UK Urgently Needs Brexit Transition Deal … And More Time, MPs Say

Britain urgently needs a “standstill” deal to keep its ties with the European Union unchanged in a post-Brexit transition period, and will probably need an adaptation phase after that for sectors such as financial services, a group of lawmakers said.

A transition agreement — which is widely expected to last for two years — must be done with Brussels “in a matter of weeks” to stop companies from moving more operations away from Britain, the cross-party Treasury Committee said.

“It is highly likely that, for certain sectors, including financial services, the ‘standstill’ transition period will have to be followed by an adaptation period,” the committee said on Thursday in a report, summing up its work so far on Brexit.

Contingency plans

Many companies are drawing up contingency plans ahead of Britain leaving the EU in March 2019, given the lack of clarity about their future access to the bloc which accounts for nearly half of Britain’s exports.

Banks have previously said they want a deal to bridge the period between the end of a Brexit transition phase and the start of Britain’s new, permanent relationship with the EU in order to phase in changes to the way they operate.

“At this stage, the committee makes no recommendations about the design or duration of this subsequent period, except that, unlike the ‘standstill’ period, it need not involve the UK applying the existing framework of EU rules across all sectors,” the committee said.

Prime Minister Theresa May last week secured a deal with Brussels that will pave the way for talks on a transition deal and for negotiations about the future permanent UK-EU trade relationship after Brexit.

Time is of the essence

Nicky Morgan, a lawmaker from May’s Conservative Party who chairs the Treasury Committee, said time was of the essence and London should accept EU terms for a transition deal, including temporarily remaining subject to the European Court of Justice.

“Delays to agreements caused by arguments over arcane points of principle could damage the economy,” Morgan said. “The government should be prepared to accept the terms on which transition is offered by the EU-27.”

Some Brexit supporters have said Britain must no longer be bound by ECJ rulings after Brexit. But under last week’s initial divorce deal, Britain will enable its judges to ask the court to weigh in on issues affecting EU citizens for eight years.

The committee also warned the government against assuming that last-minute deals would be reached to avoid disruption in areas such as aviation.

“The history of international trade diplomacy is replete with examples of short-sighted political considerations prevailing over economic self-interest,” it said.

“And the conclusion of such agreements may come too late for firms that are intending to activate their contingency plans in the first quarter of 2018.”


Western, Gulf Weapons Supplied to Syria Rebels Leaked to Islamic State

A significant quantity of weapons supplied by Western and Gulf states to opposition factions battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict were transferred to the Islamic State, according to a study funded by the European Union and Germany’s foreign ministry.

The leakage of the supplies “significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to IS forces — in numbers far beyond those that would have been available to the group through battlefield capture alone,” according to Weapons of the Islamic State, a 202-page study released Wednesday.

Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a Britain-based organization that monitors the movement and diversion of weapons in conflict zones, produced the study.

“The acquisition of weapons by the Islamic State group is classic blowback – 1980s Afghanistan replayed in Syria,” says CAR’s executive director James Bevan.  He adds, “Time and again, states that seek to accomplish short-term political objectives supply weapons to groups over whom they exert little-to-no control.  These weapons often gravitate to the most organized and effective rebel and insurgent forces.”

CAR researchers say they had the full cooperation of national governments and manufacturers for their three-year investigation, which involved sending teams to cover an unbroken arc of territory extending from the northern Syrian city of Kobane to the south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.  Western governments furnished lists of brokers and shippers, as well as serial numbers of the exported weapons and ammunition.

That, CAR researchers say, shows the governments’ determination “to curb the supply of weapons and associated materiel to unauthorized users.”  The report notes the governments and manufacturers were not acting unlawfully when dispatching arms and ammunition to the Syrian insurgents, there was no international arms embargo in effect.

Armories looted

CAR field researchers analyzed more than 40,000 items recovered from IS forces between 2014 and 2017.  Many of the items originated in shipments that ran into the thousands.  IS seized large quantities of weapons in Syria from retreating Assad forces and were able to loot government arsenals.

And in Iraq, there was a large-scale capture of weapons by IS in 2014 as the government’s security forces fell back rapidly in the face of the terror group’s blitz in Northwest Iraq and Mosul.

But the fact IS often acquired weapons supplied by outside powers within weeks and months of their delivery to opposition factions is less well recognized, says CAR in its study.

