FRONT PAGE NEWS
4 February 2020
BREXIT DONE? NOT SO FAST. BRITAIN, EU ENTER NEW TRADE DEAL BATTLE
Just three days after their formal parting, Britain and the European Union
were already at loggerheads Monday over a future trade deal, setting the
stage for months of bluster and bickering over how to refashion their
economic and political ties.
With Britain's formal exit from the bloc Friday night, many Britons had
hoped to finally put the Brexit nightmare behind them.
But judging by the statements from both sides of the English Channel on
Monday, that hope seems likely to be unfulfilled.
In remarks in Brussels, Europe's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, adopted a
steely tone, insisting that Britain must commit to preventing unfair
competition if it wants access to the market of 450 million Europeans
without tariffs and quotas.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded from London by threatening to walk
away from talks if the EU tries to tie Britain too closely to its rules as a
price for a free-trade agreement. Johnson also called for an end to
"hysterical" fears about American food entering Britain - a reminder to
Europeans that he hopes to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the United
Analysts had expected both sides to adopt tough opening positions on trade,
but after decades of membership, Britain is becoming an economic competitor
to the EU. If the combative exchanges Monday are any indication, those
discussions will be hard fought and acrimonious.
"This is the early phase, and the chest-beating phase of the negotiation,"
said Sam Lowe, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, a
research institute in London. "In the next couple of months we will see both
sides standing firm and appealing to domestic audiences."
On Monday there were few surprises for trade experts, Lowe said, adding that
serious progress in talks is unlikely before the fall. For an agreement to
be struck this year, he added, "the U.K. will have to move a lot and the EU
will have to move a little."
AUDIO CAPTURED IRAN PLANE DOWNING: 'THAT SURELY IS THE LIGHT FROM A MISSILE'
A leaked air-traffic control audiotape captures the frantic minutes after an
Iranian Revolutionary Guard unit mistakenly launched a missile that downed a
Ukrainian airliner that had just taken off from Tehran's international
After a transcript of the recording was released by a Ukrainian news site
Sunday, Iran halted its cooperation with Ukraine's inquiry into the
disaster, already described as reluctant, officials said. The Iranians said
they expected such evidence would have been kept confidential.
On the tape, an Iranian air traffic controller can be heard talking to a
pilot on an arriving Iranian plane, who appears to be the first to warn of
"Flares on route, as if from a missile," the pilot reported. "Should
anything like this be happening there?"
"We were not informed of this," the controller said. "What does this light
The reply: "That surely is the light from a missile."
When the controller then tried to raise the crew of Ukraine International
Airlines Flight 752, there was no response.
The Iranian pilot reports seeing an explosion, then sought reassurance: "Is
our course OK?"
"Yes," the controller said. "I don't think there will be any problem for
"God forbid!" the pilot responded.
Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, verified the audio recording's
authenticity and said it had been obtained by Ukrainian crash investigators.
The Iranians did not dispute its authenticity.
Its leak to the news site seemed to reflect frustration among Ukrainian
government officials over what they said was Iran's lack of cooperation in
the inquiry, particularly its refusal to hand over the downed plane's black
CHINA ADMITS 'SHORTCOMINGS' IN VIRUS RESPONSE
BEIJING, China - China's top leadership has admitted "shortcomings and
difficulties" in its response to the coronavirus outbreak, as state media
said a new hospital built at breakneck pace began receiving patients in the
epicenter of the crisis.
Sixty-four new deaths were confirmed on Tuesday - surpassing Monday's record
to post the new biggest daily increase since the virus was detected late
last year in the central city of Wuhan.
The death toll in China stood at 425, exceeding the 349 mainland fatalities
from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-03, which
killed nearly 800 globally.
The government in Beijing nevertheless hit out at the United States for
sparking "panic" with its response to the coronavirus, including a ban on
foreigners who have recently been to China.
As it races to try to contain the spread of the virus, China's elite
Politburo Standing Committee called for improvements to the "national
emergency management system" following "shortcoming and difficulties exposed
in the response to the epidemic," according to the official Xinhua news
"It is necessary to strengthen market supervision, resolutely ban and
severely crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade," the Politburo
said in a meeting on Monday, Xinhua reported.
The government also said it "urgently" needed medical equipment and surgical
masks, protective suits, and safety goggles as it battles to control the
But factories capable of producing around 20 million masks a day are only
operating at 60-70 percent of capacity, industry department spokesman Tian
Yulong said, adding that supply and demand remained in "tight equilibrium"
as a result of the Lunar New Year break.
Tian said authorities were taking steps to bring in masks from Europe, Japan
and the United States.
US DEMANDS MORE FROM TALIBAN ON CEASEFIRE BEFORE DEAL
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday demanded "demonstrable evidence"
from the Taliban that it can and will reduce violence before signing a deal
that would lead to Afghanistan peace talks and a withdrawal of American
troops from the country.
