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Bitesized Blighty: September 16, 2016

Immy Ransom,  Alice Ford

  • A special European Union summit takes place this week - without the UK - in attempt to steer a new course in the wake of the Brexit vote. Angela Merkel said the EU is in a “critical situation” as she meets with other European leaders at the summit in Bratislava this week. The topic in focus is regaining trust after the UK voted to leave the bloc, and showing that they can improve on security, defence cooperation and the economy. The main issue facing leaders is their different views on how to bolster growth and how to handle the influx of migrants. Central and Eastern Europe want powers back from Brussels, Northern nations view the south as a Eurozone liability and Mediterranean countries balk at German austerity edicts. Despite widespread disparities in opinions of how to handle the challenges the EU faces, all the attending leaders are in agreement that challenges exacerbated by Brexit need to be addressed in a timely manner.
  • Within the UK, Diane James has been elected as the new leader of the UK Independence Party. Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, previous UKIP leader Nigel Farage quit, which left Ms James as the favourite to succeed him. She said she was "not Nigel-lite" and would not pretend to be so but would be "stepping into his leadership shoes" to try to continue his political success. The BBC speculates that her challenge upon entering this role is establishing both a new direction and identity for UKIP, which it lost upon winning the argument on EU membership.
  • A British student accused of computer hacking has lost his appeal against extradition to the US where he faces decades in prison, a court has ruled. Lauri Love allegedly stole thousands of files from the Pentagon, Nasa and other agencies. If convicted, he could face jail time of up to 99 years in a US prison. The 31-year-old has Asperger’s syndrome and his lawyers have argued that subjecting him to legal proceedings and a possible lengthy jail term could cause his health to deteriorate and lead to a mental breakdown or suicide. Critics of the US legal system argue that the country’s plea bargain system incentivises suspects to plead guilty, that sentences are longer and that mental illness is not accommodated properly in prisons. The ruling is being closely watched as it is the first substantive test of an extradition forum bar test introduced in the wake of Theresa May’s decision, when she was home secretary, to block the extradition to the US of computer hacker Gary McKinnon in 2012 on medical grounds, a decision that angered the US authorities at the time. 

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