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Brexit

Done?

The United Kingdom has officially left the European Union - at midnight Central European Time on January 31. For a range of news coverage and what it means please see these links:

https://apnews.com/e48bf51838ced94e2d92adba189b4944

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-51333314

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10858199/brexit-news-uk-live-eu-latest/

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2020/feb/01/brexit-britain-wakes-up-to-uncertain-future-after-uk-leaves-eu-live-news-and-updates

https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/brexit/what-happens-after-brexit-day-uk-transition-period-when-leaving-eu-date-explained-1373410

https://edition.cnn.com/europe/live-news/brexit-day-uk-leaves-eu-gbr-intl/index.html

https://www.foxnews.com/category/world/world-regions/europe/brexit

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/brexit-uk-officially-leaves-european-union-200131211418625.html

https://www.gov.uk/transition

https://www.gov.uk/staying-uk-eu-citizen

 

London central to UK future relations with EU?

Rory Stewart, former Conservative MP, cabinet minister, and contender for Conservative party leader, says London could have a "very, very central" part to play in Britain's future relations with the European Union. Now an independent candidate for London mayor in elections on May 7, he told an AEJ UK meeting on January 29 that London’s connections and contributions are crucial to the success of the rest of the UK and it could act as a bridge between Britain and the EU over the next 10 to 15 years in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology while still learning from policies in other European cities. For more on his argument and following discussion please see this report from former FT correspondent Peter Norman and this audio recording of the meeting.

 

Gambling on the future -2

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson won his bet on the future of Britain in a snap election on December 12. Voters woke up on Friday the 13th to a thumping Conservative majority, the resignations of both main opposition party leaders – Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson, and a resurgent Scottish National Party seeking the independence of Scotland. Johnson’s Conservatives won the biggest Conservative majority – 80 seats - since Margaret Thatcher in 1987 despite taking less than 44% of the national vote and a mandate to deliver its simple election message of “Get Brexit Done”. But their promise to leave the EU on January 31 followed by EU trade negotiations with a deadline in December is only one of a raft of questions facing the government – some fairly obvious from the election campaign but others with deeper and longer-term significance as outlined here by Trisha de Borchgrave, artist and daughter of prominent long-time U.S. journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave. This includes the possible fragmentation of the United Kingdom as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seeks a new referendum on independence and leads the SNP as the third largest party in the UK Parliament with 48 seats - all but eight of Scotland’s 56 seats. On the other hand, rumblings about increasing support for a united Ireland leaving the UK may be on hold as Northern Ireland’s voters seem to be supporting middle-ground politicians. Meanwhile the Labour party faces a wrenching period of soul searching and infighting over both their leadership and political direction and the Liberal Democrats look for their fifth leader in less than 10 years.
Please also see here for:
Election result numbers

How Johnson’s Conservatives won:
https://www.ft.com/content/ab3692b0-2317-11ea-92da-f0c92e957a96

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/how-boris-johnson-became-britain-s-most-powerful-prime-minister-since-tony-blair-1.4120281

European Parliament lookahead
Just days before British voters gave Boris Johnson's Conservatives a green light to exit the European Union, delegates to the AEJ’s 2019 Congress in Paris were treated to an assessment of the impact of the new European Parliament from its Secretary-General, Klaus Welle. At Jean Monnet House outside Paris – a complex devoted to the life and work of one of the fathers of the EU – Mr. Welle analysed the May 2019 European Parliament elections held at the height of talks with the UK about Brexit and after open resistance to EU policies on migration and the rule of law in the four Visegrad states of central Europe. He said the election results were mixed: fragmentation of the vote into more separate party groupings meant that at least three party groupings will be required to pass legislation. But he also claimed the new parliament has increased democratic legitimacy because the elections reversed a long-term downward trend in voter turnout. For more on this presentation please see this report from Charles Jenkins, AEJ UK member and former Western Europe editor of the Economist Intelligence Unit.
And AEJ UK member and former RTE journalist Brian O’Connell has this report on the prospective agendas of the newly-elected political groupings, with Brexit colouring debate but by no means dominating it.

 

The future after Brexit

Britain’s role in the world will require a new national strategy if Brexit happens - and that needs a lot more attention says one of Britain’s top diplomats. Lord Peter Ricketts, former UK National Security Adviser and head of the diplomatic service, told an AEJ lunch on November 20th 2019 that’s just one of the multiple challenges facing the UK in a post Brexit world. For more on his presentation please see this report from former FT correspondent Peter Norman and this audio transcript.

