UK MPs Resume Brexit Feuding As New Bill Faces First Commons Vote

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock (central left) giving a statement on coronavirus on September 10, 2020.

 

Britain’s parliament on Monday finds itself in familiar territory — arguing about Brexit — with threats of rebellion and resignations over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial plan for a new law that will break his EU divorce treaty.

The House of Commons holds its first debate and vote over the bombshell new bill from late afternoon, despite a call from Brussels for it to be withdrawn by the end of the month.

The contentious legislation, unveiled last week, would override the divorce deal the UK struck with the EU last year in several key areas related to Northern Ireland.

It would see London unilaterally regulate UK trade and state aid within the British province, ignoring the EU treaty which gives Brussels a continuing say over Northern Ireland’s trading relationship.

If the law passes in the coming weeks, Brussels has warned it could scupper ongoing trade deal talks and threatened court action, leaving the prospects of an orderly Brexit in tatters.

Even some Brexiteer lawmakers were aghast that Britain would wilfully trash an international treaty, threatening the country’s reputation and potentially endangering Northern Ireland’s fragile peace.

Former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair this weekend openly criticised the action, while David Cameron said Monday he had “misgivings” about the approach.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s pro-Brexit former attorney general Geoffrey Cox said it would be “unconscionable” to override an international treaty.

“I think it is wrong that the British government or our parliament should renege on an agreement on which we gave our solemn word,” he told Times Radio.

– ‘Squabbling days’ –

The latest row revives the bitter wrangling over how to implement British voters’ shock decision in 2016 to quit the bloc, which led to parliamentary deadlock and repeated postponements.

The impasse was broken after Johnson sealed a divorce deal with Brussels and used it to win a thumping victory in a December general election which gave his Conservatives an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons.

Brexit took legal effect the next month, but in practice Britain has remained bound by EU rules under a transition period until the end of this year.

With the clock ticking down, no breakthrough is in sight for regulating cross-Channel trade from January, and Northern Ireland is back as a fiendishly complicated obstacle.

Britain claims it needs the new law as an insurance policy in case no trade agreement is struck, but the EU was left blind-sided, as were many in parliament.

The government nonetheless appears determined to ram the UK Internal Market Bill through as quickly as possible, and senior minister Michael Gove believes it can avert a full-scale rebellion.

“I think we have got the support of our own MPs and MPs in other parties as well,” he told BBC television. “But you’re absolutely right we are reaching a crunch moment.”

On Friday evening, the prime minister held a chaotic Zoom call with about 250 Conservative backbenchers which appeared to do little to mollify the malcontents.

Johnson warned them against a return to the “miserable, squabbling days of last autumn” over Brexit, according to MPs’ accounts to the media afterwards.

Not long after the call, he accused the EU of plotting to break up the UK with a food “blockade” down the Irish Sea, which EU leaders have denied.

– ‘Madman theory’ –

MPs will get their first chance to debate the legislation from mid-afternoon Monday, before voting at around 2100 GMT to continue its passage through parliament.

However, more meaningful votes on attempts to change the draft law will not come until next week.

Commons Justice Committee chairman Bob Neill has filed an amendment to dictate that parliament, not the government, will have the final say on any changes to the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The bill “is potentially a harmful act for this country, it would damage our reputation and I think it will make it harder to strike trade deals going forward,” he told Channel 4 News.

It remains to be seen whether Tory rebels can muster the numbers to seriously embarrass the government on Monday or whether they could hold their fire until future votes.

The main opposition Labour party, which opposed Brexit, says it is open to negotiation about the bill but would rather be talking about Covid-19.

“We should be getting on with defeating this virus, not reigniting old rows,” Labour leader Keir Starmer wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

AFP

Lebanon Assembly Ratifies State Of Emergency After Deadly Blast

A picture taken on August 5, 2020, shows a damaged house in the neighbourhood of Ashrafieh of the Lebanese capital Beirut’s eastern suburbs, a day after a devastating blast at the port of Lebanese’s capital, in Israel’s latest gesture towards a country with which it is technically at war.  Janine HAIDAR / AFP.

 

Lebanon’s parliament Thursday approved a two-week state of emergency in Beirut declared after last week’s gigantic explosion that gives the army greater powers to suppress resurgent protests.

