- On 31st January, 2020, at the stroke of 11.00 pm, the United Kingdom (UK) ceased to be the member of the European Union (EU), allowing it to become the first country to leave the EU, after 47 years of membership.
- In 1973, the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC), the precursor to the European Union.
- The first public vote on Brexit happened on June 23, 2016, when 52 per cent of voters chose to leave the EU.
- On 29th March, 2017 the UK formally notified the European Council of its intention to leave the EU by triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
- On 17th October, 2019, the European Council endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement as agreed by the negotiators of both sides. It also endorsed the revised political declaration on the framework of the future EU-UK relationship.
- The Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) became law on January 23, 2020 when it was passed all stages in Parliament and was given the Royal Assent. WAB gives the UK government provisions through which it can ratify the Brexit process.
- As of February 1, 2020, a transition period has come into force under the terms of the exit deal.
Reasons for Brexit
Threat to British Sovereignty
- One important reason for Brexit can be attributed to rise of nationalism. There’s a growing distrust of multinational financial, trade, and defense organizations created after World War II.
- Britons believe that these institutions no longer serve a purpose. Not only that these organizations take control away from individual nations. Mistrust and fear of losing control made Brexit a reasonable solution to them.
Changing Role of EU
- Over the past few decades, a series of EU treaties have shifted a growing amount of power from individual member states to the central EU bureaucracy in Brussels. On subjects where the EU has been granted authority — like competition policy, agriculture, and copyright and patent law, etc., goes against the British interests as EU rules override national laws.
- As EU’s membership expanded, more Europeans, especially from poorer EU nations, started migrating to U.K. using the “freedom of movement” clause.
- The eurozone has struggled economically, and workers from eurozone countries such as Ireland, Italy, and Lithuania (as well as EU countries like Poland and Romania that have not yet joined the common currency) have flocked to the UK in search of work.
- Faced with rising immigration locals worried about their jobs and the erosion of the English way of life, Britons wanted their government to clamp down on immigration.
- The EU has failed to address the economic problems that had been developing since 2008 financial crisis and the Eurozone crisis of late 2009, which had fueled British intention of moving away from EU.
- Further, Brexit will allow the UK to negotiate its own trade deals with other countries - something that would not have been possible remaining with EU.
Contribution to EU
- The EU doesn’t have the power to directly collect taxes, but it requires member states to make an annual contribution to the central EU budget. Currently, the UK’s contribution is worth about £13 billion ($19 billion) per year, which is about $300 per person in the UK.
- Although the funds are again used on Britain, the BREXIT supporters say, the money could be used more efficiently, if Britain is out of EU.
What Changes and What Remains the Same After Brexit?
Out of EU Politics
- The UK leaves all of the European Union’s political institutions. British ministers will no longer attend regular EU meetings, and the Prime Minister will no longer be an automatic attendee at EU Council summits, although he can still join if he is given a special invitation.
EU Rules Apply
- During the transition period, the UK will continue to obey EU rules and make payments to the EU. If it is involved in a legal dispute with an EU member country, the European Court of Justice will continue to have the final say.
New Trade Equations
- Out of the EU, Britain will have to build new trade relationships with countries outside the Union. While it was still in EU, Britain was not allowed to hold formal trade negotiations with countries such as the US and Australia. Now that it will have that freedom, Brexit supporters see that as a positive —Britain setting its own trade policy.
- Now, the country will return to the blue passports it used to issue before adopting the EU design.
- Travel: Flights, boats and trains will operate as they did while Britain was in the EU. Driving licences will continue to be accepted, as long as they are valid.
- European Health Insurance Card: European Health Insurance Card will remain valid inside Britain, and in the EU countries, during the transition.
- Freedom of Movement: During the transition, UK nationals will continue to live and work in European Union countries. EU nationals who want to live and work in the UK, too, can do so.
- EU Budget: The UK will for now continue to contribute to the EU Budget. Existing schemes that are funded by EU grants will continue to be funded.
US’ Curbs On Trade With Iran Affects Indo-Afghan Trade
The Finance Minister announced the slashing of allocation for Iran’s Chabahar port during the budget speech on 5th July, 2019.
Relevance of the News: It highlights the effect of reduced allocation for Chabahar port on India-Afghanistan trade and India-Iran relations.
Reduction in Allocation of Funds:
- Government announced in the budget a reduction of allocation of funds for the development of Chabahar port by two-thirds.
- The government had been allocating Rs 150 crore for the port each year for the past few years, but it has reduced this amount to Rs 45 crore this year.
- This will affect India’s trade with Afghanistan as Chabahar port is a major route for Indian goods going to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
- The situation is of concern as Pakistan’s airspace is also banned for a majority of flights to and from India.
