EU leaders say UK can reverse Brexit decision if it wants to

Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker say door to EU remains open if Britain changes its mind on Brexit

The Observer view on Donald Trump | Observer editorial

The president is a humiliation to his country on so many levels

It is almost one year since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45 th US president. Will he last another 12 months? Day after tumultuous day since 20 January 2017, Trump has provided fresh evidence of his unfitness for America’s highest office.

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It is not only that his politics and policies, from taxation cuts and climate change to Palestine and atomic weapon, are disastrously wrong-headed. It is not just that his idea of leadership is divisive, confrontational and irresponsible. Nor does the problem lie solely with his blatant racism, misogyny and chauvinism, though these are indeed massive problems.

His latest foul-mouthed outrage- describing developing countries as “shitholes”– is appalling even by his crude standards.

The fundamental failing underlying Trump’s presidency is his wilful ignorance. His frequently petulant, childish behaviour combinations with a staggering absence of knowledge and disdain for facts to create serial, chronic misjudgments. Trump, in power, cannot be trusted. He has been uncovered as lacking in empathy, shamelessly mendacious, cynical and unversed or uninterested in the enduring human and constitutional values its term of office is sworn to uphold. Trump is the first and hopefully the last of his kind: an anti-American chairwoman. He is a humiliation and a danger to his country. The sooner he is sent packing, the better.

How much longer will Americans tolerate his embarrassing presence in the White House? His tenancy runs until November 2020, when he could seek a second word. But the problem is getting worse , not better. A series of scenarios, fuelled by his endlessly damaging, unacceptable words and actions, is beginning to unfold that could bring about his early departure.

The first and, democratically speaking, the most desirable scenario is that the electorate is as simple as reject Trump. This process is already well under way, if opinion poll are to be believed. Trump’s personal approval rating has averaged below 40% over the past year, a record for presidential unpopularity. More telling, perhaps, were the findings of a Pew Research Center poll last month that debunked the myth that Trump’s ” base” – his core supporting- is impervious to his daily blundering. Trump’s backing among key groups that helped elect him- white humen, Protestant evangelicals, the over-5 0s and the non-college trained- has fallen significantly across the board. At the same time, a Gallup survey discovered the number of voters redefining themselves as uncommitted “independents” rose to 42%.

Republican
Republican senate candidate Roy Moore was defeated in Alabama. Photo: Dan Anderson/ EPA

Trump’s fading electoral appeal was cruelly exposed in shock defeats in Virginia and Alabama. Anger and disappointment with Trump among white voters was said to be a decisive factor, assisted by record turnout among African Americans. Nationally, evidence that the Trump rump is shredding is on the rise. A Monmouth University poll last August found that 61% of Trump voters said they could not think of anything he might do that would turn them against him. A poll last month set that figure at 37%. It is plain that many ordinary voters who trusted Trump to make a positive change have been repelled and disgusted .

Pollsters and pundits are looking to November’s midterm congressional elections. Forecasts suggest a stunning renunciation of a “toxic” Trump, with the Alabama upset being replicated nationwide. The GOP could lose control of the House of Representatives, where large numbers of moderate Republicans are retiring, and its grip on the Senate may be loosened by an anti-Trump tsunami. No party since 1950 has hung on to the house in a midterm poll when the president’s approval was below 40%.

A humiliating nationwide slap in the face from voters this year, coupled with the loss of Congress, could bring Trump’s presidency shuddering to a halting, leaving him wounded, deserted by most Republican and doomed to one-term ignominy. Meanwhile, another scenario prospectively leading to his political demise is playing out simultaneously. Nobody knows, as yet, whether the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russian agents in 2016 will ultimately irretrievably compromise the president himself. But claims that Trump conspired to obstruct justice by putting pressure on the FBI and firing its unbiddable director, James Comey, appear to have substance and are potentially fatal to his presidency. Robert Mueller, the special advise, is proposing a formal interview under oath.

