Boris Johnson: UK Can Turn Tide Of Coronavirus Spread ‘Within 12 Weeks’

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrive at the Manchester Central convention complex to attend the second day of the annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester, north-west England on September 30, 2019.  Ben STANSALL / AFP

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that Britain could “turn the tide” on coronavirus within 12 weeks — but only if people heed advice to avoid social contact.

“We can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks, and I’m absolutely confident we can send coronavirus packing in this country,” he said at his daily press conference.

“But only if we all take the steps we have outlined, and that is vital because that is how we’re going to reduce the peak.”

The government has also promised to ramp up testing of the virus, from 5,000 to 10,000 per day “by next week”, with the goal of conducting 25,000 within a month.

So far 144 people have died in Britain, with 3,269 confirmed cases — although health officials warned this week that the true number of infections could be 55,000.

READ ALSO: Woman With Coronavirus Gives Birth To Healthy Baby

Johnson did not announce new measures on Thursday to stem the outbreak, but denied rumours he could shut down public transport in London, the worst affected area.

Transport officials have closed dozens of London Underground stations, but are maintaining the system to enable “critical workers to make essential journeys”.

Johnson had on Wednesday bowed to public pressure to close schools from next week, although some will remain open for the children of health and other ‘key’ workers.

On Thursday he praised people’s “extraordinary efforts” so far in following advice to avoid non-essential social contact and travel, and to work from home.

“But if we feel it isn’t working… and we need to bring forward tougher measures, then of course nothing is ruled out,” he told reporters, themselves sitting apart.

– Economic measures –

Johnson said new measures to help businesses would be announced on Friday — and urged firms struggling with the outbreak not to fire staff.

MPs and industry bodies have raised alarm at reports of mass lay-offs in many sectors, including hospitality.

“Stand by your employees, because we’re going to stand by you,” the premier said.

The Bank of England had earlier cut its main interest rate to a record-low 0.1 percent from 0.25 percent, to tackle an “economic shock” from the outbreak.

It joined other central banks in stepping up action by also increasing holdings of UK government and corporate bonds to £645 billion ($766 billion, 700 billion euros).

Elsewhere, Johnson urged people to “please be reasonable in your shopping” as supermarkets emptied out of crucial items — notably toilet roll — across Britain.

The government on Thursday said it was temporarily relaxing elements of competition law to allow supermarkets to work together to maintain supplies.

This includes sharing data on stock levels, or cooperating on deliveries or even pooling staff, officials said.

– Royal, religious messages –

Earlier Queen Elizabeth II urged people to work together, in her first official message on the outbreak.

The 93-year-old monarch and her husband, Prince Philip, moved from London to Windsor Castle on Thursday because of the virus.

“I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal,” she said in a statement issued by Buckingham Palace.

“Now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play as individuals — today and in the coming days, weeks and months.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will also use the Church of England’s first virtual service on Sunday to urge worshippers to help others.

“We will find we are deeply consoled by our own gift of consolation,” he will say, according to an advance extract.

The Church announced that weddings during the coronavirus outbreak should be limited to a maximum of five people, including the bride and groom.

AFP

Malaysia To Ban Citizens From Travel Abroad, Foreign Arrivals – PM

This handout from Malaysia’s Department of Information taken and released on March 1, 2020 shows Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin signing documents after taking the oath as the country’s new leader at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. FAMER ROHENI / Malaysia’s Department of Information / AFP.

 

Malaysia will ban its citizens from travelling overseas and foreigners from entering the country in drastic measures announced by the prime minister Monday aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.

Schools will also be closed under the rules that will be in place for two weeks from Wednesday, Muhyiddin Yassin said.

Large gatherings will be banned while shops and places of worship will be shuttered in the country, which has 566 virus cases according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, the highest number in Southeast Asia.

Essential services such as supermarkets and banks will remain open.

“I am aware that you may feel that this action taken by the government will create difficulties in running your daily lives,” Muhyiddin said in a late-night television address.

“However, this action must be taken by the government to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak which is likely to take the lives of people in this country.”

Malaysia has so far recorded no fatalities from the virus.

READ ALSO: Global Airlines Slash Almost All Flights As Coronavirus Spreads

Many of the country’s infections have been linked to a global Islamic event held last month and attended by almost 20,000 people.

Authorities said participants at the gathering from February 27 to March 1 came from Bangladesh, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Around 14,500 of the participants were Malaysian.

The new measures bar foreigners from the country, but citizens returning to Malaysia will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“We can’t wait any longer until things get worse,” said Muhyiddin, who was sworn in only on March 1 after taking power without an election, and with support from a scandal-tainted party.