Top diplomats jetted in to show solidarity, contribute to the massive ongoing emergency aid effort but also to weigh in on political developments following a blast widely blamed on state corruption.

A top US envoy announced that the FBI would be joining the probe into the colossal blast that killed 171 people, injured thousands and reignited street protests demanding the ouster of the entire political elite.

Dozens of demonstrators shouted as lawmakers arrived at parliament to ratify the emergency measure, but protesters were outnumbered by security forces and failed to block the MPs’ cars.

Lebanese are furious at a political leadership that allowed a large shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate to languish for years in a port warehouse despite repeated safety warnings.

“You have destroyed us! Leave!” demanded one social media post, calling for more street protests.

An AFP investigation found that until the eve of the blast, officials had exchanged warnings over the cargo, but did nothing despite experts’ fears it could cause a major conflagration.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned with his cabinet Monday but still leads a transitional administration.

The state of emergency formally approved by the parliament allows the army to close down assembly points and prohibit gatherings deemed threats to national security.

The move worries Lebanon’s 10-month-old protest movement that had faded amid the coronavirus pandemic and deepening economic hardship, but which has returned to the streets with force since the August 4 disaster.

– FBI joins probe –

Human Rights Watch said it was “very concerned” the state of emergency would serve “as a pretext to crackdown on protests and snuff out the very legitimate grievances of a large segment of the Lebanese population”.

A military official said the now formalised state of emergency would place all security forces under the command of the army, which would oversee the “post-explosion phase”.

The official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak on the issue, stressed that it would not lead to “a crackdown” on civil freedoms.

“We support the right to peaceful protest, even during a state of emergency,” he said.

The massive explosion has renewed calls from Lebanon’s international partners for overdue reforms to the political system and to shore up the deeply indebted economy.

Top US envoy David Hale, who arrived in Beirut Thursday for a three-day visit, announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would join the probe in the blast.

“The FBI will soon join Lebanese and international investigators, at the invitation of the Lebanese, in order to help answer questions that I know everyone has about the circumstances that led up to this explosion,” he told reporters during a tour of a damaged area near the port.

Calls had been growing in Lebanon for an international and independent investigation, an option President Michel Aoun has so far ruled out.

French and other foreign investigators had already been working at the blast site but their findings are centralised by the Lebanese state’s top security echelon.

– Political deadlock –

Hale is due to meet some of the country’s top officials on Friday, as is French Defence Florence Parly, who also arrived on Thursday.

Both of them made a point of showing that the aid their countries is offering is being delivered directly to non-government groups on the ground, largely bypassing Lebanon’s toxic political echelons.

Aoun and his allies from the Shiite movement Hezbollah have made it clear they saw the international solidarity generated by the port disaster as an opportunity to shake off their quasi-pariah status on the diplomatic scene.

Officials did not appear to be making rapid progress toward naming a new cabinet, a process which could take months.

The president’s office had yet to schedule parliamentary consultations to name a new premier.

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri called on authorities “to speed up the process of forming a cabinet” that can spearhead reforms.

The international community is pushing for a cabinet comprised of independents who could win the support of protesters, as well as representatives of top political parties to deter them from obstructing the government’s work, a Western diplomatic source told AFP.

But feedback so far from Lebanon’s top political players “has not been encouraging” with many of them dismissing pressure from the street “as not very strong,” the source said.

AFP

Taiwan Lawmakers Throw Punches, Water Balloons In Parliament Crisis

Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Lu Ming-che (L) fights with ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Wu Ping-jui (C) as the KMT protest against Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's nomination of Chen Chu, former secretary general of the President Office, for the chairwoman of the Control Yuan, the country’s watchdog body of other branches of government, as scuffles broke out during voting at the parliament in Taipei on July 17, 2020. Sam Yeh / AFP
Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Lu Ming-che (L) fights with ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Wu Ping-jui (C) as the KMT protest against Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s nomination of Chen Chu, former secretary general of the President Office, for the chairwoman of the Control Yuan, the country’s watchdog body of other branches of government, as scuffles broke out during voting at the parliament in Taipei on July 17, 2020. Sam Yeh / AFP

 

Taiwanese lawmakers threw punches and water balloons inside the legislature on Friday, the third parliamentary brawl in a fortnight, over the nomination of the head of a top government watchdog.