It’s not over yet. Supporters of Trump point to what they see as a string of success. They quote a stock market that has added$ 7tn in value, 2m new jobs and revolutionary tax reform. They credit Trump with defeating Islamic State( a vain boast) and reducing illegal migration. The number of Americans saying the US economy is in” excellent shape” has jumped from 2% in November 2016 to 18%. About 48% say the economy is “good”, up 11% in the same period. By these measures, his trademark pledge to” attain America great again” is a possibility beginning to work- and this is likely to slow the pace of desertions from his electoral base.

Donald
Donald Trump was lobbied by an energy company for permission to mine uranium in the Bears Ears national monument in Utah. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

Elsewhere, conservatives will point to some significant triumphs that give the lie to the idea that Trump has been a hapless figure unable to bend America to his will. On many fronts, his government is landing significant jolts to the Obama-Clinton legacy. The environment secretary, Scott Pruitt, has effectively disembowelled the Environment Protection Agency, sacking ratings of advisers and scientists. He is intent on scrapping many Obama-era regulations on water, climate, pollution and more. There has been a bonfire of environmental regulations. New the standard rules on chemicals previously declared toxic are being relaxed.

The president is busy appointing predominantly young, white male, conservative magistrates to federal appeal and district tribunals. While the supreme court hears merely a handful of cases a year, it is in these lower courts where America’s settlement on issues of gender, race, run, relationships and much more is decided.

Meanwhile, the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, is shrinking America’s national monuments. Proportion of the Obama-designated Bears Ears in Utah( 1.3 m acres) and the Clinton-designated Grand Staircase-Escalante( 1.9 m acres) will likely be opened up for mining and other industrial pursuings.( Trump was lobbied by the uranium mining company Energy Fuels to open up Bears Ears for its uranium rich deposits .)

Then there are the quiet revolutions under way by Betsy DeVos at the education department, while former presidential nominee Ben Carson, at government departments of housing and urban planning, is slashing government spending on affordable housing. And on and on. These are some of the wins that conservatives are happy to bank while tolerating the intolerable in the White House.

The overwhelming impression of Trump’s first 12 months is not of steady advance but chaos. Tantrums, tears and irrational fury predominate the reality TV scene inside the White House, according to Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury . On the national stage, Trump has displayed open intolerance over migrant and race issues. His lowest point, among numerous low points, was his implied support for white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Internationally, Trump attained nuclear war with North Korea more likely, dismayed the whole world by repudiating the Paris climate accord, insulted and threatened the UN over Jerusalem, did his best to wreck the landmark 2015 pact with Iran and did next to nothing to halt the terrible conflicts in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and Afghanistan. Worse still, in a manner that is, he has scorned US friends and allies in Europe and cosied up to authoritarian leaders in China, Russia and the Countries of the middle east. Britain has been treated with condescension and disdain, as in his abrupt( but welcome) cancellation of next month’s London visit.

Is this dysfunction evidence of an unhinged personality, as many people indicate? Rather than invoking the 25 th amendment and dumping Trump, it would be better if he was held responsible for his actions. For his wilful ignorance, his dangerous lies and his unAmerican intolerance, Trump must be held to account . Perhaps 2018 will be the year.

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Sadiq Khan speech disrupted by Brexit and Trump supporters

London mayor brushes off interruption by White Pendragons, describing them as what some would call very stable geniuses

A group of protesters backing Brexit and Donald Trump have disrupted a speech by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Khan’s address on gender equality to the Fabian Society in central London was suspended for several minutes on Saturday morning while a small number of demonstrators from a recently formed far-right group called the White Pendragons built their protest.

Shortly after Khan began speaking at the society’s new year conference, one human told the audience:” Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here today to make a non-violent, peaceful citizen’s arrest .”

One man wailed “No to the EU” and another displayed a US flag.

Audience members began to heckle and slow-clap, but the protesters resisted attempts to remove them, claiming they would sue anyone who touched them for” common assault “.

Several police officers then moved in to escort them from the venue.

