Connect with us

World News

Brexit: EU, UK finally clinch ‘historic’ trade deal

Published

on

The United Kingdom and the European Union have agreed to a post-Brexit free trade deal, sealing the UK’s exit from the bloc, the UK government and EU announced on Thursday.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said at a press conference on Thursday that: “It was a long and winding road, but we have a good deal to show for it.”

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted an image of himself in front of a British flag with his thumbs up. The picture was accompanied by the text: “The deal is done.”

The deal is “the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, covering trade worth €747 billion (£668 billion, $909 billion) in 2019,” according to a British source.

The deal concludes talks on future terms of trade and competition that took place during the 11-month transition period that began when Britain formally left the EU on January 31.

By reaching a deal, the EU and UK have avoided resorting to potentially damaging World Trade Organization trading terms.

What do we know about the deal?

The text of the deal, said to be some 2,000 pages long, has yet to be released. However, leaders referred to various aspects of the deal in Thursday’s press conference.

Britain claimed the deal protected its goals of regaining control of its money, borders, laws and fishing waters. Following the end of the transition period, the UK will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Von der Leyen said it protects the EU’s single market and contains safeguards to ensure Britain does not unfairly undercut the bloc’s standards.

What about EU fishing rights?

On the key sticking point of fisheries, the EU is giving up a quarter of the quota it catches in UK waters. This is far less than the 80% Britain initially demanded. The system will be in place for 5.5 years, after which the quotas will be reassessed.

UK government would support fishing communities with £100 million (€111 million, $135 million) investment boost to modernize fishing industries. “We will be able to catch and eat prodigious amounts of fish,” Johnson said.

The French politician and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that the EU “will be alongside European fishermen to support them,” and promised that the deal provides ” a basis for reciprocal access to water and resources, with a new distribution of quotas and fishing opportunities.”

What was agreed on trade?

Barnier said that: “there will be some real changes ahead from January 1 for a lot of citizens and a lot of businesses. That is the consequence of Brexit.”

There will be free trade without tariffs between the UK and the EU. A new set of rules named “the level playing field,” will “be the mark for the EU for all agreements regarding free trade,” Barnier told the press conference.

Which areas of cooperation are set to survive Brexit?

Von der Leyen said that the UK and the EU will continue cooperating on areas of mutual interest, naming climate, energy, security and intelligence and transport.

Johnson said that the deal protects police cooperation and shared intelligence. Both politicians, however, stayed notably vague on details. The UK prime minister said was “absolutely confident this is a deal that protects our police cooperation, that protects our ability to catch criminals and share intelligence across the European continent in a way that we have done for many years.”

It emerged the UK would no longer participate in the Erasmus program that enables EU university students to spend time at a different European university and practice language skills.

Johnson said the UK plans on replacing Erasmus with a Turing program, named after mathematician Alan Turing, where students will be able to spend time at universities around the world.

What did EU leaders say?

Von der Leyen said she felt “relief” after long and exhausting negotiations. She added that “parting is such sweet sorrow”  — a line from the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet.

She quoted the American-British poet T.S Eliot: “What we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning.”

“It is time to leave Brexit behind, our future is made in Europe,” she said in closing.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator said “the clock is no longer ticking” — a reversal of his warning in August after a round of trade talks left the two sides exasperated.

He said he regrets that the agreement reached on free movement was not a reflection of historically close ties.

What did the UK say?

Johnson called the deal “a jumbo, Canada-style free trade deal.”

He recast Britain as “an independent coastal state.”

“We’ve taken back control of our laws and our destiny,” said Johnson, adding that the UK would now be”unfettered.”

He said the EU was “a very noble enterprise” but that the UK had always had a difficult relationship with the bloc.

Under the new deal, the UK had now become the EU’s “flying buttress,” an architectural metaphor to describe a structure of stone, built against a wall to strengthen or support it.

“This deal expresses what the people of the country wanted in 2016,” he added.

On trade and business, Johnson said: “It will not be a bad thing” for the EU to have “a prosperous dynamic and contented UK on your doorstep.”

