LONDON, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - It's been two years since the shoppers and traders of London's Romford market voted by a wide margin for their country to leave the European Union. Enthusiasm for Brexit in this working-class district on the British capital's eastern edge hasn't dimmed. But with Britain still not out the EU exit door and negotiations slowed to a crawl, impatience is growing.
"I think most people are just fed up," said fishmonger Dave Crosbie. "It seems that you take two steps forward and all of a sudden you've got to take a step back."
A mere 20 miles (32 kilometers) away in the center of London - yet on the other side of the Brexit divide - Tahmid Chowdhury also worries about the way things are going.
The law graduate was surprised and disappointed when Britain voted by a margin of 52 to 48 percent to leave the EU on June 23, 2016. It was unwelcome evidence that the pro-European views of his London friends and acquaintances were not universally shared.
"The problem with the referendum is it divided people - divided families, divided communities - just because of the hostile nature of how the arguments were made," he said.
The divisions opened up by the referendum have not healed but hardened. Once, many Britons would have defined themselves as right-wing or left-wing, Conservative or Labour.
Brexit has created two new and mutually uncomprehending camps in Britain: leavers and remainers.
Leavers - concentrated in small towns and post-industrial cities across England - are eager to cut Brussels red tape, reassert British sovereignty and take control of immigration. Remainers, who most often live in big cities and university towns, would rather stay in an alliance that has eased the flow of goods, services and people across 28 nations with half a billion inhabitants.
Almost the only thing the two groups share is pessimism about the state of Brexit. Asked by pollsters how well Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative-led government is handling negotiations, most Britons reply: "badly."
With just nine months to go until the U.K. is due to leave on March 29, 2019, Britain and the EU have yet to agree the terms of their divorce. There has been no deal on future trade and economic relations, and no firm solution to the problem posed by the Ireland-Northern Ireland border. After Brexit, the currently invisible frontier will be the only land border between an EU nation and the U.K.
Britain and the EU say they want to finalize a deal by October, so that national parliaments across the bloc can approve it by March. But EU officials are impatient with Britain's lack of detailed proposals, and few people believe there will be much progress when leaders meet at an EU summit in Brussels next week.
Public opinion expert John Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said Britons are "deeply critical, deeply dubious, about what Brexit is going to bring."
"That hasn't persuaded, however, most people to change their minds," he said Friday. "This country remains split down the middle on Brexit in exactly the same way as it was two years ago."
Leavers and remainers are at odds over who is to blame for the Brexit impasse. Those on the "leave" side point to Parliament, where members of the House of Commons and House of Lords have attempted to wrest control of the Brexit process from the government in order to soften the terms of departure.
Brexit-supporting newspapers depict Parliament as a nest of traitorous "remainiacs" determined to overturn the popular will. The Sun accused pro-EU lawmakers of a "great betrayal," and the Daily Mail branded judges who ruled against the government "enemies of the people."
Remainers accuse the other side of making promises that will not be met and of stoking divisions by painting immigrants as a problem.
And they say Brexit is already hurting the economy. After the referendum, the value of the pound plunged. Britain's economic growth is now the slowest among major industrial economies. Manufacturers and exporters wonder whether they will face tariffs or other barriers to trade after Brexit.
Aviation giant Airbus threatened Friday to leave Britain - where it employs about 14,000 people - if the country exits the EU without an agreement on future trading relations.
But economic arguments have done little to sway opinion on Brexit, said Anand Menon of the U.K. in a Changing Europe think-tank.
"Your perception of the economy is dominated by whether you think we should leave the European Union or not," he said. "Remainers think the economy has been doing really badly in the last two years. Leavers think the economy has been absolutely fine."
There's certainly little voter's remorse at Romford's street market, where stalls sell meat, fish, household goods, clothing and piles of red-and-white flags for England fans to wave during the soccer World Cup.
London - the most diverse place in Britain and hub of its huge financial sector - voted 60-40 in favor of staying in the EU. But in Havering, the London borough that contains Romford, 70 percent opted to leave.
BRUSSELS, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - The European Union is enforcing tariffs on $3.4 billion in US products as of Friday in retaliation to duties the Trump administration has put on European steel and aluminum.
