Tag: Downing Street

Brexit deal on verge of being finalised as deadline nears
Europe

Brexit deal on verge of being finalised as deadline nears

Brexit deal: EU and UK negotiators have finalised a possible Brexit deal with talks on key issues still underway

EU and UK negotiators have indicated that a trade and security agreement is close to being finalised after marathon talks over a Brexit deal. As per media reports, both sides have managed to reach a breakthrough by finalising as much as 95 percent of the EU-UK free trade deal. After the Coronavirus pandemic 

However, the risk of a no-deal Brexit is still looming upon the two sides as negotiations on some key issues are not showing necessary progress. Amid the prevailing Coronavirus scare, much of the negotiations are being conducted virtually.

Reportedly, Ilze Juhansone, senior-most official of the European Commission, has told Brussels representatives that talks on the majority of the 11 key negotiation issues are progressing with few points remaining for discussion.

Addressing a news briefing on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the progress made during this week’s talks even after the Coronavirus pandemic halted the process. She further added that there are still some metres to the finish line since a lot of work is still left to do in the deal. 

“Within the frame of the level playing field, progress, for example, has been made on the question of state aid, but there are still quite some metres to the finish line so there’s still a lot of work to do,” she said. 

As per a Daily Express report, some progress has also been made on the contentious issue of EU’s access to UK fishing waters and a mechanism to prevent distortion of trading through undercutting standards. However, Downing Street is standing its ground, insisting Brussels to change its stance in the debate over fishing rights and state aid in a bid to deal the deal. At the same time, Brussels has also informed that the progress is going slowly to reach a deal before the year end when the transition period will come to an end. It will also slow down the ratification process of a potential agreement and can lead to extending the negotiations to December. 

It is also likely that all member states not be able scrutinise the 600-page document or even translate the treaty into all 24 official languages of the bloc. France has called for a discussion on legal aspects of the deal to approve the document.

Due to these concerns, EU officials are reportedly working on emergency steps to approve a Brexit trade deal that will be acceptable to both sides. Meanwhile, chief negotiators Michel Barnier and Lord Frost are expected to carry on with the negotiations in the coming days in a bid to draw a conclusive agreement. 

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.

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