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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The EU has demanded the bill be withdrawn before the end of the month, insisting angrily that Britain must uphold its commitments.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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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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