Why Britain’s voters must have a second referendum on Brexit

Vernon Bogdanor writes: ast week, the government set out key elements of its strategy for achieving Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. It seeks a soft landing to a hard Brexit. It wants a time-limited transition period after March 2019, when Britain is due to leave the bloc. During that period, the government hopes for a “close association with the EU customs union”. When it ends, Britain will leave the customs union but seek “a new customs arrangement” that preserves “the freest and most frictionless trade possible” and Britain will then seek a free trade agreement.

These proposals are beset with ambiguity and difficulty, although the idea of a transitional agreement has been welcomed by business. Brexiters fear – and some Remainers hope – that at the end of the transitional period it will be found to have been so comfortable that it will be extended. In that case, Britain would, to a significant degree, remain in the EU, but as a de facto satellite rather than a participating member.

Remainers put too much faith in the transitional agreement. Business seeks certainty so that new investment can be undertaken without fear that market conditions will radically alter. A transitional agreement cannot provide this. It merely offers a stay of execution. A company seeking to decide whether to invest is not helped by being told that the period of uncertainty, instead of being 18 months, will be prolonged for a further two years. [Continue reading…]

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Russia-West balancing act grows ever more wobbly in Belarus

The New York Times reports: Western officials and the news media have for years routinely described President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus as “the last dictator of Europe.”

So it may have been jarring for some to hear him expressing deep support for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in an address last month to a large group of United States and European lawmakers who came for a conference to Minsk, the country’s tidy, but utterly uniform, capital.

For Mr. Lukashenko, however, the performance was old hat.

Over two decades, he has perfected the art of playing Russia and the West against each other. Belarus has been both an indispensable ally and ward of the Kremlin, depending on Russian subsidies to keep its economy afloat, and an important buffer for the West against the Kremlin’s growing military aggressiveness.

But with major Russian military exercises scheduled for next month in Belarus, opposition leaders, analysts and even the American military fear that Mr. Lukashenko’s tightrope act may be coming to a close.

There are widespread fears in Minsk that when Russian servicemen come to Belarus for the war games, known as Zapad, Russian for “West,” they will never leave. [Continue reading…]

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The disastrous consequences of basing politics on what you are against, not what you are for

David Miliband writes: For many years Britons and Americans have been proud of the quality of their governance. Yet today our politics and government are setting new standards for dysfunction. Rather than stability and global leadership there is confusion.

The US is suffering from a serious inability to legislate. There is a genuine risk of the country defaulting on its debts. Jeb Bush called Donald Trump the “chaos candidate”, but as the American writer Jonathan Rauch has pointed out the Trump candidacy was the product of political chaos – in campaign finance, for example – not its cause.

Meanwhile, Britain is suffering its own governability crisis. Leaving the EU was mis-sold as a quick fix. Now it looks like a decade-long process of unscrambling the eggs of national and European legislation. Ministers cannot even agree among themselves the destination, the route map or the vehicles to get us there.

This transatlantic malaise has a common root: politics based on what you are against, not what you are for. Look at the campaigns against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and against the EU. There is a common trope: the politics of grievance.

Complaints about individual policies became attacks against a whole institutional architecture. There were outright lies in both campaigns. And there was a complete (and effective) refusal to describe, never mind debate, what would replace the status quo. [Continue reading…]

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They say after Brexit there’ll be food rotting in the fields. It’s already started

John Harris writes: n the wake of an ocean of writing linking Brexit to the zeitgeisty Dunkirk spirit, here’s one more martial metaphor. Self-evidently, this is the phoney war stage of the process. Negotiations have barely started; the prime minister is on holiday. Most importantly, the fragile tangle of threads that defines what passes for Britain’s economic wellbeing – that mixture of affordable essentials, freely available credit and dependable house prices which ensures no one gets too uppity about stagnating wages – just about remains intact. Meanwhile, ministers – and Labour politicians – talk about the fundamentals of leaving the European Union as if we can push Brussels in any direction we fancy and freely choose no end of measures to ease our passage out.

