Into the Brexit Unknown, a Divided United Kingdom Goes It Alone

The United Kingdom exits the European Union’s orbit Thursday, turning its back on a tempestuous 48-year liaison with the European project for an uncertain post-Brexit future in its most significant geopolitical shift since the loss of empire.Brexit, in essence, takes place at the strike of midnight in Brussels, or 2300 London time (GMT), when the United Kingdom leaves de-facto membership that continued for a transition period after it formally left the bloc January 31.For five years, the frenzied gyrations of the Brexit crisis dominated European affairs, haunted the sterling markets and tarnished the United Kingdom’s reputation as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability.After years of Brexit vitriol, one of the most significant events in European history since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union will pass with little fanfare: The United Kingdom will slip away, serenaded by the silence of the COVID-19 crisis.Supporters cast Brexit as the dawn of a newly independent “global Britain,” but it has weakened the bonds that bind England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland into a $3 trillion economy.UK chief trade negotiator David Frost looks on as Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement at 10 Downing Street, London, Dec. 30, 2020.”This is an amazing moment for this country,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 56, said in his New Year’s Eve message. “We have our freedom in our hands, and it is up to us to make the most of it.”As EU leaders and citizens bade farewell, Johnson said there would be no bonfire of regulations to build a “bargain basement Dickensian Britain” and that the country would remain the “quintessential European civilization.”But Johnson, the face of the Brexit campaign, has been short on detail about what he wants to build with Britain’s “independence,” or how to do it while borrowing record amounts to pay for the COVID-19 crisis.BrexitIn the June 23, 2016, referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 52%, backed Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48%, backed staying in the bloc. Few have changed their minds since. England and Wales voted out, but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted in.The referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the European Union, and fueled soul-searching about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, the legacy of empire and what it now means to be British.Leaving was once the far-fetched dream of a motley crew of “eurosceptics” on the fringes of British politics: Britain joined in 1973 as “the sick man of Europe” and two decades ago British leaders were arguing about whether to join the euro. It never did.But the turmoil of the euro zone crisis, attempts to integrate the EU further, fears about mass immigration and discontent with leaders in London helped Brexiteers win the referendum with a message of patriotic, if vague, hope.”We see a global future for ourselves,” said Johnson who won power in 2019 and, against the odds, clinched a Brexit divorce treaty and a trade deal, as well as the biggest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher, in the 2019 election.Supporters see Brexit as an escape from a doomed Franco-German project that has stagnated while the United States and China surged ahead. Opponents say Brexit will weaken the West, further reduce Britain’s global clout, make people poorer and lessen its cosmopolitanism.When the bell known as Big Ben tolls 11 through a scaffold, there will be few outward displays of emotion as gatherings are banned because of COVID-19 restrictions.FILE – British Union flag waves in front of the Elizabeth Tower at Houses of Parliament containing the bell know as “Big Ben” in central London, March 29, 2017.United Kingdom?After the United Kingdom leaves the Single Market or the Customs Union, there is almost certain to be some disruption at borders. More red tape means more cost for those importing and exporting goods across the EU-U.K. border.After haggling over a trade deal for months, the British government published 70 pages of case studies just hours before its departure advising companies on what rules they would have to follow at the new U.K.-EU border.The Port of Dover expects volumes to drop off in early January. The most worrisome period, it says, will be in mid- to late January when volumes pick up again.Support for Scottish independence has risen, partly because of Brexit and partly because of COVID-19, threatening the 300-year-old political union between England and Scotland.FILE – In this Feb. 10, 2020, file photo, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during an event at the European Policy Center in Brussels.Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has said an independence referendum should take place in the earlier part of the devolved parliament’s next term, which begins next year.After clinching the Christmas Eve trade deal that will smooth out the worst disruption, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen quoted both William Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot.”Parting is such sweet sorrow,” she said. “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” 