The protesters claimed the Fabian Society was ” subverting our English constitution”, with one quoting the Magna Carta.

Outside the vestibule, the ITV News reporter Paul Brand asked them several times in the interests of clarity about their objection to the society, but failed to get a clear response.

He said in a tweet that they claimed to be neither a racist , nor a far-right group.” But they told us Sadiq Khan has no right to be Mayor of London, referencing his religion .”

When Khan, a former chair of the Fabian Society, resumed his speech he quipped:” On the plus side, I wasn’t served with a P45″- a including references to Theresa May’s Tory conference speech that was interrupted by a prankster.

The mayor added:” It is a pleasure to be here even though we were distracted by the actions of what some would call very stable geniuses .”

Mafalda Damaso (@ DrMafaldaDms)

#Fab18 meeting somewhat delayed by Trump supporters who wouldn’t let Sadiq Kahn speak. The police had to intervene and remove the group of- in Kahn’s terms- ‘very stable geniuses’ pic.twitter.com/ d7sVx9Dc1j

January 13, 2018

Last Saturday the US president used the same phrase to describe himself in a tweet following questions about his mental health.

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‘Tacky’ statue of Diana and Dodi Fayed to be removed from Harrods

Sculpture of Princess of Wales and her partner will be returned to Fayed family, while new memorial has been commissioned by William and Harry

A statue of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed that has been largely described as “tacky” will be removed from Harrods.

The bronze sculpture of the couple, who died in a car crash in Paris two decades ago, has been on display at the west London department store since 2005.

It was commissioned by Mohamed Al Fayed, who owned Harrods at the time but sold it to the Qatar Investment Authority in 2010 for about PS1. 5bn.

The store’s boss, Michael Ward, said it was now time to return the statue given that princes William and Harry had commissioned their own tribute to their mother at Kensington Palace.

” We feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr Al Fayed and ” members of the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace ,” Ward said.

It was not clear when it would be removed from the cellar of Harrods, or whether Fayed would seek to keep the statue on public display.

A Fayed family spokesman told the Times the latter are “grateful” to the Qatari fund for preserving the memorial of the couple, adding:” It is now time to bringing them home .”

When the statue was unveiled, Fayed said it was a more” fitting tribute” to Diana than the official memorial fountain in Hyde Park that he described as a “sewer”.

The Harrods statue shows Diana in a low-cut dress with a slit up to the thigh and Dodi in an open shirt. The couple are shown dancing in Mediterranean waves beneath the wings of an albatross, which supposedly symbolised freedom and eternity.

” I have named the sculpture Innocent Victims, because for eight years I have fought to prove that my son and Princess Diana were murdered ,” Fayed said in 2005.

” This is a statue to stay here for ever. Until now nothing has been done to preserve her memory and legacy. She was an amazing girl who brought joy to the whole world .”

The statue was designed by Harrods artistic design adviser Bill Mitchell, who had worked for the Fayed family for more than 40 years.

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Debunked: Trump reasons for cancelling London visit

The US chairwomen claims that he will not visit UK to open new embassy because of bad Obama deal fail to add up

Donald Trump’s ” reason” for cancelling his trip to London to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the new US embassy has been torn apart.

While few people believe that Trump’s decision to stay away has nothing to do with the prospect of having to face some of the UK’s biggest street protests, many have also debunked other asserts in his tweet.

Donald J. Trump (@ realDonaldTrump)

Reason I canceled my journey to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off locating for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!

January 12, 2018

The Obama administration sold the embassy

Not quite. On the embassy’s UK website, a press release dated October 2008– one month before Barack Obama was elected president and three months before his inauguration- details plans to move the embassy south of the river Thames, from Mayfair to Nine Elms, in Wandsworth. The decision to relocate the building was made by the Bush administration.

However, the final marketing- to the Qatari royal family’s property company- was agreed and signed off by the US state department in 2009 when Obama was president.

The embassy was sold for peanuts

The Chancery building’s sale price was never disclosed, although in July 2000 it was estimated at PS500m.

