Friday, 15 February 2019: Corbyn to hold Brexit talks with Barnier and Verhofstadt, May loses symbolic Brexit vote in parliament, Swedish ambassador to Beijing replaced, Netherlands unveil big blue Brexit monster


Corbyn to hold Brexit talks with Barnier and Verhofstadt: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will hold talks in Brussels next week with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, as he seeks to break the Brexit impasse and persuade Prime Minister Theresa May to sign up to a customs union. May will be in Brussels in the same week to meet the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The UK attorney-general, Geoffrey Cox, is expected to travel with her. Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has urged his party’s MPs to stay united amid speculation some might leave over dissatisfaction with Corbyn. Some MPs are frustrated at Corbyn’s refusal to back a further Brexit referendum, despite a vote at the party conference to keep the option open.,

Green party’s Berry to run for London mayor again in 2020: The Green party co-leader Sian Berry is to stand again as its candidate in the 2020 London mayoral election. Berry, a London assembly member and councillor, took over the joint leadership alongside Jonathan Bartley in September. She was the Greens’ candidate at the 2016 mayoral election, finishing third behind Labour’s Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith of the Conservatives. She will put the city’s housing crisis at the centre of her campaign, announcing plans for what the Greens are calling a “people’s land bank”, which would allow communities to bring empty buildings and land back into use.

Member of House of Lords took advantage of vulnerable women: A member of the House of Lords has been accused of exploiting his position to pursue sex with vulnerable women who asked him for help, according to “BBC Newsnight”. One woman said Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham took advantage and began a sexual relationship with her after she approached him for assistance. Her case has raised questions about the adequacy of the House of Lords Code of Conduct.

GCHQ: Queen unveils secret-message plaque to mark security agency centenary
Boer War: Jacob Rees-Mogg comments on concentration camps


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May loses symbolic Brexit vote in parliament: British Prime Minister Theresa May was defeated in a symbolic vote in parliament on her Brexit strategy on Thursday, undermining her negotiating strength in talks with the European Union to secure changes to the agreement. May failed to win support for her EU strategy after the European Research Group (ERG), led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, abstained on a government motion because it appeared to rule out a no-deal Brexit. May has consistently rejected calls to rule out a no-deal Brexit, but Tory Brexiteer rebels believed the wording of what was meant to be a neutral government motion opened the door to that. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged May to admit her Brexit strategy had failed and to come forward with a plan that parliament would support. He also criticised that the prime minister was not present for the House of Commons defeat.,,

Parliament urges EU states to ensure better care of animals: EU member states must better enforce existing rules on protecting transported animals and penalise all offenders, the European Parliament said on Thursday. In a resolution, MEPs called for a strong and uniform enforcement of the 2005 EU law on protecting transported animals, currently poorly applied in some EU states. The EU Commission should impose penalties on member states failing to apply EU rules correctly, MEPs said. Animal journey times should be as short as possible. MEPs also want a science-based update of EU rules on transport vehicles to ensure sufficient ventilation and temperature control, appropriate drinking and liquid feed systems, reduced stocking densities and vehicles adapted to the needs of each species.,

Belgium tax break upheld by EU court: EU judges have overturned an order demanding Belgium revoke a tax break. The EU Commission failed to prove that the Belgian system relating to the excess profit of multinational companies constituted an aid scheme, said the ruling by the General Court, the lower branch of the Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The European Commission in 2016 had ordered Belgium to recover some 700 million euros from companies which benefited from the scheme. The ruling marks a setback for the EU’s crackdown on tax avoidance by multinationals, a drive led by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Magnetol International and the Belgian authorities had brought the case to the court.,

