22 October 2019   Leave a comment

The British Parliament has approved the Withdrawal Agreement Bill agreed upon by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Union. But the Parliament decided not to implement the agreement before the official deadline of 31 October. The delay means that Britain will need an extension from the EU but it also means that Members of Parliament and the British public will have time to study the agreement carefully which means that opposition to the agreement will have time to organize. The leaders of all 27 EU countries will have to approve the extension, but the EU Council President, Donald Tusk, indicated that approval was “likely”. Johnson will probably push for a final vote before the 31st, but it does not seem as if that will happen. The BBC summarizes its understanding of the Withdrawal Agreement:

  • It sets out exactly how the UK will make “divorce bill” payments to the EU for years to come
  • It repeals the European Communities Act, which took the UK into the EU, but then reinstates it immediately for as long as a post-Brexit transition period lasts
  • It contains language on how the new protocol on Ireland – setting up a customs and regulatory border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain – will work in practice. An accompanying impact assessment lays out some of the costs and bureaucracy that companies doing business in Northern Ireland will face
  • It sets out areas in which the European Court of Justice still plays a role in the UK, and makes the withdrawal agreement in some respects “supreme” over other areas of UK law
  • Its language on workers’ rights – an important issue for many MPs – is pretty vague, because Mr Johnson’s deal moves obligations in this area from the withdrawal agreement to the non-binding political declaration on future relations
  • It suggests that if the government doesn’t ask for an extension of the transition period beyond the end of 2020, parliament won’t have a say in changing that, even if a free trade deal isn’t ready in time
  • In the section on citizens’ rights it sets up an independent monitoring authority (IMA) with which EU nationals in the UK can lodge any complaints about the way the government treats them
  • In several policy areas, particularly in Northern Ireland, the bill gives ministers a lot of power to change the law (through secondary legislation) without MPs getting to vote

Prime Minister Johnson may decide to call for a new election if Parliament does not approve the agreement before 31 October. Perhaps a new election will give him a Parliament more willing to accept the terms of the agreement. In any event, Brexit remains uncertain.

Turkish President Erdogan and Russian President Putin met in Sochi, Russia, to discuss the future of the northeast region of Syria. The press is reporting that the two states will conduct joint security operations in the region, replacing the US troops that had conducted similar operations. We now have the bizarre situation of Russia patrolling the southern border of NATO, the very state for which NATO was created to contain. Russia and Turkey will oversee the removal of all Kurdish YPG forces, the Kurdish militia that fought alongside the US to remove ISIS from Syria and Iraq. Reuters reports:

“Under the deal with Moscow, the length of border which the YPG would be required to pull back from is more than three times the size of the territory covered by the U.S.-Turkish accord, covering most of the area Turkey had wanted to include.

“’The outcome of the Putin-Erdogan meeting in Sochi today indicates that Erdogan has become a master of leveraging the U.S. and Russia against each other to maximize Ankara’s gains,’ Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish program at the Washington Institute said in a tweet.”

Russia obviously negotiated the presence of Turkish troops in Syrian territory, even though Turkey had long sought the removal of Syrian President Assad throughout the Syrian civil war which began in 2011. It is hard to believe that Assad has forgotten the Turkish opposition. I am certain that Assad is wondering whether the Turkish troops will leave, or whether Syria has just been chopped up for the interests of the Great Power game being conducted on its territory.

Posted October 22, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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