European Commission Frans Timmermans has called for European solidarity on the nerve gas attack.
Photo: European Commission
Commission offers UK support on spy case, Farage and Juncker at EP, Lagarde crypto warning. Wednesday’s breakfast briefing.
EU ready to support UK on spy case
The European Commission has come out in clear support of the UK as its disppute with Russia over a nerve agent attack on a former spy on British soil escalates. Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain critically ill in hospital after being poisoned in Salisbury. British prime minister Theresa May is preparing to deliver fresh sanctions against Russia after her deadline for a response to the attack passed at midnight on Wednesday. “We stand with the UK in pursuit of justice in this case and are ready to offer support if necessary,” spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday. Reuters also cites vice-president of the Commission Frans Timmermans urging European leaders to show solidarity. “We cannot have nerve gas being used in our societies. This should be addressed by all of us and not just left to prime minister May and the British government. It is a collective European responsibility.”
World mourns Stephen Hawking
Tributes have been flooding in for Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author, who died early on Wednesday morning at the age of 76. Fellow scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted. “His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure.”
EU leaders and Farage clash in parliament
Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier came under fire from British MEP Nigel Farage on Tuesday during debate on future EU-UK relations at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, reports Reuters. “As the clock counts down, with one year to go, it is now time to translate speeches into treaties, to turn commitments into agreements,” said Juncker. Addressing the full plenary session of the parliament, the president of the European Commission, said that the EU needed “further clarity from the UK if we are to reach an understanding on our future relationship.” Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator told the parliament that the UK needed to be more realistic, saying that the country could not expect to have the same advantages as a member when it became a third country. “It is time to face up to the hard facts,” he said. But Nigel Farage, who has been the UK’s most vociferous supporter of Brexit, said that the EU was “bullying” the UK. He urged British prime minister Theresa May “to do what Trump has done and stand strong against the European Commission, against the unelected bullies.”
Lagarde warning on cryptocurrencies
International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde has warned that the appeal of crypto-currencies also what makes them dangerous. Writing in an IMF blog on Tuesday, Lagarde said that the “element of anonymity” provided by crypto-currency transactions makes them a “potentially major newvehicle for money laundering and the financing of terrorism.” She called for financial authorities to use regulatory and supervisory technology, including Distributed ledger technology, AI and cryptography to shut criminals out of the crypto world. “To put it another way, we can fight fire with fire.”
Belgian beer dispute
The Guardian reports that monks from the Saint Sixtus abbey in Belgium are angry that a supermarket is selling its beer at huge profits. The beer is usually only available under strict conditions directly from the abbey, which is in Westvleteren in Flanders. But the Jan Linders supermarket chain is now selling the beer at around five times the price that the abbey charges.
European Union finance ministers have added the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Saint Kitts and Nevis to the EU blacklist of tax havens on Tuesday. The list already featured American Samoa, Guam, Namibia, Palau, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago. But the ministers also also decided to remove Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and Saint Lucia. At the monthly Ecofin meeting, the ministers also added Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda to a so-called grey list of jurisdictions which do not respect EU anti-tax avoidance standards but have committed to change their practices.