October 12th, 2017
Photo: Michel Barnier: ‘We’ve reached a state of deadlock which is very disturbing’
BBC – The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier says there has not been enough progress to move to the next stage of Brexit talks as the UK wants.
He said there was “new momentum” in the process but there was still “deadlock” over how much the UK pays when it leaves, which he called “disturbing”.
Mr Davis said the UK still wanted to be given the green light for trade talks when EU leaders meet next week.
The pair were speaking after the fifth round of Brexit talks in Brussels.
Mr Barnier said: “I am not able in the current circumstances to propose next week to the European Council that we should start discussions on the future relationship.”
The UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis urged EU leaders at the summit, on 19 and 20 October, to give Mr Barnier a mandate to start trade talks and to “build on the spirit of cooperation we now have”.
He said there had been progress on the area of citizens’ rights that had moved the two sides “even closer to a deal”.
Mr Barnier said he hoped for “decisive progress” by the time of the December summit of the European Council.
He said Theresa May’s announcement that Britain would honour financial commitments entered into as an EU member was “important”.
But he said there had been no negotiations on the issue this week because the UK was not ready to spell out what it would pay.
“On this question we have reached a state of deadlock which is very disturbing for thousands of project promoters in Europe and it’s disturbing also for taxpayers.”
Not even Brexit’s biggest cheerleader could claim the discussions in Brussels have been going well. And there are visible frustrations on both sides.
But before claiming this morning’s drama means the whole thing is doomed there are a few things worth remembering.
At the very start of this whole process, the hope was that in October, the EU would agree to move on to the next phase of the talks, to talk about our future relationship. But for months it has been clear that the chances of that were essentially zero.
It is not, therefore, a surprise to hear Mr Barnier saying right now, he doesn’t feel able to press the button on phase 2, however much he enjoyed the drama of saying so today.
Second, behind the scenes, although it has been slow, there has been some progress in the talks but officials in some areas have reached the end of the line until their political masters give them permission to move on.
The EU had two other issues on which it would not make any “concessions”, said Mr Barnier – citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland border.
On the status of the border, Mr Barnier said negotiations had “advanced” during this week’s discussions.
But he said there was “more work to do in order to build a full picture of the challenges to North-South co-operation resulting from the UK – and therefore Northern Ireland – leaving the EU legal framework”.
Asked about speculation that the UK could exit the EU in March 2019 without a trade deal, Mr Barnier said the EU was ready for “any eventualities” but added: “No deal will be a very bad deal.”
Mr Davis said: “It’s not what we seek, we want to see a good deal, but we are planning for everything.”
Both men said progress had been made on citizens’ rights, with Mr Davis saying there would be an agreement “soon” to ensure EU nationals in the UK would be able to enforce their rights through the UK courts.
He said EU citizens would still have to register with the UK authorities but the process would be streamlined to make it as simple and cheap as possible.
According to Mr Davis, the remaining sticking points include:
The right to bring in future family members
The right to “export a range of benefits”
To “continue to enjoy the recognition of professional qualifications”
To vote in local elections
To “leave for a prolonged period and yet continue to enjoy a right to remain or permanent right of residence on return”
Earlier this week, European Council President Donald Tusk warned that if the current “slow pace” of negotiations continued the UK and the EU would “have to think about where we are heading”.
He suggested that the green light to begin talks about a post-Brexit trade deal would not come until December at the earliest.
Last month Prime Minister Theresa May used a speech in Florence to set out proposals for a two-year transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, in a bid to ease the deadlock.
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Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah sign deal in Cairo
October 12th, 2017
Photo: Image copyright AFP Image caption Hamas runs Gaza and Fatah controls the West Bank
BBC – Hamas and Fatah have signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo, ending a decade-long rift between the two Palestinian factions.
The deal is believed to cover security, administrative and border crossing arrangements in the Gaza Strip.
Egypt has been brokering the reconciliation talks in Cairo.
Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have been ruled separately since deadly clashes between the two groups broke out in 2007.
Hamas won parliamentary elections in the occupied territories the previous year, and reinforced its power in Gaza after ousting Fatah from the enclave.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah holds hands with Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that the talks had led to a “final agreement” to end the rival split.
“I welcome the agreement,” he told the AFP news agency, adding: “I received a detailed report from the Fatah delegation about what was agreed and I considered it the final agreement to end the division.”
Mr Abbas is reportedly planning to travel to the Gaza Strip in the coming weeks in what would be his first visit to the territory in a decade.
Details of the agreement are due to be announced later on Thursday.
What caused the rift?
Fatah, once the cornerstone of the Palestinian national cause, lost power in 2006 when Hamas won a stunning victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections.
Tensions between the two rivals caused numerous violent clashes in the Gaza Strip.
In early 2007, Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a coalition to end the growing factional violence. But in June of that year, Hamas seized Gaza by force and set up a rival government, leaving Fatah and the PA running parts of the West Bank not under Israeli control.
Mr Abbas later ruled out reconciliation with Hamas unless it gave up the Gaza Strip and submitted to his authority.
In April 2014, Hamas agreed a reconciliation deal with Fatah that led to the formation of a national unity government, but this has never been fully implemented.
Who are Hamas?
Who are Fatah?
Who controls what in Gaza?
Hamas has largely controlled the region since it took power in 2006.
As a result, the Gaza Strip has become the subject of Israeli restrictions with much of the population dependent on food aid.
Since 2006, Israel and Egypt have maintained a land and sea blockade on Gaza in an attempt to prevent attacks by Gaza-based militants. The measures have also led to electricity and fuel shortages.
Earlier this month, Hamas allowed the Ramallah-based Palestinian unity government to take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations.
The move had been a key demand of Mr Abbas, whose Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority governs parts of the West Bank.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah then made a rare trip to Gaza. He said the Palestinian Authority would begin taking control of Gaza’s administrative affairs and “security responsibilities”.
Cairo talks ‘serious and deep’
The agreement on Thursday was announced by the pro-Hamas Palestinian Information Centre.
On Wednesday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the talks in Cairo had been “serious and deep”.
“The talks are positive and the Egyptian side is even-handed,” he said, according to the Palestinian Information Centre.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption A Palestinian celebrates following the announcement by Hamas that it had reached a deal with Fatah
Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction, has fought three wars with the Jewish state.
Israel resolutely opposes any involvement by Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. It considers Hamas a terrorist group and has said it will not deal with a Palestinian government that contains Hamas members.
Hamas as a whole, or in some cases its military wing, is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU, UK and other powers.