Tag Archives: talks

Russia-Ukraine peace talks shift to sovereignty and territorial integrity

Not talking yet: but a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war between those two countries is edging closer.

Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia will shift onto subjects of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” after apparent agreement was reached over membership of Nato and nuclear weapons.

It seems the talks will focus on the future of the breakaway Donbas region and ownership of the Crimean peninsula.

According to Sky News,

Russia has claimed its main focus has shifted to taking control of the eastern Donbas region, an apparent pullback from its initial more ambitious goals, but one which is raising fears of a divided Ukraine.

This Writer still cannot see Ukraine accepting that in any way. A split Donbas region won’t solve the problems there.

A better alternative would be to hold referenda among the people there, allowing them to decide whether to be Ukrainian, Russian or independent.

And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy isn’t averse to referenda; he has signalled willingness to ask his people whether to declare neutrality and stay out of Nato, in a significant step forward towards peace.

Source: Ukraine willing to consider declaring neutrality and offer security guarantees to Russia – Zelenskyy

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Russia-Ukraine talks resume – and at last they’re discussing PEACE!

The media are still banging the war drums but representatives of Ukraine and Russia were meeting again today (March 14) – and the agenda was a way to restore peace.

According to a BBC report here,

Ukrainian official Mykhailo Podolyak says both sides have now laid out their positions.

Earlier he said the latest talks would focus on establishing a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and security guarantees for Ukraine.

The pundits on Politics Live also mentioned the talks, saying they need to provide a way for Russia to withdraw with dignity, saying it has won something from what its leaders thought would be a walkover but turned into a wreck.

Nobody has talked much about peace possibilities so This Writer hesitates to bring forward suggestions that may seem naive. But we have to start somewhere – right?

So how about this:

  • Ukraine agrees not to join Nato – but to negotiate a special status with that organisation such that, if Ukraine’s borders are violated in the future, Nato would act as an ally and step in. This would provide Russia with the buffer between itself and Nato nations that Vladimir Putin wanted, while offering Ukraine the security that Volodymyr Zelenskyy demands.
  • Ukraine and Russia agree that the breakaway eastern regions hold referenda on their future – possibly a series of votes on whether to remain in Ukraine or become autonomous, and on whether to merge with Russia. All parties to abide by the result. Incursions into these regions by (allegedly Nazi) military or paramilitary groups to cease, with breaches being policed by a coalition of Ukraine and whoever governs the affected region.
  • Ukraine relinquishes any claim on the Crimea (or at least the vast majority of it that is inhabited by Russians.
  • Russia agrees to help repair the damage done to Ukraine by its invasion.

Would that be a good starting-point?

I am concerned that the same official who reported on the talks (above) has tweeted the following unhelpful message:

I don’t see how a discussion of the different countries’ political systems helps deal with the practical matters at issue here.

The questions involve what each country wants and how they can achieve the best compromise that can’t be seen to harm either of them – not whether their politics are good or bad. That is a matter for each nation’s people to decide.

I hope an agreement can be reached but I fear it will be difficult to get past the negotiators’ entrenched opinions.

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Russia-Ukraine: here are some – amazing – reasons to be cheerful

Liz Truss: even though it is unlikely to be serious, we can hope that Putin’s nuclear threat acts as a deterrent that stops her from making stupid, ineffectual threats against a country that could squash the UK like a bug.

The UK’s right-wing media may be doomsaying at an industrial level but the Russia-Ukraine crisis is not as horrifying as they’re saying.

For starters – as This Site and others suggested would happen – Ukraine and Russia are to hold negotiations for peace, at an undisclosed location on the border with Belarus.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin had suggested talks take place in Minsk but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was reluctant to go to a country that had acted as a staging post for the Russian invasion of his country.

It’s a reason to be hopeful, although Mr Zelenskyy said he was not convinced the meeting would have a positive outcome. However:

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he needed to use every opportunity to secure peace.

Bet then – just when some of us were starting to think we could see an end to the crisis – Putin announced that he is putting his country’s nuclear forces on “special alert”.

He said it was because of “aggressive statements” by the West.

It has been widely interpreted as a threat to launch nuclear missiles against western countries. So – an escalation of tensions and we should all be terrified, right?

Well, no.

