Posts Tagged ‘Britain’

UK divorce negotiations with the EU — UK and European Court of Justice after Brexit — ECJ should no longer have “direct jurisdiction” in Britain

August 23, 2017

LONDON — Britain has outlined its stance on how disputes with the European Union should be resolved after Brexit, in a politically sensitive paper published on Wednesday.

The paper attempts to deal with one of the most thorny issues in divorce negotiations with the EU, and ranges from laying down red lines to the non-committal tabling of talking points.

Here are some of the key elements:


The paper reiterates the government’s position that the ECJ should no longer have “direct jurisdiction” in Britain after it leaves the EU in March 2019.

Citizens’ rights – which the EU argues must be guaranteed by the ECJ – would instead be enforced by the UK courts and ultimately the UK Supreme Court.

However, in cases involving the thousands of EU laws due to be transposed into UK law, the paper says pre-Brexit decisions by the ECJ should have the same status in Britain as UK Supreme Court decisions even after Britain leaves.

The UK will “engage constructively” to negotiate an agreement on the future role of the ECJ, and one that satisfies both the UK and the EU.


The paper offers examples of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms used in other international agreements which do not require the direct jurisdiction of the Luxembourg-based ECJ over other countries.

It said they had been included “purely illustratively”.

They include:

– Agreements between the EU and Moldova and the European Economic Area, which make use of concepts from EU law. Disputes can be referred to the ECJ for its interpretation.

– Other trade agreements, such as NAFTA, in which a committee is formed with equal representation of all parties. These can be supported by officials from all sides in “technical groups”.

– Trade agreements between the EU and Canada and the EU and Vietnam, which detail provisions for arbitration, such as the creation of an arbitration panel. However the paper said such a panel would not have the power to rule on interpretations of EU law.

– The European Economic Area agreement, and that between the EU and Iceland and Norway. They require parties to keep up to date with new ECJ decisions, so that these can be taken into account in disputes centered on provisions that are identical to EU law.

– A number of international deals which allow parties to seek compensation, suspend all or part of an agreement, retaliate or take measures to protect their own interests if one party violates the terms or a dispute settlement.

The paper repeatedly stressed that the only model without precedent would be one in which the highest court of one party acts as the main arbiter for disputes with another – a scenario Britain says would be the case if it remained under the “direct jurisdiction” of the ECJ.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; editing by Andrew Roche)


‘Climbdown’ for Britain over EU court role after Brexit — Or “Stabbed in the Back”?

August 23, 2017


© AFP/File / by Dario THUBURN | Britain is due to leave the European in March 2019

LONDON (AFP) – The European Court of Justice could wield influence in Britain even after Brexit through joint rulings with British officials, the government said on Wednesday in what critics described as a “climbdown”.The proposals outlined also left open the possibility of the ECJ having jurisdiction during any transition periods agreed for after Britain leaves the bloc and before a new UK-EU partnership comes into force.

Opposition lawmakers said the negotiating position was a reversal from the complete break previously advocated by Prime Minister Theresa May, who had said she would “bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain”.

The influence of the ECJ in Britain was a major bone of contention in last year’s EU referendum campaign in which supporters of a “Leave” vote had argued in favour of complete judicial sovereignty for Britain.

The government paper published on Wednesday said that only the ECJ’s “direct jurisdiction” would end.

“It is not necessary or appropriate for the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) to have direct jurisdiction over a non-member state… Such an arrangement would be unprecedented,” the Department for Exiting the EU said.

Britain said there were “existing ways of resolving disputes in international agreements, without the CJEU having direct jurisdiction”.

It outlined several precedents such as joint political committees and arbitration courts already used by the EU to enforce international agreements with third countries and said similar mechanisms could be used for Britain after Brexit.

– ‘Pie in the sky’ –

Even the modified proposals are likely to prove a bone of contention with the EU, which has argued for direct ECJ jurisdiction for example in cases involving European citizens living in Britain.

But the perception among government critics in Britain was of a softening of its position.

Pro-EU opposition Labour MP Chuka Umunna said the “sudden shifting of the goalposts to ending only the ‘direct’ jurisdiction of the ECJ suggests they are paving the way for some sort of climbdown”.

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, the most vocal pro-EU opposition party in parliament, said the proposals were a “sensible and long overdue climbdown”.

“The government seems to have belatedly accepted it won’t be possible to end the EU court’s influence in the UK without damaging our free trade and security cooperation,” he said in a statement.

Brexit junior minister Dominic Raab defended the government’s position saying it was “absolutely and wholesale wrong” to suggest that Britain would still have to respect the rulings of the ECJ.

But he added: “It makes sense for the UK to keep half an eye on the case law of the EU and for the EU to keep half an eye on the case law of the UK,” he told BBC Radio.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the BBC: “The idea that we are somehow going to wholly escape the influence of the European Court of Justice on our lives in this country is, I’m afraid, pie in the sky”.

“It’s going to continue in many areas to have a very profound influence, but of course the difference is going to be that we will no longer have any direct influence into the formation of that EU jurisprudence because we ourselves will no longer be appearing in front of the ECJ as an EU member,” he said.

by Dario THUBURN

Stocks steady with markets hopeful on US tax plan — But if U.S. Congress fails to act, Banks warn of trouble ahead

August 23, 2017


    23 August 2017 – 13H00
© AFP | Markets steadied after a rebound based on renewed optimism over chances President Donald Trump may succeed in reforming the US tax system.

