Wednesday, 09 January 2019: May defeated in parliament, EU imposes sanctions on Iran, US downgrades EU diplomatic status in Washington, Keep out of “yellow vest” revolt, France warns Italy


May defeated in parliament: Prime Minister Theresa May’s government suffered a defeat in parliament on Tuesday when MPs who oppose leaving the EU without an accord won a vote that created a new obstacle to a no-deal Brexit. MPs voted by 303 to 296 in favour of an amendment to the finance bill tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper to curb some of the government’s tax administration powers in the event of no deal without explicit authorisation for parliament. Labour threw its weight behind the amendment on Monday afternoon, as Treasury officials and Tory whips scrambled to assess the impact it could have on Treasury operations. The defeat highlights May’s weak position as leader of a minority government, a divided party, and a critical parliament just days before she is due to hold a pivotal vote on whether to approve the Brexit deal she has negotiated with the EU.,

Heathrow airport resumes flights after drone disruption: London Heathrow airport halted departures for a short period Tuesday evening in response to a drone sighting. The airport said it was working closely with London police to prevent any threat to operational safety, and said it had grounded planes as a precautionary measure. After resuming operations, the airport said it would continue to monitor the situation and remained in contact with the police and air traffic control. Police detained a man and woman over the incident, but later released them citing lack of evidence connecting them to a crime. Heathrow and Gatwick airports have reportedly sought to buy military-grade anti-drone systems. Drones are dangerous because they pose significant risks to landing and departing aircraft.,

Sturgeon defends handling of Salmond sexual harassment case: The Scottish government has admitted acting unlawfully while investigating sexual harassment claims against Alex Salmond. Allegations against the former first minister, which he denies, were made to the Scottish government a year ago. The government has now admitted it breached its own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had prior involvement in the case. As a result, it conceded defeat in its legal fight with Salmond. The Scottish government admitted in court on Tuesday that an inquiry it launched last January into harassment allegations against the former Scottish first minister was unlawful and tainted by apparent bias.,

Anna Soubry: Speaker urges police to tackle MP harassment
Housing: Ed Miliband urges Corbyn to do more to solve housing crisis
Brexit: ‘Pathetic’ radio ads stoke public fear of no-deal Brexit, says MP
Children: Rise in children taken into care pushes 88% of councils over budget


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EU imposes sanctions on Iran: The European Union has imposed its first sanctions against Iran since the nuclear accord was implemented three years ago, as European diplomats warned their Iranian counterparts that the bloc wouldn’t tolerate further alleged Iranian attacks and assassinations in Europe. Tuesday’s sanctions, which add two Iranian individuals and a unit of the Iranian intelligence services to the bloc’s terror list, follow alleged plots against Iranian opposition figures in Denmark and France. Denmark and France suspect an Iranian government intelligence service of pursuing assassination plots on their soil. Copenhagen sought an EU-wide response. France, which has already hit the two men and the ministry unit with sanctions, has said there was no doubt the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind a failed attack near Paris. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said the EU has sent clear signals that it would not accept this kind of interference on European soil.,,

US downgrades EU diplomatic status in Washington: The EU says the US government has changed the bloc’s diplomatic status in Washington, in practice downgrading it. The Trump administration did not notify the bloc about the change. The EU has asked the US to explain the move, EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said. The change comes amid heightened trade tensions, with the EU anxious to dissuade President Donald Trump from slapping a 20% tariff on all imported EU cars. Trade negotiators from China and the United States have narrowed some of their differences, the “Wall Street Journal” reported Tuesday, following tweets by Trump that talks with China were going very well. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to meet with China’s leader Xi Jinping during the second day of talks nearby between midlevel trade negotiators from China and the United States. The US sanctioned Venezuela’s TV billionaire Raul Gorrin, and six of his close associates, alleging they were involved in corrupt foreign currency transactions. Natalya Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who attended a controversial meeting at Trump Tower with Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chief in 2016, has been criminally charged with obstruction of justice in connection with an unrelated civil money laundering and forfeiture case. (EU), (China), (North Korea), (Venezuela), (Russia)

