Monday, 14 January 2019: Sturgeon refers herself to standards panel over Salmond case, Brexit without a deal could cost EU billions, Poland calls for joint EU-Nato stance on Huawei, EU considers ending unanimity rule for taxation


Sturgeon refers herself to standards panel over Salmond case: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has referred herself to a standards panel over her actions during an investigation into Alex Salmond. Sturgeon’s move follows her admission that she held a secret meeting with Salmond at her home, in the presence of her government-employed chief of staff and one of Salmond’s advisers, where he briefed her on a Scottish government inquiry into sexual harassment allegations against him. She said it was in the interest of the complainants that she should be examined under the ministerial code. Opposition parties said that meeting and a subsequent phone call with Salmond were in clear breach of the ministerial code since discussions with outsiders on government business had to be immediately reported to civil servants.,

Schools census used to enforce immigration laws, minister says: The government has revoked parents’ right to retract information on their children’s nationality and country of birth submitted to the schools census, months before Brexit throws the immigration status of 3 million European residents into doubt. Officials from the Department for Education collected the data on 6 million schoolchildren, before it was halted last June in the face of opposition from critics who said it was an attempt to turn schools into internal border checkpoints. Confusion over the policy had already led some schools to instruct only pupils who were not “white British” to bring in identity documents, spreading alarm that it was encouraging racism and a culture of institutional hostility to migrants.

Stricter ID checks aim to prevent gamblers cheating system: Tougher ID checks will be brought in to make sure self-excluded gamblers cannot cheat the system to place bets, according to the Gambling Commission. It comes after the head of GamStop, a scheme designed to help problem gamblers, said she was deeply concerned following an investigation by BBC Radio 5 Live that found a gambler who had self-referred could still place bets online by simply changing their user details.

High-speed railway: HS2 may run fewer, slower trains to stay on budget and schedule
Probation reforms: Grayling under fire as serious crimes committed on parole soar by 50%


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Brexit without a deal could cost EU billions: A no-deal Brexit would not only affect Britain, but the entire European Union and the remaining 27 EU member states as well, according to the renowned Brussels-based research institute “Bruegel”. The experts therefore advise the EU to take a hard line. They write that if Britain does not comply with its payment obligations, this must be regarded as a hostile act. British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned lawmakers that failure to back her plan to leave the EU would be catastrophic for Britain. May wrote in the “Sunday Express” that the Commons would face the biggest and most important decision that any MP of this generation will be asked to make. British lawmakers are set to vote on May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday. Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would do everything it could to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Corbyn said that if MPs reject May’s Brexit deal, as is widely expected, he would press for a general election. MEPs from nearly every country in the EU have signed a heartfelt joint letter to the British public asking them to reconsider their decision to leave the bloc. (Research institute),, (May), (Corbyn), (EU politicians)

Poland calls for joint EU-Nato stance on Huawei: Poland’s internal affairs minister Joachim Brudzinski has called on the EU and Nato to take a joint stance on “Huawei” after an employee of the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker was arrested on spying charges. Brudzinski said the European Union and Nato should work on a joint position over whether to exclude “Huawei” from their markets. He said Poland wanted to continue cooperating with China but that a discussion was needed on whether to exclude the company from some markets. “Huawei” on Saturday sacked the Chinese employee, Wang Weijing, following his arrest and that of a former Polish security official on Friday. The two men could be held for three months.

EU considers ending unanimity rule for taxation: The EU Commission has expressed the belief that retaining unanimity for all taxation decisions makes it difficult to achieve the level of tax co-ordination necessary for Europe. The Commission has made proposals for a move to qualified majority voting in certain tax areas. EU decisions on taxation could then be reached by qualified majority voting rather than unanimous agreement by all EU countries. Under the proposal, tax measures would become EU law if supported by a minimum number of EU countries, representing a minimum share of the EU population. The EU had instituted the unanimity rule based on the fact that taxation policy is part of the core competences of each member state and that no country should be overruled on fiscal matters.,

