UK MPs Rejects Johnson’s Plans To Approve Brexit Deal

Labour MP Nick Smith, Labour MP Nic Dakin, Conservative MP Stuart Andrew and Conservative MP Iain Stewart prepare to deliver the result of a vote on the programme motion setting out the proposed timetable for the Brexit in London on October 22, 2019. AFP

 

British MPs on Tuesday rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to approve his Brexit deal by October 31, minutes after giving preliminary approval to the agreement.

MPs voted by a majority of 14 to reject his timetable to push through the legislation this week, making it almost inevitable that Brexit will be delayed beyond next week’s deadline.

 

Italy To Vote On Reducing Number Of Lawmakers

Italy’s parliament votes Tuesday on cutting the number of the country’s lawmakers, a move linked to electoral law reform that the left-leaning government hopes will help keep the far-right from power.

Slashing the number of MPs and senators in Italy by 345 was a flagship manifesto promise of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which rules in coalition with the country’s center-left, and has promised voters it would tackle political elitism and wasteful spending.

Italy currently has the second-highest number of lawmakers in the EU after Britain — some 630 elected representatives in the lower house and 315 in the Senate.

The constitutional reform, which will likely be subjected to a popular referendum in the coming months, would cut the number of MPs to 400 and senators to 200 from the next legislature, with an expected saving of some 100 million euros ($110 million) a year.

“It’s a well-balanced reform with an excellent profile,” legal expert Guido Neppi Modona told Il Fatto Quotidiano on Monday.

A reduced number of lawmakers will “lead parties to take particular care in choosing candidates,” he said.

Critics have warned the cut could affect popular representation, and increase the influence of lobbyists over governing institutions — all for a minimal saving that will have little effect on debt-laden Italy’s book balance.

 Mere horse-trading?

This is the country’s eighth attempt to cut its number lawmakers since 1983, according to the Open news website.

This time it is broadly expected to be successful, with most opposition parties on board — though the head of Italy’s far-right League Matteo Salvini on Friday warned his party would wait to see if the law was “mere horse-trading”.

Five Star (M5S) made the cut a condition of its alliance with the center-left Democratic Party (PD), following the collapse of the previous, far-right coalition in August.

The PD had previously voted against the reduction but agreed to support it if it meant clinching a deal with the M5S which would prevent a return to the polls and keep popular hardliner Salvini out of power.

The party has insisted the cut be followed by a new electoral law and is pushing for the reintroduction of a proportional representation system.

Under the current mix of proportional representation and first-past-the-post, a winning coalition needs more than 40 percent of the vote to have the necessary parliamentary majority.

With full proportional representation, parties or coalitions would need a much bigger majority to form a government.

‘Why the haste?’

That would force Salvini to ditch any plans to run alone or with a small fellow far-right party at the next election, and force him instead to turn to former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italy party for help, the weekly L’Espresso said.

“Why the haste to cut the seats?” Massimo Luciani said in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, pointing out that the coalition government — an unlikely alliance of former foes — could fall before changes to the electoral law can be made.

“To avoid ‘surprises’, the package of reforms should be launched at the same time,” he said.

Lorenzo Codogno, a former chief economist at the Italian Treasury Department, told AFP the pressing need to change the electoral law could serve as the glue to hold the coalition together.

He warned however that “I have a feeling that (the electoral law) won’t happen very soon”.

International markets and European investors watching the stability of the new coalition was right “to worry about everything,” he said.

AFP

MPs Vote Against Early Election In New Blow For UK’s Johnson

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

 

British MPs on Tuesday voted against holding an early election next month in a fresh blow for beleaguered Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The vote came just before the suspension of parliament for five weeks — a controversial move decided by Johnson.

British MPs Seek New Path For Brexit

MPs fill the House of Commons in London on March 29, 2019 after they rejected her EU Withdrawl deal for a third time.  PRU / AFP

 

British MPs will attempt to chart a new Brexit path on Monday after rejecting Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal for a third time, leaving her strategy in tatters and the country in limbo.

