Brexit to take full effect as UK leaves EU single market

Image Caption : UK chief trade negotiator David Frost and British Ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow look on as Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs the Brexit trade deal with the EU at number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain December 30, 2020. (Reuters)
Image Caption : UK chief trade negotiator David Frost and British Ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow look on as Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs the Brexit trade deal with the EU at number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain December 30, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 31 December 2020

Brexit to take full effect as UK leaves EU single market

Brexit to take full effect as UK leaves EU single market

LONDON: Brexit becomes a reality on Thursday as Britain leaves Europe’s customs union and single market, ending nearly half a century of often turbulent ties with its closest neighbors.
The UK’s tortuous departure from the European Union takes full effect when Big Ben strikes 11:00 p.m. (2300 GMT) in central London, just as most of the European mainland ushers in 2021 at midnight.
Brexit has dominated British politics since the country’s narrow vote to leave the bloc in June 2016, opening deep political and social wounds that still remain raw.
Legally, Britain left on January 31 but has been in a standstill transition period during fractious talks to a secure a free-trade agreement with Brussels, which was finally clinched on Christmas Eve.
Once the transition ends, EU rules will no longer apply, with the immediate consequence being an end to the free movement of more than 500 million people between Britain and 27 EU states.
Customs border checks will be back for the first time in decades, and despite the free-trade deal, queues and disruption from additional paperwork are expected.
Britain — a financial and diplomatic big-hitter, and major NATO power — is the first member state to leave the EU, which was set up to forge unity after the horrors of World War II.
The EU has lost 66 million people and an economy worth $2.85 trillion, but Brexit, with its appeal to nationalist populism, also triggered fears other disgruntled members could follow suit.
Leaders in both London and Brussels signalled their wish to draw a line.
“It’s been a long road. It’s time now to put Brexit behind us. Our future is made in Europe,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday, as she signed the trade pact.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Brexit was designed to resolve “the old, tired, vexed question of Britain’s political relations with Europe, which has bedevilled our post-war history.”
Thursday “marks a new beginning in our country’s history and a new relationship with the EU as their biggest ally,” he said after British parliament voted to back the trade deal.
“This moment is finally upon us and now is the time to seize it.”
Unlike in January, when flag-waving Brexiteers led by populist anti-EU former lawmaker Nigel Farage cheered, and pro-EU “remainers” mourned, no formal events are planned for the end of the transition.
Public gatherings are banned due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed more than 72,000 lives and infected more than 2.4 million in Britain, including Johnson himself.
But Johnson is looking not only to a future free of Covid but also of rules set in Brussels, as Britain forges its own path for the first time since it joined the old European Economic Community in 1973.
On Wednesday, he hailed regulatory approval of Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine, and a “new beginning” for a prosperous, more globally focused Britain.
As well as ensuring tariff- and quota-free access to the EU’s 450 million consumers, Britain has recently signed trade deals with countries including Japan, Canada, Singapore and Turkey.
It is also eyeing another with India, where Johnson plans to make his first major trip as prime minister next month, and with incoming US president Joe Biden’s administration.
In the short term, all eyes will be closer to home and focused on how life outside the EU plays out in practical terms.
That includes disruption at the ports, which have stoked fears of food and medicine shortages, as well as delays to holidaymakers and business travelers used to seamless travel in the EU.
British fishermen are disgruntled at a compromise to allow continued access to EU boats in British waters.
The key financial services sector also faces an anxious wait to learn on what basis it can keep dealing with Europe, after being largely omitted from the trade deal.
Northern Ireland’s border with EU member state Ireland will be closely watched to ensure movement is unrestricted — a key plank of a 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of violence over British rule.
And in Scotland, where most opposed Brexit, Johnson faces a potential constitutional headache from a resurgent independence movement.


Italy gives COVID green light to six non-EU tourist destinations

Updated 6 sec ago

Italy gives COVID green light to six non-EU tourist destinations

Italy gives COVID green light to six non-EU tourist destinations
MILAN: Italy’s health ministry said on Tuesday it had given the go-ahead for travel to six non-European tourist spots without the need for quarantine as a COVID-19 precaution either on arrival or return.
Italians will be allowed to travel to the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Egypt (but only Sharm El Sheikh and Marsa Alam), Dominican Republic and Aruba on what the ministry called controlled tourist itineraries.
These popular destinations for Italians seeking winter sunshine mark an exception from other places outside the European Union, which require quarantine on return to Italy.
Everyone leaving for the selected countries must have a ‘Green Pass’ showing COVID immunity — either due to vaccination or previous infection — and must also present a negative swab at least 48 hours before departure, according to the order signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza.
Once back in Italy, people will not be required to undergo quarantine if they have presented another negative test, conducted not more than 48 hours before boarding their plane.
These so-called COVID-free tourist corridors have been set up on an experimental basis, the health ministry said.

