Europe

Europe’s nationalists form an "Identity and Democracy" coalition

A new European Parliament alliance was unveiled on Thursday called Identity and Democracy (ID). Uniting Eurosceptics who aim to transfer power from Brussels to capitals, the new alliance of nationalists holds 73 of 751 seats in the Parliament, putting them in fifth place. The ID brings together some of the former member parties of the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), the Europe of Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), and the Europe for Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) groups.

ID is an alliance between nine nations, including Marine Le Pen's National Rally of France, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini's League party, and Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD). Ms. Le Pen said, “We have changed the political chessboard of the European Union," adding that the group would "colour" future debates in the hemicycle like never before. "We're not carrying over the same dynamic. The fact that the members of the ID group are now participating in governments is evidence of our new maturity," she said.

Deputy PM Salvini's foreign affairs advisor Marco Zanni was elected as ID's chairman while the National Rally's Nicolas Bay was elected his deputy. The parties have bridged differences to unite around the broad goals of returning power to EU member states, curbing immigration and preventing the spread of Islam in Europe. Without full cohesion among other Eurosceptic parties scattered across different political groups in the EU assembly, including the Brexit Party, ID lacks enough seats to block or hold up legislation. ID is courting other nationalist parties, such as Spain's Vox, to join; "The message to all of those parties who have a radically different view of Europe, if we can work together ... that would benefit all of us," said Mr. Zanni.

The new bloc of 73 MEPs includes:

  • 27 MEPs from the League (Italy)

  • 23 MEPs from the National Rally (France)

  • 11 MEPs from Alternative for Germany

  • 3 MEPs from Vlaams Belang (Netherlands)

  • 3 MEPs from the Austrian Freedom Party

  • 2 MEPs from Freedom and Direct Democracy (Czech Republic)

  • 2 MEPs from the Finns Party

  • 1 MEP from the Danish People’s Party

  • 1 MEP from the Estonian Conservatives Party

Britain’s Brexit Party under Nigel Farage will not be joining the ID. Mr. Farage demanded to be named group President if he was to join, to which Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Salvini refused. Mr. Farage allegedly stormed out of a meeting as a result.

Earlier on Wednesday, the European Liberals' alliance with French President Emmanuel Macron's La République en Marche announced that the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group would be renamed Renew Europe.

UK Conservative party leadership race kicks off amid May’s resignation

On Friday, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May stepped down as leader of the governing Conservative party, triggering a leadership election to replace her; she will remain as Prime Minister throughout the process.

PM May announced she would step down last month after failing to deliver Britain’s departure from the European Union on time, deepening a political crisis in a divided country struggling to move on from a 2016 referendum on Brexit.

The leadership race is defined by Brexit and competing approaches on how to deliver Britain’s biggest foreign policy shift in more than 40 years. Candidates have argued over the merit of no-deal Brexit, whereby the UK would leave the EU without a deal. Polls show a no-deal Brexit is preferred by the British public. Official nominations will be received on Monday. Following four rounds of voting, the new leader will be announced on July 22.

YouGov poll

YouGov poll

Former Foreign Minister and mayor of London Boris Johnson is the favorite, championing a tough stance on Brexit. He says Britain should leave with or without a deal by the new deadline of October 31 and is seeking to persuade Conservatives that he is the only candidate who could win a new national election for the Conservative Party, which has suffered heavy loss in public support over PM May and her government’s failure to deliver Brexit. Other leading contenders include the current Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt and Environment Minister Michael Gove, who both take a less hardline stance on Brexit.

Emboldened Salvini threatens collapse of the Euro with a new Italian currency

Eurosceptic Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced, “I don’t govern a country on its knees” following significant wins for the Lega party in the European Parliament elections last week. Minister Salvini, who is widely seen as the true leader of the country, can force a national snap-election at any time but has ruled out early elections which would capitalise on the triumph as coalition government partner the 5-Star Movement had a poor showing in the parliamentary elections and its support is dramatically reduced at home in favour of Lega. Lega commands support from 40 percent of the country alongside the Eurosceptic Brothers of Italy, particularly in territories on the front line of migrant flows and left to fend for itself by Europe.

In the face of a European Union (EU) ultimatum, warning Italy that it is in breach of debt rules, Minister Salvini theatened to launch a “parallel currency” to rein in public spending and called for tax cuts. In an interview on Tuesday, Minister Salvini said, “Until unemployment falls to 5 percent, we have a right to invest. We have regions where youth unemployment is 50 percent. We need a Trump cure, an Orban cure, a positive fiscal shock to restart the country. Not everything all at once, but the goal is in the government contract.”

Italy faces 3.5 billion Euros in fines and has 48 hours to respond to the EU’s written notice. Lega chairman of Italy’s house budget committee Claudio Borghi said, “We’re not Greece. We are net contributors to the EU budget. We have a trade surplus and primary budget surplus. We don’t need anything from anybody. And we are in better shape than France.” He continued, “We have far more bargaining power. We know will be stiff resistance at every level but this time we intend to impose our line.

Emboldened by his EU Parliament victory, Minister Salvini is planning to push ahead with reducing Italian income taxes to a flat rate of 15 percent, which would cost 30 billion Euros and be funded in part by cutting other spending. Minister Salvini said he would reduce Italian unemployment from 10 percent to 5 percent by focusing on “the real economy” and not on the “old parameters” of the European budget deficit rules.

In an interview with Italy’s state broadcaster, Minister Salvini said, “The music has changed everywhere. In all of Europe, in France, in Finland, in London and Berlin it has changed.” Italy’s size and importance to the EU meant his desire to change fiscal policy should be respected by Brussels, he said, adding, “We are the second industrial nation of Europe, we are a founding member, we have a population of 60 million. We pay Europe, we are one of the net contributors, we send 6 billion Euros to Brussels in respect to what we get back every year.

Lega’s strategy is to offer EU leaders a choice: reform the EU treaties to enable fiscal expansion and allow the European Central Bank to act as lender-of-last-resort or face the consequences. In a streamed video on Facebook, Minister Salvini said, “I am going to ask the new European Parliament and the new European Commission for a grand European meeting to discuss work, growth, investment and about public debt. And about the role of the ECB as a guarantor of stability and wealth, and as the guarantor of debt. Are we all equal? Yes. I don’t understand why the bonds of Germany should be negative while the bonds of the Italian state should be costing us 2 percent.”

This autumn’s new EU Commission will see the political battle brought to the fore when Italy’s budget is sent to Brussels. Yet, Germany and the northern states have refused to rebuild the eurozone on viable foundations before the next global downturn hits and have rebuffed all proposals for EMU fiscal union and debt sharing.

The EU’s ultimatum has needlessly provoked the newly-triumphant leader of Europe’s second biggest manufacturing power. Former chief economist of the Italian treasury Lorenzo Codogno said EU leaders guaranteed the next Italian banking crisis last year when they cleared the way for easier sovereign debt restructuring, whereby there can be no further rescues by the eurozone bail-out fund (ESM) unless debt is deemed sustainable. “Other European countries are preparing for Italy’s default,” he says. The ECB may not legally buy Italy’s debt until the country requests a formal bail-out under stringent conditions, requiring a vote in the German Bundestag. This would entail a takeover of Rome by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

Austria’s coalition government falls after supposed corruption setup

There remain more questions than answers as details unfold regarding the supposed corruption that led to the resignation of Austria’s Vice Chancellor and Freedom Party (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache and coalition government Chancellor and People’s Party (OVP) leader Sebastian Kurz calling for early elections. After Chancellor Kurz fired FPO Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, the remaining FPO ministers collectively resigned. Russia’s Kremlin denied its involvement, saying that “it doesn’t have anything to do with us and can’t have anything to do with us”.

One week ago, a video released by two left-wing German news media outlets, Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung, appear to show Mr. Strache and colleague Johann Gudenus (who has since resigned from his elected position) on the island of Ibiza apparently offering lucrative government contracts to a prospective Russian investor in exchange for help influencing Austria's 2017 elections in favor of his party by purchasing Austrian news outlet Kronen-Zeitung.

Mr. Strache fell for the elaborate trap, which took place on an evening in July 2017, complete with the Mercedes Maybach and BMW M4 sports car. It was secretly filmed, in what seems to have been an intricately prepared and well-funded sting operation. Süddeutsche Zeitung said hidden cameras and microphones were installed in light switches and in a mobile phone-charging station at the villa. The microphones "recorded almost every word spoken" during the meeting which lasted almost seven hours, the paper said.

Mr. Strache resigned a day after the video was released and the governing coalition of OVP and FPO fell apart. Mr. Strache has acknowledged that the video was “catastrophic” but denies breaking the law and described the set up as a “political hit job” ahead of this weekend’s European Parliament elections, where nationalist parties such as his are poised to gain significant ground. In his resignation speech, Mr. Strache said the video was "a honey trap, directed by intelligence agencies". Mr. Gudenus issued a statement alleging he may have been drugged, claiming to have significant memory gaps and "I was a willing and compliant victim, who some one perhaps made docile with knock-out drops or some other drug."