The recent noise about freedom of movement is a case in point. If the government has a coherent position, it seems to be that migration from the EU under current rules will end in 2019, but also carry on, with – according to the home secretary, anyway – the proviso that during an “implementation phase” of up to four years, people from the EU will simply have to add their names to a national register. Thus, a great human army which keeps so much of Britain’s economy ticking over will still be available, just as long as the right arrangements are put in place.

This is, of course, somewhat less than credible, as evidenced by a mounting crisis that has yet to turn critical but is bubbling away across the country. At the very least, we are fundamentally changing the basis on which people can live and work in the UK, swapping residence as a right for a much more uncertain system dependent on political caprice. [Continue reading…]

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Britain couldn’t leave the single market if it tried

Andrew Adonis writes: The civil service prides itself on being able to deliver the crazy and impossible, if ministers so ordain. It even managed to introduce a poll tax for Margaret Thatcher, and to somehow keep it going for three years in the face of riots. But it’s increasingly clear that Brexit may be an impossibility too far, even for Whitehall’s brightest and best.

By Brexit, I mean the hard Brexit policy of leaving the core economic institutions of the European Union – the customs union and the single market – as set out by Theresa May in her Lancaster House speech at the start of the year. Before then, the working Whitehall assumption had been that Britain would seek to stay in both, while leaving the key decision-making institutions of the EU, including the European parliament and European council, resulting in an “associate member” status similar to that of Norway and Switzerland. The Lancaster House speech put an end to that.

Setting aside its merits, there is a huge practical problem with hard Brexit. Leaving the customs union and the single market requires the UK by March 2019 to negotiate new trade treaties not only with the EU27, but with the 75 other nations with which the EU has free or preferential trade agreements, if British trade is not to take an immediate and substantial hit. Between them, these 102 countries include most of the trading world, and account for more than 60% of UK exports of goods and services. [Continue reading…]

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A second Brexit referendum? It’s looking more likely by the day

Vernon Bogdanor writes: Negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU have now begun in earnest. They are required, according to article 50, to “take account of the framework” for Britain’s “future relationship with the union”. But what is that future relationship to be?

Economically, the EU comprises three elements: a free trade area; a customs union (an area with a common trade policy and a common tariff); and an internal market in which non-tariff barriers to trade (regulations, standards and the like) are harmonised and, indeed, reduced.

Theresa May has declared that the UK will not seek to remain in the single market or the customs union. Campaigning for remain in 2016, she said of the single market: “We would have to make concessions in order to access it; these concessions could well be about accepting EU regulations over which we would have no say, making financial contributions just as we do now, accepting free movement rules just as we do now, or quite possibly all three combined.”

Both membership of the single market and a customs agreement would require us to accept much EU legislation without being able to help formulate it – and not just existing legislation, but any legislation the EU chooses to enact in future. We would become, in effect, a satellite of the EU, relying on the European commission or other member states to defend our interests. Such an outcome – regulation without representation – proved unacceptable to Americans in the 18th century. It would probably prove equally unacceptable to the British people in the 21st.

So, when May said that Brexit means Brexit, she was merely drawing out the constitutional logic of the referendum decision. For there is no logic to a “soft” Brexit – a form of withdrawal that mimics EU membership, but without the influence that comes from membership. The ultimate choice we face is either “hard” Brexit or remain. [Continue reading…]

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London’s mayor — who happens to be Muslim

Sam Knight writes: Even people sympathetic to [Sadiq] Khan often admit that they underestimated him in the past, and have been forced to adjust their view since he became mayor. “Metaphorically—definitely not literally—he seemed to grow several inches,” a former senior Labour official told me. Khan and his advisers, meanwhile, enjoy his image as an underdog, a realist, and a competitor. (Khan is one of seven brothers, all of whom learned to box.) “His politics come from his experience,” a former aide said. “None of it is in that sense ideological or idealistic.” Khan’s visibility as mayor of London, and his sure-footedness, have led to his being frequently talked about as a future Labour leader, and Britain’s first Muslim Prime Minister. “He is absolutely stardust now,” Harman said. “He knows that, and he respects that.”

