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Newsline: UK’s Labour foreign policy prioritizes reconnecting with Europe’

Britain’s opposition Labour Party will “reconnect” with the rest of Europe if it wins power, and aim to repair what it sees as the damage done by the governing Conservatives in the course of Brexit, its foreign policy chief said on Tuesday. With Labour commanding a hefty lead in opinion polls over the Conservatives, the party is presenting itself as a government in waiting, gradually setting out the agenda it wants to pursue if it wins a national election expected next year. Lammy said a Labour government would not want Britain to rejoin the European Union or its single market, but would try to restore trust with the bloc after years of damaging Brexit rows. “Reconnecting Britain to Europe, while remaining outside of the EU, will be a top priority of the next Labour Foreign Office,” Lammy told an audience at the Chatham House think tank. “With Labour, Britain will not rejoin the EU, the single market or the customs union. But within our red lines, there is real progress we can make to increase trade with our neighbours and deliver prosperity at home.” (https://neuters.de/world/uk/reconnecting-with-europe-uks-labour-sets-out-foreign-policy-priorities-2023-01-24/) Bank of England officials have said the effects of Brexit weighed on Britain’s economy, slowing trade in the country compared with the rest of the world.

Newsline: Barbados ambassador calls on UK to apologise for slavery

A Barbados ambassador has called for the British government and royal family to apologise for slavery and pay reparations following the Church of England’s admission of its involvement in past atrocities. David Comissiong, Barbados’ ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), addressed the church’s “groundbreaking” developments in disclosing its involvement in the mass enslavement of African people, as the Caribbean nation continues to push for reparatory justice. (https://www.independent.co.uk/world/barbados-monarchy-slavery-uk-government-b2262951.html) Mr Comissiong is the deputy chairperson of the country’s National Task Force on Reparations. Barbados was the birthplace of the British slave society and was most ruthlessly colonised between 1636–1876. The Church of England’s investment fund’s “shameful” historic links to transatlantic slavery were laid bare in a full report on Tuesday, prompting it to announce £100 million of funding for a programme of investment, research and engagement to try to “address past wrongs”.

Newsline: Albania protests to British ambassador over migrants

Albania on Monday handed a note of protest to the British ambassador over comments by immigration minister Robert Jenrick about illegal Albanian immigrants that the foreign ministry said used the “language of hatred”. The Albanian ministry statement said that “this language of hatred and discrimination” should be avoided. “Through this note the Foreign Ministry expressed concern about the latest statements with discriminatory language against Albanians,” the statement said. (https://neuters.de/world/europe/albania-protests-uk-over-language-hatred-over-migrants-2023-01-16/) Albania’s protest came after Jenrick published a video on Facebook on Jan. 13, when he was visiting a deportation centre, in which he praised staff working “to find the Albanians, to detain them, to put them onto coaches, to take them to the airport and get them back to Tirana”. In the past year there has been a significant increase in the number of Albanians trying to reach Britain in small boats arriving on the south coast. Some British politicians say migrants from Albania – a European Union candidate and NATO ally – have not suffered persecution but are moving for economic reasons.

Newsline: Chinese embassy in UK ‘firmly opposed’ to Britain’s Hong Kong report

China’s embassy in Britain said on Thursday it had lodged “stern representations” about the UK’s latest six-monthly report on Hong Kong, which criticised what it called the erosion of freedoms in the former British territory by China. “It distorted facts, grossly interfered in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs, and seriously violated the basic norms governing international relations,” an embassy spokesperson said of the report. “We are strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to it, and have lodged stern representations with the British side.” (https://neuters.de/world/chinese-embassy-uk-firmly-opposed-britains-hong-kong-report-2023-01-12/) China has in the past responded to similar criticism by accusing Britain of acting with a colonial mindset.

Newsline: UK top diplomat criticises erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong

Britain criticised what it said was the systematic erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong by the Chinese government and a crackdown on free speech by authorities in the former British colony. The criticism, contained in the government’s latest six-monthly report on Hong Kong, accused China of diminishing the way of life promised to the people of Hong Kong and repeated its view that Beijing had broken the terms of its 1997 handover. “Freedoms are being systematically eroded by Beijing on multiple fronts, tightening the restrictions on the lives of ordinary Hong Kongers,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in the foreword of the report, which covered the first half of 2022. (https://neuters.de/world/china/britain-criticises-erosion-freedoms-hong-kong-2023-01-12/) Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule more than 25 years ago with a deal guaranteeing a high degree of autonomy, including freedom of speech, under a “one country, two systems” formula.

