Merkel, Irish PM say solution needed for Northern Ireland border issue

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar review the guard of honor at the chancellery in Berlin. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Merkel, Irish PM say solution needed for Northern Ireland border issue

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Tuesday that the Northern Ireland border issue must still be resolved, after a deal was reached on a Brexit transition phase.
“We heard yesterday with great joy that there was a consensus... between the EU and the UK on the transitional phase,” Merkel said two days ahead of a crunch EU summit on ties with post-Brexit Britain.
“But of course we know that there are still a lot of problems to resolve, especially the border issue in Northern Ireland, which is very sensitive and central,” she told a joint press conference in Berlin.
Britain and the EU on Monday reached a landmark deal on the transition phase from March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020, under which Britain won’t take part in EU decision-making but will keep the benefits of the single market and customs union.
The EU insists that any divorce deal must ensure there is no “hard border” between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, saying it could compromise the 1998 peace accord in the British province.
Under Monday’s deal, Britain agreed to the EU’s “backstop” plan for the status of the Irish border, under which Northern Ireland would remain part of the bloc’s customs union if there is no better idea.
Varadkar said that a hard border “can be avoided and will be avoided” and welcomed the fact that London had now accepted the backstop option.
He said the border issue would hinge on the future EU-UK trading relationship.
“If it is something that is very close to a customs union then I think that would solve a lot of the problems related to the Irish border,” he said.
“But if it is something much less and much weaker than that, then it would not.”
To bring clarity, said Varadkar, “we need more detailed written proposals from the UK government, and written in such a way that they can be made legally binding and work in the context of European law.”


‘Cut off hands’: Mexican presidential candidate’s plan to deter thieves

Updated 43 min 13 sec ago
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‘Cut off hands’: Mexican presidential candidate’s plan to deter thieves

  • Jaime Rodriguez, an independent known as “El Bronco,” who is trailing in opinion polls, made the proposal during a discussion about corruption in the first televised debate
  • Crime and corruption are top issues in the election campaign, with candidates under pressure to offer a way to end massive public graft and lower the number of murders from historic highs

MEXICO CITY: Thieves should have their hands chopped off, a Mexican presidential candidate said in a televised debate on Sunday, provoking disbelief from a moderator and setting off a storm of comments and jokes on Twitter.
Jaime Rodriguez, an independent known as “El Bronco,” who is trailing in opinion polls, made the proposal during a discussion about corruption in the first televised debate among the five presidential candidates ahead of the July 1 election.
“We have to cut off the hands of those who rob. It’s that simple,” said the 59-year-old, adding that he would ask Congress to pass a law backing his idea.
Taken aback, the moderator Denise Maerker twice asked him if he was speaking literally, before checking again that he really meant what he had said.
“That’s right. That’s right,” he replied.
Memes based on Rodriguez’s comments rapidly spread through Twitter, among them an image of his face superimposed on a picture of what appeared to be an Islamist militant chopping off a man’s hand.
“El Bronco” was trending ahead of the other candidates on Twitter during the debate.
Crime and corruption are top issues in the election campaign, with candidates under pressure to offer a way to end massive public graft and lower the number of murders from historic highs.
Rodriguez’s comments followed a long discussion about a proposal by election front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to explore a vaguely defined amnesty to end a drug war, in which about 200,000 people have been killed in a decade.
The idea is unlikely to gain much support in Congress, but if it were adopted would be a major shift in approach for Mexico, which prohibits the death penalty and torture.
“It is not a bad thing, countries that have left corruption behind have done it,” said Rodriguez, without giving details. Saudi Arabia and Iran are among a handful of countries in the world that permit amputation as a punishment.
It was not immediately clear if the punishment envisaged by Rodriguez would be limited to public officials convicted of graft or apply to criminals generally.
Elected in 2015 as Mexico’s first independent governor, Rodriguez has taken leave from the job to run for president. He is in fifth place in most opinion polls.