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Thurrock chose to leave the EU. Are voters there still happy?

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Thurrock chose to leave the EU. Are voters there still happy?

Essex, United Kingdom  Few places in Britain were as certain as the borough of Thurrock when asked to weigh up the UK’s membership of the European Union in a June 2016 referendum.

More than 72 percent of voters in the area, which forms part of the southeastern county of Essex, opted to quit the bloc. Only three other areas registered a higher leave vote.

Since the ballot, in which 52 percent of people nationwide voted to leave, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s efforts to manage the departure have been met with intense scrutiny.

On Tuesday, parliament is expected to reject the withdrawal agreement she drew up alongside European leaders following months of negotiations.

Criticism of the deal across the political spectrum has been sharp.

Some argue it would see the UK too tied in with Europe and at the mercy of Brussels’ decision making. 

Others say it would mean the UK renounces benefits it currently enjoys as a member of the political and economic bloc, leaving the country isolated and weaker.

Ahead of the parliamentary vote, Al Jazeera asked voters in Thurrock for their views on Brexit, and to see if the area’s apparent certainty on quitting the EU had been muddied by more than two years of political chaos.

Paul Outram, 43, communications technician

‘Another referendum would be a kick in the teeth for the people who voted to leave’ [David Child/Al Jazeera]

I voted to leave because I’m fed up with being dictated to by Europe on our laws and them telling us what we can do in our own parliament. I want to take back the power. 

I don’t think we have had the right people leading the discussions and negotiations over Brexit, though. Theresa May should have gone for a harder Brexit, because where we are heading for at the moment is basically a no-man’s land, where we wouldn’t actually be out-out and still too much controlled by Europe.

I don’t think we should go with her deal, it’s too soft and not what we wanted.

She’s not going to get the support of parliament for it but I just hope it doesn’t end up in another referendum. That would be a kick in the teeth for the people who voted to leave.

We still need a relationship with Europe, yes, but it’s a two-way thing. People think that we need Europe more than they need us but I think it’s 50-50, especially with security. For national security and world security we still need to work with each other.

We have always been a great nation and have always survived over hundreds of years, we only joined the EU about 40 years ago so I don’t see why our history should be dictated by the last four decades alone when before that we always did alright.

Naomi Campbell, 34, social worker

I voted to stay in the EU because we know what it is about and what we have already got. For me, there wasn’t enough certainty around leaving and what that would mean. There were a lot of questions about leaving that weren’t answered.

From what I understand, this Brexit deal means we aren’t really coming out of the EU, but I try not to listen to the arguments and after a while when you hear Brexit you just switch off.

A Brexit deal with the EU is never going to be perfect, if they let us go with a perfect deal then others will want to leave too, but if the withdrawal agreement is going to benefit us in some way then it’s fair enough to come out.

If it’s going to leave us in a worse position, though, we might as well stay in. Better the devil you know, right?

It would be beneficial to have a second referendum though, because when it comes to the government they like to argue amongst themselves and it’s about their personal agenda and gains sometimes.

Besides, now people do actually know what Brexit is about a bit more, we can actually decide whether to go ahead with it or not. I think it would be a slightly different result if it happened.

Pritish Patel, 40, newsagent

‘We have problems and issues with immigrants from the EU, that’s why I voted to leave’ [David Child/Al Jazeera]

I voted leave to try and get something better for the UK, but now everything has changed.

The government hasn’t done a bad job, but the problem is they haven’t thought enough about how Brexit can fix our immigration problems.

We have problems and issues with immigrants from the EU, that’s why I voted to leave. The government is focusing on everything [in the withdrawal plan], but I want them to focus on immigration laws and crime laws.

Parliament has a totally different view of the points to me, though.

Moni Sola, 40, healthcare assistant

I don’t really understand Brexit, I don’t see any way it’s going to favour me, but I do feel that European people are coming into the UK and costing the country lots of money.

I feel the politicians deciding on this issue have seen more than we have seen, but they can’t really explain it properly because they are worried about being accused of racism.

They have their heads on though, they know what they’re doing and should go on with this deal.

Jolene Cander, 40, charity shop volunteer

‘If we did have a second referendum a lot more people would vote to remain’ [David Child/Al Jazeera]

I voted to stay in the EU, I thought it would be better than leaving because of all the trade deals we share.

I think things will increase in price if we leave and I’m concerned about whether we will be able to travel freely throughout Europe still.

