The pound is at its highest level against the US Dollar since the EU Referendum, breaking GBP/USD 1.39 earlier today (Friday). It has also climbed against the euro, rising 1.2% midweek to 1.1350.
This pound-positive activity is due to a brighter Brexit outlook; both Spain and the Netherlands suggested they would support the UK remaining closely aligned with the EU in terms of trade and Jean-Claude Juncker hinted that Britain could rejoin the EU after Brexit. This new-found optimism had a positive impact on the markets but as we know everything is temporary and there are bound to be more Brexit hurdles very soon.
Now that the summer is effectively over and the weather is beginning to cool, Torrevieja and La Mata shopkeepers are redoubling their efforts to rid the streets of the current proliferation of so-called “manteros” and the “organised groups of illegal street vendors”.
Until a few days ago their presence was mainly confined to the beaches where they sold products ranging from footwear to sports equipment and sun wear, illegal copies of shoes and well-known sports brands, even jewellery, clothes and fruit and veg.
Torrevieja’s president of the Association of Small and Medium-sized Traders (APYMECO), David Sánchez, has been critical of their presence since July, when his organisation issued a statement denouncing the massive presence along promenades and beaches in the illegal sale of products.
He said that Torrevieja City Council “has not done anything about it” to dissuade these people who have now moved their businesses onto the streets, with little police presence to dissuade them from doing so. “The problem is far more serious than the police are giving it credit. It is an endemic problem that is causing serious damage and untold losses to many existing legal businesses, damage that they really cannot afford or sustain.
Sanchez now demands “urgent and drastic measures” from the city council and the police the illegal traders cause seriously damage to the businesses of Torrevieja that cannot be reversed. “My members religiously pay their taxes,” he said, pointing once again that the local administration has failed to provide answers to the formal complaints.
Having already suffered with the economic crisis of recent years, the damage being caused by illegal traders to genuine businesses is, without a doubt, another problem for those shopkeepers who have been able to survive. For all these reasons, the president of APYMECO urges the merchants to report, as many times as is necessary, the presence of these manteros in their areas to ensure that the Local Police are at least out on the streets.
Since 2012, when the Torrevieja City Council first introduced the Operational Reinforcement Group, one of its many tasks has been the control of illegal street vendors and the seizure of counterfeit products in the main tourist areas of the city, especially along the seafront in Juan Aparicio and La Cura beach. The responsibility should also extend to in the beach at La Mata, although there have been hardly any visits of the GRO during the summer season.
Following their clampdown 2 or 3 years ago the GRO now seems to have taken their eye off the problem as a result of which it is once again close to reaching epidemic proportions, another season of which will undoubtedly result in the closure of many more Torrevieja businesses.
The mayor of Torrevieja, Jose Manuel Dolón, has told the Local Police to increase their vigilance in respect of urban cleanliness in the city, particularly regarding the matter of the defection of dogs that is left behind by their owners.
He said that he is a great animal lover himself and there is absolutely nothing wrong with owners taking their dogs for a walk but when they foul the mess must be cleared up and not simply left behind for people to walk in.
Dolon said that articles 15 and 22 of city regulations show that hygiene must be maintained in the city and that the excrement must be removed without fail.
The Local Police imposed just 8 infractions in 2016 but now, after a summer focused on other priority services, he has asked them to enforce municipal regulations and both warn and punish the owners of dogs where this is appropriate.
The mayor also requested members of the public to politely but firmly encourage irresponsible dog owners to clear up after their dog. “However, if you don’t feel that you can approach someone,” he said, “report dog fouling to the local police – particularly if you know who is letting their dog foul regularly.”
In December 2015 the mayor promised that he would clamp down on anyone who didn’t clean up after their dog had defecated in a public place. He promised there would be no mercy and that offenders would be hit with fines of 3000 euros.
The promise came from the Los Verdes leader, whilst he was under increasing pressure from residents to remove all of the ‘Pipican’ and WCcan’ facilities in the town.
The prosecutor’s office will provisionally ask for sentences of between five and six and a half years in prison for his illegal detention and for other injuries sustained while he was held
The events occurred last year, when the victim allowed two of the suspects, a man and a woman, to lodge temporarily with him in his house in Torrevieja.
After a few days, the host told the couple that they had to leave but they allegedly refused and locked him up in one of the rooms.
His confinement lasted for thirteen days, during which time colleagues of the couple also moved into the house, taking it in turns to keep an eye on the man.
The prosecution also alleges that they even attacked him on several occasions, to the point of breaking a rib.