Pandemic-Weary World Welcomes 2021 

The world’s 7.8 billion people are bidding a hearty farewell to 2020, but without the usual fanfare and public gatherings because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.   Japan rang in the new year quietly due to rising cases.  Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, had asked people not to attend countdown ceremonies. “The coronavirus knows no year-end or New Year’s holidays,” she said. World Bids Farewell to Year 2020Pandemic restrictions limiting crowds and many people bidding farewell to a year they’d prefer to forget. South Korea, where the government banned gatherings of more than five, saw a different New Year’s Eve as a traditional bell ringing in Seoul was cancelled for the first time since 1953. Beaches where South Koreans flock to watch sunrise were closed with some outlets planning on broadcasting it instead. Ski resorts and other tourist spots were closed. In Taiwan, officials held a fireworks show near the iconic Taipei 101 tower. A New Year’s morning flag-raising ceremony took place in front of the Presidential Office Building, but it was limited to government officials and invited guests. Taiwan is seen as a success story in fighting COVID-19, registering only seven deaths and fewer than 1,000 total cases, the Associated Press reported. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus. Hong Kong cancelled public celebrations for the second year in a row. Last year, it was due to public security concerns. Restaurants closed at 6 p.m. local time and live performances were cancelled. Gatherings were limited to two people, but the AP reported crowds were still present in shopping areas. The small central Pacific island nations of Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati were first to welcome 2021 due to their location on the international date line, with the bigger regional powers of New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea following.    New Zealand’s port city of Auckland rang in the new year with a major laser light show and fireworks display at the iconic Sky Tower, as residents celebrated the island nation’s successful response to the coronavirus outbreak that resulted in just 2,162 coronavirus infections and 25 deaths.    Many of the traditional celebrations around the world that mark the chronological changeover have either been curtailed or called off, as public officials struggle to contain a rising surge in the number of infections.    In Australia, the one million people who normally gather at the Sydney Harbor to watch the world-famous fireworks display over the city’s renowned Opera House watched the proceedings from home. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced earlier this week that the public will not be allowed at the harbor due to an outbreak at its Northern Beach suburbs.    The pandemic forced the cancellation of the midnight fireworks show over Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, as well as the pyrotechnics over the River Thames in London, which has been under a strict lockdown that curtailed Christmas celebrations and shopping sprees.    Across the Atlantic, New York City’s historic Times Square is banning visitors from gathering to witness the traditional “ball drop” that counts down the final minute of the outgoing year. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, officials have called off its annual New Year’s Eve beach party, which normally attracts hundreds of thousands of people with live music and a spectacular fireworks display.    

British PM Johnson’s Father Applying for French Citizenship  

The father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday he was in the process of applying for a French passport to maintain his ties with the European Union after Brexit. 
Stanley Johnson, a former member of the European Parliament who voted Remain in Britain’s 2016 referendum, told RTL radio he wanted to become a French citizen because of strong family links to France. 
“If I understand it correctly, I am French. My mother was born in France, her mother was totally French as was her grandfather. So for me it is about reclaiming what I already have. And that makes me very happy,” said the 80-year-old Johnson, who was speaking in French. 
“I will always be a European, that’s for sure. One cannot tell the British people: you are not Europeans. Having a tie with the European Union is important,” he added. 
His son Boris was the public face of the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum and says Britain can “prosper mightily” as a fully sovereign nation outside what he sees as an overly bureaucratic EU. 
But on Wednesday, the prime minister sounded a more conciliatory note as parliament approved a new trade deal with the EU, saying: “This is not the end of Britain as a European country. We are in many ways the quintessential European civilization … and we will continue to be that.” 
Britain officially leaves the EU’s orbit Thursday night, after an often strained 48-year liaison with the European project.  