Speaking at a news conference in neighboring Uzbekistan, Pompeo said a deal
is close but that they have been close before and failed because the Taliban
was unable to demonstrate its seriousness. He said more work remains to be
done so that peace talks can get started.
"We're working on a peace and reconciliation plan, putting the commas in the
right place, getting the sentences right," he said.
"We got close once before to having an agreement: a piece of paper that we
mutually executed and the Taliban were unable to demonstrate either their
will or capacity or both to deliver on a reduction in violence."
"So, what we are demanding now is demonstrable evidence of their will and
capacity to reduce violence, to take down the threat, so the inter-Afghan
talks . will have a less violent context," he said. "We're hopeful we can
achieve that but we're not there yet, and work certainly remains."
Pompeo's comments came just two days after U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad
arrived in Kabul and told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani there has been "no
notable progress" in talks with the Taliban. However, Khalilzad said he was
hopeful of reaching an understanding with them on a reduction of
hostilities, without offering any time frame.
IOWA DEMOCRATS BEGIN CAUCUS MEETINGS, KICKING OFF SEARCH FOR TRUMP ELECTION
Iowa Democrats began meeting at caucus sites around the state on Monday,
kicking off what could be a bruising months-long national nominating fight
to choose a November election challenger to Republican U.S. President Donald
Voters poured into more than 1,600 schools, community centers and other
public locations to render judgment on a field of 11 Democratic contenders
led by front-runners Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Vice
President Joe Biden, who have battled for the top in recent Iowa opinion
Long lines and heavy crowds were reported in some locations, but doors to
the caucus sites were supposed to close at 7 p.m. CST (0100 GMT on Tuesday),
and results are expected to begin rolling in within an hour or two.
Mostly white, rural Iowa is the first test in the state-by-state battle to
pick a Democratic nominee to face Trump in the Nov. 3 election. After more
than a year of campaigning and more than $800 million in spending, the
results in Iowa could begin to provide answers for a party desperately
trying to figure out how to beat the businessman-turned-president.
IMRAN KHAN LEAVES FOR MALAYSIA TO PLACATE PM MAHATHIR FOR SKIPPING KEY
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on February 3 embarked on a two-day visit
to Malaysia to placate the country's leadership after he skipped a major
summit of Muslim nations in Kuala Lumpur, solidify the bilateral strategic
partnership and discuss the situation in South Asia.
Prime Minister Khan's visit will contribute to further strengthening the
historic Pakistan-Malaysia ties and taking bilateral cooperation to a higher
level, the Prime Minister's Office tweeted.
Mr. Khan's visit to Malaysia at the invitation of his Malaysian counterpart
Mahathir Mohamad comes after he skipped the Kuala Lumpur summit of some 20
Muslim countries in December attended by leaders from countries like Iran,
Turkey and Qatar.
Mr. Khan did not attend the summit, reportedly due to pressure exerted by
Saudi Arabia, which had extended liberal financial assistance to Mr. Khan's
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government to stave off the looming economic
crisis, Dawn newspaper reported.
The Express Tribune, quoting sources, reported that the visit of Prime
Minister Khan is aimed at removing misgivings Malaysia may have about
Pakistan for skipping the Kuala Lumpur summit.
Pakistan initially confirmed its participation at the summit but changed its
mind after Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries voiced concerns over it.
Riyadh is reported to have viewed the summit as an attempt to create a new
Islamic bloc, the reports said.
SRI LANKA DROPS TAMIL ANTHEM FROM I-DAY CELEBRATIONS
Colombo: For the first time since 2016, there will be no Tamil national
anthem at the 72nd Independence Day celebrations in Sri Lanka and it will
only be rendered in Sinhalese, the government announced on Monday, amply
demonstrating the administration's priority for the majority Sinhala
community. The then Sri Lankan government in 2015 started including the
Tamil national anthem as a means of achieving reconciliation with the Tamil
minority community. Pti
CANADIANS' NO TO FUNDING HARRY, MEGHAN'S SECURITY
Montreal: A clear majority of Canadians feel their country does not have to
pay for security for Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, who have
settled in British Columbia. Seventy-seven per cent of people surveyed by
Nanos Research, for CTV, believe the Candian taxpayer does not have to pay
for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex because they are not in Canada as
representatives of the Queen. Canada is a parliamentary monarchy and Queen
Elizabeth II is the reigning head of state. AFP
SWEDISH LAWMAKERS NOMINATE GRETA FOR NOBEL PEACE
Copenhagen: Two Swedish lawmakers have nominated climate activist Greta
Thunberg, 17, for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. Left Party leaders Jens Holm
and Hakan Svenneling on Monday said Thunberg "has worked hard to make
politicians open their eyes to the climate crisis" and "action for reducing
our emissions and complying with the Paris Agreement is also an act of