Tuesday, 22 January 2019: Diane Abbott rejects BBC’s response to Question Time claims, May wants to continue talks over backstop, EU sanctions Russians over Skripal chemical attack, EU copyright reforms stalled


Diane Abbott rejects BBC’s response to Question Time claims: Diane Abbott has rejected the BBC’s response to claims she was poorly treated on Question Time. The Labour Party lodged a formal complaint with the BBC after she reported she had never had such a horrible experience on the show. The shadow home secretary accused presenter Fiona Bruce of decidedly unfair handling and claimed she was wrongly corrected over polling figures. The BBC rejected claims that any of the panel was treated unfairly. The BBC admitted that Bruce made a mistake on the polling, accepting that some polling companies show Labour is neck and neck and that should have been made clear. However, it has not responded in detail to claims about what was said during the warm-up, despite calls from Labour to release any footage held by the broadcaster and issue an on-air apology.
bbc.com, theguardian.com

MP who delayed birth of son accuses Tories over proxy vote delay: Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who delayed the birth of her son to vote on the Brexit deal in parliament last week, has complained that senior Conservatives are delaying the introduction of a proxy voting system to gain a partisan advantage. The MP said that a system of allowing sick or pregnant MPs to vote when unavoidably absent was an issue of basic decency. Despite initial indications that Siddiq would be allowed to have somebody to vote in her place a week ago, the MP was subsequently told by the Conservatives she would have to go to Westminster in person if she wanted her voted to be recorded.

Non-physical and economic abuse included in law: Non-physical and economic abuse are to be included in the first legal definition of domestic abuse as part of a landmark overhaul of the law. Under the draft laws, a wide range of measures will also include domestic abusers being banned from cross-examining victims in family courts. The home secretary said the changes would bolster protection for victims.

Commemoration: Meeting of the first Dáil (parliament) and start of the War of Independence against Britain bbc.com
Nuclear power: Rolls-Royce vies for UK nuclear role bbc.com


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May wants to continue talks over backstop: British Prime Minister Theresa May said she will continue talking to the DUP and others who have concerns about the Irish border backstop. However, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier called on May to shift her focus from renegotiating the Irish backstop to one that embraced a closer relationship with the EU to secure cross-party support for the Brexit deal. Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s minister of foreign affairs, openly voiced his hope Downing Street could still move towards a permanent customs union. Ireland has rejected the idea of negotiating a bilateral agreement with the UK as an alternative to the so-called backstop mechanism for avoiding a hard border with Northern Ireland after Brexit. Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday rejected an idea floated by his Polish counterpart to put a five-year limit on the Irish border backstop in any Brexit deal with Britain. British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party said that May’s Plan B was just a second attempt to push through her doomed deal.
bbc.com, theguardian.com, politico.eu, reuters.com, time.com

EU sanctions Russians over Skripal chemical attack: The European Union imposed sanctions on Monday on four Russian intelligence agents accused of preparing and carrying out the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter. EU foreign ministers imposed the sanctions on nine people — including the head and deputy head of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU — as well as the „Scientific Studies and Research Centre“, a Syrian entity responsible for developing and making chemical weapons. Britain welcomed the action while Russia called it a negative move that would change nothing. The sanctions are the first to be imposed by the EU nder a new regime of restrictive measures against the use and proliferation of chemical weapons set up in October. Russia’s communication watchdog has opened administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for failing to comply with local data laws. US President Donald Trump was involved in discussions to build a skyscraper in Moscow throughout the entire 2016 presidential campaign, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday, a longer and more significant role for Trump than he had previously acknowledged.
uk.reuters.com, politico.eu, bbc.com (Skripal), cnbc.com (Facebook), nytimes.com (Trump’s Russia scandal)

EU copyright reforms stalled: EU efforts to reform copyright rules hit a roadblock on Monday when a meeting of lawmakers and officials was called off after they failed to resolve differences. EU Parliament lawmakers, representatives from EU countries and Commission officials were scheduled to meet on Monday to reconcile their positions on the reform drive. The EU Commission, which launched a debate on the issue two years ago, says an overhaul is necessary to protect Europe’s cultural heritage and level the playing field between big online platforms and publishers, broadcasters and artists. Commission digital chief Andrus Ansip expressed disappointment at the delay, saying reform was crucial and possible even at this stage.