Tight Restrictions Across Italy for New Year’s Celebrations

Muted New Year’s Eve celebrations were expected in Italy, where tight restrictions are in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. The government has deployed thousands of police officers to ensure that rules are adhered to and that Italians do not hold large gatherings to celebrate the start of 2021. Adding to an abnormal end to the year is the Vatican’s announcement that Pope Francis will not preside over New Year’s Eve and Day services due to a painful back condition.Italians have grown used to the tight restrictions that come into place when the country is categorized a red zone. A person sits next to the Barcaccia fountain with Spanish steps in the background, as Italy goes back to lockdown as part of efforts put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Dec. 31, 2020.Until January 4, Italians will not be able to leave their homes unless they have filled out a self-declaration that explains where they are going. They will only be allowed to visit someone else’s home with one other person. Only people who need to go to work or have a health motive or an emergency are allowed out.All shops will be closed, except those for food and other urgent necessities like pharmacies. All bars and restaurants across the country will be closed except for carry out service.This restaurant owner said being placed in a red zone has meant working less than half what they were used to. The economic damage suffered by the sector has been significant with many fearful they will not be able to keep their businesses going in the future.Italian authorities have warned against large family gatherings. They have also tried to dissuade anyone from setting off fireworks to avoid accidents that could cause an extra burden on hospitals.While Italians are only too aware this will be a New Year’s Eve like they have never experienced, some are preparing to make the most of it, in their desire to bid this coronavirus-stricken year farewell.This man said, “We will see few friends, a relative or two and during times we are allowed to see each other.”Italy has a curfew in place from 10pm until 7am for the next four days. Travelling out of one’s municipality is also banned. Fines are stiff, so few are expected to take unnecessary risks.The recent news that COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Italy and are being administered has many hoping there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that 2021 will be a better year than the one coming to an end. Still, not everyone in Italy is in favor of getting vaccinated, and many know the road ahead remains a long one.New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will also be quite different at the Vatican. FILE – Pope Francis leads the Mass on Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at the Vatican, Dec. 24, 2020. Pope Francis is being forced to skip his traditional services because of a painful back and right leg problem. The Vatican’s spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the pope is suffering from “sciatica” and will not be presiding at a year-end prayer service Thursday evening and will also not be celebrating Mass on New Year’s Day, both inside St. Peter’s Basilica.The pope is expected to deliver his Angelus prayer at noon on Friday, which will be streamed online from the library of the Apostolic Palace.

