Posts Tagged ‘UK’

Brexit: Theresa May Again Meets EU Leaders — talks that could be hampered by divisions at home

December 14, 2017

Theresa May will urge European Union leaders to approve an agreement to move Brexit talks on to a second phase after an embarrassing parliamentary defeat.

The Prime Minister will repeat her case for moving the talks on to trade negotiations, which she sees as crucial to offering certainty for businesses.

The 27 other EU leaders are all but certain to approve the deal to move to “phase two” on Friday, after Ms May has left Brussels, launching a new stage of talks that could be hampered by divisions at home and differences with the EU.

Live Updates

Brexit should be cancelled, Austrian prime minister says

Austria’s prime minister has said he hopes that Brexit can be reversed, hours after British MPs voted to give themselves a veto on Theresa May’s final deal. Arriving at European Council summit in Brussels Christian Kern said Brexit would likely throw up problems that are “not easy to solve”.

Arriving at the summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there were “still a few questions remaining open” about the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, but there was “a good chance that the second phase can now begin”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “not simply a council about Brexit”, stressing that his focus was on issues of EU defence and migration policybeing discussed on Thursday evening.

UK must accept EU laws to prevent ‘dramatic and damaging’ impact on economy after Brexit, MPs warn

A transition period after Brexit where the UK continues to accept EU rules would be a “price worth paying” for economic stability, an influential Commons committee has said. Cross-party MPs on the Treasury Committee said the Government should consent to a “standstill” transition deal with Brussels, which would likely include remaining in the single market and customs union, and accepting judgements from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

Tory former minister who rebelled against May warns she faces second defeat

Conservative ex-cabinet minister Dominic Grieve has said he does not care about “knives being out for me” over his role in forcing changes to Theresa May’s Brexit plans, as he warned the Prime Minister she faces a second defeat.

All you need to know about the Brexit bill’s Amendment 7 and why it has just humiliated Theresa May

Theresa May’s government was handed a defeat on the Brexit bill as 11 MPs rebelled and backed an amendment to give Parliament a much greater say in leaving the European Union (EU).  Amendment seven, tabled by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, requires any Brexit deal to be approved by a separate Act of Parliament before it can be implemented.

High Court just ruled Government policy of deporting homeless EU citizens is illegal

The IndependentThe High Court has ordered the Government to stop deporting homeless EU citizens under a controversial policy that has been ruled unlawful. Mrs Justice Lang said measures introduced last year were discriminatory and violated European law, following a challenge by two Polish men and a Latvian. The three men were all facing removal because they were found by police and immigration officers sleeping rough.

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, said a transition period needs to be closer to five years than two.
Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, he insisted that businesses need time to adapt to any new realities in the context of Brexit.
He also said that, in his view, the commitments that the UK Government has made to Ireland and the rest of the EU are “cast-iron”.

Watch the moment Theresa May was defeated by her own MPs in humiliating Brexit vote

The Independent — This is the moment that the government lost its key vote on its Brexit bill after a rebellion by 11 Conservative MPs. In front of a packed House of Commons in the end the Government was defeated by 309 votes to 305, a margin of just four votes. Cheers erupted as the result was announced.

This is from the FT’s Brussels Correspondent. Luxembourg’s PM says the EU will not renegotiate a deal with Britain if Parliament rejects the one on offer. 

Luxembourg’ PM Bettel asked if EU will renegotiate exit deal if rejected by parliament: “No”.

Tory former minister who rebelled against May warns she faces second defeat

Conservative ex-cabinet minister Dominic Grieve has said he does not care about “knives being out for me” over his role in forcing changes to Theresa May’s Brexit plans, as he warned the Prime Minister she faces a second defeat.

Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with the Archbishop of Canterbury (see 9.22am) a Downing Street spokesman said:

“The Government understands there are strong feelings on both sides, we continue to listen to views and move forward to secure the Brexit deal the country needs.”