Western media outlets, including VOA, did report from the frontlines from 2013 onwards that Western and Gulf-supplied weapons were being traded, transferred and sold by opposition fighters and commanders to jihadist groups such as al Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and IS.

In 2013, a senior German diplomat told VOA his government and several other European Union governments were resisting an Anglo-French push for the West to increase the flow of weapons to Syrian rebels for fear the equipment could fall into the hands of jihadist groups.

Those fears were shared by U.S. officials.  President Barack Obama refused constant appeals from the rebels and Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to increase arms supplies dramatically.  Obama also declined to give the insurgents anti-aircraft missiles, fearing the consequences if any fell into jihadist hands, officials told VOA in 2014 and 2015.

Obama officials put in place various mechanisms to try to track weapons supplied to opposition factions and with TOW missiles they would only provide re-supplies when evidence had been offered by rebel units to show how they had used the missiles.  But without military observers, there was an element of trust involved.  Video evidence could be doctored, officials admitted to VOA during the conflict.

According to CAR, the arms that fell into the hands had serious impact on the battlefield, and continue to pose a significant threat, especially anti-armor weapons such as the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles.  

The report states, “The weapon was manufactured in the EU, sold to the United States, supplied to a party in the Syrian conflict, transferred to IS forces in Iraq, and documented by a CAR field investigation team following its recovery from IS forces.  The full chain of transactions occurred within two months of the weapon’s dispatch from the factory.”

Many countries involved

Russia and China manufactured more than 50 percent of the weapons and ammunition held by IS forces, CAR calculates. Those arms were captured from Syrian or Iraqi forces.

“Former Warsaw Pact countries that are now EU Member States manufactured a significant proportion of the remaining materiel (more than 30 percent of weapons and 20 percent of ammunition).”

CAR researchers note: “Nearly 40 percent of … anti-armor rockets deployed by IS forces in Iraq were produced in the past four years. … EU Member States produced nearly 20 percent of these post-2014-manufactured rockets … a fact that sits uncomfortably with the EU’s parallel efforts to degrade the group’s capacity to wage war and terrorism and to mitigate the international effects of the Syrian conflict.”

CAR also documented ammunition that came from Eastern European states, exported to the United States and then dispatched to Somalia.  Researchers also found matching lot numbers among IS rockets documented by CAR in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Identical weapons deployed by IS forces in Syria, had previously been spotted in circulation with armed groups in South Sudan, supplied illicitly by the Sudanese government.

Also, “A Libya–Syria weapon pipeline has operated since at least 2012” say CAR researchers, but they add that “the precise transfer mechanics are unclear.”


Report: Turkish Police Summon FBI Official

Turkish police summoned a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official on Wednesday over statements made in a U.S. court by a former Turkish police investigator who fled the country last year, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

Anadolu said the FBI official was summoned following testimony given by Huseyin Korkmaz in the trial of a former executive at Turkish state-run bank Halkbank, who is charged with taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed that an FBI attache at the U.S. Embassy “had been brought in to the Turkish ministry.” She provided no details.

The former bank executive, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, has pleaded not guilty. Halkbank has denied involvement with any illegal transactions.

Korkmaz told jurors in a New York court on Monday that he fled Turkey in 2016 out of fear of retaliation from the government after leading a corruption investigation involving high-ranking officials. He said he took his evidence with him.

Korkmaz said he had received $50,000 from the FBI and financial assistance from U.S. prosecutors for his rental payments.

The FBI declined to comment on Wednesday.

Turkish police said they could not immediately comment on the report that they had summoned an official from the U.S. agency.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Ankara said the embassy was aware of the report but had no immediate comment.

Already strained ties between NATO allies Ankara and Washington have deteriorated further over the court case, in which Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is cooperating with U.S. prosecutors, has detailed a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions.

Korkmaz is testifying for the prosecution at the trial. He told the court this week that he began investigating Zarrab in 2012.

Zarrab has implicated top Turkish politicians, including Erdogan. Zarrab said on Thursday that when Erdogan was prime minister he authorized a transaction to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.

Although he has not yet responded to the courtroom claims, Erdogan has dismissed the case as a politically motivated attempt, led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, to bring down the Turkish government.

The government blames Gulen’s network for last year’s failed military coup in Turkey. Gulen has denied any involvement.