On Thursday, Iranian-born lawyer from Vienna, Ramin Mirfakhrai, admitted at least partial responsibility for what took place in a press release from his lawyer Richard Soyer, which states (translation), "It was a civic motivated project in which investigative journalistic paths were taken,” only "democratic-political and legal considerations" were relevant in the publication, and "Due to the reactions of the politicians concerned, a self-dynamic unfolded as a result.”

Mr. Mirfakhrai is fluent in Persian, German, and English and runs several beauty parlors together with former Miss Austria beauty queen Katia Wagner. Mr. Mirfakhrai had established contact with Mr. Gudenus under the pretext of having potential buyers for his hunting property, and then between the FPO and Alyona Makarova, the wealthy niece of the Russian oligarch Igor Makarov – who does not have a niece. Early meetings leading up the Ibiza included Mr. Mirfakhrai’s lawyer and a Munich middleman named Julian H. who maintains a private detective agency in Munich and is also registered in Vienna.

On Friday, Mr. Strache filed a complaint against three "possible accomplices", announced in the newspaper Krone as his team works to identify those responsible for the video and said (translation), "I became an actor in a staged conversation situation against me. I have articulated in this situation mind games that were stupid and overall on the political floor."

Additionally, German satirist Jan Böhmermann, who causes international uproar with his abrasive comedy, said back in April that he was familiar with the video when he told an award ceremony via video link that he couldn’t attend as he was busy “discussing with a couple of FPO men in an Ibiza villa how I can take over the Krone newspaper”.

Chancellor Kurz filled the four ministerial vacancies left by the FPO by appointing unelected civil servants, who include a former Supreme Court president and two people with ties to the SPO. His election call, which may take place in September, appeared to defy President Alexander Van der Bellen, who has the power to dismiss governments and dissolve parliament; on Tuesday night Mr. Van der Bellen told political leaders to put country before party and said, “Now is not the time for campaign speeches.”

Chancellor Kurz must now form a minority caretaker government since his party holds only 62 seats out of 183 in parliament. “The emphasis is on a transitional government,” said President Van der Bellen, emphasising that the caretaker administration would be expected not to implement major new legislation or government spending.

PM May finally resigns amid increased attacks against nationalist supporters

British Prime Minister Theresa May finally announced her resignation Friday, which was met with the social media hashtag #Trexit and pubs erupting in cheers with enthusiasm equivalent to their favorite sports team having just won a championship.

In her resignation speech, PM May said, “So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen. I have agreed with the Party Chairman and with the Chairman of the 1922 Committee that the process for electing a new leader should begin in the following week. I have kept Her Majesty the Queen fully informed of my intentions, and I will continue to serve as her Prime Minister until the process has concluded.”

The UK is participating in European Parliament elections this weekend, the government having failed to deliver Brexit. Nationalist parties are projected to capture a minimum of 30 percent of European Parliament seats in elections across the European Union member countries between May 23 to 26. The UK’s new Brexit Party is among those posing a significant threat to the traditional political parties. In response, the far-left has raised their level of belligerence.

On Thursday, a 20-something man assaulted an 81-year-old widower, pensioner, and former paratrooper who was sitting outside the Aldershot, Hampshire polling station wearing a Brexit Party pin. As Don MacNaughton recounts, “Somebody came across the street to the polling station and he gave me the finger. He then started giving me verbal abuse and ran off. I didn't hear the abuse because I was laughing at him. Ten minutes later he came back with a milkshake, and he threw it over me. I again just curled up laughing, I didn't mind because it was my favourite flavour. If he had an argument with me, I would have been more than happy to debate with him, but instead he chose to assault me. The silly man hasn't put me off campaigning, heck no. He has cemented the iron will, I'm going to keep fighting on."

 The attack mimics that against Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage earlier in the week, when Jeremy Corbyn fan Paul Crowther, who is employed by the UK’s Sky News, threw a milkshake on Mr. Farage in front of jeering bystanders. Burger King suggestively tweeted that they would be selling milkshakes “all weekend” when Mr. Farage was in town campaigning. In 2002, Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was shot and killed nine days before the general election – an escalation from an attack two months prior when a protestor threw cake at him.

The police are investigating the attack against Mr. MacNaughton but not against Mr. Farage, in another recent example of British police failing to protect the safety and democratic rights of conservative politicians and allowing far-left and Muslim protestors to threaten and harm both the politicians and civilians. Last week, Muslim gangs overran residential streets where Tommy Robinson was campaigning, throwing bricks and other objects, some of which hit children, as police watched on.

Failing Brexit, the UK will take part in European Parliament elections

As Britons continue to watch and wait for their government to deliver the Brexit they democratically voted for, the United Kingdom will now take part in European Parliament elections on May 23 as – according to Prime Minister Theresa May's de facto deputy David Lidington – there is not enough time left to get an exit deal ratified by Parliament before then. "

The elections – following last week’s local elections in England, which saw a dramatic fall in support for both the Conservative and Labour parties, will cost over GBP 95 million. Many in Britain believe them to be a waste of time and the public on both the Leave and on Remain side appears to be looking for ways to punish the traditional parties and send a message of revolt.

The new Brexit Party, led by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, is leading the polls with over 30 percent support and projected to gain a healthy number of seats in the EU Parliament. Turnout in EU elections is historically low in the UK, but this year high numbers are expected to use their vote as a fresh ballot on Brexit. Mr. Farage recently welcomed former Conservative Shadow Minister Ann Widdecombe into the party, who claims many of her Conservative colleagues have given up on PM May.

The Sunday Times reported that the Conservatives would offer new concessions to Labour in a Brexit agreement for their cooperation to pass a deal, including a temporary customs union with the EU until a national election is due in June 2022, at which point “Labour could use their manifesto to argue for a softer Brexit if they wanted to and a new Conservative prime minister could argue for a harder Brexit.” Most Conservatives oppose a customs union since it would stop Britain from reaching its own trade deals with other countries.

Brexiteer MP Andrea Jenkyns called on PM May to quit in the Commons, saying, “She’s tried her best. Nobody could fault or doubt her commitment and sense of duty – but she has failed. The public no longer trust her to run Brexit negotiations. Isn’t it time to step aside and let someone else lead our country, our party and the Brexit negotiations?” To which PM May retorted, “This is not an issue about me and it’s not an issue about her. If it were an issue about me and the way I vote, we would already have left the European Union.

The 1922 Committee capitulated to PM May delay tactics once again. The Prime Minister had been given a deadline of 4pm on Wednesday to set out a timetable for her departure, but she bought herself another week when backbench MPs agreed to meet with her next week. The Committee had discussed changing its rules to allow a confidence vote in the leader to be held every 6 months rather than every 12 months, as is currently the case, which would allow another confidence vote to be held next month. However, the executive narrowly voted against a rule change.

Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the Committee said PM May intended to put a Withdrawal Agreement Bill before Parliament again “in the near future.” Leaving the meeting, Nadine Dorries said, “She’s not given any decision, there’s no timetable and they need to get on with it. We need to make sure we get that final decision soon.”

PM May fires Cabinet Minister over leak of her controversial Huawei 5G decision

Following a National Security Council meeting on Tuesday, details regarding Prime Minister Theresa May controversial decision to allow Huawei Technologies a restricted role in developing parts of Britain’s 5G network were leaked; the decision was made despite warnings from MI6 and allies that Chinese involvement poses a risk to national security.

National Security Council discussions are only attended by senior ministers and security officials who first sign the Official Secrets Act that commits them to keep conversations private or risk prosecution. The decision of giving China the sensitive role was strongly argued against by several ministers, some of whom are seen as likely candidates to replace PM May. Late Tuesday, London’s Daily Telegraph broke the news late that PM May approved granting Huawei permission to build up "non-core" elements of Britain's next-generation telecommunications network.

On Wednesday, PM May fired Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, suggested he was responsible for leaking information about Huawei. She has accused Mr. Williamson of failing to cooperate fully with a Whitehall investigation relating to the leaking of information from a meeting of the National Security Council. However, the Metropolitan Police said that while they are "aware of media reports" regarding the situation, "That is a matter for the National Security Council and the Cabinet Office to look at. At this time, we’re not carrying out an investigation." Mr. Williamson is the 38th person to have left the government in just over 12 months, and the sixth Cabinet Minister.

In his reply letter to the PM, Mr. Williamson wrote, "I am sorry that you feel recent leaks from the National Security Council originated in my Department. I emphatically believe this was not the case. I strenuously deny that I was in any way involved in this leak and I am confident that a thorough and formal inquiry would have vindicated my position."

PM May’s Huawei decision has the potential to open a rift between Britain and its most significant ally, the United States. Critics say the involvement of a Chinese company has the potential to undermine trust with other members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) and jeopardise national security. The US has argued that Huawei is legally obliged to co-operate with the Chinese Government and its intelligence agencies and adviser to the National Security Agency Rob Joyce suggested it is the equivalent of handing Beijing a "loaded gun".

