Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt attends a joint news conference with Finland’s Foreign Minister Timo Soini (unseen) in Vantaa, Finland August 14, 2018. LEHTIKUVA/Vesa Moilanen/via REUTERS
April 25, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday he would choose leaving the European Union with no deal if he was presented with the choice between no Brexit or leaving without an agreement with the bloc.
Hunt told reporters that he believed the democratic risks of “no Brexit”, or Britain failing to leave the EU after the 2016 referendum, were higher than the risks of leaving without an agreement, something businesses say would hurt the economy.
(Reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan, writing by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)
A worker smiles as she shows cannabis plants at the Tilray factory in Cantanhede, Portugal April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
April 25, 2019
By Catarina Demony and Rafael Marchante
CANTANHEDE, Portugal (Reuters) – Famous for its roasted suckling pig and wines, the Portuguese city of Cantanhede now hosts the country’s first medical cannabis production farm – a budding European hub of efforts to meet growing demand for the flowering herb.
Portugal’s California-like weather caught the eye of Canada-based Tilray as its CEO Brendan Kennedy roved around Europe from 2015 to 2017 in search of the perfect spot for a new production site.
Kennedy said Portugal had the ideal climate for cannabis cultivation and the country’s young, educated workforce and its major agricultural sector were further attractions.
Covering 2.4 hectares (5.9 acres) in a biotechnology park just outside Cantanhede, Tilray’s site was given the green light by Portugal’s regulator Infarmed in 2017. The company then rushed to import its first baby plants and recently reported its first two successful cannabis harvests.Kennedy opened the site to visitors for the first time at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday.
“Some of our competitors are located in Denmark and northern Germany, where there isn’t that much sun – so we think we can produce a more environmentally-friendly product here,” he told Reuters.
Portugal also offers tariff-free entry to the rest of the European Union, a market Tilray wants to explore further at a time when an increasing number of governments are legalising medical marijuana.
FROM PROHIBITION TO LEGALISATION
“The paradigm is shifting from prohibition to legalisation,” Kennedy said, with demand for the product growing. “I’m fairly optimistic that over the next two years we will see every country in Europe legalising it.”
Last year Portugal’s parliament approved a bill to legalise marijuana-based medicines, following in the footsteps of EU countries such as Italy and Germany as well as Canada and parts of the United States. Britain made a similar move in July 2018.
Tilray’s 20-million-euro ($22.29 million) facility includes indoor, outdoor and greenhouse cultivation sites, as well as research labs, processing, packaging and distribution sites for medical cannabis and cannabinoid-derived products.
Tilray supplies medical cannabis products with CBD and THC to patients in a number of countries, through subsidiaries in Australia, Canada, Germany and Latin American, and through agreements with pharmaceutical distributors.
Earlier this year, the European Parliament called for an EU-wide policy on medical cannabis and properly funded scientific research.
“We are at point where almost every doctor around the world recognises the medical benefits of cannabis,” Kennedy said.
The World Health Organization has stated that several studies have demonstrated cannabinoids provide therapeutic effects for nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.
Moreover, a handful of regulated pharmaceuticals use chemicals derived from cannabis, such as GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex which is approved for treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
From Canada, where Tilray has six facilities, the company already sells medical cannabis products to 13 countries. Portugal will help Tilray boost exports further, Kennedy said.
“Our business plan for this facility is focused on exporting products from Portugal to other countries around the world.”
In Europe, Tilray products are already available in Germany, Croatia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic but it expects to start exporting to the United Kingdom – and potentially to France, Italy and Greece – in the next 12 months.
Kennedy said Tilray hopes this summer to expand exports to countries such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
According to analysis firm Prohibition Partners, the EU cannabis market will be worth 123 billion euros by 2028.
Kennedy did not confirm how much medical marijuana Tilray plans to produce.
($1 = 0.8973 euros)
(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Rafael Marchante; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
FILE PHOTO: Sign of the European central Bank (ECB) is seen ahead of the news conference on the outcome of the Governing Council meeting, outside the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo
April 24, 2019
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A new round of tariffs between the United States and its main partners would only cause a “modest decrease” in the pace of economic growth in the euro zone, according to research by the European Central Bank.
The study simulated a two-way, 10 percent increase in tariff and other trade barriers between the world’s largest economy and all its partners.
It showed an “overall modest decrease in activity” in the euro area due to fading global confidence outweighing a boost to EU exports to countries other than the United States.
The study also showed a decrease of fewer than 10 basis points in the real income of German households from tariffs on the automotive sector even after taking into account cross-country production linkages, known as global value chains (GVC) in economic parlance.
