EU’s Barnier says UK future at stake in Brexit vote

Michel Barnier: 'Rather than stay shoulder to shoulder with the Union, the British chose to be on their own again'. ( Reuters )
Updated 06 December 2018
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EU’s Barnier says UK future at stake in Brexit vote

  • The British parliament’s vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal will determine the future of the country
  • Barnier told the gathering of the European Committee of the Regions that it was key now that the withdrawal treaty agreed between Brussels and London be ratified

BRUSSELS: The British parliament’s vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal will determine the future of the country, the chief EU Brexit negotiator said on Thursday, insisting that the deal was the only route to secure an orderly withdrawal from the EU.
“If there is no withdrawal treaty, there is no transition, no basis of confidence that we need with the British regarding the future relationship,” Michel Barnier told representatives from cities and regions in the European Union.
Barnier told the gathering of the European Committee of the Regions that it was key now that the withdrawal treaty agreed between Brussels and London be ratified.
“Now is now the moment for everyone to bear their responsibilities. You know the British parliament will give its verdict on this text and on the future relationship in the coming days. It is a vote in which the future of their country is at stake.”
The British parliament is due to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal next Tuesday, with the odds looking stacked against May’s government winning that vote.
Many of May’s Conservatives are particularly skeptical about the fallback arrangement, or “backstop,” to guarantee that there is no return to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, seen as essential to preserving peace.
Supporters of a clean break with the EU say the backstop could leave Britain forced to accept EU regulations indefinitely, or Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of Britain.
“This backstop,” said Barnier. “We will do everything we can to avoid using it.”
Barnier repeated his view that the Brexit deal that May wants the British parliament to back is the best Britain will get to arrange its orderly withdrawal from the EU.
“The agreement that is on the table — the withdrawal agreement and the agreement on the future relationship — are, in our view, the only and best possible to organize an orderly withdrawal,” he said.


Filipino rebel chiefs become officials under peace deal

President Rodrigo Duterte, political leaders and officials flash the peace sign following Friday’s oath-taking ceremony in Manila. (AP)
Updated 22 February 2019
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Filipino rebel chiefs become officials under peace deal

  • It is a very difficult and challenging process, says MILF spokesman

MANILA: Some of the fiercest Muslim rebel commanders in the southern Philippines were sworn in Friday as administrators of a new Muslim autonomous region in a delicate milestone to settle one of Asia’s longest-raging rebellions.

President Rodrigo Duterte led a ceremony to name Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Murad Ebrahim and some of his top commanders as among 80 administrators of a transition government for the five-province region called Bangsamoro.

About 12,000 combatants with thousands of firearms are to be demobilized starting this year under the peace deal.  Thousands of other guerrillas would disarm if agreements under the deal would be followed, including providing the insurgents with livelihood to help them return to normal life.

“We would like to see an end of the violence,” Duterte said. 

“After all, we go to war and shoot each other counting our victories not by the progress or development of the place but by the dead bodies that were strewn around during the violent years.”

About 150,000 people have died in the conflict over several decades and stunted development in the resource-rich region. 

Duterte promised adequate resources, a daunting problem in the past.

The Philippine and Western governments and the guerrillas see an effective Muslim autonomy as an antidote to nearly half a century of secessionist violence, which Daesh could exploit to gain a foothold.

“The dream that we have fought for is now happening and there’s no more reason for us to carry our guns and continue the war,” rebel forces spokesman Von Al-Haq said in an interview ahead of the ceremony.

Several commanders long wanted for deadly attacks were given safety passes to be able to travel to Manila and join the ceremony, including Abdullah Macapaar, who uses the nom de guerre Commander Bravo, Al-Haq said. 

Known for his fiery rhetoric while wearing his camouflage uniform and brandishing his assault rifle and grenades, Macapaar will be one of the 41 regional administrators from the rebel front.

Duterte will pick his representatives to fill the rest of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, which will also act as a regional Parliament with Murad as the chief minister until regular officials are elected in 2022.

Members of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a 1996 autonomy deal that has largely been seen as a failure, will also be given seats in the autonomous government.

Disgruntled fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front broke off and formed new armed groups, including the notorious Abu Sayyaf, which turned to terrorism and banditry after losing its commanders early in battle. 

The Abu Sayyaf has been blacklisted by the US as a terrorist organization and has been suspected of staging a suspected Jan. 27 suicide bombing that killed 23 mostly churchgoers in a Roman Catholic cathedral on southern Jolo island.

“We have already seen the pitfalls,” Al-Haq said, acknowledging that the violence would not stop overnight because of the presence of the Abu Sayyaf and other armed groups, some linked to Daesh. 

“It’s a very difficult and challenging process.”