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Dutch activate ‘hard Brexit’ plan and blame ‘a lack of clarity’ from the UK

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The Dutch Government has linked its decision to activate what it refers to as a “hard Brexit” plan for customs to “divisions within the British Conservative Party” and a “remaining lack of clarity” from Britain that is “impeding negotiations”.

A letter seen by Sky News sent last week from its Finance Ministry sought to explain to Dutch parliamentarians exactly how many extra customs officers would be required to police new trade barriers at Europe’s biggest port in Rotterdam and Dutch airports.

Cabinet minister Menno Snel wrote that 930 would be required in the event of No Deal which is “conceivable” after “difficult” first phase negotiations.

Perhaps as shocking is that 750 customs agents would be required even in the event of a Canada-style free trade deal with a transition period. Fifty have already been paid for.

As the finance ministry calculates it takes between nine and 22 months to train a customs officer, the Dutch Government has green-lighted immediate recruiting, training, tendering of contracts and organising of housing.

Finance minister Snel wrote to Dutch MPs: “The divisions within the British Conservative Party and the remaining lack of clarity about the British input continue to impede the smooth running of the negotiations.

“It is therefore clear that the scenario that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a withdrawal agreement and without a transitional period is still conceivable.

“The red lines of the UK for the future relationship with the EU (leaving the internal market and customs union) mean that the trade relationship can not go much further than a trade agreement like the one the EU has concluded with Canada.”




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The Netherlands has traditionally been seen as a key ally of the UK, and stands to be among the most impacted by any radical change to UK-EU trading conditions, as when imports and exports are combined it is the UK’s third largest trade partner.

On Wednesday the PM is hosting Dutch PM Mark Rutte at Downing Street as part of her charm offensive to secure agreement for an implementation phase at the full EU Council next month.

The Brexit “war cabinet” will try to thrash out a common position on future trade arrangements at an away day at Chequers on Thursday.

Dutch politicians, including Pieter Omtzigt, the Parliament’s Brexit rapporteur has said his country is only “preparing for the stated policy of the UK government – the UK outside the customs union”, and that “if we need hundreds of new customs and agricultural inspectors the British are going to need thousands.”


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CBI tells PM: Customs Union must be a Brexit priority

The preparations being made across the North Sea come at a time when the Brexit Secretary will implore Europe to recognise existing levels of trust in UK-EU relations that he argues will enable a more ambitious free trade agreement after Brexit.

David Davis will argue that the European Union can trust the UK not to engage in a “Mad Max dystopian” race to the bottom on standards.

David Davis
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David Davis is due o give a speech in Vienna

He will declare that leaving the EU will instead create a “race to the top in global standards”.

Speaking in Vienna, Austria, as part of a series of speeches designed as a PR blitz on Brexit, he is set to say the concerns are “borrowed from dystopian fiction”.

He will present the Government’s view as part of a case for a Free Trade Agreement with the EU after Brexit day – saying he is “certain” a good deal can be achieved.

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South Carolina electric chair executions halted as court says death row killers must get firing squad option | US News

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The executions of two inmates have been blocked by a US court, who ruled they must get the choice to die by firing squad.

The South Carolina supreme court halted the executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens, ruling that officials needed to put together a firing squad to give them the option of how to be killed.

Sigmon, 63, was scheduled to be executed using the electric chair on Friday, the first use of capital punishment in the state in a decade.

He was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat in 2002.

Owens’ electric chair execution was set for 25 June, having been convicted of murdering a store worker during a robbery in 1999.

The state recently changed its capital punishment law to address a shortage of lethal injection drugs.

In South Carolina, inmates must choose between the electric chair or a firing squad if the lethal injection is not available. Pic AP
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A new law means prisoners must have a choice how to die if the lethal injection is not available. Pic AP

It now forces death row inmates to choose between electrocution or firing squad if the drugs are unavailable.

The law aimed to restart the state’s executions after a 10-year pause caused by its inability to produce the lethal injection.

Prisons officials had previously said they could not get hold of the drugs and had yet to put together a firing squad, leaving the 109-year-old electric chair as the only option.

“The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad,” said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Chrysti Shain after the court ruling.

“We are looking to other states for guidance through this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions.”

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Lawyers for the men said electrocution was cruel and unusual and that the new law moves the state toward less humane execution methods.

They said the men had the right to die by lethal injection – the method both chose – and that the state hadn’t exhausted all methods to acquire the drugs.

Lawyers for the state maintained that prison officials were simply carrying out the law and that the US Supreme Court had never found electrocution to be unconstitutional.

South Carolina is one of eight states to still use the electric chair and four to allow a firing squad, according to the Washington-based non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.

South Carolina’s last execution took place in 2011 and its batch of lethal injection drugs expired two years later.

There are 37 men on the state’s death row.

Death penalty opponents called for South Carolina to scrap capital punishment altogether.

Abraham Bonowitz, director of the national group Death Penalty Action, said he was grateful the execution plans were blocked but felt a bigger change was needed.

South Carolina has not executed someone in 10-years and there are currently 37 men on death row. Pic AP
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There are 37 men on the state’s death row. Pic AP

“It’s always good news when executions are put on hold, but if the conversation is only about how we kill our prisoners, rather than if the state should have this power, something is very, very wrong,” he said.

“All of this is unnecessary and a costly waste of taxpayer dollars that could be better supporting the needs of all victims of violent crime.”

At a rally on Wednesday, people marked the anniversary of the electrocution of 14-year-old George Stinney, the youngest person executed in America in the 20th century.

Stinney was still a teenager when he was sent to South Carolina’s electric chair after a one-day trial in 1944 in connection with the killings of two white girls.

A judge threw out the black teenager’s conviction in 2014.

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Rafael Nadal withdraws from Wimbledon and Tokyo Olympics to ‘prolong career’ | World News

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Rafael Nadal has said he will not be taking part in Wimbledon or the Tokyo Olympics this year.

The 35-year-old announced the move on social media, saying it was not “an easy decision” but “after listening to my body” and discussing it with his team he said it was “the right decision”.

The Spaniard continued: “The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition.

“The fact that there has only been two weeks between RG (French Open) and Wimbledon, didn’t make it easier on my body to recuperate after the always demanding clay court season.

“They have been two months of great effort and the decision I take is focused looking at the mid and long term.”

The double Olympic champion was seen to be struggling physically towards the end of his loss to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

Nadal won gold in singles in Beijing Olympics in 2008 and in doubles with Marc Lopez in Rio in 2016, when he also carried Spain’s flag in the opening ceremony.

The 20-time grand slam tennis champion said “I want to send a special message to my fans around the world, to those in the United Kingdom and Japan in particular.

Rafael Nadal last won Wimbledon in 2010
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Rafael Nadal last won Wimbledon in 2010

“The Olympic Games always meant a lot and they were always a priority as a sports person, I found the spirit that every sports person in the world wants to live.

“I personally had the chance to live three of them and had the honour to be the flag bearer for my country.”

Rafael Nadal will be replaced as third seed at Wimbledon by Greek tennis player Stefanos Tsitsipas.



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Shooter ‘on run’ after man and woman killed in Espelkamp in western Germany | World News

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A shooter is reportedly on the run after killing a man and woman in western Germany.

Bild newspaper, quoting police, said it appeared someone had been “running amok” in the town of Espelkamp in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Special police commandoes had been called to the scene, it added.

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