Thursday, 01 August 2019: Johnson holds talks in Belfast, Germany rejects US request to join Gulf mission, Five EU states take in rescued refugees, Europe’s unemployment at historic low


Johnson holds talks in Belfast: Prime Minister Boris Johnson held talks in Northern Ireland on Wednesday in a bid to untangle an impasse over the Irish border backstop. He also urged political parties in Northern Ireland to step up their efforts to restore devolved government. Johnson told Northern Irish parties he would stand by the government’s commitment to the Irish peace agreement and a pledge not to return to a hard border whatever the result of Brexit. Sinn Fein said if a no-deal Brexit happens, the government must call a referendum on Irish unity. Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said she told the prime minister he must not be the DUP’s gopher. She said she did not believe Johnson’s claim that he would act with total impartiality towards all parties in Northern Ireland. The huge cost of a no-deal Brexit was laid bare on Wednesday as the government announced plans to set aside an extra £2.1bn for preparations including stockpiling of medicines, an extra 500 border officials and a public awareness campaign about disruption.,, (Johnson); (Brexit preparations)

Johnson faces first electoral test: Prime Minister Boris Johnson could see his working majority in parliament reduced to just one when voters in a rural Welsh parliamentary seat go to the polls on Thursday in his first electoral test as leader. The pro-European Union Liberal Democrats are the bookmakers’ favourites to win the vote in Brecon and Radnorshire, triggered when Conservative lawmaker Chris Davies was ousted by a petition of constituents.

Army fights fake news: Computer hackers and propaganda specialists working in the British army are to be placed in a single division. The cyber and intelligence experts will be consolidated into a division which will also contain ground troops who can be used in secret, special forces-type operations. One of the early tasks for the rebranded unit is to better tackle disinformation and fake news emerging from Russia and elsewhere.

Knife crime: Action on rise in youth violence completely inadequate, say MPs
Child benefits: Government urged to scrap two-child limit on benefits


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Germany rejects US request to join Gulf mission: The German government announced Wednesday that it will not join a US-led naval security mission in the Persian Gulf. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany wants to prevent military escalation and therefore rejected Washington’s request because it considers the US strategy of maximum pressure on Iran to be wrong. He said Berlin preferred to rely on diplomacy instead, adding that Germany was in close coordination with France and the UK. Earlier on Wednesday, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that Germany was considering the US request, but indicated that Berlin was unlikely to join the mission. British and American representatives have met to discuss the mission. The United States have sanctioned Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Iran has rejected US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s offer to visit. Iran has said it was prepared for dialogue with Saudi Arabia. Iran is planning to remove four zeroes from its national currency, as the country struggles with soaring inflation., (Germany); (Meeting); (Sanctions); (Pompeo); (Saudi Arabia); (Currency)

Five EU states take in rescued refugees: Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced Wednesday that 131 migrants aboard the Italian coast guard ship “Bruno Gregoretti” are allowed to disembark after several EU countries agreed to share responsibility for taking them in. The Italian coast guard rescued the people from boats in the Mediterranean last week, but they have remained on the ship docked in Sicily for the last five days. France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal have agreed to accept the refugees, according to the EU Commission. The Catholic Church in Italy said it would care for the migrants left in Italy. The German aid organisation “Sea-Eye” has rescued 40 migrants in the Mediterranean and is now facing uncertainty of what to do with them. The EU border agency Frontex is stepping up its fight against human trafficking., (Gregoretti); (Sea-Eye); (Frontex)

Europe’s unemployment at historic low: Eurostat on Wednesday reported the EU’s lowest unemployment rate since records began in 2000. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.3% in June, making it the lowest rate recorded in the EU. However, figures also pointed to a sluggish economic growth across the bloc. The EU and Eurozone grew by 0.2% during the second quarter of 2019. Inflation dropped from 1.3% in June to 1.1% in July. Softening global demand and uncertainty about the outlook dampen economic activity.,

EU Commission: Inaugural visit of future Commission president von der Leyen in Spain
Microplastics: EU will not ban artificial turf pitches but could impose restrictions


The United States want to isolate Iran in the region, position the rest of the region against Iran, and bring Iran to its knees.
The head of the German parliament’s foreign policy committee, Norbert Röttgen, has reiterated that the US and Europe are pursuing completely different policies towards Iran.


Former Audi CEO charged in Dieselgate criminal case: The former CEO of Audi, Rupert Stadler, is one of four people formally charged by a court over their role in the Dieselgate emissions scandal, Munich prosecutors have announced. Stadler and three others who were not named were accused of developing illegal emissions software used in cars sold under the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands as part of a wider effort to cheat diesel emissions tests. The four were also charged with falsifying certificates and illegal advertising. Stadler had known about the manipulation by the end of September 2015 at the latest, said prosecutors, but continued to allow the cars to be sold.,

Rabbi attacked in Berlin: German police launched an investigation on Wednesday after Yehuda Teichtal, a rabbi of the Jewish Community of Berlin, said he was insulted and spat on while walking down a street in the German capital. Teichtal said he was walking home with his son after leading a service at a nearby synagogue when two men started cursing at him in Arabic and spat on him. The police division in Berlin that is responsible for probing religiously-motivated crimes has opened an investigation into the incident, adding that they are still looking for the suspects.

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Germany plans tax breaks for electric cars: The German cabinet has approved a package of tax breaks to jumpstart its flagging electric-car sector. A draft proposal from the finance ministry targets company-owned vehicles as well as companies in the delivery vehicle sector. It plans an incentive that halves the tax—calculated at 0.5% of a car’s list price instead of 1%—for employees who use electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids provided by their companies. The German government also plans to stop non-EU citizens from reclaiming value-added tax on purchases below 50 euros, a move aimed largely at reducing congestion on the border with Switzerland. (Electric cars); (Tax)

Poland: German Foreign Minister Maas attended 75th anniversary observances for Warsaw Rising revolt against Nazis
Austria: Former chancellor Kurz against cabinet with former interior minister Kickl
France: Brazilian President Bolsonaro snubs French foreign minister Le Drian to get his hair cut
Bulgaria: Fifth pig farm hit by African swine fever

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Threats against German kindergarten after it stopped serving pork: Two nursery schools in Germany received racist threats after their management decided to take pork off the lunch menu. The two daycare centres in the city of Leipzig were criticised by right-wing politicians for removing pork, apparently out of consideration for Muslim children. Leipzig mayor Burkhard Jung said the criticism had sparked a tirade of hatred and threats against the kindergartens and city authorities from people with far-right and Islamophobic views.


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