The Taoiseach has said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit the UK would have to accept full regulatory and customs alignment in Northern Ireland if it were to honour its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking in Davos, Leo Varadkar also said that the UK could struggle to negotiate free trade deals elsewhere around the world if the Irish border question remained unresolved.
He said: “The United Kingdom would have a responsibility to abide by WTO rules and both the UK and Ireland would have responsibilities to honour the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.
“So I think we would end up in a situation where EU and Ireland and the UK would have to come together, and in order to honour our commitment to the people of Ireland that there be no hard border, we would have to agree on full alignment on customs and regulations, so after a period of chaos we would perhaps end up where we are now, with a very similar deal.
“The United Kingdom in a no-deal scenario will face enormous difficulties.
“In a no-deal scenario Ireland will still be in the single market, and will still be part of all those trade deals which come with being part of Europe, the trade deal with Japan, the trade deal with Canada, the trade deal with Korea, the trade deal with Singapore.
“In a no-deal scenario, the UK won’t have any trade deals with anyone, and I think it will be very difficult for them to conclude any trade deals with the question of the Irish border unresolved. Given we have a solution on the table already, let’s ratify that.”
With many thanks to: RTÉ News for the original story.
Britain has decided to “tear up” the Good Friday Agreement by going ahead with Brexit, a former Irish prime minister has said.
He argued a no deal will lead to a hard border on the island.
Mr Bruton also said Sinn Féin’s refusal to take their seats in Westminster was a “tragedy”.
“Unfortunately in Ireland we had no say in this [Brexit] – the British people decided on this freely. In so doing, they effectively negated a referendum we had in Ireland,” Mr Bruton told BBC’s Today programme.
“Remember, we changed our constitution, took certain articles out of our constitution in return for an international commitment from Britain to the Belfast Agreement which guaranteed fair treatment of both communities in Northern Ireland, that neither community would be isolated.
“We changed our constitution to make that deal and Britain then comes along unilaterally and essentially decides to tear that up by proceeding with Brexit… and that’s why we have insisted on a backstop to protect the Good Friday Agreement, so that Britain can’t do that.”
Mr Bruton served as Taoiseach between 1994 and 1997. He was later appointed as the EU’s ambassador to the US between 2004 and 2009.
On Tuesday, members of parliament in the UK are expected to hold their vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for the UK’s withdrawal and future relationship with the European Union.
The key vote has been delayed from 11 December 2018.
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.
“One suspects that those who object to the backstop are people who don’t really ever expect there will be an acceptable agreement that would avoid a hard border in Ireland or between Ireland and Britain,” added Mr Bruton.
On Sinn Féin’s policy of abstention at Westminster, he said: “Ireland was partitioned in 1920 when Sinn Féin refused to take their seats after the 1918 election.
“Sinn Féin have refused to take their seats on this occasion and the most serious threats to the position of Northern nationalists are now about to be realised – with no Sinn Féin, no Northern nationalist voice there to argue a different case.
The ambassador of the United Kingdom (UK) to Libya, Frank Baker has confirmed that only few MPs at the British House of Commons, mainly representing Northern Ireland, are the ones who spoke of using Libya’s frozen assets to compensate victims of the Irish Republican Army (IRA.)
This statement came as Baker met with the Head of the High Council of State (HCS) Khalid Al-Mishri in Tripoli where both officials reviewed the issue of the frozen funds among other talks, HCS media office reported.
“Those MPs are few and it is difficult for such a decision to pass at the House of Commons. The Gaddafi-backed IRA attacks’ victims were compensated before his death through the United States.” Baker said.
He added that the UK did not decide upon this matter and the rumors surrounding the UK’s stance of it are false, pointing out that such an issue could be resolved with the Presidential Council Head and Foreign Minister, away from the “media’s provocation.”
“We do reject using Libya’s frozen assets in that way and we do confirm that the case has been solved at the time of Gaddafi’s regime. The funds are for all Libyans and are frozen by a UN Security Council resolution.” Al-Mishri said.
He also reviewed the free economic zone in Sirte and was backed by Baker that such a project is very vital for both countries.
UK House of Commons was set to vote for allowing the government to use Libya’s frozen assets in Britain to compensate IRA victims.
With many thanks to: The Libya Observer and Abdulkader Assad for the origional posting.
U.N. chemical weapons experts visit people affected by an apparent gas attack, at a hospital in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya.