 

See here for more Brexit news

 


 

 

Lunchtime meetings

Meetings usually start at 12:15. AEJ meetings and are open to journalists, academics and Europe specialists and guests. Pre-registration is necessary by email to cas.jenkins@gmail.com. A fee of £25 is charged to cover the cost of refreshments - £10 for under-25s and free admission may be extended to students on a discretionary basis.

 

20 February

Venue:  Herringham Hall, Regent’s University, Inner Circle Regent’s Park 1230-1430

Nicola Hudson, Director of Policy and Communications at the UK National Cyber Security Centre. She will outline the scale and nature of the threat to democratic societies from cyber weapons and crime, political interference and vulnerabilities in the infrastructures on which our daily lives as well as national security depend. CEO Ciaran Martin, previously booked, is unable to attend.

 

9 March

Venue:  Tuke Common Room, Regent’s University, Inner Circle Regent’s Park 1230-1430

Prof Jeff Kingston, author, columnist and Director of Asian Studies, Temple University, Tokyo, will speak on “Asia’s China Challenge”. Beijing’s massive growing economic and military power has created an arc of anxiety stretching from New Delhi to Canberra and Jakarta to Tokyo. Meanwhile democratic backsliding and the rise of populism across the Asia-Pacific region has fuelled ethno-religious nationalism and increased oppression of minorities. Whither the Asian century?

 

For a list of our recent lunchtime guests see Events.

 
AEJ UK meetings were kindly hosted at Europe House, the London home of the EU Commission and European Parliament, for many years. Please see their UK website for EU events and information.


Recent AEJ UK guests

London central to UK future relations with EU?
Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart, former Conservative MP, cabinet minister, and contender for Conservative party leader, says London could have a "very, very central" part to play in Britain's future relations with the European Union. Now an independent candidate for London mayor in elections on May 7, he told an AEJ UK meeting on January 29 that London’s connections and contributions are crucial to the success of the rest of the UK and it could act as a bridge between Britain and the EU over the next 10 to 15 years in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology while still learning from policies in other European cities. For more on his argument and following discussion please see this report from former FT correspondent Peter Norman and this audio recording of the meeting.

The future after Brexit  - Lord Peter Ricketts

Britain’s role in the world will require a new national strategy if Brexit happens - and that needs a lot more attention says one of Britain’s top diplomats. Lord Peter Ricketts, former UK National Security Adviser and head of the diplomatic service, told an AEJ lunch on November 20th 2019 that’s just one of the multiple challenges facing the UK in a post Brexit world. For more on his presentation please see this report from former FT correspondent Peter Norman and this audio transcript.

See here for more AEJ UK guest speakers


AEJ Media Freedom Project

The AEJ works to protect freedom of expression and independent journalism by bringing issues to the attention of governments and advising inter-governmental organisations on behalf of our members. The AEJ's Media Freedom Representative and Vice President is William Horsley, a former BBC foreign correspondent and the current chairman of the UK section.
Since the 
AEJ Media Freedom Survey in 2007 (Goodbye to Freedom?), the AEJ has published Europe-wide surveys and reports that reveal the erosion of press freedom through physical assaults, wrongful imprisonment, oppressive laws, and unacceptable political and commercial pressures.
The AEJ is an observer at the 
Council of Europe. Since 2 April 2015, it has been one of the eight partners in the Council's online platform for early warning of and rapid response to attacks on the media. For more information, see Media Freedom.
The AEJ actively supports the ongoing efforts of UNESCO, the UN Agency with a mandate to safeguard media freedom, to implement the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The AEJ Media Freedom Representative authored the OSCE's Safety of Journalists Guidebook setting out the obligations of participating states to protect the security of journalists, including those using the Internet.
Our campaigns and activities can also be tracked on the
Media Freedom and News pages of the international AEJ website, www.aej.org


AEJ and the Council of Europe

The AEJ takes part in the policy work of the Council of Europe (CoE) on key issues of media freedom as a participant in the steering committee on Media and Information Society and the Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists. It works on behalf of its members across Europe to hold the CoE and its 47 member states to their commitments on media freedom and freedom of expression.

To read further, please go to Media Freedom.


Media visits to the European Parliament

The EP's London Office has a small budget to offset some of the travel and hotel costs incurred by journalists when visiting the European Parliament. Only a limited number can be helped in this way, so you must first be invited by the UK Office before seeking reimbursement (see EP website).

 


Briefings

A selection of AEJ-related writings and activities

AEJ member Charles Jenkins, former Western Europe editor of the Economist Intelligence Unit, blogs on Europe at https://eupriorities.ideasoneurope.eu/

Firdevs Robinson’s writing is now accessible on FirdevsTalkTurkey.com

William Horsley blogs on BBC Academy

Long-time AEJ member – and journalist, author and politician – Jonathan Fryer is the Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman for London. Please see his blog here.
 

