EU leaders formally approve second Brexit phase

DW – December 15, 2017

EU leaders meeting in Brussels said on Friday that the way was clear for the opening of the second phase of Brexit negotiations with the UK.

European Council Donald Tusk announced the agreement on Twitter, at the same time congratulating British Prime Minister Theresa May on having brought the divorce settlement negotiations thus far.

“As for the framework for future relations, it is now time for internal EU 27 preparations and exploratory contacts with the UK to get more clarity on their vision,” Tusk later said, referring to the 27 EU member states that will remain after Britain’s departure.

Friday’s approval gives May a welcome success after she lost a parliamentary vote over giving lawmakers the ultimate say on the final Brexit deal.

‘United States of Europe’ Would Become a ‘German Dictate’ – Czech Politician

Sputnik News – December 14, 2017

German SPD party leader Martin Schulz’s talk of a European federalist constitutional treaty sparked an uproar of dissent and criticism within the European Union, especially from its Eastern European members. Speaking to Sputnik, Czech politician Premysl Votava outlined what he said was so dangerous about Schulz’s proposal.

Last week, Schulz outlined his desire to create a legal mechanism for Europe’s federalization, subject to EU member approval, leading to the creation of a ‘United States of Europe’ by the year 2025. According to the politician, any country opposed to the idea would be free to exit the supranational bloc.

Speaking to Sputnik Czech, Premysl Votava, deputy chairman of the Czech National Social Party, a left civic nationalist and soft Eurosceptical party, said that while Schulz’s proposal was absurd, it was by no means accidental.

“It turns out that one of the countries of the European Union, and one which from the economic point of view is the strongest, wants to determine how the EU will look within the next few years. This looks like a return to the time of the dictate, when small states have to submit to the interests of stronger states,” the politician warned.

EU Vows Push to Make Jerusalem Capital for Palestinians

Newsmax – December 7, 2017

BRUSSELS – The EU’s top diplomat pledged Thursday to reinvigorate diplomacy with Russia, the United States, Jordan and others to ensure Palestinians have a capital in Jerusalem after President Donald Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital.

The European Union, a member of the Middle East Quartet along with the United States, the United Nations and Russia, believes it has a duty to make its voice heard as the Palestinians’ biggest aid donor and Israel’s top trade partner.

“The European Union has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a news conference.

‘United States of Europe’: Throwing Disobedient EU Countries Overboard

Sputnik News – December 12, 2017

The leader of the German SPD party, Martin Schulz, wants to turn the European Union into the so-called “United States of Europe” with a common constitution.
The initiative differs little from the idea of a “Multi-speed Europe” that has been recently voiced by French President Emmanuel Macron in his speech at the Sorbonne, Vladimir Ardaev wrote for RIA Novosti.

According to the political observer, the initiative contributes to a standoff within the EU, as it literally divides the bloc’s members into “first” and “second” class.

“The desire to unite the ‘the EU’s core,’ consisting only of those ready for a closer integration of the countries, didn’t come out of thin air. Disagreements in the European community have lately been increasing with the main division line passing along the borders of the Eastern European and Central European states. These states, that joined the European Union after the dissolution of the socialist bloc, differ from the Western ‘veterans’ not only in their development, but also in their stance on very important issues,” Ardaev wrote.

For instance, the position of the countries of the Visegrad group — Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — that joined the European Union in 2004, often contradicts with that of the other EU states.

Brexiteers are furious at ‘sellout’ Theresa May’s deal with Europe

 – December 8, 2017

This morning (8 December) Fleet Street was abuzz about a deal struck between Theresa May and the EU over the final divorce bill, Irish border and migrant rights – thus paving the way for further talks on Brexit.

A senior British source has revealed the UK will pay a financial settlement estimated at £35-£39 billion (40-45 billion euro) as it leaves the EU.

Ireland’s border with the UK had become a major sticking point in negotiations and a previous agreement was scuppered by unionists in Northern Ireland, who were opposed to any move that would see it economically separated from the rest of the country.

The DUP has now cautiously welcomed Whitehall’s assurances that the province would not remain in the single market when the UK leaves the EU in 2019, but says there is “more work to be done” on the matter.

Despite the positive signs from most commentators, Pro-Brexit figures have been growing increasingly angry about details, which seem to suggest that the UK could headed for a soft Brexit.

