EU pressing UK to speed up Brexit negotiations

Michel Barnier urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to speed up Brexit negotiations and define her vision for the future relationship between the country and the 27 remaining member states. (AFP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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EU pressing UK to speed up Brexit negotiations

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator warned Britain Tuesday against undercutting EU rules and regulations that underpin anything from social protections to food security when it leaves the bloc.
Michel Barnier said any attempt by Britain to gain a competitive edge through the use of what is termed “dumping” would jeopardize hopes the country has for a smooth and orderly withdrawal from the EU.
Barnier lauded the rules the EU created together with Britain for 44 years to create the “social market economy” that shelters citizens and workers from excesses of deregulation.
“Does Britain also want to leave that model and go toward regulatory competition — call it dumping — against us,” he asked legislators at the European Parliament in Strasbourg France.
“I recommend that we keep a close eye on the regulatory divergence, this dumping,” he said, warning that it could become a key obstacle if Britain wants to get a smooth exit from the EU.
Key departure conditions will need to be approved unanimously by the EU nations and the European Parliament.
Barnier also urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to speed up the Brexit negotiations and define her vision for the future relationship between the country and the 27 remaining member states. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019 but is looking to agree a transition agreement for a period after Brexit in order to smooth out the impact.
That frustration was reinforced by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who also told EU legislators that “there is increasing urgency to negotiate this orderly withdrawal.”
Juncker said the EU needs “further clarity” on such issues like a trading relationship and the EU’s only land border with the UK on the island of Ireland.
Barnier added that British expectations were still far too high and that the country won’t be allowed to keep those bits of membership it wants while shedding others.
“It is an astonishing concept to believe that the 27 members and your parliament could accept convergence when the UK wants it and at the same time leave it the possibility to diverge when it give Britain an advantage,” he told the legislators.
Britain has said it no longer wants to be part of the EU’s seamless and tariff-free internal market and the customs union. That’s pushed the EU to consider a traditional free trade association as the best option available to both sides.
Barnier also made it clear that if Britain wanted to remain in some EU agencies like those on chemicals, aviation or medicines, it would also have to recognize the authority of the EU’s top court in those areas.
“You cannot be part of our agencies without the legal commitment to apply EU law and the jurisdiction of the court of justice,” Barnier said.
Overall, he added, “it is time to face up to the hard facts.”


Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

Updated 7 min 46 sec ago
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Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

  • Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state
  • A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit the ruling coalition in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, blaming its regional partner for a rise in militancy and growing security concerns.
Shortly after the BJP withdrew support from the coalition it formed in early 2015, Mehbooba Mufti, head of its alliance partner the People's Democratic Party (PDP), resigned as the state’s chief minister.
The state will now be ruled by the governor until elections take place.
BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav said on Tuesday that continuing in government had become “untenable.”
“The security scenario has deteriorated causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life and free speech,” he said. “There is grave concern over the deteriorating security situation in the state.”
Kashmir has been at the heart of a dispute between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over territorial rights. In past months there have been several outbreaks of violence. More than 130 people have been killed in the state this year and at least 120 men have joined extrremist groups.
The BJP move came a day after New Delhi ended a cease-fire against militants for Ramadan.
Last week, extremists shot and killed the editor of a local Kashmiri newspaper and abducted and killed a Kashmiri soldier on his way home to celebrate Eid.
Experts say a political split has been on the cards.
“For the BJP it had become impossible to continue,” said Happymon Jacob, associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “Ideologically, the two are completely different parties.”
By aligning with PDP — viewed by many as a soft separatist party because it supports talks with Pakistan — the BJP lost face with its Hindu right-wing base, he said.
“But the biggest loser is the PDP. Mufti has no face left, no political mileage, and she will have no stakes in Jammu and Kashmir whenever fresh elections take place.”
The BJP, on the other hand, has now strengthened its rule in the state since the governor does what New Delhi tells him, Jacob said. That includes appointing advisers suggested by the BJP to act as de-facto ministers until a new government is formed.
“They are the victors here,” said Jacob.
Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state.
“We had always said muscular security policy will not work in Jammu and Kashmir. The state can’t be treated as enemy territory. Reconciliation is the key,” she told The Indian Express.
The BJP-PDP alliance, the report quoted her saying, was not for power but to get confidence-building measures put in place.
A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire. At the time, BJP’s state unit said the truce would “demoralize security forces.”