У Дніпропетровській області перевищений епідемічний рівень грипу і ГРВІ

У Дніпропетровській області перевищено епідемічний рівень захворюваності на грип та ГРВІ. Про це в середу повідомили в Центрі з контролю та моніторингу захворювань.

За даними центру, цього тижня в Дніпропетровській області зареєстровано перевищення епідемічного рівня захворюваності на грип та ГРВІ на 1,4%. Найчастіше хворіли діти віком до 4 років.

Як зазначили в департаменті охорони здоров’я Дніпропетровської облдержадміністрації, за тиждень на застуду та грип захворіли майже 17 тисяч жителів області. Це на 1,5 тисячі більше, ніж у попередні 7 днів.

Лідери з захворюваності – Павлоград та Вільногірськ, найменші ж показники – у Петриківському районі. Понад дві третини пацієнтів складають діти.

Минулого року в грудні на Дніпропетровщині через ГРВІ померла учениця 2-го класу. Рік тому, станом на 14 грудня 2016 року, на вимушених канікулах через грип та ГРВІ в області перебували близько 50 тисяч школярів, це приблизно шоста частина учнів. Навчання у школах чотирьох міст та двох районів Дніпропетровщини було повністю призупинене.


Суд у США вирішив арештувати обвинуваченого у вибуху в Нью-Йорку

Суд США постановив, що звинувачений у спробі вчинення вибуху в метро Нью-Йорка залишиться під вартою на час досудового розслідування.

27-річний мігрант з Бангладеш Акаєд Уллак взяв участь у засіданні суду по відеозв’язку, оскільки він перебуває в лікарні, де відновлюється після травм, яких зазнав після вибуху. 

Суддя Кетрін Паркер розповіла Уллаку, що він має право на адвоката і не повинен робити жодних заяв.

11 грудня унаслідок вибуху в метро в центрі Нью-Йорка травми отримали четверо людей, включно з підозрюваним. За даними американської поліції, чоловік підірвав примотаний до його тіла саморобний вибуховий пристрій у підземному переході, коли там було багато людей. Правоохоронці заявляли, що вибухівка спрацювала передчасно.

«Я зробив це за «Ісламську державу», – заявив Уллак після вибуху в поліції, повідомляється в заяві федеральних прокурорів.

За даними прокуратури, Уллак, який жив у Сполучених Штатах з 2011 року, розпочав радикалізацію своїх поглядів в 2014 році, коли він почав переглядати відеоролики в інтернеті. Він здійснив свою атаку, тому що він розгнівався на політику США на Близькому Сході, заявили вони.



У М’янмі заарештували двох журналістів агентства Reuters

Уряд М’янми заявив, що поліція заарештувала двох журналістів агентства Reuters.

Журналісти готували матеріал про переслідування військовими мусульманської меншини рохінджа в штаті Ракін, в результаті чого майже 650 000 людей втекли в Бангладеш.

Міністерство інформації М’янми повідомило на своїй сторінці в Facebook, що журналістам і двом поліцейським пред’явили звинувачення відповідно до закону про державну таємницю.

«Журналісти незаконно отримали інформацію з наміром поділитися нею з іноземними ЗМІ», – йдеться в заяві.

Журналісти зникли безвісти у вівторок, 12 грудня, ввечері після того, як їх запросили зустрітися з поліцейськими. Це сталося на  околиці міста Рангуна.


US Central Bank Raises Interest Rate Slightly

The U.S. central bank raised its key interest rate slightly Wednesday, but left the level low enough to continue stimulating economic growth.

The Federal Reserve pushed up rates a quarter of a percent to a range between 1.25 and 1.5 percent. The increase leaves the benchmark rate below historic averages.      

The Fed slashed rates nearly to zero during the recession in a bid to boost the economy and fight unemployment by making it cheaper to borrow the money needed to build factories, buy equipment and hire people.

Janet Yellen, at her last press conference as chair of the Federal Reserve, said economic growth is “solid” as business investment and overseas demand grow. She said the impact of tax changes working their way through Congress is “uncertain” but would probably give a “modest lift” to the economy over the next few years. Fed officials are expected to continue raising interest rates gradually.

The recession ended and expansion resumed in 2009. Unemployment was cut from 10 percent to the current 4.1 percent and the Fed eventually decided the recovering economy needed less assistance and started raising rates. Leaving interest rates too low for too long could overstimulate the economy and spark a sharp increase in prices.  

