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

Queen Elizabeth II Approves Government’s Brexit Bill

 

Queen Elizabeth II gave her formal assent Thursday for Britain to end its decades-long involvement in the European Union and seek a more independent but uncertain future at the end of the month.

The head of state’s ceremonial approval of the withdrawal legislation allows Britain to leave its closest neighbours and trading partners after years of bickering and three delays.

Two top EU officials in Brussels are expected to sign the separation treaty on Friday and Prime Minister Boris Johnson — the pro-Brexit figurehead of Britain’s seismic 2016 referendum — will put his name on it in the coming days.

“At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it,” Johnson said after both houses of the British parliament ratified the withdrawal bill on Wednesday.

“Now we can put the rancour and division of the past three years behind us and focus on delivering a bright, exciting future.”

The January 31 split caps a remarkable political comeback for Johnson at one of the most difficult points in Britain’s post-war history.

He quit former prime minister Theresa May’s government in 2018 in protest at what he viewed as her pro-European separation terms.

Johnson returned as May’s successor in July last year and has since managed to negotiate his own deal with Brussels and regain the government’s control of parliament in a risky early election last month.

The rest was a formality. Lawmakers barely debated the withdrawal agreement before passing it — even though critics called it worse for Britain than the one reached by May.

Johnson will celebrate his victory by issuing commemorative coins and chairing a special cabinet meeting in England’s pro-Brexit north on January 31.

‘Absolute priority’

Johnson will now be responsible for defining the terms on which Britain trades and shares everything from data to fishing waters with the remaining 27 EU member states.

The formal talks are not expected to begin until March but the war of words is already intense.

Johnson rejects EU arguments that the end-of-year negotiations deadline is too short to reach a comprehensive deal.

The UK government is also demanding the post-Brexit right to set its own rules on politically sensitive issues such as environmental standards and workers’ rights.

EU officials say this will give Britain an unfair advantage and are threatening to retaliate with tariffs and quotas that could hit the UK auto and pharmaceutical industries especially hard.

European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde said the bloc’s financial system was ready for the next stage.

“There can always be a risk somewhere,” she said in Frankfurt. “But I think in good conscience we have covered everything that we thought was necessary.”

Some analysts believe Johnson is prepared to pay the price of short-term economic damage in order to deliver on pledge to “get Brexit done”.

He argues that greater flexibility will help him reach a quick post-Brexit agreement with the United States and other nations that are growing much faster than those in Europe.

US officials say they are eager to strike a deal with Johnson.

An agreement “is an absolute priority for President (Donald) Trump and we expect to complete that with them this year,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said ahead of his arrival in London this weekend.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added that Johnson would have an easier time with Washington than Brussels because “there are far fewer issues between the UK and US.”

Johnson is expected to lay out his vision for the post-Brexit agreement with Brussels in a big policy address early next month.

“Once we have left the EU in just over a week’s time we’ll be free to start having discussions with countries around the world including the US,” Downing Street said Wednesday.

Queen Elizabeth II Approves Brexit Bill

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II attends the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in London on March 11, 2019.  Richard Pohle / POOL / AFP

 

Queen Elizabeth II gave her formal assent Thursday for Britain to end its decades-long involvement in the European Union and seek a more independent but uncertain future at the end of the month.

The head of state’s ceremonial approval of the withdrawal legislation allows Britain to leave its closest neighbours and trading partners after years of bickering and three delays.

Two top EU officials in Brussels are expected to sign the separation treaty on Friday and Prime Minister Boris Johnson — the pro-Brexit figurehead of Britain’s seismic 2016 referendum — will put his name on it in the coming days.

“At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it,” Johnson said after both houses of the British parliament ratified the withdrawal bill on Wednesday.

“Now we can put the rancour and division of the past three years behind us and focus on delivering a bright, exciting future.”

The January 31 split caps a remarkable political comeback for Johnson at one of the most difficult points in Britain’s post-war history.

He quit former prime minister Theresa May’s government in 2018 in protest at what he viewed as her pro-European separation terms.

Johnson returned as May’s successor in July last year and has since managed to negotiate his own deal with Brussels and regain the government’s control of parliament in a risky early election last month.

The rest was a formality. Lawmakers barely debated the withdrawal agreement before passing it — even though critics called it worse for Britain than the one reached by May.

Johnson will celebrate his victory by issuing commemorative coins and chairing a special cabinet meeting in England’s pro-Brexit north on January 31.

 ‘Absolute priority’ 

Johnson will now be responsible for defining the terms on which Britain trades and shares everything from data to fishing waters with the remaining 27 EU member states.

The formal talks are not expected to begin until March but the war of words is already intense.

Johnson rejects EU arguments that the end-of-year negotiations deadline is too short to reach a comprehensive deal.