Polls show Khan to be the most popular politician in the country, and the 1.3 million votes cast for him as mayor give him the third-largest mandate of any politician in Europe. But, in 2017, it is still a long road to persuade large, fearful Western populations to trust their way of life and their security to a leader who is a devout Muslim. Britain’s right-wing press and anti-immigrant lobby are ready should Khan stumble. “They will turn on him,” one of his old law clients told me. “They will turn on him.”

And then there is wounded London. The capital has always occupied a morbidly distracting role in British life. In the United States, a city equivalent to London would have a population of forty-three million people and an economy the size of Texas’s and California’s combined. For centuries, London has been an unlovable, pushy place, full of questionable characters and strong appetites that have forced the country around it to change, sometimes against its will. In the eighteen-twenties, the rural campaigner William Cobbett described London as “the Great Wen,” a growing boil on the body of the nation. “People would follow, they must follow,” Cobbett mourned, “the million of money.”

It is Khan’s lot to have emerged as a national figure just as London is more vulnerable, and more at odds with the rest of Britain, than at any other point in its recent history. Despite the tragedies of the summer, the capital’s fundamental challenge is its future outside the European Union. Brexit poses an existential threat to the city’s wealth and its identity; one in nine Londoners is from elsewhere in the E.U. In City Hall that morning, the final two questions put to Khan were about the impact of the national government’s current hard-line approach to leaving the E.U., which will cost the capital billions and jeopardize its status as a global bazaar. The Mayor was terse and pessimistic. “If you think we will continue to be able to be as prosperous and successful,” he told the assembly, “think again.”

Khan is a student of American politics, and in describing the role of religion in his public identity he often paraphrases John F. Kennedy: he is not a Muslim mayor; he is a mayor who happens to be Muslim. He allays your concerns before they have a chance to form. Khan characterizes himself as a feminist. He is the first mayor to walk in the city’s gay-pride march. But he is also conscious that he has an obligation to talk about and demystify Islam. “There is a way I define myself,” Khan told me, “and there is a way that others have defined me.”

He will quote passages from the Quran and the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet, when discussing terrorism. When I asked him how to say his name (Urdu speakers pronounce it “Saadik”; English speakers tend to say “Sadeek”), Khan spelled out his name in Arabic—“sawd alif daal kaaf”—and explained that it means “truthful.” In 2009, when he was sworn in as a member of the Privy Council, an ancient body of senior politicians, Khan brought his own Quran to Buckingham Palace and left it there, because the palace did not have a copy. Sometimes it is as if he were leading a one-man religious-education exercise. “Many people in positions of power and influence, they have not broken bread with a Muslim,” Khan said. “Part of it is reassuring them: The sky is not going to fall in. You are in safe hands. All the stuff that you worry about, I worry about as well. All the dreams you have got, I have got as well.”

As mayor, Khan has made some of his religious practices into political acts. During Ramadan, which began this year in late May, Khan often broke his fast—taking the evening meal known as Iftar—at interfaith events. One evening, I joined him for Iftar at the house of the Catholic Archbishop of London, behind Westminster Cathedral. There were about a hundred people in a grand upstairs room decorated with Latin mottoes and a portrait of the Pope. Among them were boys from Ernest Bevin College, a state school in South London, which Khan attended. In 1985, when Khan was fourteen, the school appointed Britain’s first Muslim head teacher, Syed (Naz) Bokhari, who was a mentor to Khan until his death, in 2011. At the Iftar, Khan was introduced by Bokhari’s son, Harris.

