Text for post-Brexit ties between EU & UK ‘agreed in principal’ – Tusk

Britain and the EU have agreed on the text of the Brexit deal “in principle at a political level,” President of the European Council, Donald Tusk announced on Thursday.

EU leaders have agreed on the Brexit draft “at negotiators’ level and agreed in principle at political level,” Tusk wrote on Twitter, citing a message which he had received earlier from the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

I have just sent to EU27 a draft Political Declaration on the Future Relationship between EU and UK. The Commission President has informed me that it has been agreed at negotiators’ level and agreed in principle at political level, subject to the endorsement of the Leaders.

The text was discussed by Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday. The draft of the divorce deal was then sent to the 27 other EU states.

The draft of the British-EU post-Brexit relations, obtained by Reuters, envisions“wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership,” including “a free trade area as well as wider sectoral cooperation.”

Parties agreed on building “a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible,” while Britain and the EU will “retain their autonomy and the ability to regulate economic activity.”

 
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May during a news conference at Downing Street in London, November 15, 2018.  

The deal is expected to be signed at a special EU summit on Sunday.

Lengthy and tense Brexit negotiations led to several rifts within the British government. May’s cabinet was thrown in disarray last week after several high-profile ministers resigned, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Minister of State for Northern Ireland Shailesh Vara. They left their posts in protest at Brexit terms agreed by May.

The series of resignations and the renewed political in-fighting prompted some politicians to question May’s future as prime minister.

The former head of the anti-establishment UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, called the Brexit terms the “worst deal in history” and argued that the ensuing political crisis will eventually lead to May’s downfall.

On Wednesday, the PM urged everyone in Parliament to support the draft. As she was grilled by MPs unhappy with the deal, May said the prospects of no deal will leave Britain with “more uncertainty, more division or it could risk no Brexit at all.”

Andrew Rosindell: May, cut away EU's tentacles

She later expressed confidence that an agreement will go through before March 29, 2019 – the date set for the nation to leave the EU.

Even before May’s cabinet came close to striking a deal with the EU, negotiations polarized the nation. Vocal Brexit supporters, like former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, had been accusing the prime minister of not having the country’s best interests at hand. Some were even skeptical that the government would reach any agreement with Brussels.

Johnson resigned in July, blasting the government for “surrendering control over our rulebook” and steering the nation into becoming EU’s “colony.”

“It is as though we are sending our vanguard into battle with the white flags fluttering above them,” the politician stated at the time. His exit followed the departure of then-Brexit Secretary David Davis, also highly critical of May’s stance in talks with the EU.

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Iran: New European Initiatives for Non-Dollar Trade to Come

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini announced, in September, the establishment of a legal entity that would facilitate business between Iran and international trading partners.

On Wednesday, Iran praised European efforts to maintain business with Tehran despite U.S. sanctions, citing discussions to conduct non-dollar trade. "We had constructive meetings with British and French officials and nuclear negotiators in Tehran," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said, in a tweet, on the occasion of the British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's visit.

RELATED: US: Sanctions on Russia, Iran to Curb Oil Shipments to Syria

In May, U.S. President Donald Trump's Administration reimposed sanctions on Iran in an attempt to prevent the entry of financial resources for the country. As a reaction to the sanctions, the European Union’s (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini announced, in September, the establishment of a legal entity that would facilitate business between Iran and international trading partners.

The “Special Purpose Vehicle” (SPV) system was conceived of as a barter-based system to avoid handling dollars by keeping "credit" records.

“If Iran exports crude oil to a French company,” according to an Al Bawaba report, “[that] company would register an agreed amount of “credit” with the SPV. Iran could then arrange to import goods from an Italian company, and that company could claim back the credit from the SPV as payment. Technically, this translates to no dollars changing hands with Iranian companies.

A French delegation was also in Tehran, on Wednesday, to meet with Araghchi, who commented that "the EU and the three European countries are still determined to save the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) [nuclear deal]. New initiatives are being designed for the SPV."

The Iranian foreign ministry's spokesman said that Iran had not yet given up hope on the mechanism.

"We have not been able yet to finalize the (SPV) issue to facilitate Iran's purchase of essential goods, and business with small and medium-sized enterprises," Bahram Qasemi said.

However, the United States' stance has not changed.

Recently, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, threatened to sanction European banks and companies that are or become associated with the SPV.

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Russian Loses Interpol Presidency After US Pushes Opposing Vote

The election had been hotly contested, with anti-Russian sentiment projected by the United States and Europe.

Russian interior ministry’s Alexander Prokopchuk loses an election, held in Dubai, for Interpol's new president. The favored candidate was best by South Korean Kim Jong-yang after heavyweight opposition.