On 21 August, hundreds – perhaps over a thousand – people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the US, UK, Israel and France to raise the spectre of military strikes against Bashir al Assad’s forces.
The latest episode is merely one more horrific event in a conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The case for action at first glance is indisputable. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad’s troops. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. International observers have overwhelmingly confirmed Assad’s complicity in the preponderance of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. The illegitimacy of his regime, and the legitimacy of the uprising, is clear.
Experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of some sort of chemical attack, is real – but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad’s arsenal, or were a more amateur concoction potentially linked to the rebels.
Whatever the case, few recall that US agitation against Syria began long before recent atrocities, in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.
In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert US “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business”, he told French television:
“I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”
The 2011 uprisings, it would seem – triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes – came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”
So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, starting with Iraq and moving on to “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.
Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states”:
“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”
In this context, the report identified several potential trajectories for regional policy focused on protecting access to Gulf oil supplies, among which the following are most salient:
“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces… the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace… US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”
Exploring different scenarios for this trajectory, the report speculated that the US may concentrate “on shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.” Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists, the report concluded that doing so might work in western interests by bogging down jihadi activity with internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the US:
“One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to US interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations.”
The RAND document contextualised this disturbing strategy with surprisingly prescient recognition of the increasing vulnerability of the US’s key allies and enemies – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Syria, Iran – to a range of converging crises: rapidly rising populations, a ‘youth bulge’, internal economic inequalities, political frustrations, sectarian tensions, and environmentally-linked water shortages, all of which could destabilise these countries from within or exacerbate inter-state conflicts.
The report noted especially that Syria is among several “downstream countries that are becoming increasingly water scarce as their populations grow”, increasing a risk of conflict. Thus, although the RAND document fell far short of recognising the prospect of an ‘Arab Spring’, it illustrates that three years before the 2011 uprisings, US defence officials were alive to the region’s growing instabilities, and concerned by the potential consequences for stability of Gulf oil.
These strategic concerns, motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. An Agence France-Presse report claimed Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas”.
Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 – just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo – and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines.
The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.
It would seem that contradictory self-serving Saudi and Qatari oil interests are pulling the strings of an equally self-serving oil-focused US policy in Syria, if not the wider region. It is this – the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the US and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria – that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention: not concern for Syrian life.
What is beyond doubt is that Assad is a war criminal whose government deserves to be overthrown. The question is by whom, and for what interests?
• This article was amended on 7 October 2015 to provide clearer attribution to a quote about tAssad’s rationale for rejecting Qatar’s proposed oil pipeline.
Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed
A more detailed in-depth special report based on this article is available at the author’s website here.
With many thanks to: The Guardian for the origional story.
Follow these links to find out more: http://anonhq.com/cia-hell-bent-destroying-syria-oil-declassified-document-reveals/
The Ministry of Defence has tracked 350 breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen, new figures show.
Campaigners called the number “staggering” and warned UK arms had played a central role in creating one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Saudi Arabia has faced criticism over its role in Yemen’s civil war, with warnings the Saudis were “orchestrating what will potentially become the worst famine in the last 50 years”.
Defence minister Mark Lancaster said alleged breaches were best investigated by the Saudi-led joint incident assessment team, with the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) figures used to monitor the country’s approach.
The UK has sold £4.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since its bombing in Yemen began, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade.
The campaign’s Andrew Smith said: “These figures are staggering and shameful, but that is only part of the story. These aren’t just numbers on a tracker, they are also people’s lives.
“The three year bombardment has seen the destruction of schools, homes and hospitals. Thousands of people have been killed, and yet the arms sales have continued.
“We are always hearing how rigorous and robust UK arms export controls supposedly are, but these figures show how empty those boasts are.
“The people of Yemen are living through one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, and UK arms have played a central role in creating it.”
In January 2017 the Government said it was tracking 252 alleged violations in Yemen.
Ministers have repeatedly insisted they operate one of the strictest arms export control regimes in the world.
They also say Saudi Arabia has a right to defend itself from Houthi rebels operating in Yemen, who have launched missile attacks against the Saudi capital Riyadh.
The new figures were released in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle.
He said the figure “is a fraction of the number of war crimes that have been routinely occurring in Yemen”, most of which had been committed by the Saudi air force.