The new embassy has been built in an’ off location’

While the new place may lack the opulence of Mayfair, Trump might find much to his taste in Nine Elms. The 230 -hectare district has been transformed from a once bleak landscape of depots and sorting offices to house some of London’s most expensive apartments and growths- about 30 of them.

Among the residential developments is neighbouring Embassy gardens, where a three-bedroom flat will set you back PS1. 7m ($ 2.3 m ). Within the regeneration area, designers including Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Richard Rogers are chipping in to the aesthetic; and the interiors of one block of flats were designed by Donatella Versace.

Perhaps the greatest symbol of extravagance within the district is the ” sky pond “~ ATAGEND, a glass bottom bathing area suspended between two buildings. Hurl in a food market, a new tubing stationand an enviable riverside view, and it could be concluded that the location is quite “on” ~ ATAGEND.

Embassy locations

The new embassy expense $1.2 bn

Not quite. The building was widely reported as costing$ 1bn, which is PS750m.

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Guardian unveils new masthead before tabloid launch

Design uncovered for newspaper, online and apps to replace blue and white masthead in use since 2005

The Guardian has unveiled a new design for its masthead that will be used across the newspaper, online and apps.

The masthead has been revealed in a teaser video narrated by the actor Maxine Peake before the launch of the Guardian’s tabloid format on Monday.

The design replaces the blue and white masthead that has been used since 2005.

Katharine Viner, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian and Observer, posted the 30 -second video on Twitter. The video describes the Guardian as a” space for notions “.

Viner wrote to Guardian and Observer subscribers between Christmas and the new year to explain the changes to the newspapers’ formats and designs.

Katharine Viner (@ KathViner)

Very aroused to be sharing a new look for the Guardian with readers this Monday … pic.twitter.com/ zmIDK1CxUM

January 12, 2018

” The new design is the result of months of suppose, ingenuity and vision by a squad of talented designers and senior editors, and I hope you love it as much as I do ,” she said in the letter.” We are thrilled by the new newspapers. They are visual and serious; explanatory and keepable; full of life and narratives and ideas.

” As editor-in-chief of the Guardian and the Observer, my job is to ensure that our independent journalism continues to be enjoyed by as many readers as is practicable and that our print newspapers make a positive fiscal contribution to procuring a sustainable future. Moving to the tabloid format strengthens our ability to do both, and strengthens our ongoing is committed to print .”

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Money for nothing: is Finland’s universal basic income trial too good to be true?

Europes first national experimentation in dedicating citizens free money has attracted huge media attention. But one year in, what does this project really hope to prove?

One year on from its launching, the world remains fascinated by Finland’s groundbreaking universal basic income trial: Europe’s first national, government-backed experimentation in devoting citizens free cash.

In January 2017, the Nordic nation began paying a random but mandatory sample of 2,000 unemployed people aged 25 to 58 a monthly EUR5 60( PS475 ). There is no obligation either to try or accept employment during the two years the trial lasts, and any who do take a undertaking will continue to receive the same amount.

With the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bernie Sanders all proponents of a universal basic income( UBI) model, Finnish officials and participants have been inundated with media requests from around the globe. One participant who hoped to start his own business with the help of the unconditional monthly payment complained that, after speaking to 140 Tv crews and reporters from as far afield as Japan and Korea, he has simply not been able to find the time.

But amid this unprecedented media attention, the experts who devised the strategy are concerned it is being falsified.” It’s not really what people are portraying it as ,” said Markus Kanerva, an applied social and behavioural sciences specialist working in the prime minister’s office in Helsinki.

” A full-scale universal income trial would need to study different target groups , not just the unemployed. It would have to exam different basic income levels, look at local factors. This is really about seeing how a basic unconditional income affects matters of employment of unemployed people .”

Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty‘s movie about Finland’s basic income trial

While UBI tends often to be associated with progressive politics, Finland’s trial was launched- at a cost of around EUR2 0m( PS17. 7m)- by a centre-right, austerity-focused government interested primarily in spending less on social security and bringing down Finland’s stubborn 8% -plus unemployment rate. It has a very clear purpose: to see whether an unconditional income might incentivise people to take up paid work.

Authorities believe it will shed light on whether unemployed Finns, as experts believe, are put off taking up a job by the fear that a higher marginal tax rate may leave them worse off. Many are also deterred by having to reapply for benefits after every casual or short-term contract.

” It’s partly about removing disincentives ,” explained Marjukka Turunen, who heads the legal division at Finland’s social security agency, Kela, which is running the experimentation. Kanerva describes the trial as” an experiment in smoothing out the system “.

To maintain privacy and avoid bias, Kela is not contacting any of the 2,000 participants for the duration of the two-year trial. A handful have given interviews to journalists( several have said they feeling less emphasized thanks to the scheme ), but no official conclusions are yet being drawn from these anecdotal experiences.

According to Kanerva, however, the core data the government is seeking- on whether, and how, the job take-up of the 2,000 unemployed people in the trial differs from a 175,000 -strong control group- will be” robust, and usable in future economic modelling” when it is published in 2019.

Unintended benefits

The idea of UBI had been circulating in left-of-centre political circles in Finland since the 1980 s, mainly as a way to combat the economic and social the effects of falling industrial job by freeing all- from students to the elderly; stay-at-home parents to the unemployed- to attain meaningful contributions to society by, for example, volunteering.

Appealing both to the left( who believe it can cut poverty and inequality) and, more recently, to the right( as a possible way to a leaner, less bureaucratic welfare system ), UBI seems all the most attractive amid warnings that automation could threaten up to a third of current undertakings in the west within 20 years. Other basic income strategies are now being tested from Ontario to rural Kenya, and Glasgow to Barcelona.

Helsinki
Helsinki Central railway station: Finland has a stubborn 8% -plus unemployment rate. Photograph: Kimmo Brandt/ EPA

But there is little consensus in so far on what UBI should look like in practice, or even on the questions that need to be answered first: which model to adopt, what level of pay, how to combine UBI reasonably with other social security benefits, and how the tax and pension schemes should treat it.

For UBI purists, the fact that the monthly Finnish pay- roughly equivalent to basic unemployment benefit- is going to a strictly restriction group, and is not enough to live on, disqualifies the Finnish scheme. But while it may not reveal as much as a broader trial would have been able to, the scheme’s designers are confident it will shed new light on several key social policy issues.

For example, Kela hopes additional datathat is being collected as part of the trial from healthcare records will provide useful information on whether the security of a guaranteed unconditional income, paid in advance so beneficiaries can budget for it, might have a positive impact on nervousnes, prescription drug consumption or doctor’s visits.

” One participant has said she is less anxious because she no longer has to worry over bellows from the job centre offering a job she can’t accepted “because shes” caring for her elderly mothers ,” Turunen said.” We may be able to see from the trial data whether it has had unintended benefits- such as reduced medical expenses .”

The trial data may also allow the administration has spend less on bureaucracy by simplifying Finland’s complex social security system- currently, it offers more than 40 different means-tested benefits- which is struggling to cope with a 21 st-century labour market of component timers, short-term contracts and start-ups.

The benefit system is simply” not suited to modern running patterns “, Turunen said.” We have too many benefits. People don’t understand what they’re legally entitled to or how they can get it. Even experts don’t understand. For example, it’s very hard to be in the benefit system in Finland if you are self-employed – you have to prove your income period and time and time again .”

Perhaps most significantly, the trial marks” a real breakthrough for field experimentations”, according to Kanerva. Rolled out in record day and after a brief, one-line pledge in the government’s platform, it had to function alongside all existing social security laws and clear numerous legal obstacles- including Finland’s constitution, which requires all citizens to be treated equally.

” It was a huge effort to get onto over the line ,” Turunen said.” The government was decided it must be based on specific legislation- most experimentations are not- and that it had to launching in January last year … It was quite a undertaking .”

