Displaying items by tag: Europe
In a confident and hard-hitting speech on Tuesday, Theresa May spoke of a ‘bold’ approach to the UK’s Brexit negotiations. She said that the UK will leave the European single market, retake control of immigration, strike its own trade deals, and refuse to be bound by rulings from the European Court of Justice. She also confirmed that MPs will put the final deal to a vote in both Houses of Parliament. In reaction to her speech, which one commentator described as ‘some of the most important words she will ever utter’, the value of the pound jumped sharply as traders were reassured that a firm strategy is now in place. However, others were much more critical, with a number of European leaders accusing the PM of attempting to ‘blackmail’ the EU. Also, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that a second Scottish referendum on independence is now ‘all but inevitable’; her government has repeatedly stressed its desire to stay in the EU single market. See
Two different clients appeared in court on Wednesday, both supported by the Christian Legal Centre in seeking justice for the most vulnerable people in the UK. Nikki and Merv Kenward are challenging the recent decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to change the policy on the prosecution of medical staff who assist others in committing suicide. The Suicide Act 1961 makes it a criminal offence to assist or encourage the suicide of another person, but in 2014 the DPP amended the policy, making the prosecution of healthcare professionals in assisted suicide cases less likely. Nikki, who was once so paralysed she could only wink her right eye, and her husband campaign against euthanasia and assisted abortion. Also, pray for Aisling Hubert, who brought a private prosecution against two doctors who were filmed offering abortion on the basis of the baby's gender. But the Crown Prosecution Service took over the case and Aisling was told to pay legal costs of £47,000. For more details, see
Miqdaad Versi, of the Muslim Council of Britain, spends his time reading every story in the media concerning Muslims and Islam - looking for inaccuracies. If he finds one, he will put in a complaint or a request for a correction with the news organisation, the press regulator Ipso, or both. Mr Versi has been doing this thoroughly since November, and before that on a more casual basis. He has so far complained more than fifty times, and the results are visible. He was personally behind eight corrections in December and another four so far this month. ‘Nobody else was doing this’, he says. ‘There have been so many inaccurate articles about Muslims overall, and they create this idea within many Muslim communities that the media is out to get them. Nobody is challenging these newspapers and saying, “That's not true”.' Some free speech campaigners are concerned that this kind of work is trying to ‘ring-fence Islam from criticism’. Mr Versi, however, insists his work is about ensuring the facts are right - not silencing critics. He says there are many examples where Muslims can be rightly criticised, and he is not complaining about those. ‘All I'm asking for is responsible reporting.’
Rescuers are still hopeful that they will find survivors after an avalanche on Wednesday left at least two people dead and dozens more buried under rubble and snow. Teams worked through the night in the search for at least 25 people believed to be missing. The avalanche struck the remote Rigopiano hotel, in the central Abruzzo region, after multiple earthquakes in the region. Two people who were outside the hotel at the time of the avalanche survived. The earthquakes, four of which were stronger than magnitude 5, terrified residents of rural areas who were already struggling with harsh conditions after heavy snowfall buried phone lines and took out power cables. Prosecutors in Pescara, the nearest big city, opened a manslaughter investigation into the disaster, amid growing criticism of the Italian authorities’ slow response.
It seems almost inevitable that there will be an election in Northern Ireland, following deputy first minister Martin McGuinness’s resignation on Monday. This was after first minister Arlene Foster refused to step aside temporarily while an inquiry took place into the controversial ‘cash for ash’ renewable heat incentive scheme, which has turned out to be much more expensive than expected. Unless Sinn Féin nominates a replacement for McGuinness, which it has refused to do, an election has to be called. It is not certain if McGuinness will be a candidate in the expected elections: he has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called hereditary ATTR amyloidosis, which affects the nervous system and the heart to varying degrees. Medical experts say the disease progresses slowly.
Millennials are too self-interested to be easily recruited into the military, according to General Nick Carter, the head of the British Army. In a recent speech at an event, hosted by telecoms giant BT, he laid out some of the problems with recruiting for the reserves. A recent £3 million campaign to get more people to sign up to the part-time military was unsuccessful. Carter said: ‘We are now dealing with a different generation, Generation Y, born after 1985, and they have a slightly different expectation of life, which tends to be slightly self-interested, very committed. They are much more adaptable to the information age than my generation; they want to know what’s in it for them.’ Whatever their ideals, said Carter, the army is determined to see Generation Y serve its nation. Carter also used the opportunity to re-launch the Military Covenant - a hypothetical agreement between military personnel and the nation which means they forego certain rights like free speech while in uniform, but are properly looked after in return.
It is ten years since the Church Times announced its first Green Church Awards. Since then, there have been great advances in scientific understanding and public awareness of environmental issues. Internationally, the new Paris Agreement was ratified in November, with 117 countries signing up. Domestically, recycling is far commoner than it was, and it is now possible to subscribe to clean-energy suppliers. However, globally the outlook is not good, with sixteen increasingly hot years damaging the natural environment and a number of influential voices still denying that there is a problem. The Church needs to play a greater part in this. Its national and global reach put it in a position to influence large numbers of people, even governments and power-brokers. But if its voice is to be heard, its own house must be in order. Fortunately, recent messages coming from the Pope and other faith leaders show how care for God’s planet and our common home is a priority around the world. Organisations such as A Rocha are leading the way in highlighting the issues, and around the country there are thousands of groups and individuals working sacrificially to change the climate - and the climate of opinion.
The workers’ union Unite has announced that atomic weapons workers will stage two 48-hour strikes from next Wednesday over what they claim are broken promises over pension cuts. Six hundred staff at the two Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites in Aldermaston and Burghfield, both in Berkshire, will strike for 48 hours from 18 January, and then for another 48-hour period from 30 January. AWE is owned by two US firms and a UK private security firm. The staff, all members of Unite, feel betrayed as the pensions, which they were assured would be ironclad when they were transferred to the private sector, will now be cut. AWE bosses have pledged to close the original scheme and replace it with a new contribution-based version from 31 January. Unite claims that the new scheme would be subject to the unforgiving ebb and flow of the stock exchange.
At least 500 churches, synagogues, and mosques across the UK have opened their doors to homeless people in the past year, a report by the charity Housing Justice says. Volunteers donated more than 490,000 hours to the 34 church and community night-shelter projects that contributed data to the report - an average of 14,850 hours per shelter. The report was produced to draw attention to the plight of homeless people in the UK and the work of night shelters. It says that these shelters stayed open for an average of 114 days during the year, with a total of 1,920 guests (84 per cent of them male). The findings were published as the Prime Minister announced extra funds for helping the homeless. Speaking last month, Mrs May said, ‘In the run-up to Christmas, images of soup kitchens and hostels remind us of the vital lifeline provided by charities and local services to those facing a night on the streets. But today I have witnessed a different kind of support, one which seeks to stop people ending up on the street altogether by providing assistance to address their most immediate needs, and - crucially - giving them the skills and opportunities to help them build a more secure future for themselves.’
On Wednesday François Fillon, the frontrunner for the French presidential election due to take place in April, bucked tradition by declaring his Christian faith. He was picked as the presidential candidate for the French centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party in November. His declaration of faith has caused a stir in a country where the government, and elected officials, are legally not allowed to endorse a certain religion or the lack of religion, a policy known as laicité - secularity. He told the TF1 television channel, ‘I am a Gaullist and furthermore a Christian. It means that I will never take a decision that would run counter to the respect of human dignity, the respect of the individual, and solidarity.’ He was urged by politicians to keep his faith out of his campaigning. They accused him of using religion to win votes. 60% of people in France identify as Christian.