On Wednesday 29 March, the United Kingdom officially launched Brexit with a letter handover – effectively triggering Article 50 and launching a two year process to leave the European Union (EU).
British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the official Brexit process in a letter to the EU, which was handed over to Brussels by Sir Tim Barrow at 12:20 BST. Two years of exit negotiations will now follow.
EU leaders responded to the UK officially triggering the Brexit process, with EU Council President Donald Tusk tweeting shortly after receiving the letter “after nine months the UK has delivered.” He went on to say that there was “no reason to pretend that this is a happy day” in Brussels or London, adding “most Europeans, including almost half the British voters, which that we would stay together, not drift apart.” He went on to say that still, there is “also something positive” about Brexit, adding “Brexit has made us a community of 27 more determined and more united than before.” He noted that the EU states would protect their interests in the “difficult negotiations” that lie ahead, concluded, “we already miss you. Thank you and goodbye.” Meanwhile a spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Britain remained a key EU ally. Ulrike Demmer disclosed that the official notification would give Germany “more clarity” on how Britain planned to proceed, adding “we must not forget that the UK is still a partner, in NATO and in Europe.” Manfred Weber, a German politician and chair of the centre-right EPP Group in the European Parliament, was more blunt, tweeting “EU has done everything to keep the British. From now on, only the interests of the remaining 440 million Europeans count for us.” Meanwhile the Austrian government disclosed that clarifying the status of EU citizens living in Britain was a priority, with Chancellor Christian Kern stating, “for me, the status and rights of around 25,000 Austrians living and working in the UK are at the forefront.” Mr Kern went on to say that “we also want to achieve clarity and legal certainty for Austrian companies operating in the UK.”
Below is the historic letter triggering Brexit.
Dear President Tusk
On 23 June last year, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. As I have said before, that decision was no rejection of the values we share as fellow Europeans. Nor was it an attempt to do harm to the European Union or any of the remaining member states. On the contrary, the United Kingdom wants the European Union to succeed and prosper. Instead, the referendum was a vote to restore, as we see it, our national self-determination. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe – and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent.
Earlier this month, the United Kingdom Parliament confirmed the result of the referendum by voting with clear and convincing majorities in both of its Houses for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The Bill was passed by Parliament on 13 March and it received Royal Assent from Her Majesty The Queen and became an Act of Parliament on 16 March.
Today, therefore, I am writing to give effect to the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom. I hereby notify the European Council in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. In addition, in accordance with the same Article 50(2) as applied by Article 106a of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, I hereby notify the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community. References in this letter to the European Union should therefore be taken to include a reference to the European Atomic Energy Community.
This letter sets out the approach of Her Majesty’s Government to the discussions we will have about the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union and about the deep and special partnership we hope to enjoy – as your closest friend and neighbour – with the European Union once we leave. We believe that these objectives are in the interests not only of the United Kingdom but of the European Union and the wider world too.
It is in the best interests of both the United Kingdom and the European Union that we should use the forthcoming process to deliver these objectives in a fair and orderly manner, and with as little disruption as possible on each side. We want to make sure that Europe remains strong and prosperous and is capable of projecting its values, leading in the world, and defending itself from security threats. We want the United Kingdom, through a new deep and special partnership with a strong European Union, to play its full part in achieving these goals. We therefore believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union.
The Government wants to approach our discussions with ambition, giving citizens and businesses in the United Kingdom and the European Union – and indeed from third countries around the world – as much certainty as possible, as early as possible.
I would like to propose some principles that may help to shape our coming discussions, but before I do so, I should update you on the process we will be undertaking at home, in the United Kingdom.
The process in the United Kingdom
As I have announced already, the Government will bring forward legislation that will repeal the Act of Parliament – the European Communities Act 1972 – that gives effect to EU law in our country. This legislation will, wherever practical and appropriate, in effect convert the body of existing European Union law (the “acquis”) into UK law. This means there will be certainty for UK citizens and for anybody from the European Union who does business in the United Kingdom. The Government will consult on how we design and implement this legislation, and we will publish a White Paper tomorrow. We also intend to bring forward several other pieces of legislation that address specific issues relating to our departure from the European Union, also with a view to ensuring continuity and certainty, in particular for businesses. We will of course continue to fulfil our responsibilities as a member state while we remain a member of the European Union, and the legislation we propose will not come into effect until we leave.