“We have seen some countries take drastic steps to control the spread of the outbreak like China, which has seen a significant decline in COVID-19 infection cases.”

AFP

Algeria Suspends Travel To Europe Over Coronavirus

 

Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad announced Monday a suspension of all scheduled travel links with Europe in a bid to forestall the spread of coronavirus.

The measure, to take effect from Thursday, will hit all “air and sea travel to and from European countries”, the premier’s office said.

“This exceptional suspension… will be accompanied by a repatriation plan for our citizens currently in the countries concerned,” it said.

Algeria has already announced a suspension from Tuesday of all traffic links with France, which hosts a large Algerian community, following cuts with Spain and Italy.

Four people have died from coronavirus in Algeria, according to the health ministry.

AFP

Canada To Help Businesses Hit By Coronavirus – PM

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 14, 2020 Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a press conference at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany. Thomas KIENZLE / AFP.

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled on Tuesday his government’s readiness to help Canadian businesses weather the novel coronavirus epidemic, if necessary.

No specific measures were announced, however, while his office told AFP the potential impact is still being assessed and a response drawn up.

“We recognize the very real economic impacts of the coronavirus globally,” Trudeau told a televised news conference in Halifax.

“We are coordinating globally to try and make sure that there is a lesser impact on the global economy,” he said.

“We also recognize that there will be impacts on Canadian businesses, on Canadian entrepreneurs, and we will always look for ways to minimize that impact and perhaps give help where help is needed.”

Trudeau’s comments followed a conference call in which Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his counterparts from G7 leading industrialized nations agreed to use “all appropriate policy tools” to keep the virus epidemic from throttling economic growth.

The disease that began in China has killed more than 3,100 people and infected more than 91,000.

Canada has reported only 29 cases as of Tuesday morning, in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec provinces.

Trudeau said the risk of the virus spreading in Canada was relatively low.

“I think the numbers so far bear it out,” he said. “But we of course will continue to monitor (the situation) very, very closely.”

Earlier, the US Federal Reserve announced an emergency rate cut in response to the growing economic risk posed by the epidemic.

The Bank of Canada had been widely expected to maintain its key lending rate at 1.75 percent until at least April.

But after the US move, analysts said the Canadian central bank would likely follow suit at its next meeting on Wednesday, marking its first rate cut since July 2015.

Government data released last week showed the Canadian economy (GDP) slowed in 2019 to 1.6 percent, from 2.0 percent in 2018. The central bank has projected growth to remain at 1.6 percent this year.

AFP

Netanyahu To Build New Settler Homes In Sensitive West Bank Corridor

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) checks the area map during a visit to the Israeli settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank on February 24, 2020. Sebastian Scheiner / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to build 3,500 new settler homes in a super-sensitive area of the occupied West Bank, just a week before a tight general election.

Netanyahu’s controversial statement is the latest in a string of election promises on settlement construction as the premier faces not only a general election but the beginning of a corruption trial.

“I gave immediate instructions for a permit to deposit (plans) for the construction of 3,500 units in E1,” Netanyahu said.

The international community has warned repeatedly that Jewish settlement construction in the E1 corridor, which passes from Jerusalem to Jericho, would slice the West Bank in two and compromise the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.

“We are building Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s outskirts,” Netanyahu said at a conference in remarks relayed by a spokesman.

In 2013, Netanyahu vetoed construction in the E1 corridor in the face of pressure from the United Nations, the European Union and the United States.

The move to advance new homes, which would constitute a new neighbourhood of Maale Adumim, a nearby settlement town, were praised by the Yesha Council, a settler lobby group, which noted that plans for homes there have existed since 2004.

“Advancing the issue will enable broad and strategic construction between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem,” Yesha Council head David Elhayani said in a statement.

But Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, co-director of Jahalin Solidarity, an NGO working to prevent the displacement of Palestinian Bedouin living in the E1 area, said the construction could mean their forced expulsion and constitute a “war crime”.

“If allowed to go ahead, this move will end the potential for a viable, sustainable Palestinian state, and is yet another example of how desperate Bibi (Netanyahu) is to buy votes so as to stay out of prison at the expense of our future,” she said.

On Thursday, Netanyahu announced plans for thousands of new homes for Israelis in annexed east Jerusalem, with critics calling the move a last-minute incentive to nationalist voters ahead of next week’s election.

On Monday, Israeli authorities moved ahead with those plans, inviting tenders for 1,077 housing units for Givat Hamatos, which would be a new settlement neighbourhood.

Settlement watchdog Peace Now said the Givat Hamatos area was “the last point enabling territorial continuity between Bethlehem and East Jerusalem,” saying that the plan to build there was proof Netanyahu was “doing everything to prevent peace”.

