Wednesday, 31 July 2019: Varadkar and Johnson steadfast over backstop, Germany rejects joining US mission in Persian Gulf, Romanian interior minister Moga resigns over outcry after teens’ murder, Suspected train pusher in Germany was wanted by Swiss


Varadkar and Johnson steadfast over backstop: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have had an exchange of views on Brexit in their first phone call since Johnson became prime minister. Varadkar reiterated that the backstop – the mechanism to avoid an Irish hard border – was needed because of decisions made by the UK. He also invited Johnson to Dublin to discuss Brexit. Johnson again said the backstop must be removed from any deal with the EU. But Varadkar maintained there could be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement. A spokesperson for Varadkar said he had explained to the new prime minister that the EU was united in its view on the withdrawal agreement. Johnson has said he was not aiming for a no-deal Brexit but that the situation was very much up to Britain’s friends and partners across the Channel.,

Corbyn demands fracking ban: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has joined anti-fracking protesters to call for an immediate ban on the practice. Research by Labour has revealed that if the UK fully exploits its shale gas reserves, the amount of carbon released would eliminate any hope of the government meeting its 2050 net zero target. Corbyn called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stand up to big business interests and ban fracking, accusing Johnson of bending the knee to companies who want to profit from fracking. Labour wants to focus on creating a green industrial revolution, which would include investment in tidal power. Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom is a supporter of fracking who has dismissed warnings about the environmental impact as scaremongering, while Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers voted against a ban on fracking.,

Barclay tells Barnier UK will leave EU with or without deal: Brexit minister Stephen Barclay spoke to the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Tuesday and told him he wants a deal but will leave the bloc on 31 October with or without an agreement. Business groups have stressed the importance of continued frictionless trade with the EU after Dominic Raab used his first overseas trip as foreign secretary to urge UK firms to raise their game and focus more on exporting to other regions. (Barclay); (Raab)

Conservatives: Johnson adviser said Tories do not care about poor people or NHS
Alastair Campbell: I don’t want to rejoin Corbyn’s Labour
Immigration: Home Office spent £268k on deportation flights that never flew
Education: Disadvantaged pupils stuck 18 months behind, say researchers


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Germany rejects joining US mission in Persian Gulf: The United States have formally asked Germany to join a naval security mission in the Persian Gulf, the US Embassy in Berlin confirmed on Tuesday. The British government last week proposed a joint European mission to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and has already sent two warships to the strategic waterway. Iran and Britain have each seized a tanker flagged by the other country in recent weeks. The German foreign ministry said the government had not yet made any plans for any contribution to a US-led mission. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz appealed for efforts to prevent an escalation of tensions, and said Germany was working closely with France and Britain. Iran is reviving maritime security talks with officials from the United Arab Emirates. Israel has expanded its military operations against Iranian targets to Iraq.,,, (Germany); (United Arab Emirates); (Israel)

European banking union does not violate German constitution: Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has rejected a legal challenge to the European Central Bank’s supervision of large banks and structural fund for failing institutions. The EU measures are valid because they do not transfer banking supervision competences completely to the EU level and leave substantial powers with national regulators, court president Andreas Vosskuhle said when delivering the decision. The eurozone started the banking union in 2014 to protect the banking sector against future crises.,

EU president-elect supports Croatia’s plans to join eurozone: EU Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has praised Croatia as a success story for the EU and a role model for many other countries. She hailed Croatia’s efforts to join the eurozone and the border-free Schengen area since becoming an EU member in 2013. The country has been locked in a border dispute with neighbouring Slovenia, which has suggested it could block Croatia’s Schengen bid over the issue. Von der Leyen is set to take over as EU Commission president in November.,

EU and US: How are transatlantic trade relations doing?
Hong Kong: Activists disrupt rush hour trains


Von der Leyen has some ambitious proposals in the field of social policy. But she will have to accomplish something if she wants to gain trust among citizens and workers in Europe.
Oliver Röpke, president of the Workers Group of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), welcomed EU Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s social policy plans.


Romanian interior minister Moga resigns over outcry after teens’ murder: Romania’s Interior Minister Nicolae Moga resigned on Tuesday after the murders of two teenage girls triggered protests over the authorities’ inadequate handling of the case. One of the teens managed to ring the emergency 112 number three times and give police clues about the location where she was being held by her captor. Critics allege that officials failed to take the alert seriously and reacted too late to locate and help save her. Public anger has been mounting, with protests around several Romanian cities at the weekend. President Klaus Johannis and Prime Minister Viorica Dancila have also accused the investigating authorities of failure.,,

Suspected train pusher in Germany was wanted by Swiss: A 40-year-old Eritrean refugee accused of killing an eight-year-old boy by pushing him under a train in Frankfurt was wanted by police in Switzerland, where he was being treated for psychological problems, authorities said on Tuesday. The suspect arrived in Switzerland in 2006 and applied for asylum, which he obtained in 2008. He had a long-term residence permit in Switzerland and worked there, and was considered well-integrated. Last Thursday, he is alleged to have threatened a neighbour with a knife and locked the neighbour along with his wife and children in their apartment. He had subsequently been the subject of an arrest warrant in Switzerland. According to police, the outbreak of violence was a surprise to his wife and to his neighbour.,,

Ukrainian court approves seizure of Russian tanker: A court in the Ukraine ruled on Tuesday to formally approve the seizure of a Russian tanker that was detained by Ukrainian authorities at the Danube river port of Izmail last week. The tanker was seized for alleged involvement in the capture of three Ukrainian navy vessels last year. Its crew members were released after being questioned.

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Swiss suspend funding to UN Palestinian agency: The Swiss foreign ministry has announced that it will suspend funding of the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, after the agency’s own ethics department reported allegations of sexual misconduct, nepotism and discrimination. The ethics office also claimed that there was an inappropriate relationship between the agency’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl, a Swiss native who has held the position since 2014, and a senior staff member. Krähenbühl was further accused of excessive travel away from his duty station in Jerusalem, claiming an allowance for travel for up to 29 days per month.,

Italy: EU seeks volunteer countries to take in migrants stranded at Italian port
Cyprus: Greece criticises Turkey
Austria: Hard drives destroyed during change of government
France: Prime Minister Philippe promises transparency on festival death
Germany: Police raid suspected far-right groups

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French minister criticises Trump’s threat to tax France’s wines: French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume has denounced US President Donald Trump’s threat to tax French wine as completely absurd. Guillaume said it was moronic to talk about a tariff on wine in the debate about a French digital tax. The two issues should not be mixed.,


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