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.


Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

Updated 14 December 2018
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Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

  • Congress party accused Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense as a domestic partner
  • India’s Supreme Court ruled there was no evidence of commercial favoritism

DELHI: India’s Supreme Court said Friday it would not probe the government’s multi-billion dollar decision to buy French fighter jets.
The opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense, owned by billionaire Anil Ambani, as a domestic partner.
Reliance has no aeronautical expertise and was chosen ahead of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which does, triggering allegations of a scam.
But the court said there was no evidence of commercial favoritism.
“Having heard the matter in detail, we find no reason for any intervention by this court on the sensitive issue. Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters,” the 32-page verdict said.
“We can’t compel the government to purchase 126 aircraft and it’s not proper for the court to examine each aspect of this case. It isn’t a job of the court to compare pricing details. The country cannot afford to be unprepared or underprepared in a situation where our adversaries are stated to have acquired not only fourth generation, but even fifth generation aircrafts, of which we have none,” the court added.
Indian defense procurement rules state that a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean it off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, which makes the Rafale jets, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip it was Reliance Defense that got the contract.
“In our opinion, the Supreme Court judgment is totally wrong. The campaign will certainly not drop and we will decide if we will file a review petition,” one of the main petitioners Prashant Bhushan said after the verdict.
“This isn’t the first time when the Apex court has failed us in ordering a probe in cases of high-level corruption,” he told reporters.
Congress said the Supreme Court was not the forum to rule on such a sensitive defense contract.
“The verdict of the Supreme Court is a validation of what the Congress party has stated months ago. Only forum is a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which can probe the entire corruption in Rafale deal,” said the party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala.
Ambani denied there had been a scam, saying the allegations were politically motivated, while the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
“Truth always triumphs. Court’s judgment on the Rafale deal exposes the campaign of misinformation spearheaded by Congress president for political gains,” president of the BJP Amit Shah said.
Dr. Satish Mishra, from the Observer Research Foundation think-tank, said that the court verdict did not mean that the Rafale deal was beyond reproach.
“It only means that the court does not have enough evidence to order a probe into the deal,” he told Arab News. “If the government does not have anything to hide then it should order an independent inquiry or set up a joint parliamentary team to clear the doubts raised by the opposition, otherwise the charges will remain in the public domain. The BJP is in a defensive mode after the defeat in the regional elections. Allegations of corruptions have sullied the image of Modi, the only asset that the party has. I don’t think the verdict in any way vindicates the PM or the BJP.”