The Tories have sacked their own vice-chairman after he helped defeat the Government over Brexit

Tory MP Stephen Hammond has been sacked as a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party after he rebelled against the Government on a key Brexit vote. The former transport minister voted in favour of Dominic Grieve’s amendment seven, to back his attempt to ensure MPs have a “meaningful vote” on the withdrawal deal. Before the news broke, Mr Hammond said the rebels had been prepared to work with the Government to ensure a meaningful vote.

Read more:

UK spy chiefs peel back secrecy – to fight cybercrime

December 14, 2017


© AFP/File / by James PHEBY | Britain’s cyber-spooks are reaching beyond the shroud of secrecy in a bid to harness the “exciting attitude of start-up land” to defend the country against hackers

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s cyber-spooks are reaching out from behind their veil of secrecy with the aim of cultivating the nation’s next generation of high-tech sentries — a move not without security risks.

With recruiting initiatives levelled at tech-savvy hipsters, start-ups pitching ideas and even Christmas puzzles, the top-secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is letting the public in, ever so slightly.

The latest move was this month’s “Cyber Accelerator” event at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) — part of GCHQ — when investors, journalists and entrepreneurs were offered a rare glimpse behind the scenes.

 No automatic alt text available.

The Accelerator project connects tech entrepreneurs with GCHQ experts and information, aiming to help the budding companies turn their ideas into ready-for-market cyber-defence products.

The move is the latest in a series of initiatives by the security services to open their doors to young tech wizards — a subtle effort to recruit the best and brightest as Britain’s future cyber-sentries.

GCHQ has previously used stencil graffiti recruitment adverts in the fashionable east London tech hub, and also launched an online puzzle comprising 29 blocks of letters to be decoded by aspiring cyber spies.

During the visit to Accelerator, visitors were whisked up to the National Cyber Security Centre’s offices in central London in space-age lifts.

Once arrived, they got to see the latest weapons the entrepreneurs were pitching to private investors as part of the programme.

“Razor wire is there to keep people out, but it does quite a good job of keeping people in. It does create an internal community and we wanted to break out of that,” said Chris Ensor, NCSC’s deputy director for cyber-skills and growth.

“Accelerator is the natural next step, going out into the wider world.”

Nine businesses, who are working with GCHQ for nine months, pitched ideas including defences for crypto-currencies and domestic web-connected products as well as hardware that can wipe the contents of a laptop in case of theft.

Matt Hancock, a junior minister for digital and culture affairs, encouraged investors to dig deep, saying that GCHQ’s efforts to engage with the outside world were bearing fruit.

“The small acorn is now beginning to grow into an oak,” he said.

– Security risk –

Stressing the urgency of the challenge, NCSC technical director Ian Levy revealed that the agency has dealt with 600 major cyber incidents in its first year, 35 of which were classed as serious.

“They have taught us some things,” he said. “Our adversaries are infinitely inventive, they’re brilliant.”

Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Surrey, praised Britain for harnessing individual inspiration with the power of government.

“Some of the best ideas have come from one man and his shed, it’s the modern version of that.

“They don’t always find a natural home in big business or government, this is about trying to give them a leg up,” he said.

The event’s Silicon Valley spirit and prospects of hard cash are both intended to lure sharp young minds towards working for the nation’s defence, he added.

“You can pay someone £30,000 ($40,000, 34,000 euros) a year to go and work at GCHQ and they can basically double that by going to industry. It’s hard to get them in and retain them.”

– ‘Keen to attract young talent’ –

“We also know GCHQ is very, very keen to attract young talent,” said Anthony Glees, director of the Buckingham University Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies.

“Some of the most succesful hackers have been 16 and 17-year old lads working out of their bedrooms.”

However, the necessity of information sharing with private citizens creates potential security “pitfalls”, he said, with the leaks by private contractor Edward Snowden while working for the NSA — GCHQ’s US equivalent — serving as a warning.

GCHQ conduct thorough background checks, but this is “an extremely expensive process”, said Glees.

The government must therefore walk a fine line in judging what information to share.

“Exchanging information is always hazardous… but it is necessary,” said Glees.