5G is an evolution of current 4G network technology that will enable download speeds between 10 and 100 times faster than current rates. It will likely result in radical changes to both public services and the private sector, from home security systems, driverless cars, telemedicine, and automated manufacturing. 5G will help connect new technologies to the internet by opening up and adding significantly more radio spectrum at higher frequencies to consumers and businesses. Since 5G will create thousands more access points on the network, some of which will be connected to vital technologies like power stations or driverless cars, many more areas that can be attacked by hackers.

Huawei is one of the world’s leading companies building 5G technology and the Chinese company has come under scrutiny from the US government and security agencies over claims it is tied to the Chinese state. Huawei has repeatedly denied this, despite its founder Ren Zhengfei having previously been in the country’s army and joined the Communist Party in 1978. This has led to debate raging across Europe over whether countries should allow Huawei to build their 5G networks.

Accident or attack behind the Notre Dame Cathedral fire?

On April 15th fire rapidly spread from its origins in the attic of the iconic 850-year-old Notre Dame Catholic Cathedral in Paris, France, where restoration work was underway. The fire occurred on the first day of Holy Week celebrations leading to Easter, the main Christian holiday. The Paris prosecutor's office said it is treating the fire as an accident for the time being, ruling out arson and possible terror-related motives, at least for now.

Thousands stood on the banks of the Seine river and in the plaza of the nearby Hôtel de Ville watching in quiet horror, gasping and covering their mouths while wiping away tears, as the fire tore through the cathedral. Until the early morning hours, when the fire was finally declared out, onlookers sang Ave Maria and other hymns as some kneeled and prayed.

The cathedral closes at 18:45 and the fire started 5 or 6 minutes afterwards. French news LCI said two fires were reported. Early testimonies say the fire took in the attic, at the base of the spire that surmounts the transept of the cathedral. The spire, which stands 93 meters high and is made of 500 tons of wood and 250 tons of lead, collapsed with the ceiling. The highest part of the cathedral stands at 295 feet, which made it difficult for firefighters to get high enough to spray water directly at the fire. Adding to the difficulty, a strong westward wind blew, causing the intense core of the fire to blow onto one of the two bell towers – that fire was quickly put out. 400 firefighters were dispatched to save the symbol of Christianity’s beauty and history. No one was killed but a firefighter received serious injury. An eyewitness commented that at one point early on, the smoke was coloured green and yellow.

The Notre Dame is more than a Catholic cathedral, it is one of the world’s greatest pieces of art and architecture that informs European and western culture and heritage. It is a Unesco World Heritage site. Generations upon generations built the Notre Dame over 200 years, beginning in 1180 and completed in 1260. It is a jewel of medieval Gothic architecture that has survived war, weather, and changing trends. It survived the loss of its spire once before, in 1786, after the spire’s supporting structure was so weakened by centuries of weathering that restorers removed and replaced it. Notre Dame witnessed the crowning of Emperor Napoleon. It survived riots from the Huguenots, the French Revolution, and World War II. Pierre Guillaume Bonnet, a 45-year-old marketing director, said, ‘‘It’s really kind of scary. France is not doing very well and it is these symbols we are losing. I am afraid this is a bad sign.”

After many hours, Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet told reporters outside the cathedral, "We can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved." Nearly all artwork and relics, including the Crown of thorns and the tunic of St. Louis, were removed and saved, and the next day showed that the Rose stained glass window had been spared. Many irreplaceable and invaluable items had been removed days earlier, including statues that adorn the rooftop. Photos from the next day showed the restoration scaffolding still largely intact. The fire was fully extinguished Tuesday morning, but the extent of the damage and expected cost of repairs remain unclear. The interior has been largely preserved though there is extensive damage from the water and the spire’s collapse inside the church.

Accident or Arson?

Though mainstream news outlets were quick to report that arson had been conclusively ruled out, which was impossible to know while the blaze burned, the cause of the fire remains undetermined. Independent freelance journalist Sotiri Dimpinoudis spoke with a firefighter who said it was impossible for the fire to spread so fast due to electrical equipment or wires in the wooden space, which were prohibited for fear of sparks. The firefighter said regulations were strictly and always followed by the company, where electrical wires from the construction crew were guided on the side of the building or the cranes whenever used, and these were not in contact with the wooden space. He said the fire could be “sabotage". The Police Nationale’s criminal investigation team will now interrogate more then 200 workers who worked at the renovation site and those who were fired from the company. A firefighter who put out the arson fire last month at the Saint Sulpice church said, "there was a odd smell in the air at the time of the fire" at Notre Dame.

Cathedral staff have reportedly told people they know that the fire was intentional. For example, TIME columnist Christopher J. Hale tweeted, “A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in #NotreDame told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.” Mr. Hale deleted the tweet within minutes after it attracted attention.

On Tuesday, TVE television news showed footage of a man dressed in what could be described as Islamic dress with a long dark beard, carrying what appeared to be a dark bag, walking on the balcony of one of the two towers shortly after the start of the fire. The individual is clearly not a firefighter or clergyman and French authorities said no workers were present on site that day. Another photo from the public at a further distance shows someone standing on top of the roof as it begins to burn.

The fire occurred exactly one month after the Christchurch, New Zealand terror attack. Terror intelligence researchers at SITE reported that Jihadists celebrated the inferno, calling it “retribution and punishment.” According to the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, the ISIS affiliated Al-Muntasir media organisation published a poster online of the Notre Dame ablaze with the word “Its construction began in the year 1163 and ended in 1345. It's time to say goodbye to your oratory polytheism” and accompanied by “Have a good day”. Al-Munatsir has previously shared propaganda rejoicing in Islamic attacks that have terrorized France.

Photos circulated on social media of people of Arabic descent smiling in the crowd outside of the cathedral, along with an April 13 Facebook post written by a ‘Dennis Arends’ that claimed, "Three days from now, The Notre Dame church in France will burn up in flames." Under Facebook videos of Notre Dame burning were hundreds of happy comments and ‘laughing’ face emoticons posted by Arabic names.

In 2016, three young Jihadi women were involved in a foiled plot to blow up a car packed with gas cannisters near the Notre Dame. One of them, Ines Madani, was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison by a French court following a three-day trial during which she was accused of encouraging would-be jihadists to go to Syria and participate in attacks against France between March 2015 and June 2016. Ms. Madani’s trial for trying to set fire to the car filled with six gas cylinders near Notre Dame will begin on September 23.

Increasing Attacks on Churches

In 2018, 475 Christian churches were vandalized, desecrated, and partially burned across France, and over 20 churches in the past four months alone. Vandals have smashed statues, knocked down tabernacles, scattered or destroyed the Eucharist, and torn down crosses, signalling the rise of anti-Catholic sentiment in the country. Attacks against Jewish symbols have also risen by 74 percent.

Last Sunday, the historic Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris was set on fire just after midday mass on Sunday. Police are still investigating the attack, which firefighters have confidently attributed to arson. Built in the 17th century, Saint Sulpice houses three works by the Romantic painter Eugene de la Croix and was used in the movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

11 French churches were attacked in the two weeks that followed the Christchurch, New Zealand terrorist attack. Last month, at the Saint Nicholas Catholic Church in Houilles, in north-central France, a statue of the Virgin Mary was found smashed and the altar cross had been thrown on the ground, according to La Croix International, a Catholic publication. Also in February, at Saint-Alain Cathedral in south-central France, an altar cloth was burned and crosses and statues of saints were smashed. The attack prompted Lavaur Mayor Bernard Canyon to say in a statement, “God will forgive. Not me.

In the southern city of Nimes, near the Spanish border, vandals looted the altar of the church of Notre-Dame des Enfants (Our Lady of the Children) and smeared a cross with human excrement. Consecrated hosts made from unleavened bread, which Catholics believe to be the body of Jesus Christ, were taken and found scattered among rubbish outside the building. The Tablet reported that in February alone there had been a record 47 documented attacks on churches and religious sites.

The Vienna-based Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, which was founded in cooperation with the Council of European Bishops Conferences (CCEE) but is now independent said there had been a 25 percent increase in attacks on Catholic churches in the first two months of the year, compared with the same time last year.

Executive Director Ellen Fantini said, “I think there is a rising hostility in France against the church and its symbols," and that while France had a long tradition of secularism, it was seen as a culturally Christian country, and so any "attack on the church as a symbol of religion was also an attack on authority and patrimony.” Ms. Fantini added, "The pressure is coming from the radical secularists or anti-religion groups as well as feminist activists who tend to target churches as a symbol of the patriarchy that needs to be dismantled.” According to Ms. Fantini, anti-Christian attacks are being minimized despite representing the largest share of hate crimes.

Rebuilding the Cathedral

Pope Francis tweeted, "Today we unite in prayer with the people of France, as we wait for the sorrow inflicted by the serious damage to be transformed into hope with reconstruction. Holy Mary, Our Lady, pray for us."

