How Boris Johnson Delivered Brexit Deal

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson speaks on Brexit at his residence on 10, Downing Street, London. Credit: AFP

 

Even for a maverick politician like Boris Johnson, backing Brexit four years ago was a huge gamble. But as Britain prepares to leave the European Union next week, it has paid off spectacularly.

The Conservative leader remains a divisive figure, hailed by many for his optimism and humour, accused by others of Trump-style populism and a blatant disregard for the truth.

But his name will be written in the history books for leading the campaign for Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum, and then, as prime minister, finally making it happen.

Negotiating a new trade deal with Brussels is likely to be an even greater challenge, but for now, the former London mayor is riding high.

 Early ambition 

For a man who as a child wanted to be “world king”, this moment of triumph has been a long time coming.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was born in New York in 1964 into a high-achieving family.

He spent his early years in Brussels, where his father worked for the EU, then attended the elite Eton school in England before studying classics at Oxford University.

He first worked as a journalist for The Times, where he was sacked for making up a quote, and moved on to become Brussels correspondent for the right-wing Daily Telegraph newspaper.

There he made his name by writing about “Euro-myths” — exaggerated claims about the EU.

He came to public prominence in the 1990s as a guest panellist on a satirical television show, where his eccentric and self-deprecating wit made him a national figure known just as “Boris”.

His first few years in politics did not go smoothly — in 2004, he was sacked from the Conservatives’ shadow cabinet for lying about an extra-marital affair.

But in 2008 he was elected mayor of multicultural, Labour-voting London, an achievement commentators put down to his unconventional style.

 Stoking controversy 

Johnson is not like other politicians, with his messy blond hair, jokey style and willingness to make himself look ridiculous — notably once getting stuck on a zip wire brandishing British flags.

He also differed from many of his Conservative colleagues with his pro-migration and socially liberal views, which resonated in London.

However, he has faced accusations of prejudice in his news columns over the years, describing gay men as “bumboys” and black African Commonwealth citizens as “piccaninnies”.

As recently as 2018, he drew criticism for writing that Muslim women in the full veil looked like “letterboxes”, even while he argued that they should be free to wear what they want.

But Johnson rejects accusations of racism, while supporters say he simply likes to stir things up.

In last month’s snap general election, he also proved he could still appeal to a broad range of voters by securing the Conservatives’ best result since the 1980s heyday of Margaret Thatcher.

With his promise to “Get Brexit Done”, be tough on law and order and invest in public services, he took back working-class seats that his party had not held for decades.

Brexit promises 

Johnson is known for his colourful private life. He is twice married, is believed to have five children — one from an affair — and currently lives with his girlfriend in Downing Street.

But his celebrity status has allowed him to shrug off scandals that would have destroyed many others.

More damaging have been questions about his competence, with a two-year stint as foreign minister after Brexit widely viewed as underwhelming.

The family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman held in Tehran for alleged sedition, say he jeopardised her case by misdescribing her job.

After becoming prime minister in July last year, however, he defied his critics by renegotiating the terms of Brexit that MPs had rejected three times.

“Those who did not take him seriously were wrong,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at the time.

Johnson still stands accused of brushing over the difficulties of untangling Britain’s EU membership, but dismisses his critics as “doomsters”.

He may face his most difficult task yet in negotiating a new trading relationship with Brussels, as well as with the United States.

And with the EU exit secured, and a bulging in-tray of domestic issues, the prime minister must now show he can deliver more than Brexit.

AFP

Nigeria, UK Agree Commercial Deals Worth N153.4bn

President Muhammadu Buhari and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, during a meeting in London on January 20, 2020.

 

The Federal Government has been able to secure commercial deals worth over ₦153.4billion from the inaugural UK-Africa Investment Summit which was held in London.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who led a delegation from Nigeria, held meetings with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

In a statement on the outcome of the summit, the UK said “deals worth £324 million (over ₦153.4billion) were announced by Savannah (gas assets); Low Energy Designs (street lighting); Trilliant (smart metering for Abuja DisCo); and Tex ATC (airport control room towers).

READ ALSO: Boris Johnson To Raise Visa Quota For Africa

The UK also announced that significant commitments will be shown to support Nigeria by developing an enabling environment to turbo-charge economic growth, including helping address land issues for investment; strengthening and improving the finance sector; helping entrepreneurs secure access to finance; preparing the ground for the launch in the UK of naira-denominated bonds – “Jollof Bonds”; and developing the tech sector.