RELATED: Facebook Sued For Censorship by Russian News Agency

Last week, The Times had reported that Prokopchuk, who currently serves as one of Interpol's vice-presidents, was the "favorite" to lead the organization. However, the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) 194 member states, in a shock decision, chose Kim following several terse exchanges which prompted Moscow to state that critics were running a "campaign aimed at discrediting" Prokopchuk.  

The election had been hotly contested, garnering anti-Russian sentiment projected by the United States and Europe. Several U.S. senators openly urged voting nations to oppose the Russian candidate, while other countries threatened to disrupt Interpol membership structure if Prokopchuk was elected.

The General Assembly is INTERPOL’s supreme governing body. Here's how it works.

., , , and I oppose Russian leadership of Interpol. Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents, and journalists. Read our full statement here: Read our full statement here: wicker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2018/11

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov retorted to the constant pushback, stating that the U.S. senators' action was an “intervention in the voting process.” 

Additionally, during his stint as Interpol's Moscow bureau chief, Prokopchuk was accused, but not prosecuted or charged, of allegedly using international arrest warrants to target critics of the Kremlin.

"Our world is now facing unprecedented changes which present huge challenges to public security and safety. To overcome them, we need a clear vision: we need to build a bridge to the future," Kim said.

 
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Cuba's National Assembly Rejects European Parliament's Resolution

Havana, Nov 17 (Prensa Latina) The International Relations Commission of the National Assembly of Cuba strongly has rejected the European Parliament's resolution on human rights in the island.

Through an official declaration, Cuban lawmakers consider the resolution unacceptable, as it distorts reality and is contrary to the principles of respect, equality and reciprocity contained in the Agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation (ADPC), signed between Havana, the European Union (EU) and its member states.

Using manipulations and alleged concerns over the current process of constitutional reform, the resolution tries to malign Cuba's image, thus hindering the successful implementation of the ADPC.

The Cuban statement insists the European Parliament document is interventionist and contrary to the principles of International Law.

'It is based on lies fabricated and disseminated by people who are not human rights advocates, who nobody knows nor our people accept, and who actually qualify as salaried agents of a foreign power,' the statement adds.

It upholds that in Cuba, unlike what happens in European societies, all human rights are promoted, protected, exercised and guaranteed.

The resolution also stresses the European Parliament has no right to judge democracy in Cuba, as it is participatory and popular, which has been shown in the recently concluded process of consultation of the draft of new Constitution.

It also states that in Cuba there is no transition and the country is immersed, by popular will, in a process of updating its model of economic and social development, whose objective is to ensure a more independent, sovereign, socialist, democratic nation, prosperous and sustainable.

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‘Meme-killing’ EU regulation could end YouTube as we know it, CEO warns

YouTube’s CEO has urged creators on the popular video site to organize against a proposed EU internet regulation, reinforcing fears that the infamous Article 13 could lead to content-killing, meme-maiming restrictions on the web.

The proposed amendments to the EU Copyright Directive would require the automatic removal of any user-created content suspected of violating intellectual property law – with platforms being liable for any alleged copyright infringement. If enacted, the legislation would threaten “both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki warned the site’s content creators in a blog post on Monday.

 
© Xesai

The regulation would endanger “hundreds of thousands of job,” Wojcicki said, predicting that it would likely force platforms such as YouTube to allow only content from a hand-picked group of companies.

“It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content,” Wojcicki wrote.

While acknowledging that it was important to properly compensate all rights holders, the YouTube chief lamented that the “unintended consequences of Article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk.”

She encouraged YouTubers to use the #SaveYourInternet hashtag to tell the world how the proposed legislation would impact them personally.

“RIP YOUTUBE..IT WAS FUN,” read one rather fatalistic reply to the post. Another comment worried that Article 13 would do “immense damage … particularly to smaller creators.”

The proposal has stirred considerable controversy in Europe and abroad, with critics claiming that the legislation would essentially ban any kind of creative content, ranging from memes to parody videos, that would normally fall under fair use.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, has opposed Article 13 for months. The measure was advanced in June by the European Parliament. A final vote on the proposed regulation is expected to take place sometime next year.

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have also spoken out against Article 13.

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Major Powers, Iran Meet To Salvage Nuclear Deal Without US

UNITED NATIONS: Iran has ample reason to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal and the remaining parties on Monday will discuss ways to blunt the effect of impending U.S. sanctions on Tehran, the European Union's foreign policy chief said.

Speaking before a gathering of senior officials from Britain, China, Germany, Russia and Iran, the EU's Federica Mogherini made the case for Iran remaining in the deal that US President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8.

"An essential part of the agreement and its implementation regards Iran having the possibility of benefiting from the lifting of sanctions, and this is exactly why we are discussing tonight, operational concrete steps that we can put in place," Mogherini told reporters before the talks at the United Nations.

"Iran has good arguments and good reasons to remain in the agreement. ... the more operational decisions we will manage to take and ... implement, I believe the more Iran will have reasons to do," she added.

