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Brexit: Britain, EU begin new era of relations



Brexit: Britain, EU begin new era of relations

…As Afghan security forces kill 18 Taliban terrorists***

Four-and-a-half years after a British referendum on membership in the European Union (EU), Brexit is finally a reality after Britain left the single market at the stroke of midnight CET (2300 GMT) on New Year’s Eve.

Never before had an EU member state filed for divorce.

The separation took years of messy negotiations before finally, at the last moment, a breakthrough trade deal worth 660 billion pounds (900 billion dollars) was struck on Christmas Eve.

Writing in the Telegraph newspaper on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as a “big win for both sides of the Channel.”

“For us, it means the end of the rancorous bickering about ‘Europe’ that has bedeviled our politics for so long,” he said.

“It means the end of that uneasy feeling that we were constantly being asked to sign up for the details of a project – a giant federal fusion of states – in which we didn’t really believe and hadn’t really bargained for.”

But he added that the new deal does not mean Britons “will be less European,” echoing comments his father, Stanley, gave to a French radio station on New Year’s Eve.

“On the contrary, we will remain the second-biggest contributor to NATO … with our armed services fortified in the recent spending review with the biggest-ever uplift since the Cold War,” he added.

The pact averts tariffs and quotas on goods, sparing businesses on both sides seismic upheaval.

As of New Year’s Day, the two closely intertwined partners began a new era in their relations of much looser cooperation, governed mainly by the new Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

Freedom of movement to live and work has ended, though short-term travel stays largely visa-free.

Goods will be more heavily controlled, both at British-EU frontiers and within Britain – at the Irish sea border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Businesses on both sides now have to jump through hoops to prove they qualify for tariff exemption. Moreover, key decisions are still to be made deciding the fate of many service sector companies.

However, the much-feared backlogs of goods at borders due to increased red tape was not immediately visible. Early January is a typically slow moment for freight.

Over in Folkestone, in the south-eastern county of Kent, Slavi Ivanov Shumeykov was the first driver through the Eurotunnel just after 11 pm on Thursday, the Press Association said.

John Keefe, the spokesperson for the tunnel’s operator, told dpa that Shumeykov was “so thrilled” to be the first driver through the tunnel.

“He was returning to Belgium after making a delivery to the UK,” he said.

Speaking about the traffic this morning, Keefe added it had been “very light” overnight and on Friday.

“Our customers predicted all the stockpiling before Christmas in preparation for the end of the transition, traffic would be light for the first weeks of January,” he told dpa.

“The new barcode scanning and numberplate recognition systems [installed for Brexit] showed that they don’t add any time to the journey for a truck through the Channel tunnel.”

A last-minute deal between Spain and Britain struck on Thursday also allows for continued free movement between Gibraltar and Spain.

As the first day of the new year progressed, the blocked roads and delays to international transport many had feared also failed to materialize in northern France.

A spokesperson for the department there told dpa that traffic was flowing smoothly across the channel. French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said things were running as well as possible, in comments to French news agency AFP.

The first ferry carrying lorries reached Calais from Britain on Friday morning, and only three of the 36 were subject to additional checks.

Calais port chief Jean-Marc Puissesseau told dpa before the turn of the year that traffic should run almost as normal, if customs declarations were complete. Otherwise, additional checks would be carried out if companies failed to complete the paperwork, he said.

In another development, eighteen Taliban terrorists were killed in an airstrike after Afghan security forces foiled an attack on security checkpoints in the eastern province of Nangarhar, authorities said on Friday.

Nangarhar Governor Ziaulhaq Amarkhil said the incident occurred in the Wali Naw area of Pachiragam district late on Thursday.

“Eighteen Taliban insurgents were killed in an airstrike in Pachiragam district,” Amarkhil said, as the Taliban attempted to attack the security posts, but their plans were thwarted by the Afghan forces airstrike.

The governor added that there were no civilian casualties during the incident.

Also read: Military neutralises 2, 403 criminals in 10 months – DHQ

Afghanistan continues to be mired in violence despite on-going peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar’s capital Doha.

The peace talks began in September, 2020 but have yet to bear any significant fruit.




dpa with additional reports from ANI

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EU planning to send more migrants back to home countries



EU planning to send more migrants back to home countries

 European Union migration ministers met on Thursday to discuss visa restrictions and better coordination inside the bloc.

The meeting focused on ways to be able to send more people with no right to asylum in Europe back to their home countries including Iraq.

Three years after the 27-nation EU agreed to restrict visas for countries deemed failing to cooperate on taking their people back, only Gambia had been formally punished.

The EU’s executive European Commission proposed similar steps vis-a-vis Iraq, Senegal and Bangladesh, though two EU officials said cooperation with Dhaka on returning people has since improved.

Still, the EU’s overall rate of effective returns stood at 21 percent in 2021, according to Eurostat data, the latest available.

One of the EU officials said “that is a level that member states consider unacceptably low.

“Immigration is a highly politically sensitive topic in the bloc where member countries would much rather discuss stepping up returns, as well as reducing irregular immigration in the first place.

“It will be better than to revive their bitter feuds over how to share out the task of caring for those who make it to Europe and win the right to stay.’’

The commission said in a discussion paper for the ministers, which was seen by Reuters that “establishing an effective and common EU system for returns is a central pillar of well-functioning and credible migration and asylum systems.’’