But some things will remain stamped “Top secret”, including the location where the entrepreneurs do their work with Britain’s cyber-spies.

“It’s a physical place, but you can’t tell anyone where it is,” said the NCSC’s Ensor.

by James PHEBY

Brexit defeat for Theresa May as MPs back curbing government powers — What Theresa May’s Brexit defeat means

December 13, 2017

LONDON (Reuters) – MPs defeated Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on Wednesday, voting to change her Brexit blueprint in a move which could complicate her efforts to sever ties with the European Union.

The parliament voted 309 to 305 in favour of an amendment to demand parliament pass a separate bill to approve any final deal with the EU.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Andrew Heavens


The Guardian

What Theresa May’s Brexit defeat means

British PM facing rebellion over key Brexit bill — It’s not over until it’s over…

December 13, 2017


© AFP/File | Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May managed to strike a deal in Brussels last week to move onto the next stage of Brexit negotiations, but is already facing more problems

British Prime Minister Theresa May was Wednesday facing a rebellion from her own MPs over whether parliament will have a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal in what would be a damaging defeat.

A vote is expected later on Wednesday on an amendment to a landmark bill ending Britain’s membership of the European Union and incorporating thousands of pieces of EU legislation into the British statute books.

Dominic Grieve, an MP in May’s Conservative Party, proposed the amendment requiring any Brexit deal to be made law by a binding parliamentary vote.

Ten Tory MPs have signed Grieve’s amendment.

If the government loses, that would deal a heavy blow to May less than a week after she struck a deal in Brussels to move onto the next stage of negotiations.

“The government needs to listen to what’s being said to them,” Grieve told Sky News on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, my impression of the last few days, when I’ve been talking to the government, is that it seems to be a bit of a dialogue of the deaf. They’ve turned this into a battle of wills.”

Keir Starmer, chief Brexit spokesman for the main opposition Labour party, has tweeted that his MPs will back the amendment if pushed to a vote.

– Government ‘committed’ to vote –

Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, a hardline Brexiteer, earlier accused Grieve of “looking for ways to derail the bill”, saying the amendment would “tie the government’s hands” in negotiations with the EU.

The row revolves around Clause 9 of the bill, which hands the government “Henry VIII powers” to implement the Brexit deal without parliamentary approval.

Brexit secretary David Davis has promised to give MPs a final vote, and issued a statement Wednesday in a bid to head off the rebellion.

“The government has committed to hold a vote on the final deal in parliament as soon as possible after the negotiations have concluded,” he said.

“This vote will take the form of a resolution in both Houses of Parliament and will cover both the Withdrawal Agreement and the.”

The statement did not specify whether the resolution would be legally binding.

“The government will not implement any parts of the Withdrawal Agreement – for example by using Clause 9 of the European Union (Withdrawal) bill – until after this vote has taken place,” he promised.

The statement did little to appease the potential rebels as it did not spell out what would happen if MPs voted against the terms of the divorce deal.

Only if MPs approve the resolution will the government bring forward a bill to give the Withdrawal Agreement domestic legal effect.

“On first reading, the major problems with this: no guarantee of a vote before we leave the EU; and, no guarantee we get full details of terms and approve them before the PM finalises the Withdrawal Agreement,” Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a prominent pro-EU campaigner, wrote on Twitter.

UK’s May faces parliamentary showdown with Brexit rebels

December 13, 2017

By Willaim James

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May’s control of the Brexit process will undergo its stiffest parliamentary test yet on Wednesday, when she faces a showdown with rebels in her party over the laws that will take Britain out of the European Union.

Image result for Theresa may, photos

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May. FILE photo

May’s government is trying to pass a bill through parliament that will repeal the 1972 legislation binding Britain to the EU and copy existing EU law into domestic law to ensure legal continuity after ‘Exit Day’ on March 29, 2019.

After six days of debate in parliament ranging from the legal minutiae of Brexit to the gaping differences between ‘Remainers’ and ‘Leavers’, May could face a defeat as lawmakers demand more say over the final exit deal.

