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Team GB sprinter considers stop and search legal action, as scenes of ‘driving while black’ spread across social media – Channel 4 News


The Metropolitan Police have urged the Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner to get in touch – and discuss an incident where they were stopped and searched while driving in west London.

The couple claim they were racially profiled – and while the police say each stop is made on its own merits, they are confident there were no misconduct issues but want to consider what they could have done differently.

This programme has also learnt that the Met have made a voluntary referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct – following a separate complaint by a 21-year-old key worker accusing the same unit of racial profiling.



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‘The ball is in the UK’s court,’ EU’s #Brexit negotiator says



Britain must send “clear signals” that it wants to seal a deal with the European Union on their relationship after Brexit, the bloc’s chief negotiator said ahead of more talks with London, adding a deal was still possible before the end of the year, write Gabriela Baczynska and Jan Strupczewski.

Michel Barnier (pictured) said Britain had so far not engaged with tentative openings floated by the EU side on state aid and fisheries in the previous negotiating rounds, which have mostly been held on video calls due to coronavirus safety restrictions.

“The ball is in the UK’s court,” Barnier told an online seminar on Wednesday. “I believe that the deal is still possible.”

He said he was “disappointed” with Britain’s refusal to negotiate on foreign policy and defence but that he was open to finding a “margin of flexibility” on thus-far conflicting EU and UK positions on fishing and the state aid fair play guarantees.

“As well as with fisheries and governance, we are ready to work on landing zones, respecting the mandate of the EU,” he said when asked how far the bloc could go towards Britain on the so-called level playing field provisions of fair competition.

They are among the chief obstacles to agreeing a new relationship between the world’s largest trading bloc and the world’s fifth-largest economy. Britain left the EU last January and its standstill transition period ends at the end of 2020.

Barnier said “the moment of truth” would come in October when the negotiating teams must finalize a draft deal if it is to be ratified by all the 27 EU member states in time for 2021.

Should talks fail, Barnier said the UK would be more severely affected than the EU if trade quotas and tariffs kick in, meaning that the bloc would not seal a deal at any cost.

“The level playing field is not for sale. It is a core part of the our trade model and we refuse to compromise to benefit the British economy,” he said.

Barnier added that, while Britain refused to sign up to the level playing field commitments in exchange for access to the single market, it was keen to retain very close ties on financial services and the electricity market.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants a narrower trade deal with the EU, but the bloc is pushing for an alliance that would cover transport, fisheries, security and other areas.

Barnier named nuclear co-operation and internal security as areas where progress had been made but said agreeing a role for the bloc’s top court and sealing Britain’s commitments to the European Convention of Human Rights were still missing.

He pressed Britain to advance preparations for the sensitive Irish frontier as agreed under the EU-UK divorce deal last year.

London and the bloc have agreed to intensify negotiations, with contacts planned every week until the end of July and resuming on 17 August after a summer break.



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Further easing of lockdown and two-metre social distancing rule to be reviewed – Channel 4 News


After thirteen weeks in lockdown could an easing of restrictions be on the horizon? If today’s newspaper reports are to be believed the Prime Minister is ready to end the ‘big national lockdown’.

That could mean pubs in England open their beer gardens and some restaurants and cafes could open their outside spaces too. There may also be a change to social distancing rules. But businesses say they’re still unclear about exactly how they can operate.



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International Dawn Chorus Day celebrated amid lockdown – Channel 4 News


It has become a soundtrack to lockdown: not the wailing sirens or the helicopters overhead – but the melody of birdsong at sunrise, now sounding clearer than it has been for decades, in a world that has ground to a halt.

Today, the first Sunday in May, the height of spring – marks International Dawn Chorus Day – the sound of birdsong giving people around the world some distraction from the stress and anxiety of lockdown – and a reminder to many that life does and will go on.



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Fears for workers excluded from government’s furlough scheme – Channel 4 News



17 Apr 2020

The Government has today extended its multi-billion pound support scheme to pay an 80 per cent wage subsidy to firms forced to furlough their staff during the crisis.

Now the Government has today extended its multi-billion pound support scheme to pay an 80 per cent wage subsidy to firms forced to furlough their staff during the crisis. It will now run until the end of June.

