UK Voters Head To Polls With Historic N.Ireland Result Predicted

A voter walks out of Holy Trinity Church being used as a polling station in Dobcross near Manchester during local elections on May 5, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP
A voter walks out of Holy Trinity Church being used as a polling station in Dobcross near Manchester during local elections on May 5, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Polls opened across the UK on Thursday in local and regional elections that could prove historic in Northern Ireland and heap further pressure on embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The contest for the devolved assembly in Belfast could see a pro-Irish nationalist party win for the first time in the troubled history of the British province.

The results, which are expected from Friday, could have huge constitutional implications for the four-nation UK’s future, with predicted victors Sinn Fein committed to a vote in the province on reunification with Ireland.

READ ALSO: UK’s Johnson Promises Action On Soaring Cost Of Living

Polls opened at 0600 GMT for councils in Scotland, Wales and much of England, with Johnson facing a potentially pivotal mid-term popularity test.

Poor results could reignite simmering discontent within his ruling Conservatives about his leadership, after a string of recent scandals.

Jeopardy

Johnson, 57, won a landslide 2019 general election victory by vowing to take Britain out of the European Union, and reverse rampant regional inequality.

Despite making good on his Brexit pledge, the pandemic largely stalled his domestic plans.

But his position has been put in jeopardy because of anger at revelations of lockdown-breaking parties at his Downing Street office and a cost-of-living crisis.

Heavy losses could revive calls among Tory MPs to trigger an internal contest to oust Johnson as party leader and from power.

The polls should also point to whether the main opposition Labour party poses a serious threat, as it tries to make inroads across England despite defending the many gains it made at the last local elections in 2018.

Labour is bidding to leapfrog the Conservatives into second place in Scotland, behind the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), and remain the largest party in Wales, where 16 and 17-year-olds are eligible to vote for the first time.

‘Sea change’

The contest for Northern Ireland’s power-sharing assembly is set to capture attention, after numerous polls put Sinn Fein ahead.

A University of Liverpool poll reported Tuesday it remained on target to win comfortably with over a quarter of the vote.

The pro-UK Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and cross-community Alliance Party were tied for second.

Deirdre Heenan, professor of social policy at Ulster University, said there was a feeling the election “really is momentous”.

“It will be a sea change if a nationalist becomes first minister,” she told AFP.

Sinn Fein — the IRA’s former political wing — has dialled down its calls for Irish unity during campaigning, saying it is “not fixated” on a date for a sovereignty poll, instead focusing on the rising cost of living and other local issues.

Party vice president Michelle O’Neill has insisted voters are “looking towards the future” with pragmatism rather than the dogmatism that has long been the hallmark of Northern Irish politics.

“They’re very much looking towards those of us that can work together versus those that don’t want to work together,” she said.

Power-sharing?

But her DUP rivals have sought to keep the spotlight on possible Irish reunification in the hope of bolstering their flagging fortunes.

In February, its first minister withdrew from the power-sharing government in protest at post-Brexit trade arrangements, prompting its collapse.

At a final election debate between the five biggest parties, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson reiterated the party would not form a new executive unless London rips up the trading terms, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Although many unionist voters share DUP dislike for it, the party is also getting blamed.

On Belfast’s staunchly unionist Shankill Road, gift shop owner Alaine Allen paused from selling merchandise marking Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee to complain the Protocol is “killing small businesses”.

“Hopefully they’ll get in again, but no one’s actually working for the people,” the 58-year-old said.

Deliver

In England, the Conservatives are predicted to lose hundreds of councillors and even control of long-time strongholds in London to the main UK opposition Labour party.

“People across the country are going to focus on which government, which party, is going to deliver for them,” Johnson said this week.

He has tried to sideline the so-called “partygate” scandal that last month saw him become the first British prime minister to be fined for breaking the law while in office.

In Scotland, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is hoping a strong performance in contests for all 32 local authorities can lay the groundwork for another independence referendum.

