Category Archives: Great Britain

Brexit: Theresa May’s Florence Speech

Prime Minister Theresa May has used a speech in Florence to set out the UK’s position on how to move Brexit talks forward. With further negotiations planned next week, what did her speech tell us about the sort of Brexit deal we might end up with? Reality Check correspondent Chris Morris has been scanning the speech. The BBC’s report is extracted below.


Future of the EU

What’s the significance? It’s worth noting that a lot of Brexit supporters in the UK jumped on Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the European Union speech last week – in which he set out an ambitious agenda of greater integration – as an example of why they wanted to leave in the first place.

The PM picked up on this – we’re getting out of your way while you move in a different direction that we’ve never felt entirely comfortable with.

That’s good for both of us she implied. It slightly ignores the fact that many EU leaders wouldn’t agree with Mr Juncker’s proposals – but it’s a point that will go down well on the Tory backbenches.  Continue reading

Observer Comment on US Strategy in Afghanistan

If we do not have a reasonably competent, friendly government in Kabul, nothing the west achieves will last. Ignoring the Afghan nation’s needs is not an option

This week’s comment in the Observer calls for a more inclusive role for Pakistan than the one recently articulated by Washington. Comment as follows: Donald Trump’s view on the conflict in Afghanistan was highly critical in 2011 when he tweeted that the US was “wasting lives and money” there. He later termed Barack Obama’s strategy a “complete waste”, saying it was “time to come home”. Trump stood on his head last week, ordering the deployment of additional American troops and committing the US to an open-ended war that he vowed to “fight to win”. So which Trump is right – the pre-election sceptic or today’s ardent warrior? The answer is neither.

When Obama took office in 2009, he raised US troop levels to around 100,000, part of a Nato force of about 150,000. His plan was to turn around a war that had already dragged on too long, then hand over to better-trained and equipped Afghan army and police forces. The handover duly took place in 2014, but the conflict was not over. Since then, security has steadily deteriorated. Obama was right to try, and Trump wrong to prematurely scorn his efforts. But what the 2009 surge ultimately proved was that even the most modern armies, wielding the latest weaponry and backed by unchallenged air power, cannot wholly overcome the sort of unconventional, guerrilla campaign at which the Taliban excel. More than 2,400 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001, and more than 450 British troops. But according to US estimates, government forces now control less than 60% of the country. Continue reading

‘Trump is a Xenophobic Fascist’ says Clooney

As things begin to hot up in the US presidential election, Donald Trump is being accused of bank fraud and mafia connection by the BBC. In this piece from the Guardian, Trump is accused of fascism and xenophobia: George Clooney opens the door of the Berlin hotel lounge and shakes hands like an ambassador. “Come on in,” says this paragon of modern Hollywood: a proper, old-fashioned movie star; a producer and occasionally director of interesting, intelligent films; and a furrowed-brow liberal political activist of not inconsiderable achievement. Who else would spend the morning after the premiere of his new film, the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, confabbing with Angela Merkel about the international refugee crisis? He should be running for president, surely? Hail, Caesar! review – George Clooney bigger, broader, zanier in classic Coen caper. The Coen brothers put their signature quirky deadpan to good use in this gloriously watchable period caper about the golden era of Hollywood. Clooney chuckles indulgently. “I am a Hillary supporter. I am doing a fundraiser for her.” That’s a big endorsement; Clooney’s 2012 event for Obama raised more than $12m (£8.5m) in a single night. Continue reading

New Syria Ceasefire

As reported in the news, the US and Russia have agree to enforce new Syria ceasefire. A new deal between the US and Russia to enforce a ceasefire in Syria has been reached, with the cessation of hostilities set to come into force on 27 February. A report by diplomatic editor of the Guardian is extracted below: The ceasefire, subject to the agreement between the warring parties, would exclude Islamic State, al-Nusra Front and other groups deemed to be terrorist organisations. Scepticism about whether it can be enforced will be widespread after a previous planned ceasefire failed to take place. Instead, Russia continued its bombing campaign, sieges of starving towns were never lifted and other confidence-building measures ignored. Continue reading

Remedies for Forced Marriage in Pakistan

As explained by the British FMU, forced marriage is when you face physical pressure to marry (eg threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (eg if you’re made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family). The debate on this touchy subject continues unabated and Pakistan is no different in that regard. According to the FMU, in 2013 it handled cases involving 74 different countries, including Pakistan (42.7%, the highest number), India (10.9%), Bangladesh (9.8%), Afghanistan (2.8%), Somalia (2.5%), Iraq (1.5%), Nigeria (1.1%), Saudi Arabia (1.1%), Yemen (1%), Iran (0.8%), Tunisia (0.8%), The Gambia (0.7%), Egypt (0.6%) and Morocco (0.4%). The origin was unknown in 5.4% of cases. An excellent lawyers’ handbook for Pakistan which provides detailed legal analysis and guidance is available below:

Mrs Cameron’s Diary

The Guardian regularly publishes a remarkable diary for Samantha Cameron; as seen by Catherine Bennett of course. Overall, this is truly excellent insight into the life of the posh leadership of the Tory party and today’s Mrs Cameron’s diary: FGS mother, compassion is back IN is no exception. It can be extracted as follows: Well I said to Mummy, literally their entire family has gone mad, she’s like, do not say I did not warn you, I’m like, Oedipus Rex does not begin to cover it, she’s like, was that not Medea, I’m like, well if Medea has, like, dumb petitions & literally, like AUNTS embarrassing their own actual nephew on ITN, IRL, totally 😦 Mummy’s like, well Medea was certainly a most uncaring mother, once she had embarked upon her tragic course of revenge, or so I am told, I’m like, my POINT, what kind of person signs a petition against her son? Mummy’s like, and you’re quite sure nobody accidentally provoked her into a filicidal rage, people can feel very strongly about their hanging baskets, I’m like, well it is the council they ought to murder, nobody hates the cuts more than Dave, he was all set to go on hunger strike if his mother had not got there first 😦 Mummy’s like, well has he thought of Continue reading

Julian Assange and the UNWGAD Decision

Is the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Decision on Assange ‘So Wrong’? by Dr Liora Lazarus is probably one of the best things written on Julian Assange; or in his defence. She concludes that the decision on the deprivation of Assange’s liberty, A/HRC/WGAD/2015/54, is not as retrograde as made out by most politicians and media pundits. As reported today, Swedish prosecutors are working on new bid to question the WikiLeaks founder over sex claims. Earlier on, the UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond called the decision “ridiculous” but after looking at the law and facts in very great depth, Dr Lazarus concludes otherwise and exhorts us that: To argue that Assange’s conditions are a ‘deprivation of liberty’ is not to argue that this deprivation is necessarily ‘arbitrary’. More is needed to show this. On this question, the UNWGAD was persuaded that the confinement was arbitrary. The most compelling grounds were those based on proportionality. Continue reading