The statement said the UK government, through the Department for International Trade (DIT), will provide an Investment Promotion Programme worth ₦13.1billion for Nigeria and South Africa to stimulate Foreign Direct Investment and facilitate technology and knowledge transfer.

Other benefits announced at the summit include the newly launched £55m (₦26billion), Land Transformation Facility, a £320m (₦152billion) UK Financial Sector Deepening Platform currently running in 45 Africa countries, including Nigeria.

It added that the UK government will invest up to £45m in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa to support inclusive connectivity and digital literacy, build cybersecurity capacity, and establish Tech Hubs to grow the digital economy.

Buhari, British PM Discuss Security, Anti-Corruption War, Others

President Muhammadu Buhari and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, during a meeting in London on January 20, 2020.

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met with British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on the sidelines of the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020.

During the meeting which held in London, the President brought the British PM up to speed with developments in Nigeria, reeling out gains in different areas of national endeavour.

The Nigerian leader told Mr Johnson about the efforts of his administration in the agricultural sector, saying it has led almost to self-sufficiency in rice and other grains production.

According to him, Nigeria has saved billions of naira in foreign exchange and the efforts are now deployed in other areas of development.

On the war against insurgency, President Buhari said things were a lot better, stressing that the Nigerian government was making efforts to disabuse the minds of the people on the true philosophy of Boko Haram.

He admitted that the main challenge has been in the area of resettling displaced people in the North East, noting that the situation was being tackled frontally.

“We have a long history with the British military, and we are collaborating,” the President was quoted as saying in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.

He further highlighted the feats recorded in the anti-corruption war, saying the fight was slow but painstaking.

 

President Buhari noted that the cooperation of the National Crime Agency of the UK was needed, particularly in the investigation of fugitives from Nigeria finding accommodation in the European country.

According to him, climate change is a challenge to Nigeria and neighbouring African countries, especially with the shrinkage of the Lake Chad to a minuscule of its original size.

The Nigerian leader stated that his country was focused and making progress on education, particularly that of the girl child.

On his part, the British PM thanked President Buhari for being a regional leader who gave strong encouragement to West Africa and urged him to do more.

He also lauded the President for what he called the “social and economic benefits” that have accrued to Nigeria since he emerged.

Johnson gave an assurance that the necessary hand of fellowship would be extended on the war against corruption, through the National Crime Agency.

He also pledged to cooperate with Nigeria and other African countries in the inter-basin water transfer, which could solve the Lake Chad problem and enhance security in the sub-region.

On the Commonwealth Free Trade Area, the UK Prime Minister applauded the idea and pledged a careful consideration.

He, however, asked the Nigerian leader to keep the national autonomy of his country intact, noting that in the future, Nigeria would not just be a continental but international power.

UK Parliament Approves Historic Brexit Deal

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) reacting after his Government won the vote on the third reading of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, in the House of Commons in London on January 9, 2020.  HO / PRU / AFP

 

Britain’s parliament finally approved Brexit on Thursday, allowing it to become the first country to leave the European Union later this month, ending years of arguments that toppled two governments and splintered society.

The House of Commons erupted in cheers after MPs ratified Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s divorce deal with Brussels by 330 votes to 231, turning the page on an extraordinary era of political drama and chaos.

For much of the time since the 2016 Brexit referendum, lawmakers have been at each others’ throats over how, when or even if Britain should leave its closest trading partners after nearly 50 years.

Some view Brexit with horror, fearing it will strip them of their European identities and turn Britain into an insular, less important nation.

Others embraced it with fervour, viewing it as a chance to “take back control” from officials in Brussels and see Britain regain some of its past might.

Businesses and governments in Europe, puzzled by Britain’s struggles over what they viewed as a self-inflicted wound, hoped that Brexit could still somehow be undone.

 A smile and a nod 

But Johnson’s comprehensive victory in last month’s general election brought an abrupt end to the turmoil, giving his Conservatives a parliamentary majority with which to push it through.

MPs gave their initial blessing to the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill before Christmas, and the government set aside just three days this week for detailed scrutiny of the complex text.