Germany pledges full EU support for Ireland over Brexit: Speaking alongside his Irish counterpart, Simon Coveney, on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the EU would not accept a hard border between Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Maas pledged the EU’s full support for the Republic of Ireland in the face of increasing uncertainty ahead of a fast-approaching deadline for Brexit. Maas urged British lawmakers to support Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, rather than risk leaving the EU without an agreement in place. The border issue is one of the most contentious in the Brexit negotiations. The minister described Germany’s special understanding of how walls and borders could threaten peace. Addressing the same gathering, Coveney said he remained convinced that there was a majority in the UK parliament which would do all it could to avert a disastrous crash-out Brexit.,

Poland to increase number of lobbyists in Brussels: Warsaw will create a lobbying centre for Polish entrepreneurs in Brussels to help them exert a greater influence on EU legislation. The registration of the organisation that will run “Business Poland House” is expected to be finalised within a few weeks. According to the Polish ministry of enterprise and technology, it is estimated that over 70% of EU law has an impact on the activities of Polish companies, but they have a negligible contribution to the creation of this EU legislation compared to German or French companies. The public register of the European Commission shows that only ten associations or organisations representing Polish companies have placed their lobbyists in Brussels.

Money markets: ECB rate hike now unlikely before mid-2020
EU Council Presidency: EU Commission travels to Romania – and is sued


We urge our British friends to act responsibly.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas has warned British MPs to be responsible and support Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal in next week’s meaningful Brexit vote.


Hacker behind data leak identified: Germany’s investigative police force has arrested the hacker responsible for what some have called one of the largest data leaks in Germany’s history. The 20-year old suspect said he was acting alone, and there are no indications of anyone else or any foreign state being involved. The police said the suspect had indicated he was motivated by anger at the public statements of the politicians, journalists and public figures concerned. Authorities are not treating the hack as a political crime and the suspect had no known ties to right-wing extremism in Germany. Investigators said the German citizen they arrested had co-operated and led them to evidence they may not have found without help. Police are also still investigating seized computer hardware. Of the almost 1,000 politicians, celebrities and journalists affected by the leak, some 50 attacks were more serious, involving private correspondence or photos, officials said.,

Keep out of “yellow vest” revolt, France warns Italy: France has accused Italy of interfering in its affairs after the populist government in Rome offered to help the “yellow vest” movement. Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, who are both deputy prime ministers, gave enthusiastic encouragement to the gilets jaunes, whose protests have turned increasingly violent in Paris and other cities. Di Maio, who is the head of the Five Star Movement, offered the protesters the use of his party’s Rousseau system, an internet platform that allows supporters to vote for candidates and propose legislation. That earned him a sharp rebuke from Nathalie Loiseau, France’s minister for European affairs, who tweeted that Salvini and Di Maio should first put their own house in order.

Germany ready to accept refugees: Germany is ready to accept 49 boat refugees, but still wants the EU Commission to take charge of and control the distribution of refugees, according to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. Despite reports of the bad conditions aboard two blocked rescue vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, EU states have so far found no solution for the refugees. The ranks of prominent citizens opposed to a new Italian law cracking down on asylum-seekers swelled on Monday, with more governors announcing court challenges to the populist government’s measure. Last week, the mayors of Palermo, Naples and some smaller cities vowed not to implement the law. Others, like Milan’s mayor, sharply criticised the law, but said they would implement it unless courts ruled otherwise. (Germany), (Italy)

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EU says Italy could face issue in 2020 budget: Italy risks a rerun of tensions with the EU Commission over its 2020 budget unless next year’s deficit is partially offset by a rise in the value-added tax or other measures, said Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis. The strategy that the Italian government presented for 2020 relied heavily on using VAT safeguard measures, Dombrovskis told reporters in Riga on Tuesday. Previous Italian governments had also promised but not implemented value-added tax increases.

Train accident: Denmark prohibits transport of semi-trailers by rail
France and Germany: Macron and Merkel sign friendship treaty
Germany: Refugees trained to be train drivers

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Syrian charged for killing that sparked Chemnitz violence: German prosecutors on Tuesday formally charged a Syrian asylum-seeker with manslaughter and serious bodily harm in the killing of a German-Cuban citizen, which triggered violent protests in Chemnitz. Prosecutors said Alaa S. had fatally stabbed the man in his arm and chest, along with another alleged perpetrator, identified as Farhad A. Iraqi asylum-seeker Farhad A. fled after the attack and remains at large. But German authorities have issued an international arrest warrant for his arrest.


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