With less than two weeks to go until the day Britain risks crashing out of the European Union, MPs will hold a series of votes to try and find a majority-backed plan to end the current crisis.

Britain voted by 52 per cent to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum but the process has been mired in divisions between Brexit supporters over the terms of the divorce and what kind of future ties to seek.

The government struck a deal with the EU in November, but parliament has refused to ratify it — forcing the government to seek a delay to the originally planned departure date of March 29.

The EU’s offer of an extension until May 22 was conditional on MPs approving the deal last week.

Despite May’s promise to step down if they voted for the deal — an attempt to get Brexit hardliners to vote for it –, they failed to do so.

 No more delay 

The government must now make a new request to the European Union at an extraordinary summit on April 10 or leave the bloc without a deal on April 12 with potentially chaotic economic consequences.

A longer delay beyond May 22 would have the bizarre consequence of Britain having to hold European Parliament elections like other member states.

Parliament seized the initiative for one day last week but failed to unite around a single option that could replace May’s deal.

Frustration is growing within the bloc, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday telling an Italian TV station that the EU is running out of patience with Britain.

“With our British friends we have had a lot of patience, but even patience is running out,” Juncker told Italian public TV channel Rai 1 on Sunday.

“Up to now, we know what the British parliament says no to, but we do not know what it says yes to.”

However, there appears to be momentum behind a plan to seek a deal that would see Britain stay in some kind of customs union with the European Union.

While this may satisfy the pro-EU members of May’s cabinet, it threatens mass rebellion among the rest of her ministers, posing a serious threat to the government’s survival.

Brexit-supporting minister Andrea Leadsom has organised a letter signed by 10 cabinet members demanding that there be no further extension beyond May 22, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The letter also spells out that May must stand by her party’s manifesto pledge to leave the customs union in order to be able to strike post-Brexit trade deals with other countries.

 General election threat 

Agreeing to seek a customs union, if demanded by MPs, could, therefore, trigger a mass ministerial walkout.

But so could ignoring MPs’ instructions, with pro-EU ministers having already quit voting against the government.

All of which leaves a general election looking ever more likely, with May herself last week warning after the third rejection of her deal that “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House”.

Conservative MPs across the board said they would block such a move, which requires two-thirds support in parliament.

Polling on Sunday signalled why.

The party has slipped seven per cent, according to the Sunday Mail, putting Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour on course to be the largest party if an election were held.

Conservative Party deputy chairman James Cleverly said on Sunday that the party was not preparing for a snap election.

“I don’t think an election would solve anything. Time is of the essence, we have got Brexit to deliver. We don’t want to add any more unnecessary delay,” he told Sophy Ridge on Sky News.

The slip in support coincides with the party’s failure to deliver Brexit on March 29, upsetting its supporters who voted heavily in favour of leaving the EU.

The poll also found narrow support for a second referendum.

May is also facing mass calls from her own MPs to quit immediately as leader of the party — and country — rather than wait until the divorce phase of Brexit has been resolved, as promised.

She has yet to give up on her deal despite it being rejected three times by parliament and is reportedly considering whether to bring it back for a fourth vote, potentially this week.

AFP

British MPs Reject Brexit Deal For Third Time

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows MPs filling the House of Commons in London on March 29, 2019 after they rejected her EU Withdrawl deal for a third time.  PRU / AFP

 

British MPs on Friday rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal for leaving the European Union for a third time, raising the spectre of a “no deal” exit or a long delay to the process.

Lawmakers in parliament’s lower House of Commons defied May’s plea to end the political deadlock that has plunged Britain into crisis, and defeated her withdrawal agreement by 344 votes to 286.

It is yet another blow to a prime minister who has all but lost control of her government and the Brexit process — particularly after she offered to quit if MPs backed the deal.

Britain had been due to leave the EU on Friday, the long-heralded March 29 “Independence Day”, but faced with chaos in Westminster, May asked European leaders last week for a little more time.

She now faces having to return in the coming days to explain what happens next, with speculation in Brussels of an emergency summit on April 10 or 11.