Johnson dismissed a reporter’s question about the UK following the EU rules on tax, worker’s rights and tariffs, and on London accepting the “level playing field” with the EU that it had long resisted.

Merkel and Macron react

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said reaching the deal was of “historic importance” and that she was “very confident” it was a good outcome.

French President Emmanuel Macron thanked Barnier in a tweet for “his tenacity and commitment to defending the interests of Europeans.”

“European solidarity has shown its strength,” he added.

What happens next?

The next step for Britain is a parliamentary debate and vote on implementing the trade deal. This will take place on December 30.

The UK’s Labour party, the main opposition force in the UK parliament, is expected to endorse the deal. Labour leader Keir Starmer said it was in the national interest to do so given given the massive disruption likely to be caused by no deal.

The European Parliament will also “analyze the agreement in detail” before deciding whether to approve it in the new year, European Parliament head David Sassoli said in a statement.

 

Read from source: https://www.dw.com/en/brexit-eu-uk-finally-clinch-historic-trade-deal/a-56049364

Continue Reading

Tech

China surveillance of journalists to use ‘traffic-light’ system

Published

on

bbc– The Chinese province of Henan is building a surveillance system with face-scanning technology that can detect journalists and other “people of concern”.

Documents seen by BBC News describe a system that classifies journalists into a “traffic-light” system – green, amber and red.

Journalists in the “red” category would be “dealt with accordingly”, they say.

The Henan Public Security Bureau has not responded to a request for comment.

The documents, discovered by the surveillance analyst firm IPVM, also outline plans to surveil other “people of concern”, including foreign students and migrant women.

Human Rights Watch said: “This is not a government that needs more power to track more people… especially those who might be trying to peacefully hold it accountable.”

‘Thematic libraries’

The documents, published on 29 July, are part of a tendering process, encouraging Chinese companies to bid for a contract to build the new system, won, on 17 September, by NeuSoft.

NeuSoft has not responded to BBC News request for comment.

The system includes facial-recognition technology linked to thousands of cameras in Henan, to alert authorities when a “person of concern” is located.

“People of concern” would be categorised into “thematic libraries” – in an already existing database of information about and images of people in the province.

The system would also connect with China’s national database.

‘Key concern’

One of the groups of interest to the Henan Public Security Bureau is journalists, including foreign journalists.

“The preliminary proposal is to classify key concerned journalists into three levels,” the documents say.

“People marked in red are the key concern.

“The second level, marked in yellow, are people of general concern.

“Level three, marked in green – are for journalists who aren’t harmful.”

And an alert would be triggered as soon as “journalists of concern”, marked as “red” – or “yellow”, if they had previous criminal charges – booked a ticket to travel into the province.

The system would also assess foreign students and divide them into three categories of risk – “excellent foreign students, general personnel, and key people and unstable personnel”.

“The safety assessment is made by focusing on the daily attendance of foreign students, exam results, whether they come from key countries, and school-discipline compliance,” the documents say.

The schools themselves would need to notify the authorities of students with security concerns.

And those considered to be of concern would be tracked.

During politically sensitive periods, such as the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, “a wartime alarm mechanism” would be activated and tracking of “key concern” students stepped up, including tracking their cell phones.

The documents outline a desire for the system to contain information taken from:

  • cell phones
  • social media – such as WeChat and Weibo
  • vehicle details
  • hotel stays
  • travel tickets
  • property ownership
  • photos (from existing databases)

It should also focus on “stranded women”, or non-Chinese migrant women who do not have the right to live in China.

A large number of women enter China to find work.

Others have been trafficked from neighbouring countries.

And the system would “dock” with the National Immigration Bureau, the Ministry of Public Security and Henan police, among others.

The documents were published around the time the Chinese government criticised foreign media outlets for their coverage of the Henan floods.

Conor Healy, Government Director of IPVM, said: “The technical architecture of mass surveillance in China remains poorly understood… but building custom surveillance technology to streamline state suppression of journalists is new.