2020 Finally Ending, but New Year’s Revelries Muted by Virus 

This New Year’s Eve is being celebrated like no other, with pandemic restrictions limiting crowds and many people bidding farewell to a year they’d prefer to forget.  Australia will be among the first nations to ring in 2021 because of its proximity to the International Date Line. In past years 1 million people crowded Sydney’s harbor to watch fireworks that center on the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Authorities this year are advising revelers to watch on television. People are only allowed in downtown Sydney if they have a restaurant reservation or are one of five guests of an inner-city apartment resident. People won’t be allowed in the city center without a permit. Some harborside restaurants are charging up to 1,690 Australian dollars ($1,294) for a seat, Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Wednesday. A man and woman pose for a photo in front of a 2021 sign as a limited number of people begin celebrating New Year’s Eve at the Sydney Harbour waterfront amidst tightened COVID-19 prevention regulations in Sydney, Australia, Dec. 31, 2020.Sydney is Australia’s most populous city and has its most active community transmission of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Melbourne, Australia’s second-most populous city, has cancelled its fireworks this year.  For the first time in many, many years we made the big decision, difficult decision to cancel the fireworks,'' Melbourne Mayor Sally Capp said. We did that because we know that it attracts up to 450,000 people into the city for one moment at midnight to enjoy a spectacular display and music. We are not doing that this year,” she added. New Zealand, which is two hours ahead of Sydney, and several of its South Pacific island neighbors have no COVID-19, and New Year celebrations there are the same as ever. In Chinese societies, the Lunar New Year celebration that falls in February in 2021 generally takes precedence over solar New Year, on Jan. 1. While celebrations of the Western holiday have been growing more common in recent decades, this year will be more muted.  Beijing will hold a countdown ceremony with just a few invited guests, while other planned events have been cancelled. And nighttime temperatures plunging to -15 Celsius (- 5 Fahrenheit) will likely discourage people from spending the night out with friends.  Taiwan will host its usual New Year’s celebration, a fireworks display by its capital city’s iconic tower, Taipei 101, as well as a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Presidential Office Building the next morning. The island has been a success story in the pandemic, registering only 7 deaths and 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19.  Hong Kong, with its British colonial history and large expatriate population, has usually seen raucous celebrations along the waterfront and in bar districts. For the second year running, however, New Year’s Eve fireworks have been cancelled, this time over coronavirus rather than public security concerns.  Still roiled by its coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong social distancing regulations restrict gatherings to only two people. Restaurants must close by 6 p.m. Live performances and dancing are not allowed. But crowds still throng shopping centers.  In Japan, some people skipped what’s customarily a chance to return to ancestral homes for the holidays, hoping to lessen health risks for extended families amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Rural restaurants saw business drop, while home deliveries of traditional New Year’s good luck'' food calledosechi” boomed.  Emperor Naruhito is delivering a video message for the new year, instead of waving from a window with the imperial family as cheering crowds throng the palace.  Train services that usually carry people on shrine visits overnight December 31, as well as some countdown ceremonies, have been cancelled.  Meiji Shrine in downtown Tokyo, which attracts millions of people every year during New Year holidays and is usually open all night on New Year’s Eve, will close its doors at 4 p.m. on December 31 this year, the shrine announced on its website.  In South Korea, Seoul’s city government has canceled its annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony in the Jongno neighborhood for the first time since it first held the event in 1953, months after the end of the Korean War.  The event, in which citizens ring a large bell at a traditional pavilion when the clock strikes twelve, drew an estimated 100,000 people and was broadcast live.  Authorities in eastern coastal areas say they’ll close beaches and other spots where hundreds of thousands of people typically gather on New Year’s Day to watch the sunrise.  The southeastern city of Pohang says it instead plans to broadcast live the sunrise at several beaches under its jurisdiction on its YouTube channel on January 1.  Earlier this week, South Korea’s central government said it will ban private social gatherings of more than five people and shut down ski resorts and major tourist spots nationwide from Christmas Eve until January 3 as efforts to bring a recent viral resurgence under control.  Associated Press journalists Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, Raf Wober in Hong Kong, Mary Yamaguchi and Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.  

US Accuses Ukrainians of Using Misappropriated Funds for Ohio Real Estate

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday accused Ukrainian tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky and another Ukrainian businessman of using misappropriated funds to buy real estate in Ohio, following earlier similar U.S. allegations involving property in Kentucky and Texas.Kolomoisky, one of the most prominent tycoons in Ukraine and regarded as a key political backer of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, had denied the previous allegations. Bruce Marks, a U.S. lawyer who represents Kolomoisky, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest complaint.Representatives for the other businessman, Gennadiy Boholiubov, could not be immediately reached for comment. He has not previously commented on the matter.In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged the two men had used misappropriated funds from Ukraine-based PrivatBank to buy commercial real estate in Ohio and that the U.S. was seeing its forfeiture.U.S. prosecutors said that between 2008 and 2016, Kolomoisky and Boholiubov obtained fraudulent loans and lines of credit, some of whose proceeds they laundered through shell company accounts at PrivatBank’s Cyprus office before transferring the money to the United States.Altogether, the properties in the three U.S. states are worth more than $60 million, the Justice Department said. 

US Slaps Tariffs on French, German Wines, Aircraft Parts Amid EU Dispute 

U.S. trade officials said on Wednesday they were increasing tariffs on certain European Union products, including aircraft-related parts and wines from France and Germany, amid an ongoing civil aircraft dispute between Washington and Brussels.In a statement, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said it was adding tariffs on aircraft manufacturing parts and certain nonsparkling wines as well as cognacs and other brandies from France and Germany.The USTR did not say when the tariffs would take effect but noted that additional details would be “forthcoming.”The new tariffs are the latest action in the 16-year U.S.-EU dispute over civil aviation subsidies involving European aircraft company Airbus SE and its U.S.-based rival Boeing Co.The USTR said on Wednesday that the EU had unfairly calculated tariffs against the United States allowed by a September World Trade Organization ruling in the dispute. “The EU needs to take some measure to compensate for this unfairness,” the office said.Representatives for the European Union could not be immediately reached for comment on the USTR action.