But there are gaps – hundreds of thousands of workers who were about to start a new job were not eligible. After pressure from campaign groups, the government this week extended that cut off date. But experts say huge numbers of workers are still excluded.



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13-year-old boy among victims of coronavirus – Channel 4 News



1 Apr 2020

A 13-year-old boy, from south London, described by his family as a “loving son” with a “heartwarming” smile

A 13-year-old boy, from south London, described by his family as a “loving son” with a “heartwarming” smile, a 19-year-old chef who had moved to the UK from Italy and an NHS nurse whose relatives say he “always went beyond the call of duty” – these are some of the people who have died after testing positive for Covid-19.



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The government’s reasoning for social distancing – Channel 4 News



16 Mar 2020

Our health and social care correspondent was at today’s briefing at Number 10, where the Prime Minister told people they should stop all non-essential contact and travel to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Our health and social care correspondent was at today’s briefing at Number 10, where the Prime Minister told people they should stop all non-essential contact and travel to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.



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Can the Commonwealth Fill the Gap?


I recently attended a conference at Clare College, Cambridge, organised by The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, considering the role of the Commonwealth in 2019 – its challenges and opportunities. The Commonwealth still struggles to an extent to articulate its role and significance in international relations. One session, which included myself as a presenter, had the title “A Less Valuable Connection? The Commonwealth in the post-Brexit era”. The session had the objective of considering whether the Commonwealth as an institution, and via its member states, can fill the gap (or at least partially fill the gap), which will be created by Brexit (in whatever form that takes). My focus was primarily on the Caribbean – both sovereign and non-sovereign countries – to assess briefly the direct and indirect impacts of Brexit; before going onto consider how the Commonwealth can perhaps help mitigate the consequences we are likely to see.

I would like to use the rest of this blog to provide an overview of my presentation and what role, if any, the Commonwealth can play going forward. Let us start with the impacts, and likely impacts, of Brexit on the Caribbean. The most significant consequences will be seen for the Overseas Territories of the UK – such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) – who will likely lose free access to the EU single market; tens of millions of euros in EU bilateral and regional aid; free movement across the EU or at least the restriction of that benefit; and the shutting down of important avenues of dialogue with the European Commission. So far the UK government has provided very little clarity about what comes next. A commitment has been made to make good any shortfall in EU funding up to the end of 2020, but nothing more than that. As a consequence, there are concerns that trade will be hit and funding will be less and possibly based on a competitive bidding process; at present EU aid is allocated through negotiation and dialogue.

Brexit has also implications for the independent Anglophone Caribbean – in two key respects. First, there is little detail about what a future trading relationship might look like between the UK and the Caribbean, once the UK extracts itself from the Cotonou Agreement and the associated Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that links Caribbean countries with the EU. In the short-term there will likely be uncertainty and disruption; then perhaps adoption of an EPA – equivalent deal in relation to tariffs, standards and regulations. Beyond that, who knows? But could the Caribbean get a better deal from the UK than they presently have with the EU? If Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s aim of a UK military base in somewhere like Montserrat or Guyana comes to pass, then perhaps the region can ask for concessions from the UK. Second, there are the continuing relations between the Caribbean and the EU (without the UK). The renegotiation of the Cotonou Agreement has just begun, but there are challenges for the region – now fewer natural allies in the EU; less money as the UK contributed 15 percent to the key European Development Fund; and suggestions that the Anglo-Caribbean could be linked more formally to Cuba or with Latin America more generally. Thus their long-held particularism is potentially under threat.

So what role post-Brexit for the Commonwealth? Let’s begin first with Commonwealth states, and especially those within the Caribbean. There are some interesting developments here, which suggest that the Anglophone, Francophone, Hispanic and Dutch states and territories are working more closely together. For example, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), made up primarily of Anglophone states, is considering associate membership for the Dutch and French territories. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), a small sub-grouping of Anglophone countries, made Martinique (a French territory) an associate member in 2015. Today, relations are being strengthened more generally between the OECS, the French territories and France in areas such as illegal immigration and people smuggling, narcotics and interdiction, and relaxing the rules for the movement of people. Further, CARIFORUM (CARICOM & the Dominican Republic) has recently accepted the BVI as an associate member. So across the Caribbean, Commonwealth member states are linking up with overseas territories, providing a deeper level of cooperation across the region, whilst also trying to develop innovative ways of engaging with the EU and its member states.