The public prosecutor is demanding sentences of five years in prison for three of the accused and six and a half years for the other three, because in addition to the crime of illegal detention, they are also accused of assault.
According to the Valencian TSJ the trial will start on Monday in the seventh section of the Court of Alicante, which is based in Elche, and continue through to Wednesday.
It is one of the most frequented places in Torrevieja. Every day hundreds of travellers pass through the bus station using it as a starting, finishing or transit point for their journeys. And judging from a report issued recently by The Prosecutors Office, it is also one of the most neglected.
For many people this is the first sight they get of Torrevieja, a run-down area that is frequented by drug dealers, down and outs and criminals, not the impression that politicians want to portray.
Many health and safety aspects relating to the bus station are completely unacceptable. The side accesses to the site sees a regular flow of traffic intermingled with pedestrians. At the main entrance to the station, access is also a lottery, where the only transit space is occupied by tables and chairs from the cafeteria.
Information is non-existent as are announcements over the public address system. Travellers have to rely on the ticket office where, if there is a queue, finding anything out can be impossible.
The shortcomings for people with disabilities are colossal. Public services are completely inaccessible to people with disabilities, both by the width of the doors and by the steps that also prevent access. If you are brave enough to use the toilet facilities you will quickly find just how bad and how unsanitary they are.
In terms of security, the problems are even more alarming. There is a lack of surveillance and security personnel. The consumption of alcohol in areas of heavy traffic is not only habitual but is also encouraged by the sale of alcoholic beverages from a shop that is directly connected to the site.
There are broken locks on the toilet door which serve as a warning of a hostile and undesirable place that it is, where drug addicts regularly gather to make their fix, or adults unashamedly have sexual relations. The graffiti on the walls and the doors is disgusting, especially for any children find it necessary to use the services.
And all this goes on, and has done for years and years, just 50 yards away, and in clear sight of the barracks of the Guardia Civil and the Torrevieja Courts of Justice.
The complaints, which were presented on 8th November, and which were documented in detail with photographs and a video, have already resulted in improved signage and security for users. The signs now warn of the danger of pickpockets, they also prohibit the consumption of alcohol and warn of the “extreme danger” for pedestrian who choose to move around in areas that are designated for use by the buses. There is also video surveillance we are told, but information suggests that the system is not operational.
Many people say that the report is long overdue. The bus station has always been a dangerous centre with many illicit and unsavoury activities regularly taking place. As the gateway to Torrevieja, the station, it’s facilities and its procedures are badly in need of a complete overhaul if people are to feel safe and be encouraged to use the services once again.
Simon Manley, British Ambassador to Spain, visited Alicante this week to speak at an event about the progress of Brexit negotiations and the future relationship between the UK and Spain.
The event, organised in conjunction with British citizens in Spain group Brexpats and the Diputacion de Alicante was held at the University of Elche. The main topic discussed was the subject of citizens’ rights and how that is one of the top priorities for the British Government in the negotiations with the EU. Members of Brexpats group had a chance to ask questions to Ambassador Simon Manley and Consul Sarah-Jane Morris.
British Ambassador meets British citizens in Elche to talk about BREXIT
British Ambassador meets British citizens in Elche to talk about BREXIT
HMA’s agenda in Alicante also included visits to King’s College in Alicante and King’s Infant School in Elche, both British schools; a visit to Babcock MSC, the British company that provides of aerial emergency services and aircraft maintenance in Mutxamel, and a meeting with local authorities in Calpe town hall.
Talking about the importance of citizen rights, Simon Manley said: “Good progress has already been made in the negotiations and we are within touching distance of a deal in citizens rights. My team of consular staff and I have been speaking face to face with British citizens across Spain, including yesterday in Alicante, to ensure that the concerns they raise around healthcare, pensions and residency rights are understood by the UK negotiating team and reflected in their discussions with our EU partners about our departure from the EU.
I would like to recommend that people living in the Alicante region to follow our social media channels for updates on progress in the negotiation, including our Brits in Spain Facebook page, and to sign up for alerts from the gov.uk page to ensure you are getting accurate information.”
Advice for UK citizens living in the EU can be found here:
Built in 2011 at a cost of almost 9 million euros Torrevieja’s Social Care Centre remains closed because it still hasn’t been transferred by the Consell into the hands of Torrevieja City Council and it is still not known when it is likely to open.
The Consell say that they cannot open it yet because it “does not meet the legal requirements and also needs some modifications.
The Torrevieja mayor, José Manuel Dolón, explained that the City Council had found three problems when they were going through the process of opening it as an adult centre, family meeting point and supervised children’s centre.