A legislator from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was caught on camera punching an opposition party member during a vote on nominee Chen Chu.

Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers later threw water balloons at the speakers’ podium, forcing their DPP colleagues to don plastic raincoats and hold up cardboard shields.

The parliament in Taipei was once notorious for mass brawls, and has been the scene of frequent protests.

Scuffles broke out over reform policies and pension cuts when President Tsai Ing-wen first took office four years ago.

Such confrontations had since subsided, but in the last fortnight they have returned with abandon over the decision to nominate Chen, 70, to head the Control Yuan, an investigatory agency that monitors the other branches of government.

Legislators from Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) scuffle as the KMT protest against Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's nomination of Chen Chu, former secretary general of the President Office, for the chairwoman of the Control Yuan, the country’s watchdog body of other branches of government, as scuffles broke out during voting at the parliament in Taipei on July 17, 2020.
Legislators from Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) scuffle as the KMT protest against Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s nomination of Chen Chu, former secretary general of the President Office, for the chairwoman of the Control Yuan, the country’s watchdog body of other branches of government, as scuffles broke out during voting at the parliament in Taipei on July 17, 2020.

 

The KMT is opposed to her appointment, which requires approval from the DPP-dominated parliament.

The party also claimed that 24 out of 27 people nominated for membership of the Control Yuan have close ties with the DPP in the “worst ever” nomination list for the agency.

“We demand a new review and we demand the nominations be withdrawn,” KMT chairman Johnny Chiang told supporters gathered outside the Control Yuan building, also in the capital.

Chen is a long-time human rights advocate and was jailed for six years when Taiwan was a dictatorship under the KMT.

Despite the morning’s melee, voting went ahead and Chen’s nomination was approved.

She has said she will quit the DPP after her nomination is approved, to maintain the impartiality of the position, and accused the opposition of smearing her with unfounded accusations.

 

AFP

Spain Lawmakers Extend COVID-19 State Of Emergency

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (C) delivers a speech during a session to debate the extension of a national lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus at the Lower Chamber of the Spanish parliament in Madrid on May 6, 2020. J. J. GUILLEN / POOL / AFP
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (C) delivers a speech during a session to debate the extension of a national lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus at the Lower Chamber of the Spanish parliament in Madrid on May 6, 2020. J. J. GUILLEN / POOL / AFP

 

Spain’s parliament on Wednesday voted to extend the country’s state of emergency, allowing stringent coronavirus lockdown measures to remain in place for at least two more weeks.

The government imposed a nation-wide lockdown nearly eight weeks ago to curb the outbreak, which has killed more than 25,000 people and infected over 220,000 in the country — one of the hardest hit in the world.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned that abruptly ending the strict lockdown would be “unforgivable”, ahead of a parliamentary vote Wednesday to further extend the state of emergency.

“Ignoring the risk posed by the epidemic and lifting the state of emergency very quickly would be absolutely wrong, a total, unforgivable error,” he said.

Despite efforts by his right-wing opponents to block the move, parliament approved the extension by 178 votes in favour to 75 votes against, with 97 abstentions.

It was the fourth time the measure had been approved, meaning the restrictions will now remain in place until May 23 as Spain slowly moves through a staged rollback of the lockdown.

A state of emergency was first declared on March 14 in Spain, allowing the government to roll out confinement measures for its nearly 47 million citizens.

The country has only recently started ease some restrictions, allowing children outdoors and adults to leave the house to exercise.

Some small businesses have also been permitted to receive customers with a prior appointment.

“We have limited freedom of movement and the freedom to gather, that is certain. But we’ve done it to save lives,” Sanchez said.

He insisted it was “the only way to guarantee a gradual and prudent transition” out of the lockdown.

The latest daily toll on Wednesday showed a slight increase in deaths, rising to 244 after three days when it stayed below 200 — a far cry from the 950 deaths of April 2 when the epidemic peaked.

“We are progressing very well,” said Fernando Simon, head of the health ministry’s emergencies department.

