No deal for Brexit, but parties ‘positive’ about progress

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker address a media conference as they meet for Brexit negotiations on Monday at the European Commission in Brussels. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2017

No deal for Brexit, but parties ‘positive’ about progress

LONDON: The EU and Britain concluded a day of talks on Monday without a deal in terms of the Brexit divorce.
However, the British Prime Minister Theresa May and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said they were hopeful of striking a deal that would allow talks to advance to further stages.
The meetings on Monday saw the parties fail to reach complete progress on the main divorce issues: The growing exit bill, rights of citizens in the respective territories and guarantees of a transparent border with Ireland.
The EU leaders want a deal on these issues in time for them to agree at a summit on Dec. 14-15 on next-stage talks. “Despite our best efforts and the significant process we and our teams have made over the past days on the remaining withdrawal issues, it was not possible to reach an agreement,” said Juncker at a joint news conference with May. “This is not a failure,” Juncker added.
“I am also confident we will conclude this positively,” said May.
The Irish agreement under discussion would allow for the border between EU member Ireland and the UK territory of Northern Ireland to remain transparent for trade purposes. However, concerns have been raised by Northern Ireland’s DUP Party — upon which May’s minority government relies to stay in power — that any “differences” between the treatment of Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain would not be acceptable.
Despite the “positivity” of Monday’s talks, the lack of progress so far has raised concerns that Britain may not have a deal on key issues by the time it officially leaves on March 29, 2019.
According to Professor Iain Begg, professorial research fellow at the European Institute at the London School of Economics, the time pressure to reach a decision is critically mounting.
“Each day that goes by without a deal increases pressure on the British government and reduces May’s power for negotiation by compressing the negotiation timetables,” Begg told Arab News.
“The Brexit divorce bill just keeps going up,” he said, noting however that the divorce bill — reportedly amounting to $40 billion — had probably now “reached its limit.”
On the thorny issue of Ireland, Begg said: “Northern Ireland doesn’t want to be different from the UK but it also doesn’t want a ‘hard border’ with Ireland, as that would contravene the Good Friday agreement. In the end, it may come down to a decision about who gets the least upset.”
He added: “The British were ill-equipped to deal with the negotiations of Brexit because (former UK Prime Minister) David Cameron did not ask researchers to prepare a Brexit strategy before the referendum. The negotiations started with no plan in place on the British side … but the European side had set up a very clear mandate. Britain has been playing catch-up.”


At least 28 killed in Afghan mosque blast

Updated 18 October 2019

At least 28 killed in Afghan mosque blast

  • The explosion took place in Haska Mina district of eastern Nangarhar province, and wounded at least 55 people
  • The dead were “all worshippers”

JALALABAD: At least 28 worshippers were killed and dozens wounded by a blast inside an Afghan mosque during Friday prayers, officials said, a day after the United Nations said violence in the country had reached "unacceptable" levels.
The explosion, which witnesses said collapsed the mosque's roof, took place in eastern Nangarhar province and wounded at least 55 people, provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.
He said the dead were "all worshippers" in the blast in Haska Mina district, roughly 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the provincial capital Jalalabad.
A doctor at a hospital in Haska Mina gave a slightly higher toll, telling AFP that "around" 32 bodies had been brought in, along with 50 wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Both the Taliban and Daesh are active in Nangarhar province.
Witnesses said the roof of the mosque had fallen through after the "loud" explosion, the nature of which was not immediately clear.
"Dozens of people were killed and wounded and were taken in several ambulances," Haji Amanat Khan, a 65-year-old local resident, told AFP.
The blast came after the UN released a new report on Thursday saying an "unprecedented" number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September.
The report, which also charts violence throughout 2019 so far, underscores how "Afghans have been exposed to extreme levels of violence for many years" despite promises by all sides to "prevent and mitigate harm to civilians".
It also noted the absurdity of the ever-increasing price paid by civilians given the widespread belief that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won by either side.
"Civilian casualties are totally unacceptable," said the UN's special representative in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, adding they demonstrate the importance of talks leading to a ceasefire and a permanent political settlement.
The figures - 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injured from July 1 until September 30 - represent a 42 percent increase compared to the same time period last year.
The UN laid most of the blame for the spike at the feet of "anti-government elements" such as the Taliban, who have been carrying out a bloody insurgency in Afghanistan for more than 18 years.
July alone saw more casualties than in any other month on record since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began documenting the violence in 2009.
The first six months of 2019 had seen casualties drop slightly compared to previous years.
But the violence has surged so far in the third quarter that it yanked the overall total for the year back on par with the bloodiest since NATO withdrew its combat forces at the end of 2014.