Wednesday’s likely flashpoint is an amendment put forward by a member of May’s own party, the government’s former attorney general, Dominic Grieve, who wants parliament to have a meaningful vote on any deal before it is finalised.

If passed by a simple majority vote, the amendment would require parliament to approve the government’s final Brexit deal by passing a separate written law once the terms of the withdrawal agreement are known.

That could allow lawmakers to send May back to the negotiating table if they do not like the deal.

The opposition Labour Party has said it will support the amendment, with some believing it would give lawmakers a greater chance to reopen talks – something that might not be supported by EU negotiators.

Grieve said on Wednesday that he did not want to “sabotage” Brexit, but to make sure parliament was allowed to play its role of holding government to account.

“My impression of the last few days, when I’ve been talking to the government, is it seems to be a bit of a dialogue of the deaf. They’ve sort of turned this into a battle of wills,” he told Sky News. “This is a completely pointless exercise. They need to listen to the point that’s being made and they need to respond to it.”

May is in a precarious position. In June, she gambled on a snap election to strengthen her party’s majority in the 650-seat parliament but instead bungled her campaign and ended up with a minority government propped up by the 10 votes of a small, pro-Brexit Northern Irish party.

Since then she has struggled to assert her authority over a Conservative Party which is deeply divided over the best route out of the EU.

The government has said it is listening to parliament’s concerns and has conceded that a separate piece of legislation, allowing members of parliament (MPs) more say on the deal, would be necessary. The government is planning to pass another bill once the final Brexit deal with Brussels is agreed which will implement the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

The government has been forced to give ground on several issues to ward off other rebellions over the Brexit laws.

On Monday, it accepted a proposal to allow lawmakers greater scrutiny over the passage of EU law into British law.

Still, after striking a deal with Brussels last week to move exit negotiations on to the next phase, covering trade and transition arrangements, May won approval from both the Remain and Leave factions of her party, suggesting attempts to unseat her were on hold.

The government has not ruled out making last-minute concessions to appease Grieve and the 20 or so Conservative rebels who could join forces with the opposition to inflict defeat.

“I think what the MPs are looking for is clarity … We’re looking at the amendment and will respond in due course,” May’s spokesman said on Tuesday.

additional reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Richard Balmforth

Britain must obey EU environment rules for post-Brexit air deal: campaigners

December 13, 2017


© AFP/File / by Danny KEMP | As part of the European aviation area, Britain’s industry has soared, with low-cost EasyJet battling with the UK’s historic carrier British Airways.

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The EU must make Britain’s air industry sign up to the bloc’s environment rules if it wants to keep access to European skies after Brexit, a campaign group warned in a report Wednesday.Airlines should stay in the EU’s emissions trading scheme and follow rules against subsidies to prevent Britain becoming a “carbon haven”, Brussels-based group Transport and Environment said in the report seen by AFP.

The group — which has had meetings with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s task force — warned that without a deal British planes could be unable to land in the bloc the day after the UK leaves.

“As London works out its future relationship with the EU, it should be able to keep its current level of access to Europe?s aviation market by agreeing to maintain EU rules designed to curb flying?s environmental impact,” said Kristina Wittkopp, legal analyst at Transport and Environment (T&E) who wrote the report.

The publication of the report comes on the eve of a European Union summit at which leaders are expected to approve the opening of talks on a future relationship with Britain, including on a trade deal.

T&E said Britain should stay in the European Common Aviation Area — which allows planes from EU states and some neighbouring countries to operate anywhere within the bloc — even though it would mean overriding London’s Brexit “red line” of being free from EU law.

British Brexit Minister David Davis said on Sunday that he wanted a Canada-style arrangement between Britain and the EU, with “individual specific arrangements” for sectors including aviation.

As part of the aviation area, Britain’s industry has soared, with low-cost EasyJet battling with the UK’s historic carrier British Airways.

Outside the area, Britain’s airline industry could be forced to set up new bases within EU territory. Without a Brexit deal it would not be allowed to fly there at all.