The Finnish experiment’s design and objectives mean it should perhaps not really be seen as a full-blown UBI trial at all, cautioned Kanerva:” People think we’re launching universal basic income. We’re not. We’re just trialling one various kinds of model, with one income level and one target group .”

But as experts around the world increasingly debate how a bold but ill-defined concept might actually work in practice, the Finnish experimentation will at least” produce meaningful results- albeit in a limited field ,” according to Kanerva. In an area where convictions are often more abundant than facts,” It has forced people to talk specifics .”

  • If you have experiences relating to this article that you’d like to share, please email us at inequality.project @theguardian. com

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Julian Assange is made an Ecuadorian citizen in effort to resolve impasse

Ecuadors foreign minister discloses to reporters in Quito that Wikileaks founder was awarded citizenship a month ago

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was made an Ecuadorian citizen last month, the nation’s foreign ministry has disclosed, in an attempt to resolve the political impasse over his continued presence in the UK.

The 46 -year-old has been naturalised after living for five and a half years in the cramped, Latin American country’s embassy in Knightsbridge, central London.

Earlier this week the UK’s Foreign Office revealed that Ecuador had asked for Assange, who was born in Australia, to be accredited as foreign diplomats. The petition was dismissed.

The Ecuadorian initiative was intended to confer legal immunity on Assange, letting him to slip out of the embassy and Britain without being arrested for violating his former bail conditions.

Julian
Julian Assange posted this picture of himself in an Ecuadorian football shirt on Twitter. Photograph: Twitter

Assange failed to surrender to the UK authorities in 2012 after the supreme court rejected his appeal against extradition to Sweden to face accusations of sexual crimes, including rape. He was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Swedish attorneys last year unexpectedly dropped their investigation into allegations against him, which he denied. WikiLeaks, however, were afraid that the US will seek his extradition if he leaves the embassy, believing there is a sealed US indictment trying his arrest.

At a press conference on Thursday in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, the foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, explained that Assange had sought citizenship and that it had been granted on 12 December last year.

” The Ecuadorian government is empowered to grant nationality to the protected person and thus facilitate … his inclusion in the host country ,” Espinosa told reporters.

Assange’s life could be under threat from other states, she cautioned, adding that she was seeking a” dignified and merely” solution to his situation with Britain.

On Wednesday evening, the UK Foreign Office put out a statement explaining that:” The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK. The UK did not grant that request , nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter. Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice .”

At the same time Assange appeared on his Twitter account for the first time wearing an Ecuadorian national football shirt.

A statement by Assange’s legal team said:” The UN ruling, issued almost two years ago, is crystal clear in the original language.[ He] is unlawfully and arbitrarily detained by the UK authorities and must be released. The UK should not permit itself to be intimidated by the Trump administration’s public threats to’ take down’ Mr Assange .”

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Brexit bill may have broken international environment law, says UN

Exclusive: conformity committee deems complaint alleging government violated Aarhus convention by not consulting populace over withdrawal bill

The British government may have breached a major” environmental democracy” law by failing to consult the public when drawing up Brexit legislation.

A UN-backed committee has confirmed it is considering a complaint from Friends of the Earth that the government’s EU withdrawal bill breached the Aarhus convention, which requires public consultation on any new environmental statute.

Most of the UK’s environmental laws derive from or interact with EU law, and Friends of the Earth( FoE) has raised concerns that the bill dedicates pastors” unique and wide-ranging powers” to amend or delete EU-derived environmental statute without public consultation, if ministers consider it appropriate.

According to Defra,” over 1,100 core pieces of immediately applicable EU legislation and national implementing legislation” fall within the department’s remit.

The ” polluter pays ” principle and the precautionary principle could both be affected, as could the public’s they are able to challenge changes to environmental laws.

William Rundle, lawyer for Friends of the Earth, said:” The government said Brexit was about taking back control, yet it has ignored the views of the UK people in taking it forwards. There has been no consultation on what the withdrawal bill could mean for the environment and environmental legal protections, or what is the best route forwards.