Johnson has repeatedly rejected the push for a second poll, after Scots in 2014 voted by 55 percent to 45 percent not to break away.

UK’s Johnson Promises Action On Soaring Cost Of Living

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech on immigration, at Lydd Airport, in south east England, on April 14, 2022. 
Matt Dunham / POOL / AFP

 

 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday promised to do more to tackle the rising cost of living, with the issue centre-stage at local elections this week.

But he again rejected calls for a one-off windfall tax on major energy companies, to offset soaring bills that have squeezed household incomes.

Voters go to the polls to elect new councils in much of England, as well as Scotland and Wales on Thursday, with the results seen as a referendum on Johnson’s premiership.

Opposition parties have been focusing on eye-watering price hikes for food and heating, claiming many people were now facing a choice between one or the other.

In an interview on ITV, Johnson was told about a 77-year-old viewer who said she was now only eating one meal daily because her energy bill had risen so much.

She reportedly now spends the day travelling on buses — using a so-called “freedom pass” which give pensioners free travel in London — to stay out of her house and keep her bills down.

Johnson, a former London mayor, responded by saying: “The 24-hour freedom bus pass was actually something that I introduced.”

Labour’s work and pensions spokesman Jonathan Ashworth called the situation “shameful” and Johnson’s response showed he was “out of touch”.

Johnson maintained there were “plenty more things” the government was doing to help hard-pressed householders, as part of a £9-billion ($11.3-billion, 10.7-billion-euro) package of support.

Elderly people were eligible for hardship payments, but opposition parties maintain these do not go far enough.

But the prime minister conceded that, in the short term, “those contributions from the taxpayer… isn’t going to be enough immediately to cover everybody’s costs”.

Inflation is at 30-year highs in the UK, with rises blamed on the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the squeeze on global energy supplies.

Johnson said increasing state spending risked driving up inflation even further, and blamed the war in Ukraine for a lack of feed that was increasing the cost of chicken.

He also hit out at previous administrations for failing to invest in new power plants to ensure the country’s energy security.

BP announced soaring underlying profits despite taking a $20.4-billion hit in the first quarter after pulling its business out of Russia.

Revenue jumped 40 percent to $51 billion, as the conflict in Ukraine pushes up oil and gas prices.

But Johnson said a windfall tax on big energy firms would deter investment and make it harder to meet the country’s net-zero environmental goals.

Moscow Bans 287 British Lawmakers From Russia Over Ukraine

In this file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the situation in the oil and gas sector at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on April 14, 2022.  Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP

 

The Russian foreign ministry said Wednesday that it has banned entry to 287 British MPs after the UK blacklisted Russian lawmakers over Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. 

“In response to the decision taken by the British government on March 11 to add 386 State Duma deputies to a sanctions list, in a reciprocal move, personal restrictions are being placed on 287 members of the House of Commons,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said that the MPs are barred from entering the country from now on. The House of Commons has a total of 650 members.

READ ALSORussia Cuts Gas Supplies To Poland, Bulgaria Over Ukraine

Moscow said the list is made up of MPs who have played “the most active part” in drawing up anti-Russian sanctions and contributed to “Russophobic hysteria”.

Among those blacklisted are Speaker Lindsay Hoyle as well as Cabinet members including Minister for Brexit Jacob Rees-Mogg and Environment Secretary George Eustice.

The list also includes Labour MPs, among them Diane Abbott, a close ally of former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in parliament that those included in the list “should regard it as a badge of honour”.

“What we will do is keep up our robust and principled support for the Ukrainian people, and their right to protect their lives, their families, and to defend themselves.

“That is what this country is doing, and that has the overwhelming support, I think, of the whole House.”

Russia has already blacklisted Johnson as well as UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and several others.

Russia’s foreign ministry on Wednesday also announced the expulsion of three Norwegian diplomats in a tit-for-tat measure after Oslo expelled three Russian diplomats earlier this month.