Pence accuses Iran of pursuing another Holocaust: At the Middle East Conference in Warsaw on Thursday, US Vice President Mike Pence accused Iran of pursuing another Holocaust. He went on to say that Tehran was trying to recreate the Persian Empire by carving out a corridor of influence through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The meeting in Warsaw is being used by the Trump administration to persuade the world to rally against Iran after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year. In an unusually blunt and fiery address, Pence called on what he described as freedom-loving nations to stand against Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu startled Iranians and even the White House with a call for Israeli-Arab action against the government in Tehran that was translated by his office as urging war with Iran.,,

Third country companies: Europe strengthens monitoring of foreign investment
European Central Bank: Several posts vacant on banking supervision board
Oyub Titiev: Parliament calls on Chechnya to release human rights defender


I consider myself a political prisoner. I am in a helpless situation and I am convinced that I am on trial for my ideas and not for my actions. Because I am a victim of a political trial and a democratically elected politician, I refuse to answer the prosecutor’s questions.
During the trial of twelve Catalan separatists, the main defendant Oriol Junqueras has rebuffed the accusation of rebellion.,


Swedish ambassador to Beijing replaced: Sweden said on Thursday it had replaced its ambassador to China after her incorrect handling of unauthorised meetings intended to help free dissident bookseller Gui Minhai. Ambassador Anna Lindstedt returned to Stockholm on Wednesday to meet with officials from the foreign affairs ministry, the Swedish Embassy in Beijing said by phone. They added that Lindstedt was not under criminal investigation. Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong-based, Swedish publisher of books critical of China’s communist leaders, was abducted in Thailand in 2015 and later appeared in custody in mainland China. His daughter Angela Gui said this week she had met Lindstedt and two businessmen in Stockholm in January, where she was advised to keep quiet about her father’s case while negotiations were proceeding.,

French “Yellow Vest” boxer convicted: Former French boxing champion Christophe Dettinger has been convicted for assaulting two police officers at an anti-government “Yellow Vest” protest in Paris. The presiding judge, who sentenced Dettinger to 30 months in prison with 18 months suspended, said he could work during the day but would have to spend the nights in prison for the remainder of his sentence. Dettinger was also banned from visiting Paris for six months and ordered to pay the two police officers he had hit 2,000 and 3,000 euros in compensation. According to a new poll, more than half of France’s population want the anti-government “Yellow Vest” movement to stop its protests, with many no longer believing that the weekly, and often violent, demonstrations reflect the group’s initial demands., (Boxer); (Poll)

Renzi says Merkel should be next EU Council president: Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi believes German Chancellor Angela Merkel should continue playing a leading role in Europe after the end of her term, either as president of the European Council or as foreign policy chief. Merkel could certainly be a good person to lead foreign policy, but she could also be a good candidate to chair the Council, he added. With Merkel on her way out, Renzi also told reporters that French President Emmanuel Macron was the only European national leader who could still play a role in Europe, despite his difficulties in France.

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Airbus is giving up on the A380: The European plane maker Airbus announced an end to its A380 superjumbo programme, just 12 years after it first took to the skies. The future of the world’s largest commercial jet-liner had long been in doubt after it became clear that it was heavily reliant on just one customer, the Middle East airline Emirates. The decision could hit as many as 3,500 jobs at the manufacturer, whose operations span four major European countries, over the next three years. However, the German government is not expecting widespread job cuts. Aerospace policy coordinator Thomas Jarzombek said jobs would largely continue to exist, working on different models such as the A350, the newest plane on the market, or the A330 neo.,,

Romania: Young farmers hampered by lack of bank guarantees
Albania: Fight for LGBT movement
German President Steinmeier: “We only have this one planet”

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Netherlands unveil big blue Brexit monster: The British government may still not have a clue what Brexit looks like, but the Dutch have a pretty good idea: it is a giant blue furry monster that sprawls annoyingly across your desk and stops you getting any work done. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok tweeted a picture on Thursday of himself with the enormous Muppet-like creature lying in front of him in a white T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Brexit” in big red letters. Two weeks ago, the Dutch government had sent an urgent letter to 70,000 companies that do business in Britain, warning them that time is running out to get ready for Brexit.,


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