To read the study, which builds on ECB research from last year, please click:
(Reporting By Francesco Canepa; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
FILE PHOTO: The skyline of banking district is photographed in Frankfurt, Germany, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo
April 23, 2019
By Huw Jones, Sinead Cruise and Francesco Canepa
LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – European Union regulators are refusing to cut British-based banks any slack over bulking up in the bloc in preparation for Brexit, despite an extension to the process which some have taken as an opportunity to drag their feet.
Cost-conscious banks are reluctant to spend millions more and cause further disruption to already unsettled staff given uncertainty over how and when Britain will leave the EU.
“Businesses are trying to be savvy, to meet the minimum legal requirement and figure the rest out after Brexit,” Hakan Enver, managing director for financial services at recruiter Morgan McKinley told Reuters.
Banks are trying to minimize staff moves despite pressure from the European Central Bank (ECB), which set a proviso to granting licenses that firms would beef up their EU units with more employees and assets over the next one to two years.
This requirement has not changed, a source close to the matter said, even though the EU has given Britain until Oct. 31 to leave, an extension from the original “Brexit Day” of March 29.
“Banks are still expected to stick to the timeline agreed with the ECB,” the source said.
Dozens of banks have already set up new bases in the EU to avoid disrupting services to clients. Regulators issued licenses for them, even though they are thinly staffed, so that they could be operational when Britain was meant to quit the EU.
HSBC, which declined to comment, shifted some staff from London to its Paris subsidiary in case of a no-deal Brexit on April 12, only to recall them when a new delay was agreed.
And a source at a major U.S. bank said it had dozens of staff lined up to move if there was a no-deal Brexit, but stood them down and is now awaiting clarity before any further moves.
“We are inclined to say that while we remain in this holding pattern, we don’t have to move anyone or anything,” the source said, adding that Brexit could yet be scrapped completely.
The Bank of England expects about 4,000 banking and insurance jobs will have moved from London to new EU hubs by Brexit Day, but recruiters and banking sources say the number that have moved so far is much lower than that.
Some banks were behind with plans to be operationally ready and are now using the delay to complete moves of customer accounts to new hubs, a senior official at a global bank said.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority’s has warned financial firms sending staff to new EU hubs to ensure they still have “appropriate senior oversight” of their operations left behind in Britain.
Banks have so far moved around a trillion euros in stocks, bonds, derivatives contracts and other assets from London to their new EU hubs. Accounts of EU clients must also be moved to conduct business from these hubs, a process known as repapering.
But there is still a long tail of small customers for whom repapering is a burdensome task of changing IT and controls systems, limiting how much business new hubs can take on despite regulatory pressure to move in to higher gear.
“Nobody is yet really doing any substantive business, but there will be a robust dialogue between banks and regulators about when to transfer substantive amounts of business and client preferences will play a big role,” said Vishal Vedi, lead financial services Brexit partner at Deloitte.
EU regulators gave temporary concessions to banks to obtain a license, such as continuing to book some trades in London, but their tolerance is waning.
“We expect some back-to-back (trading) to continue, though new hubs in Frankfurt will have to show the ECB that they can stand on their own two feet if need be,” a senior banking regulator told Reuters.
Having to build up capital in a new unit is expensive for banks at a time of a slowdown in European investment banking.
European M&A was down 67 percent in the first quarter of the year, while first quarter results due out over the next few weeks are expected to show trading volumes at European investment banks were down 15 to 20 percent.
“The longer the extension period, the longer it will be problematic for firms,” Andrew Gray, head of UK financial services at PwC, said.
(Editing by Alexander Smith)
President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to reverse course on Harley Davidson Inc., saying European tariffs facing the motorcycle manufacturer were “unfair” and vowing to reciprocate, after urging a boycott of the company last year amid a steel spat.
The Wisconsin-based company last year announced plans to move production of its motorcycles destined for the European Union to its overseas facilities from the United States to avoid EU tariffs imposed in response to Trump’s duties on steel and aluminum imports.
Trump retaliated by calling for higher taxes, threatening to lure foreign motorcycles to the United States, and backing a boycott of the iconic American motorcycle maker.
On Tuesday, Trump appeared more sympathetic, calling the EU tariffs “unfair” but giving no other details about any planned U.S. action in a tweet citing comments by a Fox Business Network host.
“So unfair to U.S. We will Reciprocate!” Trump wrote.
On Saturday, Trump is scheduled to travel to Wisconsin to hold a campaign rally as he seeks reelection in the 2020 presidential election.
Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on any planned actions, as both the EU and the United States prepared to launch larger trade talks.
Representatives for Harley Davidson could not be immediately reached for comment on Trump’s tweet.
The company on Tuesday reported quarterly profit that surged past expectations and stuck to its full-year shipment forecasts amid concerns over falling U.S. sales and European import tariffs, sending its shares up 3 percent.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: The logo of U.S. motorcycle company Harley-Davidson is seen on one of their models at a shop in Paris, France, August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
April 23, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said European Union tariffs facing motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson Inc were “unfair” and vowed to reciprocate, but gave no other details.