Carbon pricing dropped from new Franco-German treaty: France and Germany will cement their historic post-war reconciliation with the signing of a new Elysee treaty this Tuesday. But the draft text, seen by „Euractiv“, no longer mentions carbon pricing among new bilateral initiatives. One year ago, on the treaty’s 55th anniversary, the German Bundestag and the French National Assembly published a first version of the new Elysee treaty, which mentioned new initiatives on carbon pricing to fight climate change. But the document that will be signed on Tuesday no longer mentions the idea. Instead, two broader paragraphs address general issues such as sustainable development, climate change, the environment and economic affairs.

Euro finance ministers: Eurogroup pushes for deposit insurance and euro zone budget handelsblatt.com
Global economic growth: IMF warns trade tensions could hit growth bbc.com


We are prepared to put our vehicle tariffs on the negotiating tables as part of a broader agreement, if the US agrees to work together toward zero tariffs for all industrial goods.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström hopes that a balanced, mutually beneficial agreement with the US can be reached.


Germany bans Iranian airline from its airspace: Germany has revoked the license of an Iranian airline because it has been transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, the foreign ministry said on Monday. The US ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, who has long objected to Mahan Air’s links to Germany, welcomed the ban. Iran’s use of Mahan Air to support the Assad regime in Syria has contributed to incredible human suffering, violence, and political instability felt across the world, Grenell said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Mahan, Iran’s second-largest carrier after Iran Air, flies four services a week between Tehran and the German cities of Düsseldorf and Munich. The German ban on the airline takes immediate effect, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
reuters.com, euronews.com

France fines Google for privacy rule breach: France’s data protection watchdog hit Google with a record €50 million fine for breaching European privacy rules over ad targeting and transparency requirements on its Android mobile operating system. The French regulator said the world’s biggest search engine lacked transparency and clarity in the way it informs users about its handling of personal data and failed to properly obtain their consent for personalised ads. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the biggest shake-up of data privacy laws in more than two decades, came into force in May. It allows users to better control their personal data and gives regulators the power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue for violations.
politico.eu, reuters.com

France summons Italian envoy: France’s foreign ministry on Monday summoned Italy’s ambassador after Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio accused Paris of creating poverty in Africa and fueling mass migration to Europe. Ambassador Teresa Castaldo was summoned on Monday afternoon by the chief of staff of European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau. Speaking on Saturday in central Italy, Di Maio had attacked France’s Africa policy – the latest chapter in a war of words between Rome and Paris since the anti-establishment 5-Star-Movement and far-right League won power last year.

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Several people killed in explosion near Kerch Strait: An explosion and a fire involving two tanker ships near the contested Kerch Strait, the waterway separating Crimea from mainland Russia, left at least eleven sailors dead on Monday and several missing, according to Russian news reports. The fire broke out when one vessel was transferring fuel to another, Russian maritime agency spokesman Alexei Kravchenko said, adding that this had then forced several crew members to jump overboard. Rescue workers reportedly witnessed a further three people struggling in the water, who most likely had drowned. Authorities in the Crimean city of Kerch are now preparing to receive the victims. Both tankers were registered in Tanzania and were anchored just off the southern shore of the Crimean Peninsula and just outside the Kerch Strait.
nytimes.com, bbc.com

Greece: Parliament to vote on Macedonia name change Thursday politico.eu
Sweden: Government plans to ban sale of gasoline and diesel starting 2030 handelsblatt.com


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Scheme to use digital prescriptions in other EU member states: From Monday, the first EU citizens in a new scheme will be able to use an electronic prescription issued by their doctor at home to withdraw medicine at a pharmacy in another member state. Finland and Estonia are at the forefront of a series of policies that expect to see 22 EU member states use ePrescriptions by the end of 2021. This means that all ePrescriptions issued in Finland will be accepted at Estonian pharmacies that actively signed an agreement. At least eight countries are expected to greenlight these exchanges by the end of 2019.



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