Actor Dawn Wells, Castaway Mary Ann on TV’s ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ Dies From COVID-19

Dawn Wells, who parlayed her girl-next-door charm and wholesome beauty into enduring TV fame as the sweet-natured desert island castaway Mary Ann on the classic 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island, died Wednesday at age 82, her publicist said. 
Wells, who won the title of Miss Nevada in 1959 and competed in the Miss America contest, died from complications of COVID-19, publicist Harlan Boll said in a statement. 
Born in the gambling city of Reno, Wells played Kansas farm girl Mary Ann Summers, one of seven castaways stranded after their boat, the S.S. Minnow, became battered in a storm during what was supposed to be a three-hour tour from Hawaii. Wells beat out actors including Raquel Welch for her role. 
 Gilligan’s Island ran for three seasons (1964-1967) with a cast that also included Bob Denver as the zany Gilligan, Alan Hale Jr. as the Skipper, Jim Backus as millionaire Thurston Howell III, Natalie Schafer as his posh wife, Russell Johnson as the Professor and Tina Louise as movie star Ginger.The death of Wells leaves Louise, 86, the sole survivor of these cast members. FILE – In this 1965 file photo, Dawn Wells, center, poses with fellow cast members of “Gilligan’s Island,” Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr., in Los Angeles.The 98 episodes invariably involved their efforts in vain to get off the island, even as a parade of guest stars dropped in and had no trouble getting out. The show drew the wrath of critics, but its innocent fun caught on with viewers at a time of tumult in America after the assassination of a president and during the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Wells, playing a cheerful brunette Midwestern farm girl, appeared in the series wearing short shorts, midriff tops and pigtails. Louise, playing a buxom red-haired sensation akin to Marilyn Monroe, wore slinky, form-fitting dresses. The two inspired what became an enduring pop culture question for men: “Ginger or Mary Ann?” 
Wells said that question was the most common topic mentioned to her by fans. “Mostly they’ll pick a favorite, Ginger or Mary Ann. For some reason, they feel they have to make a choice,” Wells told Forbes magazine in 2016. 
Wells had effusive praise for Denver and her other cast mates but was not especially close to Louise, who distanced herself from the Ginger character and declined to appear in various Gilligan’s Island reboots with her former co-stars. 
“We had nothing against each other,” Wells told the Los Angeles Times in 2014. “We didn’t have much in common.” 
 Gilligan’s Island was canceled by network executives despite respectable ratings, then became ubiquitous in syndicated reruns. 
“A misconception is that we must be wealthy, rolling in the dough, because we got residuals. We didn’t really get a dime,” Wells told Forbes. 
Wells said she was paid $750 a week, adding, “Sherwood Schwartz, our producer, reportedly made $90 million on the reruns alone.” 
Like some of her co-stars, she suffered from typecasting in Hollywood in the years after the series ended, appearing in TV guest spots and stage work before taking roles in B-movies. 
  FILE – This Oct. 2, 1978, photo shows the cast of “Gilligan’s Island,” from left, Russell Johnson, Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Alan Hale Jr., Bob Denver, Judith Baldwin replacing original cast member Tina Louise, and Dawn Wells.In light of the show’s steady popularity in the 1970s, three made-for-TV movies were made with progressively far-fetched plots involving Soviet satellites and visiting basketball players: Rescue from Gilligan’s Island (1978), The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island (1979) and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island (1981). 
Wells also lent her voice to the animated Gilligan’s Planet (1982) in which the castaways become stranded on a faraway planet. 
Wells also capitalized on her fame by writing, Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook, and later, for the 50th anniversary of the series in 2014, the book, What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life. 
Wells was born Oct. 18, 1938, in Reno, studied theater at the University of Washington, and headed to Hollywood after her beauty pageant success. 
She embraced her pop culture status but said there was more to her than just being Mary Ann. 
“I’m deeper, smarter, more ambitious, funnier. I think if you meet me for 15 minutes, there is nothing you won’t know: what you see is what you get,” she told Forbes. 