 

News

Concerns about UK government media management
The AEJ has joined widespread criticism of the new UK government’s attempts to control and manage media access, tactics that echo Donald Trump. And it’s called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to end at once its restrictive and partisan media policies.
“The UK government has laid itself open to the charge of hypocrisy,” said William Horsley, the AEJ’s Media Freedom Representative and AEJ UK chair, “by seeking to evade the robust media scrutiny of its actions by independent media that is essential in an open society, while it also claims to be acting as a champion of media freedom to the rest of the world.”
More than 60,000 people have signed an online petition urging the government to stop blocking media scrutiny.

On Feb. 3 - the first working day after the UK officially left the EU – all British political journalists at an official briefing arranged at the Downing Street residence of the prime minister walked out to protest the government’s decision to separate and exclude critical media on an arbitrary basis. The prime minister’s staff had invited selected political journalists to a “technical briefing” on Boris Johnson’s plans for a trade deal with the EU. When other members of the Westminster “lobby” – full-time political journalists based in the Houses of Parliament – showed up as well, the group was told only those invited could go in and the rest should leave. All the journalists present including those specifically invited then walked out. The prime minister’s aides claimed favoured journalists are routinely being granted special access to some press briefings a part of an “inner lobby” while others, essentially those considered opponents of the government, are excluded. That even included Press Association, the UK’s national news agency.
“We reserve the right to brief whoever we like, whenever we like”, said Lee Cain, the prime minister’s communications director.

The political editor of Fleet Street tabloid Daily Mirror,  Pippa Crerar, called the exclusion “sinister and sad”.

Answering questions in the House of Commons the prime minister claimed he loved journalism – he was once sacked from a reporting job at The Times for making up a quote.

The dispute has been simmering for months as Boris Johnson was repeatedly accused of evading scrutiny during the election campaign late in 2019. During six months in power the prime minister’s aides have imposed tighter restrictions on ministers’ contacts with the media, boycotted specific media and programs, and sought to bypass mainstream media altogether by delivering messages directly to the public in their own way - such as Johnson’s “address to the nation” to mark the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January, filmed and released by his own staff instead of a national TV network. Downing Street staff were said to be furious after the BBC and some other networks declined to air clips from the message in their live programmes marking the actual moment of Brexit last Friday night. Downing Street’s broader attempts to change media management prompted this reporting by The New York Times and this discussion on BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster (from 21 minutes in) - along with widespread other coverage.

In early January 2020 political journalists based in Parliament, known as the Lobby, raised concerns about changing rules for briefings. And a week later the editors of all UK national newspapers as well as leading regional, online and broadcast media called on Boris Johnson to reverse the new rules. A letter from the Society of Editors said the changes would “hamper the workings of a free press”.
In reference to his comment about hypocrisy, the AEJ’s William Horsley noted that the UK hosted a major Global Media Freedom Conference in London in July 2019 and the UK has assumed a leading role in a 33-nation Media Freedom Coalition whose publicly stated goals are to ensure that international and UN-sanctioned standards related to media freedom are upheld by the countries making up the Coalition themselves. The 33 states announced their intention to apply significant pressure on other states by diplomatic and other means to encourage them to discard repressive laws and practices that stifle of arbitrarily restrict press freedom. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says he wants to ensure that the UK imposes harsh sanctions on individuals found to be responsible for serious abuses of fundamental rights.

 

Justice for Daphne?

Malta has a new prime minister and the country’s police chief has resigned in the ongoing scandal over the killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. But there are still many questions for the long-running and repeated calls for justice in the killing. Aljazeera has this report and AEJ UK member and former BBC journalist Firdevs Robinson has this look at breaks in the story. On Nov. 20 2019 one of the country’s richest men, gambling and property entrepreneur Yorgen Fenech, was arrested and in court two weeks later accused of being the brains behind the killing. He’s denied the charges and blamed allies of the prime minister. Two of them resigned and in the face of major street protests Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said he would resign. His government spent two years stonewalling any genuine investigation and far longer rejecting accusations of widespread money laundering, political corruption and cronyism. The AEJ has joined a call to closely monitor a public inquiry into her assassination which opened on Dec. 6 2019.

 

AEJ conference and call for media freedom
The international Association of European Journalists opened its annual conference on Friday Dec. 6 in Paris. Europe is no longer a completely safe place for journalists or media freedom and panel discussions will highlight the acute threats and the vital role of the media in the democratic process with conclusions and recommendations from the meeting to be communicated to the relevant authorities in UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the European Union. For one example of the issues being faced please see this presentation on failing media freedoms in Poland from Krzysztof Bobinski of the AEJ Poland. The conference is also leading a call to respect press freedom and journalistic independence from all the national sections of the AEJ, Reporters Without Borders, the European Federation of Journalists, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and the South East Europe Media Organisation.