Because Britain has no senior Muslim authority, Khan often finds himself in the role by default. The other guests of honor at the Iftar were London’s cardinal, Vincent Nichols, and the country’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis. Khan was in a relaxed mood; he is never quite genial. When he spoke, he told a few safe jokes and quoted the twelfth-century Islamic scholar Ibn al Jawzi: “I have not seen a flaw in people as great as the flaw of the able not reaching their potential.” Khan continued, “As a city, and as a society, improving how we mix together is one of the biggest challenges we face if we want to reach our full potential.”

At 9:19 p.m., Khan broke his fast with a date and a glass of water. There was food ready, but a small group of the most observant Muslims went downstairs to say the Maghrib, the sunset prayer. Khan went, too, and in a ground-floor office lined with Catholic journals and maps of the English coastline the women covered their heads and the men found the direction of Mecca. In the second row of worshippers, his silver head standing out against the black hair of the boys around him, the Mayor of London put his forehead against the floor.

In retirement, Khan’s father, Amanullah, became a muezzin at the Balham Mosque, in Tooting, the scrappy, polyglot South London neighborhood where the Mayor grew up and still lives. (Khan’s wife, Saadiya, is a lawyer; they have two daughters.) Both of Khan’s parents were from middle-class Muslim families who left India during Partition. In Pakistan, Amanullah’s father was a civil servant; Khan’s maternal grandfather managed a cotton mill. Amanullah studied engineering and served in the Pakistani Air Force before emigrating first to Australia and then to London, where he arrived in the early sixties. He calculated that he could earn more as a bus driver than he could starting out at an engineering firm, and he ended up driving a bus for twenty-five years.

In 1967, Amanullah’s wife, Sehrun, and their three children came to join him. When Sadiq Aman Khan was born, in 1970, the family lived on the Henry Prince Estate, a housing project in Earlsfield, a mile or so northwest of Tooting. “It wasn’t ‘Oliver Twist,’ ” he told me. “But it was tough.” Soon, there were four more brothers, and the family of ten squeezed into a three-bedroom apartment. (Khan shared a bunk bed until he was twenty-four, the year he got married.) “All eight of us grew up watching my mum and dad working all the hours God sends,” Khan said. “That was the ethic.”

Sehrun did piecework sewing—making dresses for fifty pence an item—late into the night. Amanullah died in 2005, and the downward mobility, the toil, of his parents’ immigrant experience is a mark that has never left Khan. He sees his opportunities in the negation of theirs. [Continue reading…]

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Another future is still possible

Timothy Garton Ash writes: Be it the madness of the man on one side of the Atlantic or the madness of the thing [Brexit] on the other, some of the symptoms are similar – as are some of the causes. The level of verbal vitriolage is almost unprecedented. Both Washington and London, capitals generally known for reasonably stable and efficient government, are now witnessing an extraordinary confusion.

Most senior positions in the state department, for example, are still unfilled. Scaramucci just effectively accused Trump’s chief of staff of leaking. British cabinet ministers publicly contradict each other. On the Thames as on the Potomac river, there are more leaks, gaffes and sudden reversals than in any theatrical farce.

Small wonder the German chancellor says continental Europeans can no longer rely on their traditional cross-Channel and transatlantic allies. Russia and China were laughing all the way to the G20 meeting in Hamburg, in advance of which China Daily had a front page declaring that “amid concerns about US protectionism and Brexit, China and Germany are expected to lead the charge for globalisation and free trade”.

So is this the end of the west? Or at least, of the Anglo-Saxon west? I first heard the argument that the conjunction of Trump and Brexit marks a secular decline of the Anglo-Saxons from a former Finnish prime minister, and have heard it from several other observers since.

The 19th century belonged to Britain, the 20th century (at least post-1945) to the United States. The neoliberalism which exercised a kind of global ideological dominance between the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the financial crisis of 2008 was a characteristic Anglo-Saxon product. It is itself the root cause of the genuine, widespread discontents which populists have exploited to gain power in both Britain and the United States. So the argument goes, not without some schadenfreude – especially in France.

