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UK Economy Close To Turning Point On Eve Of Leaving EU

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The United Kingdom is finally set to leave the European Union on Friday and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will deliver on his election promise to “Get Brexit Done”.

The Brexit process was an extremely divisive issue that split the country for more than three and a half years of voting to leave.

January 31 will be seen as a day of salvation for the leave campaign and February 1 will mark the beginning of a new phase of negotiations between London and Brussels to agree on the shape of their future relationship.

They have until the end of 2020 — a transition period during which Britain will remain an EU member in all but name — to hammer out an agreement on trade and other issues including security, energy, transport links, fishing rights and data flow.

The terms of the UK’s departure from the EU was backed by members of the European Parliament, MEPs ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 621 votes to 49 following an emotional debate in Brussels.

After the vote, MEPs marked the UK’s exit by singing Auld Lang Syne.

The Parliament’s president, David Sassoli while signing the letter confirming the EU’s consent said the two sides must heed the words of the late Labour MP Jo Cox when approaching their future relationship and recognize “there is more that unites us than divides us.”

“You are leaving the EU but you will always be part of Europe…It is very hard to say goodbye. That is why, like my colleagues, I will say arrivederci.”

The Parliament’s Brexit spokesman, Guy Verhofstadt, said it was “sad to see a country leaving that has twice given its blood to liberate Europe”.

He added that British MEPs had brought “wit, charm, and intelligence” as well as “stubbornness”, and would be missed.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said ratification of the withdrawal deal was “only a first step” towards a new partnership between the EU and the UK.

African News

Nine African Nations In Debt To UN Lose Voting Rights

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Nine African countries, who are owing membership dues to the United Nations, are about to lose their voting rights in the general assembly.  Niger, Central African Republic, Somalia, Comoros, Libya, the Congo, Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Sao Tome and Principe are reported to be indebted to the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, says the African nations, and Iran, should lose their voting rights as required under the U.N. Charter after defaulting on payment of their dues to the united nations’ operating budget.

Guterres listed in a letter to the United Nations General Assembly president, Volkan Bozkir, on monday, the minimum each country must pay for their voting rights to be restored.

The U.N. Charter gives the 193-member general assembly the authority to decide “that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the member,” and in that case a country can continue to vote. That has not been invoked in these cases.

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World News

America Prepares For Presidential Inauguration Amid Fears Of Insider Attacks

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The United States is preparing for an unprecedented presidential inauguration on Wednesday.  Prompted by the Capitol insurrection twelve days ago, more than twenty-five thousand national guards troops have been brought into Washington, DC to provide security for the event.

US defense officials have also expressed fear of an insider attack or other threats from security troops assigned to provide protection during the inauguration.

Small protests also took place at heavily fortified state houses around the country.  There were widespread fears of violence against state capitols across the country like the siege on the U.S. Capitol. There has been no report of violence.

Some have described the scenes of national guard troops taking over the streets around the US Capitol, as looking like the war zones of Afghanistan or the Middle East.

Amid this background, Joe Biden will deliver his inaugural address of national unity when he is sworn in on Wednesday.  He plans to immediately jump into action after swearing-in.  He plans immediate moves to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than four hundred thousand American lives.  He also promised to issue many executive orders to undo some of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies.

He says his first order of business would be an executive order signing America back into the Paris Climate Accord.  He will also revoke Trump’s immigration ban on some majority-Muslim countries.

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Health News

23 Norwegians Dead After Taking COVID-19 Vaccine

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The New York Post has quoted Norwegian health officials as saying twenty-three persons have died within days of receiving the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.  Thirteen of the deaths are said to be related to side effects of the shots.  All thirteen were nursing home patients who were at least eighty years old.

The newspaper quoted the chief physician at the Norwegian medicines agency, Sigurd Hortemo, as saying in a statement on Friday, common reactions to the vaccine, including fever and nausea, may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients.

This has forced officials to adjust their guidance on who should receive the vaccine, but they are not expressing serious concern.

The country has inoculated more than thirty-thousand citizens with the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine since last month.

Norwegian medicines agency medical director, Steinar Madsen, says the agency is not alarmed. He says the vaccines have very little risk.

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