LONDON (AFP) – European and Asian stock markets steadied Wednesday after a global equities rally driven by optimism over a US tax reform plan, but President Donald Trump’s comments about terminating a key trade agreement capped gains.The euro gained against the dollar following well-received eurozone data, analysts said.

“Manufacturing and services PMIs from the eurozone, Germany and France were all very strong and well above the level that separates growth from contraction, suggesting that the recovery is continuing to gain traction,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda trading group.

In London, British advertising giant WPP saw its share price slump almost 12 percent to 1,405 pence after the company cut its full-year revenue forecast.

“WPP is very much seen as the bellwether of the advertising industry and as such is widely regarded as a global economic barometer and so it is unsurprising the shares have reacted,” Graham Spooner, investment research analyst at The Share Centre, said in a client note.

Provident Financial won 1.1 percent to 596 pence, a day after the ailing UK lender’s share price had crashed 66 percent.

Overall, stock markets had chalked up a comeback Tuesday after struggling in recent weeks owing to a standoff between the US and North Korea, which had been compounded by last week’s terror attack in Barcelona.

The US president’s woes have fuelled speculation he will struggle to push through his market-friendly economy-boosting policies that fanned a global market rally in the months after his November election.

Despite ongoing chaos at the White House, markets have been heartened by reports suggesting that the Trump administration was making headway on a tax reform plan.

“Some of the US political uncertainty may have been removed by a report on the Trump administration making progress on tax reform, but a wait-and-see mood is strong ahead of Jackson Hole and tensions in North Korea still in place,” said Tsutomu Nakamura, strategist at Ueda Harlow Corp., referring to a central bankers meeting on Friday.

The yen rose as investors pushed into safer investments after Trump said in a US speech that he may end the North American Free Trade Agreement, and vowed to pressure Congress to fund a border wall with Mexico that was at the centre of his election campaign.

The stronger yen pared some gains in Tokyo where the benchmark Nikkei 225 index ended 0.3-percent higher Wednesday, while Seoul and Taipei edged up 0.1 percent and Singapore was flat.

But Shanghai ended 0.1-percent lower and Sydney slipped 0.2 percent.

Hong Kong’s stock market was closed as powerful Typhoon Hato brought the southern Chinese city to a standstill.

All eyes are on the Jackson Hole symposium in Wyoming at the end of the week, which brings together the world’s top central bank chiefs.

Much of the attention will be on Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen, with hopes for some clues about the bank’s plans to wind in its huge bond holdings.

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi’s speech will also be closely watched as Frankfurt-based policymakers consider cutting back their bond purchases.

– Key figures around 1015 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,379.18 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 12,223.04

Paris – CAC 40: FLAT at 5,132.31

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 3,454.63

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 19,434.64 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: closed

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,287.71

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1781 from $1.1764 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2796 from $1.2821

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.33 yen from 109.56 yen

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 30 cents at $51.57 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 18 cents at $47.65



NATO divided on Trump’s new Afghan course

August 23, 2017

Donald Trump’s ‘new strategy’ for Afghanistan receives mixed reactions in Europe, Kabul

The US has finally announced its “new strategy” for Afghanistan. Some at NATO have applauded the proposals, though Trump’s lack of specifics on troops leave NATO insiders and allies still wanting more clarity.

US soldiers on patrol near Kandahar, Afghanistan (Getty Images/AFP/Smialowski)

President Trump’s announcement on Monday of his new military strategy for Afghanistan could be considered a broken campaign pledge, since he had promised in 2016 to quit the war in Afghanistan. And NATO was listening to the US president’s speech for hard numbers that he didn’t offer. But Trump’s finger-pointing at Pakistan and renewed commitment to take aggressive action against Islamic insurgents drew kudos in Kabul.

“We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,” Trump declared. “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”

Despite not hearing concrete plans from Trump on how he’ll ensure a victory in Afghanistan, former NATO official Mohammed Shafiq Hamdam said what the speech did convey was much more important than what was missing. Hamdam, now an Afghan analyst living in Washington, DC, said the address was so highly anticipated that many of his Afghan counterparts tuned in to hear it live at 05:30 am Kabul time.

“It was a big day for Afghanistan,” Hamdam told DW from Kabul, which he was visiting. “We have never waited for any announcement for such a long period of time, but it was worth it. The Afghans feel so happy about this decision, and they are confident that the US and NATO allies will not abandon Afghanistan.”

Hamdam said he was gratified to hear Trump call out Pakistan’s support and sanctuary for the Taliban, a source of constant angst in Kabul but something US policymakers have often shied away from highlighting.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump said. “Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.”

Shortly after the president’s announcement, Hamdam seconded the call via Twitter for Pakistan to prove its dedication to regional and global stability.

.@POTUS: It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

“The strategy reflects exactly what the Afghans have urged for the last 16 years,” Hamdam said. “Afghanistan needed a regional solution, and Pakistan has been part of the problem forever. In particular since 2001, Pakistan hosted, trained, financed, equipped and politically supported Taliban and other insurgents and, gladly, this issue is clearly identified in this strategy.”

