Wednesday, 21 August 2019: UK fast-tracks firms for customs roll as it readies for Brexit, EU rejects Johnson’s Brexit backstop plan, Migrants disembark “Open Arms” rescue ship, Italian Prime Minister Conte resigns


UK fast-tracks firms for customs roll as it readies for Brexit: Britain will automatically enrol nearly 90,000 companies in a customs system in order to reduce the risk of Brexit disruption, the government announced Wednesday. This is intended to help ease the flow of goods at border points and support businesses to trade and grow. The downturn in British manufacturing eased off a little in August, although the slowdown in the global economy and the Brexit crisis mean a recovery still looks a way off, a survey by the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) showed on Tuesday. The future of the UK’s fuel refineries could be threatened by a no-deal Brexit, according to the BBC. Under current government plans for no deal, they face a danger to viability from cheaper imports, while exports to the EU are set to be hit with tariffs. The BBC also reported that a no-deal Brexit could cost the farming industry £850m a year in lost profits. Farm business consultants Andersons said that without government support increasing significantly, some farms would inevitably struggle to survive. (Customs system); (CBI); (Fuel); (Farms)

Corbyn decries plan to end free movement: Stopping freedom of movement immediately on 31 October could lead to a situation like Windrush on steroids, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has warned. The Windrush scandal, which led to the resignation of Amber Rudd as home secretary, exposed how the government was wrongly deporting people who could not prove their immigration status, having come to the UK from the Caribbean as children in the 1950s and 60s. The government intends for EU nationals who arrive after 31 October to lose any rights under free movement law if the UK leave the EU without a deal. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott also warned that the government’s plan to end EU citizens’ right to live and work in the UK straight after a no-deal Brexit would create chaos.,

Johnson criticised as Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s conditions worsen: The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman being held in Tehran, has criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson for failing to meet the family since taking office. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is no longer allowed to call her husband in the UK and has been told she can see her young daughter Gabriella only once a month, rather than every few days. Ratcliffe said his wife was returned to prison on Saturday after being discharged from hospital, following a hunger strike, according to the BBC.,

Labour MPs: Labour told it may be going backwards on equality
Animal welfare: Labour commits to total ban on keeping monkeys as pets
Study: UK shale gas reserves may be fraction of what is claimed


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EU rejects Johnson’s Brexit backstop plan: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call to drop the Irish backstop from the Brexit deal has been rejected by the EU. European Council President Donald Tusk responded to Johnson’s letter by reiterating that the backstop was an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative was found. Anyone not proposing realistic alternatives to the backstop did in fact support reestablishing a border. Tusk described Johnson’s statements as misleading and inaccurate. EU Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud had a similar response to Johnson’s letter. British officials will stop attending most EU meetings from September, UK Brexit secretary Steve Barclay has announced. The government will only send officials to EU meetings at which the UK had a significant national interest in the outcome of discussions, dramatically reducing workload and preparation time.,,

Migrants disembark “Open Arms” rescue ship: Nearly one hundred migrants who had been stranded on the “Open Arms” rescue ship off the coast of Lampedusa disembarked on the Italian island on Tuesday. An Italian court seized the “Open Arms” rescue ship after the migrants disembarked. An inspection by medical personnel conducted earlier in the day found that the hygienic and health conditions on board had deteriorated. Spain sent a naval vessel on Tuesday afternoon to rescue the migrants and take them to Mallorca after some of them jumped overboard. But the Spanish navy is only due to reach Lampedusa in three days and “Open Arms” repeatedly said that the situation on board was desperate and some migrants were suicidal. Spanish deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo called on the EU to take legal action against Italy for not allowing the disembarkation of the ship for so long. Calvo also called for a coordinated European response for those rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.,,

US warns Greece against assisting Iranian tanker: The United States have warned Greece against assisting the Iranian tanker “Adrian Darya 1”, which was released by Gibraltar after a five-week standoff over whether it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the US would take every action it could to prevent the tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of US sanctions. The tanker, formerly called “Grace 1”, left Gibraltar on Sunday. Ship-tracking data on Tuesday showed the vessel was heading toward the Greek port of Kalamata on the southern coast of the Peloponnese. A Greek diplomatic source cited by the state Athens News Agency said the country was in communication with the United States on the matter, but did not say what Greece would do.,

