UK inflation rate falls as clothes prices drop

UK inflation rate falls as clothes prices drop

The UK’s inflation rate unexpectedly fell to 0.4% in February, down from 0.7% in January, as the cost of clothes and second-hand cars tumbled. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there had been a rise in the cost of petrol and diesel. But that impact on consumer prices was more than offset by downward pressures, which also included falls in the cost of travel and toys. February is traditionally a month where clothing prices would rise. However, ONS deputy national statistician, Jonathan Athow said: “The impact of the pandemic…

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Commission seeks to calm fears over Europol’s decryption platform

Commission seeks to calm fears over Europol’s decryption platform

The European Commission has issued assurances to MEPs that Europol’s new decryption platform will not be used to abuse data protection standards and will maintain closely guarded access rights over the data retrieved. However, some MEPs remain unconvinced that the operation of Europol’s technology will be completely free from abuse, particularly in countries where the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary has been called into question. Since Europol launched its decryption platform in December last year, MEPs in Brussels have been seeking clarification on whether the technology…

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Police peacefully disperse young people gathered in Leuven town square

Police peacefully disperse young people gathered in Leuven town square

Dozens of young people came together in a square in the centre of Leuven last night, in what seemed to have been a largely coronavirus-compliant gathering. At least for the first part of the evening, groups were kept to a maximum of 10 people and police officers reported that most were adhering to the social distancing measures intended to lessen the spread of the virus, according to De Standaard. “It was busy, but not too bad,” one of the young people in attendance told reporters. “We really enjoyed this. We…

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Donohoe argues sustainability requires ‘timely, temporary and targeted’ fiscal measures

Donohoe argues sustainability requires ‘timely, temporary and targeted’ fiscal measures

The Eurogroup has issued a statement (15 March) on the eurozone’s continuing fiscal response to the COVID-19 crisis, committing to what Eurogroup President Paschal Donohoe described as timely, temporary and targeted measures that would be key to longer-term fiscal sustainability. European Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni underlined his agreement with the Eurogroup statement, saying: “We will not repeat the same mistakes of the last crisis.” Pointing to the growing consensus in Europe and internationally, he said pulling back too quickly would be a policy mistake, and argued that the best way to…

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Scientists probe new theories on whether AstraZeneca shot linked to blood clots

Scientists probe new theories on whether AstraZeneca shot linked to blood clots

Scientists are exploring several possibilities that might explain at least 18 reports of extremely rare blood clots in the brain that occurred in individuals in the days and weeks after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, writes Julie Steenhuysen. European investigators have put forward one theory that the vaccine triggers an unusual antibody in some rare cases; others are trying to understand whether the cases are linked with birth control pills. But many scientists say there is no definitive evidence and it is not clear whether or why AstraZeneca’s vaccine would…

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Biden underscores need to maintain Northern Ireland peace, will not weigh in on UK-EU row

Biden underscores need to maintain Northern Ireland peace, will not weigh in on UK-EU row

US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday (17 March) it was “critically important” to maintain Northern Ireland’s peace process, but a senior aide said the US government would not take sides in a UK-EU rift over movement of goods to the British-ruled province. ‘Critically important’ to maintain Good Friday agreement: Biden As Biden held a virtual meeting with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin (pictured) on St. Patrick’s Day, he underscored his support for the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement that ended decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland. In a joint…

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EU to step up pressure on Belgium to end travel ban

EU to step up pressure on Belgium to end travel ban

The European Commission is stepping up the pressure on the Belgian authorities to end the ban on non-essential travel currently in force until after the Easter holidays. On Twitter, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said that in a conversation with Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, he insisted that Belgium must respect the principle of free movement of persons in the EU. “The Commission expects an end date for the ban on non-essential travel, and other less restrictive measures, such as testing and quarantines,” he said. Belgium was criticised for its travel…

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Belgian Football Union also wants “test” events for return of supporters

Belgian Football Union also wants “test” events for return of supporters

The sports sector is hoping that it will be able to organise “test in-person” events following the announcement last week that a “test concert” will be held in the city of Spa by the end of March. “We have been contacted by the Belgian Football Union, which wishes to be on the side of those who come up with solutions” for the public’s return to the stadiums, the co-organiser of the Francofolies de Spa music festival, MR parliamentarian Charles Gardier, said on Sunday. The renewed interest in in-person events was…

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Trade policy: A lever of the EU as a geopolitical global player

Trade policy: A lever of the EU as a geopolitical global player

Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis presented a new trade strategy at the College of the European Commission. EU trade policy can be an important foreign policy instrument: we should leverage our trading power to promote EU interests and values and build a fairer and more sustainable form of globalization, writes EU High Representative Josep Borrell (pictured). On 17 February, the European Commission approved a new EU trade strategy, prepared by my colleague Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis in charge of trade, in cooperation with the European External Action Service. It is based on the concept of “Open…

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Belgium’s failed coronavirus response is the final straw

Belgium’s failed coronavirus response is the final straw

To be frank, the Belgian response to the pandemic has been an insult. From curfews imposed without evidence that it would halt the virus, to the kafkaesque restrictions on which house guests can use the toilet, to the decision to strip us of our freedom of movement without consultation, the big-government approach of the Belgian government has resulted in naught but disaster. The coronavirus has flourished. The economy is gone. Mental health has collapsed and jobs have disappeared. No one can call this a success on any level. The idea…

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