But be careful, chers amis, what you wish for. You may envisage a post-Anglo-Saxon 21st-century gloriously illuminated by the enlightened policies of Macron and Justin Trudeau. Yet the Fortinbras who commands the stage after the self-destruction of the Anglo-Saxon Hamlet is more likely to have the face of a Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Anyway, this is a clear case of POI (premature overdramatic interpretation), colloquially known as pundit’s disease. Another future is still possible. Last summer, when I asked a distinguished American political scientist how he would react to a Trump presidency, he said it would be a very interesting test of the American political system. When we resumed the conversation on the Stanford University campus last week, we agreed that thus far the constitutional checks and balances seemed to be working. [Continue reading…]

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Poles fought the nationalist government with mass protests — and won

Anne Applebaum writes: If an illiberal government — democratically elected, but determined to change the rules — tries to do something unconstitutional, what can the public do? What can the political opposition do? This is a dilemma we now know from several countries — Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and possibly soon Greece. The prospects are pretty gloomy, as I’ve argued before, for those who want to stay within the bounds of the law.

One partial answer is peaceful street demonstrations, though that is a frustrating path. Most people don’t have time to stand in a crowd every day or every evening; the chants and speeches can be repetitive; and, more to the point, the government has no obligation to listen. The effort can seem pointless, and it often is — unless it can move the hearts and minds of the leaders of the ruling party. In Poland, over the past week, that’s exactly what just happened. [Continue reading…]

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From ISIS-lands to the Netherlands: Jihadists try to get the press to help them come home

The Daily Beast reports: Now that the self-proclaimed caliphate of the so-called Islamic State is falling apart in Syria and Iraq, many European jihadists are looking for ways to come home—and some of the Dutch ones have been reaching out to the media, hoping it will save their lives.

Just last week two fighters contacted TV shows in the Netherlands to announce their return to Dutch soil, a third contacted the police.

The grim irony of such a ploy is obvious. Many would-be holy warriors from European backgrounds have been associated with organizations that took journalists hostage, ransomed some, tortured and beheaded others. When they thought their groups were on a roll, jihadists bragged to their Western enemies “we love death as you love life.” And all too many times in France, Britain, Belgium, and Germany they have slaughtered innocents by the score.

But the three from the Netherlands are part of a group of 10 presumed jihadists who have criminal court cases pending against them. Dutch public prosecutors believe most of them are still to be found in what’s left of ISIS-land. After a Rotterdam court recently decided they could be present at their hearing, their trial was postponed until January 2018, allowing them time to return. [Continue reading…]

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Poland’s president will veto a controversial law that critics said would weaken democracy

BuzzFeed reports: In a surprise move, and following intense public outcry, Polish President Andrzej Duda on Monday morning announced he would veto a controversial law taking power away from the country’s Supreme Court and placing it in the hands of the ruling right-wing party. Many saw the law as a step away from democracy.

Under the law, all current Supreme Court justices — there are over 80 — would be required to resign.

A minister from the government — currently the Law and Justice Party, a right-wing populist party that has ruled since 2015 — would then have handpicked new justices. The government would also have power to remove justices.

Prior to the announcement of Duda’s veto, thousands of Poles took to the streets and protested outside of courthouses against the law, which they decried as draconian, with an estimated 50,000 attending a protest in the capital, Warsaw, on Thursday.

Protesters also gathered this week outside the presidential palace, begging Duda to carry out a veto. The demonstrations continued over the weekend, with huge crowds in the streets of Warsaw on Sunday evening. [Continue reading…]

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Hungary’s PM claims EU and George Soros are trying to ‘Muslimize’ Europe

The Associated Press reports: European Union leaders and Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros are seeking a “new, mixed, Muslimized Europe,” Hungary’s anti-migration prime minister said Saturday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said during a visit to Romania that Hungary’s border fences, supported by other Central European countries, will block the EU-Soros effort to increase Muslim migration into Europe.