The first is that the property is “not legalised” since “it has not been formally handed”. This procedure has to be carried out by the construction company that erected the building. However, according to Dolón, the architect who was in charge of the project has refused to sign a statement of completion. “It’s a case very similar to the Municipal Theatre,” said Dolon, who blamed the situation on the PP saying “the normal thing is that when the work is finished everything is signed, but it has still not happened.”
The second of the “unpleasant surprises” that have been found is that money is still owed for the construction of the building. The construction company filed an appeal in the courts to claim 245,862 euros as settlement for the works, of which 79,839 was VAT.
The third problem is related to the building plot itself as formal reports were never made, a process that is carried out prior to the commencement of construction work.
The Centre has been built on a municipal plot of 11,152 square meters, divided into 7,630 square metres of garden and 3,522 square metres of accommodation space on the ground floor. The total constructed area is 5,000 square meters which will eventually be used by such local organisations as AFA, ALPE, AMFA, ADIEM and APANEE
However, the mayor was unable to provide any indication of when the building might open.
María del Carmen García, the Benejúzar woman who set her daughter’s rapist on fire, was finally let out of prison on Monday, but at this stage only on day release. She is still required to return to Fontcalent prison in Alicante to sleep.
Antonio Cosme, the man who attacked García’s 13-year old daughter, was himself sentenced to nine years in prison for the rape but in 2005, while he was out on parole, the rapist returned to Benejúzar, where he bumped into García. “How’s your daughter?” he asked.
Her response was dramatic. She bought some petrol, walked into a bar, poured it over the convicted rapist and set him on fire. Cosme died a week later as a result of his burns.
Garcia has always insisted that she is not a murderer and at the time of the trial many people signed petitions requesting clemency. Her original sentence of nine and a half years was subsequently reduced to just five and a half due to partially diminished responsibility
As she was collected from the prison by her family Garcia said “In all these years, I’ve never lost my temper. I knew that this day was going to come”.
In all she has now spent three and a half years in prison of the five and a half to which she was sentenced. Having spent a year in prison whilst awaiting trial she will eventually complete her sentence in August next year.
Maria is now 65 years of age. Following her release she said that the thing that gave her strength during all these years was knowing that one day she would return into the arms of her children and her grandchildren.
But although she will now enjoy a regime of semi freedom her release was blemished by the knowledge that, whilst in prison, her husband had been diagnosed with cancer of the larynx, “but at least I will now be able to help him as he seeks to recover,” she said.
In less than a month, EU leaders meeting in Brussels will have to decide whether ‘sufficient progress’ has been made in phase 1 of the Brexit talks (the divorce issues) for phase 2 negotiations to get underway. If so, they will also have to agree new negotiating guidelines for Michel Barnier on the future relationship, and on the transition.
This stage was meant to have been reached in October, and any further delay to the negotiating timetable will shorten the odds on a complete breakdown in the talks. No wonder stress levels around the December summit are rising. But even assuming that the two sides manage to navigate the immediate crisis, worse will follow hard on its heels.
The immediate problem is largely about money. On the other two divorce issues, citizens’ rights and the Irish border, ‘sufficient progress’ will probably be declared come December (even if, on Ireland, this is more a recognition that the problem cannot be disentangled from the terms of the future relationship). But on money, the two sides remain at loggerheads.
Theresa May’s Florence speech looked hopeful, with its promise of two more years’ contributions to the EU budget, and affirmation that “The UK will honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership.” But the expected follow-up, with the UK specifying what it understands those commitments to be, has not happened – raising suspicions in Europe that Britain aims either to wriggle out of what it owes, or to tie a financial settlement to trade concessions later in the talks.
Money is the UK’s main bargaining asset (for all the Brexiteers’ bravura, the EU holds all the other cards in these negotiations), so the EU cannot reasonably expect the UK to give it up entirely before the talks have even got halfway. Moreover, the announcement of a definitive figure will inevitably trigger howls of betrayal from Brexiteers, and demands for talks to be broken off at once – unless Prime Minister May can present it as the price for an advantageous trade deal. Since the EU has no interest in the talks collapsing, they need to help May stay vague about the size of the bill for a while yet.
Actually, putting a definitive figure on the UK’s final bill will be quite difficult anyway. Britain’s share of, for example, loan guarantees for Ukraine could be anything between an eye-watering sum and nothing at all, depending on whether or not the loans go bad. Even clear liabilities, such as for the pensions of British EU officials, are hard to cost today, depending as they do on uncertain actuarial assumptions.