White House asked for options to strike Iran: The White House’s national security team last fall asked the Pentagon to provide it with options for striking Iran after a group of militants aligned with Tehran fired mortars into an area in Baghdad that is home to the US Embassy. A source familiar with the matter said that the Pentagon drew up options in response to the request, which was first reported by the “Wall Street Journal” and which originated from the White House National Security Council led by John Bolton. In a rare acknowledgment of Israeli operations in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the country’s air force struck Iranian positions in Syria over the weekend. Iran is taking preliminary steps to design uranium fuel with a purity of 20% for reactors instead of having to copy foreign designs, Iran’s nuclear chief announced on Sunday. (White House), (Netanyahu), (Nuclear fuel)

Juan Guaido: Venezuela’s opposition leader briefly detained


We emphasise that companies involved in Russian energy exports are taking part in something that could prompt a significant risk of sanctions.
German companies building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Germany and Russia have received letters from US Ambassador Richard Grenell warning them of a significant risk of sanctions if they did not pull out of the project.


Greek leader calls for vote of confidence: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called on Sunday for a vote of confidence in the Greek government, hours after Defence Minister Panos Kammenos announced that he would quit in protest of a deal to end a dispute with Macedonia over its name. Kammenos also said that he would pull out six other government ministers, throwing the country’s coalition government into crisis. His decision came days after Macedonian lawmakers agreed to officially change the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia, ending a long dispute with Greece. Kammenos heads the right-wing Independent Greeks party that formed a coalition government with Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party in 2015. Syriza holds 145 seats in parliament, which is just short of a majority in the 300-strong chamber. Greece has a parliamentary election scheduled in October.,

Swedish Liberal party to back Lofven as PM: Sweden’s centre-right Liberal party voted on Sunday to back a deal that could give Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven a second term in office after months of deadlock since the tied election. The Centre Party and the Greens have also agreed to back Lofven’s future budget bills in a four-party deal. The parties will still be short of a majority in parliament and will need support from the Left Party, which backed Lofven’s Social Democrat and Green coalition from 2014-18, to pass bills. In the past, lawmakers had already voted twice against Lofven and once against his rival Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the four-party Alliance that includes the Centre and Liberal parties.

Macron launches debate to quell unrest: In a public letter, French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a three-month national debate that he hopes will appease the “yellow vest” protesters. He wrote he would listen to new ideas, allowing citizens to speak to their local mayor about their grievances. The president said proposals made during the debate will help build a new “contract for the nation”. Macron will attend town-hall meetings around the country, the first will be held with mayors in Bourgtheroulde in northwest France on Tuesday. However, he also said he would remain faithful to his campaign manifesto, and appeared to rule out rolling back some of the pro-business economic reforms, such as scrapping a wealth tax. A lorry driver that hit and killed a “yellow vest” protester in Belgium was arrested in the Netherlands., (Macron), (Belgium)

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Protests against Vucic enter sixth week: Thousands of Serbians protested against President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party on Saturday, making demands including media freedom, an end to attacks on journalists and opposition figures, and no secret treaty with Kosovo. Protesters also demanded that the government find those responsible for the killing of Oliver Ivanovic, a prominent Kosovo Serb politician, a year ago. They also announced a rally in Belgrade for next Wednesday to commemorate his death. The protests in Serbia escalated after the president said he would not agree to protester demands, even if there were five million people in the street. Protesters then adopted the slogan “one in five million”.,

Poland: Gdansk mayor stabbed on stage during charity event
Italy: Ex-militant Cesare Battisti arrested in Bolivia
Germany: Leftists mark 100 years since Luxemburg-Liebknecht killings

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Plovdiv kicks off European Capital of Culture festivities: Bulgaria’s oldest city Plovdiv has been officially inaugurated as the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Some 50,000 people gathered at the central square Saturday to watch the opening show. Plovdiv’s architectural landmarks dating back to Thracian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times help prove the ancient age of this Balkan city. Alongside its ancient heritage, the multicultural city sees Orthodox Bulgarians, Turks from the time of the Ottoman Empire, Armenians, Jews, and Roma live peacefully side by side. Stolipinovo, a district of Plovdiv and the largest Roma district in the Balkans, was also earmarked to be part of the cultural programme this year.,


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