No deal for Brexit, but parties ‘positive’ about progress

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker address a media conference as they meet for Brexit negotiations on Monday at the European Commission in Brussels. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2017
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No deal for Brexit, but parties ‘positive’ about progress

LONDON: The EU and Britain concluded a day of talks on Monday without a deal in terms of the Brexit divorce.
However, the British Prime Minister Theresa May and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said they were hopeful of striking a deal that would allow talks to advance to further stages.
The meetings on Monday saw the parties fail to reach complete progress on the main divorce issues: The growing exit bill, rights of citizens in the respective territories and guarantees of a transparent border with Ireland.
The EU leaders want a deal on these issues in time for them to agree at a summit on Dec. 14-15 on next-stage talks. “Despite our best efforts and the significant process we and our teams have made over the past days on the remaining withdrawal issues, it was not possible to reach an agreement,” said Juncker at a joint news conference with May. “This is not a failure,” Juncker added.
“I am also confident we will conclude this positively,” said May.
The Irish agreement under discussion would allow for the border between EU member Ireland and the UK territory of Northern Ireland to remain transparent for trade purposes. However, concerns have been raised by Northern Ireland’s DUP Party — upon which May’s minority government relies to stay in power — that any “differences” between the treatment of Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain would not be acceptable.
Despite the “positivity” of Monday’s talks, the lack of progress so far has raised concerns that Britain may not have a deal on key issues by the time it officially leaves on March 29, 2019.
According to Professor Iain Begg, professorial research fellow at the European Institute at the London School of Economics, the time pressure to reach a decision is critically mounting.
“Each day that goes by without a deal increases pressure on the British government and reduces May’s power for negotiation by compressing the negotiation timetables,” Begg told Arab News.
“The Brexit divorce bill just keeps going up,” he said, noting however that the divorce bill — reportedly amounting to $40 billion — had probably now “reached its limit.”
On the thorny issue of Ireland, Begg said: “Northern Ireland doesn’t want to be different from the UK but it also doesn’t want a ‘hard border’ with Ireland, as that would contravene the Good Friday agreement. In the end, it may come down to a decision about who gets the least upset.”
He added: “The British were ill-equipped to deal with the negotiations of Brexit because (former UK Prime Minister) David Cameron did not ask researchers to prepare a Brexit strategy before the referendum. The negotiations started with no plan in place on the British side … but the European side had set up a very clear mandate. Britain has been playing catch-up.”


Kosovo police question several women who returned from Syria

Updated 56 min 55 sec ago
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Kosovo police question several women who returned from Syria

  • Kosovo brought back 110 of its citizens from Syria, including 32 women, 74 children and four militants who had gone to fight in the country’s civil war
  • After the collapse of Daesh’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return

PRISTINA: Kosovo police and prosecutors have interrogated several of the women who returned from Syria by plane on Saturday, lawyers who took part in the questioning said on Monday.
Kosovo brought back 110 of its citizens from Syria, including 32 women, 74 children and four militants who had gone to fight in the country’s civil war.
The four fighters were immediately arrested and detained for 30 days awaiting questioning, while women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Center in the outskirts of Pristina.
“I represented a woman who came back from Syria. She is accused for being part of the terrorist groups and she was in very bad health condition,” lawyer Fehmie Gashi-Bytyqi told Reuters.
A number of visitors were seen in front of the Foreign Detention Center on Monday morning, hoping to see relatives. Children, some small girls wearing hijabs, were outside in the sunny weather playing soccer with police officers.
Doctors were constantly entering and leaving the buildings to carry out medical checks on the returnees.
Merita Bajraktari, who was among the many female lawyers present, said: “My client is accused of being part of terrorist groups and she is also the wife of another person who was returned to Kosovo on Saturday where he was arrested.”
After the collapse of Daesh’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return.
The population of Kosovo is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens had traveled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.
Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.
International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in jail.