From the start and throughout the discussions, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, taking due account of the specific interests of every nation and region of the UK as we do so. When it comes to the return of powers back to the United Kingdom, we will consult fully on which powers should reside in Westminster and which should be devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But it is the expectation of the Government that the outcome of this process will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration.
Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union
The United Kingdom wants to agree with the European Union a deep and special partnership that takes in both economic and security cooperation. To achieve this, we believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.
If, however, we leave the European Union without an agreement the default position is that we would have to trade on World Trade Organisation terms. In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened. In this kind of scenario, both the United Kingdom and the European Union would of course cope with the change, but it is not the outcome that either side should seek. We must therefore work hard to avoid that outcome.
It is for these reasons that we want to be able to agree a deep and special partnership, taking in both economic and security cooperation, but it is also because we want to play our part in making sure that Europe remains strong and prosperous and able to lead in the world, projecting its values and defending itself from security threats. And we want the United Kingdom to play its full part in realising that vision for our continent.
Proposed principles for our discussions
Looking ahead to the discussions which we will soon begin, I would like to suggest some principles that we might agree to help make sure that the process is as smooth and successful as possible.
- We should engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation. Since I became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom I have listened carefully to you, to my fellow EU Heads of Government and the Presidents of the European Commission and Parliament. That is why the United Kingdom does not seek membership of the single market: we understand and respect your position that the four freedoms of the single market are indivisible and there can be no “cherry picking”. We also understand that there will be consequences for the UK of leaving the EU: we know that we will lose influence over the rules that affect the European economy. We also know that UK companies will, as they trade within the EU, have to align with rules agreed by institutions of which we are no longer a part – just as UK companies do in other overseas markets.
- We should always put our citizens first. There is obvious complexity in the discussions we are about to undertake, but we should remember that at the heart of our talks are the interests of all our citizens. There are, for example, many citizens of the remaining member states living in the United Kingdom, and UK citizens living elsewhere in the European Union, and we should aim to strike an early agreement about their rights.
- We should work towards securing a comprehensive agreement. We want to agree a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU, taking in both economic and security cooperation. We will need to discuss how we determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state, in accordance with the law and in the spirit of the United Kingdom’s continuing partnership with the EU. But we believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.
- We should work together to minimise disruption and give as much certainty as possible. Investors, businesses and citizens in both the UK and across the remaining 27 member states – and those from third countries around the world – want to be able to plan. In order to avoid any cliff-edge as we move from our current relationship to our future partnership, people and businesses in both the UK and the EU would benefit from implementation periods to adjust in a smooth and orderly way to new arrangements. It would help both sides to minimise unnecessary disruption if we agree this principle early in the process.
- In particular, we must pay attention to the UK’s unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland and the importance of the peace process in Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is the only EU member state with a land border with the United Kingdom. We want to avoid a return to a hard border between our two countries, to be able to maintain the Common Travel Area between us, and to make sure that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU does not harm the Republic of Ireland. We also have an important responsibility to make sure that nothing is done to jeopardise the peace process in Northern Ireland, and to continue to uphold the Belfast Agreement.
- We should begin technical talks on detailed policy areas as soon as possible, but we should prioritise the biggest challenges. Agreeing a high-level approach to the issues arising from our withdrawal will of course be an early priority. But we also propose a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union. This should be of greater scope and ambition than any such agreement before it so that it covers sectors crucial to our linked economies such as financial services and network industries. This will require detailed technical talks, but as the UK is an existing EU member state, both sides have regulatory frameworks and standards that already match. We should therefore prioritise how we manage the evolution of our regulatory frameworks to maintain a fair and open trading environment, and how we resolve disputes. On the scope of the partnership between us – on both economic and security matters – my officials will put forward detailed proposals for deep, broad and dynamic cooperation.
- We should continue to work together to advance and protect our shared European values. Perhaps now more than ever, the world needs the liberal, democratic values of Europe. We want to play our part to ensure that Europe remains strong and prosperous and able to lead in the world, projecting its values and defending itself from security threats.
The task before us
As I have said, the Government of the United Kingdom wants to agree a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU, taking in both economic and security cooperation. At a time when the growth of global trade is slowing and there are signs that protectionist instincts are on the rise in many parts of the world, Europe has a responsibility to stand up for free trade in the interest of all our citizens. Likewise, Europe’s security is more fragile today than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Weakening our cooperation for the prosperity and protection of our citizens would be a costly mistake. The United Kingdom’s objectives for our future partnership remain those set out in my Lancaster House speech of 17 January and the subsequent White Paper published on 2 February.