The EU has set a deadline for April 12 for a decision, with two likely options: Britain leaves with no deal at all, or agrees a lengthy extension to allow time for a new approach.

May has said it would be “unacceptable” to ask voters to take part in forthcoming European Parliament elections, three years after they voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

But while “no deal” remains the default legal option, MPs have repeatedly voted against this, fearing catastrophe if Britain severs ties with its closest trading partner with no plan in place.

 DUP holdouts 

The failure by parliament to agree the terms of its exit from European Union has left Britain in limbo, with business leaders and trade unions warning of a “national emergency”.

Voters are divided, many of them anxious and angry, and May blames MPs — but they in turn accuse her of refusing to countenance any alternative to her unpopular deal.

“She is, frankly, unable to govern,” opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, urging her “either to listen and change course or to go”.

Tired of waiting, MPs this week gave themselves unprecedented powers to vote on a range of options for Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

A prosal for a new customs union got close to passing in a first round on Wednesday, as did a plan for a referendum on May’s deal, with more voting planned next Monday and Wednesday.

The risk that MPs decide to agree closer ties to the EU, or even stop it altogether, has focused the minds of some Brexit supporters, who reluctantly agreed to back May’s deal.

Her offer on Wednesday to quit if it passes also helped persuade some of her staunchest critics, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson.

But others refused, including May’s Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which says planned arrangements for the Irish border after Brexit are unacceptable.

“We are not prepared to see our constitutional position altered by Brussels in a fit of pique for daring to leave the EU,” said MP Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman.

 Snap election? 

May’s offer to quit fired the starting gun on an informal race for the leadership of her Conservative party.

Her resignation was dependent on getting the divorce deal passed — and she might try one last time to get her deal through.

Even so, her days are numbered.

Getting another vote on a deal would be tricky, as parliament speaker John Bercow has already warned he will not let her bring the same deal back again and again.

Under an agreement struck with EU leaders last week, Britain would have left on May 22 if MPs approved the deal this week.

Officials believe there is still a chance that, if she can get it through before April 12, this date is still possible.

However, speculation is also growing that the only way out of the impasse is a snap election.

AFP

Theresa May To Seek MPs’ Approval For New Brexit Strategy

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May as she speaks during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs)

 

British MPs will on Wednesday give their verdict on Prime Minister Theresa May’s newly revised plan for leaving the EU, which raises the possibility of delaying Brexit.

She will ask lawmakers to approve a three-step plan unveiled Tuesday, that would give her more time to rework a deal struck with the European Union last year.

May has said that if she fails to secure the changes needed to win their support, MPs would vote on March 13 and March 14 on whether to leave the EU without any deal at all on March 29 — or delay.

Ahead of the votes starting at 1900 GMT, May repeated that she did not want any postponement.

“The government’s policy is to get the legally binding changes so a deal can be brought back to this house… and we can leave on March 29 with a deal,” she said.

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EU leaders have said they would look at any request to delay Brexit.

But some questioned what use this would be unless deadlocked MPs put years of rows behind them and finally agreed to a plan for Britain’s future.

“We don’t need more time, what we need most of all is a decision,” French President Emmanuel Macron said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris.

May had repeatedly ruled out delaying Brexit, even after her divorce deal was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs in January.

But she faced a revolt by several of her own cabinet ministers, who fear the potentially disastrous effects on the economy of leaving the EU with no deal.

However, May’s change of heart caused outrage among the hardliners in her own Conservative Party, with influential MP Jacob Rees-Mogg warning that “any delay to Brexit is a plot to stop Brexit”.

 EU citizens’ rights 

May will ask the Commons to acknowledge her revised strategy, but MPs will also vote on five amendments to her statement that seek to force her hand.

One was put by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who dramatically shifted his own position on Brexit this week by taking a step towards calling for a new referendum.

The amendment calls on MPs to support Labour’s plan to form a new customs union with the EU and stay close to the bloc’s single market after Brexit.