“The so called joint incidents assessment team, the self-investigating body set up as a fig leaf to make legal Saudi Arabia’s destruction of Yemen, has reported on only 41 allegations of international humanitarian law violations – a fraction of the MoD’s fraction. In reality, these statistics are meaningless,” Mr Russell-Moyle said.“They are designed to make the war look tidy and make Britain appear in control of its dubious ally, which is acting against all notions of proportion and restraint. The Tories are simply prioritising private profit over the lives of Yemenis.”
In his reply, Mr Lancaster said that as of March 21, the number of alleged instances of breaches or violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) in Yemen listed on the “tracker” database maintained by the MoD is 350.
He said 14 of these are duplicate entries, which means some incidents will have been recorded on more than one occasion due to the way the data is compiled.
Mr Lancaster added: “The MoD does not investigate allegations of Saudi-led coalition IHL violations.
“The Saudi-led coalition is best placed to do this, and does so through its joint incident assessment team.
“MoD analysis of alleged IHL violations is used to form an overall view on Saudi Arabia’s approach and attitude to IHL.”
Mr Smith, though, said the Government’s own analysis “suggests that breaches of international law have become a routine part of the bombing campaign”.
He added: “After three years of destruction, what more will it take for Theresa May and her colleagues to stop arming and supporting the Saudi dictatorship?”
With many thanks to the: The Daily Mail for the origional story.
Boris Johnson has said the Government should focus on stopping the Irish border becoming “significantly” harder after Brexit and suggested that crossings of the frontier could be monitored by technology like travel between London boroughs.
The Foreign Secretary said “there’s no border between Camden and Westminster” as he suggested that goods crossing between the Republic and Northern Ireland could be subject to electronic checks, in an apparent reference to the congestion charge.
Further details of his thinking on the issue are contained in a leaked letter to the Prime Minister in which he suggests “it is wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border”‘ but instead the aim was to stop the frontier becoming “significantly harder”.
The letter, obtained by Sky News, suggested that “even if a hard border is reintroduced, we would expect to see 95% + of goods pass the border (without) checks”.
The document from the Foreign Secretary, entitled “The Northern Ireland/Ireland border – the Facilitated Solution”, accompanies a “concept note” that “draws on Foreign Office expertise”.
The leak comes a day ahead of the publication of the European Commission’s draft text for the withdrawal deal.
This will include procedures for putting into operation the “alignment” of Northern Irish regulations with the EU rulebook, which will be needed if no technological solution is found to keep the border with the Republic open after Brexit.
Whitehall sources insisted that there was agreement the task was not about “no border” but “it’s about no hard border”.
Mr Johnson’s comparison of the the Irish border to north London was dismissed as “willful recklessness” and “unbelievable” by Labour MPs.
Mr Johnson also said that the CBI business lobby group and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were “wrong” to back a customs union with Brussels, as it would leave Britain a “colony” of the EU in a situation that would be the “worst of all worlds”.
Mr Corbyn’s initiative has set the scene for possible defeat for Theresa May at the hands of Tory rebels and Labour in an upcoming Commons vote on the Trade Bill.
But Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You can’t suck and blow at once, as they say, we’re going to have to come out of the customs union in order to be able to do free trade deals.”
And with the EU set to publish a legal document containing commitments to avoid a hard Irish frontier on Wednesday, Mr Johnson dismissed the suggestion that leaving the tariff-free customs union would see the erection of border posts on the island.
“There’s no border between Camden and Westminster, but when I was mayor of London we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks whatever,” he told Today.
“It’s a very relevant comparison because there’s all sorts of scope for pre-booking, electronic checks, all sorts of things that you can do to obviate the need for a hard border to allow us to come out of the customs union, take back control of our trade policy and do trade deals.”
Responding, Labour anti-Brexit MP David Lammy tweeted “God help us all this isn’t just stupidity and ignorance but wilful recklessness”, while Paul Blomfield said it was “unbelievable”.
Mr Johnson’s border comments were mocked by Tottenham Labour MP Mr Lammy, who said on Twitter: “When I was a young boy we were told to stay away from the Troubles on the Caledonian Rd & marching bands in Regent’s Park. The Chalk Farm Peace Agreement has brought peace in our time. People can get the tube from Camden Town to Finsbury Park without being searched at the border.”
Sheffield Labour MP Mr Blomfield said: “Stumbling, bumbling borisjohnson compares north & south of Ireland with Islington & Camden on r4Today while trying to explain his frictionless border without a Customs Union. Unbelievable!”
