British PM Johnson says Irish backstop must be abolished

Robie de Guzman   •   July 26, 2019   •   833

British prime minister Boris Johnson making his first statement as prime minister in parliament. | Courtesy: Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the European Union on Thursday (July 25) that the Irish border backstop would have to be struck out of the Brexit divorce agreement if there was to be an orderly exit with a deal.

Johnson told parliament the Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, must be abolished.

“It must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop,” Johnson said in his first speech as prime minister.

The Irish backstop is contained in a protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement which Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, agreed to in November.

It is the most contentious part of the deal for British lawmakers who fear it will slice Northern Ireland off from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Johnson’s government does not have a majority in parliament, so it rules with the help of 10 Northern Irish lawmakers from the Democratic Unionist Party, who vehemently oppose the backstop.

Johnson said Britain had to boost its preparations for leaving the European Union without an exit agreement, saying that while the country was more prepared than some thought, it was not as ready as it should be.

In response, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that they will oppose any Brexit deal brought forward by Johnson if it does not protect jobs, workers rights and the environment.

“And if he (Johnson) has the confidence to put that decision back to the people, we will campaign to ‘Remain’,” Corbyn told parliament.

Johnson’s somewhat flamboyant response was to question Corbyn’s “terrible metamorphosis” from a “long standing eurosceptic” into a “remainer”.

Sitting close to Johnson throughout was Jacob Rees-Mogg who made his debut as a member of the British government on Thursday, embodying a radical shift towards Brexiteers under new prime minister. (REUTERS)

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18 countries issue joint statement supporting WHO; criticize US withdrawal

UNTV News   •   July 13, 2020

A total of 18 countries in Europe, the Caribbean, and South America convened a video conference and issued a joint statement on July 10, stating their strong support for the United Nations, especially the World Health Organization (WHO), and criticizing U.S. withdrawal from WHO.

The meeting was initiated by the European Union, France, and Spain. The EU countries participating in the meeting include Germany, Croatia, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden, while the Latin American countries attending the conference are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Dominica.

The 18 countries believed that WHO plays a key role in the global collaborative fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooperation and solidarity are at the core of responding to the pandemic.

The countries jointly support WHO in carrying out coordinated actions, conducting a fair, independent and comprehensive assessment and summarizing the experience of the international community in responding to the pandemic. (Reuters)

EU sets ‘safe’ travel list, excluding United States

UNTV News   •   July 1, 2020

The European Union has excluded the United States from its initial “safe list” of countries from which the bloc will allow non-essential travel from Wednesday (July 1).

The 27-member bloc gave approval on Tuesday (June 30) to leisure or business travel from 14 countries beyond its borders, the Council of the EU, which represents EU governments, said in a statement.

The countries are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

China has also been provisionally approved, although travel would only open up if Chinese authorities also allowed in EU visitors. Reciprocity is a condition of being on the list.

Russia, Brazil and Turkey, along with the United States, are among countries whose containment of the virus is considered worse than that of the EU average and so will have to wait at least two weeks. The bloc will carry out fortnightly reviews.

The move is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations, particularly countries in southern Europe hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It acts as a recommendation to EU members, meaning they could potentially set restrictions on those entering from the 14 nations and will almost certainly not allow access to travelers from other countries. (Reuters)

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Venezuela’s Maduro orders EU envoy to leave the country

UNTV News   •   June 30, 2020

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday (June 29) ordered the European Union envoy to leave the country, hours after the EU announced sanctions against several officials loyal to the socialist leader.

The EU subjected 11 officials to financial sanctions, citing their actions against the democratic functioning of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

The European bloc earlier this month said a decision by the South American nation’s Supreme Court in May to ratify an ally of Maduro as president of the National Assembly was illegitimate. Opposition leader Juan Guaido was the rightful congressional president following his election by the majority of members in January, not the court-approved Luis Parra, the EU said.

Parra was among those named in Monday’s sanctions, along with Franklyn Duarte and Jose Gregorio Noriega, who were named as vice-presidents of the assembly in the May court ruling.

Maduro gave the EU envoy, Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, 72 hours to leave the country after the sanctions were announced.

“A plane can be loaned to her to leave,” he said during an appearance on Venezuelan state TV.

Maduro also said his government was reserving diplomatic action in the case against the Spanish ambassador in Caracas, Jesus Silva, whom he said was “an accomplice of the criminal and terrorist Leopoldo Lopez, as published in the Wall Street Journal, for the plan to assassinate me, to assassinate the country’s top military and political leader.”

Last week, the U.S. newspaper published a report citing sources close to the opposition leader Lopez, indicating that he had come into contact with several security firms for an armed action in Venezuela. (Reuters)

(Production: Efrain Otero, Liamar Ramos)

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