May’s Brexit house of cards
Theresa May’s compromise on Brexit ensured the survival of her Chequers plan. However, critics suggest that she is exposing her vulnerability by bending under the pressure from hardline Brexit campaigners.
Before Monday’s vote, May pledged to stick to her plan to negotiate the closest possible trade ties with the European Union. However, on the evening’s vote in the House of Commons, Brexiteers managed to water down May’s Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill. The Commons accepted four amendments from the right-wing European Research Group, including the most significant ones: ruling out collecting VAT or duties on behalf of the European Union unless it is reciprocal and ruling out joining the EU’s VAT regime.
Donald Trump's #Brexit advice to Theresa May?
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) July 15, 2018
These passed with a majority of just three votes. Conservative MPs in the Remain Camp complain that May has lost any remaining control. The international trade secretary Liam Fox countered these by claiming that the amendments do not change the spirit of Brexit the government still wishes to pursue. As a result, one junior minister, Guto Bebbs quit after the Brexit vote.
Some lawmakers fear that by hardening the language in the customs bill, the bloc will be less likely to accept it, leaving the UK’s economic future more uncertain. However, May’s decision to accept the amendments improves her prospects of staying in the leadership at least until the end of the summer.
This weekend, May hosted the U.S. President Donald Trump, who said in an interview for the Sun that if May went ahead with her Chequers Plan, it would “kill the deal with the US.” Moreover, he advised her to sue the EU and “not go into negotiations” with them.
Last week saw also the resignations of the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis following differences with May. Both resigned in response to May’s Chequers “soft Brexit” cabinet strategy to which they could not agree. In the, now infamous, interview Mr. Trump has also argued that Boris Johnson would make a very good prime minister.
The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29th March 2019. However, it seems that before trying to come up with a deal with the Union they first need to resolve the differences within the government on what the final relationship will look like.
Trump in Brussels: NATO´s worst nightmare
Another annual NATO summit happened and it was turbulent. The summit’s agenda, including U.S. tariffs, tension in the Middle East, the situation in the North Africa, as well as issue of membership for Macedonia, was overshadowed by Donald Trump’s defense spending complaints. Instead of discussing Ukraine and Georgia, as the schedule had it, Trump changed the debate and expressed his concerns about financing NATO. The U.S. president made two surprising claims. Firstly, he demanded from the leaders of NATO member states to accelerate their defense spending commitments of 2% GDP not by 2024 as was the deal, but as soon as possible. Secondly and somewhat surprisingly, Trump announced, that NATO member states leaders should double their commitments to 4% GDP. Paradoxically, not even the United States has 4% GDP spending on defense. As his last point, Trump managed to insult Germany, by saying that it is “totally controlled by” and “captive of” Russia, referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
It seems not all was in vain. There were tangible steps of the summit, such as the new Baltic command structure. During the first day of the summit, Denmark, Latvia, and Estonia brought the new Northern Multinational Division Command into existence. Besides that, new readiness initiative was adopted – the commitment to have 30 mechanized battalions; 30 air squadrons; and 30 combat vessels, ready to use within 30 days or less by 2020.
Billions of additional dollars are being spent by NATO countries since my visit last year, at my request, but it isn’t nearly enough. U.S. spends too much. Europe’s borders are BAD! Pipeline dollars to Russia are not acceptable!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
According to Mr. Trump, the outcomes are very positive. “We’ve had a very amazing two-day period in Brussels,” declared Trump after the meeting and added that “now we’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO, much stronger than it was two days ago.” There are concerns, however, that the summit was more of a success for Vladimir Putin than it was for the NATO allies. Putin wants NATO divided and that just might be the result of Trump´s mocking rhetorics.
Rising influence of ISIS in Pakistan: terrorist attack hits a campaign rally, killing 149 people
The terror attack on July 16 in Balochistan province, which was the second deadliest one in Pakistan’s history, is a powerful reminder of ISIS activity in Pakistan, despite being categorically denied by the officials. The attack comes only a few months after the previous attack in Quetta, where the Christian family of four was shot by the ISIS.
In the aftermath of the attack which targeted the political candidate in Pakistan’s general election, political parties decided to suspend their activities. The denial of the ISIS’s presence in the region, however, can easily become damaging and counterproductive as the already present small jihadi groups could launch attacks in the name of ISIS, creating local jihadi umbrella network.
Pakistan mourns 149 dead in country's second deadliest terror attack https://t.co/peghZAHDno
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) July 16, 2018
While the overall terror incidents in Pakistan are on decline, the Balochistan has been experiencing a number of terrorist attacks in recent months which only add up to the already unstable region. With the weak service provision and insufficient state control, non-state actors in Pakistan have become increasingly important and could use this position to undermine the local authorities while increasing their criminal activity in the region. One of the examples is the establishment of Shariah courts by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), group recognized by the United States as an affiliate of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which is listed as a ‘‘foreign terrorist organization’’ by the United States.
Despite free media and judicial activism, the local order continues to be repeatedly undermined by the various militant/religious groups and their efforts to transform the society and fulfill their sectarian objectives.
The United Nations imposes an arms embargo on South Sudan
On June 13, the United Nations Security Council has approved an arms embargo on South Sudan, proposed by the United States in hope to stop the ongoing civil war. The opinion was not unanimous as the representatives of South Sudan and Ethiopia, as well as China, expressed a belief that such a move is counterproductive and might undermine the efforts to bring peace.
The UNSC has today imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan. A measure in favor of protecting the population. It is high time for the leaders to work in good faith with the commendable efforts of the region and find a political solution that puts the interests of the people first!
— Olof Skoog (@OlofBSkoog) July 13, 2018
The resolution forbids to supply weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and spare equipment and also renews existing sanctions against South Sudanese officials until the end of May 2019.
South Sudan, established in 2011, is the World’s youngest state and has spent a majority of its existence in political turmoil and civil war. In 2013, the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, who belongs to the Dinka ethnic group, accused the vice president Riek Machar, who belongs to the Nuer ethnic group, of plotting a coup. After Machar was forced to resign, a civil war started. Over time, the conflict has expanded, and more than a dozen of factions have been taking part in it. In the past, several ceasefires had been violated by the warring sides.
The civil war in South Sudan has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, forced over 2,5 million people to leave the country and internally displaced hundreds of thousands more. Moreover, the country’s oil production, which is the government’s main source of revenue, plummeted and the UN estimated that more than 7 million people will need food aid.
The civil war in South Sudan is far from over. President Kiir, whose term of office was supposed to end this July, was allowed by the Parliament to stay in power until 2021, which effectively ended any prospects for peace negotiations with Machar’s faction.
Image source: US Air Force | Public Domain Pictures
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context.
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