Some 160,000 people made it across the Mediterranean in 2022, according to U.N. data, the main route to Europe for people fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia.

On top of that, nearly 8 million Ukrainian refugees were also registered across Europe.

The ministers meet two weeks before the 27 EU national leaders gather in Brussels to discuss migration, and are also expected to call to send more people away.

“Swift action is needed to ensure effective returns from the European Union to countries of origin using as leverage all relevant EU policies,” read a draft of their joint statement, which was also seen by Reuters.

Inside the EU, however, there are insufficient resources and coordination between different parts of government to ensure each person with no right to stay is effectively returned or deported, according to the Commission.

“Insufficient cooperation of countries of origin is an additional challenge,” it added, naming problems including recognising and issuing identity and travel documents.

However, pressure from migration chiefs to punish some third countries with visa restrictions has in the past run against the EU’s own foreign and development ministers or failed due to conflicting agendas of various EU countries.

There had therefore, not been enough majority among EU countries so far to punish another country apart from Gambia, where people can no longer get multiple entry visas to the bloc and face a longer wait.

While EU countries including Austria and Hungary loudly protest against the mainly Muslim, irregular immigration from the Middle East and North Africa, Germany is among those seeking to open up their job market to much-needed workers from outside the bloc. 

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Killing of journalists up by 50% in 2022 – UN



Killing of journalists up by 50% in 2022 – UN

The United Nations (UN) said on Tuesday that the killing of journalists worldwide significantly increased by 50 per cent in 2022 following a decline over the previous three years.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), in its 2021-2022 freedom of expression report, released on Tuesday said 86 journalists were killed in 2022.

Accounting to the agency, the figure amounted to the killing of one journalist every four days.

The report added that the number of killings rose from 55 in 2021.

The findings highlight the grave risks and vulnerabilities that journalists continue to face in the course of their work, the agency said.

“Authorities must step up their efforts to stop these crimes and ensure their perpetrators are punished because indifference is a major factor in this climate of violence,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, said.

The UNESCO chief described the findings as “alarming”.

The United Nations culture agency noted that nearly half of the journalists killed were targeted while off duty.

It stated that some were attacked while travelling, or in parking lots or other public places where they were not on assignment, while others were in their homes at the time of their killing.

The report warned that this implies that “there are no safe spaces for journalists, even in their spare time”.

Despite progress in the past five years, the rate of impunity for journalist killings remains “shockingly high” at 86 per cent.

Combating impunity remains a pressing commitment on which international cooperation must be further mobilised, the organisation said.

In addition to killing, journalists in 2022 also were victims of other forms of violence.

This included enforced disappearance, kidnapping, arbitrary detention, legal harassment and digital violence, with women particularly being targeted.

The UNESCO study highlighted challenges for journalists, pointing out that the weaponisation of defamation laws, cyber laws, and anti “fake news” legislation, are being used as a means of limiting freedom of speech and creating a toxic environment for journalists to operate in.

UNESCO found that Latin America and the Caribbean were the deadliest for journalists in 2022 with 44 killings, over half of all of those killed worldwide.

Worldwide, the deadliest individual countries were Mexico, with 19 killings, Ukraine with 10 and Haiti with nine. Asia and the Pacific registered 16 killings, while 11 were killed in Eastern Europe.

While the number of journalists killed in countries in conflict rose to 23 in 2022, compared with 20 the previous year, the global increase was primarily driven by killings in non-conflict countries.

This number almost doubled from 35 cases in 2021 to 61 in 2022, representing three-quarters of all killings last year.

Some of the reasons the journalists were killed ranged from reprisals for their reporting of organised crime and armed conflict to the rise of extremism.

Others were killed for covering sensitive issues such as corruption, environmental crime, abuse of power, and protests

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U.S., UK vow to maintain Ukraine support ‘for as long as it takes’



U.S., UK vow to maintain Ukraine support ‘for as long as it takes’

The United States has signalled readiness to further step up its military assistance for Ukraine as Britain and America vowed to maintain their support in the struggle against Russia “for as long as it takes.”

Following talks in Washington with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, U.S.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed UK’s decision to supply Kyiv with British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

He indicated that the U.S. would be making further announcements in the coming days, with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin due to host talks with key allies in Ramstein in Germany later this week.

“We have continuously provided what Ukraine needs and we are doing it in a way that makes sure we are responsive to what is actually happening on the battlefield as well as projecting where it might go,” he said.

“We are determined to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to succeed on the battlefield.”

While Britain has promised to send 14 Challenger 2s, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for some 300 modern Western battle tanks to enable his forces to take the offensive against the Russian aggressor.

In practice, this is likely to mean US Abrams tanks and German Leopard 2s – or a combination of the two – which are potentially available in far greater numbers than the Challenger 2.

Cleverly, who is in Washington to urge the Americans to go “further and faster” in their support for Ukraine, praised U.S. efforts to date pointing out that it was the biggest single supplier of assistance – both military and economic – to Ukraine.

He said the U.S. and UK have worked “hand in glove” – along with other allies – since the start of the conflict to ensure Ukraine had the support it needed.

“Never in living memory has Russia been more isolated and the Atlantic alliance more united,” he said.

“If Putin believed that the world would succumb to Ukraine fatigue and lose the will to resist his ambitions then that was once again another colossal misjudgment on his part.”

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