Lava from Spanish island volcano rolls slowly toward the sea

Lava from Spanish island volcano rolls slowly toward the sea
Updated 28 September 2021

Lava from Spanish island volcano rolls slowly toward the sea

Lava from Spanish island volcano rolls slowly toward the sea
  • Scientists said it was impossible to estimate when the black-and-red stream of molten rock would reach the shore.
  • Authorities said the lava had moved on the island of La Palma to within 800 meters (875 yards) of the Atlantic Ocean as of Tuesday morning

LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Canary Islands: Lava flowing from a volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands picked up its pace on its way to the sea Tuesday.
Scientists said it was impossible to estimate when the black-and-red stream of molten rock would reach the shore.
Authorities said the lava had moved on the island of La Palma to within 800 meters (875 yards) of the Atlantic Ocean as of Tuesday morning, nine days after the volcano’s eruption. When it eventually meets sea water, the lava could trigger explosions and the release of toxic gas.
By the afternoon, officials said various factors dictated the unpredictable speed of the lava flow, including its departure from a path over an earlier flow that had hardened. The river of cooled lava had helped the moving flow slide along.
“The lava cools down as time passes and it meets uneven ground, which slows it down,” said Miguel Ángel Morcuende, technical director of the Canary Islands emergency volcano response department. “And if it comes off the highway it was going along, that slows it even more because it spreads out wider.”
A small hill and a built-up area also stood in the lava’s way, and the shore area is flatter than the hills the lava has been flowing down.
For days, officials have nervously awaited the time when lava from the Sept. 19 eruption reaches the Atlantic, but the volcano has been erratic. After calming down on Monday, the volcano became more explosive again overnight.
Authorities said they don’t expect the slow-moving lava to create a large disruption on the coast. But Eugenio Fraile, a researcher at the Spanish Oceanography Institute, told Cadena Ser radio that only scientists wearing protective gear will be inside a security perimeter when the flow hits the ocean.
The National Geographic Institute detected six earthquakes Tuesday in the area of the eruption, with the strongest measured at magnitude 3.3.
La Palma, home to about 85,000 people, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa. The island is roughly 35 kilometers (22 miles) long and 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide at its broadest point.
Lava from the eruption has devoured everything in its path, destroying 589 buildings and 21 kilometers (13 miles) of roads on La Palma. The lava now covers 258 hectares (637 acres), mostly farmland, according to a European Union satellite monitoring agency.
No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, thanks to the prompt evacuations of over 6,000 people.
But local people have lost their homes and their livelihoods at the same time. Farming is one of the island’s economic mainstays, along with tourism, and the lava and ash has ruined crops and irrigation systems, endangered aviation and poses a significant health risk to those nearby.
No flights went in or out of La Palma’s airport for a fourth straight day because of a huge ash cloud. Volcanic ash is hazardous for aircraft engines.
The Spanish government announced after its weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday it’s providing an immediate grant of 10.5 million euros ($12.3 million) to buy 107 properties to rehouse local people and also provide them with income aid.
More aid, including for the rebuilding of public infrastructure, will be sent once the current emergency is over, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said.
The volcano has so far spewed out more than 46 million cubic meters (1.6 billion cubic feet) of molten rock, according to the Canary Island Volcanology Institute.


Greece: Afghan refugees fly to Portugal for resettlement

Greece: Afghan refugees fly to Portugal for resettlement
Updated 28 September 2021

Greece: Afghan refugees fly to Portugal for resettlement

Greece: Afghan refugees fly to Portugal for resettlement
  • The Afghans traveled to Greece before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August
  • Another 43 are expected to fly to Portugal in the coming weeks, Greek officials said

ATHENS, Greece:
Authorities in Greece said that 41 Afghan refugees flew from Athens to Portugal on Tuesday, as part of a bilateral agreement to resettle 1,000 people who have been granted asylum.
The Afghans traveled to Greece before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. Another 43 are expected to fly to Portugal in the coming weeks, Greek officials said.
Athens is seeking to reduce the number of refugees living in the country through bilateral agreements with other European Union members.
Greece has the fifth-highest number of pending asylum applications among EU countries, following Germany, France, Spain and Italy, according to figures from the bloc reported for the end of June.
Athens has toughened its policy on illegal migration in recent years, stepping up controls at its land and sea borders with Turkey.
Earlier Tuesday, 11 unattended migrant minors flew to Paris as part of a separate relocation program.