AFP

Boris Johnson Apologises In Parliament For ‘Partygate’ Fine

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech on immigration, at Lydd Airport, in south east England, on April 14, 2022.  Matt Dunham / POOL / AFP

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday apologised to MPs after he became the first British leader fined for breaking the law, but faced opposition calls to quit for the sake of integrity in politics.

Addressing parliament for the first time since the April 12 fine, he reiterated that he did not think he had done anything wrong when he attended an office gathering for his birthday in June 2020, when Britain was under a pandemic lockdown.

“That was my mistake and I apologise for it unreservedly,” he said.

The British public “had a right to expect better of their prime minister”, Johnson added, while insisting he would get on with the job including defending Ukraine against Russia’s “barbaric” invasion.

The conflation of issues led to charges that Johnson was seeking to bury the controversy over “partygate” fines — which have also embroiled his finance minister and wife.

Johnson could yet receive further fines over various Downing Street parties held despite strict coronavirus lockdowns imposed by his own government over the past two years.

MPs will hold a special debate on Thursday into whether he misled the House of Commons when, in December, he denied ever breaking the rules. He will be on an official visit to India by then.

Knowingly misleading parliament is a breach of government ministers’ code of conduct, which states they should resign as a result — and opposition lawmakers are adamant he should go.

But asked directly if he deliberately misled parliament, Johnson emphatically replied: “No.”

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said there was cross-party support towards Britain’s backing for Ukraine, and any Conservative successor would continue Johnson’s war policy.

Starmer recounted the experience of one member of the public who, because of the Covid rules then in place, was denied the chance to hold his dying wife’s hand in the hospital.

Johnson was “a man without shame” backed by “nodding dogs” in his cabinet, Starmer said, urging Conservative MPs to eject their leader.

They should “bring decency, honesty and integrity back into our politics and stop the denigration of this country”, the Labour leader said.

 ‘Liar’

One national survey suggested around two-thirds of the public spoke negatively about Johnson, compared to just 16 per cent positively, with the word “liar” the most commonly shared response.

“Overall, ‘partygate’ dominates views of Boris over Ukraine,” said James Johnson, a Conservative pollster who conducted the sample.

“Fury has not receded. Many negative comments are by people who liked him previously but have now changed their minds.”

Voters will get their chance to deliver a verdict on May 5, when the UK holds nationwide elections for local and city councils.

A drubbing for the Conservatives then could sharpen the debate among his own MPs, some of whom have said that now is not the time to change leader given the war in Ukraine.

Simon Wolfson, a justice minister, has already resigned from the government, citing “the scale, context and nature” of the rule breaches.

Johnson will bid to shore up his standing with backbenchers when he addresses a meeting of the Conservative parliamentary party on Tuesday evening.

But one senior Tory backbencher, Mark Harper, responded to Johnson in the Commons that he was “no longer… worthy” of being prime minister after his apology.

 Attention diverted

London’s Metropolitan Police is investigating dozens of alleged lockdown breaches by Johnson and his staff in the Downing Street complex where he lives and works.

It said last week officers had so far issued more than 50 fines.

The scandal, the latest in a stream of controversies to hit Johnson since last year, left his position hanging by a thread and MPs from his Conservative Party in a rebellious mood.

But he boosted his survival chances with what is seen as a firm response to Ukraine, which diverted attention away from the furore when he was most vulnerable in February.

Britain’s cost-of-living crisis is also credited with distracting people from the scandal, while Johnson has made several big policy announcements aimed at his pro-Brexit political base.

They include controversial plans to send migrants and asylum seekers who cross the Channel thousands of miles away to Rwanda.

 

UK’s Johnson To Face MPs’ Fury Over ‘Partygate’

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he meets with HM Coastguard and Royal Navy crews and technical staff at Lydd Airport, in south east England, on April 14, 2022. Matt Dunham / POOL / AFP
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he meets with HM Coastguard and Royal Navy crews and technical staff at Lydd Airport, in southeast England, on April 14, 2022. Matt Dunham / POOL / AFP

 

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face angry lawmakers on Tuesday for the first time since being fined for breaking his own coronavirus laws by attending a party at his Downing Street office.

