Tag: Boris Johnson

Difficult and tricky days ahead as UK adjusts to new EU rules post Brexit trade agreement
Europe

Difficult and tricky days ahead as UK adjusts to new EU rules post Brexit trade agreement

New EU Rules: UK must brace and prepare itself for days ahead full of bumps as it gets in grip with the new EU rules. Minister Michael Gove has warned the UK businesses and travelers of “practical and procedural changes” when Brexit transition period will end on December 31. 

The post-Brexit trade deal was unanimously approved by the 27 EU member states, making it effective January 1 onwards. However, European Parliament will vote for the motion in January, the EU rules can be applicable provisionally. UK MPs in the House of Commons and the House of Lords are set to debate and vote for it on Wednesday, December 30. 

Gove said, “The nature of our new relationship with the EU – outside the Single Market and Customs Union – means that there are practical and procedural changes that businesses and citizens need to get ready for. We know that there will be some disruption as we adjust to new ways of doing business with the EU, so it is vital that we all take the necessary action now.” 

UK has urged its businesses to understand the new rules regarding import and export of goods properly, including the rules specifically for trading with Northern Ireland, and also consider how they plan to make EU trade customs declarations. 

As UK is entering new trade agreement with the bloc, measures are being taken across the country to prepare for it. Scotland government has entered in new lease to use former airfield located in Dumfries and Galloway as emergency lorry park. This will be used for up to 240 vehicles in case of any disruption at Cairnryan port, near Stranraer. Traffic measures have been implemented in Wales on key road leading to Holyhead port. Travelers from Great Britain entering Northern Ieland will have to declare cash of over €10,000 or more starting January 1. 

The trade deal was reached after months of negotiations and delays on key issues including fishing rights and business rules. The Brexit deal has been agreed upon few days before December 31 deadline. This would allow for trade between UK and EU without extra taxes on goods. 

UK had exited from EU in 2016 after voting, and left actually on January 31, 2020. However, the leaders from both sides had until end of the year to chalk out a trade deal. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the new trade agreement will offer new freedoms to people who might have felt left behind. But fishery sector leaders have accused Johnson, who is already walking over thin ice, of ‘caving in’ and sacrificing the interests of this sector. Labour too has called it a ‘thin deal’ that would require more efforts to protect jobs of UK people. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak reassured London that it would not be affected adversely by the deal. On the contrary he said that the government would be “doing a few things a bit differently and looking at how we make the City of London the most attractive place to list new companies anywhere in the world.” Mr. Sunak called the deal a unifying moment for the country. 

Johnson and Macron held talks over phone to resolve the ban on cargo amid a new virus strain
Geopolitics

Johnson and Macron held talks over phone to resolve the ban on cargo amid a new virus strain

The Ban on Cargo: On Monday, British PM Boris Johnson conversed with French President Emmanuel Macron over the telephone about the closure of France’s borders to cargo from Britain. Johnson personally requested Macron to set aside his anxiety over the strain caused by the variant of the Covid-19 virus. 

“I have recently spoken to President Macron and we both understand each other’s situations and we both desire to resolve these issues as quickly as possible,” Johnson stated in a press conference. 

France is among the 40 nations that have suspended trains and flights from the UK, but on Thursday night, Paris went further by forcing a 48-hour ban on freight entering Britain. In a discussion with President Macron, Boris Johnson stressed the necessity to reopen the supply chains between them. 

I need to emphasize that we in the UK completely comprehend the anxiety of our counterparts about the new Coronavirus mutation strain yet it is also true that we think the dangers of transmission by a single driver sitting alone in a lorry or taxi is exceptionally low. 

Johnson also addressed other world leaders to reassure them of the UK’s quick response to detect the mutation of Covid-19. 

After a discussion on the phone with the Johnson on Tuesday morning, there is hope that France will reopen borders to the UK but only to its own nationals, French occupants, and experts, for example, drivers would have to go through fresh PCR swab test, France’s public broadcaster reported. 

Other non-French nationals with a permanent home in France will have the option to return, however, the border is set to stay shut to all non-French residents in the UK. According to The Guardian, the UK is expecting to counter the new variant of Covid by setting up new measures. 