Israel seized east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank are considered illegal by the United Nations and most foreign governments.

Netanyahu, 70, will stand trial next month after being indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

He denies wrongdoing but the indictment has complicated his bid to extend his tenure as Israel’s longest serving prime minister.

Two elections in April and September last year failed to produce a clear winner.

Recent polls are forecasting another tight race between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and the centrist Blue and White party led by former armed forces chief Benny Gantz.

AFP

Corruption Charges: Israel’s Netanyahu Asks Parliament For Immunity

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on December 1, 2019.
Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday asked parliament for immunity, weeks after the embattled premier was indicted on a range of corruption charges.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, is fighting for his political survival on two fronts — the corruption allegations and stiff opposition from a new centrist party.

The immunity request is expected to delay the start of court proceedings for months, as lawmakers are not due to vote on the matter until after March 2 elections.

READ ALSO: Australia Gives Tourists 48 Hours To Vacate Fire-Ravaged Communities

The request is “in line with the law… (and) with the goal of continuing to serve you, for the future of Israel,” Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem.

His spokesman Ofer Golan later confirmed the request had been submitted to the speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

Netanyahu was charged by the attorney general in November with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases.

The leader of the right-wing Likud party denies the allegations and accuses prosecutors and the media of a witch hunt.

Reacting to the premier’s announcement, his rival Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, said “Netanyahu knows that he is guilty.”

Gantz said his own party will do everything it can to “prevent immunity”.

“In Israel, nobody is above the law”.

A sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

‘Only The People Decide’

But legal experts have asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether a premier can be tasked by the president with forming a new government while under indictment.

A panel of three judges began looking into the matter on Tuesday, and said they would make a ruling at a later time, without giving a date.

Netanyahu has described the legal initiative as a trap.

But “I don’t for a moment think that Israel’s Supreme Court will fall into this trap. In a democracy, only the people decide who will lead them, and nobody else,” Netanyahu said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Allegations against the premier include receiving gifts worth thousands of dollars and offering to change regulations in exchange for positive media coverage.

Despite his legal woes, Netanyahu remains popular within Likud and last week secured a landslide victory in a leadership challenge.

He saw off a bid to wrest control of the party by one-time interior minister Gideon Saar, winning with 72.5 percent of Likud members’ ballots, compared with 27.5 percent for the challenger.

The result strengthened his position in a party he has dominated for 20 years, with Netanyahu calling it a “huge win”.

Saar launched his bid after the premier failed to cobble together a governing coalition in the wake of two general elections in 2019 — one held in April, the second in September.

He said his challenge was “not because of the Likud’s ideas”, but because a failure to change leadership would bring the risk of a left-wing government.

Likud and the Blue and White party were deadlocked in April and September, necessitating a third national poll within a year.

The premier has vowed to win the March general election, although early opinion polls indicate the vote could result in yet another stalemate.

AFP

Thousands Of Protesters Storm Iraq’s Street As Deadline For New PM Looms

Protesters gather during an anti-government sit-in outside the gate of Kufa University in the central Iraqi city of Kufa, adjacent to the holy shrine city of Najaf, on December 22, 2019.
Haidar HAMDANI / AFP

 

Thousands took to the streets in Iraq’s capital and across the south Sunday to protest against Iran’s king-making influence as the latest deadline for choosing a new prime minister loomed.

Anti-government rallies have rocked Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since October 1, with demonstrators calling for a complete overhaul of a regime they deem corrupt, inefficient and overly beholden to Tehran.

“The revolution continues!” shouted one demonstrator at a protest encampment in central Diwaniyah.

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Protesters blocked off public buildings one by one in the southern Iraqi city, and put up banners reading “The country is under construction — please excuse the disruption”.

Sunday marks the latest deadline — already pushed back twice by President Barham Saleh — for parliament to choose a new premier to replace Adel Abdel Mahdi, who tendered his administration’s resignation last month.

Officials say Iran wants to install Qusay al-Suhail, who served as a higher education minister in the government of Abdel Mahdi.

“But this is exactly what we oppose — Iranian control over our country,” said 24-year-old student Houeida, speaking to AFP in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests which was once again abuzz with the youthful energy of thousands.

The protesters categorically reject Suhail’s candidacy, along with anyone from the wider political establishment that has been in place since dictator Saddam Hussein was deposed in 2003.

“Hundreds of martyrs have fallen and they are still not listening to our claims”, said 21-year-old student Mouataz, in Tahrir Square.