A flight from Delhi to Kabul that used to take one-and-a-half hours now takes five hours
Effect of the Ban:
- As a result of the ban, Afghan fruit and agricultural products that had made up a bulk of the cargo on flights between Kabul and Delhi are being shipped to other international markets.
- In July last year, the former Afghan Ambassador to India had projected trade of “$2 billion between both countries by 2020”. But with both air and sea routes restricted, as well as Pakistan’s refusal to give Afghan trucks passage to the Wagah land route, trade may come to a standstill for now.
Asia-Pacific Group Supports India’s UNSC Non-permanent Membership
India was unanimously supported by the Asia-Pacific group for its candidature of UN Security Council’s (UNSC) non-permanent membership.
Relevance of the News: It highlights India’s acceptability as a responsible representative of Asia-Pacific region among the group members. It gives a fillip to India’s ambitions of becoming and its receptivity as a global leader.
India’s Support from the Asia-Pacific Group:
- All countries in the 55-member Asia-Pacific Group have unanimously supported India at the United Nations in support of its bid for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council (UNSC) for a two-year term in 2021-22.
- India also received the support of Pakistan and China with whom it had been experiencing diplomatic challenges at the UN.
- The Asia-Pacific Group had to nominate one of its members for the June 2020 elections to a non-permanent seat on the UNSC.
- Afghanistan was a potential contender of India in the group but it withdrew its nomination in 2013 to support India because of its long-standing, close and friendly relations with India.
- India has already held a non-permanent seat on the UNSC for seven terms with the last one expiring in 2012.
Future Course for India:
Having received the support of Asia-Pacific group, India now needs the vote of two-thirds of the 193 UN General Assembly members to win the non-permanent seat on the UNSC for which the elections would be held next year.
UNSC Non-permanent Membership:
- The UNSC is composed of 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent members.
- Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term.
- Article 23 of the UN Charter contains the provisions related to the composition of the Security Council.
- Rule 142-144 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly concerns the Security Council elections.
- The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis:
- o5 for African and Asian countries;
- o1 for Eastern European countries;
- o2 for Latin American and Caribbean countries;
- o2 for Western European and other countries.
PM Narendra Modi And Xi Jinping Meet
Why is it in News?
The two leaders met in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, on 13 June where they will participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.
Relevance of the News: The meeting between the two leaders and their deliberations mark an important event in India-China bilateral relations.
Highlights of the Meeting between two Leaders:
- Both agreed to expedite the dialogue on the India-China boundary talks in order to reach at a fair solution to the issue.
- Special Representatives have been asked to expedite the discussion in this regard for achieving reasonable and mutually acceptable solution.
- The last round of talks were held in November 2018, when Ajit Doval of India and Wang Yi of China met in Chengdu, China for the 21st round of talks between the Special Representatives. The border dispute dates back to the 1962 India-China war and even after 21 rounds of talks results have not yielded.
- Both leaders agreed that the approach to the border issue should be “constructive”, keeping in mind the ties between both sides in the coming years.
- Xi highlighted the need for regional cooperation and connectivity and hailed the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor as an example for expanding the India-China ties, which had entered a “new phase” after the Wuhan informal summit.
- The two sides agreed to celebrate the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic ties in a “fitting manner” by holding 70 events – 35 each – in both countries. India acknowledged Chinese efforts in getting Masood Azhar listed at the UN.
- Wuhan summit was an informal and agendaless meeting between the Indian PM and Chinese President Xi Jinping held in 2018. It is of great significance as it marked the start of new India-China relations after the bilateral ties soured by the 73-day Doklam standoff.
- By definition, informal summits lack the protocol and ceremony of formal ones, including delegation-level talks and a pre-set agenda for discussions.
- BCIM is a proposed multi-modal economic corridor which will be the first expressway between India and China and will pass through Myanmar and Bangladesh.
- The corridor will cover 1.65 million square kilometers, encompassing China’s Yunnan Province, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bihar in Northern India through the combination of road, rail, water and air linkages in the region.
- Its advantages will be accrued from greater market access for goods, services and energy, elimination of non-tariff barriers, better trade facilitation, joint exploration and development of natural resources.
- It seeks to develop value and supply chains by translating comparative advantages into competitive advantages, and through closer people to people contact.
- Earlier BCIM was a part of the Belt and Road Initiative, however recently it has been removed from the BRI by China after India’s decision to not participate in the Second BRI Forum held last month.
Why is it in News?
China is using Artificial Intelligence to track its Uighur Muslim minority across the country.