“It would be very sad if through leaving the lockdown faster than recommended we lost everything we’ve worked for.”

Earlier this week, Spain’s main opposition Popular Party said it would not support any extension of the state of emergency.

But thanks to backing from the centre-right Ciudadanos and the Basque PNV, the government got enough support to push through the measure.

Last week, the government unveiled plans for a four-phase transition out of the lockdown that is to be completed by the end of June, with the country already engaged in the first preparatory stage.

 

AFP

If You Lost Your Income To COVID-19, We Will Give You $2,000 – Justin Trudeau

In this file photo Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 situation in Canada from his residence March 23, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. Credit: AFP
In this file photo Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 situation in Canada from his residence on March 23, 2020, in Ottawa, Canada. AFP

 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canada Emergency Response Benefit will give $2,000 to any worker who loses their income as a result of the novel Coronavirus. 

In a broadcast on the COVID-19 issue and the Canadian government’s response, Trudeau said the administration is doing everything it can to support its citizens.

He noted that the funds became very necessary because, at a time like this, individuals should be focused on what matters most which is their health and the health of those they love.

“That’s exactly why we’re announcing the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit today,” Trudeau said.

The Canadian Prime Minister stated that if one loses their income as a result of COVID-19, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit will give them $2,000 a month for up to 4 months.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Atiku Asks FG To Pay Each Household N10,000

He added that “If you’ve lost your job – whether you worked full time, on contract, or were self-employed – you qualify for the benefit.

“If you lost income because you’re sick or quarantined, if you’re looking after someone who’s sick, or if you’re home taking care of the kids – you qualify. And if you’re still employed but not receiving income because of COVID-19 – you qualify too. We won’t leave anyone behind”.

Canada lawmakers recently passed the coronavirus aid package after an all-night session

The lawmakers on Wednesday morning approved a more than Can$100 billion aid package to help individuals and businesses through the pandemic, after all-night negotiations on what emergency powers to grant the minority government.

Following approval by the House of Commons, they were adopted by the Senate.

The measures include Can$52 billion ($37 billion) in direct support for families and businesses, instead of Can$27 as previously announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Can$55 billion in tax deferrals.

The total aid package of Can$107 billion will allow for a new emergency fund that will dispense Can$2,000 per month for four months to Canadian workers who find themselves without an income due to the new coronavirus.

Nearly one million have been laid off following temporary closure orders given to many businesses in an effort to slow the virus’s spread.

The government expects to enact the emergency measure from April 6, according to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

He said he was pleased with obtaining “unanimous consent with the other parties to move forward” with the response plan.

To respect “social distancing” measures during the pandemic, only 32 members of Parliament, proportionally representing each party instead of the full 338, had gathered in Ottawa for a vote Tuesday on the emergency measures.

UK Rejects Call To Shut Parliament Over Coronavirus Case

A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (right centre) delivering his 2020 Spring budget statement in the House of Commons in London on March 11, 2020.   JESSICA TAYLOR / UK PARLIAMENT / AFP

 

The British government on Wednesday rejected calls for parliament to be suspended after an MP was infected with coronavirus.

Former minister Rory Stewart, a former Conservative MP now running to be mayor of London, said the lower House of Commons “should cease to meet in person” to avoid any further spread.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday that “we will keep parliament open” so the government could be held to account.

“Our democracy is the foundation of our way of life,” he told parliament, while adding that “in some ways this house may have to function differently”.

The government will hold another COBRA emergency planning meeting on Thursday, Hancock revealed.

The comments came after Nadine Dorries, a Conservative MP and junior health minister, revealed late Tuesday that she had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Dorries attended an event hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week but a Downing Street source said they had not been in close contact.

The source said the premier was displaying no symptoms and there was no need for a test, although he continues to follow health advice to regularly wash his hands.

However, an opposition Labour MP, Rachael Maskell, revealed she had been advised by the state-funded health service helpline to isolate herself after meeting with Dorries last week, even though she had no symptoms.

“MPs are at high risk through very frequent contacts and large gatherings,” tweeted Stewart, a former aid minister who ran against Johnson for leadership of their ruling Conservative party last year.

“They are in danger of infecting each other in the chamber, and then going on to infect others. Time for Action. Now.”