Finally what of the Commonwealth as an international organisation? At the moment the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons is undertaking an inquiry into the UK Overseas Territories. I looked through the large number of oral and written pieces of evidence that have been given to see how often the Commonwealth is mentioned. It is only a handful. At present it is clear that the Commonwealth, which has a membership of sovereign states only, is not seen as a key interlocutor for the overseas territories. However, there is a desire to change this. But how? There are certainly informal ways that the Commonwealth has and can further develop that role, via for example the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and using its good offices, in tandem with member states, to assist with constitutional reform – a big issue for the overseas territories at the moment. Could for example, New Zealand with its self-governing states of the Cook Islands and Niue show the way for greater local autonomy in the UK territories?

But perhaps more importantly is whether a more formal relationship can be established between the UK overseas territories and the Commonwealth. At the moment there is no such relationship, but this has been discussed for many years. In 2012, for example, the Foreign Affairs Committee undertook an inquiry into “The Role and Future of the Commonwealth”. Some who gave evidence suggested that the Commonwealth should be more accommodating towards the territories, while others said that would breach the core requirement of membership – sovereignty, and that member states would be concerned about the broader and more informal role of the UK government via the territories in Commonwealth affairs.

But I think the Caribbean is showing the way and appreciating the benefits of deeper formal cooperation around climate change and sustainable management of the natural environment, education, health, and tourism, and not being so concerned about the issue of sovereignty (although it does rear its head from time to time). If it is thought that associate membership is a step too far for the Commonwealth, then perhaps the organisation should look at how the EU manages its overseas countries and territories. They are associated with, but not associate members of, the EU – through something called the Overseas Association Decision. There are discreet arrangements and mechanisms for the territories, but where appropriate they can link in with common EU rules and practices. So the Commonwealth should consider this option to bring together and more closely align the territories of the UK, New Zealand and Australia with itself. Brexit will cause a rupture, but the Commonwealth has a role to play, and with some imagination and boldness can enhance its role further in helping to support the UK overseas territories and the Anglophone Caribbean in the more difficult years to come.






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#Brexit – UK open to looser ‘Australia-style’ trade deal with EU: source


“There are only two likely outcomes in negotiation – a free trade deal like Canada or a looser arrangement like Australia – and we are happy to pursue both,” the source said.

Johnson is due to give a major speech on trade on Monday, following Britain’s departure from the EU on Friday after nearly 50 years of membership.

Previously Johnson has said his main goal is to reach a Canada-style trade deal with the EU before an 11-month transition period expires at the end of the year, after which British firms would face tariffs to sell goods to the EU.

But Johnson has also said Britain will not commit to continue following EU rules after the transition period, and Saturday’s remarks suggest he is growing less willing to make the trade-offs that many businesses want to smooth a deal.

Canada does not follow EU rules, but some EU governments are reluctant to give Britain similar leeway to diverge on labour and environmental standards, given the much greater trade volumes involved.

In some areas, such as the minimum wage, maternity leave and the elimination of single-use plastics, British standards significantly exceed EU minimums.





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#Conservative win marks bad day for people of Britain, says #GUE/NGL


A statement by GUE/NGL Co-President Martin Schirdewan on the Conservative Party’s victory in the British general election: “Today is a sad day for people living in Britain.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the message of hope has not carried in the face of a dirty and dishonest campaign by the Conservatives.

“Voters who had voted for change, for an end to austerity, for social and tax justice, will now have to endure a government bent on social inequality, deregulation, discrimination and xenophobia.

“It is also now clear that Britain will be leaving the EU at the end of January. As the Left in the European Parliament, we will continue to hold the British government to their commitments under The Good Friday Agreement,” he added.

“Furthermore, we will protect the interests of people across the EU in the negotiations on the future relationship. We will also seek to safeguard the interests of the people in Britain, and will work with the broader labour movement and progressive forces in Britain to this end,” said Schirdewan.

Also commenting on the vote’s impact on Brexit, Martina Anderson (Sinn Féin, Ireland) said: “The people in the North of Ireland want to remain in the EU. The result of this election shows that the only way that this can happen is through Irish unity – a referendum on which is guaranteed under The Good Friday Agreement.”

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