FRANCE 24 news reported that when French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to reporters inside the Elysee Palace he announced work will immediately begin to rebuild the Notre Dame "in a way consistent with our modern diverse nation," a comment which is unlikely to go over well with Catholics and those who intend to see the cathedral restored to its original design and use.

Prior to the fire, as one of Europe’s most visited sites with about 12 million tourists a year, the Notre Dame was in dire need of repairs. Centuries of weather had worn the stone and fumes from decades of traffic gridlock worsened the damage. Under France’s strict secular laws, the government owns the cathedral and the Catholic archdiocese of Paris uses it permanently for free. The priests believed the government should pay for repairs since it owned the building, but under the terms of the government’s agreement, the archdiocese is responsible for Notre Dame’s upkeep and the Ministry of Culture gives it about 2 million Euro annually for that purpose. However, staff had said that money covers only basic repairs, far short of what is needed.

French billionaires have now stepped up to fund the restoration and rebuild of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, which is nearing 1 billion Euros in donations. Bernard Arnault, the richest person in France and third-richest in the world who owns the French luxury conglomerate LVMH, pledged 200 million Euros. François-Henri Pinault and his son William, who own the luxury group Kering and brands including Gucci and Alexander McQueen, will give 100 million Euros. The Bettencourt Meyers family owns the cosmetics company L'Oréal and is the second-richest family in France, pledging 200 million Euros. French oil giant Total pledged 100 million Euros. Crédit Agricole, one of France's biggest banks, pledged 5 million Euros. The New York-based French Heritage Society has also launched a restoration fund for Notre-Dame.

French wood supply companies have announced they will supply and donate Oak trees to rebuild the attic structure, saying they want the cathedral to be rebuilt quickly.

An eyewitness of the fire told reporters that she was at a café later in the day and overheard a group of people who were unconcerned with the cathedral’s destruction because it was “just an old building” and “France is secular, anyway.” This point of view is likely held in the minority, but perhaps an event as tragic as this serves to be transformative for our collective psyche, reminding us of the value that our culture, history, and heritage holds - and the central role Christianity plays in it - before it’s too late.

Brexit delayed again to October … or never?

Once again, British Prime Minister Theresa May has delayed the United Kingdom’s leave from the European Union, this time to October 30. She continues to place the blame on the government and opposition while taking no responsibility herself for the ineptitude the Brexit process has endured. No-deal Brexit plans have been shelved by the Government "with immediate effect." Operation Yellowhammer, which involves "doomsday" contingencies for a no-deal Brexit, is being wound down while other plans remain in place.

Senior Eurosceptic Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) urged the Prime Minister to resign. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister refused to apologise to the public after EU leaders imposed a six month Article 50 extension on Britain, meaning the UK will almost certainly be forced to participate in European Parliament elections on May 23. A new poll suggests support for the Conservatives has fallen to a similar level as John Major ahead of the landslide defeat by Tony Blair's Labour Government in 1997.

Eurosceptic Conservative MP Crispin Blunt said that the end of no-deal planning represented a "complete betrayal" of the referendum and described the move as a "dereliction of duty". Veteran MP Sir Bill Cash asked, “Does the Prime Minister appreciate the anger that her abject surrender last night has generated across the country, having broken promises 100 times not to extend the time?” Sir Bill, who is the chairman of the Commons EU scrutiny committee, accused the Prime Minister in the House of Commons of breaking her promises and argued the Withdrawal Agreement undermined British democracy and the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, as that it ran contrary to the national interest. He concluded with, “Will she resign?

Fellow Brexiteer Peter Bone, posited, “We now have an extension of October. Prime Minister, how are you going to honour that commitment you gave to the House?” PM May argued she could still honour that commitment if MPs voted for a deal, blaming the extension on MPs for refusing to support her deal. She told the House of Commons to use the 12-day Easter break as an opportunity to "reflect on the decisions that will be made swiftly on our return" though she is expected to go on holiday next week.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis warned PM May that calls for her resignation will “increase dramatically” following last night’s summit in Brussels. He added that the election of a new leader would allow for a “reset” of the Brexit negotiations and would again open up the possibility of renegotiating the Irish backstop widely loathed by Conservative Eurosceptics and the Democratic Unionists.

The 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs discussed a timetable for the Prime Minister's departure, of May 22 that would allow for an 11-week leadership contest with her successor in place by August. Since the Conservative caucus wasted the opportunity in December of a non-confidence vote to remove PM May at party leader, the only other option to force her removal, which is a vote of confidence in the Commons, something even Eurosceptics are hesitant to employ. That would involve voting with Labour against the Government and potentially triggering a General Election, which no Conservative MP currently wants with the state of the party being what it is. Senior Conservatives indicated that the Prime Minister will stick to her pledge to stay on until a deal is ratified, which presently appears to be the end of October.

The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson asked PM May, “In these negotiations the EU demanded £39 billion, and got it; an unnecessary Irish backstop, and got it; a withdrawal agreement that would tie our hands in future negotiations, and got it; and extensions that go against commitments given by the Prime Minister, and got it. Can she give us any example of any EU demand that she has actually resisted?” PM May responded, “the European Union has been clear that the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.

 

Italy's Salvini unites a Nationalist Alliance heading into May’s European Parliament election

In Milan on Monday, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini met with conservative, nationalist parties from across Europe to discuss the formation of a broad international alliance within the European Parliament. The European Union will hold May 26 elections for members of the Parliament. Nationalist parties in Italy, Austria, Poland, and Hungary are expected to do well in the May 26 elections, and Minister Salvini has pledged to bring about a "new European spring."

Minister Salvini also serves as Interior Minister and has been strongly opposed to the illegal migration flooding Italy’s shores, reflecting growing public sentiment.  He said that what the group have in mind is "a new Europe that looks toward the future and to the coming generations" and are working for "a new European dream." The meeting was organized under the slogan of ‘Towards a Europe of Reason’.

"We are not nostalgics or extremists. The only nostalgics in Brussels today are in government. We look to the future. The outdated debate about right and left, fascists and communists does not interest the 500 million citizens in Europe, which we leave to historians," said Minister Salvini, the 46-year-old head of the Lega party. Important concerns of the alliance are the protection of the external borders, fight against smuggling and terrorism, as well as respect for the national identities. Together, they will work toward employment, family policy, safety, environmental protection, and the future of young people.

Attendees included Joerg Meuthen, Chairman of the Alternative for Germany party, Olli Kotro of the Finns Party, and Anders Vistisen of the right-wing Danish People's Party.  Mr. Methuen said the planned bloc would comprise at least 10 nationalist parties from different EU member states. Though absentees included Marine Le Pen of France's Nationalist Rally and Austria’s Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party (FPÖ), Minister Salvini said he speaks on behalf of other parties, including the FPÖ and the Rassemblement National (RN).

Addressing the media, Minister Salvini said, "The ambitious objective of those present is to create the leading group of the next European Parliament, the largest, most important, most decisive, and most addressed to the future.” He added they will have the newest ideas and hope to be present in nearly all of the European countries that will be voting. "Our goal is to win the EU elections and change the rules of Europe. Other parties will join us," Minister Salvini said. Plans are underway to hold a large gathering for the new Europe in Milan's Piazza Duomo on May 18.

Minister Salvini said talks with Turkey regarding joining the EU, which have been suspended, should be canceled. He said he believes Turkey would be an Islamic influence that is not needed in Europe and that the country is too different culturally.

AfD leader Mr. Meuthen emphasized the need for EU external border protection as important to defend Europe's "rich heritage" saying, "We have to be a European fortress, where we decide who can come and who can not. If (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel claims that this is not possible, we answer that this is feasible with political will, as Salvini and his Lega testify,” said Mr. Meuthen.

The Great Brexit Betrayal

The British people are disgusted, frustrated, and angry at the ineptitude of their government. Hundreds of thousands protested across the country on Friday in a march that lead to the Parliament building, representing the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the European Union, and demanding that Brexit be fulfilled. Many Britons believe a no-deal exit from the EU is better than the bad deals negotiations have produced.

Several groups were represented in the March To Leave procession headed for Westminster, including Leave Means Leave, UKIP, the Brexit Party, and Generation Identity. Brexit Party MEP for Scotland David Coburn remarked, "Excellent, isn't it? It's like Cromwell's Army." Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson were among the Brexiteer speakers to protesters who waved Union flags, placards, and banners as they called for an immediate Brexit.

Cheers went out around Parliament after controversial campaigner Tommy Robinson announced to a large crowd that the Government's Withdrawal Agreement had been defeated for a third time. Many demonstrators in yellow vests rejoiced in the result, claiming it would lead to the "no deal Brexit that we want".

Mr. Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, said to the crowd, "So Theresa May has lost her vote. Many people will be asking what does that even mean. It means we were betrayed. Today is supposed to be our Independence Day." The crowd were then shown a documentary made by Robinson on a 50-foot screen, of which Mr. Robinson said, "Panodrama proves everything, every single one of you already know: propaganda, slander, collusion, demonisation against every single one of us."

On June 23, 2016 a national referendum on the future of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union resulted in a vote to Leave. Friday, March 29, 2019 was supposed to be a day of celebration, where the people’s will would be honoured and Britain would officially leave the grips of European Union.