British Lawmakers Approve Trade Deal with EU

Britain’s House of Commons voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a trade deal with the European Union, the last major step in London’s yearslong split from the continent’s 27-member governing body. With a day to spare, lawmakers voted 521-73 in favor of the Brexit deal that Britain reached with the EU last week. It will become British law after passing through the unelected House of Lords and gets a formal royal assent from Queen Elizabeth. Britain left the EU almost a year ago, but its economic split will be finalized Thursday at midnight in Brussels. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and European Council President Charles Michel show signed EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreements at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 30, 2020.European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signed the agreement in Brussels early Wednesday. The documents were then flown by a Royal Air Force plane to London for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to add his signature. “The agreement that we signed today is the result of months of intense negotiations in which the European Union has displayed an unprecedented level of unity,” Michel said. “It is a fair and balanced agreement that fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union and creates stability and predictability for citizens and companies.” Johnson heralded the pact as “a new relationship between Britain and the EU as sovereign equals.” UK chief trade negotiator David Frost looks on as Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement at 10 Downing Street, London, Dec. 30, 2020.It has been 4 1/2 years since Britain voted 52% to 48% to leave the bloc it joined in 1973. Starting Friday on New Year’s Day, the trade deal ensures that Britain and the EU can continue to trade goods without tariffs or quotas. That should help protect the $894 billion in annual British-EU trade, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on it. But Brexit will also bring inconvenience, such as the need for tourists to have insurance when traveling between the EU and Britain and for companies to fill out millions of new customs declarations. But Johnson said Brexit would turn Britain from “a half-hearted, sometimes obstructive member of the EU” into “a friendly neighbor — the best friend and ally the EU could have.” He said Britain would now “trade and cooperate with our European neighbors on the closest terms of friendship and goodwill, whilst retaining sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny.” 

З початку 2021-го 98% українських товарів матимет доступ на ринок Великої Британії – Мінекономіки

Угода про вільну торгівлю з Великою Британією, ратифікована раніше Верховною Радою, надасть 98% української продукції доступ на британський ринок, заявляє 30 грудня Міністерство розвитку економіки, торгівлі та сільського господарства України.

Як нагадують у відомстві, угода набуде чинності з 1 січня 2021 року.

«Зокрема, документ надасть вільний доступ на британський ринок для 98% української продукції, а з 2023 року для України буде лібералізовано ще 2%», – повідомляє Мінекономіки.

Пресслужба цитує міністра Ігоря Петрашка, який вказує, що угоду з Великою Британією Україні довелося узгоджувати і з Європейським Союзом. З 1 січня Сполучене королівство виходить з єдиного ринку Євросоюзу.

Читайте також: Країни-члени ЄС одностайно погодились схвалити торговельну угоду щодо Brexit

«Нам вдалося досягти хороших результатів, оскільки наші показники торгівлі з Євросоюзом не були змінені», – сказав Петрашко.

За оцінкою уряду, Угода покращить баланс і структуру двосторонньої торгівлі між Україною і Великою Британією.

Як зазначають у Мінекономіки, зараз відомство готується до укладення нових угод із Тунісом, Єгиптом, Йорданією, В’єтнамом, Індонезією та Китаєм.

16 грудня Верховна Рада підтримала ратифікацію «Угоди про політичне співробітництво, вільну торгівлю і стратегічне партнерство між Україною та Сполученим Королівством Великої Британії і Північної Ірландії».

Угоду про співробітництво, вільну торгівлю та стратегічн партнерство з Великою Британією підписав президент Володимир Зеленський під час офіційного візиту до Лондона в жовтні 2020 року.

