EU ‘completely united’ ahead of Brexit talks

EU ‘completely united’ ahead of Brexit talks
German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech on Europe at the Bundestag, the German lower house of parliament ahead of a EU summit in Brussels. (AFP)
Updated 27 April 2017

EU ‘completely united’ ahead of Brexit talks

EU ‘completely united’ ahead of Brexit talks

LUXEMBOURG: The EU is “completely united” on Brexit ahead of a summit this weekend when leaders will approve red lines for two years of tough talks with London, the bloc’s presidency said Thursday.
Ministers from the remaining 27 countries formally met without Britain for the first time for a final check of the guidelines before Saturday’s summit in Brussels.
“It seems that at the moment we are completely united on everything,” Maltese deputy prime minister Louis Grech, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, told reporters at the meeting in Luxembourg when asked if there were any divisions.
“Naturally we have to protect the EU’s interests.”
In recent days the European Union has hardened its position in the negotiating guidelines for what promise to be difficult talks ahead of Britain’s departure from the bloc in March 2019.
It made new demands on Britain’s financial services industry, on EU citizens having the right to permanent residence after living in Britain for five years, and on the need for Britain’s exit bill to cover the EU’s budget up to 2020, a year after Britain leaves.
The EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said “we are ready, we are ready” when asked how preparations for the talks were going.
Barnier will officially get his mandate to start talks with London on May 22, although actual negotiations are not expected until after Britain’s general election on June 8.
Grech said Thursday’s meeting was “quite unique” as the EU 27 were formally meeting for the first time after Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the two-year divorce process on March 29.
Previous such meetings without Britain since the June 2016 Brexit referendum have been informal, or not officially recognized under the EU’s rules.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Barnier held “constructive” talks with May in London on Wednesday, Juncker’s spokesman said.
Juncker stressed the EU’s position that Britain must agree on the terms of the divorce, including its exit bill, before talks on any future EU-UK trade deal can start.
But he said it was “not realistic” to expect an agreement on future EU-UK relations by September or October 2018, which Brussels says is the latest to allow any deal to be approved by the European Parliament.


Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Updated 51 min 7 sec ago

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot
  • The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers
  • Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight

MOSCOW: Moscow began distributing the Sputnik V COVID-19 shot via 70 clinics on Saturday, marking Russia’s first mass vaccination against the disease, the city’s coronavirus task force said.
The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they ran the highest risk of exposure to the disease.
“You are working at an educational institution and have top-priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, free of charge,” read a phone text message received by one Muscovite, an elementary school teacher, early on Saturday and seen by Reuters.
Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight, up from 6,868 a day before and well above the daily tallies of around 700 seen in early September.
“Over the first five hours, 5,000 people signed up for the jab — teachers, doctors, social workers, those who are today risking their health and lives the most,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his personal website on Friday.
The age for those receiving shots is capped at 60. People with certain underlying health conditions, pregnant women and those who have had a respiratory illness for the past two weeks are barred from vaccination.
Russia has developed two COVID-19 vaccines, Sputnik V which is backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and another developed by Siberia’s Vector Institute, with final trials for the both yet to be completed.
Scientists have raised concerns about the speed at which Russia has worked, giving the regulatory go-ahead for its vaccines and launching mass vaccinations before full trials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed.
The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two injections, with the second dose is expected to be given 21 days after the first.
Moscow closed down all public places including parks and cafes, with exception for delivery, in late March, with police patrolling the streets looking for whose violating the rules. Restrictions were eased from mid-June, however.
Russia as a whole reported 28,782 new infections on Saturday, its highest daily tally, pushing the national total to 2,431,731, the fourth-highest in the world.
In October, certain restrictions such as remote learning for some secondary school children and a 30% limit on the number of workers allowed in offices were introduced again.