Peter Robinson, the Northern Ireland First Minister, has stood down

Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has stood down after weeks of disagreement in the Province. The crisis started following the murder of Kevin McGuigan, who was a former member of the IRA, when the Police Service of Northern Ireland said that the IRA were implicated in his killing.

Robinson said in a statement:

“The failure of the SDLP and Sinn Fein to implement the Stormont House Agreement together with the assessment from the Chief Constable of the involvement of IRA members in murder, the continued existence of the IRA and the arrests that followed has pushed devolution to the brink”.

Downing Street said in a statement:

The Prime Minister is gravely concerned about the situation in Northern Ireland following developments there today.

“Earlier this afternoon, the Prime Minister spoke with Peter Robinson. While acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the Prime Minister told Mr Robinson that the UK Government did not believe it would be right to introduce emergency legislation now to suspend the Assembly.

They discussed options for what more the UK Government could do to comprehensively address all remaining paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.

The PM underlined the need for intensive cross party talks to identify ways to tackle all paramilitary groups and to get on with implementation of the Stormont House Agreement

The Prime Minister said that there should be a return to the spirit that had seen politicians show such leadership over the years to deliver a peace process that has inspired people across the world.

The Government objective is clear: we want to work with political leaders for a Northern Ireland where politics works, the economy grows and which is no longer defined by its divided past but by its shared future”.

Arlene Foster, the current Minister for Finance in Northern Ireland, has taken on the role of acting First Minister.

David Cameron has met with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu

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David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has met at Downing Street today for talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel.

Downing Street said in a statement:

“The two leaders welcomed the growing economic ties between the UK and Israel, particularly the progress that had been made since the PM’s visit in a number of areas, including research and science, with an additional £3 million of new funding for bilateral medical research projects in 2017.

They agreed that cyber security was a vital issue, and that it had to be considered both in terms of threats and opportunities. They agreed to collaborate further, with a new package of co-operation covering training and joint exercises to prepare against cyber attacks. The UK will send a cyber business delegation to Israel in December to further strengthen this co-operation.

On the Middle East, both leaders reiterated their commitment to a two state resolution as the only way to secure lasting peace in the Middle East, and the Prime Minister emphasised the importance of improving daily life for the people of Gaza, for example through better power and water supplies and facilitating travel in and out of Gaza.

They also discussed the threat of Islamist extremism and agreed that both political and economic security was required for long term peace, and pledged to continue to work together to support fragile countries in North Africa.

On Iran, they recognised that while there were differences in their approach, both shared the objective of greater stability in the region, and agreed that it was in the interests of all that Iran allowed regular inspections of its nuclear facilities”.

Legal bid to overturn the election of Alistair Carmichael begins in Scotland

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Court action has commenced in a legal bid to overturn the result of the Orkney and Shetland constituency at the 2015 General Election.

The contest was won by Alistair Carmichael and was the only constituency on by the Liberal Democrats in Scotland. The complaint to the electoral court was made by four constituents who claimed that Carmichael has misled the electorate.

Although Carmichael admitted to the illegal leaking of a Government document his legal team said that the claim was “irrelevant”. Carmichael has represented the constituency since 2001 and served as the Secretary of State for Scotland from 2013 until 2015.

Lord Carey says that ISIS need crushing in Syria

Lord Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, has said that ISIS should be crushed even if this means using military intervention.

Carey’s intervention comes after Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn said that he would not use military strikes in Syria even if the international community requested help. As David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has said that military action would require the support of the Leader of the Opposition this would mean that the UK might be unable to join in an international effort if Corbyn wins the Labour leadership.

Carey wrote in the Daily Telegraph:

“The dramatic and disturbing developments of the past few days have introduced a new, heart-rending dimension to this refugee crisis. Undoubtedly, the most disturbing aspect is just how impotent Europe is proving itself to be. If the EU is not resilient in the face of this disaster, it could be torn apart.

I can’t help thinking of Corporal Jones’s catchphrase – “Don’t panic!” But even the Germans are panicking as Angela Merkel, in a desperate attempt to cajole her fellow European leaders into accepting binding quotas, has declared open season for up to 800,000 Syrians to come to Germany.

Isn’t it a bit rich for the Germans to criticise other nations, including Britain, for failing to accept refugees? For years, our warm-hearted land has consistently accepted more asylum-seekers than Germany.
Besides, it would be a mistake to give way to bullying calls to immediately open our doors to tens of thousands of refugees. We are a small island and recent immigration figures are highly disturbing. Last year, a net figure of 330,000 people settled among us – more than the population of Sunderland. Imagine this continuing, year after year”.

 

Environment Secretary says Government will help British farmers

Liz Truss
Liz Truss

Elizabeth Truss, the Secretary of State for the Environment, has said that the Government will ensure that British farmers get assistance. The measures will include a review of the dairy supply chain, a review of purchasing food and drink in the public sector and there will be a trade delegation to China.