“So unfair to U.S. We will Reciprocate!” Trump tweeted, citing comments by a Fox Business Network host.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Makini Brice)
FILE PHOTO: Facebook, Google and Twitter logos are seen in this combination photo from Reuters files. REUTERS//File Photo
April 23, 2019
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Google, Facebook and Twitter have to do more to tackle fake news ahead of key European Parliament elections next month, the European Commission said on Tuesday, as its latest report showed a lack of progress in some areas.
The monthly reports follow a pledge made by the tech giants and advertising trade bodies in October last year to combat the spread of fake news and avoid more heavy-handed regulations.
The EU has warned of foreign interference during campaigning for the European Parliament elections and national elections in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Poland, Portugal and Ukraine in recent and coming months.
“Further technical improvements as well as sharing of methodology and data sets for fake accounts are necessary to allow third-party experts, fact-checkers and researchers to carry out independent evaluation,” the EU executive said.
The Commission said Google had made insufficient progress in defining issue-based advertising. The report covered actions taken by the companies in March.
It said Facebook, which took down eight coordinated inauthentic behavior networks originating in North Macedonia, Kosovo and Russia, failed to disclose whether these affected EU users.
Twitter also fell short because it did not provide details on its measures against spam and fake accounts and also did not report on any action to improve the scrutiny of ad placements.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)
People pass over the stone bridge in Skopje, North Macedonia April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
April 21, 2019
By Kole Casule
SKOPJE (Reuters) – Macedonians vote on Sunday in a presidential election dominated by deep divisions over the change of the country’s name to North Macedonia under a deal with Greece.
The name change, which Greece demanded to end what it called an implied territorial claim on its northern province also called Macedonia, resolves a decades-old dispute and opens the door to Macedonian membership of NATO and the European Union.
But the accord continues to divide Macedonians and has eclipsed all other issues during campaigning for Sunday’s election, in which about 1.8 million voters will choose between three candidates.
Reflecting differences over the agreement pushed through by the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, the winner of Sunday’s ballot is not expected to secure an outright majority, meaning a run-off vote would be held on May 5.
A recent opinion poll gave support of 28.8 percent and a narrow lead to Stevo Pendarovski, who is backed by the ruling centrist coalition of the Social Democrats and the minority Albanian DUI party, which have promised to implement the name change settlement.
“There is no other alternative except NATO and EU. Unfortunately in this country we have an opposition that is buried in the 19th century,” Pendarovski, a long-serving public official and academic, told supporters in the town of Stip.
Pendarovski’s main rival Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova is supported by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party, which strongly opposed the deal. The latest poll showed her trailing by about two percentage points on 26.8 percent.
Wrapping up her campaign in the capital, Skopje, the university professor accused the government of failing to implement much-needed economic reforms.
“If for the past two and a half years they haven’t done anything except change the name of the country, I don’t believe that in the next period they will do that,” said Siljanovska-Davkova, who also wants the country to join the EU and NATO despite opposing the agreement.
Blerim Reka, the candidate for the second-largest Albanian party Besa, looks set to come a distant third with about seven percent of the vote, the poll showed.
The presidency of the ex-Yugoslav republic is a mostly ceremonial post, but acts as the supreme commander of the armed forces and also signs off on parliamentary legislation.
The refusal of outgoing nationalist President Gjeorge Ivanov to sign some bills passed by parliament has delayed the implementation of some key laws, including one on wider use of the Albanian language — 18 years after an ethnic Albanian uprising that pushed Macedonia to the brink of civil war.
But the presidency had no authority to block constitutional amendments that were passed earlier this year by a two-thirds majority of parliament to enable the name change to North Macedonia.
Analysts say turnout in Sunday’s vote could be low due to fatigue among voters disappointed at the government’s performance on attracting foreign investment and tackling high unemployment.
“There’s nowhere to go except towards the European Union,” said Dimitar Siljanovski, 43, an accountant in a private company.
“That is why I’ll support the option that promises to stand by the deal. Otherwise, what is the alternative? To be stuck forever in a waiting room,” he said.
Polling stations will be open until 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) with the first preliminary results due two hours later.
(Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Helen Popper)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
April 19, 2019
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – There is a still a concern that Britain may leave the European Union without a deal to smooth the way, the bloc’s chief executive said on Saturday, urging Britain to take advantage of a six-month delay to work out the details of its departure.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made the comments in an interview with German newspaper FUNKE Mediengruppe, a week after EU leaders gave Britain six months more to exit the EU.
“Nobody knows how Brexit will end. This is creating great uncertainty. There is still a fear that there will be a hard Brexit without any withdrawal treaty arrangements,” Juncker said, citing the long-term negative impact on Europe’s economy.