The newest U.S. inflation data came out Wednesday, showing that prices rose 2.2 percent during the past 12 months. Outside the volatile areas of food and energy, the overall economy expanded at a 1.7 percent annual rate. That so-called “core” rate remains below the 2 percent rate that Fed experts think is best for economic growth.

Some analysts predict the Fed will raise rates a couple more times next year as experts balance the need to boost growth against worries that inflation could jump out of control.



НАЗК внесло припис голові Вищої ради правосуддя

Національне агентство з питань запобігання корупції внесло приписи голові Вищої ради правосуддя Ігореві Бенедисюку і начальнику головного управління ДФС у Києві Людмилі Демченко. 

Як повідомляє прес-служба агентства, приписи внесені про порушення вимог законодавства щодо етичної поведінки, запобігання та врегулювання конфлікту інтересів, інших порушень закону.

У НАЗК пояснюють, що приписи внесені щодо судді Приморського районного суду Одеси та заступника начальника Державної податкової інспекції у Подільському районі Києва через вказування недостовірних відомостей у деклараціях.

НАЗК з метою усунення порушень законодавства суб’єктами декларування і притягнення їх до дисциплінарної відповідальності Національне агентство внесло приписи керівникам відповідних органів.

Припис НАЗК є обов’язковим до виконання.



Суд продовжить розгляд справи Януковича 14 грудня

Оболонський районний суд Києва продовжить розглядати кримінальне провадження за обвинуваченням екс-президента України Віктора Януковича в державній зраді 14 грудня.

Суд продовжить вивчати докази, надані стороною захисту.

Сьогодні адвокат Януковича Віталій Сердюк надав суду лист від прокуратури Росії, в якому йдеться про те, що російська сторона не отримувала жодних звернень від Януковича із закликом ввести війська на територію України.

Суд наприкінці червня перейшов до заочного розгляду справи за обвинуваченням у державній зраді екс-президента України Віктора Януковича. Після того адвокати Януковича відмовилися від участі у цьому судовому процесі, йому вже кілька разів призначали державного захисника.

Янукович є фігурантом кількох кримінальних справ в Україні, зокрема щодо перевищення ним повноважень від листопада 2013-го до лютого 2014 року, щодо масових убивств активістів Майдану, а також за фактом захоплення ним державної влади 2010 року.

Екс-президент України, який втік до Росії після розстрілів протестувальників на Майдані, звинувачення відкидає.


Sweet Victory: French Candymakers Win China Legal War

Revenge is sweet for the makers of France’s traditional “calisson” candies, who have won a months-long legal battle with a businessman who trademarked the product’s name in China.

The lozenge-shaped sweets, made of a mixture of candied fruit and ground almonds topped with icing, are widely enjoyed in France’s southern Aix-en-Provence region.

Their makers were none too pleased when Chinese entrepreneur Ye Chunlin spotted a sweet opportunity in 2015 to register the “Calisson d’Aix” name for use at home, as well as its Mandarin equivalent, “kalisong”.

The trademark was set to be valid until 2026, sparking angst among Provence’s sweetmakers who worried Ye’s move could have barred them from entering the huge Chinese market.

But China’s copyright office rejected Ye’s claim to the brand name in a decision seen by AFP on Wednesday, which said his request to use the label “could confuse consumers on the origin of the products”.

Laure Pierrisnard, head of the union of calisson makers in Aix, hailed the news as “a real victory”.

The union has fought the case for months in the name of 12 sweetmakers, accusing Ye of “opportunism.”

It is not uncommon for Western brands to try to crack the Chinese market only to find that their name or trademark has been registered by a local company.

An enterprising Chinese businessman in 2007 registered the brand name “IPHONE” for use in leather products, to the great displeasure of Apple, which lost a court case against him.

The courts similarly backed a Chinese company that wanted to use the name of sneaker brand New Balance.

Ye, who is from the eastern province of Zhejiang, did not respond to the French sweetmakers’ objections to Chinese authorities.

But he insisted in late 2016 that he acted in good faith, telling AFP he was “a salesman who does business within the rules.”

As far as French producers are aware, calissons have never rolled off a factory line in China.

Some makers, dreaming of the international success enjoyed by their rival the macaron, are seeking to expand abroad, including to the enticing Chinese market.

The Roy Rene chain – owned by Olivier Baussan, the entrepreneur behind Province’s best known brand internationally, L’Occitane cosmetics — has stores in Miami and Canada, and is eyeing Dubai.