Putin Signs Amendments to ‘Foreign Agents’ Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law legislation that human rights watchdogs and opposition politicians have said will undermine democratic processes.The legislation, which came into force on December 30, included a series of amendments to the controversial law on “foreign agents” to allow individuals and public entities to be recognized as “foreign agents” if they are considered to be engaged in political activities “in the interests of a foreign state.”Entities that have received the label will be required to report their activities and face financial audits.Putin Signs Amendments Allowing Large Fines for ‘Foreign Agents’ Law ViolationsCritics say law is used to muzzle dissent, discourage the free exchange of ideas and a free pressPutin signed a separate bill imposing penalties of up to five years in prison to those identified as “foreign agents” who do not register as such or fail to report on their activities.Grounds for being recognized as a “foreign agent” could be holding rallies or political debates, providing opinions on state policies, actions promoting a certain outcome in an election or referendum, or participation as an electoral observer or in political parties if they are done in the interest of a foreign entity.Amnesty International has slammed the proposed legislation, saying it would “drastically limit and damage the work not only of civil society organizations that receive funds from outside Russia but many other groups as well.”Critics say the “foreign agent” law, originally passed in 2012 and since expanded through amendments, has been arbitrarily applied to target Russian civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and political activists.Putin also signed a bill allowing media regulator Roskomnadzor to partially or fully restrict or slow access to foreign websites that “discriminate against Russian media.”The legislation is expected to affect major social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Landslide Hits Residential Area in Norway, 10 Hurt, 21 Unaccounted For

Ten people were injured, one of them critically, and 21 people remained unaccounted for after a landslide in southern Norway swept away more than a dozen buildings in the early hours of Wednesday, police said.
The landslide struck a residential area in the municipality of Gjerdrum, about 30 km (19 miles) north of the capital Oslo.
Photos of the site showed a large crater with destroyed buildings at the bottom of it. Other buildings hung on the edges of the crater, with one house seen collapsing, TV footage showed.
Helicopters hovered over the area, at times lowering emergency responders towards the debris of collapsed houses.
About 700 people have been evacuated from the area so far, police said.
“There were two massive tremors that lasted for a long while and I assumed it was snow being cleared or something like that,” Oeystein Gjerdrum, 68, told broadcaster NRK.
“Then the power suddenly went out, and a neighbour came to the door and said we needed to evacuate, so I woke up my three grandchildren and told them to get dressed quickly.”
The missing people were from homes in the innermost area of the landslide but it was not clear whether they had been trapped in their houses, were away at the time or had managed to escape, the police said.
“It is a catastrophe,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told reporters after visiting the site.
“There could be people trapped… but at the same time we can’t be sure because it is the New Year’s holiday which means people could be elsewhere,” she said, warning that rescue operations could take a long time.
“This could take days,” she said. “The situation is still so unstable that it is impossible to do any [rescue] effort other than from helicopters.”

Vietnam, Britain Sign Free Trade Deal, to Take Effect Dec. 31

Britain and Vietnam signed a free trade agreement on Tuesday, Vietnam’s trade ministry said, days before Britain completes its transition out of the European Union.The deal, which will for Britain replace the existing EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), will take effect on Dec. 31, the ministry said in a statement.Trade between Vietnam and Britain has risen by an average of 12% a year over the past decade to reach $6.6 billion last year, and the deal will help boost Vietnam’s exports of garments, footwear products, rice, seafood and wooden furniture, it said.Since leaving the EU in January, Britain has been striking out alone and negotiating new trade deals with countries to replace those the bloc had negotiated.Tuesday’s deal will ensure Britain does not lose access to preferential tariffs in one of the fastest growing and most open economies in Asia.The free trade agreement with Britain has the same provisions as those of EVFTA, the ministry said. EVFTA came into effect in August and was due to cut or eliminate 99% of tariffs on goods traded between Vietnam and the EU.”The agreement will create a framework for comprehensive, long-term and sustainable economic cooperation between the two countries,” the ministry said. 

