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Johnson says EU seeking to break up UK as lawmakers vote on Brexit bill

Issued on: 14/09/2020 – 21:18Modified: 14/09/2020 – 21:20

Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused the..

Issued on: 14/09/2020 – 21:18Modified: 14/09/2020 – 21:20

Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused the European Union on Monday of threatening to break up the United Kingdom, as he urged lawmakers to back a controversial bill to override parts of the Brexit treaty struck with Brussels only last year.

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He was speaking ahead of the first vote by MPs on the UK Internal Market Bill, which has sparked threats of legal action in Brussels and outrage at home as it overtly seeks to breach international law.

Addressing the House of Commons, Johnson claimed the EU was using arrangements in the Brexit deal meant to protect peace in Northern Ireland as "leverage" in ongoing trade talks.

"They are threatening to carve tariff borders across our own country, divide our own land, change the very economic geography of the UK," he said.

Johnson said the new bill would "create a legal safety net" by allowing ministers to overrule parts of the Brexit deal to "guarantee the integrity of our United Kingdom".

The UKs Internal Market Bill

✅Protects the sovereignty of the United Kingdom
✅Provides certainty for business
✅Preserves our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland pic.twitter.com/1yBsTW0hIF

— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) September 14, 2020

The EU has demanded the bill be withdrawn before the end of the month, insisting angrily that Britain must uphold its commitments.

The row has soured relations as both sides race to sign a new trade agreement before the end of the year, raising the possibility of a deeply disruptive break after four decades of integration.

The bill has also provoked threats of rebellions and resignations among Johnson's own Conservative MPs, while all Britain's living former prime ministers warned he risked trashing the country's international reputation.

Johnson acknowledged on Monday that "some people will feel unease over the use of these powers — and I share that sentiment myself".

We want a great future relationship and a free trade agreement with the EU – but we will not get there if they seek to divide us.

We must protect the sovereignty and integrity of our United Kingdom. pic.twitter.com/N3wNh4ROvV

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) September 14, 2020

He said the powers to override the Brexit treaty would not be needed if an EU trade deal was agreed.

"But what we cannot do now is tolerate a situation where our EU counterparts seriously believe that they have the power to break up our country," he said.

"That illusion must be decently despatched."

'His failure'

The UK parliament spent years engaged in bitter battles over how to leave the EU following the shock 2016 referendum vote — much of it arguing over the arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Johnson put a temporary halt to the deadlock by sealing a divorce deal with Brussels late last year, which he used to win a thumping 80-seat victory in a December general election.

Britain formally left the EU in January but remains bound by its rules under a transition period until the end of this year, as it tries to negotiate a free trade deal with the bloc.

Downing Street last week claimed the Brexit deal was agreed "at pace" and the problems with the aspects of the treaty regarding Northern Ireland were unforeseen.

Johnson on Monday suggested Brussels was deliberately abusing the arrangements that see the province continue to follow some EU laws, as a way of keeping open the border with the Republic of Ireland.

An open border is key to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland after decades of sectarian violence that left more than 3,500 people dead.

But opposition Labour spokesman Read More – Source

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Europe

Coronavirus pandemic: 156 nations join WHO-led global plan for vaccine, US and China absent

Issued on: 22/09/2020 – 11:11Modified: 22/09/2020 – 11:18

A total of 156 countries have joined the..

Issued on: 22/09/2020 – 11:11Modified: 22/09/2020 – 11:18

A total of 156 countries have joined the global COVAX scheme intended to ensure fair distribution of supplies of future #vaccines against #Covid-19, an alliance led by the World Health Organization said on Monday. #WRead More – Source

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More than 60 wealthy countries join WHO’s plan for distributing Covid-19 vaccine

Issued on: 22/09/2020 – 07:44

More than 60 wealthy nations have joined a WHO-backed programme to f..

Issued on: 22/09/2020 – 07:44

More than 60 wealthy nations have joined a WHO-backed programme to facilitate poor countries' access to coronavirus vaccines, but the US and China are not on the list published Monday.

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The World Health Organization has in coordination with the global vaccine alliance group Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) created a mechanism aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of any future Covid-19 vaccines.

But the mechanism, known as Covax, has struggled to raise the funds needed to provide for the 92 low-income countries and other economies that quickly signed up.

WHO had encouraged richer nations to step up to the plate by the end of last week and when the deadline fell, 64 were onboard with another 38 expected to join in "coming days", the three organisations said in a joint statement.

Among those who have signed up are "the European Commission … on behalf of 27 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland," it said.

The United States, which under President Donald Trump has relentlessly criticised the WHO's handling of the pandemic and which is in the process of withdrawing from the organisation, is not on the list.

And China, where the novel coronavirus first surfaced late last year, is also absent.

"The purpose of the Covax facility is to try to work with every country in the world," Gavi chief Seth Berkley told a virtual briefing when asked about China's absence from the list.

"I can assure you that we have had conversations and will continue to have conversations with all countries," he said.

'Not charity'

In addition to working to get more countries to join Covax, Berkley said there was also an ongoing dialogue with vaccine-producing countries about "if they have successful vaccines that come out, how we can make sure they are made available to others in the world."

The aim is for Covax to lay its hands on two billion doses of safe and effective vaccines by the end of 2021.

But the mechanism is facing a range of significant challenges, not least a serious funding shortfall.

The WHO has said some $38 billion is needed for its overall ACT-Accelerator programme, which includes Covax, but also global collaboration towards developing and ensuring equitable access to tests and treatments for Covid-19, and strengthening health systems.

But so far it has received just $3.0 billion of that.

The 64 members of the Facility will be joined by 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for support for the procurement of vaccines through the Read More – Source

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Madrid opera canceled after audience revolts over social distancing concerns

An opera in Madrid was halted on Sunday night after audience members protested over concerns that se..

An opera in Madrid was halted on Sunday night after audience members protested over concerns that seating was too crowded in the venue.The Teatro Real in Spain's capital city was forced to cancel the performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "Un ballo in maschera" after a group of spectators staged a protest during the performance, eventually ending the show and closing the venue for the night.Police officers were called to the site on Sunday.The venue said Monday that it "greatly regrets what happened" but attributed the upset to shifts in the city's health regulations.In July, the theater hosted performances of another Verdi opera, "La Traviata," and spaced out audience members by sealing off some chairs and placing empty chairs between each pair of occupied seats, it said.But it relaxed its seating policy after the city eased coronavirus restrictions, allowing some venues to host bigger audiences. On Sunday, the Teatro Real was at 65% capacity, still below city guidelines that allow such venues to fill up to 75% of normal capacity, it said. Audience members were allowed to freely choose their seats, though they wore masks during the performance.The Teatro Real on Monday acknowledged in a statement that some spectators had felt unsafe in their seats, "even if the current health regulations were scrupulously complied with, verified by the police who traveled to the [Teatro Real] last night." The statement added: "The Teatro Real wants to reiterate its commitment to the health safety of the public, artists and workers, in which it has been working with dedication, responsibility and great energy, since April, with its own Medical Committee and scrupulous monitoRead More – Source



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