The European Union, however, has so far failed to devise a workable legal framework to shield its companies from US sanctions that go into effect in November and that, among other things, seek to choke off Iran's oil sales, diplomats said.

Highlighting just how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned its plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran.

The crux of the deal, negotiated over almost two years by the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, was that Iran would restrain its nuclear program in return for the relaxation of sanctions that had crippled its economy.

Trump considered it flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran's ballistic missiles program or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

The United States began reimposing economic sanctions this summer and the most draconian measures, which seek to force Iran's major customers to stop buying its oil, resume Nov. 5.

Their impending return has contributed to a slide in Iran's currency. The rial has lost about two-thirds of its value this year, hitting a record low against the U.S. dollar this month.

There are limits to what the EU can do to counter the oil sanctions, under which Washington can cut off from the US financial system any bank that facilitates an oil transaction with Iran.

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Humanitarian Ship seeks European Port for Rescued Migrants

More than 650,000 migrants have come to Italy’s shores since 2014, but the numbers of new arrivals have plunged over the past year, with Rome encouraging the Libyan coastguard to carry out most of the rescues.

Human rights groups called on European governments on Sunday to tell a charity ship where it can dock and let more than 140 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean disembark in safety.

RELATED: Spain Takes in Drifting Migrant Ship Aquarius as UN, EU Slam Italy Over Refusing It

The Aquarius, run by Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), rescued 141 people in two separate operations off the Libyan coast last week.

The boat had just started heading north on Sunday toward Europe when Libyan coastguards called it back to pick up 10 migrants spotted aboard a small fiberglass boat.

As that rescue was underway, SOS Mediterranee and MSF asked for guidance on where to take those they had saved.

“What is of utmost importance is that the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met and where they can be protected from abuse,” said Nick Romaniuk, search and rescue coordinator for SOS Mediterranee.

SOS Mediterranee and MSF accused the Libyan coastguard on Sunday of endangering lives by not telling the Aquarius there were boats close to it that were in distress. They also said other ships in the area had apparently ignored the migrants.

“Ships might be unwilling to respond to those in distress due to the high risk of being stranded and denied a place of safety,” said Aloys Vimard, MSF’s project coordinator on board the Aquarius. “Policies designed to prevent people from reaching Europe at all costs are resulting in more suffering and forcing those who are already vulnerable to take even riskier journeys to safety.”

The Aquarius has operated in the central Mediterranean since early 2016 and says it has helped more than 29,000 people in distress, many of them African migrants, who, until this summer, were brought swiftly to Italy without any incident.

However, when a populist government took office in Rome in June, it immediately shut its ports to all NGO boats, accusing them of encouraging illegal immigration and helping human smugglers — charges the charities deny.

In June, the orange-hulled Aquarius picked up 629 migrants, including scores of children and seven pregnant women, but first Italy and then Malta refused to let it dock, provoking a row within the heart of the European Union over immigration policy.

Spain eventually agreed to take in the boat, but there was no indication of where the Aquarius might head on Sunday, with Malta immediately refusing it access and Italy saying at the weekend it would not be welcome at any of its ports.

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Rouhani blasts Trump’s ‘psychological warfare’ as Iran braces for US sanctions

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani has slammed US President Donald Trump’s offer for direct talks as a disingenuous PR stunt for domestic consumption while the “untrustworthy” Washington only increases its sanctions against Tehran.

In his first public statement since Trump signed an executive order reinstating sanctions against Tehran, Rouhani said that he will not negotiate with Washington while being sanctioned at same time, describing such tactics as “psychological warfare [against] the Iranian nation,” adding that “Trump’s call for direct talks is only for domestic consumption in America ... and to create chaos in Iran.”

The Iranian president said that while his government favored dialogue, such talks required “honesty.”

“The US reimposes sanctions on Iran and pulls out of the nuclear deal, and then wants to hold talks with us,” Rouhani said in a Monday speech broadcast live on state television.

 
© Damir Sagolj

 

He went on to compare Trump’s alleged offer to stabbing someone with a knife, while claiming to only seek peaceful dialogue. “They’re imposing sanctions upon Iranian children, patients, and the people,” Rouhani said. He called on the White House to sign back on to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal if was indeed serious about negotiating with Tehran.

The first round of renewed US sanctions will take effect on Tuesday after midnight US Eastern time, with harsher measures expected to be implemented in early November. Washington is reinstating measures that were lifted under the nuclear deal, after unilaterally withdrawing from the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Tehran in May.

The 2015 agreement, which placed tight controls on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, was signed by Iran, the United States, Russia, China and the European Union.

Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal been widely condemned by the EU and other signatories, raising questions among European nations about whether the United States could still be considered a reliable transatlantic partner. The European Commission has stated that despite US sanctions, European companies will continue doing business in Iran under Brussels’ protection.

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