The embattled Johnson last week became the first modern British leader to be fined for breaking the law, after police ruled he had breached lockdown curbs in 2020.

But he has weathered the initial storm and has doggedly defied calls to resign.

He can nonetheless expect a bruising few days now the House of Commons is returning from its Easter break, with MPs demanding to know why he repeatedly insisted to them that no rules had been broken.

Knowingly misleading parliament is a breach of government ministers’ code of conduct, which states they should resign as a result — and opposition lawmakers are adamant he should go.

However, Johnson, 57, is digging in, despite the possibility that he could face further penalties as police continue to investigate numerous rule-breaching events.

He will reportedly try to sideline the controversy with a “business as usual” mantra this week, which includes a two-day visit to India starting on Thursday.

“The prime minister will have his say… and will outline his version of events and face questions from MPs,” government minister Greg Hands told Sky News on Monday.

“(He) is getting on with the job, he’s delivered, and the government has delivered in anything from the vaccination programme through (to) the strong support for Ukraine.”

– Attention diverted –
London’s Metropolitan Police is investigating dozens of alleged lockdown breaches by Johnson and his staff in the Downing Street complex where he lives and works.

It said last week officers had so far issued more than 50 fines.

The scandal, the latest in a stream of controversies to hit Johnson since last year, left his position hanging by a thread and MPs from his Conservative Party in a dangerously rebellious mood.

But he boosted his survival chances with what is seen as a firm response to the war in Ukraine, which diverted attention away from the furore when he was most vulnerable.

Several Conservative lawmakers who had publicly withdrawn their support for his leadership have reversed course and argued now is not the time for a change of Tory leader.

A growing cost-of-living crisis is also credited with distracting people from the scandal, while Johnson has made several big policy announcements aimed at his pro-Brexit political base.

They include controversial plans to send migrants and asylum seekers who cross the Channel thousands of miles away to Rwanda.

However, commentators doubt he can maintain his party’s support if he is repeatedly fined, his Tories fare poorly in local elections next month and further lurid details of parties emerge.

In an ominous sign last Wednesday, Simon Wolfson, a justice minister, resigned from the government, citing “the scale, context and nature” of the rule breaches.

– ‘Liar’ –
Several Tories have also renewed calls for him to step down.

Johnson will bid to shore up his standing with them when he addresses a meeting of the Conservative parliamentary party on Tuesday evening, according to reports.

However, he could face the further embarrassment of lawmakers voting to refer him to a rarely convened parliament committee which would decide whether he had misled them over “partygate”.

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle is said to be considering whether to allow such a vote, amid pressure from opposition parties.

“Boris Johnson defied his own law and then lied and lied and lied,” Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, tweeted last Tuesday.

“While the British public were making huge sacrifices, he was rule-breaking.”

Minister Brandon Lewis defended Johnson, telling Sky News on Tuesday that “at every point he has been clear with what he believes to be the truth”.

“What he also accepts is that the police have looked into this particular issue and taken a view that a fine should be issued. He accepts that, he has paid that fine, he has apologised for that.”

Johnson is undoubtedly hoping voters’ anger over “Partygate” has dissipated, but recent polling indicated widespread anger.

One national survey showed around two-thirds of people spoke negatively about him, compared to just 16 percent positively, with the word “liar” the most commonly shared response.

“Overall, ‘Partygate’ dominates views of Boris (Johnson) over Ukraine,” said James Johnson, a Conservative pollster who conducted the sample.

“Fury has not receded. Many negative comments are by people who liked him previously but have now changed their minds.”

Russia Bans Entry To British PM Boris Johnson

A handout photo released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) speaking to a local resident as he walks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) in central Kyiv on April 9, 2022 (Photo by Stringer / UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP)

 

 

Moscow on Saturday announced it was banning entry to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and several other top UK officials, after London imposed sanctions on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine.