Meanwhile International Trade Secretary Liam Fox became embroiled in a row with a former top official at his department over the Government’s Brexit plans.
Sir Martin Donnelly said leaving the customs union to strike free trade deals around the world was like “giving up a three-course meal for the promise of a packet of crisps”.
Sir Martin, who left his role as permanent secretary at the Department of International Trade last year, said any divergence from Brussels’ rules would deal a blow to British services which would not be compensated for through deals with nations such as the US.
But Dr Fox, answering questions after a speech in London, said: “It is unsurprising that those who spent a lifetime working within the European Union would see moving away from the European Union as being threatening.”
The International Trade Secretary said the UK could reach agreements with the EU as well as other nations.
“It is not a choice of one or the other. And, in any case, I think the UK Brexit process is, as we have all discovered, a little more complex than a packet of Walkers.”
With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.
The carefully worded text will allude to a single regulatory space on the island of Ireland with no internal barriers
The carefully worded text will allude to a single regulatory space on the island of Ireland with no internal barriers
By Tony Connelly
The territory of Northern Ireland may be considered part of European Union customs territory post-Brexit, according to a draft legal text to be adopted by the European Commission tomorrow, RTÉ News understands.
The carefully worded text will allude to a single regulatory space on the island of Ireland with no internal barriers.
This scenario would reflect the so-called “default” or “backstop” option contained in the December agreement between the EU and the UK on how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
According to a well-placed EU source, the draft text will allude to a single regulatory space with no internal frontiers, in order to give effect to the regulatory alignment backstop.
The draft text will also state that, under the backstop option, joint EU-UK customs teams will be required to apply checks on goods coming from the UK into the new regulatory space, but will not specify where those checks will take place.
The text will also say that the options preferred by the UK to avoid a hard border are also available, and that if agreement is reached on those options, then the above scenario would not apply.
Those options include avoiding a hard border through a future EU-UK free trade agreement, or through specific proposals made by the UK government.
The Irish Government has said it would prefer a hard border to be avoided via those options, but that in the meantime the third option – maintaining full alignment of the rules of the single market and customs union north and south – needs to be reflected in unambiguous legal language.
By contrast, Options A and B will not be reflected in binding legal language, largely because the UK has not fully spelled out how they would work, and because they relate to the future trade agreement rather than the withdrawal treaty.
The European Commission has in the past expressed scepticism that the UK’s preferred options – known as Option A and B – will work given the potential that they would undermine the integrity of the EU single market and customs union.
Brexit and the Border: The Great Reckoning?
Minister: Good Friday Agreement will deliver soft Brexit
It is understood that the draft will not spell out that Northern Ireland remains in the EU single market. However, that will be implied by a series of annexes which will say that individual pieces of EU single market legislation “will be applicable”.
However, the text will have considerable detail on how the movement of goods north and south will be facilitate without any border checks.
Three separate well-placed sources have confirmed the general content of the draft to RTÉ News.
The far-reaching text is designed to give legal effect to December’s political agreement between the EU and UK on how to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
That political agreement provides for a “backstop” option in which the UK would agree to “maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and customs union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 [Good Friday] agreement”.
The backstop is contained in Paragraph 49 of the so-called Joint Report, which was signed off on by the British Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on 8 December.
The draft document, however, is a “base” text which will be the subject of further negotiation between the British government and the EU Task Force, led by Michel Barnier.
The British government, and the DUP, are expected to fiercely resist any suggestion that Northern Ireland will be treated differently from other parts of the United Kingdom.
The text is essentially the outline of the overall Withdrawal Agreement under the Article 50 process.
According to the timetable, the Withdrawal Agreement should be concluded by October this year, so that it can be ratified by national governments and the European Parliament ahead of the formal exit date of 29 March, 2019.
As such, the draft, which is expected to be adopted by the College of EU Commissioners at their weekly meeting tomorrow, covers a range of so-called divorce issues as well as the Irish border question.
These include the financial settlement, EU citizens’ rights, the governance of the Treaty and a transition period.
The Irish border issue will be contained in a legally-binding protocol. There will also be numerous annexes governing the application of EU single market and customs rules on a range of areas.
Paragraph 50 of December’s Joint Report states that there will be no barriers against trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
However, both the European Commission and the Irish Government regard this as an “internal” UK commitment, and not a requirement of the EU.
For that reason, Paragraph 50 will not be reflected in the draft texte
With many thanks to: RTÉ News for the origional story.