The UK home secretary, Priti Patel, stated on Tuesday that the administration was conversing with the French authorities about testing all drivers leaving Britain to permit cargo and travelers to visit once more. 

She affirmed that more than 1,500 lorries were stranded in Kent on Tuesday morning. The queue formed as France imposed a ban on cargo to enter from Britain.

Patel told the BBC that the transport secretary is having discussions with France at this moment. The UK and French officials are working towards finding a solution to reopen borders. 

It’s in the interest of both the nation, to ensure that we have a smooth course as many European haulers are waiting to return home.

Rod McKenzie, the managing director of the Road Haulage Association told BBC, there are serious concerns about the well-being of drivers that were stuck across the Channel. One trade organization stated that they were provided with one oat bar each during the 24 hours.

We need to look into the issue of fewer washroom facilities, health, and cleanliness concerns. In these difficult conditions of getting stuck at the border, we are not treating the lorry drivers well by feeding them one oats bar, McKenzie added.

Barnier Snubbed Both Ways With Inconclusive Fishing Decision
Europe

Barnier Snubbed Both Ways With Inconclusive Fishing Decision

Barnier Snubbed Both Ways: No one is happy with the fishing deal that has hit a stalemate between Britain and the European Union. It is for sure that Britain does not want to miss the richness of its waters; it has been sharing with the EU for decades together. 

While the EU Brexit Chief Michael Barnier is trying very hard to reach a conclusive deal by the end of the Brexit transition period, Britain is not happy with what is being placed on the negotiation table. 

Before the Brexit happened, Britain had to share a major chunk of its catch from its waters; at the expense of its industry getting affected. It is now looking at a 60percent revenue from the EU catch. The EU bloc is only budging from a 15 percent to an 18percent but nothing more. 

Further, the bone of contention remains that Britain would like to decide the shipping rights of the countries that fall in the EU bloc, a quota that should be looked into yearly, allowing access to other non EU countries to use British waters too. 

Barnier has been snubbed both ways. As per Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, any conclusive solution looks difficult, even after nine months have been spent over negotiations between the UK and EU bloc. If there no deal conclusive deal where both parties can come to the same page, the UK’s waters would be entirely shut to EU vessels. 

Gerard van Balsfoort, the chairman of the European Fisheries Alliance, represents the industry in coastal states such as France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. According to Balsfoort, the fishing industry in these countries is  going to be severely hit, without a conclusive Brexit transitional deal.  Giving an official statement in the British media he has concluded that, “The shape of a deal, as currently stands, would give a huge blow to the European seafood sector which is made up more than 18,000 fishermen and 3,500 vessels with an annual turnover of €20.7bn.”

In fact he feels, it is better to be without a deal that to accept the one which is now being proposed by Barnier. 

Johnson urges businesses to prepare for no-deal Brexit scenario
Europe

Johnson urges businesses to prepare for no-deal Brexit scenario

No-deal Brexit scenario: British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, for the first time admitted that Brexit no deal was a stronger possibility and urged his people to start preparing for the no-deal scenario. Johnson, who had earlier committed to his country that he would “go the extra mile” to get the deal, expressed disappointment in his tone after crunch meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday. Johnson said that EU left UK in a difficult spot, wherein no-deal Australia-style model looked like a more viable option.

“It was put to me that this was kind of a bit like twins, and the UK is one twin the EU is another, and if the EU decides to have a haircut then the UK is going to have a haircut or else face punishment. Or if the EU decides to buy an expensive handbag then the UK has to buy an expensive handbag too or else face tariffs,” he said.

He added, “Clearly that is not the sensible way to proceed and it’s unlike any other free trade deal. It’s a way of keeping the UK kind of locked in the EU’s … regulatory orbit.”

He added on Thursday: “I do think we need to be very, very clear. There is now a strong possibility – a strong possibility – that we will have a solution that is much more like an Australian relationship with the EU than a Canadian relationship with the EU.”

Back home, British PM has been facing immense pressure from senior Tory leaders to bring back a deal as they said that no-deal would not only impact UK’s economy but also increase its security threat. Analysts believe that in case of Australia-style trade deal, UK would directly lose 2% of GDP along with facing huge tariffs on wide range of goods. 