 

AEJ co-signs Open Letter for upgraded efforts to protect media freedom
The AEJ has co-signed a letter to the new Council of Europe Secretary-General for upgraded measures to stop criminalizing and demonising journalists, counter the toxic atmosphere of hostility to the media, and stamp out impunity. For more please see here 


AEJ joins call for new European Commission President to prioritize press freedom
The AEJ joined the Committee to Protect Journalists and others to ask the new President of the European Commission to make key media issues a policy priority for the EU. The AEJ is among 20 media and press freedom organisations urging Ursula von der Leyen to take action on media freedom, journalists’ safety and access to public information. For more please see this on the AEJ International website.

 

Media Freedom Promises Not Credible Without Action
The AEJ joined a total of 33 media freedom groups calling on governments to ensure the protection and safety of all journalists and media workers as the first Global Media Freedom Conference opened in London. Please see this report on the conference from AEJ member and former BBC World Service editor Firdevs Robinson. The group including the AEJ, representing and working with hundreds of thousands of journalists and media workers around the world, made their call on July 9 in advance of the first major international conference on media freedom, hosted by the foreign ministers of Canada and the United Kingdom. Several states attending the conference currently have journalists in prison and unsolved murders. The 33 media freedom groups demand all states hold themselves accountable and show demonstrable progress on complying with their existing obligations and international standards. The AEJ UK and the AEJ Bulgaria attended the conference. For the conference agenda and participants please see here and more at these links:
New threats to journalism blog from BBC media editor Amol Rajan
The Canary’s take on Russian “news” outlets RT and Sputnik banned from conference
More irony from The Canary on human rights lawyer Amal Clooney v. Jeremy Hunt
BBC Director General Tony Hall re “Assault on Truth”

 

Assange case raises major questions
The recent arrest in London of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has far-reaching implications for press freedom, the public’s right to know, and public trust in journalism writes William Horsley, AEJ UK chairman and AEJ Media Freedom Representative.

 

RSF 2019 World Press Freedom Index – Increased Danger
The 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF-Reporters Without Borders) shows fewer countries are safe for journalists and an increase in violence and danger. Norway is ranked the safest for the third year running, Finland is second and Sweden is third. The UK rose seven places to number 33 but RSF notes: “Despite improvements in some areas and the presence of a robust independent media, the UK remained one of the worst-ranked Western European countries in the World Press Freedom Index, largely due to a heavy-handed approach towards the press, often in the name of national security.” And the United States ranks 48th, down three places “as a result of an increasingly hostile climate that goes beyond Donald Trump’s comments... Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection.” Please see here for the full report.

 

AEJ joins call for justice for Jamal Khashoggi

The Association of European Journalists International has joined the Journalist Support Committee (JSC) to call for justice and a full investigation into the death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey. His death has turned a spotlight on the Saudi regime’s pivotal role in a number of key issues – the Yemen civil war, western arms sales to the Saudis, international terrorism, its actions as one of two key Western allies in the Middle East, and its financing and trade particularly in relation to the USA and western European countries. In its statement the AEJ and JSC decried Khashoggi’s death and called for disclosure of all information in the Turkish investigation and for a thorough, independent review of the human rights record of the Saudi authorities. They join other journalist and human rights groups in their alarm as Saudi activists remain in jail. Jamal Khashoggi disappeared inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct.2 2018. He was one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent journalists, once an advisor to the country’s intelligence chief, but left in 2017 to the USA where he wrote a regular column for The Washington Post in which he criticised the direction of his country under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, profiled in this BBC Radio 4 program.

 

 See here for more news

 


 

 

About the AEJ
The AEJ is an independent network of journalists, writers and specialists active across Europe, a 
Europe-wide network of national sections with the goal of advancing knowledge and debate on European affairs and upholding media freedom. In the UK we host regular meetings for journalists providing a forum for open-minded exchanges with public figures of all backgrounds to promote informed debate on European and international affairs. Our lunchtime meetings are open to bona fide journalists and visiting members of other AEJ sections; an entry fee must be paid to cover the costs of food and drink and pre-registration is essential. Journalists, writers and specialists in European affairs may also apply to join the Association of European Journalists – please see here for more about the benefits of membership or contact the AEJ UK Secretary.
You can also follow us on our
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We are independent of any institutional or political group and are recognised by the Council of Europe, the OSCE and UNESCO.

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