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As a Foreign Office diplomat, Crispin Tickell helped Britain join the European Union in 1973. Now 86, he reflects on missed opportunities and his deep disappointment at the Brexit vote.

"I think it's a disaster. I think it's a failure of foreign policy," he told AFP in his book-filled, top-floor flat overlooking London's Regent's Canal.

"British foreign policy has been subjected to the vote of people who know nothing whatsoever about all this, and probably have a sneaking dislike of foreigners."

Tickell was in the British embassy in Paris when France blocked Britain's bid to join what was then the European Economic Community, and was private secretary to the three negotiators who subsequently struck the membership deal.

He disputes the claims by Brexit supporters that Britain had only intended to join a trading bloc when it signed up in 1973, not the more political union that the EU became.

"In the beginning it was obvious we were going in that direction, towards a united states of Europe. But that didn't mean we were going to give up sovereignty," he said.

During the campaign for the June referendum on EU membership, the "Leave" side used the slogan "Take Back Control" to harness public anger over decisions made in Brussels.

But Tickell said the feeling back then was that "we were able to participate in what would be the largest trade bloc in the world, that shared our common values and attitudes".

"We would be far more effective in an age when the Commonwealth was gradually declining in value and Britain was becoming less important," he said.

He added: "Joining the EU, as (then prime minister) Ted Heath understood very well, gave us a much stronger position.

"What we failed to do was to take advantage of it and realise what we could do."

- 'UK never took the EU seriously' -

The current French government has promised to be tough with Britain in the EU exit talks, and back then, it was Paris that twice vetoed London's application to join the bloc.

But Tickell, who spent six years at the Paris embassy and was chief of staff to European Commission president Roy Jenkins in the 1970s, says many in France were keen on British membership as a counterbalance to Germany.

Tickell was present at many of the negotiating meetings, and insists Britain got a good deal.

A major problem, he said, was that "some British leaders never took the subject very seriously".

"I don't think people realised the extent to which we could negotiate what we wanted in the European Union," Tickell said.

As an example, he said Britain should have tried harder to reform the bloc's generous farm subsidies.

During an interview on aired Spanish National Television (TVE), Mr. Jose Antonio Penichet, the attorney of the Russian Consulate in Las Palmas, raised the question of whether the xenophobic attitude of Las Palmas judiciary is to blame for a flagrantly unjust treatment of the family of Spanish entrepreneur of Russian-Jewish origins, also known as “The Kokorev Case”. Vladimir Kokorev, as well as his wife and son, remain in pre-trial detention in Las Palmas (Spain) on unclear charges and without access to the case file for already over 18 months, with no expectation of a trial or even a formal accusation.

 

With a skyline crowded with ever-more luxury towers, the construction of another Manhattan skyscraper wouldn't normally be remarkable.

But the American Copper Buildings going up on the East River -- a complex of two towers with 764 apartments, panoramic views and a huge entrance hall with a doorman -- is different.

Planned just after deadly Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York in October 2012 -- sounding another alarm about the mounting effects of climate change -- it was designed with new threats in mind, reflecting how the real estate world is evolving to account for global warming, in contrast to President Donald Trump's moves to roll back environmental protection.

The huge storm killed more than 40 people in New York, paralyzing the US financial capital for days.

JDS, the company developing the American Copper Buildings, bought the land for the project around the same time.

"The whole thing was a lake, we could have toured the site in a canoe," said Simon Koster, a principal at the company.

"We knew something like that would happen again," he added. "So we said, 'How can we make sure that if we lived here, we will not be facing that scenario?' So we let the designers loose."

 

 

The Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei will build dozens of fences in New York for an exhibition opening in October that focuses on walls that divide people and mark borders.

A champion of refugees and migrants, Ai is calling his new large-scale conceptual installation "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors."

He took the title from the final line in "Mending Wall," a poem by the 20th-century US poet Robert Frost that reflects on a wall between neighbors.

The artist says he is dismayed by President Donald Trump's policies, including his promise to build a wall along the US southern border with Mexico to keep out undocumented immigrants, along with his attempt to bar entry to the United States by some Muslim-majority citizens.

He intends to transform the metal wire security fence into an artistic symbol in various sites in the New York, a gateway to the United States.

 

 

US President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban could make it impossible for his country to host the 2026 World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino warned on Thursday.

The United States is the favourite to stage the expanded 48-team tournament in 2026, either on its own or as part of a joint-bid with neighbours Mexico and Canada.

But with Trump seeking to ban nationals from several Muslim-majority countries, Infantino says the US may not even be in a position to submit a bid.

"Mr Trump is the president of the United States of America and as such of course (I have) huge respect for what he does," Infantino told reporters at London's Heathrow airport.

"He's in charge, together with his government, to take decisions that are best for his country. That's why he has been elected.

"We are now in the process of defining the bid requirements. In the world there are many countries who have bans, travel bans, visa requirements and so on and so forth.

"It's obvious when it comes to FIFA competitions, any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup.

"That is obvious. The requirements will be clear. And then each country can make up their decision, whether they want to bid or not based on the requirements."

 

 

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is to travel to Russia in the coming weeks for high-level political talks, his office said Saturday.

It will be the first time a British minister has been to Moscow for an official visit in more than five years and could signal a potential thaw in Anglo-Russian relations after years of antagonism.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman stressed that the visit was not a return to "business as usual", saying Britain's approach to Russia was "engage, but beware".

Relations with Russia soured after Britain sought to prosecute suspects in the killing of Kremlin critic and former spy Alexander Litvinenko, murdered by radiation poisoning in London in 2006.

Britain has also been one a fervent supporter of Western sanctions against Moscow over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis.

 

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday said a decision by Russia to decriminalise some forms of domestic violence was a step backwards.

"We see this as a retrograde step by the Russian government. Repealing existing legislation sends out absolutely the wrong message on what is a global problem," May told parliament.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial bill reducing the penalty for violence against family members when it is the first such offence and does not cause serious injury.

 

 

Donald Trump's US election victory heralds the "building of a new world", France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Sunday in a BBC television interview that sparked immediate criticism in Britain.

Le Pen, who leads the National Front (FN) party, described the Republican's win as a "victory of the people against the elite" and said she hoped a similar outcome could be achieved in French presidential elections in May.

"Clearly, Donald Trump's victory is an additional stone in the building of a new world, destined to replace the old one," she told the BBC's flagship Sunday politics programme, the Andrew Marr Show.

Trump "made possible what had previously been presented as impossible," she said, predicting that the "global revolution" that resulted in his election, as well as in the vote for Brexit, will also see her elected as president.

 

 

Amnesty International on Wednesday urged US president-elect Donald Trump to commit to upholding human rights, criticising his "poisonous rhetoric" following the Republican candidate's election victory.

Trump has "raised serious concerns about the strength of commitment we can expect to see from the United States towards human rights in the future," said Salil Shetty, secretary general of the London-based group.

"He must now put this behind him and both reaffirm and abide by the United States? obligations on human rights, at home and abroad," Shetty said.

Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, criticised "disturbing and, at times, poisonous rhetoric" from Trump in the campaign.