However, British Prime Minister Theresa May and the majority of her Conservative government caucus have proven themselves contemptable, both in terms of the negotiating process and in delivering the demands of the country’s citizens to preside over their own future. The EU, unwilling to lose their 1-billion-Euro trade surplus with the UK, have been belligerent bullies over the past three years.

Now, it is unknown if or when Brexit will actually take place, in the face of repeated refusals from MPs to support PM May’s Withdrawal Agreements, primarily because most in the House of Commons think the public are foolish plebes and want their country to remain beholden to an undemocratic and failing supranational project.

The EU has given Britain until April 12 to decide whether it wants to ask for another postponement to Brexit. There will be an emergency Brexit summit on April 10 to deal with a British request or prepare for a no-deal Brexit. Without a delay, Britain will leave the EU at 11 pm on April 12 in a no-deal scenario.

Speaking to the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers earlier this week, PM May implied she will step down from the party’s leadership if her EU exit deal is approved by Parliament. She said, “I know there is a desire for a new approach, and new leadership, in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations and I won’t stand in the way of that” and had “heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party” before coming to her decision. Several senior Conservatives, including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (who would almost definitely run for leader), indicated they would vote for the deal if she made such a pledge.

As expected, PM May’s Withdrawal Agreement was defeated for the third time on Friday – what should have been Brexit day. Ridiculously, she has suggested there will be a general election in the upcoming weeks – as if Britons hadn’t been clear enough in what they wanted to date. A general election may threaten the Conservative government with the risk of putting the governance of the UK in Labour’s hands. Britain is not scheduled to hold a national election until 2022, yet Opposition politicians think the only way forward is an early election that could rearrange Parliament and break the political deadlock. They could try to bring down the government in a no-confidence vote, triggering a general election.

Europe’s Dictatorial Response to the New Zealand Shooting: Smear Peaceful Patriots

There are crystal clear signs that something is fundamentally wrong in the so-called democracies of the West. In fact, our nations are no longer truly democratic, and this has so far been best evidenced by increasing state repression and incursion upon freedom of speech and expression both online and in the real world.

The language around identity has been deliberately and negatively distorted by the far-left over the last sixty years so that it has become nearly impossible for any Caucasian to discuss the topic outside of the progressively-deemed acceptable narrative. Any European who wants to preserve their culture within Europe or questions government’s multicultural policy is called a racist and hateful by the far-left, politicians, and the media.

Generation Identity is a patriotic European youth movement that is firm in its foundation of non-violent activism and discourse of Identitarian ideas. It is important to note that there is a clear distinction between Identitarianism, which is the love for one’s own heritage, homeland, and culture, and Identity Politics peddled by politicians, far-left special interests, and the media to create divisive conflict between people and undermine social cohesion. Generation Identity’s central concern regards The Great Replacement of native Europeans in their homelands, which has been steadily occurring due to government policy since the 1960s but has accelerated with the illegal Great Migration of primarily Muslims from the Middle East and Africa into Europe since 2015.

This week revealed that the terrorist Brendan Tarrant, a self-professed far-left eco-fascist and lover of Communism, who killed fifty people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last week had made a 1,500 Euro donation a year ago to the leader of Generation Identity’s Austrian branch, Martin Sellner. It’s currently tax season, and as the fallout came from the New Zealand attack Mr. Sellner was going through his list of donors for 2018 and recognized the surname, thinking it must be a coincidence. He spoke with his lawyer about bringing it to the attention of the police, who by that time were about to arrive at his door and investigate him.

The establishment elites are not concerned with facts. The mainstream media predictably leapt at the opportunity to associate all actions of a single terrorist to all ethnic Europeans, calling Mr. Tarrant a far-right extremist, a white nationalist, and a white supremacist, despite the fact that in Mr. Tarrant’s 64-page manifesto, there is only one passing reference to white nationalism and only one system of government he says he admires: the Chinese Communist Party. As Mr. Tarrant outlined in his manifesto, he intended “To agitate the political enemies of my people into action, to cause them to overextend their own hand and experience the eventual and inevitable backlash as a result.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who himself has frequently pointed to the incompatibility of Islam with Europe’s diverse cultures, announced this week that his government will look into whether or not Generation Identity is a criminal organization that should be dissolved. Mr. Sellner said the Identitarian movement had nothing to do with the terrorist nor supported his motives or goals, saying, "Using his private donation to me a year before his assassination as evidence for a 'criminal union' and then talking about 'banning the IBO' is not worthy of a constitutional state," adding that the announcement by Chancellor Kurz was “an expression of an overreaction to a media hate campaign”.

The United States government then revoked Mr. Sellner’s visa to the country, meaning he can no longer visit his fiancée and her family, nor get married there as planned “due to his background”. Afterward, Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl confirmed the Christchurch killer had zero contact with the Austrian Identitarian movement beyond the one-time donation.

Does anyone seriously believe, though unnecessarily smeared and now vindicated, that there will be a public apology or amends for the attacks on Mr. Sellner’s civil liberties, character, and reputation? It’s blatant hypocrisy: billionaire George Soros funds a vast global network of organizations that include human traffickers, mainstream media, and charities that promote censorship, but he is not subject to the same scrutiny or harassment by the establishment elite.

Mr. Sellner and several other Austrian Generation Identity activists had previously been targeted by a prosecutor named Johannes Winklhofer from the city of Graz, of whom there is at least one abuse of authority complaint against him from 2012. Mr. Sellner alone had his home searched multiple times, in addition to his parent’s home, with multiple mobile phones, laptops, and bank cards confiscated by police. Those lawsuits, charging that the movement was a terrorist organization, were dismissed from the country’s highest court. Mr. Winklhofer is the same vindictive prosecutor who initiated the latest investigation into Mr. Sellner, whose lawyer is appalled with his abuse of the law resulting in a house search and tipping off the media for a cheap headline.

One of the established goals of political violence has been to discredit those who use it. What is clear from Mr. Tarrant’s manifesto is his intention that his terrorist attack trigger massive repression against patriotic movements, such as Generation Identity. By making a donation to Mr. Sellner, who is the most well-known representative of Generation Identity across Europe, Mr. Tarrant ensured there was a paper trail linking his actions to Mr. Sellner to create suspicion. As Mr. Sellner questioned in a video following the search of his home, why would Mr. Tarrant, who said he finds political solutions cheap, who thinks peaceful activism on the streets is ridiculous and hypocritical, and laughs at those who engage in it, donate money to someone like him?

The British government alone has allowed the return of at least 400 known ISIS members from the Middle East. The government previously disclosed that there are at least 3,000 Jihadist extremists living in the United Kingdom, all of whom are considered potential terrorist attackers. A minimum of another 22,000 Jihadists reside in the United Kingdom who are judged to pose a threat and are under investigation or active monitoring in at least 500 operations being run by police and intelligence services. Yet, the establishment elite, comprised of politicians and unelected influencers such as the media, see no hypocrisy in allowing actual, legitimate terrorists into our countries while harassing and censoring young adults who are peacefully resisting the decay of our democratic institutions, culture, and societies.

Millennials are not prepared to repeat the wars of history. In the closing message of Mr. Sellner’s video, he said, [translation] “We will not stop to spread information about the Great Replacement and to be active. I can say to the western media and partly the judiciary, who make themselves the wilful executors, one thing will not work: Us being radicalised and following this madness into terror. We will never do that. To all sympathisers, I want to say, the Great Replacement doesn't disappear by becoming inactive. To all our opponents I want to say, our peaceful resistance against the Great Replacement will not stop at all.”

Tommy Robinson’s ‘Panodrama’ documentary exposes the BBC’s proclivity for fake news

Facebook shut down British activist Tommy Robinson’s account this week after 1 million views within 24 hours of publishing his film that exposes the Panorama documentary series with undercover footage showing how the BBC aimed to set him up for their ‘Tommy Takedown’ episode. Facebook’s decision follows earlier moves by Twitter and Paypal last year, claiming Mr. Robinson violated their rules on "hateful conduct". The censorship is disabling Mr. Robinson’s ability to defend himself against counter-attack articles from the mainstream news media outlets, including the Guardian and Independent.

The film shows taxpayer-funded BBC journalist John Sweeney acknowledging collaboration with the far-left organization Hope Not Hate for ‘Tommy Takedown’, including blackmail, intimidation, and threats to coerce negative reviews from Mr. Robinson’s former employees in order to invent stories such as a fake sexual harassment allegation, editing footage and images to wrongly portray Mr. Robinson, and expensing over £220 for one meeting alone, of primarily alcohol, back to the BBC during the process of coercing one former employee.