” The Aarhus convention requires effective consultation when new laws are being prepared that can significantly affect the environment, such as the EU withdrawal bill. This would have allowed environmental issues to be debated and understood, but also constructed democratic accountability and public confidence.

” The current approach by government in conducting Brexit fails to do this; they didn’t even try. Nobody believed Brexit would be easy, but the government cannot ignore its legal obligations, or the views of the people .”

According to the Aarhus convention’s three pillars, datum relating to environmental legislation must be provided by public authorities” in a timely and transparent manner “, and the public must be allowed to participate in the development of new laws at an early stage of their preparation. The third pillar is public access to justice, should a party violate or fail to adhere to environmental statute or the convention’s principles.

The government may have breached the convention in two ways, FoE says: by failing to set out a consistent legal framework to allow public participation in the preparation of new environmental legislation( article 3 ), and by not dedicating the public an opportunity to comment on the bill before it was presented to parliament to be made into law( article 8). FoE says the governmental forces failed to consult with the public, and by calling a snap election, any possible involvement with the bill’s white paper was prevented.

In a letter to Friends of the Earth, the Aarhus convention conformity committee says:” the committee has, on a preliminary basis, ascertained the communicant’s allegation concerning the preparation of the draft’ great repeal bill’ and the alleged absence of a clear, transparent and consistent framework to implement article 8 … to be admissible “.

Michael Mason, associate professor at the London School of Economics, says the government remains legally bound by the Aarhus convention after withdrawal from the EU, and by abolishing laws relating to Aarhus provisions the UK would be in breach of the treaty.

He says:” The UK would not be able to cherry-pick provisions in the convention: the UK is either fully in or would have to pull out from the treaty. To stay in, the UK government will have to retain all EU-derived law implementing Aarhus obligations.

” A withdrawal from the Aarhus convention would be disastrous for UK environmental policy .”

A House of Lords report calls the EU withdrawal bill a” bill of the first order in terms of law-making powers being granted to ministers “. It says” this bill is expected to generate another 800 to 1,000 statutory instruments in the near future .”

The bill does not require that current environmental standards are preserved after Brexit , nor does it contain a general requirement that the public should be consulted on potentially significant changes to environmental legislation. It does not require pastors to replace the existing European committee objections procedure on any infringement of EU-derived environmental law, which is currently available to UK citizens free of charge. The UK government could still include a requirement for public consultation, however.

In February 2017, campaigners won a case against the Ministry of Justice over proposed changes to cost protection orders that could have induced legal challenges to government over environmental issues too financially risky to seek. A UN committee at the time criticised the government for failing to meet its reporting obligation on access to justice under the Aarhus convention.

A government spokesperson said:” The purpose of the withdrawal bill is to provide a functioning statute book on the day we leave the EU- it is an essential bill in the national interest. While we can’t comment on proceedings, we believe we have complied with all of the relevant obligations in developing this crucial legislation and remain committed to maintaining the highest environmental standards. We will be submitting our full reply in due course .”

The government now has until 5 June to offer its written response to the complaint. The committee will then decide whether the UK government is in breach of its obligations.

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Equalities watchdog intervenes after Carrie Gracie’s complaint about BBC pay

EHRC will write to corporation as journalists who publicly supported former China editor are told they cannot now report on gender pay row

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission will write to the BBC to attempt answers about allegations of pay discrimination following the abdication of Carrie Gracie as its China editor over its” secretive and illegal” pay culture.

The BBC is also facing the prospect of lawsuits from female employees who believe they have been paid less than men for doing the same jobs.

The EHRC has the power to bringing legal action- as well as name-and-shame organisations about inequality and discrimination- and its intervention into the pay row is embarrassing for the BBC.

A spokesperson for the public body said:” We are aware of claims by Carrie Gracie of unlawful pay discrimination at the BBC. Women have a legal right to equal pay with men for equal work.