“This step was taken as a response to London’s unbridled information and political campaign aimed at isolating Russia internationally, creating conditions for restricting our country and strangling the domestic economy,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry accused London of “unprecedented hostile actions”, in particular referring to sanctions on Russia’s senior officials.

“The British leadership is deliberately aggravating the situation surrounding Ukraine, pumping the Kyiv regime with lethal weapons and coordinating similar efforts on the behalf of NATO,” the ministry said.

Russia’s entry blacklist includes UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, former Prime Minister Theresa May and the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon.

Britain has been part of an international effort to punish Russia with asset freezes, travel bans and economic sanctions, since President Vladimir Putin moved troops into Ukraine on February 24.

UK To Send Asylum Seekers To Rwanda

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Tolga Akmen / POOL / AFP

 

Britain will send migrants and asylum seekers who cross the Channel thousands of miles away to Rwanda under a controversial deal announced Thursday as the government tries to clamp down on record numbers of people making the perilous journey.

“From today… anyone entering the UK illegally as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1 may now be relocated to Rwanda,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a speech near Dover in southeastern England.

“Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead,” Johnson said.

READ ALSO: British PM Johnson, Sunak Fined Over COVID-19 Lockdown Parties

He called the East African nation with a sketchy human rights record “one of the safest countries in the world, globally recognised for its record of welcoming and integrating migrants.”

Johnson was elected partly on promises to curb illegal immigration but has instead seen record numbers making the risky Channel crossing.

He also announced that Britain’s border agency would hand responsibility for patrolling the Channel for migrant boats to the navy.

More than 28,000 people arrived in Britain having crossed the Channel from France in small boats in 2021.

Around 90 percent of those were male and three-quarters were men aged between 18 and 39.

“Inhumane”

The Rwanda plan swiftly drew the ire of opposition politicians who accused Johnson of trying to distract from his being fined for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules, while rights groups slammed the project as “inhumane”.

Ghana and Rwanda had previously been mentioned as possible locations for the UK to outsource the processing of migrants, but Ghana in January denied involvement.

Instead, Kigali on Thursday announced that it had signed a multi-million-dollar deal to do the job, during a visit by British Home Secretary Priti Patel.

“Rwanda welcomes this partnership with the United Kingdom to host asylum seekers and migrants, and offer them legal pathways to residence” in the East African nation, Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said in a statement.

The deal with Rwanda will be funded by the UK to the tune of up to 120 million pounds ($157 million, 144 million euros), with migrants “integrated into communities across the country,” it said.

In Dover, where many migrants arrive after crossing the Channel, some residents welcomed the announcement.

“They should be sent back, because it is not our responsibility,” said retiree Andy, 68.

“Our responsibility is to look after our own people, which we aren’t doing,” the heavily tattooed army veteran told AFP.

“I understand people escaping from repression, I do. But if they’re coming over here for one thing and that is money, to me that is wrong.”

Backlash

Refugee Action’s Tim Naor Hilton accused the government of “offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe’s former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet”.

“This grubby cash-for-people plan would be a cowardly, barbaric and inhumane way to treat people fleeing persecution and war,” he said.Nadia Hardman, Refugee and Migrant Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the plan would “complicate” the process for Syrians seeking refuge in the UK.

“Syrian refugees are desperate to reach a place of safety,” Hardman told AFP.

“The UK’s agreement with Rwanda will only complicate this pursuit.

“They will arrive and expect to be treated according to the fundamental values the UK says it upholds, but will instead be transferred somewhere, miles away.”

Australia has a policy of sending asylum seekers arriving by boat to detention camps on the Pacific island nation of Nauru, with Canberra vowing no asylum seeker arriving by boat would ever be allowed to permanently settle in Australia.

Since 2015 the UK has “offered a place to over 185,000 men, women and children seeking refuge (…) more than any other similar resettlement schemes in Europe,” Johnson said.

