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President Donald Trump appears not to be backing down with his “America First” immigration policy which whilst currently focussed on illegal immigration has the import of trade and skills lurking somewhere behind. With several failed attempts to get his immigration ban on people travelling from seven predominantly Muslim countries through and “the wall” still high on his agenda what impact is this hard stance on immigration having on the immigration policies of the rest of the world and  in particular on the “special friendship” between the USA and the UK?

According to British government figures there are 181,000 US-born people living and working in the UK and 758,000 British citizens in the USA.  Knowing President Trump’s ambitions for heavy restrictions on all immigration to the US and the potential impact of the UK leaving the European Union, when Prime Minister, Theresa May visited the US recently she was keen to push her agenda to actually grow UK/US migration. Her ambition is to agree an approach that would link highly skilled migration to any future successful trade deal – in line with her recent discussions with Australia. This would be good news for US businesses reliant on the import of foreign skills but it is more likely that this approach only supports the status quo – whether anyone is strong enough to tempt Trump to actually grow migration only time will tell.

If agreeable however the movement of people as part of a free trade negotiation could mean that US citizens have more freedom and flexibility to enter the UK, particularly if it is for business.  The current system requires that a visa application and financial criteria be met depending on what type of visa is being sought. For those wishing to secure an indefinite leave to remain you will probably need a good immigration lawyer just to get through the red tape. If Theresa May’s proposals get the green light however some of this process might be relaxed meaning increased movement both ways.

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However, the danger is that this type of immigration policy would  support businesspeople and the most highly skilled along similar lines of the  old “kith and kin” approach which favoured predominantly white countries – the old boy network of the Commonwealth.

In fact the UK, like the US has pledged to cut the number of people entering the country from countries like India, China, Pakistan, Africa and Eastern Europe and has placed immigration at the very  heart of its post-Brexit negotiations. Yet it seeks to increase migration with countries like the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in the name of free trade.

So it appears that President Trump isn’t the only leader that has a black and white approach to immigration.  His meteoric rise to power seems to have opened old wounds of race, class and religion that might struggle to heal again if countries like the UK also begin to shape policy based on this inconsistent thinking.

If  you are planning to travel to the UK you would do well to check out advice from the British Embassy in Washington.

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Student @ Advanced Digital Sciences Center, Singapore. Travelled to 30+ countries, passion for basketball.

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Europe

UK Attempts To Bypass European Commission On Brexit Blocked By Brussels

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Brexit European Union

Via geographos

As the UK and EU draw deeper and deeper into uncharted waters, Brexit negotiations are becoming increasingly erratic. As negotiators from both states met this week to discuss items such as the Northern Ireland Border, the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK and the notorious ‘divorce bill’, there have been numerous reports of frustration within the British camp.

Frustration

Recently it was revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May, believing talks to be at an impasse, intended to go over the heads of the EU’s Brexit negotiators and appeal directly to world leaders such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. When questioned about this, however, Brussels officials close to the negotiations intimated that Mrs May would not be able to circumvent the negotiations process.

The officials pointed out that both French and German leaders had agreed prior to the talks that negotiations would come “as a single package” where “individual items cannot be settled separately” and that no member state would abstain from negotiations in favour of individual agreements.

One year on…

It has been over a year now since the UK referendum in which the country voted (at a rate of 52% to 48%) to leave the European Union in an unprecedented political and economic chain of events, the repercussions of which will take years to fully realise but which the world glibly knows as Brexit. It’s a small name for such a political leviathan. Many of the world’s leading bankers and economists still aren’t sure what to make of. Recently CEO Lloyds Bank Antonio Horta-Osorio (who has been lauded for restoring the bank’s profits to pre-financial crisis levels) expressed doubt and uncertainty over the long term economic effects of Brexit. It’s somewhat telling that former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned shortly after the vote, claiming that his involvement in the ‘Remain’ campaign put him at odds with the will of the people but it’s possible that he had the prescience to realise that he had no hope of taming this wily and unpredictable beast. One year on, the beast only seems to have become further enraged by the negotiating process.

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Difficult negotiations

Theresa May has gone into Brexit negotiations with some questionably aggressive negotiating tactics. The first round of talks were mired by her strangely audacious assertion that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The frustration has clearly been felt on both sides with chief negotiator Michel Barnier urging Mrs May to begin negotiating “seriously”. The French government also demonstrated an unwillingness to circumvent negotiations earlier this week, stating that it “fully supports, on the substance as well as on the method, Michel Barnier’s negotiating mandate” and asserting that claims that Mrs May can somehow bypass the procedure “are founded on absolutely nothing and do not reflect reality”. Brexit Minister David Davis, however, retains an optimistic tone, stating;

“Our goal remains the same: we want to agree a deal that works in the best interests for both the European Union and the United Kingdom and people and businesses right across Europe. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work once more…”.