While Hungary opposed taking in migrants “who could change the country’s cultural identity,” Orban said under his leadership, Hungary would remain a place where “Western European Christians will always be able to find security.”

Orban, who will seek a fourth term in April 2018, said Hungary’s opposition parties were no match for his government.

“In the upcoming campaign, first of all we have to confront external powers,” Orban said at a cultural festival in Baile Tusnad, Romania. “We have to stand our ground against the Soros mafia network and the Brussels bureaucrats. And, during the next nine months, we will have to fight against the media they operate.”

Soros has become a key target of Orban and his government. [Continue reading…]

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Jaroslaw Kaczynski is driving Poland away from European democracy

Der Spiegel reports: The nucleus of Poland’s political power lies not in the parliament in Warsaw, not in the presidential palace, but in a windowless, slightly strange looking building that most resembles a multistory car park. It’s not quite part of Warsaw’s city center, although downtown’s many new glass and steel skyscrapers are still just in sight.

Every day, an official car picks up Jaroslaw Kaczynski from his apartment in the Zoliborz neighborhood and brings him to this office block at 84-86 Nowogrodzka. The building houses a sushi restaurant, a copy shop and an insurance company — and the headquarters of Kaczynski’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Its chairman uses a separate entrance. In the mornings, a team of young staff members supplies him with books, newspapers and printouts. All in Polish, because Kaczynski only reads Polish sources. At midday, a procession of black limos starts arriving, delivering ministers — and occasionally the president of the Polish National Bank — to the Nowogrodzka office to pick up directives and seek advice.

Despite holding no formal government office, Kaczynski is Warsaw’s undisputed leader. Together with his late twin brother, Lech, he founded the PiS party in 2001 and twice led it to victory. In 2015, he hand-picked its presidential candidate Andrzej Duda, at the time an unknown member of the European Parliament, who went on to win the vote. He also personally selected current Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. Both politicians are widely seen as Kaczynski’s willing stooges. [Continue reading…]

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Swedish Nazis trained in Russia before bombing a center for asylum seekers

BuzzFeed reports: By the time Anna Ahlberg arrived at the shelter, the only evidence that remained of the blast was a pool of blood that had melted through the snow in the parking lot.

The makeshift shelter was a rundown concrete motel on a lonely road off the highway running into Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city. It housed people who had come to Sweden seeking asylum, but had been ordered to leave the country. Ahlberg, the director of the local migration agency, rushed to the scene about an hour after the explosion went off on the afternoon of January 5. By the time she arrived, the only person injured had been taken away in an ambulance. He was a janitor who’d been peppered with shrapnel and had both legs broken in the blast.

Ahlberg spent a long hour sitting in the back of a police car waiting for a bomb squad to clear the building before they’d allow her inside to reassure the roughly 60 asylum seekers on lockdown. She clung to the hope that the explosion was caused by a firework, or by a propane canister that one of the residents had been using to fuel a camp stove in their room.

“I didn’t want to think that it was meant to harm any person, that it was just an accident or bad luck,” Ahlberg told BuzzFeed News during an interview in Gothenburg in March.

But Ahlberg’s worst fears were confirmed a week later when investigators revealed that the people behind the blast were members of Sweden’s largest Nazi organization, the Nordic Resistance Movement.

They had found DNA samples on fragments of a bomb and the bicycle it had been strapped to that matched a 23-year-old named Viktor Melin. Melin was the leader of the group’s Gothenburg cell, and prosecutors ultimately brought charges against him and two other members, 20-year-old Anton Thulin and 50-year-old Jimmy Jonasson. The explosive matched devices used in two other attacks that winter: one that exploded in November outside the gathering spot of a left-wing organization without injuring anyone, and another that was discovered before it could go off at a residence for refugees in late January.