NATO will continue to wait for troop numbers

In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also welcomed President Trump’s “conditions-based approach” to Afghanistan and the region. “NATO remains fully committed to Afghanistan and I am looking forward to discussing the way ahead with Secretary Mattis and our allies and international partners,” Stoltenberg said in a statement. “NATO allies and partners have already committed to increasing our presence in Afghanistan. NATO currently has over 12,000 troops in the country.  In recent weeks, more than fifteen nations have pledged additional contributions to our Resolute Support Mission.”

The top US and NATO military commander of the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson, was more direct, saying the strategy means now the “Taliban cannot win militarily”.

But while an optimistic reading of the “conditions-based” phrase would mean the US will provide whatever resources are necessary to reduce the terrorist threat to a negligible level, NATO military planners must continue to wait on the specific resource numbers that the US will employ.

As early as the June defense ministers’ meeting, NATO expected the Trump administration to be able to tell allies how many US troops would remain in Afghanistan, whether as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission or under unilateral US command. Currently, of the more than 12,000 international forces, about two-thirds are American. The president has given no public indication of whether Nicholson will get the troops needed to turn the tide against the Taliban, which now controls more than 40 percent of Afghanistan.

Despite NATO leaders’ positive response to Trump’s announcement, leading Afghan journalist and commentator Bilal Sarwary feels the lack of direction for the military alliance just can’t be overlooked. “The situation on the ground is getting worse, and there was little appreciation by Trump of what’s actually happening on the ground,” Sarwary told DW from Kabul. “Similarly, I think the big challenge now is that, with the Taliban being so powerful in terms of enveloping major cities and launching attacks, being on the offensive, what sort of US involvement are we talking about? Will troops and advisers and special forces go to brigade level?”

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, shown here with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (picture-alliance/epa/J. Jalali)NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, shown here with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last year, says he welcomes a new US strategy conditioned on progress on the ground in Afghanistan

Germany, NATO allies still awaiting US lead

NATO allies typically wait to see what the Americans are doing before making their own commitments. While European allies made promises of troop numbers at a “force generation conference” in June, nothing will be finalized until US contributions are clear.

Trump asserted in his speech that his plan, once fleshed out, would find backing in Europe. “We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own,” he said. “We are confident they will.”

But NATO specialist Bruno Lete of the German Marshall Fund is skeptical there will be such enthusiasm. “Nearly a thousand European soldiers have died in Afghanistan to date,” Lete pointed out. “Europe sees little result and a country with an uncertain future. Hence, neither politicians or the public opinion in Europe feel much appetite to go down the military road again.”

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has already said clearly that Germany would not look kindly on such a troop increase request.

The German government welcomes Donald ‘s commitment for , but also says:  is not first in line to send more troops

Common ground on counterterrorism

On the contrary, Lete told DW, “there is a belief in Europe in the need to step up state-building efforts, but President Trump had little to say on this aspect in yesterday’s speech.” Lete expects common ground to be found in NATO’s increased efforts to train Afghan defense forces in counterterrorism, something he says “will certainly gain support here in Europe.”

Stoltenberg spoke with US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Sunday before the Trump speech and there are expectations there will be another such conversation in the very near future. But even without firm troop figures, NATO sources say, the fact that Trump has finally articulated a strategy that continues vigorous US military support is a step forward and a relief.

EU judges to have final say on British disputes? — Firestorm in Britain About Who Judges Who In Dispute Resolution

August 23, 2017
David Davis, the Brexit Secretary

Britain will be bound by future decisions of the European Court of Justice despite Brexit if it adopts arrangements outlined by ministers in a key negotiating document.

David Davis will publish a position paper on Wednesday which will state that the UK must no longer be under the “direct” jurisdiction of the ECJ after it leaves the EU.

However The Telegraph understands that the document, which sets out Britain’s negotiating position on dispute resolution, will highlight a series of existing arrangements where nations outside the EU “voluntarily” refer legal disagreements to the ECJ.

The twin towers of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg
The twin towers of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg

Under the arrangements, which currently apply to non-EU nations including Moldova, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, the ECJ makes “binding interpretations” in disputes.

The paper also highlights other arrangements which could “eliminate divergence” between the UK’s courts and the ECJ after Brexit in areas where…

Read the rest:


 BBC News

Brexit: No ‘direct jurisdiction’ for ECJ after Brexit, say ministers

Why the fuss about the European Court of Justice?

The UK will no longer be under the “direct jurisdiction” of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit, a government policy paper will say.

Ministers say they want a “special partnership” with the EU, but it is “neither necessary nor appropriate” for the ECJ to police it.

Critics say the word “direct” leaves room for the ECJ to still play a part.

The pro-EU Open Britain group said the phrase paved the way for a “climbdown” over the jurisdiction of the court.

But Justice Minister Dominic Raab has told the BBC: “We’re leaving the EU and that will mean leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

“The likely outcome, is we’ll need some form of arbitration.”

Arbitration is where disputes are settled by a neutral third party. The UK and the EU would each appoint arbitrators and agree on a third.

He said this would be a process that both sides would have confidence in.

He added this was different to the UK accepting the jurisdiction of ECJ which would be “lopsided and partisan and that’s not on the cards”.

When asked about the inclusion of the word “direct” – and whether this means the UK would still accept some jurisdiction of the ECJ – he said the UK will keep “half an eye on EU law”, as the EU will do on the UK.

