Donald Tusk has said Brussels’ Brexit negotiating guidelines show “we do not want to build a wall between the EU and Britain”.
The European Council president struck a conciliatory – but at the same time realistic – tone on the possible future relationship between Brussels and London as he unveiled his draft guidelines for the negotiation of post-Brexit ties.
Mr Tusk said: “The UK will be our closest neighbour and we want to remain friends and partners after Brexit – partners that are as close as possible, just like we have said from the very first day after the referendum.”
The guidelines are due to be rubber-stamped by leaders of the remaining 27 EU states at a summit later this month, paving the way for talks on the future relationship to commence.
But while the guidelines make clear that the EU desires “as close as possible a partnership” after Brexit, it is expected that there will be “negative economic consequences”.
“Such a partnership should cover trade and economic co-operation as well as other areas, in particular the fight against terrorism and international crime, as well as security, defence and foreign policy,” the document says.
But the text continues: “At the same time, the European Council has to take into account the repeatedly stated positions of the UK, which limit the depth of such a future partnership.
“Being outside the customs union and the single market will inevitably lead to frictions.
“Divergence in external tariffs and internal rules as well as absence of common institutions and a shared legal system, necessitates checks and controls to uphold the integrity of the EU single market as well as of the UK market.
“This unfortunately will have negative economic consequences.”
The guidelines warn there can be “no cherry-picking” of particular sectors, like financial services, participating in the EU’s single market.
The free trade agreement on offer “cannot offer the same benefits as membership and cannot amount to participation in the single market”.
And Mr Tusk said that while Brussels wants an “ambitious” FTA with the UK, it will “not make trade between the UK and EU frictionless or smoother”.
He said: “It will make it more complicated and costly than today for all of us. This is the essence of Brexit.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has committed Britain to leaving the EU’s single market and customs union and ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Mr Tusk said these “red lines” meant the only possible option for a trade deal was an agreement similar to the one the EU signed with Canada.
“I hope that it will be ambitious and advanced and that we will do our best, as we did with other partners such as Canada,” he said.
“I propose we aim for a trade agreement covering all sectors and with zero tariffs on goods.
“Like other FTAs, it should address services and on fisheries reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained.
“This positive approach doesn’t change the simple fact that because of Brexit we will be drifting apart.”
While the draft guidelines call for zero-tariff in goods, it warns that access for services will be limited because Britain will be outside the EU and will no longer have a common regulatory and judicial framework with the bloc.
And in comments underlining the EU’s reluctance to offer the kind of bespoke deal sought by the PM, Mr Tusk said: “I fully understand and of course I respect Theresa May’s political objective, to demonstrate at any price that Brexit could be a success and was the right choice.
“But sorry, it is not our objective.”
Responding to the publication of the guidelines, a Downing Street spokesman stressed they were a draft version which had not been formally published.
“We look forward to seeing the final guidelines when published and hope they will provide the flexibility to allow the EU to think creatively and imaginatively about our future economic partnership,” they said.
Interim UKIP leader Gerard Batten accused the EU of wanting to “have its cake and eat it” and said the guidelines would be unacceptable to those who voted Leave in the 2016 referendum.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a supporter of the pro-EU campaign group Open Britain, said the guidelines were a “direct consequence of the Government’s unnecessary and reckless decision” to leave the single market and customs union.
Joe Biden-Vladimir Putin summit: Leaders agree to return ambassadors to posts in bid to lower tensions | World News
Russia’s Vladimir Putin says he and US President Joe Biden have agreed to return their ambassadors to their respective posts in an attempt to lower tensions.
It comes after around four hours of talks between the leaders at a summit in Switzerland.
The two men have had face-to-face discussions at a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva.
The first round of talks involved both leaders, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a pair of translators.
A second session involved other senior officials on both sides.
President Biden gave a thumbs up as he left the villa and then entered his limousine, TV footage showed.
Diplomats deemed it to be too risky for them to appear together because of the potential of an embarrassing public spat in response to media questions.
Opening the talks earlier, Mr Putin said he hoped for a “productive” meeting, while Mr Biden called it a discussion between “two great powers” and insisted “it is always better to meet face to face”.
As they appeared together for the first time since 2011, both men appeared to avoid looking directly at the other during a brief and chaotic photocall before jostling reporters and photographers.
Mr Biden instigated the summit, and for months the two leaders have criticised each other.
Mr Biden has repeatedly called out Mr Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on US interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and alleged interference in American elections.
Mr Putin, in turn, has pointed to the US Capitol riot on 6 January to argue America has no business lecturing on democratic norms.
And he insisted the Russian government has not been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks despite US intelligence showing otherwise.
The jailing of Mr Navalny, whose novichok poisoning was blamed on the Kremlin, was a subject on which Mr Biden was unlikely to get much traction with Mr Putin who considers the case an internal Russian affair.
But there were areas where cooperation was expected. They include arms control, climate change, containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, humanitarian assistance to Syrians and working together on the COVID-19 pandemic.
US-Russia summit: Putin hopes for ‘productive’ meeting and Biden says it is ‘better to meet face to face’ as event gets under way | World News
US President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have embarked on hours of face-to-face talks at a lakeside mansion in Switzerland.
Opening the talks, Mr Putin said he hoped for a “productive” meeting, as Mr Biden insisted “it is always better to meet face to face”.
Their encounter at a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva is full of the potential for high drama but low on expectations for diplomatic breakthroughs.