Mature analysts are saying Putin may now believe he has miscalculated the amount of resistance his forces were likely to meet in Ukraine, along with the response from western nations that have proved more united than he expected.

So he has reached for new ideas – including the nuclear option. The trouble is, nuclear warfare is pointless for him – insane, in fact – because the west would respond by sending its own nuclear arsenal to turn Russia into a radioactive cinder. Mutually Assured Destruction – there’s a reason the acronym is “MAD”.

So – again – it’s unlikely Putin actually means he’s prepared to use nuclear weapons.

That’s a good thing too, isn’t it?

But – there’s always a “but” – it is a serious demand for western nations to tone down their rhetoric, and the West has taken that seriously.

And this brings me to the last of my reasons to be hopeful: It stops Liz Truss from putting her foot in her mouth every time she opens it.

The Queen of Cheese’s latest boneheadedness has been to support calls for UK citizens to go to Ukraine – a move which, if it happened, would almost certainly be seen by Putin as the UK sending troops to that country (despite an official statement from her colleague, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, that this will not take place).

Unable to stop the flow of gibberish from her mouth, Truss claimed that anybody going to Ukraine would be fighting “for democracy”.

It’s exactly the kind of inflammatory talk that is likely to push Putin over the edge and endanger us all.

So we should welcome the decision by western leaders to modify their tone.  Hopefully it means Truss will be told to hold her tongue until the crisis is over.

Source: Ukraine and Russia set to hold negotiations at border with Belarus, says office of President Zelenskyy | World News | Sky News

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This is why you shouldn’t blame Corbyn for refusing to talk with Theresa May

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May: He was canny enough to know her offer of cross-party talks was a sham.

After years of ignoring everything apart from her own weird prejudices (think “hostile environment”), it took the biggest loss of a vote in Parliamentary history to bring Theresa May to the negotiating table with other party leaders – we’re told.

She made a great show of opening up to cross-party talks, but all the evidence shows that this is just another delaying tactic.

Even The Sun‘s Tom Newton Dunn thinks so:

If this comment from Richard Burgon is accurate, then it’s clear that Mrs May hasn’t taken the idea of cross-party talks seriously at all:

What is the point of claiming to be prepared to listen to other party leaders if Mrs May has made it clear from the outset that she won’t change anything? None that I can see. How about you?

And that’s why, as Labour Insider states, Mr Corbyn has rejected the offer of talks as a “stunt.” According to that account, he also said “unless the Conservative government removes a no deal Brexit as a possibility then they are not honestly open to working together”.

Mr Corbyn’s demand was echoed by the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, SNP and the Green Party.

And what do we get from the media?

This Sky News interview is typical of the attitude we have seen – and the interviewer’s attitude is atrocious:

And it leads to the kind of nonsense spouted by Hugo Rifkind here:

That will never happen.

It seems clear that Mrs May’s idea of cross-party talks involves her talking to the other parties and them listening. She won’t change a single part of her offer so it seems clear that this is about browbeating other politicians.

And it won’t work for a very simple reason:

The second party of Dave Ward’s tweet raises an interesting question. We know Labour MPs have been talking with the Conservatives – but has it been with an entirely supportive attitude? It seems not:

It seems we have Michael Gove to thank for keeping some Labour MPs on the straight-and-narrow, then!

What about the political leaders who did agree to meet Mrs May?

Here’s Caroline Lucas’s report:

And here’s Nicola Sturgeon:

All of this supports what Steve Howell suggests here:

This rings true. Another Tweeter pointed out that “The last time Jeremy Corbyn had meeting with Theresa May, they agreed timetable for vote on her Brexit deal of Dec 11th. She renegaded on agreement wasting a month. Why should he now believe what she says, not ask for No Deal off the table without which talks have no purpose?”

So we have a situation in which Theresa May has put on a show of being reasonable, when in fact she isn’t being reasonable at all.

And the only reason she was even able to put up this pretence is she was shored up by the DUP. And even this was unreasonable as her deal runs roughshod over Arlene Foster’s red lines. Ian Lavery suggests more realistic rationales for the Northern Irish party’s support:

Gracie Samuels was more blunt:

And Cllr John Edwards wraps the whole situation up in a nice bundle:

How can we have confidence in her? She has delayed democracy in order to present our MPs with an impossible choice; she has bribed another political party to ensure she cannot be ousted; and she has lied to us all about her cross-party talks.