The UK government is also demanding the post-Brexit right to set its own rules on politically sensitive issues such as environmental standards and workers’ rights.

EU officials say this will give Britain an unfair advantage and are threatening to retaliate with tariffs and quotas that could hit the UK auto and pharmaceutical industries especially hard.

European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde said the bloc’s financial system was ready for the next stage.

“There can always be a risk somewhere,” she said in Frankfurt. “But I think in good conscience we have covered everything that we thought was necessary.”

Some analysts believe Johnson is prepared to pay the price of short-term economic damage in order to deliver on the pledge to “get Brexit done”.

He argues that greater flexibility will help him reach a quick post-Brexit agreement with the United States and other nations that are growing much faster than those in Europe.

US officials say they are eager to strike a deal with Johnson.

An agreement “is an absolute priority for President (Donald) Trump and we expect to complete that with them this year,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said ahead of his arrival in London this weekend.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added that Johnson would have an easier time with Washington than Brussels because “there are far fewer issues between the UK and US.”

Johnson is expected to lay out his vision for the post-Brexit agreement with Brussels in a big policy address early next month.

“Once we have left the EU in just over a week’s time we’ll be free to start having discussions with countries around the world including the US,” Downing Street said Wednesday.

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

Britain’s New Parliament Votes On Johnson’s Brexit Deal

A handout photograph taken and released by the UK Parliament on December 19, 2019, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons in London after the State Opening Of Parliament.  JESSICA TAYLOR / AFP / UK PARLIAMENT

 

Britain’s freshly-elected parliament prepared on Friday to move past years of partisan wrangling and initially approve Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s divorce deal with the EU.

The all-but-certain outcome in the lower House of Commons will help Johnson on his way towards meeting his winning campaign promise to “get Brexit done” on January 31.

But it will also push London and Brussels closer to another cliff edge at the end of 2020 that might disrupt decades of unfettered trade.

A snap election last week put Johnson’s Conservatives in control of parliament and dispelled doubts over whether Britain would become the first nation to leave the European Union.

A final vote on Johnson’s separation terms will come when lawmakers return from their Christmas break early next month.

But Britain will enter the holiday season closer to legal and economic independence from Brussels than it has been at any point since the 2016 Brexit referendum on Britain’s near half-century EU membership.

Johnson has the freedom and power to shape Britain’s future that his predecessor Theresa May never had during her troubled three-year term.

“Today we will deliver on the promise we made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas,” Johnson said.

“Now MPs will start the process of passing the bill. Then, at the beginning of the new decade, at the beginning of a new dawn for our country, our parliamentarians will return to Westminster to immediately finish the job, take us out of the EU on January 31 and move this country forward.

“After years of delay and rancour in parliament, we will deliver certainty and hard-working businesses and people across this country will have a firm foundation on which to plan for the future.”

 Another cliff edge 

Britain’s nervous financial market rejoiced when Johnson’s governing Conservatives secured an comprehensive majority in the 650-member House of Commons.

The healthy margin appeared to remove the possibility of more months of political uncertainty and chaos — and of Britain crashing out of the bloc without any arrangements for what comes next.

But the pound fell back to its pre-election levels when Johnson introduced a series of small but potentially consequential changes into the official Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

Britain’s formal departure on January 31 had been due to be followed by an 11-month transition period during which things would stay pretty much as they are now.

The sides are supposed to use the time to negotiate a comprehensive new agreement covering everything from trade to security and data protection.

EU officials warn that such deals usually take years to hammer out.

But Johnson ruled out the possibility of asking for a deadline extension in the version of the bill before parliament on Friday.

“A Minister of the Crown may not agree… to an extension of the implementation period,” the bill now says.

Analysts note that little prevents Johnson from pushing a new law through parliament removing that firm deadline should negotiations veer dangerously off track.

It also puts psychological pressure on European officials to back off some of their stiffer demands on London and seek a limited deal that leaves some big issues unresolved.

“The UK could get a (free trade agreement) done with the EU by end of 2020,” May’s former Brexit adviser Raoul Ruparel said.

“But it would be a narrow and shallow one.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Tuesday that the bloc “will do the maximum” to meet the end-of-2020 deadline.

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.

Trump To Face Impeachment Vote After House Panel Approves Charges

 

US President Donald Trump stood on the verge of impeachment Friday after a House panel approved charges he abused his power and obstructed Congress, setting up a historic vote in the chamber next week.

In a grave moment for a deeply divided nation, Democrats and Republicans in the Judiciary Committee voted along strict party lines, 23 to 17, to approve two articles of impeachment against the president.

“Today is a solemn and sad day,” committee chairman Jerry Nadler said after the votes, which were called with surprising speed the day after a 14-hour debate pitting the warring parties against one another.