Mr. Robinson says ultimately his film isn’t about him and the BBC’s attempt to discredit him with their lack of impartiality, but about the public who are being lied to and manipulated by the mainstream news media who colludes with far-left groups such as Hope Not Hate. Hope Not Hate calls itself an "antifascist" organization that links conservatives falsely with the terms "far right" and "extremist" through tactics including digital editing. HNH calls people racists and Nazis without evidence and their efforts to silence opinions scares people into not speaking out for fear of losing their reputation, employment, and friends. HNH cultivate relationships with the mainstream news media who use their reports for the foundations of articles. They are funded by British trade unions, many of which support the Labour Party, and left-wing billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, in addition to activist support from the far-left extremist group Antifa, known for regularly inciting violence at otherwise peaceful protests. In 2011, paid Hope Not Hate activist turned Telegraph columnist Dan Hodges admitted to how the group operates, saying, “It was no-holds-barred, bare knuckle, PR. We used every dirty, underhand, low down, unscrupulous trick in the book."

A crowd of 20,000 supporters showed up to support the expose on the BBC, who reported only 4,000 protestors were in attendance. Mr. Robinson’s hour-long film, which shows views totaling over 700,000, can still be viewed on YouTube.

Facebook and several other social media and payment portal platforms have increasingly been accused of censoring conservatives and viewpoints that counter the globalist, progressive narrative over the past several years, supported by the fact that these platforms continue to allow terrorists and traffickers, among other illegal activities, to remain on the platform well beyond the timeframe stated by the companies that these would be identified and removed by staff. In their statement, Facebook said:

So when ideas and opinions cross the line and amount to hate speech that may create an environment of intimidation and exclusion for certain groups in society – in some cases with potentially dangerous offline implications – we take action. Our public Community Standards state this sort of speech is not acceptable on Facebook – and when we become aware of it, we remove it as quickly as we can. Our rules also make clear that individuals and organizations that are engaged in “organized hate” are not allowed on the platform, and that praise or support for these figures and groups is also banned. This is true regardless of the ideology they espouse.

Tommy Robinson’s Facebook Page has repeatedly broken these standards, posting material that uses dehumanizing language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims. He has also behaved in ways that violate our policies around organized hate. As a result, in accordance with our policies, we have removed Tommy Robinson’s official Facebook Page and Instagram profile. This is not a decision we take lightly, but individuals and organizations that attack others on the basis of who they are have no place on Facebook or Instagram.”

With his film, Mr. Robinson is challenging the public’s perception that payment of the BBC television license fee, which funds BBC programming, is mandatory. In another video posted on YouTube this week, Mr. Robinson says the license is not legally required and shows the steps for how people can easily opt-out of the fee, which is set to raise to £155 per year this April.

On his website, Mr. Robinson writes:

I will expose and show you that Panorama’s documentaries are scripted in order to fit an agenda to demonise myself and others. I will provide proof that the BBC edit evidence in order to create fake news. How many other BBC shows follow these same corrupt practices?

We pay a licence fee, the BBC is owned by the public and I will also expose expenses scandals. This will show the contempt for the licence fee payer and the way they spend our money. The public should no longer fund the propaganda machine of the establishment, least of all when that machine is used against its own people and its own countries interests.”

After Mr. Robinson’s Facebook was shut down, the same followed for key UKIP members including Young Independence South West Chairman Reece Coombes and Veterans Against Terrorism contributors Darrell Goodliffe, Damien Heads, and Richard Inman, who found their Facebook accounts suspended without any explanation from the social media platform. UKIP Leader Gerard Batten said, "I would expect critical media outlets to be shut down in tin-pot dictatorships, not the United Kingdom. If anything, it is a sign that UKIP and other voices are causing a stir on social media which deeply concerns the political establishment. I call on Facebook to reinstate all of the accounts as soon as possible and I wish to re-state UKIP's commitment to freedom of speech and expression. UKIP is the only party interested in genuine free speech and countering the politically correct MSM narrative. We are moving into a dark place in our national life, and if people are concerned, they need to support those who defend their traditional rights and freedoms." Politicalite founder Jordan James, who is of mixed-race heritage, added, “Removing Tommy, who is a key political figure and represents millions of working-class people across the UK is tantamount to foreign political interference and an attack on democracy.”

Background

Mr. Robinson’s notoriety began in 2009 when he protested alongside the United Peoples of Luton against the attacks by Islamist groups on Royal Anglian Regiment troops returning from the war in Afghanistan. Soon after, he co-founded the English Defence League and European Defence League after a newspaper article stated local Islamists were attempting to recruit men outside a bakery in Luton to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Mr. Robinson repeatedly insisted that the EDL was "against the rise of radical Islam" and his aim was to "counter Islamist ideology [...] not with violence but with democratic ideas". He has criticized "politicians, the media and police for failing to tackle certain criminal activities because of the fear of being labelled Islamophobic."

In May 2017, Mr. Robinson was arrested for contempt of court after he attempted to take video of the defendants in an ongoing rape trial outside Canterbury Crown Court of the Huddersfield grooming gang, receiving a 13-month jail sentence for contempt of court in May 2018, which was later overturned for a retrial. The Huddersfield grooming gang were the largest ever convicted for sex abuse in the United Kingdom, of sexual offences against girls in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Charged in April 2017 and convicted in 2018 in three separate trials for sexual offences committed between 2004 and 2011, 27 men were convicted of more than 120 offences, including rape and trafficking, against 18 girls aged between 11 and 17 and jailed for a total of 220 years. Two women were accused of child neglect. An additional 31 defendants had been charged with sexual offences committed between 2005 and 2012 in August 2018.

At one of the trials, Mr. Robinson filmed the defendants though reporting restrictions on the trial were imposed in November 2017 under the 1981 Contempt of Court Act to avoid prejudice on subsequent trials. These restrictions on reporting was criticized by many people who said it was a cover-up as its perpetrators were ‘Asian’ and ‘Muslims’, their victims white British, and that it amounted to state censorship. Mr. Robinson’s matter came before The English Court of Appeal, where he claimed that he had not admitted to the charges or been given a chance to apologise. His lawyer claimed that his initial contempt trial was flawed whereas the details of the charge were not clear and therefore his sentence was unfair. Mr. Robinson said he had been held in solitary confinement for two and a half months and also put in a room where Muslim prisoners nearly beat him to death. He said the mainstream news media deliberately got the facts wrong, claiming he had pled guilty though he hadn't, and failing to read court transcripts. During his imprisonment, 600,000 signed a petition and 30,000 protested demanding Mr. Robinson’s release.

ISIS bride that ran away from Britain to Syria denied citizenship as her family requests help for her baby

Shamima Begum was one of three 15-year-old schoolgirls, along with friends Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, who snuck out of the United Kingdom in February 2015 to become jihadi brides in Syria. Ms. Begum then married a young Dutch IS fighter, Yago Riedijk, three weeks after she arrived in the country, and her first two babies died of illness. She resurfaced heavily pregnant at a Syrian refugee camp last week and has since given birth to a baby boy. Ms. Begum asked to return to the UK and was denied by the Home Office. The case has prompted debate over how Britain manages returning or those attempting to return from Syria and ISIS. While many do not want to see Ms. Begum return to the UK, others have argued she should face prosecution for her actions and attempts at deradicalization.

Interviewed by the UK’s Sky News, the now 19-year-old Ms. Begum said, "a lot of people should have sympathy" for her as she spoke of her wish to return to the UK. She said the UK authorities had no evidence of her "doing anything dangerous", in response to concerns she could pose a security threat and claimed she was "just a housewife" during her four years in the terrorist caliphate in Syria, where she married. When asked about beheadings and executions she replied that she was "okay with it" because she had heard "Islamically that is allowed". Ms. Begum revealed she had been radicalised by watching videos on the internet shortly before leaving Britain.

Read the full interview transcript 

Ms. Begum, who was born in the UK, had her British citizenship revoked by the Home Office, whereas the British Nationality Act 1981 provides the Home Secretary with the power to strip people of citizenship if it is "conducive to the public good". Asked about the situation in an interview, Minister Sajid Javid said. "I'm not going to talk about an individual, but I can be clear on the point that I would not take a decision and I believe none of my predecessors ever have taken a decision that at the point the decision is taken would leave that individual stateless." He also suggested to the Commons that action to bar her from returning will not impact her son's rights. "If a parent does lose their British citizenship, it does not affect the rights of their child," he said. It was initially speculated that Ms. Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, may have held dual citizenship there but Bangladesh's Minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam denied this.

Ms. Begum’s family, who wrote to the Home Secretary asking for his help to bring her newborn son to Britain say they will consider "all legal avenues to challenge this decision" and Ms. Begum said she may attempt to travel with her terrorist husband, who is currently imprisoned, to his home country of Holland to claim citizenship there. The family’s letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the baby boy was a "true innocent" who should not "lose the privilege of being raised in the safety of this country". The family said they have had no contact with Ms. Begum and had only learned she had given birth to a boy through media reports, of which they made clear that they were "shocked and appalled" at the "vile comments" Ms. Begum had made. The letter also shows the family was aware of her radicalisation, as they had made "every fathomable effort" to block her from entering IS territory. "That year we lost Shamima to a murderous and misogynistic cult," her sister wrote, “My sister has been in their thrall now for four years, and it is clear to me that her exploitation at their hands has fundamentally damaged her."