We recognise that it will be a challenge to reach such a comprehensive agreement within the two-year period set out for withdrawal discussions in the Treaty. But we believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU. We start from a unique position in these discussions – close regulatory alignment, trust in one another’s institutions, and a spirit of cooperation stretching back decades. It is for these reasons, and because the future partnership between the UK and the EU is of such importance to both sides, that I am sure it can be agreed in the time period set out by the Treaty.
The task before us is momentous but it should not be beyond us. After all, the institutions and the leaders of the European Union have succeeded in bringing together a continent blighted by war into a union of peaceful nations, and supported the transition of dictatorships to democracy. Together, I know we are capable of reaching an agreement about the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state, while establishing a deep and special partnership that contributes towards the prosperity, security and global power of our continent.
Since the beginning of January it has been an emergency in most part of the European continent as a polar cold wave has overwhelmed most countries. The bitter cold air has plunged southward into Eastern Europe from northern Russia and the Artic region, and has been stuck in place with a vortex of cold pressure causing continuous heavy snow for days. This weather is causing particular hardship among migrants, the homeless and the elderly. The freeze gripping has caused so far 61 deaths, a third of those in Poland where ten people died of cold just on Sunday. Deaths have been reported also in Italy, Serbia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Albania and Greece.
In Italy the situation is critical. The cold has made eight victims, and the lowest temperature of -24 has been reached in the northeast. The South has been particularly hit, with major railways and motorways interrupted, causing inconveniencies in the circulation. Moreover, many small town and villages are still isolated because of the snow, especially in the Apulia, Basilicata and Calabria. In the rest of south-eastern Europe conditions are even worst. In Romania the bitter cold has led to travel delays, power outages and a surge in demand for natural gas and power. Several Serbian municipalities have declared emergency measures to battle the extreme weather and dozens of villages in the south have been cut off by high snowdrifts. In Albania it snowed in the southern city of Saranda for the first time in 32 years, and six people have died so far for the frigid weather. Also three people have been found dead in the past three days in Macedonia as temperatures plunged to -20 C.
The extreme cold has also worsened the condition of thousands of migrants stuck in the Balkans and Greece, not prepared for this kind of weather whatsoever. The worst situation is registered in Lesbos Island, which is currently home to more than 4,000 people in the Moira refugee camp. Roland Schönbauer, a spokesman for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has declared on Monday this week that the organization was transferring some 120 vulnerable men, women and children, including people still living in tents, to hotels following the storm. However, according to volunteers there are still thousands of refugees living in outdoor tents in the camp, despite the Greece’s minister for migration Yiannis Mouzalas told journalists at a news conference on Thursday that “no refugees or migrants are living in the cold anymore”. Nevertheless, few cases of hypothermia have been reported in the last days, because many people don’t have proper winter clothes yet. For this reason Amnesty International is campaigning for asylum seekers to be transferred from the Greek islands to the mainland, for the temperature are expected to drop again. But transfers to the mainland are only allowed after people have completed the registration process, which has been delayed by a number of factors, including a shortage of spaces on the mainland.
The agricultural sector is the one more damaged by snowfalls and frost across Europe. In the cultivation area in the Austrian state of Styria initial estimates indicate €100 million in damages for the fruit sector alone. In Italy the Italian agricultural organization Coldiretti reported that the fruit cultivation has suffered inestimable damages from the weather circumstances. The most affected camps have been those of tomatoes, courgette and eggplants. Also grapes have been heavily damaged, especially in the region Apulia. Substantial damages to the sector have been reported also in Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia.
A report released on 16 November indicated that deaths from terrorism in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries decreased last year by 650 percent despite a marked fall globally as Nigerian-based Boko Haram militants and the so-called Islamic State (IS) Group suffered military defeats at home but carried out more attacks abroad.
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) has reported that worldwide, there were 29,376 deaths that were caused by terrorism in 2015. This figure represents a decline of 10 percent, adding that this is the first decrease in four years. GTI disclosed that his decline was due to action against IS in Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria, which cut the numbers killed there by a third. IS was the deadliest group in 2015, overtaking Boko Haram. Last year, IS carried out attacks in 252 cities that led to 6,141 deaths. The index however has noted that Boko Haram’s move into neighbouring countries – Cameroon, Chad and Niger – saw the number of fatalities in the se countries increase by 157 percent.