For this reason, given a modicum of trust and goodwill, a short-term fudge should have been easy to achieve, balancing the EU’s wish for precision against the UK’s desire for continuing vagueness. The lesson of the current impasse over money is just how fast trust and goodwill have drained out of these talks.
And there is worse just around the corner. Even if the money issue is finessed the EU’s phase 2 negotiating guidelines for Barnier will come as an unpleasant shock for the British side. The UK’s whole approach to the negotiations has been based on the assumption that the UK is simply too important to the EU to be treated like any other ‘third country’. It must make sense, Britain has consistently argued, for the UK to have a ‘deep and special’ future partnership with the EU – a bespoke deal, or deals, in economic, security and other fields.
But as the negotiating guidelines on the future economic relationship will make clear, that is not how the EU see it at all. They are just not interested in offering the UK special terms. If the Brits decide they want to stay in the single market, then they must join the European Economic Area (the ‘Norway model’). If not, then they can have a free trade deal (the ‘Canada model’). That’s it. And the EU’s position on the transition will be equally unpalatable. As far as they are concerned, the Brits can have a transition after they leave the EU and its institutions in March 2019, but only if everything else remains the same: budget contributions, free movement, European Court of Justice (ECJ) oversight, the works. Just like two more years in the EU – only without a voice or a vote.
So, even assuming we get through December, expect a new crisis in the UK at the turn of the year as all this sinks in. The UK government will of course seek to dismiss this as just the EU’s opening negotiating position. But it will be tough to maintain this insouciant confidence with any conviction given what the talks to date have already made clear: that the UK needs the EU much more than the reverse, and that EU ‘negotiating guidelines’ are less an opening bid than a blunt statement of how things are going to be.
So the odds on No Deal are shortening – an outcome which, despite the asymmetry of impact, would nonetheless damage both parties. How can it be avoided?
The main onus lies on the EU, if only because they are the dominant negotiating partner, and the British are simply in no condition to help themselves. There is a natural tendency in Brussels to think that the UK government has stoked the coming crisis by its own stupidity and/or cowardice in not preparing Parliament or the people for the reality of Brexit. But complete rigidity on the European side will only result in break-down of the talks – and likely May’s defenestration. As the best UK Prime Minister Europe could currently hope for, they must help her sugar-coat the very bitter pills the Brits are going to have to swallow with a few small wins.
Specifically, the EU should back off their unreasonable demands for extraterritorial jurisdiction of the ECJ even once the UK has left the EU and completed the transition, whether on EU citizens’ rights or on resolving disputes arising from the new treaties. The Brits will not settle for less than a new joint court, nor should they.
A way should also be found to allow the UK to (attempt to) set up new trade deals with third countries during the transition. And Brussels must stop pouring cold water on the British hope of achieving a trade relationship which is ‘deeper and more special’ than the recent EU deal with Canada. The EU argue that ‘most favoured nation’ provisions in their extant trade deals mean that, if they agreed something better with the UK, they would have to go back and offer the same benefits to other partners. But if that were inescapable, then the history of EU trade negotiations would have been an impossible process of constantly rewriting earlier trade deals to incorporate new features from the latest agreement.
May will need ‘victories’ on these and no doubt other points if she is to stand any chance of keeping the show on the road. For her part, she must stop feeding the domestic illusion that Britain, qua Great Power, is indispensable to the EU in the wider world. Our EU partners are well aware of the quality of our diplomacy and our armed forces. But they are equally aware that our attitude to initiatives like European defence has been consistently negative and obstructive, and few Europeans see the UK as such an indispensable partner that it must be found a privileged seat in the EU’s defence and foreign policy councils after Brexit.
Finally, both sides could help themselves with turning the spotlight towards those areas of the current relationship where mutual benefit is uncontested, and where there is a real need to put in place successor arrangements that prevent any hiatus. Research is one such area. Another is domestic security and counter-terrorism. Here, the proposal put forward by the UK for a specific treaty to provide a “comprehensive framework for future security, law enforcement and criminal justice cooperation” deserves to be taken up.
December’s crunch will be one of many junctures at which the Brexit talks could fail in the coming months, with Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal. Sensible politicians and officials on both sides of the Channel have little option but to believe that Theresa May understands how catastrophic this would be, and that she will remain in office long enough to outmanoeuvre the Brexiteer arsonists. Each side needs to contain its frustration, help the other where it can, and prioritise the aspects of negotiations where real win-win solutions are both possible and important.
Both sides should remember that, though divorces almost inevitably turn bitter, the best antidote is to try to keep at the forefront of the mind the interests of the children. Britain’s young people voted for Remain. They and their European contemporaries are going to need each other in the future.
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