Newsline: UK top diplomat says gaps remain in Northern Ireland talks with EU

There are still genuine differences between British and European Union negotiators that could take some time to resolve if talks on revising post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland are to succeed, Britain’s foreign minister said. James Cleverly was speaking after meeting political and business leaders in Northern Ireland to discuss difficulties about the trading arrangements after a mellowing in a years-long standoff yielded some progress this week. “Optimism is great, having a spirit of optimism is important but there are still genuine differences and they can’t just be wished away, they need to be resolved and sometimes that does take some time,” Cleverly told reporters. (https://neuters.de/world/uk/uk-ministers-meet-northern-irish-leaders-post-brexit-trade-2023-01-11/) The post-Brexit trading arrangements, the so-called Northern Ireland protocol agreed with the European Union, has put strains not only on the British-run province but also on ties between London and Brussels over the deal. But over the last few months, the tone of talks to try to resolve differences over the protocol has softened, with the antagonism that marked the discussions since 2019 replaced by what appears to be a new push to find a negotiated settlement.

Newsline: UK summons Iranian envoy

Britain’s foreign minister James Cleverly summoned Iran’s most senior diplomat after Iranian authorities executed protestors Mohammad Mahdi Karami and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini. “Today I have summoned the Iranian Chargé d’Affaires to condemn in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent executions we witnessed over the weekend,” Cleverly said in a statement. Since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini last September, Britain said it had imposed more than 40 sanctions on leading officials in Iran “for their role in serious human rights violations.” (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/uk-summons-top-iranian-diplomat-following-latest-executions-2023-01-09/) The two men were hanged on Saturday for allegedly killing a member of the security forces during protests that followed the death of Amini.

Newsline: U.S. court rejects bid by Venezuela’s envoy to claim diplomatic immunity

A U.S. judge dealt a blow on Friday to Alex Saab Moran, a Colombia-born businessman accused in a corruption scheme involving Venezuela’s ruling Socialists, by rejecting his assertion of diplomatic immunity. The judge formally denied a motion filed by lawyers representing Saab Moran, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, to dismiss his criminal indictment on the basis of his claim he was protected from prosecution as a Venezuelan diplomat, according to a court filing. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/us-court-denies-motion-dismiss-saab-case-diplomatic-status-2022-12-23/) Saab Moran is being held in a Miami jail awaiting trial on charges of money laundering in the case. His lawyers argue Saab Moran was on a diplomatic mission for the Venezuelan government to Iran to buy fuel and humanitarian supplies when he was arrested in 2020 in Cape Verde while his plane refueled. He was extradited to the United States the following year.

Newsline: Joe Kennedy III appointed as US special envoy for Northern Ireland

President Biden’s reported choice of former US Representative Joseph Kennedy III to serve as special envoy for Northern Ireland amid critical trade talks between the United Kingdom and European Union was largely hailed by Massachusetts political observers. The appointment of Kennedy, 42, as the next special envoy was reported by several media outlets, including Politico, Bloomberg, and the Washington Post. The Globe was not able to independently verify those reports Saturday. (https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/12/17/metro/hes-perfect-choice-observers-hail-reported-pick-joe-kennedy-iii-special-envoy-northern-ireland/) Biden has long paid close attention to Irish affairs, and the post is seen as a critical role with UK and EU officials hammering out a post-Brexit protocol governing how trade will flow through Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which still share an open border. Voters in the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union in 2016.

Newsline: UK hopes Lebanon ruling brings closure after diplomat’s murder

Britain said on Friday it hoped a ruling by a Lebanese court to uphold the conviction of an Uber driver for the 2017 rape and murder of a British diplomat in Lebanon would bring closure for her family. The British embassy said in a statement that Lebanon’s court of cassation rejected an appeal by Tariq Houshieh against his conviction which followed his confession to raping and strangling 30-year-old Rebecca Dykes. He was sentenced to death in 2019, although Lebanon has an unofficial moratorium and has not carried out any executions since 2004, Human Rights Watch says. “We hope this verdict will bring some closure for Becky’s family, for the many around the world who loved Becky, and for all those whose lives she touched through her humanitarian work in Lebanon and elsewhere,” the embassy said after the ruling. (https://neuters.de/world/britain-hopes-lebanon-ruling-brings-closure-after-womans-murder-2022-12-16/) Dykes worked at the embassy in Lebanon for Britain’s Department for International Development.