Lack of clear UK stance making Brexit talks tough - French PM

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. (Reuters)
Updated 16 September 2017

Lack of clear UK stance making Brexit talks tough - French PM

BERLIN: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said during a visit to Berlin on Friday that Britain had still not clearly defined its positions on Brexit and that this was making negotiations with the EU-27 more difficult.
Answering questions from an audience in Berlin after a speech on the French government’s reform drive, Philippe rejected a suggestion that other European countries were being “tough” on Britain and said it bore blame for difficulties in the talks.
“Our aim is not to be tough with the British. What is true is that these are difficult negotiations,” Philippe said.
“And they are difficult, they have been made difficult, because the initial positions of British diplomats still need to be clearly defined to a certain extent,” he added, before heading to the chancellery for a meeting with Germany’s Angela Merkel.
Nearly three months into talks on the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union, the two sides have made little progress on the issues that Brussels wants resolved before talks on a future trading relationship begin.
These include expatriate citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the bill that London should pay its EU partners to settle existing financial commitments.
Philippe said he regretted Britain’s decision to leave the EU and, coming from Normandy, felt like he was among cousins when he traveled to the United Kingdom.
But he said it was important for the EU-27 and its lead negotiator, Frenchman Michel Barnier, to ensure that the interests of citizens on the continent were protected. For that, the bloc had to stick to its sequencing plan.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that the exit is done in an orderly manner,” Philippe said.


No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

Updated 22 min 43 sec ago

No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

  • Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017
  • The refugees asked Myanmar authorities to guarantee their safety and citizenship

TEKNAF, Bangladesh: A fresh push to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar appeared Thursday to fall flat, with no one turning up to hop on five buses and 10 trucks laid on by Bangladesh.
“We have been waiting since 9:00 am (0300 GMT) to take any willing refugees for repatriation,” Khaled Hossain, a Bangladesh official in charge of the Teknaf refugee camp, told AFP after over an hour of waiting.
“Nobody has yet turned up.”
Some 740,000 of the long-oppressed mostly Muslim Rohingya minority fled a military offensive in 2017 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that the United Nations has likened to ethnic cleansing, joining 200,000 already in Bangladesh.
Demanding that Buddhist-majority Myanmar guarantee their safety and citizenship, only a handful have returned from the vast camps in southeast Bangladesh where they have now lived for two years.
The latest repatriation attempt — a previous push failed in November — follows a visit last month to the camps by high-ranking officials from Myanmar led by Permanent Foreign Secretary Myint Thu.
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry forwarded a list of more than 22,000 refugees to Myanmar for verification and Naypyidaw cleared 3,450 individuals for “return.”
But on Wednesday, several Rohingya refugees whose names were listed told AFP that said they did not want to return unless their safety was ensured and they were granted citizenship.
“It is not safe to return to Myanmar,” one of them, Nur Islam, told AFP.
Officials from the UN and Bangladesh’s refugee commission have also been interviewing Rohingya families in the settlements to find out if they wanted to return.
“We have yet to get consent from any refugee family,” a UN official said Wednesday.
Rohingya community leader Jafar Alam told AFP the refugees had been gripped by fear since authorities announced the fresh repatriation process.
They also feared being sent to camps for internally displaced people (IDP) if they went back to Myanmar.
Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said they were “fully prepared” for the repatriation with security being tightened across the refugee settlements to prevent any violence or protests.
Officials said they would wait for a few more hours before deciding whether to postpone the repatriation move.
In New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that repatriations had to be “voluntary.”
“Any return should be voluntary and sustainable and in safety and in dignity to their place of origin and choice,” Dujarric told reporters.
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on the issue on Wednesday.
Sunday will mark the second anniversary of the crackdown that sparked the mass exodus to the Bangladesh camps.
The Rohingya are not recognized as an official minority by the Myanmar government, which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in Rakhine for generations.