Pregnant mum, kids among 277 rescued off Spain coast

Pregnant mum, kids among 277 rescued off Spain coast
Updated 28 September 2021

Pregnant mum, kids among 277 rescued off Spain coast

Pregnant mum, kids among 277 rescued off Spain coast
  • Nearly 184 migrants were pulled to safety from boats in waters near the Balearics
  • The woman, who "was eight months pregnant," was one of those who reached the Alicante coastline, a Red Cross spokeswoman told AFP

MADRID: A pregnant Algerian mother and her five children were among 277 migrants rescued off the coast of mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands in the past 24 hours, officials said Tuesday.
Nearly two-thirds of them were pulled to safety from boats in waters near the Balearics, while another 91 were rescued off the coast of Alicante in southeastern Spain.
The sea route to mainland Spain and its Balearic and Canary Islands is fraught with danger, with the International Organization for Migration saying at least 1,025 people have died in 2021 in “the deadliest year on the migratory route to Spain.”
The woman, who “was eight months pregnant,” was one of those who reached the Alicante coastline, a Red Cross spokeswoman told AFP, saying she had been taken to hospital suffering from stomach pains.
Most of them were from Algeria although one boat was carrying refugees from Syria, she said.
“The first boat was found near Santa Pola with four women and six minors on board, including a baby of seven months, while the others were between four and six,” she said.
Of the 23 on board, “most of them were Syrians.”
Spain’s Salvamento Maritimo coast guard said six vessels were rescued, all of which had apparently set sail from the Algerian coast, which at its closest lies around 270 kilometers (170 miles) from Alicante.
Meanwhile, the coast guard also rescued 13 vessels off the Balearic Isles in less than 24 hours, pulling 176 people — including 11 women — to safety, the Spanish government’s delegation in the islands told AFP.
Last week, the bodies of eight migrants, including three women and a child, washed up on the shores of southern Spain near the city of Almeria, the local authorities said. The boats had likely set off from Morocco or Algeria.
Spanish interior ministry figures to September 14 show that a total of 10,701 migrants have managed to reach mainland Spain or the Balearic Islands by sea.
They also show 11,060 people reached the Canary Islands from the coast of west Africa, more than double the 5,090 in 2020.
Figures from Caminando Fronteras, a Spanish NGO that monitors SOS calls from migrants at sea, suggest that more than 2,000 people have died or gone missing on the Atlantic route this year.


Man charged with London teacher’s murder to plead not guilty

Man charged with London teacher’s murder to plead not guilty
Updated 28 September 2021

Man charged with London teacher’s murder to plead not guilty

Man charged with London teacher’s murder to plead not guilty
  • Delivery driver Koci Selamaj is accused of killing Sabina Nessa, who disappeared while walking to meet a friend

LONDON: A man charged with the murder of a 28-year-old school teacher in London plans to plead not guilty, a defense lawyer said Tuesday.
Delivery driver Koci Selamaj, 36, is accused of killing Sabina Nessa, who disappeared while walking to meet a friend at a pub a few minutes from her home in southeast London on Sept. 17. Nessa’s body was found in a local park the next day.
Her killing has renewed concerns that women aren’t safe on the streets of Britain’s capital. Selamaj, from Eastbourne in southern England, was arrested in the seaside town on Sunday.
Selamaj made his first court appearance Tuesday at Willesden Magistrates’ Court in London. His lawyer, Aiden Harvey, told the court his client intended to plead not guilty. The court remanded Selamaj into custody. He is scheduled to appear again Thursday for a bail hearing at the Central Criminal Court.
Nessa’s death came six months after the abduction, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in south London by a serving police officer. The Everard case sparked large protests to denounce violence against women and girls.
On Friday, hundreds of people held a candlelight vigil in Nessa’s memory, demanding an end to violence against women.