– ‘Carbon haven’ –

But the group said that if Britain does want to stay in the aviation area, the EU should make it a condition that it also remains in the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS), which is aimed at reducing the impact of global warming.

Under the scheme, carbon producers buy allowances to offset what they emit — currently at seven euros ($8.2) per tonne of carbon dioxide — funds from which are put back into measures to tackle climate change.

“Any deal must ensure the UK does not quit the aviation ETS so that these airlines? flights between the UK and Europe will still be required to purchase allowances,” the report said.

Britain should also remain subject to EU state aid rules, which prevent governments giving subsidies to companies, as giving handouts to British airports and airlines would “distort competition and harm the environment by spurring a growth in traffic.”

“To prevent Britain becoming a ?carbon haven? for the aviation sector post-Brexit, it is essential that EU state-aid rules continue to apply to the UK,” the report said.

It added that Britain should also become a paying, non-voting member of the European Aviation Safety Agency, which sets standards for safety and maintenance across the bloc, Transport and Environment added.

by Danny KEMP

Donald Trump’s U.S. Tax Cuts Bring Threats of Trade War From Europe

December 12, 2017

PANICKING European finance ministers have threatened a trade war with the US over Donald Trump’s planned tax cuts.

Europe finance ministers have warned Mr TrumpGETTY

Europe finance ministers have warned Mr Trump

Ministers from Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Chancellor Philip Hammond have signed a scathing letter to US counterpart Steven Mnuchin, warning they could retaliate with their own legislation.They claim Mr Trump’s plans for deep US business tax cuts, currently working their way through Congress, could end up “seriously hampering genuine trade and investment flows between our countries”.

And they say the US could flout World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules by treating domestic operations differently to those from abroad.

Europe is concerned the President is using the policy to push an “America first” agenda, risking a huge row with the world’s biggest economy.The letter stated US action to protect its tax base risked impacting “genuine business activities”.

And the ministers warned: “While the establishment of a modern, competitive and robust tax system is one of the essential pillars of a state’s sovereignty, it is important the US government’s rights over domestic tax policy be exercised in a way that adheres with international obligations to which it has signed up.”

Donald Trump is working on huge tax reformsGETTY

Donald Trump is working on huge tax reforms

Among the measures highlighted in the letter is a planned 20 per cent “excise tax” on purchases by US companies from foreign subsidiaries which would not apply to similar domestic transactions.The letter stated: “Given this measure would impact on genuine commercial arrangements, and would do so only where payments are being made for foreign goods and services, it could discriminate in a manner that would be at odds with international rules embodied in the WTO.

“Bearing in mind that almost half of transatlantic trade is intra-company trade, this risks seriously hampering genuine trade and investment flows between our two economies, which remain a central artery of the world economy.”

German finance minister Peter Altmaier told the Financial Times: “The US is our ally and it has the right to shape its tax system as it sees fit.“But it must be in compliance with the international rules that are in effect.”

A US Treasury spokesman told the paper: “We appreciate the views of the finance ministers.

“We are closely working with Congress as they finalise the legislation.”

German finance minister Peter AltmaierGETTY

German finance minister Peter Altmaier

Mr Trump wants a single tax bill on his desk soon so he can sign it into law before the end of the year, in what would be his first major legislative achievement since taking office.The White House said he would deliver a speech tomorrow “to the American people on how tax reform will lead to a brighter future for them and their families”.

Mr Trump has made huge promises about the plan, which he sees as a landmark in his presidency.

On Sunday, he tweeted: “Getting closer and closer on the Tax Cut Bill. Shaping up even better than projected.

“House and Senate working very hard and smart. End result will be not only important, but SPECIAL!”

Qatar arms deal slammed amid concerns over human rights, regional rift

December 12, 2017

A member of staff works in the cockpit of an aircraft on the Eurofighter Typhoon production line at BAE systems Warton plant near Preston, northern England September 7, 2012. (Reuters)

LONDON: A major UK-based anti-arms-trade group has criticized the sale of 24 Typhoon fighter jets to Qatar, telling Arab News that Britain must “make sure weapons are not being sold to human-rights-abusing regimes.”