Besides, as Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the defence committee, pointed out, no-deal would have huge security implications as well. He said, “There will be economic repercussions but also security ones. Our Channel waters are being buzzed by Russian submarines, our airspace by Russian jets. We need alliances – and Europe needs to stand and work together. This would be us turning the other way, just as we assume the G7 presidency.”

Johnson assured his country that the Brexit negotiators would not stop talks, and “continue to negotiate” but added “looking at where we are I do think it’s vital that everyone now gets ready for that Australian option.” Trade deal between Australia and EU is governed World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, though the former is still negotiating for a free trade deal with EU.

COVID-19 immunization program brings hope to the NHS staff, Businesses, and UK citizens
Europe

COVID-19 immunization program brings hope to the NHS staff, Businesses, and UK citizens

COVID-19 immunization program: The United Kingdom began the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech immunization program on Dec 8. The NHS is giving top priority to citizens that are above 80 years of age, care home workers, and frontline healthcare workers, BBC reports.

The UK has secured 800,000 doses of vaccine; however, officials say it will take time to bring back life to normal. Following the immunization program, businesses are hopeful that people will be resuming work gradually. 

A worldwide inoculation program that is relied upon to pick up pace as more serums win the medical approval. 

The first phase of the U.K’s. immunization program on 8 Dec would be known in history as ‘V-Day’

May Parson, an NHS nurse who had vaccinated Keenan on Tuesday, stated that it was a “great honor” to be the first in the nation to administer the Pfizer vaccine to a patient.

“The recent months have been very tough for us all working in the NHS, yet now it seems like there is a ray of hope due to the arrival of the covid-19 vaccine,” Parson added. Parson is originally from the Philippines and she has been working for the NHS for 24 years.

‘Bill’ William Shakespeare, 81, was the second person to receive the vaccine in the University Hospital in Coventry in the Midlands. The photograph of ‘Bill’ Shakespeare receiving the injection went viral on social media, with comments, such as ‘The Taming of Flu’ and ‘The Two Gentlemen of Corona’

An older citizen of Britain, Hari Shukla, a retired teacher along with his wife, Ranjan, 83, was vaccinated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. Shukla stated that when he received a call about the vaccine, he was very excited to have gotten the opportunity to participate in this.″. “So we are very excited and thrilled as well,″ The Telegraph reported.

His Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, are expected to be among the first to get the immunization. 

While the U.K. has a very well-organized framework for delivering the vaccine, it is all set to vaccinate pregnant ladies, school kids gradually reaching the whole population. 

Public health authorities around the world are observing Britain’s vaccine rollout as they plan for the remarkable undertaking of immunizing billions of people, a big step towards ending the coronavirus pandemic.

PM Boris Johnson stated on 8 Dec: The historic day marks a tremendous step forward in the UK’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic. As the program rolls out, it is as significant as could be expected to keep to the Covid winter plan – observing the guidelines in your region and recall the essentials protocols of sanitizing hands, covering the face, and maintaining social distance.”

EU Fate Hangs Over Controversial Internal Bill Voted Out By British MPs
Europe

EU Fate Hangs Over Controversial Internal Bill Voted Out By British MPs

EU Fate: The peer’s amendment to the controversial Internal Market Bill has been rejected by the House of Commons. This means that the deleted clauses will now be reinserting allowing the government to override the Brexit withdrawal agreement and breach international law. The EU has been against this from the beginning. The Internal market bill tends to be skewed and seems to be favouring the UK. 

A majority MP vote has handed over these powers to ministers within the bill, which the government insists are necessary to prevent a border in the Irish Sea. The bill, which sets out how trade within the UK will work once it is outside the EU’s single market and customs union, will now be passed back to the House of Lords.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson led government is not going to come in terms with EU conditions over trade settlement post the Brexit unless the latter makes amendments to the Internal Market Bill as 10 Downing Street deems it appropriate. 

Finally, Boris Johnson has given the European Union an olive branch. He has offered to drop contentious clauses in the UK internal market bill if a trade deal is agreed.

