The Brief: Brexit, Brussels scale-back, and pressure over ivory trade

The Brief: Brexit, Brussels scale-back, and pressure over ivory trade
By Joanna GillStefan Grobe, Paula Sendin
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We look at what the UK loses by missing out on EU meetings, and at how the EU is facing increased pressure over ivory trade within its borders.



Being fully in the know is a hard currency in Brussels. That's why decision makers on all levels are in meetings almost every day.

As Brexit is getting closer, the UK government plans to pulls its diplomats out of most EU meetings from September.

London wants its representatives to spend their time on other issues.

A short-sighted decision, according to Georgina Wright, from think tank Institute for Government.

"If you miss out on certain meetings, you are not getting the full story. You're getting bits here and bits there, but you're missing those conversations over coffee, walking outside of the room, in the corridor, and crucially the UK will only be a member state until the 31st of October.

And so it would be really interesting and probably wise for British diplomats to be in as many meetings as possible in the run-up to the exit."

Boris Johnson thinks otherwise, actually doing the exact opposite of his predecessor who had dispatched even more diplomats to Brussels.

The reason: making sure that London wouldn't miss a beat.

"Theresa May's approach was thinking, well, if our diplomats are no longer part of those meetings once we have left, then we really need to beef up our presence in Brussels and in different member states, because it is going to be a lot harder to get that information about what's going on," Georgina Wright, Senior Researcher Brexit, Institute for Government explains.

Johnson is clearly hedging his bets - hoping that his one-vote majority will hold over the next nine weeks. 

Ivory Ban

The EU is facing increasing pressure over a ban on ivory trade within its borders.

Despite calls for a shutdown - A panel of the international convention on endangered species decided to push back the decision to next year.

Europe already has strict trading rules in place, but for NGOs they are not working.

"The EU measures at the moment are not entirely effective in our view and there are some loop holes within them, particularly with regards to what is known as worked ivory, so ivory has already been carved into items... And in theory if this is an antique, it is allowed to be sold in the EU still, but there is not burden of proof on making sure that these items are antique. And it's those opportunities that criminals are taking advantage of to traffic illegal ivory around. So that is why it is so critical that everyone closes down, both legal markets and those illegal markets that currently exist but need better enforcement," explains Matt Collis, Director of International Policy at International Fund for Animal Welfare.

A recent study showed that up to a fifth of ivory objects came from elephants killed after the global trade ban in 1990. According to conservation group WWF, as many as 60 per cent of elephant deaths are down to poaching.

NGOs want a total ban on ivory trade within EU member states - giving a chance for the elephant population to thrive.

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