The outcry follows the announcement on Sunday that British company BAE Systems has agreed a $6.7 billion deal with the Gulf nation of Qatar to supply two dozen Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

According to Reuters, the jets are due to be delivered from late 2022, with the deal strongly supported by the British government as it secures around 5,000 manufacturing jobs in England.

Reacting to the news, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesperson Andrew Smith told Arab News: “The Qatari regime has an appalling human rights record. There is a tense political situation in the region, and these arms sales will not make it any safer. They are characteristic of the huge levels of political and military support that the UK government is prepared to offer to human rights abusers and dictatorships.”

The CAAT is of course committed to halting the sale of all arms, with Smith explaining, “We do not support arms sales to anyone, but the immediate priority has to be to make sure weapons are not being sold to human rights abusing regimes, or into war zones. The overwhelming majority of UK arms are sold to dictatorships and human rights abusers.”

The latest sale of 24 Typhoon jets to the Qatar Emiri Air Force takes the total number sold worldwide to 623, which includes 28 to Kuwait, 72 to Saudi Arabia, 143 being used by Germany, and 160 in use by the UK. Qatar is the ninth country to buy the Eurofighter Typhoon warplane.

In a statement on the Qatari deal, BAE Systems Chief Executive Charles Woodburn said: “We are delighted to begin a new chapter in the development of a long-term relationship with the State of Qatar and the Qatar Armed Forces, and we look forward to working alongside our customer as they continue to develop their military capability.”

The move follows a string of arms deals signed between Qatar and French entities last week, including 12 Rafale fighter jets.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh criticized that move.

“France should be cognizant of the fact that such a deal would only ratchet up radicalism, violence and militarization of conflicts in the region,” he told Arab News.

“Qatar is funding, arming, and training extremist groups and militias across the region. As Qatar and its ally the Iranian regime are top states sponsor of terrorism, France deal and its rapprochement with Qatar will only empower and embolden terrorist groups in the region. In addition, weapons and military equipments sold to Qatar can easily fall in the hands of terrorist groups.”

Democracy Is Far From Dead

December 11, 2017

In 12 years, the share of the world’s people who live in ‘free’ countries has risen.

Democracy Is Far From Dead

With recent setbacks in the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela and elsewhere, it is common to hear laments about the decline of democracy world-wide. Turbulent times in Britain and the U.S. add to the concern, as does the sweeping failure of the so-called Arab Spring since 2011. After major waves of progress in the wake of World War II and the Cold War, is freedom starting to sputter?

Democracy has taken some hard hits. But before we cede bragging rights to autocrats, or persuade ourselves of the need for precipitate action to arrest a perilous strategic slide, we need perspective on what has been happening.

It is true that the “third wave” of democratization—the proliferation of democratic states in the late 20th century—has largely ended. But it has not been reversed by any stretch of the imagination.

Recall the magnitude of what transpired last century. By 2000 about 120 countries, or nearly two-thirds of the nations of the planet, had become electoral democracies. A hundred years before, the total could be counted on a single hand—or less, if one defines democracy as a system of full enfranchisement of women and men of all races.

The 21st century is not off to such a good start. But the net setbacks have been modest. By one measure, according to Freedom House, 25% of all countries were assessed as “not free” in 2016, compared with 23% in 2006.

Yet if one adjusts for population, there has been no setback at all. India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Brazil, with a combined population of two billion, have, for all their admitted troubles, been holding generally steady in recent years. The countries experiencing setbacks have generally been less populous. As a result, the fraction of people living in “not free” countries has declined slightly over the past dozen years, from 37% to 36%, while the total living in “free” countries rose gently, from 44% to 45%. The remainder were in countries deemed by Freedom House to be “partly free.”

Much as we might regret partial setbacks to liberal democracy in Hungary, population 10 million, developments there pale in significance when compared with democratic progress in Indonesia, population 261 million. The big outlier here is Russia, with its 142 million people, where the early signs of liberalism in the mid-2000s have been decisively reversed.