The panel recommended that the Democratic-led House ratify both articles, ahead of a vote by the entire chamber that is expected to make Trump only the third US president in history to be impeached.

One article charges the president with abuse of power for conditioning $391 million in critical military aid and a White House meeting on Ukraine launching investigations into Democrats ahead of the 2020 election.

The other charges him with obstruction of Congress for his blanket refusal to cooperate with any aspect of the inquiry, a development Democrats say is unprecedented in American history.

“The House will act expeditiously,” Nadler said in brief remarks.

Impeachment by the House would trigger a trial early next year in the Senate, where the solid Republican majority is expected to protect the president by voting against conviction and removal.

Trump, who insists there is a witch hunt against him, called the panel’s impeachment vote “an embarrassment to our country.”

But he also insisted the divisive process will be “very good for me politically” as Americans gear up for the presidential election next November.

The White House said Trump “looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House.”

– ‘Travesty for America’ –
The panel’s fractious debate session Thursday came to a surprising late-night end when Nadler abruptly postponed the votes, saying he wanted to give members time to “search their conscience” over the evidence presented against the president.

Startled Republicans accused Nadler of running a “kangaroo court,” but Democrats said they did not want to be accused of taking such momentous action against the president in the dead of night.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who appeared to hold up a pocket copy of the US Constitution as she cast her votes, said she was not acting against Trump as a person.

“It is a vote for the Constitution and for ‘We, the People,'” she said, quoting the charter’s preamble.

But Republicans have circled the wagons around their president, insisting he has done no wrong and accusing Democrats of dangerous overreach.

“This is really a travesty for America and it’s really tearing America apart,” Republican Debbie Lesko said after voting against advancing impeachment.

“I have never, in my entire life, seen such an unfair, rigged railroad job against the president of the United States.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy denounced “a political hit-job.”

Both sides were already girding for Trump’s trial in the Senate, where conviction and removal would require two-thirds of votes.

“There is zero chance that the president will be removed from office,” said Senate leader Mitch McConnell, whose Republicans hold 53 of the 100 seats.

McConnell also told Fox News he will be in lockstep with Trump, “coordinating with the White House counsel” regardless of his expected role as impartial juror in the trial.

‘Overwhelming Evidence’

Trump has signaled to aides that he wants a full-throated defense in the Senate, with witnesses testifying in person.

Republican leaders, mindful of political fallout, indicated they would rather not see the process turn into a drawn-out spectacle.

“I’ll do long or short,” Trump said Friday when asked whether he wants an extended trial.

But he added that he “wouldn’t mind a long process” because he wants to hear testimony from the whistleblower who triggered the process earlier this year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry in September after an unidentified whistleblower warned in a complaint that Trump, on a telephone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, used the power of his office to “solicit interference” from the foreign leader in the 2020 election.

In the July 25 call Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former US vice president Joe Biden, Trump’s potential election rival.

A subsequent House Intelligence Committee investigation concluded there was “overwhelming evidence” Trump put his personal political benefit above the national interest.

US ‘Committed’ To Trade Deal With Post-Brexit Britain

 

The United States said Friday it was ready to seek a free-trade deal with Britain once it leaves the European Union, an exit made certain by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s sweeping election win.

Johnson’s Conservative Party campaigned on a pledge to strike an accord with Washington, offering an economic fillip despite the loss of the vast common European market closer to home.

“The United States is committed to the US-UK shared global agenda, including expanding our robust economic relationship by reaching a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the UK once it formally withdraws from the European Union,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a congratulatory message.

President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly voiced enthusiasm for a free trade deal with Britain, supporting Brexit as an assertion of sovereignty.

But any agreement could face hurdles in Congress where lawmakers want assurances that Brexit and its re-erection of borders will not jeopardize the fragile peace in Northern Ireland.

Trump — who, like Johnson, has emphasized nationalism and periodically stunned the public with outspoken remarks — earlier Friday hailed the British prime minister’s win as a harbinger for his own chances next year.

Trump’s approach contrasts sharply with his predecessor Barack Obama, who warned before the 2016 Brexit vote that Britain would be at the “back of the queue” if it left the European Union.

An aide to Obama later said his public warning — using the British “queue” rather than the more American “line” — came at the request of the then prime minister, David Cameron, who campaigned against Brexit in the referendum he called himself.

EU Leaders Keep Mum On Brexit As Britain Votes

Pro-Brexit activists demonstrate outside of the Houses of Parliament in London on October 28, 2019.  ISABEL INFANTES / AFP

 

European leaders arrived for their Brussels summit Thursday knowing that before their late-night budget debate is over British voters will have given their latest verdict on leaving the bloc.

