Wednesday, 8 September 2021: Johnson outlines new health and social care tax to pay for reforms, Another reprieve for the EU-UK sausage war, EU will start issuing climate-friendly bonds

⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

Johnson outlines new health and social care tax to pay for reforms: A new health and social care tax will be introduced across the UK to pay for reforms to the care sector and NHS funding in England. The cabinet signed up on Tuesday morning to a controversial 1.25 percentage point increase in national insurance contributions, which will be levied on employers and employees. Tax on share dividends will also be increased by 1.25 percentage points. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would raise £12bn a year, designed to tackle the health backlog caused by the Covid pandemic and to bolster social care. However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the plan was a „sticking plaster“. Leaders in social care also warned the money was nowhere near enough and would not address current problems. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said it would be „arrogant“ to suggest the problems can definitely be fixed. Tory MPs claimed the move amounts to a £10bn tax raid.
bbc.com, theguardian.com, news.sky.com

Scottish government aims for second independence referendum before end of 2023: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish government will restart work on a „detailed prospectus“ for independence ahead of a second referendum on the matter. She told MSPs work on Scottish independence would commence again after it was halted following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Boris Johnson’s government remains firmly opposed to granting indyref2, but Sturgeon claimed a democratic mandate for a second vote was beyond question.
news.sky.com, independent.co.uk

Tory MPs urge Patel to return migrants who attempt to enter UK illegally: Conservative MPs have urged Home Secretary Priti Patel to immediately send back anyone who joins an illegal crossing of the Channel from France, including children. They claimed the measure should be enacted because the UK needed to up the stakes with the French government, which has been blamed by Patel for failing to curb the number of migrants sailing across the channel. Patel reportedly told MPs she would cut funding for French operations if more migrants weren’t stopped. France warned the UK not to attempt any action that is contrary to international law, which it said would result in a serious loss of confidence and cooperation.
theguardian.com, politico.eu

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to set out post-Covid spending squeeze next month reuters.com
Annual state pension increases: Triple lock pension pledge suspended for one year bbc.com
Brexit disruption: Sewage discharge rules eased over fears of chemical shortage theguardian.com
Department for Work and Pensions: Government can’t explain soaring unemployment rate among Black people, MPs say independent.co.uk

⊂ POLITJOBS UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

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⊂ EUROPE ⊃

Another reprieve for the EU-UK sausage war: Plans for post-Brexit checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland have been suspended indefinitely by the UK after negotiations with the EU reached a stalemate. Grace periods designed to ease the transition into new trading arrangements and checks on the island of Ireland have twice been extended as part of diplomatic wrangling labelled “the sausage wars”. End-of-September deadlines for when chilled meats and fresh sausages would face customs checks before going into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK have been deferred, Brexit Minister David Frost said on Sunday. The inspections are part of a 2019 deal negotiated with the EU by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which the UK says should be renegotiated. While the bloc reiterated that the accord can’t be redrawn, it suggested in a statement that it would go along with the latest extension of the grace period to allow talks to continue.
theguardian.com, bloomberg.com

EU calls for Poland to be fined over its controversial judiciary reforms: The European Commission has taken its infringement procedure against Poland over judicial independence one step further and asked the EU’s Court of Justice to impose daily fines on the country. The Commission says Poland has not fully complied with a July decision by the EU’s top court ordering the immediate suspension of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, finding it lacks guarantees of “independence and impartiality.” The Polish government said in August it would comply, but the chamber is still operating. The Commission hopes the financial threat will force the hand of the Polish government and finally amend the disciplinary chamber. Polish Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta has described Brussels‘ move to request daily fines as „aggression.“
euronews.com, politico.eu

EU will start issuing climate-friendly bonds: The EU will start selling green bonds under its pandemic recovery fund plan in October, the first step toward becoming the largest issuer of environmentally-friendly debt in the world. The EU Commission has adopted an independently evaluated Green Bond framework, thus taking a step forward towards the issuance of up to €250 billion green bonds, or 30% of the recovery fund’s total issuance. The framework provides investors in these bonds with confidence that the funds mobilised will be allocated to green projects and that the Commission will report on its environmental impact.
ec.europa.eu, bloomberg.com

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Eurozone economy grew in the second quarter: Euro zone economic growth for the second quarter was revised upwards to 2.2%, above expectations. Across the 19 countries that use the euro as their currency, gross domestic product expanded by 2.2% from the previous quarter, Eurostat said Tuesday as it reported its third estimate for the period. According to the second estimate, the economy had grown by 2.0%. This expansion follows an on-quarter drop of 0.3% in the first quarter.
reuters.com, marketwatch.com

Taliban appoint new Afghan government: The Taliban have announced an interim government in Afghanistan, declaring the country an „Islamic Emirate“. The new cabinet will be led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, one of the movement’s founders, who is on a United Nations blacklist. Chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also said that Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will be the deputy leader. The announcement of key figures in the caretaker government comes weeks after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, and presents the first picture of how their leadership of the country will begin to take shape. A notable omission from the government announcement was any roles within a ministry for women. Scattered protests in recent days have indicated that some Afghans are sceptical of the Taliban’s capacity to translate their promise of a more moderate rule into reality. Video emerged of Taliban fighters firing into the air to disperse protests.
bbc.com, france24.com, cnn.com, nbcnews.com

Syrian refugees returning home face torture and abuse, says Amnesty: A number of Syrian refugees who returned home have been subjected to detention, disappearance and torture at the hands of Syrian security forces, proving that it still isn’t safe to return to any part of the country, Amnesty International said Tuesday. The rights group documented what it said were violations committed by Syrian intelligence officers against 66 returnees, including 13 children between mid-2017 and spring 2021. Among those were five cases in which detainees had died in custody after returning to the country torn by civil war, while the fate of 17 forcibly disappeared people remains unknown.
apnews.com