Even though the extension to Oct. 31 offers little clarity on when, how or even if Brexit will happen, Britain should use the time wisely, he said.
“I hope that the British will make use of this time and not waste it again. We cannot keep on putting off the withdrawal date indefinitely. The best solution would be for the British to adopt the Withdrawal Agreement during the extra time that has been agreed,” Juncker said.
The withdrawal deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May with the EU has been rejected three times by the British parliament.
Juncker, who is scheduled to meet U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 meeting in Osaka in June, predicted a “lively discussion” ahead.
“The last discussion lasted 6 hours and it is good that you were not there,” Juncker said, referring to raised voices at his last talks with Trump.
Trade relations between the United States and the EU have soured in recent months after Washington hit the bloc with tariffs and threatened more. Asked about possible new tariffs ahead of the G20 meeting, Juncker counseled patience.
He called on Germany and other countries to spend more to boost growth in the bloc, which is expected to see a slowing economy, a day after German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz ruled out taking on new debt to stimulate his country’s anemic growth.
“However, Germany should use its financial leeway to further reduce public debt and boost investment. This also includes eliminating bureaucratic hurdles,” Juncker said.
He also cautioned there was a risk of foreign manipulation around next month’s European Parliament elections where eurosceptic groups are expected to gain ground.
With Britain expected to take part, the proportion of the assembly’s seats held by eurosceptics is seen rising to 14.3 percent from around 10 percent currently, according to the compilation of national polls commissioned by the European Parliament.
“I can see an attempt to rig the European Parliament elections. This comes from several quarters, and not only from outside the EU. States within the EU are also seeking to direct the will of voters in a particular direction with fake news,” Juncker said, adding that the Commission was ready to deal with the issue.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Frances Kerry)
Supporters of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic burn flare as they wait for his arrival for his campaign rally “The Future of Serbia” in front of the Parliament Building in Belgrade, Serbia, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Marko Djurica. The Banner reads: “The future of Serbia”.
April 19, 2019
By Aleksandar Vasovic and Ivana Sekularac
BELGRADE (Reuters) – Thousands of people from all over Serbia flocked to Belgrade’s city center on Friday in a show of support for President Aleksandar Vucic, who has faced five months of opposition protests.
In a lengthy speech to the rally, Vucic called for a dialogue with the opposition, adding, “But we are not going to take any ultimatums”.
The crowd, rallied by a band of drummers, waved with signal flares and Serbian flags, chanting “Aco (Aleksandar abbreviated) the Serb” as Vucic took the stage in front of the country’s parliament building.
“We have no man better suited to lead us than Vucic, he is the savior of Serbia,” said Nevenka, 28, a waitress from the southern city of Nis who gave only her first name.
Vucic, an ultranationalist during the Balkan wars in the 1990s, embraced European values before coming to power in 2012. In coalition with the Socialists of Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic he controls 160 deputies in the 250-seat parliament.
The opposition, which started weekly protests in December, accuses him of stifling media freedoms and turning a blind eye to corruption and what they call the “criminal activities” of his close associates including his brother. Vucic strongly denies the allegations.
“Today is the day for our Serbia,” Vucic told the crowd.
SEEKING SUPPORT FOR KOSOVO DEAL?
Some analysts said Friday’s rally, a grand finale of Vucic’s “The Future of Serbia” campaign, was an attempt to cement popular support ahead of a long-awaited landmark deal with Kosovo, Serbia’s former southern province.
Predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after a bloody war there. It won recognition from the United States and most EU countries, but not from Serbia or its big power patron Russia, and relations between Belgrade and Kosovo remain tense.
A binding agreement on normalisation of ties is a precondition for both countries to join the European Union.
“To sign any deal with Kosovo, he needs to show that he has strong popular support because nationalists will not like it,” said Djordje Pavicevic, professor at the Political Sciences Faculty. “On the other hand if there is no deal, pro-EU forces in the country will complain.”
Vucic said in an interview last month that failure to revive talks between Serbia and Kosovo on normalising relations could destabilize the Western Balkan region, which is still recovering from the wars of the 1990s.
Vucic is due to meet the presidents of China and Russia, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in Beijing next week and a week later he is expected to meet the leaders of Germany and France, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Local media have reported that Kosovo will be the main topic of the talks.
Vucic is maintaining a delicate balancing act between Serbia’s EU aspirations and close ties with Russia and China.
Many Serbs remain opposed to his rule. Dragana, a nurse from central Serbia, said she did not come to Friday’s rally voluntarily.
“I had a choice, to decline and lose my job in the (state) hospital, or to be here,” said Dragana, who declined to give her last name.
“They cannot win my mind, I must be here, but tomorrow I will join our real (opposition) protest against injustice and … this ridiculousness.”
(Editing by Frances Kerry)