EU eyes softening key state aid demand in Brexit talks — sources

Both sides still say they hope to avoid the most economically damaging “no-deal” rupture. (File/AFP)
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Updated 03 August 2020

EU eyes softening key state aid demand in Brexit talks — sources

  • The 27 EU countries have long demanded so-called “level playing field” guarantees from Britain
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government refuses to be bound by EU state aid rules

BRUSSELS: The European Union is willing to compromise to help break a deadlock in Brexit talks by softening its demand that Britain heed EU rules on state aid in the future, diplomatic sources told Reuters.
They said Brussels could go for a compromise entailing a dispute-settling mechanism on any state aid granted by the UK to its companies in the future, rather than obliging London to follow the bloc’s own rules from the outset.
Provisions to ensure fair competition pose the biggest stumbling block in the troubled talks aimed at sealing a new trade accord from 2021 following Britain’s exit from the EU in January after 46 years of membership.
The 27 EU countries have long demanded so-called “level playing field” guarantees from Britain if it wants to continue selling goods freely in the bloc’s lucrative single market of 450 million people — after Britain’s standstill transition period following Brexit expires at the end of this year.
Without an agreement, trade and financial ties between the world’s fifth largest economy and its biggest trading bloc would collapse overnight, likely spreading havoc among markets, businesses and people.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government refuses to be bound by EU state aid rules, environmental standards or labor laws, saying the essence of Brexit was to let Britain decide alone on its own regulations.
Both sides still say they hope to avoid the most economically damaging “no-deal” rupture.

Dispute-settling mechanism
“The room for compromise lies in something that will let the UK decide on its own since ‘regaining sovereignty’ is such a big Brexit thing,” said a EU diplomat close to the Brexit talks.
“We would reserve the right to decide on any consequences vis-à-vis access to the single market for UK companies as a result.”
Another diplomatic source said such a dispute resolution mechanism could be a way to overcome the impasse.
A third diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the EU was ready to ease its earlier demands that Britain agree to a “dynamic alignment” of its competition rules in the future with the bloc’s own.
The person said, however, Britain would still need to agree with the EU on a broad outline of company subsidies policy — rather than specific laws or cases — to allow the bloc to go for such a fix. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has repeatedly urged London to make its future plans on that known to the bloc.
“There must be a solid framework with independent oversight. If they agree to settle on broad rules for granting state aid and to have this independent institution, then we have a deal,” said the diplomat.


Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

Updated 22 September 2020

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

  • Service attracts more than 10,000 subscribers since July

KUALA LUMPUR: Netflix could soon have competition from a homegrown entertainment platform in Malaysia which, its makers say, will cater to Muslims’ “halal TV” needs based on Islamic values.

Dubbed “Nurflix,” the platform is Malaysia’s first Shariah-compliant streaming service and has attracted more than 10,000 subscribers since July.

Nurflix is the creation of Syah Rizal Mohamed, who wants to produce and release original content for the platform before its official launch in January.

“We spent $9.7 million for the startup, but the company will produce 1,000 (items of) original content in multiple categories like mainstream, educational, spiritual and motivational and kids, with about 12,000 episodes in the first five years of operating,” the 43-year-old CEO told Arab News.

He also plans for Nurflix to acquire content from local and international producers, as long as they align with the service’s production guidelines, with a focus on markets in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore before setting up internationally.

“We see ourselves covering the Southeast Asian region in the next five years with our readiness to establish hubs in the Middle East and Europe to gain traction in the international market.”

He said the decision to tap into the streaming service market was driven by the rapid growth of video-on-demand media and consumers choosing this, as well as over-the-top subscription services, as their main form of entertainment. 

Consumers agreed that there was a market for a halal content platform.

“The Islamic streaming service just enriches the Islamic entertainment ecosystem because there is a niche for it,” 25-year-old public relations executive Puteri N. Balqis told Arab News.

Media consultant Amir Hadi Azmi said a Shariah-compliant streaming service was an interesting niche, particularly for more conservative users, but that the concept was not unique to Islam or Muslims.

“In America, for example, there is a service called Pure Flix which caters to more conservative Christian viewers,” he told Arab News.

Amir Muhammad, managing director of Kuman Pictures, said that as a producer, the more outlets that were made available to content producers and filmmakers, the better. Kuman Pictures, which is known for releasing horror and thriller content, could create appropriate content if need be.

“I have not seen their actual guidelines, but if they want halal horror, we will give them halal horror,” he told Arab News.

The Nurflix CEO said there would be a Content Advisory Council and that it would be headed and supervised by Habib Ali Zaenal Abidin Al Hamid and the Honorable Ustaz Raja Ahmad Mukhlis.

“Productions, including third-party content providers, will be monitored by the council to ensure the end product abides by the set guidelines. Nurflix is unique in the market because it is not just offering Islamic-guided content. The production will be monitored by the council to ensure all aspects of work are conducted in a Shariah-compliant manner.”

Although there is no formal collaboration with the Islamic Affairs Department, he said that Nurflix’s ideas and concepts had already been shared with Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

When contacted by Arab News, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development Paimuzi Yahya said his department was still working on “collaborating with the streaming service” and declined to comment further.