But Labour MP Chuka Umunna, speaking on behalf of Open Britain, said: “Nothing the government says it wants to deliver from Brexit – be it on trade, citizens’ rights, or judicial co-operation – can be achieved without a dispute resolution system involving some role for European judges.”

Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab said jurisdiction of the ECJ will end, but there will likely be some form of international arbitration

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to take the UK out of the Luxembourg-based ECJ’s jurisdiction after Brexit.

At her party’s conference in October 2016, she said: “We are not leaving (the EU) only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That is not going to happen.”

And in January this year, in her Lancaster House speech, she reiterated this, saying: “So we will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.”

But the question of how future agreements between the UK and the EU will be enforced is proving contentious.

The policy paper will be released later as ministers argue there are plenty of other ways of resolving disputes without the European courts.

The ECJ is in charge of ensuring member states abide by EU law.

Its rulings are binding on all member states, and it also settles disputes between countries and EU institutions.

After the UK voted to leave the EU last year, Mrs May promised to make the UK a “fully independent, sovereign country”.

But pro-EU campaigners say the government made an “appalling error” by making leaving the ECJ a “red line” in Brexit negotiations, saying new courts will now be needed in all the areas it extends to, including trade, citizens’ rights and security.

European Court of Justice

  • Decides whether the institutions of the EU are acting legally, and settles disputes between them
  • Ensures that the member states of the EU are complying with their legal obligations as set out in the EU treaties; and allows member states to challenge EU legislation
  • Interprets EU law at the request of national courts

Brexit Secretary David Davis, who will resume negotiations with Brussels on 28 August, has spoken of the “arbitration arrangements” that will be needed in areas where the UK and the EU make new arrangements – but insists these will not involve the ECJ.

“If Manchester United goes to play Real Madrid, they don’t allow Real Madrid to nominate the referee,” he said last month.

Wednesday’s publication – the latest in a series of papers setting out the UK government’s stance on key issues – will say there are a “variety of precedents for resolving disputes that may arise between the UK and the EU” without the ECJ having direct jurisdiction.

These will need to include the free trade deal the UK hopes to strike with the EU to replace its membership of the single market.

Red lines ‘blurred’

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said: “The prime minister’s ideological insistence that there can be no future role whatsoever for the ECJ or any similar court-like body risks preventing the deal Britain needs.”

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said Mrs May’s “red lines are becoming more blurred by the day”, saying the ECJ had “served Britain’s interests well” and should not be “trashed”.

The Institute of Directors called for “flexibility and pragmatism” when leaving the ECJ’s jurisdiction.

“The emphasis here should be on ending its direct effect, not trying to throw off the influence of the court altogether,” it said.

David Davis and Michel Barnier
Brexit negotiators David Davis and Michel Barnier do not agree on the role of the European Court of Justice after Brexit. Credit PA

On Monday, the president of the court of the European Free Trade Area (Efta) – which governs Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway’s relationship with the single market – suggested his institution could be used.

But this could anger some Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, because the Efta court, also based in Luxembourg, tends to follow closely the ECJ with its rulings.

‘Offering certainty’

The ECJ has also emerged as the central stumbling block in reaching a deal on the rights of EU nationals after Brexit.

The EU side believes the ECJ should have a role in enforcing these rights – a proposal rejected by the UK.

The UK government said its paper on Wednesday would offer maximum certainty to businesses and individuals. It will also suggest that dispute resolution mechanisms could be tailored to the issue at stake in each agreement.

“It is in the interests of both the UK and the EU, and of our citizens and businesses, that the rights and obligations agreed between us can be relied upon and enforced in appropriate ways,” a spokeswoman said.

“It is also in everyone’s interest that, where disputes arise between the UK and the EU on the application or interpretation of these obligations, those disputes can be resolved efficiently and effectively.”

Trump’s Afghan strategy wins praise but won’t win the war against the Taliban — “The Americans have made clear they will not be fooled” — After this, the insurgency will endure

August 22, 2017

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

US President Donald J. Trump (left) greets military leaders before his speech on Afghanistan at the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia, USA on Aug 21, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

By Nirmal Ghosh

US Bureau Chief
The Straits Times

WASHINGTON – The new US strategy for Afghanistan announced by President Donald Trump late on Monday sets no time limits on its involvement, a change from past roadmaps for US military involvement.

The strategy seeks to take the fight back against the resurgent Taliban; pressures Pakistan to reduce its support for the Islamic militants and other terrorist groups; and asks India to step up its financial commitments to Afghanistan.

The strategy for what is now America’s longest war won praise from Republicans. Senator John McCain in a statement called it “long overdue”.

Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that basing the strategy on ground conditions rather than arbitrary numbers and timelines was the right approach.

Analysts noted that it avoided the mistake former President Barack Obama made when he signalled a time frame for the US’s withdrawal, emboldening the Taliban which the US drove out of power in 2001 in response to its sheltering of Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr Trump’s strategy also won praise for naming Pakistan as a safe haven for the Taleban. “The Americans have made clear they will not be fooled, they know what is happening on the ground,” an Asian security analyst told The Straits Times.

Analysts noted the inherent limits of military options, stressing that real stability depends on a wider regional diplomatic effort over a country which has historically been a graveyard for superpowers, and is a potential vortex drawing in other powers like China and Iran.

