quinta-feira, 14 de julho de 2016

Team Theresa gets frosty European reception

The Independent:
The decision to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change has been variously condemned as “plain stupid”, “deeply worrying” and “terrible” by politicians, campaigners and experts.

One of Theresa May’s first acts as Prime Minister was to move responsibility for climate change to a new Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

Only on Monday, Government advisers had warned of the need to take urgent action to prepare the UK for floods, droughts, heatwaves and food shortages caused by climate change.

The news came after the appointment of Andrea Leadsom – who revealed her first question to officials when she became Energy Minister last year was “Is climate change real? – was appointed as the new Environment Secretary.

And, after former Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd announced in November that Britain was going to “close coal” by 2025, Ms Leadsom later asked the coal industry to help define what this actually meant.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband tweeted: “DECC abolition just plain stupid. Climate not even mentioned in new deptartment title. Matters because departments shape priorities, shape outcomes.”

Greenpeace said it was concerned that the new Government did not view climate change as a serious threat..

John Sauven, the campaign group's executive director, said: “The voting record and affiliation with climate sceptics of key cabinet appointees are deeply worrying.

"They show a lack of understanding posed by climate change to the UK and the world. If we are to continue to have a key global role in environmental action, we need urgent reassurance from the new government that the hard won progress on climate and renewables targets, air pollution and the protection of wildlife will not be sidelined or abandoned in the Brexit negotiations.”

Amber Rudd challenges Boris Johnson to state that he's not a climate change denier
31 scientific bodies tell US Congress: Climate change is real
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas described the decision as “deeply worrying”.

“Climate change is the biggest challenge we face, and it must not be an afterthought for the Government,” she said.

“Dealing with climate change requires a dedicated Minister at the Cabinet table. To throw it into the basement of another Whitehall department, looks like a serious backwards step.”

She said she would work with any Minister “willing to take climate change seriously”, but added she would seek to hold Government to account for “any backpeddling on our climate change commitments”.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, pointed out that a major report into the effects of climate change on Britain had made clear that it was already happening.

“This is shocking news. Less than a day into the job and it appears that the new Prime Minister has already downgraded action to tackle climate change, one of the biggest threats we face,” he said.

“This week the Government’s own advisors warned of ever growing risks to our businesses, homes and food if we don’t do more to cut fossil fuel pollution.

“If Theresa May supports strong action on climate change, as she’s previously said, it’s essential that this is made a top priority for the new business and energy department and across government.”

And Stephen Devlin, an environmental economist at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), said the department’s abolition was “a terrible move by our new Prime Minister”.

He said it appeared to signal “a troubling de-prioritisation of climate change by this government”.

“Tackling climate change is an era-defining challenge that must direct and determine what industries we develop, what transport infrastructure we construct, how we manage our land and what our diets look like. It requires a central co-ordinated strategy; if we leave it to the afterthoughts of other departments we will fail,” he said.

“This reshuffle risks dropping climate change from the policy agenda altogether – a staggering act of negligence for which we will all pay the price.”

He called on Ms May to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to the 2008 Climate Change Act, which he described as a “world-leading piece of legislation”.

This commits the UK to an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and is “one of few remaining silver linings in UK environmental policy”, Mr Devlin said.

A letter by DECC’s permanent secretary, Alex Chisholm, to staff in his department, which was leaked to Civil Service World, confirmed that its responsibilities were being transferred to the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, under its new Secretary, Greg Clark.

"We can make sure we have the 21st century infrastructure we need. Business will have a strong champion in government," he wrote.

"Energy and climate change will continue in a single department ensuring efficient paths to carbon reduction.”

A spokesman for DECC told The Independent: "Nothing is changing. The commitment [to dealing with climate change] is still there."

Team Theresa gets frosty European reception
EU politicians react with shock and name-calling to the provocative new British power structure.


Shock, anxiety and name-calling aren’t typical reactions to the incoming government of a respected world power, but they describe a good part of Europe’s welcome for British Prime Minister Theresa May’s new cabinet — and especially her surprise pick for foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.

While many politicians offered polite words of congratulation for May, they weren’t shy about taking aim at others in her inner circle, mainly Euroskeptic politicians who drove the Brexit effort. That Johnson — a man who recently referred to Turkey’s president as a “wankerer” — would be Britain’s chief emissary to the world drew much of the fire.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, in a radio interview Thursday morning, called Johnson a liar who misled British voters and who would “have his back against the wall” as the U.K. tried to negotiate its future relationship with Europe. Later Thursday, in a university speech, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier referred to Johnson as one of several “irresponsible” politicians who “lured the country into a Brexit.”