French schools introduce a controversial same sex amendment with 'Parent 1 and Parent 2'

In an amendment passed by French MPs on Tuesday night, schools are to replace the words “mother” and “father” with “parent 1” and “parent 2” as part of a wider so-called law to build “a school of trust”, which includes compulsory attendance for all three-year-old children. The amendment can still be rejected by the majority-Right Senate but will then return to the National Assembly for a final reading.

Valérie Petit, MP for the majority REM party of President Emmanuel Macron, said, “This amendment aims to root in law children’s family diversity in administrative forms submitted in school.” Ms. Petit said that the words mother and father, on all school documents such as pertaining to the canteen or authorising children to go on excursions, no longer took into account the recently-passed gay marriage law, nor the existence of same sex parents. Additionally, she added, “We have families who find themselves faced with tick boxes stuck in rather old-fashioned social and family models. For us, this article is a measurement of social equality.

Supporters of the change say it will stop discrimination against same sex parents. Socialist MP Joaquim Pueyot praised the reform as “a question of respect and dignity. You cannot imagine the consequences when children don’t feel treated like the others,” he said. FCPE, France’s biggest parent’s federation, called “a very good thing” and that “It echos the (recent) law on fighting harassment because often situations of child harassment target kids who don’t fit the current criteria.

Critics argue it “dehumanises” parenthood, is “ugly”, and could lead to rows over who gets to be “parent 1” and the decision angered those on the conservative political spectrum, including the mainstream Republicans. Conservative MP Xavier Breton said: “When I hear people say this is an old-fashioned model, I would remind people that today among unions celebrated, civil or marital, some 95 per cent are man-woman couples.” Conservative MP Fabien Di Filippo denounced a “frightening ideology, which in the name of limitless egalitarianism promotes removing points of reference, including those regarding the family”. MP Eric Ciotti said, “The negation of gender deconstructs the balance of our society.

AFDH, the French association for same sex parents, said that while it welcomed providing a way for such parents to be “included in forms”, it warned it could create a “parental hierarchy”. AFDH President Alexandre Urwicz asked, “Who is ‘parent number 1’ and who is ‘parent number 2’?” He called for more “inclusive” forms including the boxes “father, mother and legal representative”.

The idea of replacing mother and father by parent 1 and 2 was already mooted during the debate leading to the 2013 law legalising same sex marriage but was not inscribed into legislation at the time. Current Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer opposed the amendment on the grounds that this need not be a legislative matter.

Jordan Bardella, who is heading the National Rally’s candidates ahead of the spring European Parliament election, said the move was part of an attempt to “ideologically condition children” and that “totalitarianism is not far off”.

Revolt Against Ever-Increasing Taxes: The Yellow Vests

The “Gilets Jaunes”, or “Yellow Vests”, began as an anti-tax protest in France but has evolved and coalesced people across the political left-right spectrum into a broader anti-government movement. The movement, which has spread beyond France to Belgium, Sweden, and the Netherlands has become so large that political experts are now calling it a “new revolution.” Unlike traditional protest movements, the Yellow Vests began online through petitions and was organised by ordinary working people posting videos on social media, without a leader, trade union, or political party behind it.

France gets 75 percent of its energy from oil and gas. Since President Macron enacted the fuel tax in January 2018, the price of gas has risen by 7.6 cents per litre and by 3.84 cents per litre for diesel. The average price for gas in November was €1.50 per litre, which converts to approximately USD $1.70 per litre. The next fuel tax increase is set for January 2019.

Though many of the demonstrations until now have largely been peaceful protests, groups such as Antifa are now using the crowds to create riots and cause destruction. The “yellow vest” movement, whose supporters cut across age, job profile, and geographical region, began online as an impromptu rebellion against higher fuel prices but has morphed into a broader outpouring of anger over the squeeze that living costs are putting on middle-class household budgets. The movement’s members come principally from the hard-pressed middle class and blue-collar workers living outside the big cities.

Public support for the “yellow vests” remains high, with the support of seven in ten people a Harris Interactive opinion poll suggested. The protestor’s core demand is a freeze on further planned fuel tax increases and measures to bolster spending power. Many have also called for President Macron to resign.

The protests are drawing roughly between 135,000 and 170,000 people, from those who gathered in late November. Riot police have been overrun as anarchist-infiltrated protesters wrought havoc in Paris’s fanciest neighborhoods, torching dozens of cars, looting boutiques, and smashing up luxury private homes and cafes in the capitol’s worst riots since the far-left student uprising in 1968. The Arc de Triomphe, a unifying national monument that houses the tomb of the unknown soldier, was defaced, and a bust of national symbol Marianne was smashed. Economically, hotel reservations are down, retailers are suffering, and investors are nervous.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the government would not rule out the President’s declaring a state of emergency. President Macron has emergency powers that were expanded after the 2015 terrorist attacks across the country.

Italy’s Minister Salvini says populists could spark a 'European Spring'

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called for an alliance with Poland among others during a visit to Warsaw, ahead of European Parliament elections this May. This was his latest effort to unify Eurosceptic allies against the pro-E.U. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Minister Salvini’s Italian League party pledges to create a “new European spring” and work supportively with Poland’s government.

The Minister vowed to forge a “new equilibrium” that would challenge the traditional pro-EU axis between Paris and Berlin, saying, "The Europe that will be born in June will have a different pace compared to the one of today, which is guided by bureaucrats." Speaking alongside his Polish counterpart, Joachim Brudzinski, he continued to say, "In Europe, one has always spoken about a French-German axis. We are preparing for a new equilibrium and a new energy in Europe. And Poland and Italy will be the protagonists of this new European spring, of this rebirth of true European values." Echoing former chief strategist to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Minister Salvini said that some E.U. leaders tried to deny Europe's "Judeo-Christian origins.”

Minister Salvini and the Polish government are both in opposition to illegal migration and criticize the E.U.’s ability via Brussels to impose rules on national budgets. During his visit to Poland, Minister Salvini was highly critical of a deal reached during the day to allow 49 migrants to disembark from two non-governmental organization (NGO) rescue ships in Malta. He said he was opposed to the E.U.-brokered deal, saying that it would only encourage human traffickers in Libya to smuggle more migrants across the sea.

I am, and I will remain, absolutely against any new arrivals in Italy. I will continue to work to expel the far too many illegals who are already in this country. To give in to pressure and threats from Europe and from the NGOs is a sign of weakness that is not worthy of the Italian people,” he wrote on Twitter, his position at odds with Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, who welcomed an end to the impasse.

Additionally, the right-wing political party Vox agreed to support a conservative/center-right coalition with Ciudadanos in the formation of a regional government in Andalusia, Spain, the country’s most populous region. Twelve of Vox’s candidates won election in December, against expectations that the traditional stronghold for the Socialist Party would prevail. In return for its support, Vox made a 37-point agreement with the conservative People’s Party (PP) that includes commitments to tackle illegal immigration, reduce regional taxes, and combat Islamic fundamentalism. “Today illegal immigration and corruption lose (...) and the Andalusians, the defense of the family and a more pluralistic politics win,” said Vox Deputy Leader Javier Ortega. “The Andalusians have chosen a government of change to put an end to 40 years of awful socialist policies, and (PP coalition leader Juanma Moreno) is not going to let them down,” PP Leader Pablo Casado wrote on Twitter.

Further elections will be held in Spain this year, with polls showing that the right of center political parties could also win seats in other parts of the country.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church breaks away from Russian influence

An independent Ukrainian Orthodox church was created at a signing ceremony in Turkey on Saturday, formalizing a split with the Russian church it had been tied to since 1686. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, signed the "Tomos" in Istanbul in front of clerics and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, forming the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Last month, Ukrainian Orthodox leaders approved the creation of a new, unified church split from the Moscow Patriarchate and elected 39-year-old Metropolitan Epiphanius I to lead it.

The split forces Ukrainian clerics to choose a side between the Moscow-backed Ukrainian churches and the new church, as fighting persists in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed rebels.

"The pious Ukrainian people have awaited this blessed day for seven entire centuries," Bartholomew I said in his address. The patriarch, considered "first among equals" in Orthodox Christianity, said Ukrainians could now enjoy "the sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention."

President Poroshenko thanked Bartholomew I "for the courage to make this historic decision" and said that "among the 15 stars of the Orthodox churches of the world a Ukrainian star has appeared," referring to the updated number of churches that don't answer to an external authority.

Bartholomew I's decision in October to grant the Ukrainian church "autocephaly," or independence, infuriated Moscow and the Russian church severed ties with Istanbul, the centre of the Orthodox world. According to Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti, Vasily Anisimov, spokesman for the Russia-affiliated church in Ukraine, said, "We consider these actions to be anti-canonical ... This action will not bring anything to Ukraine except trouble, separation and sin,"

Kyiv has been pushing for a church free from Moscow's influence, which intensified after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and amid the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since President Poroshenko’s election in 2014, he has pushed for the creation of the church, as he campaigns ahead of the March 31 election. Though the church is not formally part of the state, it is closely tied. Recent opinion polls suggest President Poroshenko is in second or third place in the race.