Nisha Biswal, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, now with the consultancy Albright-Stonebridge Group, wrote in an email: “While the President did reference Pakistan and India, he failed to address at all the important influence wielded by China, Russia, Turkey and Iran. In addition, the Central Asian States, a number of whom border Afghanistan, and others like Kazakhstan… were also ignored.”

“However, for Afghanistan to be successful, stable and economically viable, there must be a robust regional diplomatic strategy,” she wrote.

At worst, deploying around 4,000 additional troops and advisers and training the Afghan government’s regular forces and air force, will maintain the status quo with the Taleban.

At best it will push back the Taleban to some degree. The militants now control roughly 40 per cent of the country.

“The Taleban cannot seize power again in Kabul or in provincial capitals with the US staying in Afghanistan,” said the Asian analyst, who asked not to be named.

“The US is the main factor ensuring the Afghan government’s survival. General Nicholson wants additional troops on the ground to break the stalemate,” he said. General John Nicholson is commander of US troops in Afghanistan.

“Continued US presence at current or near current levels, while not enough to stabilise Afghanistan, can at least keep it from collapsing entirely,” Ms Biswal wrote.

“The President’s announcement will provide some reassurances to the region which feared a US vacuum.”

The US has also – though not for the first time – said an eventual negotiated solution would possibly include elements of the Taliban, but that would be for the Afghan government to decide.

But reconciling inherent contradictions remain a huge challenge. President Trump put Pakistan on notice over safe havens for the Taliban and other terrorist groups, but did not say what the consequences would be if the government did not acquiesce.

Getting Pakistan to reduce its support for the Taliban requires the Pakistani military leadership to shed its deep-seated strategic fear, unfounded or not, of Indian encirclement via Afghanistan.

Enhancing the capacity of Afghanistan’s regular forces presents the possibility of striking the Taliban inside Pakistan, across a border that is in many places disputed; this will feed Pakistani insecurities, analysts say.

India could raise developmental aid to Afghanistan but that alone is unlikely to dramatically alter the strategic goals of the Taleban and will also feed Pakistan’s fears. Pakistan, in response, can turn more to China, with which it building an increasingly close relationship.

“In his speech on Afghanistan, Trump mentions India, but not China. Beijing is far more critical to Afghanistan’s stability than New Delhi,” Tweeted Arif Rafiq, Fellow at the Washington-based Center for Global Policy. “China, not India, shares a physical border (with) Afghanistan.”

Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center, wrote in an email: “Sending several thousand more troops to Afghanistan won’t win the war. But it’s wrong to reflexively dismiss the utility of a modest troop increase.”

“More US troops can help enhance a training mission in Afghanistan that has actually made very real progress. It can focus on plugging the capacity gaps that remain, like intelligence collection and air support.”

But he added: “So long as Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary to the Taliban leadership, the insurgency will endure. Figuring out the Pakistan problem goes hand in hand with figuring out the overall Afghanistan problem.”

Donald Trump “goes against his own instincts” and commits more US troops to Afghanistan — Calls on Britain to follow suit

August 22, 2017

The Telegraph


Image may contain: 1 person, standing and suit

Donald Trump has vowed to win the war in Afghanistan by committing more US troops as he called on Nato allies such as Britain to increase troop numbers “in line with our own”.

The American President went against what he had previously said during the election campaign when he claimed the mission in Afghanistan was a waste of US efforts and vowed to pull troops out.

Yet in a surprise move President Trump claimed that a withdrawal of personnel would leave a power vacuum that to be filled by terrorists, as has happened in Iraq.

He added that the realities of life in the White House caused him to change his mind.

Mr Trump coupled his pledge with a demand for countries like Britain to do more.

In response Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, said the US commitment was “welcome” but stopped short of vowing to increase British troops beyond the additional 85 military advisers the UK has already pledged.

Michael Fallon

Michael Fallon CREDIT: AFP

He added: “The US commitment is very welcome.

“In my call with Secretary Mattis yesterday we agreed that despite the challenges, we have to stay the course in Afghanistan to help build up its fragile democracy and reduce the terrorist threat to the West.

“It’s in all our interests that Afghanistan becomes more prosperous and safer: that’s why we ‎announced our own troop increase back in June.”

Several administration officials said that up to 4,000 additional US troops would be deployed to the country to combat a resurgent Taliban and the growing number of Islamic State fighters in the country, although Mr Trump would not be drawn on numbers on Monday evening.

“We will ask our Nato allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with out own – we are confident they will,” Mr Trump said in an address to the nation from Fort Myer, near Washington DC.

There are currently up to 585 British troops stationed in Afghanistan alongside 8,400 American soldiers.

First lady Melania Trump stands with Ivanka Trump before President Donald Trump delivered remarks on American involvement in Afghanistan at the Fort Myer military base on August 21, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia

First lady Melania Trump stands with Ivanka Trump before President Donald Trump delivered remarks on American involvement in Afghanistan at the Fort Myer military base on August 21, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia CREDIT: GETTY

The president said that Pakistan should be doing more to tackle terrorist “safe havens”.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens,” the president said. “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour terrorists.”

And he warned the Afghan government that it should not view US support as a “blank check”.

“America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress,” he said.

