EU Brexit chief contradicts UK PM over N Ireland border

By Karim El-Bar

LONDON (AA) – The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator pushed back Tuesday against claims by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about frictionless trade in Northern Ireland as both sides gear up for trade talks.

Speaking in the European parliament on the issue of the Northern Irish border, Michel Barnier said: “The implementation of this foresees checks and controls entering the island of Ireland. I look forward to constructive cooperation with British authorities to ensure that all provisions are respected and made operational.”

This is a direct refusal of comments made by Johnson on Monday, where he said: “Be in no doubt. We are the government of the United Kingdom. I cannot see any circumstances whatever in which they will be any need for checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. The only circumstances in which you could imagine the need for checks coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, as I’ve explained before, is if those goods were going on into Ireland and we had not secured, which I hope and I’m confident we will, a zero tariff, zero quota agreement with our friends and partners in the EU.”

Great Britain is comprised of England, Wales, and Scotland. When combined with Northern Ireland, it makes up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Following Brexit, the U.K. will leave the EU. This means there will be a border between Northern Ireland, which will be outside the EU, and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain inside the EU. There was no border when the U.K. was in the EU due to the concept of free movement of people, goods, and services, which covered Ireland, Great Britain, and Northern Ireland between each other and the rest of the EU. This will no longer exist post-Brexit.

The issue of the Irish-Northern Irish has been the biggest obstacle in Brexit talks. This is due to the deep desire of the U.K. and Ireland to avoid a so-called “hard border,” i.e. checks and border infrastructure, between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The U.K. suffered a 30-year, low-intensity conflict both in Northern Ireland and the wider U.K. called “the Troubles.” This conflict pitted Northern Irish republican nationalists, who want unification with the Republic of Ireland, against Northern Irish unionists, who want to remain in the U.K. Thousands died in the violence.

It came to an end with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, one of the provisions of which was the elimination of the hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. There are fears on both sides of the border that a return to checks on the border could mean a return to political violence.

The issue has never been resolved in full detail in Brexit talks, with the British government insisting there will be no checks, and the EU asking for either a detailed British alternative, or keeping Northern Ireland within the EU’s regulatory orbit.

The latter option would appease nationalists in Northern Ireland, as there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland, but anger unionists, as it would effectively shift the border to the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and the Great Britain.

Barnier and Johnson’s competing claims show the issue has yet to be solved. The U.K. is aiming to strike a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU by the end of year.

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By Handan Kazanci

ANKARA (AA) - Anadolu Agency is here with a rundown of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic and other news in Turkey and around the world.

- Coronavirus in Turkey

Turkey on Thursday confirmed 926 additional recoveries as the country began easing measures against the novel coronavirus, according to the country’s health minister.

The total number of recoveries from the disease hit 131,778 as 926 more patients were discharged from hospitals over the past day, Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter, citing Health Ministry data.

The country's death toll from the outbreak rose to 4,630 as Turkey reported 21 new fatalities over the last 24 hours.

Turkey conducted over 54,000 COVID-19 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to more than 2.2 million, said Koca.

Meanwhile, Turkey plans to resume international flights to 40 countries gradually as of June 10, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said Thursday.

International flights from Turkey will carry passengers first to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Qatar and Greece, Karaismailoglu said in a statement.

Turkey suspended all international flights on March 28 amid COVID-19-related travel restrictions worldwide.

- Global coronavirus developments

A low death toll was once again recorded Thursday as France recovers from the coronavirus pandemic which plagued the country over the last three months, according to the latest statistics reported by the Health Ministry.

The country registered a total of 46 deaths in hospitals Thursday, a drop of 39 cases over those reported Wednesday.

Italy on Thursday reported 88 more fatalities from the pandemic, bringing the death toll to 33,689 as authorities unveiled new guidelines to prevent crowded summer spots like beach resorts from becoming new virus hotbeds.

The slowing trend in the number of deaths registered in May continued in early June, confirming that the peak of the crisis has been passed.

Face masks on English public transport will be mandatory from June 15, the British government announced Thursday, as a further 176 people died from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours.

British authorities announced that the UK-wide death toll from COVID-19 is now 39,904.

As Spain prepares for its state of emergency over COVID-19 to last until June 21, the Health Ministry reported Thursday that 195 more people were infected with the coronavirus and five more had died.

The number of infections diagnosed Wednesday was down slightly from the 219 people who tested positive Tuesday but up from Monday and Sunday. In total, 240,660 infections have been confirmed in the country.

Health officials in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza announced Thursday the arrival of medical supplies sent by Turkey to help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra confirmed that two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines had been delivered for detecting the virus.

- George Floyd Memorial service

Hundreds of mourners on Thursday attended the first of several memorials for George Floyd – an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody on May 25.

The service at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota was attended by Floyd's family and Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the family, as well as celebrity guests.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday urged demonstrators joining protests over the death of George Floyd to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, Cuomo said around 30,000 people have taken part in the statewide protests demanding justice for the killing of the unarmed black man in police custody.

Of them, 20,000 were involved in rallies in New York City.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged citizens not to overlook the racism problem in Germany while intensely discussing racism and police brutality in the US after the death of George Floyd.

"This murder of George Floyd is very, very terrible. Racism is something terrible,” Merkel said Thursday evening in an exclusive interview with public broadcaster ZDF.

“Racism has always been present, but sadly we also have this [problem]. We should first sweep in front of our own door,” she stressed.

- Other developments

Turkey and Libya plan to advance cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, including exploration and drilling activities, to further benefit from natural resources, Turkey’s president said in a meeting with Libya’s prime minister Thursday.

The meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Sarraj took place at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Erdogan said Turkey and Libya have reached a consensus on expanding their cooperation areas on the territory of Libya.