Earthquake in Croatia Kills 5

Five people, including a 12-year-old girl, died after a magnitude-6.4 earthquake swept through central Croatia Tuesday, destroying several buildings, injuring at least 20 people and causing tremors in neighboring countries, according to officials.
The epicenter of the quake, Petrinja, a town of about 25,000 people, sustained the worst damage. On Monday it was hit by a 5.2 quake. Tuesday’s quake saw people run out onto rubble-covered streets for safety.
“The biggest part of central Petrinja is in a red zone, which means that most of the buildings are not usable,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said when he and other government ministers arrived in Petrinja after the earthquake.
State television reports four people were killed In Glina. The prime minister confirmed the fifth casualty was a young girl in Petrinja.
The army has been dispatched to the area to help rescue people from the rubble. At least two people are seriously injured. Rescue operations also are underway in Sisak, a neighboring town.
Some injured people have been treated for “fractures, concussions and some have had to be operated on,” said Tomislav Fabijanic, head of emergency medical services in Sisak.
Plenkovic said people will have to be moved from Petrinja “because it was unsafe” to be here.”
The government says it also has made arrangements for people displaced by the quake to find accommodations. The Croatian army is providing about 500 places for victims, while others will be housed in hotels and other habitable places, according to the government.
Twelve countries including Serbia, Slovenia, Austria and Bosnia also felt tremors, according to Hina, Croatia’s news agency.
Buildings shook for a couple of minutes in the city of Graz and the Carinthia province in Austria. Local news media report residents said their furniture and furnishings shook for several minutes.
In Slovenia, the STA news agency reports authorities shut down its nuclear power plant as a precautionary measure.
Croatia’s Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said the country has sought help from the European Union and is awaiting assistance.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter she spoke with Plenkovic and instructed an envoy to travel to Croatia as soon as possible.
Earthquakes are not uncommon in Croatia, but ones as strong as this have not been felt since the 1990s, when the village of Ston was destroyed.    

South Sudan Concert Draws Tens of Thousands in Defiance of COVID-19 Protocols

Health experts in South Sudan are criticizing organizers of a weekend concert in Juba where tens of thousands of people gathered in clear violation of the health ministry’s COVID-19 protocols.Tanzanian music star Diamond Platnumz attracted all kinds of fans to the outdoor event at the Doctor John Garang Mausoleum, including President Salva Kiir.The vast majority of concert goers ignored health ministry and World Health Organization directives to social distance or wear masks, although President Kiir wore a face covering.Dr. Angelo Guop Kouch, director of South Sudan’s Public Health Emergency Operation Center, which manages COVID-19 cases in the country, said the gathering was not advisable, saying “health authorities should be involved when there are such activities in the country because of the crowd.”A World Health Organization epidemiologist in South Sudan, Dr. Joseph Wamala, said new strains of COVID-19 have emerged that can spread more easily in South Sudan.“The identification of this new strain is really a reason for countries to reinforce measures to limit spread through the recommended measures; using the mask, observing respiratory etiquette,” Dr. Wamala told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.To date, COVID-19 has had a relatively light impact on South Sudan, with just 3,511 confirmed cases and only 63 deaths.But that situation could quickly change, says Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Thuou Loi Cingoth. “People are dying of COVID-19 and right now we have people who are in critical condition in our facility affected by COVID-19. Now, whether we are going to go to the stage of asking the law enforcement agencies to ensure that measures against COVID-19 are adhered to by the public, I still don’t know. But it is our appeal that the public listen,” Dr. Loi told South Sudan in Focus.Saturday’s concert was an “absolute violation of our declared and official position as the Ministry of health,” Dr. Loi added.One of the concert organizers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the concert was organized by the K2 company belonging to the brother of South Sudanese businesswoman Achai Wiir, and that it was difficult to maintain protective measures because turnout was far more than organizers had anticipated.