” We will be writing to the BBC and requiring them to provide us with information on their pay policy and the facts in this individual occurrence. We will consider whether further action is required based on the information collected .”

Gracie announced her resignation in an explosive open letter that was published on her website on Sunday. She accused the BBC of violating pay laws and said she did not trust management to deal with gender inequality.

The journalist, who has worked for the BBC for 30 years, said the corporation had offered to increased her pay from PS135, 000 a year to PS180, 000 but she refused because it did not guaranty her equality with its other international editors. Jon Sopel, the BBC’s North America editor, collects between PS200, 000 to PS249, 999.

The corporation also became embroiled in a censorship row on Monday after it emerged that journalists who tweeted support for Gracie were blocked from presenting on-air segments about the pay row.

Dozens of the biggest names at the BBC, including Today presenter Mishal Husain and Newsnight host Evan Davis, backed Gracie on social media after her letter was published. Many use the hashtag #istandwithcarrie.

More than 130 female employees at the BBC signed a statement conveying their “wholehearted” support for Gracie and calling for action to ensure equal pay for equal jobs.

However, editors at the BBC moved to enforce its editorial guidelines by stopping journalists reporting on the issue if they had supported Gracie or have been campaigning for pay equality.

The BBC said:” Where a presenter or reporter has publicly expressed a position on a particular issue, they would no longer be perceived as an impartial voice, therefore it is right they do not conduct interviews on that issue. This is in keeping with editorial guidelines .”

The City lawyer advising Gracie said she and other female BBC staff could sue if the corporation failed to deal with the pay gap internally. Gracie had a grievance hearing in November but is yet to hear the result so concluded that” enough was enough” and resigned.

Jennifer Millins, job partner at Mishcon de Reya, is advising more than 10 senior women at the BBC. She said:” They don’t feel their complaints are being dealt with in a meaningful route. The process has taken a very long time. If the BBC does not resolve this internally, then individuals will be forced to sue .”

Asked what the chances were of the BBC resolving the issue internally, Millins said: “Low.”

Up to 200 women at the BBC have made a formal complaint about pay. This includes a collective grievance lodged on behalf of 121 women by the National Union of Journalists.

Michelle Stanistreet, the secretary-general of the united nations of the NUJ, said:” Carrie is one of many women at the BBC who are not being paid equally compared to male journalists doing the same jobs or work of equal value.

” The initial shock that many women felt was accompanied by said that he hoped the BBC would do the right thing- this has been replaced by a mounting sense of indignation and frustration that a swifter resolution has not been reached to this scourge of unequal pay at our public service broadcaster .”

The pay row began last summer when the BBC published a list of its top-earning starrings, which revealed that merely a third were women and the top seven were all men.

In response to heavy criticism, the BBC published a series of pay reviews and audits in October that concluded that men were being paid 9.3% more than women on average- less than the UK median of 18. 1%- but that there is” no systemic discrimination against females “.

However, this judge-led review did not include the vast majority of on-air presenters, editors and senior managers, sparking annoyance among women at the BBC. The review also found that in about one in ten cases where there was substantial change in pay between men and women doing similar jobs there was no clear reason for the gap other than gender and it did not rule in individual cases of discrimination.

The row is likely to take a further twist when the BBC publishes a highly-anticipated report by accountancy firm PwC into the pay of on-air staff, which is expected within the next couple of weeks. BBC insiders say this will analyse whether there are differences in pay and that the corporation will” stand by the judgements be they helpful or unhelpful “.

However, Millins said:” I suspect day and fund is being thrown at it[ research reports] but whether it will be significant is another matter .”

In response to the EHRC’s intervention, a BBC spokesperson said:” The BBC was one of the first to publish a gender pay report demonstrating we are significantly better than national median. We have already published an independent judge result equal pay report for rank and file faculty, which proved no systemic discrimination.

” Also a PwC led report on presenter pay will be published shortly and people will be able to stimulate informed judgements on that report and how we act on it .”

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