The fault lies with us – the people of the United Kingdom – for allowing a political organisation as venal and corrupt as the Conservative Party to govern us, and for voting in favour of an undefined departure from the European Union in that party’s illegally-influenced referendum.

Have we learned our lesson yet? Or shall we take the lead of the Tories’ media friends and blame Mr Corbyn?

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Cross-party talks? Isn’t that May-talk for stealing other people’s ideas?

Look out, British politicians! Here comes Mrs May, in by the back door, to steal your ideas and take credit for them!

Theresa May says she wants to have talks with leaders of all other Parliamentary political parties in a bid to save her Brexit deal.

Hmm. We’ve been here before, I think.

Doesn’t she mean she wants to hear everybody else’s ideas, steal the best ones and claim them as her own?

She has done it before.

No wonder Jeremy Corbyn wants as little to do with it as possible.

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Tory ministers fail to agree strategy for trade talks with the EU

Secretary of State for Environment, Michael Gove leaving Downing Street following a Brexit Cabinet meeting. He has reportedly demanded an end to the Working Time Directive operating in the UK during EU membership – meaning the loss of many workers’ rights.

Isn’t the Tory government supposed to be going forward to a trade deal, united in common purpose?

That doesn’t seem likely to This Writer.

Jeremy Corbyn said about the government, earlier this week, “It is division and in-fighting in her own Cabinet and their reliance on the DUP that makes them weak.”

That rings true.

Mr Corbyn also said: “We have already seen Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet… give the impression that the agreement [struck earlier in December – two months late] can be changed or ignored.”

And he said: “There were also worrying reports over the weekend about what some senior Cabinet Ministers will demand from the Prime Minister to support a phase one deal.”

It seems clear that, with Cabinet ministers pushing and pulling in all directions, the Tories still – years since announcing that they would hold a referendum on whether to stay in the EU or leave it – don’t know what they want from Brexit.

But they are determined to be the ones negotiating it. This can only end in disaster for the UK.

The ministers most closely involved with Brexit talks began discussing options for the future UK-EU relationship in a Downing Street meeting which lasted about 90 minutes.

Brexiteers Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Liam Fox, alongside Gavin Williamson, who backed Remain in the referendum, were understood to be vocal on the need to “diverge” from EU regulations.

It is believed soft Brexit backers such as Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd leaned further towards “alignment” with Brussels rules to maintain close ties with the EU in the future.

Ministers did not agree a position but there was discussion of the potential for “gradual divergence” – a step-by-step move away from EU laws after Brexit and the conclusion of a subsequent implementation period in 2021.

Source: Ministers clash in Brexit war cabinet | Latest Brexit news and top stories – The New European


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Watch Jeremy Corbyn’s speech attacking Tory Brexit as a ‘race to the bottom’

This is rousing material from Jeremy Corbyn:

In more detail, here is what he said in his speech responding to Theresa May’s statement on last week’s European Council meeting:

“We welcome progress to the second phase of negotiations but that should not hide the fact that this agreement comes two months later than planned and many of the key aspects of phase one are still unclear. These negotiations are vital for people’s jobs and for the economy; our future prosperity depends on getting this right.

“The agreement reached on phase one was clearly cobbled together at the eleventh hour after the Democratic Unionist party vetoed the first attempt, as is evident in the vagueness of the final text, which underlines the sharp divisions in the Cabinet. As we head into phase two, the truth is that the Government must change track. We cannot afford to mishandle the second stage. The Prime Minister must now sort out the contradictions. We were told last week that the Prime Minister’s humiliating loss on giving Parliament a final say on a Brexit deal made her weak, and the Daily Mail, which previously branded the judiciary “enemies of the people”, is now whipping up hatred against Back-Bench rebel MPs. Threats and intimidation have no place in our politics, and the truth of it is that it is division and in-fighting in her own Cabinet and their reliance on the DUP that makes them weak. So will the Prime Minister welcome Parliament’s vote to take back control?