Truss said in a statement:

“I recognise the seriousness of the current situation for our hardworking farmers and I will be pushing the EU Commission tomorrow for urgent action to help them through this turbulent time.

Dairy farmers are a vital part of our £100 billion food and farming industry. I want to support the industry to become more resilient and ready to take advantage of the growing demand for British dairy both at home and overseas.

That’s why we are urgently pursuing a range of measures to build on best practice in the industry, provide better promotion of our world class products, and boost support for local producers from the public sector including government departments, schools and hospitals”.

Courts give Anjem Choudary bail until trial next year

Justice Saunders has confirmed that controversial cleric Anjem Choudary and his co-accused Mohammed Rahman will be given bail until their trial to be held in 2016.

The pair have both been remanded in custody at Belmarsh Trial but their legal teams asked for bail to be granted if certain conditions were met. The judge agreed and the conditions include not posting on social media or owning a device which can connect to the Internet. Additional conditions include not engaging with worshippers at prayers and not being in a group of more than two family members outside of the mosque.

Justice Saunders said during the pre-trial hearing at the Old Bailey:

“While I accept the points made by the prosecution, they are both men who are settled in this country. They have families to support and with the conditions that are suggested I think it is unlikely that they will attempt to abscond”.

 

Spanish and UK Prime Ministers issue joint article on competitiveness in the EU

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David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and Mariano Rajoy, the Prime Minister of Spain, have issued a joint article on competitiveness in the European Union.

The text of the joint article was:

“The European Union was formed in the aftermath of bloody conflict. Decades later, it helped entrench democracy across our continent and, as the Berlin Wall came down, it took on a renewed role: to bring together east and west Europe. Today, after the economic shocks of 2008, its over-riding purpose has changed again. We both agree: that purpose is to deliver jobs and growth across Europe, most importantly by unleashing the true potential of the single market. From peacemaker to jobs creator – growth must now be the EU’s number-one focus.

Five years ago, our economies were on the brink. The UK had suffered the deepest recession of all the major nations. Spain had been brought low by a continuous loss in competitiveness, the accumulation of imbalances and a financial bubble that burst. Government borrowing and debt hit our people hard, from Zaragoza to Birmingham. Of course there were significant differences in our economic circumstances – the UK is outside the Eurozone while Spain is a founding member. But our economies shared structural problems, like excessive debt and low competitiveness, that unaddressed would have led to long-term economic ruin.

Now, after tough decisions and sacrifice, things have begun to change. In the UK, a jobs-led recovery has created more than a 1,000 jobs a day. Spain is set to grow by 3.3 percent this year – amongst the fastest in the Eurozone – and is registering record-high job creation – with more than half a million new jobs in the last year.

We draw one clear lesson: countries that clean up their public finances, put welfare on a sustainable footing, deliver ambitious structural reforms, and make work pay, create more jobs and restore hope for a better future. We have done that individually, but we will benefit more if we work together to deliver a European Union that has growth, jobs and innovation as its raison d’être.

The truth is that the status quo in the EU simply isn’t good enough. We need to make the EU much more competitive and translate the momentum of structural reforms at national level into reform in the EU. We want to focus on 4 areas.

Internal market

First, Europe must exploit the real potential of the internal market in the sectors where we excel. Both our countries have led the way by opening up closed markets, from construction firms to travel agencies but there are still far too many barriers within the EU that stop businesses offering their services elsewhere. We want to see a ‘passport’, particularly in areas like engineering and accountancy, which would mean that once you have been given the green light to do business in one EU country, you can do business in all. In energy, more countries should match our ambition to connect our energy markets to the rest of Europe – lowering costs for businesses and consumers, and meeting our climate change goals. We know opening up markets works; take airfares, which fell by 41 percent in less than a decade, following the ‘open skies’ agreement – bringing opportunities of holidaying abroad to more people across Europe.

Technology

Second, the EU must keep pace with changing technology and consumer habits. Both the UK and Spain are at the forefront of the growth in the digital sector but there are still many untapped opportunities. The EU should benefit businesses operating online – by ensuring that there is a swift and simple system for them to register in another country, get access to an internet domain name and pay the taxes they owe. And the EU should make life easier for consumers to shop online across the single market, ensuring, for example, that they can access their iTunes and Netflix accounts when they travel just as they do at home.

Enterprise and start-ups

Third, we need to make the EU work for enterprise and start-ups. Businesses under 5 years old generate almost 50 percent of new jobs in Europe. So we need to nurture them – making it easier to start up, to get finance, to avoid unnecessary costs and regulations.

An EU Capital Markets Union would offer new sources of financing for Europe SMEs worth millions of Euros and helping to address the excessive fragmentation in the European retail banking sector.