According to the UN refugee agency, Germany received the highest number of asylum applicants (127,730) in Europe in 2021, followed by France (96,510), while the UK received the fourth largest number of applicants (44,190).

British PM Johnson, Sunak Fined Over COVID-19 Lockdown Parties

In this file photo taken on February 07, 2022, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (R), wearing face coverings to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, react as they attend a visit of the Kent Oncology Centre at Maidstone Hospital, in Maidstone, as part of a tour in Kent.(Photo by Gareth Fuller / POOL / AFP)

 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered a “full apology” on Tuesday after being fined for breaching Covid-19 lockdown laws in the so-called “Partygate” scandal, but looked set to defy calls for his resignation.

Embattled finance minister Rishi Sunak and Johnson’s wife Carrie will also be fined, as the political storm following revelations of a swathe of lockdown-busting parties in and around Downing Street threatens to engulf Johnson once more.

“Let me say immediately that I’ve paid the fine and I once again offer a full apology,” Johnson said during televised remarks.

READ ALSO: Ukraine War Pushes World Food Prices To Record High

Johnson’s office said his fine was for attending a surprise birthday gathering in his honour on the afternoon of June 19, 2020 in the Cabinet Room at Number 10.

The prime minister said the event lasted around 10 minutes, and denied that he had lied about not knowingly breaking the law, saying: “In all frankness at that time, it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules.

“But of course the police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation,” he added.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, swiftly called for the two most senior members of the government to resign.

“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public,” Starmer tweeted.

“They must both resign. The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better.”

However, Johnson said he now wanted “to get on and deliver the mandate that I have”, and early signs were that his MPs were currently sticking with him.

A ‘Government In Crisis’ 

Johnson was left fighting for his political survival earlier this year after several lawmakers from his ruling Conservative Party withdrew their support for his leadership over the affair.

An unknown number of Conservative MPs submitted letters calling for a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s leadership.

If the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee receives such letters from 54 of Johnson’s 360 MPs, it would spark a confidence vote.

The leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, called for parliament to be recalled from its Easter recess for a confidence vote.

“This is a government in crisis neglecting a country in crisis,” Davey tweeted.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had eased the political pressure on Johnson, with MPs seemingly reluctant to trigger a leadership amid an international crisis.

Conservative MP Roger Gale, one of those earlier calling for Johnson’s head, said on Tuesday that now was not the time to “unseat” the prime minister, as this would bolster President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s serious of course,” Gale said.

“But… I am not prepared to give Vladimir Putin the comfort of thinking that we are about to unseat the prime minister of the United Kingdom and destabilise the coalition against Putin.

“So any reaction to this is going to have to wait until we have dealt with the main crisis which is Ukraine and the Donbas,” he said, referring to the eastern Ukrainian region where Moscow is now concentrating its assault.

 Johnson ‘Broke The Law’

London’s Metropolitan Police earlier announced they had issued more than 50 fines over the parties, without disclosing the number or identities of those being fined.

Bereaved families of victims of the Covid pandemic also called on Johnson to resign.

Lobby Akinnola, spokesman for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said Johnson and Sunak “broke the law” and “took us all for mugs.

“There is simply no way either the prime minister or chancellor can continue… Their dishonesty has caused untold hurt to the bereaved,” he said.

“They have lost all credibility with the wider public, which could cost lives if new variants mean restrictions are needed in the future.”

London police are still investigating claims that Johnson and government officials organised and attended at least a dozen boozy events in 2020 and 2021 that violated Britain’s then-strict virus curbs.

Johnson has already apologised for the parties, which included Christmas celebrations and a drink-fuelled gathering the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral.

The prime minister initially denied any rule-breaking events had occurred in the complex where he lives and works, and he consistently rejected any suggestion of personal wrongdoing.

But his opponents accused him of having misled parliament by insisting the Downing Street events were work-related and within the rules.