The 27 remaining EU chiefs have a packed summit agenda and a dispute to resolve over how to fund the fight against climate change, but diplomats will have an ear to the ground for news from across the Channel.

Meeting reporters on their arrival, the leaders were tight-lipped, but privately many officials in Brussels say they hope Prime Minister Boris Johnson wins a working majority.

Only then, they believe, will he be able to ratify a deal to oversee an orderly British departure on January 31 and rapidly launch talks on the future trading relationship.

On Friday, when the British result is clear, they are expected to task the European Commission’s negotiator Michel Barnier with drawing up a united EU position on a trade deal for their approval.

In the meantime, however, with polling still under way, they were cautious.

“I have a lot of respect for the British voters, and I think they will find a wise solution,” said Ursula von der Leyen, attending her first EU summit as president of the European Commission.

Summit host Charles Michel, who as president of the European Council will wield the absent British leader’s vote at the summit, was also discreet.

“I show always respect for the choices made by the voters and we will wait and see what will be the outcome of this election,” he said.

 ‘No one knows’ 

Johnson made a career as a journalist and later as a leader of the pro-Brexit movement by criticising the European Union — making several enemies in Brussels.

But, after three years of chaotic attempts to agree separation terms in the wake of the 2016 British exit referendum, many EU leaders are resigned to Johnson representing the best chance of a orderly divorce.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said a British prime minister should have a majority “to fulfil the agreements we decided on both sides… a parliament in London that agrees on the future relationship, and all these things very quickly”.

Only Donald Tusk, Michel’s predecessor as head of EU council and now leader of the biggest pan-European party the centre-right EPP, still publicly entertains the idea of an alternative endgame.

“We don’t know what the result is going to be, no one knows, and how it will affect Brexit,” the former Polish premier said, as conservative leaders held an EPP meeting ahead of the main summit.

“But regardless of the result, which means regardless of whether it ends with Brexit, an impasse or a second referendum, the EU should do everything to have the best possible relations with the United Kingdom.

“Whatever happens, we must remain friends and closest partners.”

AFP

Brexit: British Pound Slips As Britons Head To Polls

 

The British pound dipped Thursday as Britons voted in a general election that seeks to determine the future of Brexit.

Having spiked overnight to a 10-month peak at $1.3229 on expectations of an election win for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, the pound slipped.

Johnson called Thursday’s snap vote in a bid to gain a decisive mandate to leave the European Union on January 31, more than three-and-a-half years after Britain narrowly voted in a referendum to leave.

“Just before voting opened, the polls suggested that a Conservative majority — seen as the preferred market outcome… was perceived as increasingly likely,” noted AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

However investors were sitting tight awaiting the vote outcome as polls have tightened in recent days, suggesting that a hung parliament, or no overall majority for either the Tories or main opposition Labour party, could still occur.

 Stocks soften 

Wall Street equities got off to a weaker start as American producer prices and jobless claims suggested “some weakness creeping into the US economy”, said Edward Moya at OANDA, adding however that the state of trade talks is the main factor fraying stock investors’ nerves.

Anxiety is deepening ahead of a Sunday deadline for fresh US tariffs on Chinese goods and no sign yet that they will be delayed.

Eurozone stock markets turned slightly negative, but London stocks held up well thanks to the weaker pound.

Stephen Innes at AxiTrader added that traders had been “de-risking and hedging” and it would take “definitive trade news headlines from the grand duke of Mara -a-Lago Twitter account” to lighten the markets’ mood.

 ‘Wise owl’ at the ECB 

The ECB gave markets little to trade on the day that Christine Lagarde chaired her first monetary policy council meeting and subsequent news conference.

Interest rates remained unchanged and a massive bond-buying programme intact, and ECB economists came up with figures suggesting both an uptick in inflation and “signs of stabilisation in the growth slowdown”, which provided the euro with some tailwind.

Lagarde also said she would develop her own style and claimed to be neither dovish nor hawkish but aimed to be a “wise owl”.

Still, Lagarde “came off as slightly hawkish”, said OANDA’s Moya. “Lagarde seems poised to help take the eurozone out of negative rates,” he said.

Earlier Thursday in Asia, equity markets mostly closed higher after the Federal Reserve indicated it was unlikely to change US interest rates throughout next year.

The central bank, which has cut borrowing costs three times this year, said after a two-day meeting it would hold them for now and set its sights on low inflation and the global economy.

 Key figures around 1435 GMT 

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3171 from $1.3196 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 84.68 pence from 84.35 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1139 from $1.1130

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.62 yen from 108.56 yen

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,238.91 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 13,138.45

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 5,855.27

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,682.50

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 27,866.43

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 23,424.81 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.3 percent at 26,994.14 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 2,915.70 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.4 percent at $63.94 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.2 percent at $58.91

AFP