DUP scuppers Theresa May’s Brexit deal in fury over Irish border agreement

 – December 4, 2017

Nationalist leaders from across the United Kingdom have voiced their concerns over a possible deal that could see Northern Ireland continue under EU trade laws and regulations.

In a bid to maintain the peace between Northern Ireland and the Republic, leaked reports have suggested that there would be no divergence in law across the island of Ireland, even after Brexit.

But leaders from the devolved regions have all raised concerns with the plans.

In Brussels, Theresa May was forced to exit talks without a signed deal.

Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said that there was no deal reached but that it was still possible by the end of the week.

Brexit: EU and UK ‘close to financial agreement’

DW – November 29, 2017

The EU and the UK are close to agreement on the final Brexit ‘divorce bill’ — the share of EU liabilities the UK will pay upon leaving the bloc — according to several reports in the British media reported late on Tuesday.

The BBC, the Financial Times, the Guardian and several other British newspapers and media outlets are reporting that following a UK government cabinet meeting last week, the British significantly upped their offer to Brussels, coming much closer than they previously had to the EU’s estimate of the UK’s financial obligations.

According to several EU diplomats and officials, intense negotiations have led to the UK broadly agreeing to the terms of a financial settlement that could see the country paying a net amount of at least €50 billion ($59 billion) over a period of several years after it leaves the EU in March 2019.

When asked on Wednesday about the reports, the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit Michel Barnier said: “We are working really, really hard on these subjects. I hope that I can report that we have been able to negotiate a deal.”

EU Army: ‘Continental’ Defence Force Progressing at ‘Full Speed’

Liam Deacon – November 24, 2017

The European Union’s (EU) foreign minister has said the bloc is working at “full speed” to create a unified “defence force” on a “continental scale”.

Federica Mogherini, who is formally known as the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, made the announcement at the Annual Conference of the European Defence Agency.

“Exactly ten days ago, I received the letter notifying that 23 Member States are ready to embark on a Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence. And, let me add, that others might join in the coming days,” she said, referring to the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) pact signed earlier this month.

Led by France and Germany, 23 member-states agreed to a common defence fund, which will see them develop and deploy armed forces together.

They earmarked £4.9 billion (€5.5 billion) to fund research and development into new military hardware and the joint purchase of equipment, as well as committing to integrate their armed forces and the establishment of a joint headquarters.

Merkel’s Poll Ratings At Record-Low After Failure To Form Government

Jacob Bojesson – November 23, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is suffering the lowest poll ratings since taking charge of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 17 years ago after her proposed government formation collapsed Sunday.

CDU and its sister party the Christian Social Union won the general election in September after receiving 33 percent of the votes. Merkel’s fourth term is in jeopardy after the Free Democrats pulled out of coalition negotiations and Germans appear to be losing patience over the situation.

With the possibility of a snap election in the spring, CDU’s popularity has plummeted below 30 percent for the first time since Merkel was named party leader in 2000. A SPON-Wahltrend poll conducted for magazine Der Spiegel shows 29.2 percent’s support for CDU. A majority of Germans, 54 percent, don’t want her to run if a snap poll is called, according to a t-online survey. Just 38.5 percent still back another run.

Merkel hinted at a new election Monday as she wants to avoid a weak minority government with the Green party.

EU in Crisis as Merkel Government Crumbles in Germany

TruNews – November 20, 2017

Germany, the most financially stable of the European countries, is in its worst political crisis in decades as Chancellor Angela Merkel failed over the weekend to forge a majority coalition to govern the country.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union relied heavily upon its alliance with the Christian Social Union of Bavaria and the Social Democratic Party to maintain a majority government coalition in he Bundestag, the lower house of the German federal legislature. That alliance has fallen apart due to disagreements over a number of key issues, including immigration, “climate change,” and how to reform the European Union in the wake of last year’s Brexit vote.

Unable to come to a consensus agreement to forge a majority government coalition with its traditional allies, Merkel’s Unionists turned to the right-wing Alternative for Germany, the libertarian Free Democratic Party, and the uber-environmentalist Greens to see if an alliance could be forged with former opponents. Over the weekend, those negotiations fell apart along the same lines as the negotiations with the SPD.