“These documents shed light on what China’s public-security officials want from mass surveillance.”

China’s facial-recognition system is thought to already be in use across the country.

And last year, the Washington Post reported Huawei had tested artificial-intelligence software that could recognise people belonging to the Uighur ethnic minority and alert police.

Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson said: “The goal is chilling, ensuring that everyone knows they can and will be monitored – and that they never know what might trigger hostile interest.”

Continue Reading

US

The White House is tapping oil reserves to try to bring down high gas prices

Published

on

npr– The United States plans to draw 50 million barrels of oil from its emergency oil reserves in coming months, a widely anticipated step aimed at trying to take the edge off high gas prices that have been hurting consumers at the pump — and hurting President Biden in the polls.

Inflation has emerged as a top political concern with voters, who have seen prices for gasoline and other staples surge in recent months. U.S. gas prices are at their highest level since 2014.

Biden has been talking with other leaders about the problem, and other major consumers — China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom — will take similar steps to release oil from their stockpiles, the White House said on Tuesday.

In a Tuesday news conference announcing the decision, Biden said, “We’re taking action.”

“The big part of the reason Americans are facing high gas prices is because oil-producing countries and large companies have not ramped up the supply of oil quickly enough to meet the demand. And the smaller supply means higher prices globally — globally — for oil,” he said.

Biden warned that actions by the U.S. and other nations wouldn’t fix problems at the pump “overnight,” but said Americans could soon expect relief.

Continue Reading

latest news

Qatar rejects Amnesty’s assertion that labour reforms have not translated on ground

Published

on

thepeninsulaqatar– The Ministry of Labour has issued a statement in response to Amnesty’s report “Reality Check 2021: A Year to the 2022 WorldCup”, stating that Qatar rejects its assertion that labour reforms have not translated into changes on the ground for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

The statement is as follows:

Qatar rejects Amnesty’s assertion that labour reforms have not translated into changes on the ground for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

Amnesty fails to document a single story from among the 242,870 workers who have successfully changed jobs since barriers were removed in September 2020, or from the more than 400,000 workers who have directly benefitted from the new minimum wage through salary increases and other financial incentives.

Since exit permits were removed in 2018, hundreds of thousands of workers have left Qatar and returned without permission from their employer; improvements to the Wage Protection System now protect more than 96 percent of eligible workers from wage abuse; new visa centres in labour-sending countries have significantly reduced exploitative practices before workers arrive in Qatar; and new rules extend the ban on summer working to minimise the effects of heat stress.

Qatar has also strengthened its enforcement measures to safeguard workers and prosecute employers who fail to comply with the law. The number of inspectors employed by the Ministry of Labour has increased year on year, as has their capacity to thoroughly investigate working conditions and refer violators for sentencing in the labour courts.

In the first half of 35,280,2021 accommodation and worksite inspections were carried out and 13,724 penalties were issued to violating companies, including worksite closures, fines and prison sentences. A further 4,840 site visits were made by labour inspectors to raise awareness of the new laws among employers and employees.

Every year, more companies are held accountable for violating the law. Systemic reform is a long-term process and shifting the behaviour of every company takes time. Through its actions, the government is sending a strong message to companies that violations will not be tolerated.

Qatar has never shied away from acknowledging that its labour system is still a work in progress. The government is committed to engaging collaboratively and constructively with international partners and critics to further improve standards for all migrant workers in Qatar

Qatar will therefore continue to consult with international experts including the ILO and trade unions. International NGOs will also be routinely consulted to provide their recommendations.

The reality is that no other country has come so far in such a short amount of time. Following Qatar’s lead, and as a sign of the programme’s wider impact, other countries in the region have now taken steps to introduce their own labour reforms.

Labour reform is a complex task, and Qatar believes that solutions are best found through dialogue and engagement. For this reason, and despite Amnesty’s criticism, Qatar will continue to work constructively with a range of labour experts and practitioners to build on the progress that has been made.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020 , madridjournals.com