EU court: Last czar of Bulgaria won’t get his cottages back politico.eu
United Nations Climate Change conference: Global network of activists calls for November climate talks to be postponed over pandemic concerns nytimes.com
Israel: „Significant embarrassment“ as six Palestinian militants escape Israeli prison cnn.com
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): Iran blocking IAEA access to nuclear-related sites wsj.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

I am pleased that it is now unmistakable that the trend is clearly toward electric mobility.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Munich.
politico.eu

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia oppose taking in refugees from Afghanistan: Following a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said there was „really no more room for them“ in Europe. The three EU states agreed to help the people where they are in Afghanistan. During the talks at Lednice Castle in southern Moravia, the countries thus essentially backed the position of most EU interior ministers, who only want to take in former local aid workers. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned on Tuesday that two-thirds of refugee children might never get to secondary school, as it called for an international effort to confront critically low levels of school and university enrolment.
deutschlandfunk.de, news.un.org

Merkel urges Germans to back her party’s choice of successor: German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered perhaps her last address as chancellor to parliament on Tuesday, warning of the possibility of the Social Democratic party (SPD) and the Greens governing the country in a coalition with the far-left Die Linke. Merkel pitched for her centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and chancellor candidate Armin Laschet as standing for „stability, reliability, moderation and centrality.“ Merkel, whose governing style has usually involved her rising above the fray of party political squabbles, drew jeers from other parliamentarians for her partisan intervention. “My goodness, what a fuss!” she retorted. “I’ve been a member of the German Bundestag for more than 30 years and where should we discuss such issues if not here? It is the heart of our democracy.”
theguardian.com, dw.com

Political crisis in Romania; Bulgaria faces fresh elections: All USR PLUS ministers are set to submit their resignations from the Romanian government on Tuesday, meaning the government will lose its majority in parliament. The party is nevertheless insisting it would like to remain in the coalition with PNL and UDMR, but with a different prime minister. USR PLUS no longer wants to continue working with Prime Minister Florin Citu following his dismissal last week of Justice Minister Stelian Ion. Bulgaria will head to its third national election this year, after the Socialists became the third political party to refuse to lead a government following July’s inconclusive parliamentary election.
euractiv.com (Romania); eureporter.co (Bulgaria)

Sweden to remove most remaining pandemic restrictions: Sweden will push ahead with easing COVID-19 restrictions at the end of this month, removing most curbs and limits on public venues such as restaurants, theatres and stadiums, the government said on Tuesday. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced his plans for dealing with Covid in the coming months, saying any lockdown measures will only be put in place for those who haven’t had the vaccine and ICU beds will be the most important metric in deciding policy. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started evaluating an application for the use of a booster dose of Comirnaty to be given 6 months after the second dose in people aged 16 years and older.
reuters.com (Sweden), thelocal.at (Austria), ema.europa.eu (EMA)

French economic rebound on track: France’s economic recovery remains on track despite the latest wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, the national statistics agency said on Tuesday, revising its 2021 outlook marginally higher. The euro zone’s second biggest economy is set to grow 6.25% this year, INSEE said in its latest economic outlook, revising its forecast up from 6% previously. The outlook is a touch more upbeat than that of the government, which is expecting the economy will grow 6% this year after contracting a record 8% in 2020.
finance.yahoo.com

Rights groups denounce Austrian Ibizagate whistleblower trial: Criminal charges against the whistleblower whose leak of the “Ibizagate” video took down Austria’s government in 2019 will discourage other informants and may breach media freedoms, multiple NGOs argued in a joint statement released on Tuesday. The trial of Julian H. is due to begin on Wednesday. A court last week found former Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the ex-leader of the far-right Freedom Party, guilty of corruption and sentenced him to 15 months in prison. The scandal began when German media published a secret recording of Strache on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza, taken just before Austria’s 2017 parliamentary election, in which Strache appeared to offer to trade government contracts for campaign help from a woman he believed was the niece of a Russian oligarch. The encounter appeared to be a trap for Strache. H. filmed the video and shared it with the German media. He was subsequently arrested in Germany and extradited to Austria to face multiple charges, including falsifying documents related to the video and drugs charges.
politico.eu

Intel says it will reserve Ireland chip factory capacity for automakers: US chipmaker Intel on Tuesday said that it will reserve factory capacity at its semiconductor plant in Ireland for automakers and has created a programme to help them transition to making chips in its factories. Intel, the biggest maker of processor chips for PCs and data centres, in March said it planned to open up its chip factories for outsiders to use.
nasdaq.com

Germany: Police secretly bought NSO Pegasus spyware dw.com
France: Can a trial help heal victims of the Bataclan terror attacks? dw.com
Denmark wants to oblige the unemployed to do community service welt.de
Czech Republic: Problem with pump at Dukovany nuclear power plant zeit.de
Italy mulls picking Telecom Italia, Leonardo for cloud hub bloomberg.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

Kim Kardashian’s cryptocurrency Instagram ad sparks criticism from UK financial watchdog: The head of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Charles Randell, has criticised the American reality star Kim Kardashian for promoting an untested cryptocurrency on Instagram. Randell said in a speech Monday that Kardashian had asked her more than 250 million Instagram followers to “speculate on crypto tokens by ‘joining the Ethereum Max Community’.” The promoted token Ethereum Max was, he stressed, not to be confused with the Ethereum cryptocurrency. „I can’t say whether this particular token [Ethereum Max] is a scam,“ he said.
bbc.com, cnbc.com

 

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