But few even bothered to turn up on Tuesday and Wednesday, with both sessions ending early.

The momentous day on which Johnson effectively won permission to abandon the European integration project was all but ignored in Thursday’s media.

Instead, it became a footnote to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s decision to quit royal front-line duties — christened “Megxit” and shaping up to be equally complicated and divisive.

“We will be leaving the EU on January 31. We will have delivered on the PM’s commitment to get Brexit done,” a government spokesman said, echoing Johnson’s election mantra.

Britain’s main opposition Labour party, bruised by its worst beating at the polls since 1935, voted against Brexit on Thursday knowing the battle had been lost.

We “may not win many votes in parliament just now, but we can win the moral argument”, said Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, a potential successor to Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.

Johnson attended the session but did not speak, savouring his victory from the front bench, where he smiled and nodded before the historic but all-but ceremonial vote.

The Brexit bill must still be passed by the unelected House of Lords and the European Parliament, which is seen as a formality.

 Turning to trade 

All eyes are now on another major challenge: the negotiation of a new relationship between Britain and the remaining 27 EU nations, which form the world’s largest single market.

The Brexit deal covers separation issues such as EU citizens’ rights and Britain’s financial settlement, and sets out an 11-month transition period in which to agree a wider partnership.

Brussels warns the current deadline of December 31 this year is extremely tight, and has given London the option to ask for more time.

But Johnson insists there will be no extension of the transition period, saying that Britain must be free of EU rules as soon as possible.

Ahead of talks with Johnson on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it would be “basically impossible” to agree everything within London’s timeframe.

“We will have to prioritise,” she said in a speech to the London School of Economics university, warning of “tough talks ahead”.

In response, Johnson’s office indicated that it could accept a partial trade deal.

London does not want the EU’s long-standing policy that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” — intended to stop one side cherry-picking bits of a deal they like — to define the coming negotiations, a spokesman said.

“We are very clear we want to get on in terms of negotiating a deal,” he said.

AFP

New UK Government Raises Minimum Wage

Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson speaks during a campaign event to celebrate the result of the General Election, in central London on December 13, 2019.  DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Britain’s minimum wage is to increase by more than four times the rate of UK inflation from next year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government announced Tuesday.

A 6.2-percent increase from April takes the so-called national living wage for workers aged 25 and over from £8.21 to a minimum £8.72 ($10.79 to $11.52, 9.63 euros to 10.27 euros).

Johnson, whose Conservative party’s recent general election victory came with support from economically struggling pro-Brexit areas, said it was the biggest increase since 2016.

The new government said almost three million people would benefit from the increase.

UK annual inflation stands at 1.5 percent, with consumers’ purchasing power under pressure from higher import prices following the EU referendum in 2016, which has weighed on the pound.

Johnson has been advised to repay the trust of voters in more disadvantaged areas, particularly in northern England, after he secured the Conservatives biggest majority since the 1980s.

The December 12 vote saw swathes of working class, traditionally left-wing Labour-supporting places, switch to the right-wing Tories because of Brexit.

During the election campaign, Johnson pledged more investment to reverse nearly 10 years of austerity measures under his predecessors.

But the British Chambers of Commerce said above-inflation pay increases came at a difficult time for hard-pressed businesses amid economic uncertainty.

“Raising wage floors will pile further pressure on cashflow and eat into training and investment budgets,” said the trade body’s co-executive director Hannah Essex.

“For this policy to be sustainable, government must offset these costs by reducing others and impose a moratorium on any further upfront costs for business.”

AFP

 

MPs Votes Clear First Brexit Hurdle In New Parliament

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows members of parliament filing back into the House of Commons in London/ AFP

 

Britain’s newly-elected parliament on Friday gave its initial backing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit divorce deal with the European Union.

Following a thumping general election win for Johnson’s Conservatives in last week’s snap general election — called to clear the Brexit impasse — MPs voted by 358 to 234 to clear the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through its first hurdle in the House of Commons.

AFP

Boris Johnson Plans Law Blocking Brexit Delay Beyond 2020

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks to supporters on a visit to meet newly elected Conservative party MP for Sedgefield, Paul Howell at Sedgefield Cricket Club in County Durham, northeast England on December 14, 2019, following his Conservative party’s general election victory. 
Lindsey Parnaby / POOL / AFP

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to pass a law guaranteeing Britain’s Brexit transition period cannot run beyond the end of 2020, a source in his office said on Tuesday.