Viewed in broad historical terms, the democratic model continues to excel when measured against all the alternatives. Established democracies almost never go to war with each other, helping explain why the decades since World War II have been among the least violent in human history, at least when it comes to interstate war.

A world of democracies is also proving to be unambiguously good for fighting poverty and strengthening the global middle class. As our colleague Homi Kharas has shown, in 1950 less than 10% of the world’s population could be said to be middle-class—with daily family income between roughly $10 and $100 in 2005 dollars, adjusted for purchasing power. Today the figure approaches 50%. Some of that progress has been within autocracies, notably China. But more than two-thirds of it has been in democratic countries.

Most of these democracies also generally remain united in a common strategic purpose, despite the occasional robust debates over when and how to use force. The U.S. leads a coalition or loose alliance system of some 60 states that together account for roughly 70% of world military spending and a similar fraction of total world gross domestic product. Except in the Middle East, almost all these U.S. allies are democracies. And while the megastate of India is not a U.S. ally in the way that Canada and the U.K. are, it is nonetheless an increasingly close American strategic partner.

Democracies have struggled with corruption, violent crime, poverty, populism, challenges from globalization, and other hard realities of modern life. Democracy does not change human nature. It does, however, generally put us in a much better position to address those problems peacefully.

Witness South Korea, which impeached a president earlier this year but seems no worse for the wear. Or Brazil, dealing with similar political problems in an ugly yet still constitutional manner. Or India, where a strongman leader is nonetheless checked in some of his ambitions by a balance-of-powers system. Or the U.K., where Brexit, itself the result of a democratic choice, seems likely to cause only limited damage.

We do need to learn one lesson from history’s recent sobering course: Democracy is fragile and can never be taken for granted. But declarations about democracy’s demise, or even its significant decline, go too far.

Mr. Jones is vice president and Mr. O’Hanlon director of research at the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Program.

Britain steps up battle against money laundering

December 11, 2017

Image result for National Crime Agency, photos, london

Britain’s National Crime Agency

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Monday it would create a new national economic crime center to crack down harder on money laundering by drug dealers and people traffickers who are expected to net 90 billion pounds ($120.3 billion) this year.

As a unit of the existing National Crime Agency (NCA), the center will be tasked with coordinating a national response among the agencies that tackle money laundering and fraud and with increasing the confiscation of crime proceeds.

Britain’s interior minister, Amber Rudd, said the new initiative was part of a package of measures in response to a review of the country’s economic crime agencies.

Image result for Amber Rudd, photos

Amber Rudd

“The measures we have announced today will significantly improve our ability to tackle the most serious cases of economic crime by ensuring our agencies have the tools and investment they need to investigate, prosecute and confiscate criminal assets,” Rudd said in a statement.

Britain’s plan to exit the European Union in 2019 has raised fears of a “bonfire of regulation” that could occur thereafter and result in the City of London losing its top global financial center ranking.

Strengthening the integrity of Britain as a financial center will be a top priority under the package, which also includes proposed new laws.

These would allow the new center to directly task the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to investigate the worst offenders in a step that will buttress the SFO, whose future as a standalone entity has been in doubt.

SFO Director David Green is due to step down next year.

Separately on Monday, the Attorney General’s Office, a government department, said the SFO would continue to act as an independent organization, supporting the multi-agency response led by the NCA.

“We will begin recruitment for the SFO’s next director very soon,” the AGO said in a statement.

The government estimates that financial fraud costs the country 6.8 billion pounds a year, or more than 100 pounds per person.

Rudd will chair a new economic crime strategic board to ensure the right resources are allocated across law enforcement agencies to tackle economic crime, the interior ministry statement said.

With only a modest portion of criminal proceeds confiscated, the package announced on Monday makes further commitments to seizing criminal assets through greater use of existing powers by the SFO, the NCA and tax authorities.

There will also be a review of existing rules on confiscating proceeds of crime in order to improve the process by which confiscation orders are made and applied.

($1 = 0.7479 pounds)

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Gareth Jones