The commissions that run both the Commons and the unelected upper House of Lords met on Monday to discuss their response to the coronavirus outbreak.

They said in a joint statement there were “no plans to suspend parliament” but added that the situation was being kept under “constant review”.

Eight people have died in Britain due to the outbreak sweeping the globe, out of 456 confirmed cases.

AFP

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

Re-Elected Venezuela Opposition Leader Guaido Calls For Protests

Venezuela’s National Assembly head Juan Guaido declares himself the country’s “acting president” during a mass opposition rally against leader Nicolas Maduro, on the anniversary of a 1958 uprising that overthrew the military dictatorship in Caracas on January 23, 2019. Federico PARRA / AFP

 

 

Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido called Tuesday for three days of protests against President Nicolas Maduro, hours after he was sworn in for another term as National Assembly speaker following a standoff with the armed forces.

Guaido was barred from entering the assembly by the National Guard for around half an hour in dramatic and chaotic scenes, while a rival claimant to the speaker’s post occupied the chair.

“It’s time to stand up and to stand up with force,” Guaido said later during a press conference.

“We will mobilize for street protests on Thursday and Friday, and on Saturday we will all be in the streets.”

Guaido, self-appointed acting president of Venezuela, leads the opposition to leftist Maduro, who remains in power despite Guaido’s year-long effort to oust the man he calls a “usurper.”

The National Assembly legislature is the only branch of government in the opposition’s hands, and Guaido’s holding of the speaker’s post is important for the continuation of his struggle with Maduro.

Guaido is backed by the United States and more than 50 other countries but, despite Venezuela’s economic collapse, Maduro appears entrenched with crucial support from the armed forces. He is also backed by China, Russia, and Cuba.

“Here we are, showing our face,” Guaido said, taking his seat in the assembly after rival claimant Luis Parra and pro-government lawmakers left.

Blocked by troops

Lawmakers sang the national anthem but electricity to the chamber was cut off, leaving deputies to use flashlights on their mobile phones.

Guaido then raised his right hand and took the oath of office for another term as leader of the assembly.

Earlier, dozens of National Guard troops wearing helmets and carrying riot shields blocked Guaido from entering the building.

“These are not barracks!” Guaido shouted.

Some of his allies and members of the press were also blocked from getting inside.

The opposition said on Twitter that four lawmakers were injured by “regime minions.”

Parra, an opposition legislator accused of corruption, had declared himself speaker on Sunday after the armed forces had prevented Guaido from entering the building.

Guaido had declared Sunday that he was re-elected to his post after holding a legislative session alongside loyal deputies at the offices of a pro-opposition newspaper.

Crisis-hit Venezuela has been in political turmoil since last January when Guaido used his position as speaker to declare himself acting president in a direct challenge to the authority of Maduro.

The United States warned on Tuesday it could ramp up sanctions against Venezuela, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Guaido on his re-election.

“The Maduro regime’s campaign of arrests, intimidation, and bribery could not derail Venezuelan democracy, nor could its use of military forces to physically bar the National Assembly from accessing the parliament building,” said Pompeo.

Speaking Tuesday on state broadcaster VTV, Maduro called Pompeo a “failed clown” for supporting Guaido, whose swearing-in as speaker was “a show.”

“The United States assumes it has the right to name the world’s legislatures with (their) threats,” he said.

And Maduro’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted that the US must “now assume that its strategy against Venezuela failed. They have not shown any skills as puppeteers and they lost their main puppet.”

Parra was kicked out of his opposition party last month after an online news site accused him of corruption linked to the over-pricing of food imported for the Maduro government.

He remains a deputy and Maduro recognized Parra’s election in a television address on Sunday. But even Maduro’s left-wing allies Argentina and Uruguay have denounced the move.

Assembly sidelined

Before Sunday’s vote, Guaido said the Maduro government had bribed some opposition deputies to vote against him.

The opposition holds 112 of the 167 seats in the assembly.

As well as two claimants to the presidency and the position of assembly speaker, Venezuela has two legislatures.

The National Assembly has been effectively sidelined since 2017, when the Supreme Court, made up of Maduro loyalists, declared it in contempt. The court has since annulled its every decision.