It is now confirmed that the UK government has formally offered to withdraw or deactivate parts of the bill. This would allow it to override aspects of the Brexit withdrawal agreement if it reaches an accord with the EU this week.

If conditions are met the way UK wants it, the UK government would be prepared to remove Clause 44 of the UK Internal Market Bill, concerning export declarations.

A formal statement from the PM’s office also stated, “The UK government would also be prepared to deactivate clauses 45 and 47, concerning state aid, such that they could be used only when consistent with the United Kingdom’s rights and obligations under international law.”

British PM Johnson under fire over his devolution remarks
Europe

British PM Johnson under fire over his devolution remarks

British PM Boris Johnson is facing wrath for dismissing the devolution of powers to Scotland as a “disaster”. According to media reports, Boris Johnson made the remarks during a video call with over60 lawmakers from his Conservative Party where he described the devolution as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”

However, political leaders across the spectrum have expressed discontent with Johnson’s remarks. The Welsh government slammed the Prime Minister for his “shocking” remarks, expressing concerns over the future of the United Kingdom with regards to the functioning of Boris Johnson’s administration.

While the British government argued that Johnson’s remarks were aimed at the mismanagement of the Scottish National Party (SNP), it has furthered the ongoing tensions between Cardiff and London. Reportedly, Wales and the United Kingdom have been facing strained relationships due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford also criticised the Prime Minister, saying: “Devolution comes under the sorts of pressures that it is now under when we have a Conservative government, and where you scratch the surface of the Conservative party and all its old hostility to devolution rises back to the surface.”

Like Wales, Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon also thrashed Johnson, stating that the Prime Minister’s remarks to the British lawmakers showed that the public stance of Conservatives in support of devolution is deceitful.

“Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they’re not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers,” she wrote in her tweet. 

Douglas Ross, the Conservative leader in Scotland, contradicted Boris Johnson, maintaining that the devolution had not been a disaster. 

Meanwhile, the British PM’s spokesperson has said that Johnson has always supported devolution and the UK government continues to put the union at the heart of everything they do. Downing Street office also issued a statement, saying that the Prime Minister has always supported devolution but former UK PM Tony Blair failed to foresee the rise of separatists in Scotland.

“Devolution is great — but not when it’s used by separatists and nationalists to break up the UK,” the statement added. 

What is devolution?

Devolution is the name given to the transfer of power held by the government in Westminster to elected groups in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some of the devolved powers include health, fire services, housing and some areas of education and transportation services, the British government based in London has a number of powers including defence, foreign policy and a majority of tax forms. The public votes for devolution took place in 1998 in Scotland in Wales and in 1998 in both sides of Ireland as part of the Good Friday Agreement, resulting in the establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, and the National Assembly for Wales.

No-Brexit deal concerns rise as transition period nears end
Europe

No-Brexit deal concerns rise as transition period nears end

No Brexit deal: Concerns over a no-Brexit deal increase as talks between EU and UK officials are dragging on 

Officials from both the European Union and the United Kingdom have expressed concerns over finalising a Brexit divorce deal, noting that the coming week is particularly crucial with less than 50 days left for the transition period to end. 

In the coming days, chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier will try to bridge their differences as pressure over a Brexit agreement looms on. As talks with the European Union are dragging on, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing increased pressure as he faces a tricky time for his leadership. Amid this crucial week, Johnson is self-isolating at his official residency after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 

Negotiators from the UK and the EU are gathering in Brussels this week for more talks to find a solution to differences over fishing rights, governance and competition rules in their future deal. A number of informal deadlines for a trade agreement have already passed. Experts suggest that if these differences are not bridged by the end of this year, no trade agreement will be formalised which will eventually result in higher costs for exporters on both sides.

Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost on Sunday took to Twitter, saying that some progress has been made in a positive direction in recent days.

While Brussels officials are asserting that the UK Prime Minister must take the first step in reaching an agreement, their British counterparts are dismissing the stance. According to a report by The Guardian, senior officials have stated that Prime Minister Johnson is determined not to compromise over Britain’s terms for exiting the European Union.