Hong Kong’s leader calls for dialogue with citizens: Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam announced that she will set up a platform for dialogue with citizens and tackle complaints against the police, after a weekend of peaceful protests. She said the platform would be open and direct and the government would reach out to people from all walks of life from different political backgrounds. Some activists dismissed her offer as a trap. China has detained an employee of the British Consulate in Hong Kong after he crossed the border into the mainland. A spokesman for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the office was providing support to his family and seeking further information from authorities in Guangdong province and Hong Kong. Twitter has found and deleted hundreds of accounts it said China used to undermine the Hong Kong protest movement and calls for political change. (Lam);, (Consulate worker); (Twitter)

Currencies: Facebook’s Libra currency under EU antitrust scrutiny
G7: France to put social inequality on the agenda at G7 summit
G8: Trump says he would like to see Russia rejoin G8


International trade disputes and Brexit are important reasons behind this.
Jens Weidmann, President of the German Bundesbank, has warned that Germany could soon enter a recession.


Italian Prime Minister Conte resigns: Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned on Tuesday after launching an attack on Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, accusing him of sinking the ruling coalition and endangering the economy for personal and political gain. The current crisis compromised the government, Conte said. He called Salvini irresponsible for engineering a political crisis for personal and party interests. He described Salvini’s actions as reckless and liable to tip the country into a spiral of political uncertainty and financial instability. Salvini rejected Conte’s comments and defended his policies on Europe and immigration, which had caused the coalition to fall apart.,,

Merkel warns of climate change consequences: Nordic leaders gathered in Iceland on Tuesday to discuss climate change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with leaders of Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Sweden at the annual meeting of the Nordic Council, as well as representatives of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the Aland Islands. Ahead of her trip, Merkel said the example of Iceland showed that humankind must treat nature with care and show some humility. From the shift in mobility patterns to the issue of energy generation, the Nordic countries and Germany faced common challenges. On the issue of Brexit, Merkel said the EU would consider practical solutions for the Irish border after Britain’s exit from the EU, but this did not mean re-opening the withdrawal agreement., (Climate); (Brexit)

Investigation of Kuciak’s murder uncovers other crimes: A year and a half after the murder of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova, Slovak prosecutors said the investigation has uncovered a ring of other crimes, including four murders and planned high-level assassinations. Controversial businessman Marian Kocner was charged with ordering Kuciak’s death and the police are currently analysing his phone messages. His conversations contained messages from several representatives of the judiciary and other state authorities. According to prosecutors, the content of the messages has shown that other crimes had been committed.

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Polish deputy minister resigns over smear campaign scandal: Poland’s Deputy Justice Minister Lukasz Piebiak said he was resigning on Tuesday, following a report he sought to discredit judges critical of the government’s judicial reforms by planting media rumors about their private lives. The website had reported that Piebiak was behind a campaign to anonymously send material with rumours about the judges’ private life to regional branches of the judicial association Iustitia.’s report provoked an outcry from the opposition and prompted Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to demand explanations.

Lithuania: Parliament renews cabinet’s mandate
Germany: Defence Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer visits Iraq
Austria: FPÖ party leader Hofer against Strache’s return to government after Ibiza scandal
Denmark: World’s largest all-electric ferry sets sail

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World’s biggest bike park in the Netherlands: The Dutch city of Utrecht has opened the world’s largest parking area for bicycles. It is part of a strategy in which hundreds of millions of euros are being devoted to enhancing cycling infrastructure across the Netherlands. Stientje van Veldhoven, a junior infrastructure minister, said bicycles were a secret weapon against congestion, poor air quality in cities and climate change, while being good for people’s health and easy on their finances. The Netherlands has been struggling to meet its climate crisis commitments, so encouraging more bike use is a political priority.


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