Whale sharks at risk from plastic pollution in the remote British island of St. Helena

The whale shark is the largest fish on the planet and inhabit the island of St. Helena’s waters from November to June as they migrate across the South Atlantic. Wildlife groups and environmentalists are concerned that the amount of plastic collecting there could prove deadly for whale sharks, which are already enlisted as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature because they often become tangled in fishing nets or collide with boats.

The tiny volcanic island of St. Helena, which lies 4,000 miles from England in the South Atlantic, is Britain’s second-oldest overseas territory, and was where Napoleon was imprisoned before he died in 1821. Despite its isolated location, the island is now awash with plastic garbage that washes in from South America and beyond, even though its nearest neighbour is thousands of miles away.

Whale sharks are particularly at risk from garbage pollution in the ocean because their main diet is plankton, which they need to suck up in huge gulps. As well as problems with microplastics, large pieces of garbage can pierce stomach linings, and plastic bags are mistaken for jellyfish that block intestinal tracts digestive systems.

David Barnes, of the British Antarctic Survey, said, “There has been an absolutely dramatic change in St Helena. In 2003, there was one plastic item per every three metres. By 2007, that had changed by three times the amount and now we’re finding hundreds of plastic items per metre in some places so that’s a 1000-fold increase – there are unbelievable levels of change and it’s happened in our lifetime. The animals that eat plankton and smaller algae are not discriminating between microplastics and their food. They can process the natural food but the microplastics stay in their stomach and build up until they have a stomach full of plastic which, in some circumstances, can weigh more than the actual organism and then they will die.”

Research into plastic levels on St Helena were recently published in Current Biology. It is estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the world’s oceans each year and the Ellen Macarthur Foundation has estimated there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, an 83 percent of the world’s tap water is now contaminated. There is growing evidence that plastic is entering the marine food chain, with fish, turtles, sea birds, and cetaceans from around the world all testing positive for plastic contamination.

The World Wildlife Fund is calling for people to avoid using single-use plastics and straws. Lyndsey Dodds, Head of UK Marine Policy, WWF UK said, “We need to go further and faster - plastic is choking our oceans and leading to the demise of some of our much-loved marine animals. Many of us are doing our bit, but it’s time producers were made to face up to their responsibilities too. We need a ban on all unnecessary single-use plastic items by 2025, and other laws that respect the amazing natural systems upon which we all depend, weaning ourselves away from our throwaway culture.”

British Government Confirms UK Ban on Ivory Sales

With the passing of the 2018 Ivory Act, the United Kingdom (UK) has banned ivory sales to help protect elephants for future generations. UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove confirmed robust measures that will be brought into force through primary legislation and the ban will cover ivory items of all ages – not only those produced after a certain date. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.

 

Ivory Demand

Elephant poaching is at crisis levels, driven by the ivory trade. The number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade and around 30,000 are slaughtered by poachers each year, with African savanna elephant numbers plummeting 30 percent between 2007 and 2014.

As profits become ever greater, the illegal wildlife trade has become a transnational organised enterprise, estimated to be worth up to £17 billion a year. The further decline of elephants would also deprive some of the poorest countries in the world of their valuable natural capital, affecting economic growth and sustainable development.

While much of the demand for ivory comes from Asia, Europe also has a large market. A ban on the commercial trade in ivory across international borders has been in effect since 1990, but many countries continue to allow the domestic buying and selling of ivory. While it’s unclear how much legal ivory has been bought and sold within European Union borders in recent years, about 7.6 tons of legal ivory have been exported from the European Union (EU) since 2003, according to the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). The UK exports more legal ivory than any other country in the world, according to an EIA analysis.

In August 2017 when the EIA published this analysis, Executive Director Mary Rice said, “UK ivory exports are stimulating consumer demand globally, especially in Hong Kong and China, two of the world’s largest markets for both legal and illegal ivory. As well as fueling demand for ivory, the UK’s legal trade provides opportunities for the laundering of illegal ivory, both within the country and internationally.” China shut down its legal ivory market on December 31, 2017, and Hong Kong announced an end to its market in 2021.

 

The UK Ban

Conservation organizations have been working for several years to get an ivory ban approved in the UK. When this proposal was put up for consultation by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, it received more than 70,000 responses, with more than 88 percent in favor of the ban.

The UK’s ivory ban, which still needs to be signed into law, applies to all ivory except items produced before 1947 with less than 10 percent ivory by volume, musical instruments made before 1975 with less than 20 percent ivory, rare antiques more than 100 years old (which must be assessed by a specialist first), and certain items traded between accredited museums. These exceptions are stricter than the United States’ (U.S.) ivory ban, which went into place in 2016 after a landmark joint announcement between the U.S. and China. The U.S. allows trade of ivory antiques more than a hundred years old and of items with up to 50 percent ivory, with a few other qualifying factors. By covering ivory items of all ages and adopting these narrow exemptions, the UK’s ban will be one of the toughest in the world. The US federal ban exempts all items older than 100 years as well as items with up to 50 percent ivory content. The Chinese ban exempts ivory “relics”, without setting a date before which these must have been produced.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said, “Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations. The ban on ivory sales we will bring into law will reaffirm the UK’s global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.”

Conservationists are now urging the EU as a whole to address the ivory trade. They argue that a legal trade provides cover for smugglers and traffickers to “launder” poached ivory by giving it paperwork that makes it appear to have been obtained legally. At a recent European Environment Council, the UK called for EU member states to follow the Government’s lead and ban commercial trade in raw ivory – which is already banned in the UK – within the EU as soon as possible.

In October 2018, the UK hosted the fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, bringing global leaders to London to tackle the strategic challenges of the trade. This followed the 2014 London conference on the illegal wildlife trade, and subsequent conferences in Botswana and Vietnam.

A ban on ivory sales in the UK would build on government work both at home and overseas to tackle poaching and the illegal ivory trade. The UK military is training African park rangers in proven poacher interception techniques in key African countries, and Border Force officers share their expertise in identifying smuggled ivory with counterparts worldwide to stop wildlife trafficking.

 

Response from Conservationists

The following statement is from Dr. Susan Lieberman, WCS Vice President for International Policy:

“WCS congratulates the Government of the United Kingdom on passing the 2018 Ivory Act, which is now one of the strongest laws in the world closing a domestic ivory market. We congratulate the UK on showing the world its commitment to stopping the illegal ivory trade – not by telling others what to do, but by taking action at home. The UK now joins the U.S., China, and other countries in heeding the call from the majority of African elephant range countries to putting an end – for good – to the global ivory trade. We call on the EU, Japan, and others that still allow domestic ivory sales, to close their markets as well—any open ivory market provides opportunities to launder illegal ivory. We know from our conservationists working on the front lines throughout Africa, and on anti-trafficking efforts across the globe, that the slaughter of elephants will continue as long as there are open ivory markets.”

The CEO of Tusk Trust, Charlie Mayhew MBE said:

We are delighted that the Government has listened to our concerns and given the overwhelming public response to their consultation is now moving decisively to introduce tough legislation to ban the trade in ivory in the UK. The narrowly defined exemptions are pragmatic. The ban will ensure there is no value for modern day ivory and the tusks of recently poached elephants cannot enter the UK market. We welcome the fact that Ministers are sending such a clear message to the world that the illegal wildlife trade will not be tolerated and every effort will be made to halt the shocking decline in Africa’s elephant population in recent years.

Tanya Steele Chief Executive at World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) said:

Around 55 African elephants are killed for their ivory a day, their tusks turned into carvings and trinkets. This ban makes the UK a global leader in tackling this bloody trade and it’s something WWF has been fighting hard for. But if we want to stop the poaching of this majestic animal, we need global action. We hope the UK will continue to press countries where the biggest ivory markets are, most of which are in Asia, to shut down their trade too.”

ZSL Director of Conservation, Matthew Hatchwell, said:

Legal domestic ivory markets are intrinsically linked to the illegal ivory trade that is driving the current poaching crisis. With almost 20,000 elephants poached in the last year, it is vital that countries take significant steps such as those outlined by the UK government today to close their markets and help make the trade in ivory a thing of the past. No one in the UK today would dream of wearing a tiger-skin coat. Thanks to this move, in a few years’ time we believe the same will be true for the trade in ivory.

John Stephenson, CEO Stop Ivory said:

This is a significant day for the future of elephants. The UK government has taken a momentous step. The proposed ban, with its narrow and clear exemptions, places the UK at the forefront of the international determination to halt the extermination of elephant populations by banning trade in ivory. The Secretary of State for DEFRA has shown clear leadership in demanding legislation whilst there is still time to secure a future for elephants in the wild. The end of the ivory trade in the UK removes any hiding place for the trade in illegal ivory, and sends a powerful message to the world that ivory will no longer be valued as a commodity. Ivory belongs on an elephant and when the buying stops the killing will stop.”