offset these costs by reducing others and impose a moratorium on any further upfront costs for business.”

AFP