“We have already seen Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, such as the Brexit Secretary and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, give the impression that the agreement can be changed or ignored—that it effectively does not amount to a hill of beans. It is not very reassuring that this is the end product of eight months of negotiation. Will she set out which parts of the financial settlement agreed between the UK and the EU will be paid if a final deal between the EU and the UK cannot be struck? Given the delays to the phase one deal, can the Prime Minister now see that cementing in statute a time and date on which Britain will leave the European Union could hinder negotiations?

“I am glad that the Prime Minister now seems determined to follow Labour’s call for a transition period to create stability—[Interruption.] In case Government Members do not want to hear it, Mr Speaker, I will repeat the sentence. I am glad that the Prime Minister now seems determined to follow Labour’s call for a transition period to create stability as we leave the European Union. It is necessary that we remain in the single market and customs union for a limited period, allowing a smooth transition for British business. However, there was more Government confusion on this over the weekend. Will the Prime Minister clarify whether we will remain subject to the rules of the single market and the customs union during this transition period? Does she envisage that the UK will also remain a member of the common agricultural policy and common fisheries policy, and can she clarify whether it will be possible under the phase one agreement to sign trade deals during the transition period?

“There were also worrying reports over the weekend about what some senior Cabinet Ministers will demand from the Prime Minister to support a phase one deal. These demands were reported to include that Britain should leave the working time directive. Can the Prime Minister state now, categorically, that she will face down this push from some in her Cabinet and that Britain will maintain the standards of the working time directive both during a transition period and beyond? Will she also guarantee that the Government will not seek to use Brexit to water down any other working or social rights in this country? Will she commit to maintaining access for UK students to the Erasmus programme beyond the current budget period?

“These issues are important to people’s jobs and living standards. It is becoming clear that many on the Government Benches want to use Brexit to rip up rights at work, environmental standards and consumer protections, and to deregulate our economy. For many of them, Brexit is a chance to make Britain a tax haven for the super-rich. Let me be clear: Labour will do everything in our power to stop that.

“The choice is becoming clear: a Tory Government who will use Brexit to protect the very richest, slashing corporation tax and the regulations that protect working people, or a Labour vision that would protect jobs, the economy and investment by building a relationship with our closest trade partners, and not starting a race to the bottom in which people’s jobs and living standards will suffer.”

A large number of big questions were posed in that speech.

Did Mrs May answer all of them – or indeed any?

See for yourself:

“He said that the phase 1 agreement was vague. In fact, it is the result of significant work over a number of months. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at it carefully, he will see that it is detailed in relation to citizens’ rights. It gives reassurances to EU citizens here in the United Kingdom and UK citizens living in the EU 27 that they can carry on living their lives as they have done, and that their life choices will be respected.”

Oh dear. That part of the agreement was dictated by the EU27, not the UK. Perhaps that is why it has more detail.

“The Council also confirmed on Friday that discussions will now begin on trade and the future security partnership. I set out the framework for our approach to these discussions in my speeches at Lancaster House and in Florence. We will now work with our European partners with ambition and creativity to develop the details of a partnership that I firmly believe will be in the best interests of both the UK and the EU.”

You see, this is much less detailed. And on workers’ rights she becomes downright opaque:

“This Government will not only maintain but enhance workers’ rights.”

Oh, really? In what way?

This was an opportunity for Mrs May to deny the claim that she is being urged to scrap the EU’s Working Time Directive – but she didn’t. It was an opportunity for her to explain exactly how she intends to “enhance” workers’ rights – but she didn’t. It was an opportunity for her to assure us all that the Conservative Party will not meddle with our working and human rights in any way – but she didn’t.

It isn’t proof that she will capitulate to the Goves and Johnsons in her Cabinet – but it might as well be.

Bear in mind also that she said: “I note that he said that we should have triggered article 50 the day after the referendum. That would have meant that there was no time to prepare our negotiating position and we would be leaving the EU in six months without having done the proper work to make sure that there was that smooth and orderly progression, and that we did not disrupt our economy in the ways that the right hon. Gentleman has talked about.”

This fails to take account of one fairly obvious issue:

The Conservative government, in the run-up to the EU referendum, should have carried out all the work necessary to ensure that it knew exactly what Brexit would entail and how to ensure a smooth and orderly progression toward it in the event of the vote going that way. It didn’t. That is why negotiations with the EU27 are such a godawful shambles now.