The report however notes that the groups have spread their actions to neighbouring states and regions, where they have caused a huge increase in fatalities amongst OECD members, most of which are wealthy countries, such as the United States and European countries. According to GTI, of the 34 OECD member countries, 21 had witnesses at least one attack with most deaths occurred in Turkey and France. Last year’s terror incidents included coordinated attacks carried out by IS gunmen and suicide bombers at the Bataclan music venue, a soccer stadium and several cafes in Paris in November, which killed 130 people. The index also noted that Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden and Turkey all suffered their worst death tolls from terrorism in a single year since 2000, adding that in total twenty-three countries registered their highest ever number of terrorism deaths. Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria, which accounted for 72 percent of all deaths, were the top five ranked countries in the GTI. The United States ranked 36th, with France coming in 29th, Russia in 30th and the United Kingdom in 34th.
According to Steve Killelea, executive chairman at the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) think-tank, “while on the one hand the reduction in deaths is positive, the continued intensification of terrorism in some countries and its spread to new ones is a cause for serious concern and underscores the fluid nature of modern terrorist activity,” adding that “the attacks in the heartland of western democracies underscore the need for fast-paced and tailored responses to the evolution of these organizations.”
Senior parties allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel are increasingly indicating that they expect her to run for a fourth term in office in 2017, even through her popularity has declined under the impact of the migrant crisis.
Merkel, 62, has been Germany’s chancellor since 2005, however she has repeatedly declined to comment whetehr she will run again in 2017, stating only that she will make her intentions clear in due course. In September, she disclosed that she was still motivated, however a senior ally of Merkel’s recently indicated that he did not see any other realistic alternative for the post of chairwoman of the Christian Democrats (CDU) – a role which is likely to be filled by the party’s top candidate for chancellor. When asked whether he expected candidates other than Merkel to run for party chair at its conference in December, Peter Tauber, secretary general of the CDU disclosed “as far as I know, there’s no one else who is preparing to run for this office.” Meanwhile in an interview on 16 October with Tagesspiegel newspaper, Tauber pointed to Merkel’s view that one person should fill the roles of both party chair and chancellor. Meanwhile on 17 October, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a CDU member who is often rumoured to be a possible successor to Merkel, told a gathering of senior military leaders that she hoped to continue serving in her role beyond the election. CDU member Annegret Kramp-Karrenbuaer, who is premier of the state of Saarland, stated of the vote for party chair: “There will be one female candidate,” adding that the party would elect that candidate with a big majority.
While Merkel is seen as one of the most successful chancellors of post-unification Germany, her popularity has declined since her decision last year to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants into the country. However in an Infratest dimap poll, which was published on 6 October, 54 percent of Germans indicated that they were satisfied with her work, up by 9 points compared with a September poll.
Commissioner Warns that EU Should Prepare for Return of Jihadists as Iraq Launches Operation on MosulOctober 31, 2016 in Europe
The European Union’s (EU) commissioner has warned that the EU should be prepared for returning jihadists if the so-called Islamic State (IS) is driven out of its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul.
Julian King has told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper that even a small number of militants would pose “a serious threat that we must prepare ourselves for.” The comments come after Iraqi forces on 17 October launched what is expected to be a lengthy offensive on Mosul. Officials believe that as many as 5,000 IS fighters are believed to remain in the city.
King, a British diplomat who was recently made the EU’s security commissioner, told Die Wel that the threat of IS fighters returning to Europe after the fall of Mosul was “very serious.” He disclosed that there were currently about 2,500 fighters from EU countries in the combat zone, stressing however that it was “very unlikely that there would be a mass exodus of IS fighters to Europe.” He noted that similar cases in the past had shown that “only a few fighters come back.”
On day one of the offensive, a coalition of some 34,000 Iraq security personnel, Kurdish fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen, and Shia military forces, backed by the US and other nations, took control of a number of villages and districts located in the south and east of Mosul. On the ground sources have reported that the strategy is to encircle the city before moving in on the centre itself. Late on 17 October, US Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook disclosed that the campaign was “ahead of schedule,” warning however that it was early days and it was not yet known whetehr IS fighters would “stand and fight.” On 18 October, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that “it could be a long battle” lasting several weeks, if not months.
In other reports, the Syrian army has accused the US-led coalition of planning to allow IS fighters in Mosul to flee into Syria. The army, which has no control over Syria’s border with Iraq, was quoted by Reuters news agency as stating that it would resist any attempt by fighters to cross. The commander of Iraq’s Counter-terrorism Service, Maj-Gen Fadhil Jalil al-Barwari, has been quoted by the New Arab website as saying that IS fighters are being offered two corridors “to go to Syria.”