AFP

Boris Johnson Visits Ukraine, Offers Armoured Vehicles, Anti-ship Missiles

This handout picture taken and released on April 9, 2022 by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) shaking hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of their meeting in Kyiv. Stringer / UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP
This handout picture taken and released on April 9, 2022 by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) shaking hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of their meeting in Kyiv. Stringer / UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on a visit to Kyiv, Saturday vowed UK armoured vehicles and anti-ship missiles for Ukraine as he acclaimed its military for “the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century”.

“It is because of President (Volodymyr) Zelensky’s resolute leadership and the invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people that (Vladimir) Putin’s monstrous aims are being thwarted,” he said after meeting Zelensky, according to a Downing Street statement.

Johnson set out extra military aid of 120 armoured vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems, “to support Ukraine in this crucial phase while Russia’s illegal assault continues”, the statement said.

READ ALSO: Ukraine War Pushes World Food Prices To Record High

That is on top of UK aid announced Friday of additional Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles and another 800 anti-tank missiles, along with “loitering” drones for “precision strikes” against the Russians.

As world powers held a fundraising round for Ukraine, Johnson also promised an extra $500 million via the World Bank.

Johnson said it had been a “privilege” to meet Zelensky in person on his surprise visit, which was not pre-announced in London.

“Ukraine has defied the odds and pushed back Russian forces from the gates of Kyiv, achieving the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century,” he said.

“I made clear today that the United Kingdom stands unwaveringly with them in this ongoing fight, and we are in it for the long run.”

AFP

UK PM Urges China To Condemn Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

File Photo: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks from 10 Downing Street, in London, on February 24, 2022 during an address to the nation on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday urged China to join Western nations in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“As time goes on, and as the number of Russian atrocities mounts up, I think it becomes steadily more difficult and politically embarrassing for people either actively or passively to condone Putin’s invasion,” he told the Sunday Times.

There were now “considerable dilemmas” for countries who were yet to speak out against Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said, adding: “I think that in Beijing you are starting to see some second thoughts.”

Ukraine on Saturday called on China to condemn “Russian barbarism” after dozens were killed in new strikes.

Ukraine and the United States are concerned about Chinese potentially sending military aid to Russia or helping Moscow circumvent Western sanctions.

US President Joe Biden has warned Chinese leader Xi Jinping of “consequences” if he backs Russia, but Beijing has so far showed no sign of criticising the invasion.

Johnson called the crisis a “turning point for the world” during a speech at his Conservative Party conference attended by the Ukrainian ambassador to London, Vadym Prystaiko.

“There are some around the world… who say that we’re better off making accommodations with tyranny… I believe they are profoundly wrong,” the British leader told the conference in Blackpool, northwest England.

“To try to renormalise relations with Putin after this, as we did in 2014, would be to make exactly the same mistake again, and that is why Putin must fail.

“This is a turning point for the world and it’s a moment of choice. It’s a choice between freedom and oppression,” Johnson said.

AFP

PM Johnson Defends UK’s Ukraine Refugee Policy

File photo: A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking as he updates MPs on the situation in Ukraine and sanctions to be made against Russia, in the House of Commons, in London, on February 22, 2022. (Photo by various sources / AFP)

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday defended the UK’s policy on accepting refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after criticism that the government had so far only granted about 50 visas under its scheme.

Johnson, who met his Canadian and Dutch counterparts Justin Trudeau and Mark Rutte on Monday, said “the UK will be as generous as we can possibly be”.

But he added that it would not “simply abandon (security) controls altogether”.

“We’re processing thousands as I speak to you and clearly this crisis is evolving the whole time,” he told UK media.

“We have two very, very generous routes already — the family reunion route, which is uncapped, which could potentially see hundreds of thousands of people come to this country, plus the humanitarian route.”

London has gradually extended the family scheme to now cover parents, grandparents, siblings and “immediate family” of those already in the UK.

