Here are this week’s headlines, brought to you by our Student Commercial Awareness Team:
- China States That Trade Talks Will Be Void If US Imposes Sanctions
Reported by Dan Petch
Last week a White House statement said that the US would pursue $50bn worth of tariffs on Chinese imports. The statement was in relation to years of “unfair” trade practices.
China has retaliated by saying that all trade talks will become void if the White House goes ahead with its plans to ramp up tariffs, stating that they are ready to increase imports from other countries instead.
President Trump over the weekend tweeted that the US had been “ripped off by other countries for years on trade”.
The state news agency Xinhua in China warned viewers of a trade war and said that the two sides should meet each other halfway. They went on to say that “reform and opening up and expanding domestic demand are China’s national strategies. Our established rhythm will not change”.
The US currently buys 4 times more from China than it sells to them.
This news comes soon after G7 countries have criticised the US for imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. Additionally, the French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has warned that a fully-fledged trade war could commence in “a few days”.
The EU responded to the steel and aluminium tariffs by producing a 10-page booklet of tariffs they plan to impose in response, including products such as Harley Davidson motorbikes and bourbons.
The US is yet to respond to China’s claim that all recent trade talks will cease should further sanctions be imposed.
Read more here.
- Ministry of Justice to offer £15m to Criminal Bar Association
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
After criminal barristers’ protest suspension last week, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has decided to offer the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) £15m to end the intense dispute.
Criminal barristers were voting on this £15 million legal aid proposal last week. This amount is expected to cover junior barristers and fund serious cases that were affected by the change in the law. Legal Cheek deemed this negotiation as a ‘breakthrough talk with government’.
CBA chair and Red Lion Chambers silk Angela Rafferty QC said that the CBA would “would like to make it clear […] that this offer is the culmination of a significant amount of work that took place over some time. It is right […] [that everyone] should know that the initial, unsurprising and uncompromising position of the government was that no new money would be made available. This was maintained for many weeks. This offer is not the ‘first’ on either side […] [it was] the government’s bottom line”.
Having said that, the offer has to be accepted by the CBA following the meeting scheduled on the 31st May. The outcome will most likely determine the future relationship between the two institutions.
The government has now accepted the proposal. According to Lawyer Firm News, “the deal is said to be an entirely new investment and will include a £8m injection for barristers who have lost money through a change in the law regarding fraud, drug, and ‘high page’ sex cases, while a further £4.5m is being offered to boost the pay of junior barristers to aid career progression”.
- Northern Ireland's Abortion Law Incompatible with Human Rights says Supreme Court
Reported by Sarah Mullane
Judges in the Supreme Court have stated that Northern Ireland’s current abortion laws are incompatible with human rights legislation.
Unlike the case in other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, where there are still extremely strict rules regarding the termination of pregnancies. In Northern Ireland, an abortion may only be granted where a woman’s life is shown to be at risk, or where there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health. Seeking to challenge the legality of this law, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) brought its case against Northern Ireland, appealing all the way to the Supreme Court.
The legal challenge was dismissed on a point of standing by a narrow majority of four to three, where it was held that the court had no jurisdiction to consider the appeal due to there being no actual victim of the act involved. Despite this, the judges did make clear that the current NI law is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal abnormality, with respect to the right for private and family life.
Though this is not a formal declaration of incompatibility due to the case being dismissed, it has prompted calls for the government to act swiftly to deal with the issue. Les Allamby, head of the NIHRC, said that “the judges made absolutely clear that if a woman was brought forward, they would find that our laws are incompatible with human rights”. Following this, Sarah Ewart, one of the women directly involved in the case, has announced that she will take her case to the High Court in Belfast in an attempt to change the law.
- Theresa May deals with Brexit backstop outcry
Reported by Anna-Mei Harvey
This week has posed a fresh round of challenges, not only to the Brexit campaign, but also to Theresa May in her position as Prime Minister. During her speech in Florence, the PM flatly refused to consider the possibility of a ‘soft’ Brexit whilst fervently denying that the UK would remain in the customs union.
More recently, however, it has come to light that Brexiteers may not actually be able to have their cake and eat it. Disentangling the UK from the European Customs Union was never going to be a simple task. Britain has to consider not only the financial implications, but also how it can continue to conform to a freshly imposed set of regulations relating to quotas, processes and declarations.
This could pose particular problems at the Irish border. It is now recognised that these issues may take much longer to resolve than the prescribed transition period provides for. May has therefore agreed to the idea of a Brexit ‘backstop.’
The temporary customs union would keep the UK inside the single market beyond the transition period – currently December 2020. The temporary trade deal, should it be needed, will not affect Britain’s ability to create free trade agreements (FTAs) with third countries.
It is however notable that Britain, as part of the EU, would be unable to implement the tariff element of any such agreement on third countries. Many have highlighted that this would essentially render the FTAs as pointless, and have also been made increasingly angry by the lack of any clear end date.