One last point: Immediately after Mrs May sat down, Iain Duncan Smith got on his cloven hoofs and, referring to the threats of violence and intimidation received by members of his own party after they voted against the government on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill last week, said: “I agree with my right hon. Friend that attacks on MPs’ family members, particularly in vulnerable conditions, should be absolutely outlawed.”

How very interesting.

What about attacks on people, particularly in vulnerable conditions, who aren’t members of Parliament or their family members?

This Writer recalls very clearly that Mr Duncan Smith, in his former role as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, positively revelled in threatening vulnerable claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment, to name just a few examples.


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Brexit and the economy are inseparable and MPs are right to refuse ‘no deal’ while the cabinet splits

Imagine this container ship almost empty.
That would be what happens if Mrs May’s government remains divided over Brexit – with a knock-on, disastrous effect on the economy [Image: Reuters].

Cast your eyes over the following Twitter thread by Paul Mason:

With the above in mind, the following makes sense:

A powerful cross-party group of MPs is drawing up plans that would make it impossible for Theresa May to allow Britain to crash out of the EU without a deal in 2019. The move comes amid new warnings that a “cliff-edge” Brexit would be catastrophic for the economy.

One critical aim of the group – which includes the former Tory chancellor Kenneth Clarke and several Conservative ex-ministers, together with prominent Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat and Green MPs – is to give parliament the ability to veto, or prevent by other legal means, a “bad deal” or “no deal” outcome.

Concern over Brexit policy reached new heights this weekend after the prime minister told the House of Commons that her government was spending £250m on preparations for a possible “no deal” result because negotiations with Brussels had stalled.

(Source: MPs move to block Theresa May from signing ‘no deal’ Brexit)

The issue is that Theresa May’s cabinet has split and there is no clarity on the way forward. This leaves the UK looking weak to foreign leaders – and a bad investment to foreign businesses. They won’t want to locate here and they certainly won’t want to spend their money on our goods. And home-grown companies – with the wherewithal to do so – will leave

That would be disastrous for the UK’s economy – the money would simply dry up.

So MPs who have more than their own interests, or even those of the Conservative Party, at heart have drawn up amendments to the current EU Withdrawal Bill, in a bid to force a united position on weakling prime minister Theresa May’s cabinet of chaos.

The immediate result is that committee stage discussion of the Bill will be held back while representatives of each party try to work out a compromise version of it that a majority can support.

This may not be possible.

If not, then the minority Conservative government is facing a serious – if not fatal – crisis.

Brexit is the issue Theresa May demanded a mandate to handle, and she didn’t get it.

With Parliament deadlocked, it is looking increasingly likely that she will be unable to deliver any agreement.

In such a situation, it is not beyond possibility that we will find ourselves facing another election.

And all the while, the clock is ticking down to the deadline for our departure from the EU. These are dangerous times – and our future is in the hands of fools.


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David Cameron and UK ministers criticised for flying to Paris climate talks


In light of this, one is led to wonder about the carbon footprint of this personal jet Cameron has bought for himself – Air Pork One, or SleazyJet.

The claim by the government spokeswoman, that they used the most efficient and cost-effective modes of transport, simply means the plan was fast and cheap. If Cameron is basing his policies on that, we’ll all be living on a cinder in a few years.

The prime minister and cabinet members have come under fire for flying to the Paris climate change talks, rather than taking the more environmentally friendly Eurostar.

BusinessGreen understands David Cameron and energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd flew the short trip to the opening day of the talks last Monday.

International development secretary Justine Greening and her team also took a flight for her short trip to the COP21 talks on Saturday

According to Eurostar, a short haul return flight from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle airport emits 122 kg of CO2 per person, which is the equivalent of charging 740 iPods. The carbon footprint of making the short haul flight is said to be 11 times more than the 10.9 kg CO2 emitted per Eurostar passenger travelling from St Pancras to the centre of Paris.

Craig Bennett of Friends of the Earth accused ministers of hypocrisy over the decision to fly and the spate of recent green policy reversals.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said ministers attending the summit used “the most efficient and cost effective modes of transport available”.

Source: David Cameron and UK ministers criticised for flying to Paris climate talks | Environment | The Guardian

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