“However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank cheque. The American people expect to see real reforms and real results.”

Mr Trump frequently questioned US policy in Afghanistan on the campaign trail.

He was previously skeptical about the merits of sending more troops to the front line of what is America’s longest military conflict and said the US should quickly pull out of the country.

However, he also vowed to start winning wars – and his military advisers appear to have convinced him that any victory against the Taliban and Isil factions would be impossible without more troops and resources.

US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks on America’s military involvement in Afghanistan at the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia, USA, 21 August 2017

US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks on America’s military involvement in Afghanistan at the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia, USA, 21 August 2017 CREDIT: EPA

Speaking after the president’s address, James Mattis, the defence secretary, said that America and several allies had committed to boosting their troop numbers in Afghanistan

“I have directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president’s strategy,” Mr Mattis said in a statement.

“I will be in consultation with the Secretary General of Nato and our allies – several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers.”

The president announced a strategic review shortly after his inauguration in January and later gave Mr Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan.

US Marines from Charlie 1/1 of the 15th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) fill sand bags around their light mortar position on the front lines of the US Marine Corps base in southern Afghanistan, December 1, 20

US Marines from Charlie 1/1 of the 15th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) fill sand bags around their light mortar position on the front lines of the US Marine Corps base in southern Afghanistan

“We’re not winning,” Mr Trump told advisers in July in relations to the 16-year conflict and reportedly questioned whether Gen John Nicholson, who leads US and international forces in Afghanistan, should be fired.

“I took over a mess, and we’re going to make it a lot less messy,” Mr Trump said earlier this month.

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US-South Korea hold military drills amid tension

August 21, 2017

BBC News

South Korean protestors hold placards that read "stop war exercise" during a rally denouncing the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) joint South Korea-US military exercise, near the US embassy in Seoul on 21 August 2017

The US and South Korea are conducting annual military drills which consistently infuriate Pyongyang, despite appeals to halt the exercise.

Last week North Korea appeared to back down from a threat to send missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam, but said it would watch US actions.

It has already condemned these drills as pouring “gasoline on fire”.

Washington describes the drills as defensive in nature, but the North sees them as preparation for invasion.

China and Russia had in July proposed a halt on military exercises in exchange for a freeze on missile tests.

But Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the military exercises were “not currently on the table as part of the negotiation at any level” and the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises were going ahead as planned.

About 17,500 US troops and 50,000 South Korean troops are involved in the exercises, which will last for about 10 days.

After North Korea’s threats against Guam and an almost unprecedented war of words over Pyongyang’s repeated missile tests, analysts have warned that the joint drills may be seen as a provocation at a particularly sensitive time.

On Sunday an editorial in North Korea’s official government newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said the exercises would worsen the state of the peninsula and warned of an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war”.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in responded on Monday that Pyongyang should not use the exercises “as a pretext for aggravating the situation”, reported Yonhap news agency.

The drills have also been met with some opposition in South Korea, where protests were held on Monday.

Observers have been watching the north and south watch each other for more than 60 years.

The US and South Korea hold two sets of war games every year, involving a massive number of troops and military hardware.

Foal Eagle/Key Resolve is usually held in spring, while Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) is in autumn.

Both involve land, sea and air military drills and computer simulations. Held in South Korea, they have also involved practice drills for terror and chemical attacks in recent years.

South Korean marines participate in landing operation referred to as Foal Eagle joint military exercise with US troops Pohang seashore on 2 April 2017 in Pohang, South Korea.
Foal Eagle, held earlier this year, saw US and South Korean troops practice a beach landing. GETTY IMAGES

They can also sometimes involve troops from other allies – last year’s UFG saw the participation of nine other countries.

What has the North said?

Both events routinely anger North Korea, which insists that the exercises are rehearsals for an invasion.

The country’s media rhetoric over the drills has steadily intensified over the past three years and these exercises are being portrayed as a particularly strong provocation, BBC Monitoring reports.

In 2014 North Korean media warned of an arms race but used comparatively restrained language, saying Pyongyang’s “self-defensive measures” – its nuclear and missile testing – would become “annual and regular” as long as the exercises continued.

The next year, state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper warned that the drills represented “deliberate defiance against our active efforts to ease tension”.

And in 2016, state-run paper Minju Joson warned that North Korea would “constantly strengthen our self-defensive nuclear deterrent” in response. Within weeks, Pyongyang tested a nuclear warhead.

Emergency services personnel wearing protective clothing participate in an anti-terror and anti-chemical terror exercise as part of the 2016 Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) at Yeoui subway station on August 23, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea.
Last year’s UFG saw an anti-terror drill in Seoul simulating a subway chemical attack. Getty

This year, Sunday’s Rodong Sinmun said the situation on the Korean peninsula was a “touch-and-go crisis that has never been experienced before”.

Earlier this year during Foal Eagle/Key Resolve, it warned it would “mercilessly foil the nuclear war racket of the aggressors with its treasured nuclear sword of justice”.

But while it has frequently threatened serious retaliation, North Korea usually ends up conducting shows of force, such as firing missiles or moving troops.

Last week, in what was seen as a de-escalation, leader Kim Jong-un said he would watch “a little more” before launching missiles in the direction of Guam.