READ ALSO: More Than 1.7 Million People Flee War In Ukraine, Says UNHCR

The government said that, as of Sunday, around 50 Ukrainians had been granted visas under the scheme for those with family links to Britain, out of the 5,535 people who applied within 48 hours of the scheme’s launch.

More than 10,000 have now applied in total under the scheme, the government said on Monday.

Under the humanitarian route, refugees can be sponsored by individuals, communities or organisations.

But France has accused Britain of a “lack of humanity” after saying that 150 refugees were turned back at the Channel port of Calais.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “unconscionable” for people who had fled fighting to have to “jump through bureaucratic hoops” to apply for a visa.

More than 1.7 million people are estimated to have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24, with over one million arriving in Poland alone.

Johnson claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin had been surprised by “the levels of Western unity” in opposition to the invasion, particularly over economic sanctions.

“We certainly want to go as fast as possible. That’s why I’ve got Marc Rutte and Justin Trudeau with me today,” said Johnson, adding that “nothing was off the table” in terms of economic action.

“We’ve got to recognise that we’ve got to do more on sanctions. There’s more that the world can do on banking,” he said.

Putin’s Barbaric Venture Must End In Failure – Boris Johnson

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks from 10 Downing Street, in London, on February 24, 2022 during an address to the nation on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Boris Johnson, who summoned his security chiefs for an early morning meeting in response to Russia’s “unprovoked” and “horrific” attack, will also address parliament in the afternoon.  Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP

 

UK Prime minister, Boris Johnson, has condemned Vladimir Putin’s full pronged invasion of Ukraine, which he described as a “hideous” and “barbaric” venture.

In a televised address to the British citizens,  PM  Johnson stated that Putin’s actions should not be allowed to ‘snuff out’ freedom being enjoyed in Ukraine with an act of ‘wanton and reckless aggression.

While condemning Putin’s action as unleashing war on the continent, Johnson sent out a hard message to the West to lend their might to lead to the eventual ‘failure’ of Russia’s incursion ‘diplomatically, politically, economically, and eventually, militarily’

‘Our mission is clear. Diplomatically, politically, economically, and eventually, militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure,’ he said.

“We cannot and will not just look away,” Johnson said in a televised address to the nation, after phoning Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky just after 4:00 am (0400 GMT) as Russian forces moved in.

Ukraine can be assured of continued UK support given that “our worst fears have now come true and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate”, the prime minister said.

Ahead of an emergency virtual meeting of G7 leaders, Johnson said the West “will agree to a massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy”.

Similarly, Johnson’s Foreign Office minister James Cleverly suggested that Russian military commanders should stage a coup to stop Mr Putin’s ‘catastrophically bad judgement call’.

He also took swipes at Putin’s mental state after a series of rambling speeches littered with Soviet-era rhetoric, he said the president seemed to be acting ‘increasingly in isolation’ and ‘illogically’.

 

– ‘Unprecedented’ sanctions –

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who spoke to her US counterpart Antony Blinken Wednesday evening before Putin announced the start of military operations, joined Johnson in condemning the attack.

The foreign ministry has deployed teams to five countries in eastern Europe to support Britons leaving Ukraine, she noted.

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had instructed the UK Civil Aviation Authority to ensure airlines avoid Ukraine airspace “to keep passengers and crew safe”.

The UK slapped sanctions Tuesday on five Russian banks and three billionaires, in what Johnson called “the first barrage” of measures in response to the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.

Leading members of Johnson’s ruling Conservatives, as well as the main opposition Labour party, have urged him to hit the Kremlin as hard as possible with the new sanctions.

Foreign office minister James Cleverly vowed London would respond with “unprecedented” steps “to punish this aggression”.

“Those sanctions will be laid today and over forthcoming days to really prevent Russia from funding this invasion,” he told the BBC.

“The sanctions package that will be put in response to this is already actually having an effect,” Cleverly added, noting record falls Thursday on the Russian stock market and a slump in the ruble’s value.