The goods targeted include typical American products like bourbon, peanut butter, and orange juice, in a way that seems designed to create political pressure on US President Donald Trump and senior US politicians.
"This response by the European Union is adequate, it is proportionate and it is reasonable. Needless to say, it is in full respect of EU and (World Trade Organization) rules," said European Commission spokesperson Alexander Winterstein.
Trump imposed tariffs of 25 per cent on EU steel and 10 per cent on aluminum on June 1. Europeans claim that breaks global trade rules.
The spat is part of a wider tussle over global trade. In two weeks, the United States will start taxing $34 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing has vowed to immediately retaliate with its own tariffs on US soybeans and other farm products.
BRUSSELS, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - The European Union will agree next week to look into creating disembarkation platforms in north Africa and elsewhere to decide asylum requests before claimants get to Europe, a draft statement ahead of an EU summit showed.
European capitals from Rome to Budapest have called for such centres as the bloc has struggled since 2015 to deal with higher immigration, but concerns that processing people outside EU borders could violate the law have so far prevented such moves.
Now, however, Italy's new anti-establishment government has demanded that Europe does more to help it handle refugees and migrants arriving from across the Mediterranean.
"Such platforms should provide for rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, and reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys," the draft statement of EU leaders said.
The document, whose wording might still change, is not public but was seen by Reuters before the June 28-29 EU summit, where all 28 EU leaders will lock horns again over migration, an issue that has bitterly divided them.
Though arrival numbers have long been decreasing and are now low, migration has shot back to the top of Europe's political agenda also because German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partner issued an ultimatum for an EU-wide deal on migration.
Otherwise, Berlin would introduce right after the summit a unilateral ban on refugees already registered in other EU states, said the junior governing Christian Social Union, which holds the interior ministry.
The EU border agency Frontex said more than 90 percent of those arriving in Italy, Greece and Spain register for asylum there. But they still often go north, including to Germany.
That phenomenon, known as "secondary movements", is against EU law but has been widespread since 2015, the peak of Europe's migration crisis.
"Secondary movements of asylum seekers between Member States put the integrity of the Asylum System severely at risk. Member States should take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures to counter such movements and to closely cooperate amongst each other to this end," the text said in an indirect response to German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
The text is aimed at helping Rome and Berlin agree on migration at the summit.
As the bloc struggled to find a compromise on reforming its internal asylum rules - which broke down under 2015 arrivals - it has instead looked to tighten its borders and prevent people reaching its shores in the first place.
The EU has given aid and money to countries from Turkey and Jordan to Libya and Niger.
WARSAW, Poland, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Poland's prime minister says Tuesday that he sees a "middleman" role for his government in mending ties between President Donald Trump's administration and the European Union - despite Poland's tense relations with the bloc.
Mateusz Morawiecki spoke in Berlin Tuesday following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that featured European and global security as well as trans-Atlantic ties that have been strained by Trump's protectionist policies.
Morawiecki said that Poland "would like to serve as coordinator, a middleman between the US and Europe, in the best sense" and help ease the tension.
He said that Poland and Germany can be allies in "stopping the trade war spiral, the mutual aversion," with the US, which is Europe's main security partner.
Poland is among Europe's closest allies of the Trump administration.
BRUSSELS, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - The EU’s second highest court on Tuesday upheld a decision by the European Parliament to recover €300,000 from far-right politician and former French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
Le Pen, also a member of the European Parliament between 2009 and 2017, had been ordered to pay after Parliament found she had unduly claimed the sum for a parliamentary assistant. Le Pen had taken the case to the EU Court.
“By today’s judgment, the Court dismisses Ms Le Pen’s action and confirms the Parliament’s recovery decision,” the General Court, the EU’s second-highest, said.
Le Pen can still appeal the decision on points of law to the EU Court of Justice, the EU’s top court.
CAIRO, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Libya's coast guard says it has recovered the bodies of five migrants and rescued 186 others, including women and children, in separate operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
Navy spokesman Ayoub Jassem says the migrants, who were found Monday, were taken to a navy base in the capital, Tripoli, and a refugee camp in the town of Tawergha.
Libya was plunged into chaos following a 2011 uprising. Since then, Libya has been a frequently used route to Europe for migrants fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East.
Libya has worked to stem the flow of migrants, with assistance from the European Union.