If this fails — as expected — Corbyn has promised at a later date to back an amendment on a second referendum, which could have the option to stay in the EU.

MPs will also vote on an amendment seeking to preserve the rights set out in the divorce deal for than 3.5 million EU citizens living in Britain, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“This issue transcends party politics, we are not dealing in borders or backstops, but people’s lives and their livelihoods,” said its author, Alberto Costa.

It has tacit government support, although Costa was forced to quit his position as a junior minister because he was not technically allowed to put forward the plan.

May’s government has already said she will protect the rights of EU citizens to come what may and has urged other countries in the bloc to do the same for Britons abroad.

Costa was referring to the Irish border and the controversial “backstop” plan in May’s EU divorce deal that forms the basis of many MPs’ dislike of the text.

The arrangement would keep Britain in the EU’s customs union if and until another way is found — for example a free trade deal — to keep the frontier free-flowing.

Many Brexit-supporters fear the plan would undermine Britain’s hopes of becoming an independent trading nation, tying it indefinitely to EU rules.

May is seeking legal guarantees that the backstop would only be a temporary measure, although the EU has repeatedly said it will not reopen the divorce text itself.

AFP

Israeli Minister Calls Arab MPs ‘War Criminals’

Israeli flag

Israel’s defence minister on Monday called Arab MPs “war criminals”. a day after he urged a boycott of Israeli Arabs living near the scene of clashes over the US president’s Jerusalem declaration.

Avigdor Lieberman was speaking in a televised parliamentary debate on a motion of no confidence in the right-wing government filed by the mainly Arab Joint List alliance.

Presenting the motion, Joint List lawmaker Hanin Zoabi said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should be tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, because he is a war criminal.”

“Occupation is always belligerent, violent, illegitimate and a basis for war crimes,” she added, referring to Israel’s 50-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“All the Joint List are war criminals, every one of you,” Lieberman responded.

The alliance has 12 Arab members and one Jew.

“You exploit the weaknesses and advantages of a democratic state to destroy us from within, we have no illusions,” he told them.

“You are here by mistake and the time will come when you will not be here.”

Arab Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land following the creation of Israel in 1948. Today they account for some 17.5 percent of the population.

Lieberman has long advocated land-swaps in a future peace deal that would see some Arab areas of Israel handed over to the Palestinians in exchange for Israeli retention of some West Bank Jewish settlements.

He has also proposed conditioning the Arabs’ continued Israeli citizenship on them taking oaths of loyalty to the Jewish state.

Dozens of Arab Israelis on Saturday night blocked the Wadi Ara intersection in northern Israel, police said, throwing stones at vehicles and burning tyres in protest at Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The windows of a bus were smashed and its driver was slightly injured. Police arrested two minors and a man from Arara, an Arab town in the Wadi Ara area.

Speaking to Israeli army radio the next day, Lieberman proposed collective punitive sanctions.

“Those who demonstrate in Israel holding Hezbollah, Hamas and PLO flags are not part of the state of Israel,” Lieberman said.

“I therefore call on Israeli citizens to impose an economic boycott on Wadi Ara — don’t shop there, don’t eat in the restaurants and don’t buy services from them.”

Jewish Israelis must simply “give them the feeling they’re not wanted here,” he said, noting instances in which Arabs from the area carried out attacks against Israelis or supported militant activities.

Clashes and protests erupted in the Palestinian territories after Trump’s declaration last Wednesday, but there has been relatively little unrest within Israel itself.

AFP

Syria Conflict: German MPs Vote On Anti-ISIS Military Mission

Anti-ISIS Military MissionGermany’s parliament has voted to send German military support to the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria.

MPs approved the controversial plan for a German non-combat role.

Tornado Reconnaissance Aircraft, a naval frigate and a 1,200 soldiers will now be sent to the region.

The vote came after a French appeal following last month’s Paris attacks. Ministers believe Germany is now an ISIS target too.

On Thursday, British warplanes carried out first air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria after the country’s parliament authorised the military operation.

Chancellor Angela Merkel relied on MPs from the ruling CDU/CSU coalition to back the motion for military involvement.