The UK government is also fearing a power struggle after one of Boris Johnson’s closest aides, Lee Cain, announced his resignation as the Director of Communications last week. Dominic Cummings, another high-profile aide of the British PM, also left Downing Street on Saturday amid the power struggle. Both Mr Cummings and Mr Cain have been instrumental to the Brexit outcome as they worked with Johnson in the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 European Union (EU) referendum.

It has been almost five years since the Brexit referendum campaign began and Britain and the EU negotiators have yet not worked out a deal to operate the nearly $1 billion in trade per year. Meanwhile, Ireland has said that there are around 7-10 days to figure out a way to unlock a trade agreement even as a senior EU official asserted that it may be too late to put a deal into force.

EU, UK fail to reach Brexit breakthrough amid intense talks
Europe

EU, UK fail to reach Brexit breakthrough amid intense talks

Even after intensified negotiations between EU and UK, a Brexit breakthrough is still not in sight.

While trade talks have intensified between Britain and European Union negotiators in Brussels in recent days, a breakthrough in the Brexit deal is still not in sight. As per media reports, the EU and Britain have failed to reach an agreement on some of the most persistent points in the negotiations even after weeks of intensive talks in London. From differences over fisheries and protecting trillions of dollars of the trade from disruption to ensuring fair competition and settling disputes at all fronts, both sides are yet to set basic governance structure to proceed with the trade deal.

“There is some progress being made, but it’s far from concluded yet,” said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney signaling that time may run out to strike a deal.

Recently, Brussels negotiators dismissed reports claiming that an agreement has been reached between the two sides on the fishing industry, with European officials confirming that the central issue is still open for talks. Brussels has also asserted that no future Brexit trade deal can be agreed upon with the United Kingdom if there is no deal on fishing.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement treaty signed by the UK and the EU in January, Northern Ireland will remain within the ambit of the EU customs union and will follow the bloc’s rules for its agricultural and manufactured goods. This decision was taken to maintain peace between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and to keep the border between the two sides open.

Noting that the clock is ticking, EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost are engaged in talks to finalize a trade deal such that it can be ratified by the end of this year.

In lieu of China imposing new law in Hong Kong, UK to offer “citizenship route” to HK citizens
Asia Pacific Focus

In lieu of China imposing new law in Hong Kong, UK to offer “citizenship route” to HK citizens

China has been facing criticism over the new law imposing on Hong Kong that would devoid the country of its “independent” status and freedom to “protest”, with HK coming directly under the jurisdiction of China mainland.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Times in an interview that UK would offer a route of citizenship to HK residents in case the security law by China is imposed on the country.

UK and other allies like U.S. and Australia are already discussing on the mode of action and change in relations with HK, if China imposes the new law on Hong Kong – in which case the same relations with HK would be unlawful as would be undermining Beijing’s authority.

On Wednesday, UK PM Boris Johnson confirmed that in case of law imposition, the Hong Kong citizens with BNO (British National Overseas) passports would be allowed to enter UK without any visa and allowed to stay up to a year, as against 6 months as per earlier laws. The passport holders would be further allowed to work in UK as an extension to immigration rights.

Approximately 350,000 Hong Kong citizens have a valid BNO passport and more than 2.6 million are eligible for it.

PM Boris Johnson clarified that if need be Britain would take this step for HK citizens willingly and would not “walk away”.

“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative,” PM Johnson told the Times.

Lord Patten, the last British governor to Hong Kong supported UK’s stand as being “politically and morally right.” He accused China of its continuous “bullying” tactics. He said that it is not against China but the fact that China’s communist regime cannot stand the HK’s policies – that is everything which President Xi Jinping dislikes.

He further said that this is the “era marking beginning of realism with China.”

Hong Kong had been the colony of Britain which was handed over to China in 1997. According to the terms of treaty, Hong Kong enjoys certain freedoms which are devoid in China mainland. These set of freedom policies are set in a mini-constitution known as Basic Law.

BNO passports were granted to HK citizens who were born before handover to China in 1997. These passports allow holders to enjoy many perks and protection from UK foreign policies, they are still not eligible to work or stay for more than 6 months in UK.

The proposed action under immigration and citizenship route by UK for Hong Kong citizens is believed to offer some respite and opportunities for people fearing China law implementation.

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