- The Uighurs is a Muslim ethnic minority mostly based in Xinjiang Province which is an autonomous region in People Republic of China similar to Tibet.
- They make up around 45% of the population there.
- Xinjiang Province of People’s Republic of China is bordered by eight countries namely Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Why there exists a Sense of Alienation among Uighurs?
- They are culturally and religiously more close to their neighboring countries, so there exist an element of separatist tendencies among the masses.
- Xinjiang Province is resource rich, but the resources have been exploited by the Chinese Government with no adequate development in the region which has intensified the alienation tendencies among the masses.
- People in Xinjiang Province complain of discrimination and harsh treatment by security forces which have further created Pandora’s Box of problems.
Source: Business Standard, TH
Belt & Road Initiative (BRI)
Why is it in News?
Italy has signed up for the Belt & Road Infrastructure Summit in China.
What is BRI?
- The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale. The initiative aims to strengthen infrastructure, trade, and investment links between China and some 65 other countries that account collectively for over 30 percent of global GDP, 62 percent of population, and 75 percent of known energy reserves.
- The BRI consists primarily of the Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China to Central and South Asia and onward to Europe, and the New Maritime Silk Road, linking China to the nations of South East Asia, the Gulf Countries, North Africa, and on to Europe
What is BRI Membership?
- It must be kept in mind that BRI is not a multilateral organization and signing the MOU simply means that country has given a green signal for China funded Infrastructure Projects.
- BRI is also not a trade pact where rules & regulations will be clearly spelled. It is a Chinese centric project which is being designed, developed and implemented solely by China.
Why is joining of Italy seen as a Major Achievement by China?
EU and the other G7 Countries used to label Chinese BRI Initiative as a “Debt Trap” mechanism. Joining of Italy will increase the acceptability of China and will dilute the stand of EU & G7 Countries.
Why is India opposed to the BRI?
- China Pakistan Economic Corridor which is a part of the BRI passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK); this initiative of China is an attack on India’s sovereignty.
- With BRI passing through POK, China has become a third party to the dispute.
- India sees this initiative as an extension of ‘String of Pearls’ which intends to encircle India.
Is not joining BRI Wise?
- If India will not join BRI, it will be surrounded by countries where Chinese influence exists; the best way is to become a part of the initiative and shape the imitative to our advantage.
- Once India will join the BRI, it will open gateways to large and inaccessible markets for our competent private sectors.
- As things stand, POK will not be reverted to India’s possession, but joining the BRI will effectively give India access to the region.
Why is it in News?
UK’s claim of sovereignty over the Chagos Islands has been rejected by the UN court- International Court of Justice and has asked to return the ownership back to Mauritius.
Historical Background of Chagos Archipelago:
Mauritius gained its independence in 1968 from the UK, but in 1965 it signed an agreement in haste with UK that Chagos Archipelago will be a territory of the UK, fearing that not signing the agreement won’t get them independence.
Diego Garcia and US:
The UK leased the Diego Garcia, a strategically important island of Chagos Archipelago to the US to make it their military base. This resulted in evacuation of 1500 people from that island and they were forced to settle in Mauritius.
Steps taken by Mauritius:
Mauritius approached the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2017 and opined that this is an act of colonialism as Diego Garcia was leased to a third country (US) and people were evacuated against their will. This matter was referred to the ICJ by UNGA.
What ICJ Opined?
ICJ opined that this act of leasing and evacuating was against the will of the people and UK does not have any claim on the Chagos Archipelago.
Role of India and how it reacted to this Dispute:
India voted in favour of Mauritus in the UNGA and due to cultural ties, India believes that it will be in position to convince Mauritius to lease this Diego Garcia again to US in a fresh bid as presence of US is must to curtail and contain China in Indian Ocean region.
Organisation Of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
Why is it in news?
India was invited to be a Guest of Honour for the very 1st time at the OIC meet in Abu Dhabi held on 1-2nd March 2019.
About the OIC:
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization founded in 1969, as a result of criminal arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. It is a 57 member body (56 UN members + Palestine) with its headquarter at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Objective of the OIC:
The organisation states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony.”
Some Salient Features of the OIC:
- It is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations.
- The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.
Stand of the OIC vis-à-vis India:
It has been observed that policies of the OIC are pro-Pakistan and it supports Pakistan on the issues of Kashmir. In recent attacks on the terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, it condemned the action of India which was not warranted.
Are the voices raised in favor of India for the OIC Membership?
Countries like Bangladesh and Turkey supports India’s membership at the OIC, as they believe that India has 12% Muslims and this number is more than the population of many muslim majority countries.
Source: The Diplomat