Johnson won a big majority in last week’s election on a promise to take Britain out of the European Union by the end of January, followed by a transition period when London and Brussels negotiate a trade agreement.

European leaders have said the December 2020 deadline would be too tight to complete a comprehensive deal and the main opposition Labour party says Johnson’s proposal could lead to a no-deal outcome.

“Last week the public voted for a government that would get Brexit done and move this country forward — and that’s exactly what we intend to do, starting this week,” a Downing Street source said.

“Our manifesto made clear that we will not extend the implementation period and the new Withdrawal Agreement Bill will legally prohibit government agreeing to any extension.”

The House of Commons returns on Tuesday to elect a speaker and begins swearing in MPs.

The state opening of parliament will take place on Thursday when Queen Elizabeth II will read out the government’s legislative programme.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is due to be brought before MPs on Friday.

AFP

Boris Johnson To Present Brexit Bill To MPs On Friday

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government intends to present a bill to parliament on Friday to enable Britain to leave the European Union next month, his spokesman said.

“We plan to start the process before Christmas and will do so in the proper constitutional way in discussion with the speaker (of the House of Commons),” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters on Monday.

AFP

Victorious Johnson Urges Britain To Move Past Brexit Divide

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech outside 10 Downing Street in central London on December 13, 2019, following his Conservative party’s general election victory. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Britons on Friday to put years of bitter divisions over the country’s EU membership behind them as he vowed to use his resounding election victory to finally deliver Brexit next month.

Johnson’s ruling Conservatives won their best result for three decades on Thursday night after promising to get Britain out of the European Union on January 31, a new deadline set by Brussels.

The snap general election turned into a re-run of the original 2016 EU membership referendum, whose outcome paralysed Britain’s leaders and created divisions across society.

But in a victory speech in Downing Street, the former London mayor struck a magnanimous tone, vowing to listen to those who opposed Brexit and lead an inclusive government.

“I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin,” he said hours after visiting Queen Elizabeth II to be reappointed prime minister.

Johnson staked his political career on the election, which created the possibility of the pro-EU opposition rising to power and calling a new Brexit referendum that could undo the first’s results.

But the gambit payed off spectacularly, with his Tories securing 365 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons — the biggest majority since the 1980s heyday of Margaret Thatcher.

It also devastated the main opposition Labour party, which suffered its worst result since 1935.

Labour’s socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would step down after a period of “reflection” within the century-old party about its future course.

The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats also had a dismal night, falling to just 11 seats and losing their leader, Jo Swinson.

Honour the Mandate

London stocks and the British pound jumped on hopes of an end to years of uncertainty, which has hurt investment and economic growth.

Johnson said his party had an “overwhelming mandate from this election to get Brexit done”.

He promised to then focus on other public priorities, notably by increasing investment in healthcare, schools and infrastructure.

“The work is now stepped up to make 2020 a year of prosperity and growth and hope,” he concluded, to cheers from aides and activists outside Number 10.

Anti-Brexit campaign groups expressed dismay at the result, which spells the end of attempts to keep Britain in the European Union, although many voters welcomed a decisive result.

“At least it’s clear,” said lawyer Gordon Hockey in London. “It’s not necessarily what I wanted but at least we know where we stand and Brexit will happen in some form or other.”

Trump cheers ‘great WIN’

Parliament will reconvene on Tuesday and Johnson is expected to publish legislation before Christmas needed to ratify the Brexit deal he agreed with Brussels in October.

This should be passed by January but Britain and the EU still need to thrash out a new trade and security agreement — a process that officials have warned could take years.

At an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, the bloc’s leaders expressed relief at the clear result and said they would work for a swift trade deal.

But they warned that any new arrangement must uphold European values and norms.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Britain would be an economic “competitor at our door” after Brexit.

The result of Britain’s third election in almost five years signals a personal victory for Johnson, who remains a polarising figure.

US President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations on a “great WIN!” and said London and Washington would be able to strike a “massive new trade deal”.

Johnson has promised new free trade deals with the EU and the United States, and after Thursday’s victory, now has the political capital at home to press ahead.

The US State Department said Friday it was “committed” to reaching a comprehensive trade deal with its historic all “once it formally withdraws from the European Union”.