US soldiers give first aid to a mock victim in a tent during a joint medical evacuation exercise as part of the annual massive military exercises, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, at a South Korean Army hospital in Goyang, northwest of Seoul, on 15 March 2017.
Medical evacuations are also practiced during the exercises. Getty

Have the drills caused conflict before?

Depending on the political climate, the drills have at times exacerbated tensions between the two sides.

The UFG drill in 2015 took place amid high tensions, which resulted in North and South Korea exchanging artillery fire across the border.

Military officials took the unusual step of halting the UFG while emergency talks were held between the North and South. The drill resumed several days later.

The US and South Korea say that the exercises are purely for defence purposes, and based out of a mutual defence agreement they signed in 1953.

They also say the exercises are necessary to strengthen their readiness in case of an external attack.


UK sets out Brexit wish list on goods sold to EU

August 21, 2017


© AFP/File / by Ben PERRY | A third round of Brexit negotiations is due to be held next week

LONDON (AFP) – British goods placed on the market before Brexit should be sold in EU countries under current conditions even after the UK leaves the bloc, the British government said on Monday.The government also emphasised that current negotiations about the divorce are “inextricably” linked to future trade arrangements and should therefore be discussed at the same time.

In a paper ahead of the next round of UK-EU talks next week, the government said: “We want to ensure that goods which are placed on the market before exit day can continue to be sold in the UK and EU, without any additional requirements or restrictions.

“This means that where products have gone through an authorisation process prior to exit, for example a type approval for a car, this approval should remain valid in both markets after exit,” it said.

Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis said setting out the proposals “will help give businesses and consumers certainty and confidence in the UK’s status as an economic powerhouse” following Britain’s departure.

“It is clear that our separation from the EU and future relationship are inextricably linked,” he said.

– ‘Clock is ticking’ –

But there was a cool response from Brussels.

European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein restated the EU position that there first has to be “sufficient progress” on three key issues: the rights of EU citizens, the financial settlement and the future of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.

“The important thing to realise is that the clock is ticking, that we have no time to lose and that we need to get on with it,” he said.

A third round of Brexit negotiations is due to be held next week.

Last week, Britain laid out its desire for a “temporary customs union” with the European Union after Brexit but EU officials dismissed the proposal as “fantasy”.

The government proposed to continue for around two years the kind of tariff-free arrangements that apply now to EU-UK trade in goods, again to give businesses more time to adapt to new post-Brexit systems.

Britain’s biggest lobby group, the CBI, welcomed the UK’s latest proposals, while urging swift agreement between London and Brussels.

“The only way to provide companies with the reassurance they need is through the urgent agreement of interim arrangements,” CBI director of campaigns John Foster said in a statement.

“This would ensure that goods and services can still flow freely giving companies the certainty they need to invest,” he said.


by Ben PERRY
BBC News
Brexit: UK publishes more EU negotiation plans
EU flag and Big BenImage copyrightPA

The UK government has set out proposals to ensure trade in goods and services can continue on the day the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

A position paper calls for goods already on the market to be allowed to remain on sale in the UK and EU without additional restrictions.

It also calls for consumer protections to remain in place.

The Brexit department aims to keep pressure on the EU ahead of the third round of talks in Brussels next week.

A second paper calling for a reciprocal agreement to ensure continued confidentiality for official documents shared by Britain with its EU partners while it was a member state has also been published on Monday.

Further papers are due in the coming days, including one on the crucial issue of the European Court of Justice – a sticking point in talks.

Brussels is refusing to discuss future arrangements, such as trade, until citizens’ rights, the UK’s “divorce bill” and the Northern Ireland border have been settled.

EU leaders reiterated their stance last week as the UK published proposals about new customs arrangements.

Mr Davis said the latest batch of publications would “drive the talks forward” and “show beyond doubt” that enough progress had been made to move to the next stage of talks.

EU’s response

David Davis said: “These papers will help give businesses and consumers certainty and confidence in the UK’s status as an economic powerhouse after we have left the EU.

“They also show that as we enter the third round of negotiations, it is clear that our separation from the EU and future relationship are inextricably linked.

“We have already begun to set out what we would like to see from a future relationship on issues such as customs and are ready to begin a formal dialogue on this and other issues.”

David Davis
David Davis is eager to start trade talks. Credit PA

But European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said the UK’s position papers would not alter the framework for talks drawn up by chief negotiator Michel Barnier and approved by the other 27 EU member states.

“There is a very clear structure in place, set by the EU27, about how these talks should be sequenced and that is exactly what we think should be happening now,” Mr Winterstein told a Brussels press conference.

“So the fact that these papers are coming out is, as such, welcome because we see this as a positive step towards now really starting the process of negotiations.

“But as Michel Barnier has said time and again, we have to have sufficient progress first on the three areas of citizens’ rights, financial settlement and Ireland, and only then can we move forwards to discussing the future relationship.”

He added: “Hopefully we can make fast progress on the three areas I have mentioned because once we have reached sufficient progress there, we can move on to the second stage.”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “Both sides need to adopt a flexible approach. We are working at pace. We are confident we will make sufficient progress.

“David Davis has said we want to move to the next stage in October.”

‘Dispute resolution’

Monday’s publications urge the EU to widen its “narrow” definition of the availability of goods on the market to also include services, arguing this is the only way to protect consumers and businesses trading before Brexit.