A lot of the people that voted to leave thought that it would get rid of immigrants and a lot more racism has come out since the referendum because of certain politicians warning that X will happen or Y will happen.

But it can’t just happen like that, to say ‘right we are leaving, out you go’, they have come here for a reason and that’s because they can’t live in their own country for the most part.

The majority will take jobs that English people don’t want to do, because they are lower-wage jobs, and if they all got thrown out of the country there would be a lot of English people asking why nobody is doing those jobs anymore.

This hasn’t been fair on Theresa May, it wasn’t her that brought this in but she’s been left to deal with it and is now getting all the flak for it.

It’s unlikely that there will be a second vote because once the decision is made, it’s made, but I think if we did a lot more people would vote to remain.

Having a deal signed off on will at least mean this is decided, I don’t think it will be better [than remaining] and it will affect a lot of people poorly but I guess we just have to wait and see.

Rafael Akinde, 63, security guard

I voted out in the referendum.

The law of this country is being overridden by EU law and I also don’t like the dilution of our identity. I don’t want our British nationality to be diluted.

I have not been able to go through the deal yet, I will, but I know we can do without Europe.

We don’t need a second referendum, that would be an insult to our democracy. We should stick by the first result.

Without Europe we will survive, Canada survives, New Zealand survives, America survives. These are very strong countries.

People who say leaving Europe will be bad for us are telling lies. Even if businesses vacate temporarily, they will come back again.

Linda Hort, 32, artist

I was not registered to vote in the referendum as I am not a British citizen, despite living here. But in my opinion people who were voting were not necessarily aware of the weight of it and I don’t think it was a good idea to ask the public this question, in this way.

It was a misleading conversation at various points and the vote was used as a political tool without a full explanation of the economic and other influences it might have on people’s lives.

I am understanding of both sides [leave and remain], it did bring up frustrations that are very important for the UK. There are things that people aren’t happy with and I am completely accepting of that, I feel compassion for everyone, but as a non-UK citizen I am just living on hold now. 

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Sudan’s Bashir first Arab leader to visit Syria since war began

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Sudan’s Bashir first Arab leader to visit Syria since war began

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has become the first Arab League leader to visit Damascus since the war in Syria began nearly eight years ago.

Syria’s state-run news agency SANA said al-Bashir was greeted on Sunday at the capital’s airport by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before they both headed to the presidential palace.

The two leaders discussed bilateral ties and the “situations and crises faced by many Arab countries”, the Syrian presidency said.

Photographs released by SANA showed them shaking hands at the airport in front of a Russian jet that appears to have brought the Sudanese president to Syria. Russia, a key ally of Assad, maintains an airbase southeast of the Syrian city of Latakia.

SANA quoted al-Bashir as saying during the meeting that he hopes Syria will recover its important role in the region as soon as possible. He also affirmed Sudan’s readiness to provide all that it can to support Syria’s territorial integrity.

For his part, Assad thanked al-Bashir for his visit, asserting that it will give strong momentum for restoring relations between the two countries “to the way it was before the war on Syria”, SANA said.

The reason for al-Bashir’s visit was not immediately clear.

Al-Assad thaw?

Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League soon after war broke out in 2011. Arab countries have sanctioned Damascus and condemned al-Assad for using overwhelming military force and failing to negotiate with the opposition.

But with the war in Syria winding down in favour of al-Assad as his Iranian- and Russian-backed forces recapture key cities and population centres, some Arab officials have expressed interest in exploring the restoration of ties.

In October, al-Assad told a Kuwaiti newspaper that Syria had reached a “major understanding” with Arab states after years of hostility. He did not name the Arab countries in the interview, which was his first with a Gulf paper since the war erupted, but he said Arab and Western delegations had begun visiting Syria to prepare for the reopening of diplomatic and other missions.

Just a week prior to that, Bahrain’s foreign ministers surprised observers by embracing his Syrian counterpart on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting in New York. The warm encounter raised questions about whether some Gulf countries, most of them sworn enemies of al-Assad ally Iran, are reconsidering their relations with Syria.

Jordan also re-opened the Nassib crossing into Syria in October, while even neighbouring Israel has taken steps towards improving relations with the Assad governent – its Quneitra crossing in the occupied Golan Heights was partially re-opened that same month under Russian military supervision.

Meanwhile, Turkey, the last major backer of the Syrian opposition cornered in a part of northern Syria, has said it is prepared to engage with Damascus if the al-Assad government held and won free and fair elections.