The company says it has been contacted by several investors over the course of the Chinese court case seeking to bring the sweets to China.

The affair has also re-energized makers of the dainty candies in their bid for special European status as a product that comes specifically from Provence.

Beijing has already recognized the status of 10 such European foods, including France’s Comte and Roquefort cheeses and Italy’s Parma ham, as well as 45 different wines from Bordeaux.

Aix-en-Provence produces about 800 tons of calissons every year.



Канада включила Україну до переліку країн, куди дозволений експорт автоматичної зброї

Уряду Канади включив Україну до контрольного переліку країн, куди дозволений експорт автоматичної зброї (Automatic Firearms Country Control List). Рішення оприлюднене на сайті офіційного вісника уряду, наказ набирає чинності в день його реєстрації.

В канадському уряді пояснили, що включення країни до AFCCL дозволяє експортерам подавати заявку на отримання дозволу на експорт зброї, зокрема й вогнепальної.

В уряді Канади зазначили, що метою рішення є «підтримка двосторонніх відносин з Україною».

Наразі до AFCCL включили 39 країн, більшість з яких – члени НАТО, зазначили в канадському уряді.

Президент України Петро Порошенко подякував Канаді за рішення.

Міністр закордонних справ України Павло Клімкін, зі свого боку, зазначив, що «тепер ніщо не заважає отримувати зброю з Канади».

Комітет парламенту Канади з питань оборони рекомендував надати Україні летальну зброю, щоб підвищити можливості української армії в протистоянні з Росією. 

Канада вперше відрядила в Україну близько двохсот своїх військових влітку 2015 року, щоб допомогти Збройним силам України у навчаннях з метою боротьби проти підтримуваних Росією бойовиків на Донбасі.

У березні Канада вирішила до 2019 року продовжити свою військову тренувальну місію UNIFIER в Україні. Крім того, ця країна підтримує політику санкцій та спільного міжнародного тиску на Росію через її агресію щодо України.


Tanzania Orders Tighter Controls on Currency, Bank Crackdown as Growth Slows

Tanzanian president John Magufuli ordered the central bank on Wednesday to tighten controls on the movement of hard currency and take swift action against failing banks in a bid to tackle financial crimes and protect the local shilling currency.

The move comes as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called on Tanzania to speed up reforms and spend more to prevent a slowdown in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Magufuli pledged to reform an economy hobbled by red tape and corruption and begin a program to develop public infrastructure after he was elected in 2015.

“We now have some 58 banks in Tanzania, the [central] Bank of Tanzania should closely monitor these banks and take swift action against failing institutions. It’s better to have a few viable banks than many failing banks,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

“I also want restrictions on the use of U.S. dollars. As I speak, $1 million cash was confiscated at the … [main] airport in Dar es Salaam and there is no explanation on the movement of this money into the country. We have to be careful.”

Magufuli said his government was taking several monetary policy measures to improve lending to the private sector, and this had already started to ease pressure on shilling liquidity.

The IMF said late on Tuesday that Tanzania’s banking sector remained well-capitalized, but some small and mid-sized banks face a sizable reduction in capitalization ratios.

It said that progress has been slow, while a lack of public spending — coupled with private sector concerns over policy uncertainty — was curtailing growth in East Africa’s third-biggest economy.

“Improvements in the business environment — policy predictability based on a strong dialog with the private sector, regulatory reforms, timely payment of value-added tax [VAT] and other tax refunds, and eliminating domestic arrears — must be pursued with urgency,” the IMF said late on Tuesday.

Tanzania’s economy grew at an annual rate of 6.8 percent in the first half of this year from 7.7 percent in the same period in 2016.

The economy has been growing at around 7 percent annually for the past decade, but the World Bank said in November growth will likely slow to 6.6 percent in 2017.

The IMF said a sharp fall in lending to the private sector, prompted by high non-performing loans, pointed to a continued slowdown in growth.

In June, the IMF said Tanzania may have to delay implementing some of its infrastructure projects because its revenue expectations for 2017-2018 may not be achieved.

In a bid to profit from its long coastline, Tanzania wants to spend $14.2 billion over the next five years to build a 2,560 km (1,590 mile) railway network, part of plans that also include upgrading ports and roads to serve growing economies in the region.

The IMF said subdued government revenue collection and delays in securing financing for projects have held back development spending and hurt economic growth.