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Politics

Jeff Sessions Is Planning to Go After States Legalizing Medical Marijuana

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shisha marijuana smoke

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions apparently wrote a personal letter in May to Congress, asking it to remove the medical marijuana protections that had been in place for four years. That ban was put in place by the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. President Trump’s signed spending bill extended the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment through the end of 2017, and Senator Sessions wants to repeal it.

The Details of the Letter

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions asked Congress to repeal the ban the Department of Justice had been following that prohibited the Feds from going after medical marijuana suppliers in states where it had been legalized. In short, the ban prevents the federal government from enforcing federal drug law in states where medical marijuana has passed, and he’s asking Congress to lift the ban so that federal law is applied equally to all states – including those that legalized medical marijuana.

The Impact If Passed

If the ban were lifted, the Department of Justice would regain the authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and shut down medical marijuana distributors. The federal government could then shut down medical marijuana in states that legalized it, including Colorado’s very recent approval of it. Everyone, from growers to dispensary workers to medical marijuana patients, would now be subject to potential DEA prosecution. However, as of this writing, Congress has not issued a response to Senator Session’s request.

Why the Legal Shift Wouldn’t Actually Help

The intent is to go after drug addiction that is harmful, though one can argue the policy is misguided since it is opioid addiction and overdose that is responsible for the rising death rate among the poor, not medical marijuana. The end result of criminalized medical marijuana would thus increase drug convictions and incarcerations, but not the growing addiction and death rates it is intended to address.

There is growing evidence that medical marijuana can help those addicted to opioids, and penalizing medical marijuana may end up undermining the potential treatment of the opioid addiction epidemic. The stated desire to fight crime is an honorable intention but isn’t furthered by this legislative change, since violent crime rates actually go down when medical marijuana is legalized.

Scientists like Raphael Mechoulam have been working for years on educating people on the various benefits of marijuana and a vast majority of constituents truly believe in its benefits in treating conditions such as glaucoma, depression, and alleviating pain associated with chemotherapy and AIDs.

The Scalise Shooting

The June 14th shooting of several Republican officials by liberal, pro-medical marijuana Bernie Sanders supporter, James Hodgkinson, might fuel the fire of some hardline Republicans. Violence in the name of various political causes is often used to rally various bases against a cause. Hardline Republicans might use these actions to completely de-legitimize the benefits of medical marijuana. 

The medical marijuana debate has been resolved to date by the Feds essentially leaving the issue to the individual states, regardless of federal drug laws that make medical marijuana illegal. Senator Sessions asked Congress to repeal the amendment that allowed for this de facto state-based solution. Congress to date has done nothing while President Trump seems fine with leaving things as they are.

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Politics

A Look at Trump’s First 100 Days

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Donald Trump President of USA

Donald Trump steamrolled his way to the White House by making big, sometimes vague, sometimes too-good-to-be-true promises regarding the many fantastic policies and initiatives he would introduce if he were elected president. Now he’s in the White House, he’s discovering that it’s much easier to say you’ll do something rather than actually do it. So how is Donald Trump getting on with his big hitters? Let’s take a look.

The Wall

Ah, the wall. Some days it was spoken of as an actual wall, some days (post election) it became more of a metaphor. Still, there are plans afoot to build a wall that would create one big barrier between Mexico and the United States, and some (pretty out there) proposals have actually been put forward. Even if Trump is keen, the logistics of the wall might prove to be too much, with high costs and environmental issues keeping the spade out of the ground for years. And Mexico paying for it? That’s looking unlikely too.

Immigration

We’ll say this: you can’t accuse Donald Trump of not trying to enact some of his anti-Muslim rhetoric into law. Though he had the drive, plan, and pen to sign the executive order that would ban Muslims from entering the United States. Unfortunately for Trump – and fortunately for everyone else – the proposal was quickly shot down by immigration lawyers. So there was no immediate travel ban, though he is still trying to get something through the courts.

Bringing Back the Jobs

If you had lost your manufacturing job to an overseas worker, you would probably vote for a man for told you he was going to bring it back. And that’s just how Donald Trump spoke to many millions of former manufacturing workers who had fallen on hard times. The problem is, those jobs don’t exist anymore. Even if they were brought back, the jobs would be automated; the United States will never have a manufacturing workforce like it used to have. It’s as simple as that.

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The Trade Agreements

Trade was a pretty big deal during Trump’s campaign. He talked of NAFTA as ‘the worst trade deal in history’ and was critical of the proposed TPP. This actually had some bipartisan support, and many people were actually rooting for these deals to be renegotiated. However, Trump overlooked one fact: NAFTA is incredibly complex, and any renegotiation would take years. He will try though.

Cutting Taxes

This is one area where Trump has followed through with his plans (it’s just a shame many economists and business leaders don’t think it’ll work). He’s cutting the top rate an individual would pay from nearly 40% down to 35%. All businesses will also now pay 15%, which is dramatically lower than what it used to be.

The Result

After his first 100+ days in office, Donald Trump would get a C. He tried hard and failed at some things, didn’t try whatsoever in some other areas. Let’s see how the rest of the year shapes up, but at the moment it’s looking like he won’t be living up to his past promises.

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