When a reporter asked if Mr Putin could be trusted, Mr Biden appeared to nod, but the White House quickly sent out a tweet insisting the president was “very clearly not responding to any one question, but nodding in acknowledgment to the press generally”.
Mr Putin ignored shouted questions from reporters.
The two leaders shook hands with Mr Biden extending his hand first.
Shortly before, Mr Biden had smiled at the Russian leader when they posed with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland for the summit.
The meeting, which is expected to last four or five hours in total, comes at the end of Mr Biden’s first foreign trip as US president which has taken him to Cornwall for the G7 meeting and Brussels for separate NATO and EU summits.
About two hours in, the Kremlin announced that the first round of talks had concluded, with a short break, followed by their resumption with a larger group of people in attendance – the first of two such rounds.
The first meeting involved the two leaders, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a pair of translators.
At all of these meetings, messages have been moulded and red lines set by western leaders which sources say Mr Biden will spell out to Mr Putin.
Ukraine, Belarus, Iran, Syria and issues like arms proliferation are all expected to be discussed as well as behaviour by Russia which western nations consider to be contrary to the so-called international rules based system.
The fate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, poisoned then imprisoned in Russia, will be raised by the American president. It is a subject on which he is unlikely to get much traction with his Russian counterpart who considers the case an internal Russian affair.
But domestically for Mr Biden, who is facing criticism for agreeing to a meeting with Mr Putin so early in his presidency, it’s important to be seen to be pressuring the Russians.
The US president, who famously called Mr Putin “a killer” has conceded already that there is “no guarantee” that the meeting will effect any change of behaviour by the Russian president.
As well as the Navalny case, the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in 2018 is likely to feature in the talks.
Defence rivalry will be a key issue with an attempt at a new dialogue on arms control. Issues like the territorial control in the Arctic, space, cyber and autonomous weapons systems could all be up for discussion.
Andrey Kortunov is director general of the Russian International Affairs Council and considered to be a Kremlin insider.
He told Sky News: “They will not resolve these issues in Geneva, they might only authorise their respective bureaucrats and military and diplomats to get into a serious conversation on all of these issues. That would be already a major accomplishment.”
He continued: “I think that Biden and Putin will probably articulate their positions on issues like Ukraine or Belarus too. But it’s hard to believe that they can achieve a breakthrough on such sensitive issues.”
Expectations by diplomats on both sides are being kept intentionally low. From that base it’s possible to build up even small wins as diplomatic breakthroughs.
There is a chance that the two leaders could agree to repair the basic mechanics of their bilateral relationship by reinstalling ambassadors in their respective capitals. But beyond that sort of gesture, bigger announcements are not likely.
On Monday, Mr Biden said he will make clear to Putin “what the red lines are” and “if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond in kind.”
Asked for his assessment of the former KGB officer, Mr Biden said: “He’s bright, he’s tough, and I have found that he is a – as they say when I used to play ball – a worthy adversary.”
The meeting, which was initiated by President Biden, has been arranged over just a few weeks and will involve one-plus-one talks with Mr Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Mr Biden and his Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
A second session will then include other senior officials on both sides.
The two leaders will not hold a joint news conference. Diplomats deem it to be too risky for them to appear together because of the potential of an embarrassing public spat in response to media questions.
“Definitely the summit was prepared in a haste. It’s the very beginning (of the relationship). And it’s going to be a modest beginning especially for Biden. He cannot look as if he yielded too much to the Russian counterpart,” Mr Kortunov told Sky News.
There are areas where cooperation is expected. They include arms control, climate change, containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, humanitarian assistance to Syrians and working together on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nora Quoirin: Malaysia court overturns coroner’s verdict that teen’s death was misadventure | UK News
A High Court in Malaysia has overturned a coroner’s verdict that the death of French-Irish teenager, Nora Quoirin, was likely misadventure with no one else involved.
The 15-year-old, who lived in Balham, in southwest London, was staying with her family at a hotel around an hour from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, when she disappeared in August 2019.
After a ten-day search, her body was discovered around 2.5 kilometres from where she was last seen at the Dusun eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan.
Meabh Quoirin said her daughter was born with holoprosencephaly, a disorder that affects brain development leaving Nora with learning and physical disabilities.
During a short virtual hearing, Judge Azizul Azmi Adnan laid out the reasons for revising the judgement and returning an open verdict.
In particular, he highlighted Nora’s struggles with balance and coordination, the steep terrain around the resort, which was challenging for people without her physical disabilities, and her shy personality which made her “unadventurous” and “uncomfortable with the unfamiliar”.
“Having reviewed the material, that was before the court, I am of the view that the verdict of misadventure ought to be vacated in the interests of justice and substituted with an open verdict, as there was no credible evidence to support any other verdict,” he explained to Nora’s listening parents.
“I am willing to accept that on the evidence before the court the possibility for third party involvement was lower than the possibility that Nora Anne had inadvertently got herself into a situation from which she could not extricate herself.
“That does not mean, however, that I should enter a verdict of misadventure,” he added.
The ruling is a legal victory for the family who believe Nora may have been abducted and challenged the coroner’s decision.
Police have always suggested there was no evidence of foul play, claiming she likely climbed out of a window and wandered off into the jungle alone.
Her family has dismissed this saying that Nora would not have been physically able to disappear into thick forest unaided and evade detection during the intensive search involving drones and sniffer dogs.
Nora’s parents said they were “utterly disappointed” by a coroner’s verdict in January.
They have suggested her body may have been placed in the area where it was finally found.
Legal representatives for the family previously said an open verdict would be “appropriate”.
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