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Britain and Sweden block critical talks on espionage and intelligence between EU and US

daily alternative | alternative news - Britain and Sweden block critical talks on espionage and intelligence between EU and US

Britain and Sweden vetoed plans to launch two working groups to deal with issues of espionage and intelligence with the United States, thus restricting upcoming talks in Washington to issues of data privacy and the National Security Agency’s PRISM program.

Instead of allowing two working groups to deal with the complex issues that have been raised in the wake of stories publicizing the United States’ surveillance of Europeans, especially Germans, there will be just one working group focusing on the PRISM program.

Interestingly, there is apparently no mention of the UK’s massive data mining operation run through GCHQ which hands data over to the NSA.

The talks on PRISM and data privacy were arranged to coincide with upcoming trade talks in an effort to lessen the transatlantic tension, according to the Guardian.

“EU diplomats and officials say the offer of talks by the Americans is designed to enable the leaders of Germany and France to save face following revelations about the scale of US espionage – particularly in Germany, but also of French and other European embassies and missions in the US,” writes Ian Traynor for the Guardian.

However, it’s worth noting that France has a program much like PRISM that they are running as well.

While the talks will deal with PRISM and data privacy, larger issues like traditional espionage and intelligence concerns will be off the table, thanks to the UK.

Britain maintained that the European Union had no authority to even discuss issues of national security and intelligence, a claim which was backed up only by Sweden.

“It was decided. It finished successfully,” said Dalia Grybauskaitė, president of Lithuania.

Grybauskaitė recently took up the EU’s rotating presidency position, lasting six months, and mediated the highly charged talks in Brussels over the past two days.

While Grybauskaitė said on Thursday that the Europeans wanted to hold two separate sets of talks with the U.S., just a day later she said one was dropped, along with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

“Intelligence matters and those of national security are not the competence of the EU,” Barroso said.

Comments like that from Barroso are somewhat laughable given the fact that he is an appointed bureaucrat who determines the policy agenda and legislative proposals for the only body that can propose EU laws.

Thanks to Britain, national governments will have to attempt to pursue the issues with Washington on their own, something which will likely be more difficult without the collective bargaining power.

Since it was only Sweden and Britain that stood against the dual talks, it’s quite clear that most of the EU wanted to band together to discuss the issues.

Indeed, the Guardian reports that senior EU diplomats, officials and government ministers all confirmed that Britain stood in opposition to most of the EU on the joint European talks on espionage and intelligence.

Sources told the Guardian that the Lithuanian government attempted to get Sweden to remove their opposition by calling Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister, to no avail.

Officials stated that this latest fiasco has highlighted the splits that have emerged within the EU and calls for among pro-EU figures for European cyber defenses.

“We need our own capacities, European cloud computing, EU strategic independence,” said Michael Barnier, a French politician and European commissioner for the single market.

Interestingly, the Guardian states that “senior east and west European politicians and intelligence veterans privately suspect a Russian role in the intelligence row.”

What this alleged role is, exactly, is unclear but they point to the reported presence of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden, in Moscow’s airport and the controversy surrounding the forced landing of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane.

 

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Britain’s House Price Crash – 2016 Predictions Mount

Housing in many countries, especially Britain, is no longer an investment; it’s now made up of three fundamentals: consumption, crime and concern. The general public getting on the bandwagon with cheap loans is consumption. The crime slot is taken now that over 40% of Britain’s housing stock is bought in cash with property used as an international laundrette to wash hundreds of billions and concern comes from savers who quite rightly think that the banks and government will steal their hard-earned (low or negative savings rates), tax-paid money that drives a reluctant middle class into becoming landlords.

Cheap loans will prevail but credit is drying up the world over. The criminals have stopped buying in over-heated Britain and even George Osborne, who has fueled the bubble, is taking action against amateur landlords that make up the vast majority of property investors in Britain.

But don’t take my word for it. Predictions of a house price crash in 2016 are now mounting thick and fast, something unheard of in previous property recessions and particularly back in 2007 just before the last epic fall.

We kick off with consumption. The Week has a piece from Pete Redfern, the chief executive of Taylor Wimpey, Britain’s biggest house builder who says that “The UK is in a “borderline place” on home ownership as a result of rampant price rises and more needs to be done to rein in the pace of (property) inflation”. It also makes the observation that “London, where the housing market is becoming so detached from the wider UK that it has been called “another country”.

Then we have dodgy dosh from overseas; as RT reports – “Asian and Russian luxury homebuyers are deserting London’s property market amid economic uncertainty. Property buyers from Asia made up 26 percent of those buying homes in wealthy areas of London such as Kensington, Chelsea, and Belgravia in the first three quarters of last year. That figure has dropped to 6 percent according to figures compiled by estate agent Hamptons for the Financial Times”.

And not forgetting those poor fearful middle class reluctant landlords about to lose their shirts. From industry expert Letting Agent Today – “Osborne has slashed rental sector confidence ‘to below crisis levels’. Landlords’ confidence in the buy to let sector has collapsed to an all-time low and is now “worse than levels witnessed during the financial crash” according to a trade body. Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Landlords Association, says confidence in landlords’ business expectations has tumbled by more than a third over the past year – down from 67 per cent to an all-time low of 43 per cent. The current level of confidence in the BTL sector is now five per cent lower than levels witnessed after the financial crash in 2007”.

The property bubble will burst and London will be its epicenter. But it’s not just London that is causing it. Back in the early 1990s I was already a few years into my 25-year career in residential property. Chancellor Nigel Lawson decided to abolish MIRAS in 1988 – a mortgage relief scheme which saved homeowners thousands on their payments. Stupidly, Lawson gave about six months notice. This pushed up prices as buyers rushed to snatch up a property before the tax break disappeared, much the same as Osborne’s increase in tax and subsequent epic run by property investors to beat the deadline this April.

On that day in April 1988 I saw the entire property industry implode. Property prices fell by around a third, 1.5 million homeowners declined into negative equity, annual repossessions doubled, tripled and then quadrupled in a matter of months. At one point repossessions represented 1 in every 130 households of Britain.

A few years later I switched from selling property to renting and ended up managing one of the biggest residential rental portfolios in the UK. I had 11,000 repossessions to manage because the government had offered tax breaks to banks and building societies to stop these units reaching the market via auctions (called Business Expansion Scheme Companies or BESCo’s) and utterly destroying what little remained of the housing market. I also had another 2,000 high-end units where building companies had gone bust with no one to buy them. We filled them with all those that had lost their homes or where the government were paying housing benefit – obviously.

Over 40% of Thatcher’s right-to-buy disaster ended up being repossessed. Cameron has just made the same mistake, except he’s a bit late in the game announcing it this time around.

Like last time, the bubble will burst where the price is most inflated – London. Unlike previous deflations, this one is predicted, and the writing is large and loud.

 

daily alternative | alternative news – Britain’s House Price Crash – 2016 Predictions Mount

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