The goods and services paper calls for:

  • Guarantees that goods on sale before exit day, in March 2019, can continue to be sold in the UK and EU, without any additional requirements or restrictions
  • Products that have been authorised for sale in the EU, such as approval for a certain model of a car, should remain valid in both markets after exit
  • UK consumer protection watchdogs should continue to have access to information about unsafe products, such as medicines and food, and “mechanisms to take action with respect to non-compliant goods”

Business group the CBI described Mr Davis’s position on trade as a “significant improvement” on EU proposals which would create a “severe cliff-edge” for goods currently on the market.

But CBI campaigns director John Foster said: “The only way to provide companies with the reassurance they need is through the urgent agreement of interim arrangements.

“This would ensure that goods and services can still flow freely, giving companies the certainty they need to invest.

“The simplest way to achieve that is for the UK to stay in the single market and a customs union until a comprehensive new deal is in force.”

The most contentious of the week’s publications is expected to be about “enforcement and dispute resolution”, as it tackles the question of the UK’s future relationship with the European Court of Justice.

Theresa May has promised the UK will leave the jurisdiction of the EU court, with the government saying Parliament will “take back control” of its laws.

But the EU has insisted the ECJ must have a role in enforcing citizens’ rights, and how to enforce any future trade deal has yet to be agreed.

Other papers expected this week will look at how to maintain the exchange of data with other European countries and future “co-operation” between the different legal systems.

Crawford Falconer takes up post as UK’s top trade negotiator — “Open markets at the core of the post-war global order.”

August 21, 2017

BBC News

Liam Fox and Crawford Falconer
Crawford Falconer, right, will begin his new job this week

The man in charge of negotiating the UK’s trade deals once Brexit is finalised, starts his job this week.

Crawford Falconer will take up the post of chief trade negotiation adviser at the Department for International Trade.

Leaving the single market would mean the UK would have to establish new bilateral trade agreements, but cannot formally do so until after Brexit.

However, one economist suggested Mr Falconer would already be “building bridges” with the European Commission.

The UK faces a huge challenge in resetting its trading relationship with the EU and other countries when Brexit takes effect.

Trade pacts that have been negotiated by the EU with the rest of the world will no longer apply to the UK, while Britain will also need to define new trading relationships with the EU itself.

Membership of the EU has meant the UK does not have a large bank of trade negotiators with recent experience.

A New Zealander, Mr Falconer has more than 25 years trade experience. He has represented New Zealand at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and held various posts in foreign and trade affairs in his home country.

Prof Alan Winters, from the University of Sussex’s UK Trade Policy Observatory, said Mr Falconer’s experience and contacts at the WTO would mean the groundwork for separating UK trade policy from Brussels would be made easier.

“He knows quite a lot of the main players at the WTO and can build bridges at the European Council, which is good as there is work to be done right now,” he said.

“There is work he can do, such as discussions on whether the UK uses replicas or changes trade agreements that we have with nations by way of membership with the EU.”

One suggestion has been that initially trade agreements could be adopted by the UK in their current form – replicating them – at the point of Brexit, to be altered subsequently as new deals are agreed.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said of the new appointee: “Crawford Falconer brings a wealth of international trade expertise to our international economic department, ensuring that as we leave the EU, the UK will be at the forefront of global free trade and driving the case for international openness.”

Mr Falconer will lead trade policy and negotiation teams at the DIT. His appointment was first announced in June.

See also:

Britain’s post-Brexit trade deals will make world safer place, new trade chief vows


THE Government’s new chief trade negotiation adviser has said the trade deals Britain can strike after Brexit could help boost global security.

Crawford Falconer tells The Telegraph that Britain will lead efforts to avoid conflict by creating new trade allies around the world.

Crawford Falconer, the Government’s new chief trade negotiation adviser, said the trade deals Britain can strike after Brexit could help boost global security

Crawford Falconer, the Government’s new chief trade negotiation adviser, said the trade deals Britain can strike after Brexit could help boost global security

Last week, the Government conceded that the UK will not be able to implement any free trade agreements under a proposed customs transition deal which will expire around two years after Brexit in March 2019.

But Mr Falconer, who will work alongside International Trade Secretary Liam Fox from this week, says that the UK can help promote stability by striking deals with nations that want to benefit from the country’s democratic reputation

He said: “There is a powerful political and security element to getting this right.

“History is littered with instances of the destructive political consequences of closed markets.

“This was a lesson well understood at the end of the last century’s global conflicts

“It was at the core of the post-war global order.”

He added:”And the UK was nothing less than one of the chief architects of that order.

“Many countries still recognise that open trade policies directed at engaging with others are at the core of any strategy to improve the global prospects for political openness and stability. They are already looking to partner with us to re-energise that agenda.”

Mr Falconer is an experienced trade negotiator who also served as New Zealand’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization.

It comes as The Daily Express reports how Britain has seen £50billion invested in the UK and the promise of 44,000 new jobs since the Brexit vote.

Change Britain campaign group found firms from around the world were bringing their business to the UK.

Chairwoman Gisela Stuart, a former Labour MP and Leave campaigner, told the newspaper: “Workers and businesses will continue to prosper once we’ve left the EU as we begin to strike our own free trade deals with growing economies around the world, spreading wealth and creating jobs throughout the UK.”