Maduro then controversially set up a Constituent Assembly — also made up exclusively of loyalists — with power to legislate in its place.

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

Lawmaker Takes Lie Detector Test Over Corruption Claims

Davyd Arakhamia (C), leader of the parliamentary faction of the Ukrainian president’s Servant of the People speaks with Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Dubinsky (L) prior to a test with a lie detector in Kiev on October 23, 2019. GENYA SAVILOV / AFP

 

A lawmaker from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party took a lie detector test on Wednesday after the president called for a group of MPs to be tested over corruption allegations.

Oleksandr Dubinsky, from Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, streamed the test live on the internet.

Earlier, Davyd Arakhamia, leader of the parliamentary faction of the president’s party, had told reporters “we will go on a lie detector”.

All MPs from the president’s party who are also members of a special committee that examines draft legislation will be subjected to the test.

According to reports, MPs on the committee have allegedly taken bribes to block an anti-corruption law aimed at regulating the property market. The bill has not yet gone before parliament.

Zelensky on Wednesday called for the ten MPs involved to take the lie detector test.

READ ALSO: Thai King Sacks Six Palace Officials For ‘Evil Actions’

So far, the lawmakers are not facing any charges but investigators have launched a probe after journalists and bloggers reported a possible crime.

If these checks find “even the slightest possibility that the lawmakers took the money… then the anti-corruption authorities should deal with these lawmakers,” Zelensky wrote on Facebook.

Later Dubinsky, a member of the committee in question, was as good as his word and aired his lie detector test live on the internet.

“Did you personally vote against this bill in exchange for a bribe?” he was asked by an expert carrying out the test.

“Did anyone promise to pay you for a vote against this bill?” the expert continued, after the MP replied “no” to the first question.

It was not clear when all the deputies involved would take the lie detector test.

Zelensky, a former comedian, won presidential elections in spring on a programme promising to eradicate corruption.

According to Transparency International Ukraine is ranked 120th out of 180 on the NGO’s corruption perception index, faring better than Russia (in 138th place) but still falling far behind its European Union neighbours.

Brexit: UK Parliament Speaker Blocks Holding Of New Vote

Britain’s speaker of the House of Commons makes a statement relating to the speaks in the House of Commons in London on October 21, 2019. HO / AFP / PRU

 

UK Parliament Speaker John Bercow blocked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson from holding a vote Monday on his new Brexit divorce deal after MPs failed to back it on Saturday.

“The motion will not be debated today as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so,” Bercow told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

AFP

Brexit: British Supreme Court To Issue Parliament Ruling Next Week

The logo for the Supreme court at the entrance to the court in central London on the third and final day of the hearing into the decision by the government to prorogue parliament on September 19, 2019. Tolga Akmen / AFP

 

Supreme Court judges will rule early next week on whether British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to Brexit was lawful, the court’s president said Thursday.

“We know that this case must be resolved as quickly as possible, and we hope to be able to publish our decision early next week,” judge Brenda Hale said as the third and final day of hearings wrapped up.

Johnson has suspended parliament for five weeks, with MPs only allowed to return on October 14 — a fortnight before Britain’s planned exit from the European Union on October 31.

The Conservative leader, who took office in July, insists it was a routine move to allow his government to launch a new legislative programme next month.

But critics accuse him of trying to silence critical MPs at a crucial time, with Britain’s exit terms — and departure date — still uncertain.

“I must repeat that this case is not about when and on what terms the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. The result of this case will not determine that,” Hale said in brief closing remarks.

“We are solely concerned with the lawfulness of the prime minister’s decision to advise her majesty (Queen Elizabeth II) to prorogue parliament on the dates in question.

“As we have heard, it is not a simple question and we will now consider carefully all the arguments which have been presented to us.”

Eleven of the Supreme Court’s 12 judges heard appeals against two conflicting lower court decisions on Johnson’s move, involving multiple plaintiffs.

Scotland’s highest civil court found the suspension was unlawful, but the High Court in England said it was not a matter for judges to intervene in.

Johnson insists Britain must leave the EU with or without a divorce deal with Brussels, but MPs have legislated to force him to delay Brexit if he has not reached an agreement in time.

AFP