Friday, 26 July 2019: Johnson appointed more new ministers, EU rejects Johnson’s demands, Ukraine seized Russian tanker, British navy to escort tankers through Strait of Hormuz


Johnson appointed more new ministers: Boris Johnson appointed more ministers to his new government in his first full day as prime minister. Kit Malthouse has become policing minister, Nigel Adams has been confirmed as a culture minister, and Lucy Frazer has joined the Ministry of Justice. But former Brexit minister Steve Baker turned down a return to the Department for Exiting the European Union. Baker, the vice-chair of the hard Brexit European Research Group and close ally of the newly promoted Jacob Rees-Mogg, said he could not repeat his experience of powerlessness in the role. Baker had hinted at some frustration with Johnson’s reshuffle. He told reporters he was minister for receiving unanswerable press enquiries and also minister for long waits. Ministers sacked by Johnson on Thursday included the health minister Stephen Hammond and the Foreign Office minister Harriett Baldwin, both backers of Johnson’s leadership rival Jeremy Hunt. Gavin Williamson will have to deliver an increase in spending on England’s schools after replacing Damian Hinds as the new education secretary.,,

Tories test Johnson campaign messages on Facebook: Hundreds of subtly different adverts featuring Boris Johnson have been run on Facebook since he became prime minister. The ads test a variety of different messages, putting an emphasis on Johnson as an individual and offering a simple pledge to get the UK out of the EU and increase public spending. Despite suggestions the ads may be gathering data in the event of an early general election, the campaign is being run on a relatively small scale. The party is spending only a few thousand pounds on Facebook and reaching a very small number of people. The practice is not unusual, but has become much easier to spot using Facebook’s transparency tools. Other political parties, including the Labour Party, have run similar tests in the past.,

Varadkar says there is time to avoid no-deal: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said that he was confident an agreement could still be reached to avoid the UK leaving the EU without a deal. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday that a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and Australia could be done within months or maybe even weeks. He stressed this would mean opening up the British market to Australian agriculture exports. (Varadkar); (Australia)

New home secretary: Priti Patel worked as adviser to firm supplying ministry of defence
Labour: Labour and Momentum put activists on snap general election notice
Conservatives: Cabinet’s voting record shows lack of support for abortion and gay rights
Greta Thunberg: Neil Hamilton accused of personal attack on child activist


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EU rejects Johnson’s demands: Top European officials have rebuffed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to renegotiate the UK’s divorce deal with the EU. Johnson had said that he was committed to getting rid of the Irish border backstop, which has long been a bone of contention in negotiations. However, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said removing the backstop guarantee was unacceptable. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated the EU’s position that the already-negotiated withdrawal agreement was the best one possible – though he said the Commission would be available over the coming weeks if the UK wanted to hold talks.

EU takes Hungary to court over asylum laws: The EU Commission has taken Hungary to court over a new law that makes it illegal to give assistance to asylum seekers. The Commission said the law breaches fundamental rights that Hungary has signed up to as an EU member state. It filed a case against the country’s far-right government at the European Court of Justice on Thursday. The Hungarian government has said in the past it will go ahead with implementing the law despite the EU’s concerns. Meanwhile, 150 people attempting the perilous sea crossing from Libya to Europe are missing and feared drowned after two migrant boats capsized in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday., (Hungary); (Mediterranean)

Von der Leyen looks for solution to issues between EU and Poland: EU Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen met with Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw on Thursday to discuss the Commission’s agenda for when she takes the helm. Von der Leyen said before her talks with Morawiecki that she did not expect to find agreement on every issue but that it was important for the two sides to listen to each other with respect. She named migration and the rule of law as difficult topics of discussion. Morawiecki said after the talks that Poland’s candidate to serve on the EU Commission is Krzysztof Szczerski, Polish President Andrzej Duda’s adviser on foreign relations.,

Selmayr settles staffing issues: Martin Selmayr, secretary-general of the EU Commission and Jean-Claude Juncker’s protege, will resign from his post at the end of this week. Before that, he will be settling a few staffing issues. His staff list indicates that German EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who is in charge of human resources, only accepted it because it was not just the members of Selmayr’s trusted team that were promoted in the end. Oettinger’s former head of cabinet, Michael Köhler, has been promoted to deputy director-general for humanitarian operations. Even Koen Doens, who was promoted to director-general for development aid, is not known for his proximity to Selmayr. Bulgarian Jivka Petkova, on the other hand, is Selmayr’s confidante and will become the acting director in the EU Commission’s General Secretariat.