This was not the first time Ahlberg had seen one of her facilities vandalized. Two others in her jurisdiction had been damaged just before they were due to open in 2015. Scores of facilities were torched that year, part of the backlash that met the 160,000 asylum seekers who came to Sweden at the height of the EU refugee crisis. But the incident in the parking lot was the first time Ahlberg had heard of a bombing — and someone was nearly killed.

As the case headed to trial six months later, prosecutors dropped a bombshell. The perpetrators weren’t simply inspired by events at home, according to court filings reviewed by BuzzFeed News. Prosecutors presented evidence that two of the men had traveled to Russia, where they trained with paramilitaries who had fought alongside Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

The evidence prosecutors laid out to the judge could have far-reaching consequences throughout Europe. They showed how a largely forgotten war hundreds of miles away that has claimed thousands of lives had emboldened fringe nationalists deep inside the EU and built networks into Russia.

Security analysts worry that the Ukraine conflict fueled a transformation of right-wing extremist groups across the West. [Continue reading…]

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This is why Polish people are protesting to defend their democracy

BuzzFeed reports: Tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets on Thursday to protest a law that subordinates the country’s Supreme Court to Poland’s nationalist ruling party. An estimated 50,000 people came out to protest the law in the capital Warsaw alone, with tens of thousands more joining in other cities and smaller towns across the country.

Despite growing protests at home and warnings from the EU, the lower house of the Polish parliament passed a bill strengthening the grip of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) over the judiciary. Under the new law, all current judges on the Supreme Court will be dismissed and the justice minister will appoint new ones.

The bill still has to be passed by the upper house of the Polish parliament, the Senate, and signed into effect by Polish President Andrzej Duda.

In a last desperate attempt to block what they see as the end of democracy in the country, the opposition called on protesters to gather outside the presidential palace in Warsaw demanding that Duda veto the law. Poles also brought candles to local courthouses and chanted “Free Courts!” across the country. [Continue reading…]

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ACLU urges senators to oppose bill targeting Israel boycotts

JTA reports: The American Civil Liberties Union called on U.S. senators to oppose a measure targeting boycotts of Israel and its settlements.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in March by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would expand 1970s-era laws that make illegal compliance with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments — laws inspired at the time by the Arab League boycott of Israel — to include boycotts backed by international organizations. Those adhering to boycotts would be the subject of fines.

While the measure is aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, it also targets efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to distinguish products manufactured in Israel from those manufactured in West Bank settlements.

In a letter Monday, the ACLU urged senators not to co-sponsor the measure and to oppose its passage.

“We take no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter,” wrote Faiz Shakir, ACLU’s national political director. “However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.”

Shakir added that “the bill would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.” [Continue reading…]

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There’s still a real chance for a second Brexit referendum

Jonathan Freedland writes: roject fear is becoming project reality. Each day brings new evidence of the dire consequences of Brexit. Sometimes it takes the form of a big company announcing that it’s moving operations from the UK to the continent, taking hundreds or thousands of jobs with it. It could be JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs or Samsung, depending on the day of the week.

Or it may be a plea from a key industry voicing its fears of a mismanaged departure from the EU. This week it was medicine and aviation. Eight pharmaceutical trade associations wrote a joint letter warning that the supply of “life-saving medicines” faces disruption, while UK airports cautioned that all flights to Europe could be suspended if there’s no deal to replace the EU “open skies” agreement.

A fortnight ago came figures showing that investment in the UK car industry had plummeted, with uncertainty over Brexit the culprit. Meanwhile, MPs are nervously realising that when they voted to trigger article 50 they also voted to leave Euratom, the body that safeguards the movement of nuclear materials. That’s scary enough, but if we’re outside Euratom medical equipment involved in x-rays and radiotherapy could be stopped at the border. [Continue reading…]

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