Germany’s opposition party rejected the mission, while most of the parliament’s Green MPs also voted no, according to reports.

Ahead of the vote, Green Party Chairwoman, Simone Peter, expressed concern about the legal basis for the mission without a specific UN resolution authorising it.

But Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, told Tagesspiegel newspaper on Friday that he had no doubts about the legal legitimacy.

Egypt Votes In Long-Delayed Parliamentary Elections

Egyptians begin electionsThe first round of long-delayed elections to choose a new parliament have opened in Egypt.

The elections  are the first parliamentary polls since the previous chamber was dissolved by a court ruling in 2012.

The authorities described the election as the final step in a transition to democracy.

Critics, however, said that most of the candidates are supporters of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and the new parliament is likely to strengthen his control.

President Sisi, a former general, led the 2013 military overthrow of Islamist President, Mohammed Morsi, following months of unrest.

Mr Morsi’s party, the Muslim brotherhood, won about half the seats in the last parliament, but it has been banned and its leaders are in jail with some facing death sentences.

Election results after two rounds of voting, are not expected to be known until early December.

Voters are choosing 596 members for the lower house of  the House of Representatives.

The elections are being held amid heavy security, as the country had witnessed several attacks carried out by militants loyal to the Islamic State group over the past years.

At least 185,000 soldiers and 180,00 police personnel had been deployed to polling booths across the country.

Iran’s Parliament Backs Nuclear Deal

iran's parliamentIran’s parliament has thrown its weight behind a deal reached on its nuclear programme with six world powers.

The deal was passed on Tuesday, with 161 votes in favour, 59 against and 13 abstentions.

However, lawmakers insisted that international inspectors would only have limited access to military sites.

The agreement, struck in July, authorizes the lifting of sanctions in return for Iran curbing sensitive nuclear activities.

The deal between Iran and the so-called p5+1 – the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany – was reached after 20 months of negotiations.

In September, Republicans in the US Congress tried to sink the deal by voting on a motion of disapproval.

Democrats, however, gathered enough votes to block the motion and handed US President, Barack Obama, a political victory.

In Iran, conservative MPs criticised President Hassan Rouhani for suggesting they were deliberately trying to delay the deal.

Correspondents said that Iran’s parliament has seen angry clashes over the agreement.

UK Set To Launch More Drone Strike In Syria

drone strikeThe UK is planning to launch more drone strikes in Syria if they discover a threat in Britain.

According to the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, the drone which killed two British ISIS Jihadists was a “legal act of self defence”.

one of them had been planning attacks at major events in the UK.

Meanwhile, MPs rejected UK military action in Syria two years ago and Ministers are now facing questions over the attack.

The strike was the first targeted UK drone attack on a British citizen.

Ruhul Amin, 26, was also killed and later identified as a British national from Aberdeen.

Mr Fallon said  “There are other terrorists involved in other plots that may come to fruition over the next few weeks and months, we wouldn’t hesitate to take similar actions again”.

Greek Parliament Set To Vote Reforms To Secure Bailout Deal

bailout deal-greekThe Greek parliament is set to vote on a set of reforms needed to secure its bailout deal. The vote is expected to pass with the support of opposition parties.

But Greece’s public sector union is planning to protest against the measures.

The bill lawmakers would vote on Wednesday to cover rules for dealing with failed banks and speeding up the justice system.

If MPs approve the financial and judicial reforms, Greece would be able to press ahead with negotiations for an 86 billion Euro bailout from its creditors.

The Greek Health Minister, Panagiotis Kouroumplis, said “We are making an effort to have fewer dissenters”.

He said there were doubts about whether the new measures could pull the recession-hit economy out of its impasse.

“But since we agreed, we must implement them.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), confirmed on Monday that Greece had cleared its overdue debt repayments of 2.05 billion Euro and was no longer in arrears.

The repayments, and another for 4.2 billion Euro to the European Central Bank due on Monday, were made possible by a short-term EU loan of 7 billion Euro.