European Central Bank: ECB leaves benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0%
Financial transaction tax: Spain obstructs agreement on “Tobin tax”
Tax breaks: Commission takes further steps to end illegal tax breaks in the Italian and Cypriot yacht industries


The two exchanged mobile phone numbers and agreed to remain in touch.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson his phone number on Thursday and reiterated his willingness to communicate, according to a Commission spokeswoman.


Ukraine seized Russian tanker: Ukraine has seized a Russian tanker that it said was used during a naval confrontation last year to block passage through a disputed waterway linked to the Black Sea. Ukraine’s security service said the tanker was impounded after entering the port of Izmail in the Odessa region. The crew members were questioned and then allowed to return to Russia because they were not involved in the earlier incident, Tatyana Moskalkova, the human rights ombudsman for the Russian Federation, was quoted as saying in Russian media reports. Senior Russian lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov said Ukraine’s move was absolutely illegal. Meanwhile, China expressed concerns on Thursday over a US Navy warship sailing through the Taiwan Strait, a day after China warned that it was ready for war if Taiwan moved toward independence., (Ukraine); (China)

British navy to escort tankers through Strait of Hormuz: The UK Royal Navy has announced it will now accompany British-flagged oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz in the wake of Iran’s seizure of a ship last week. The British defence ministry said the move was a response to the heightened threat to commercial shipping in the Gulf, and guidance from the Department for Transport, which advised Friday that ships should not sail through the area. The move follows the seizure of the British-flagged tanker “Stena Impero” by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Friday. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has not ruled out that Germany’s military could join a mission off the coast of Iran., (UK); (Germany)

Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez loses second vote in parliament: Pedro Sanchez lost a bid to form a government on Thursday after failing to make a multiparty alliance. The Socialist leader needed the backing of the left-wing Podemos party, but its ministers abstained in Thursday’s vote. The parliament voted 124 to 155 against re-electing Sanchez. He now has two more months to find a solution or face a general election. Speaking ahead of the vote, Sanchez said he was sorry that a coalition deal could not be reached. Podemos said its ministers had only been offered inexistent or empty roles within the government, with leader Pablo Iglesias suggesting the Socialists had shown his party a lack of respect.,

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France wants to protect satellites: The French government will develop laser weapons to fend off attacks in orbit and deploy mini-surveillance satellites by 2023 to protect space-based infrastructure, Defence Minister Florence Parly announced Thursday. The “great command of space” will be set up within the French Air Force to eventually become the “Air and Space Army,” which will be based in Toulouse, the current centre of the French aerospace industry. As Paris moves to counter threats from China, Russia and India, Parly said new legislation would be prepared to consolidate control of France’s space activities directly under the defence ministry.,

Austria: Former Chancellor Kurz defends destruction of hard drives
Netherlands: Expelled Dutch far-right lawmaker hits out at leader Thierry Baudet
Greece: Return on benchmark government debt dipped below 2% for the first time
Italy: Child trafficking in Bibbiano
Sweden: Rapper Asap Rocky charged with assault

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Trump speaks in front of doctored presidential seal: As US President Donald Trump addressed rightwing group Turning Point in Washington on Tuesday, he stood before what looked, to the casual observer, very much like the US presidential seal. A thorough examination by the “Washington Post”, however, revealed some tweaks to the image. The eagle had not one but two heads – making it look a lot like Russia’s coat of arms. And instead of holding arrows, as the bird does in the US seal, it was holding golf clubs. An audiovisual aide for Turning Point was fired as a result.,,


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