Cutting regulation creates jobs. The number of self-employed in Spain has increased by 180,000 in the last 2.5 years and in the UK, the lowest burden of regulation has seen 760,000 new firms created in just 5 years. Of course, for the single market to function we need a common set of rules but frankly, too often in the past, the EU has got involved in areas better dealt with locally or nationally; while the internal market remains uncompleted in areas like finance, energy or services. The European Commission is beginning to address this – new EU proposals are down 80 percent. But we want to go further, giving start-ups a break from some EU rules in their infancy and introducing a target for reducing the overall burden of EU regulation.

Free trade between Europe and the rest of the world

Fourth, we must turbo charge free trade between Europe and the rest of the world. Ambitious trade deals deliver. Under the EU-South Korea deal, €1.6 billion of annual duties for EU exporters were abolished, exports from Spain doubled and the UK economy is set to benefit by at least £500 million every year.

We must reinvigorate negotiations with the big South American trading bloc and look to the dynamic economies of Asia. Now we have a deal with Vietnam, we should focus on concluding a deal with Japan by the end of this year. And our top priority should be the most ambitious bilateral deal in history: an EU-US free trade deal that would benefit business across the continent – from business services in Spain to car makers in the UK. So we say to all our partners in the EU and the US: let’s make a major breakthrough this year.

Today, countries across Europe face many challenges – from defeating the threat from ISIL, to tackling the migration crisis to providing economic security for our people.

Both our countries share a history as exploring nations that look outwards to Europe and the wider world. We both agree that we must work together with other countries to address these challenges. We agree we need to strengthen our own economies. We agree we need real reform in the Eurozone, while upholding the rights of those members of the EU outside the single currency. We agree that the primary purpose of the European Union must be growth and jobs – and in that, every member must play its part. That is how this organisation can continue to benefit people across Europe. And that is one of the ways we will achieve our central duty as leaders: to make life better for the people we represent”.

Government calls for ceasefire in Ukraine

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David Lidington, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has called for a ceasefire to be called in Ukraine.

Speaking at the Luxembourg summit of EU Foreign Ministers he said:

“On the first anniversary of the Minsk Protocol, it is as important as ever that both sides implement a lasting ceasefire. Throughout the last year we have seen repeated violations of the ceasefire and repeated obstruction of the work of the OSCE monitoring mission. The withdrawal of heavy weapons that has been agreed must actually take place, and the OSCE monitors must be given full and secure access to carry out their crucial role. Russia must stop providing arms and equipment to separatist forces and must withdraw its own forces from eastern Ukraine. Without such steps, the appalling suffering of ordinary Ukrainians living in the Donbas will continue.

The Minsk agreements are not just a ceasefire. They are designed to allow Ukraine to regain control of its territory and border. They provide the path to a political resolution of the current crisis. I welcome the progress that Ukraine has made in recent weeks to take forward challenging and vital constitutional reform, including decentralisation. I hope that soon we will see local elections in the separatist-controlled areas of the Donbas. These must be held in line with Ukrainian legislation and in line with OSCE standards and with OSCE/ODIHR observation, as set out in the Minsk agreement. Any elections that do not meet these standards will be illegitimate, and likely to cause further instability.

The weeks ahead will be testing. I welcome the political commitment shown by the Government of Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreement. It is important that MPs and wider Ukrainian society continue to debate these and other critically important issues for Ukraine’s future openly, honestly and peacefully. There must be no repeat of the deplorable violence outside the Rada on 31 August. I urge all sides to engage constructively in the Trilateral Contact Group to ensure progress on the ground”.

Government condemns human right violations in Syria

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Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, has written a report published by the United Nations on Human Rights.

Pinheiro said:

“With no end in sight, the Syrian conflict continues to intensify. Civilians, Syrians of all backgrounds, have been the subject of crimes against humanity, war crimes as well as other serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of their human rights.

Our tenth report, released today, examines the impact of the Syrian conflict on some of the most affected groups and communities. This report documents the manner in which fighting-age men, women, children, detainees, the sick and wounded, the besieged, medical and humanitarian workers, lawyers, human rights defenders, journalists and the displaced have been specifically targeted by one or more of the warring parties.

Civilians are suffering the unimaginable, as the world stands witness. Without stronger efforts to bring parties to the peace table, ready to compromise, current trends suggest that the Syrian conflict – and the killing and destruction it wreaks – will carry on for the foreseeable future”.

Tobias Ellwood, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said in a statement:

“This latest UN report describes appalling human rights violations in Syria. The Assad regime is responsible for abuses on a vast scale, with continued indiscriminate use of barrel bombs, artillery, chemical weapons and unlawful detention and torture. ISIL and other extremist groups are brutal and inhumane, with abuses including multiple summary executions, the sexual slavery of Yazidi women and forced recruitment of child soldiers. The report makes clear that women and girls are regularly targeted by various sides to the conflict solely on the basis of their gender.

The UK condemns in the strongest possible terms all human rights violations that are taking place in Syria on a daily basis. We need to hold the perpetrators to account. And we need to see a political settlement to this conflict, ridding Syria of dictatorship, and to help to defeat the scourge of ISIL”.