Labour collapse

Labour’s support collapsed on Thursday, with the Tories taking many former strongholds in northern England and Wales that voted to leave.

The party lost 59 seats to end up with 203, after what Corbyn admitted had been a “very disappointing night”.

Corbyn had promised a second referendum on Brexit in a bid to appeal to half of British voters who still want to stay in the EU.

But he had focused Labour’s campaign on a radical programme of economic change, including re-nationalising some key industries, which failed to woo traditional voters.

Speaking early Friday, Corbyn defended his “manifesto of hope” and maintained his policies were “extremely popular” during the campaign.

But Corbyn has been dogged by accusations of sympathising with proscribed terror groups and failing to tackle anti-Semitism within the Labour party.

After Labour’s fourth successive electoral defeat — and the second under Corbyn — the party’s ruling executive body will meet in January to consider the next steps.

Scotland Eyes Exit

After winning 48 of 59 seats in Scotland, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon stepped up the pressure for a new referendum on independence.

“The stunning election win from last night for the SNP renews, reinforces and strengthens the mandate we have from previous elections to offer the people of Scotland a choice over their future,” she said.

The first Scotland independence referendum failed in 2014, when 55 per cent voted in favour of preserving its membership in the United Kingdom.

But Scotland opposed Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union in the 2016

Sturgeon said Thursday’s outcome gave Johnson a mandate to take England out of the European Union, but not Scotland.

Buhari Congratulates Johnson On UK Election Victory

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson over winning the United Kingdom general election.

He described the victory as resounding, stating that he looks forward to a stronger Nigeria-UK relationship.

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According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Britain has been a reliable ally of Nigeria.

“President Muhammadu Buhari congratulates Prime Minister Boris Johnson on his resounding election victory in the United Kingdom general election.

“The President notes that Britain has been a reliable and historically unique ally of Nigeria, and has particularly supported this administration’s efforts at improving security and recovering stolen assets held in the UK.

“President Buhari looks forward to continuing working with the Prime Minister to forge a stronger Nigeria-UK relationship, especially in the area of trade and economic partnerships which greatly benefits the citizens of both countries.

Johnson’s Conservatives won their best result for three decades on Thursday night after promising to get Britain out of the European Union on January 31.

Merkel Pledges ‘Close Partnership’ With Boris Johnson

Angela Merkel 
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a press conference during a European Union Summit at the Europa building in Brussels on December 13, 2019.  PHOTO: ARIS OIKONOMOU / AFP

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday offered Britain’s Boris Johnson close cooperation and friendship, after the Tory leader scooped a decisive general election victory.

“Congratulations, Boris Johnson, for this clear election win. I look forward to our further cooperation towards the friendship and close partnership of our countries,” said Merkel in a statement posted by her spokesman on Twitter.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that the UK poll result showed that the British prime minister now “has a clear mandate to bring about Brexit.”

“It is now very possible that an orderly exit will happen at the end of January,” Maas told the Funke newspaper group.

Maas underlined however that Britain could still return to the EU if it wishes to one day.

“The doors of the EU remain obviously open to Britain,” he said.

AFP

EU To ‘Rebuild’ Ties With UK After Johnson Win

PHOTO USED TO DEPICT THE STORY Flags of the European Union and United Kingdom outside the Houses of Parliament in central London/ AFP

 

The EU will have to rebuild its ties with London after Boris Johnson’s election victory which is likely to lead to Brexit in January, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner said on Friday.

“We now have to rebuild relations with Great Britain which is an important partner,” Thierry Breton told French RTL radio, saying the bloc wanted “balanced” trade relations with the UK.

With almost all results declared for the 650-seat British parliament, Johnson’s Conservative party has secured a sweeping victory and he is now expected to deliver on his promise to “Get Brexit Done”.

His majority should allow him to get the divorce deal he struck with Brussels through parliament in time to meet the next Brexit deadline of January 31.

Both sides then still need to thrash out a new trade and security agreement.

Breton said he expected the European Council meeting Friday in Brussels to give the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier a new mandate for talks with London.

He said Britain was a very important trade partner for the EU, “but we are by far the biggest trading partner for Britain”.

Any future trade deal had to ensure that the EU’s social and environmental norms were also applied to trade with Britain.

AFP