Both men, representing Europe’s biggest powers, will sit across the negotiating table from Johnson in just a few days, when foreign ministers meet in Brussels for what will be the Tory Brexit champion’s EU debut.

“When I saw Johnson’s appointment on my phone, I didn’t know whether it was British humor or reality” — Philippe Juvin, French MEP
Other European politicians expressed similar alarm at the news.

“When I saw Johnson’s appointment on my phone,” said Philippe Juvin, a French MEP from the center-right European People’s Party, “I didn’t know whether it was British humor or reality.”

Even before Johnson was announced, he was the target of criticism from European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, who made a clear but indirect reference to Johnson in a Facebook post. Timmermans criticized Brexit “campaigners” who compared the EU to Nazi Germany, as Johnson had done in a newspaper interview in May. “Why did you find it necessary to bring the Nazis into this campaign?” Timmermans asked.

There was also criticism from some about the larger makeup of May’s cabinet, which included prominent Euroskeptic David Davis in a new role as “secretary of state for exiting the EU,” a title that amounts to a diplomatic provocation of sorts; and Liam Fox as secretary of state for international trade. Both men will face the daunting task of trying to negotiate new trade and economic relationships with countries across Europe and around the world.

“It is interesting to see how many Brexiteers are in key positions,” said Tomas Prouza, the Czech European affairs minister. “I assume it is a warning for us that the negotiations will be tough and long.”


In Brussels, the main heads of the EU institutions gave cordial but terse congratulations to May, and largely withheld comment about her cabinet picks.

But European Parliament President Martin Schulz was not shy about criticizing the new British government, telling German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday that the composition of the cabinet “shows that the focus is less on the future of the country but more about satisfying the internal cohesion of the Tory party.”

Schulz said the “United Kingdom has to break this dangerously vicious cycle which has direct impacts on the rest of Europe.”

Gianni Pittella, leader of the Parliament’s Socialist bloc, said: “Apart from the fact that the U.K has elected a woman, the entire government is orientated on a pro-Brexit line, and a line that contradicts what May stood for before.”

But EU diplomats and experts reserved their strongest criticism for Johnson, saying that as the architect of the Brexit campaign and purveyor of such blunt public statements as comparing Hillary Clinton to “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,” he will have a hard time being taken seriously.

A consolation for French leaders is that, as foreign secretary, Johnson will not be directly responsible for negotiating the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
“It will be awkward, because he’s not diplomatic and the diplomats are upset about Brexit,” a senior EU diplomat said. “For the political situation in the U.K. it was logical to choose Boris. Luckily it’s the heads of states who will do the heavy lifting in the negotiations.”

Another senior EU diplomat who will be at Johnson’s first Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on Monday said: “It will be a challenge, there will be many ministers who will question his credentials.”

Others were a little less harsh in their criticism of Johnson, and paid tribute to May for having formed a government earlier than expected and created the new role for Davis.

“I think there will be a very limited role for Boris Johnson in the EU,” said Prouza. “The Brexit negotiation will be undoubtedly run directly out of Number 10 with Mr. Davis the point man for the negotiations. So I expect Mr. Johnson to focus more on topics outside the EU.”

Gallic groan

Ayrault wasn’t alone in France’s ruling Socialist elite in greeting the appointment of Johnson with scorn.

Known as a consummate French-basher, described by Reuters France as “king of the gaffe,” the former London mayor has repeatedly irritated Parisian society with his quips at their expense, notably when he compared the presidency of François Hollande to a hold-up of the rich by “sans culottes” — French commoners who led the 1789 Revolution.

Elisabeth Guigou, the Socialist chief of the National Assembly’s committee on foreign affairs, recently told POLITICO that Johnson was a man who “surfed on the wave” of anti-EU sentiment in order to boost his own career, only to shy away from the responsibility of dealing with Brexit by saying there was no need to quickly make official Britain’s divorce with the EU.

“This behavior does not surprise me from him at all,” said Guigou.

A consolation for French leaders is that, as foreign secretary, Johnson will not be directly responsible for negotiating the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

“Boris Johnson will probably not have a major influence on future negotiations with the European Union,” wrote Le Figaro, a right-leaning daily.

And at least one European political veteran said Johnson would be a welcome addition to the EU diplomatic scene:

“I think it will bring color to Europe,” said Elmar Brok, a German MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Meanwhile, another key U.K. ally was keeping a calmer head about the appointment of Johnson.

Johnson spoke Thursday with his American counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who will also be in Brussels next week to meet with EU foreign ministers. According to a U.S. State Department readout of the conversation, Kerry congratulated Johnson and told him he hoped for a “sensible and measured approach” to Brexit.


Maïa de La Baume , Tara Palmeri and Nicholas Vinocur  

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