“If it is democratic election, and if it is a credible one then everybody should consider (working with him),” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at the Doha Forum in Qatar’s capital when asked whether Turkey would work with al-Assad.

“At the end, Syrian people should decide who is going to rule the country after these elections,” Cavusoglu added.

Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, said Arab countries are attempting to play a role in the reconstruction of Syria.

“I think they are trying to, perhaps, woo Assad away from his alliance with Iran,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The number one priority for the Assad regime today, after crushing all opposition to his rule is economic reconstruction. The West is not going to invest in that economic reconstruction but there are very wealthy Arab states that do have the financial resources so I suspect part of the agenda here is to see whether Bashar al-Assad can be influenced financially with reconstruction aid in exchange for weakening his alliance with Iran,” he added.

Syria’s long-running war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions from their homes.

Al-Bashir has been Sudan’s leader since 1989 and is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to face war crimes charges stemming from a conflict in his own country.

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Hamas leader Haniya says movement wants ‘national unity’

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Hamas leader Haniya says movement wants ‘national unity’

Hamas chief Ismail Haniya affirmed his willingness to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “at any place” to discuss the internal Palestinian divide.

Haniya’s remarks came in a speech on Sunday during a festival organised by Hamas in Gaza City to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the movement’s establishment, which saw the participation of thousands of Palestinian people.

Members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, participated in the rally in camouflage and carrying rifles, while brandishing a range of weapons.

The movement said the large turnout reflected widespread support despite domestic and external challenges.

Palestinians in Gaza take part in a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas’ founding [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Haniya stressed the readiness of his organisation to “comply with any requirement to restore Palestinian national unity and end the division.”

The Hamas leader also expressed his group’s willingness to hold elections, either the presidential or parliamentary.

Last month, delegations from Hamas and Fatah held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on ending the Palestinian division.

The talks were one of dozens of rounds – in Cairo and several Arab capitals – between Hamas and Fatah since the start of the Palestinian discord in 2007, but discussions have yet to bear fruit.

‘In total harmony’

Haniya also praised the “resistance” in the occupied West Bank following attacks against Israeli settlers and soldiers in recent days.

“We place our hopes in the West Bank, which is the main area where events are occurring and the most appropriate area to resolve the conflict with our Zionist enemy,” he told the crowd, which waved green Hamas flags.

“The West Bank has shaken and stood up with glory, strength and skill, as if it wanted to say to our people on the occasion of this glorious anniversary that it was with the resistance, in total harmony.”

West Bank shootings kill three Palestinians, two Israelis

He told the crowd the pace of attacks would continue until US President Donald Trump’s policy in the region is brought a halt, singling out the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Separate shootings last week killed two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Ramallah, while an Israeli baby, born prematurely after its mother was critically wounded in the settlement of Ofra, later died at hospital. 

“Our people in the West Bank never accept humiliation,” Haniyeh said, describing the recent increase in Palestinian attacks as “another Intifada”.

Israel’s security forces say they arrested at least 37 Hamas operatives in connection with recent violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he issued a warning to Hamas after the deadly attacks in the occupied West Bank. “We will exact a high price over them,” he said.

Failed operation

According to Haniya, the Qassam Brigades managed to seize a “security trove” during the failed Israeli security operation in the Gaza Strip, without giving further details.

On November 11, the Qassam Brigades announced they discovered an Israeli special forces’ unit infiltrating Khan Younis, east of the Gaza Strip, and killed one officer in an ensuing clash.

The failed operation led to an escalation in Gaza that left seven Palestinians dead.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007.

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What can be done to ensure food security and preserve water?

The Azeri Times

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Over 800 million people live in hunger-stricken areas. The majority of those live in conflict zones.

Ensuring quantity and quality of water for survival, but also for food production in the context of agricultural intensification, is essential to mitigate the risk of mass migration conflict.

On this special edition of Inside Story from the Doha Forum, we ask: Are the current world food governance support systems enough to mitigate current risks?

And what can be done to avoid price volatility and its impact on the poorest?

Presenter: Dareen Abughaida

Guests:

Pablo Campana – Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investments

Bader Al-Dafa – executive director at Global Dryland Alliance (GDA)

Miguel Angel Moratinos – future UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations

Djimé Adoum – executive secretary of Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, CILSS

Source: Al Jazeera

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