“We want a prime minister with integrity, but they bring back a corrupt man in their image who they will allow continuing robbing us,” he added.

‘Iraq Must Be Iraqi Again’

In a bid to secure the necessary parliamentary majority for a new premier, Shiite powerhouse Iran enlisted the services of a Lebanese Hezbollah official to negotiate with Sunni and Kurdish parties.

The post of prime minister is by a convention held by a Shiite in Iraq’s post-2003 political system.

In a Twitter plea to Saleh, one opposition Sunni lawmaker called Sunday for the president to “violate the constitution rather than plunge the country into bloody chaos by choosing a figure people have already rejected”.

Some in parliament — the most fragmented in Iraq’s history — argue that Saleh should use Article 81 of the Constitution, which authorises the president to step in as prime minister himself if there is no agreement among lawmakers on a candidate.

In a sign of the protesters’ unprecedented influence, top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is said to have made and unmade every premier in the post-Saddam era, has been notably absent from the maneuverings this time around.

The protest movement has been hit by intimidation, including assassinations perpetrated by militias, according to the UN.

Around 460 people have been killed since October 1, and some 25,000 have been wounded.

Yet the protesters appeared to regain some confidence on Sunday.

Overnight, demonstrators in Diwaniyah and Basra, another southern city, had declared a “general strike”.

They burnt tyres to block roads linking southern cities to Baghdad, an AFP correspondent said.

The road to Umm Qasr port — vital for imports — near Basra was among those blocked.

In Karbala and Najaf, two Shiite holy cities, striking students closed schools and gathered in their thousands, AFP correspondents said.

In Nasiriyah, protesters blocked bridges and several roads while all public buildings remained closed.

Protesters are demanding the fall of Saleh and parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbussi, accusing them of procrastinating.

“Iraq must become Iraqi again, and if the president does not help us, we will force him out too,” asserted student Houeida, buoyed by the renewed momentum in Tahrir Square.

AFP

30 Killed As Dorian Storms Bahamas

This satellite image obtained from NOAA/RAMMB, shows Tropical Storm Dorian as it approaching the Bahamas and Florida at 13:430UTC on August 31, 2019. HO / NOAA/RAMMB / AFP

 

The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday.

Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher.

Minnis has said that the storm caused “generational devastation.”

READ ALSO: 33 Bodies Recovered After California Dive Boat Disaster

The United Nations said 70,000 people in the Bahamas were in “immediate need” of aid.

Dorian, currently a Category 2 storm, was pounding the US states of North and South Carolina Thursday night with strong winds and driving rain, bringing dangerous storm surge.

 

Court Bids Launched To Stop Johnson Suspending UK Parliament

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament just weeks before Britain’s EU departure date faced legal challenges on Thursday following a furious outcry from pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson announced the surprise decision Wednesday to dismiss parliament — known as proroguing — for nearly five weeks next month, claiming it was necessary to allow him to pursue a “bold and ambitious” new domestic agenda.

But the move sent shockwaves through the British political system, which relies on centuries of precedents and conventions instead of a codified constitution.

In a blow for Johnson, popular Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said she was stepping down after eight years during which she has turned around her party’s fortunes.

Davidson, who supported staying in the EU, urged Johnson to clinch a deal with Brussels and mentioned the “conflict I have felt over Brexit” in her resignation letter.

Johnson’s opponents have labelled the suspension of parliament a “coup” and a “constitutional outrage” and it prompted immediate court bids in London and Edinburgh to halt the process.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, has also written to request an audience with Queen Elizabeth II to voice his opposition to the suspension, as has Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson.

Labour’s finance spokesman John McDonnell said his party would not allow Johnson to behave like a “dictator”.

 ‘Candyfloss of outrage’

At least two legal challenges have also been announced.

Gina Miller, a businesswoman and leading anti-Brexit campaigner, said she had applied for an urgent judicial review challenging “the effect and the intention” of the suspension.

“We think that this request is illegal,” said Miller, who in 2017 successfully won MPs the right to vote on formally starting to leave the EU in a court challenge.

Scottish National Party (SNP) politician Joanna Cherry said lawyers had applied for an urgent interim hearing at Scotland’s highest civil court which they hoped would take place as early as Thursday.

However, arch-Brexiteer minister Jacob Rees-Mogg defended the suspension and insisted MPs would still have time to debate Brexit ahead of Britain’s October 31 EU departure date.

“The candyfloss of outrage, which is almost entirely confected, is from people who never wanted to leave the European Union,” he told BBC radio.

 ‘Stop the coup’

Thousands of people protested in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and other cities, while an online petition seeking to block the decision had garnered more than 1.3 million signatures by early Thursday.

At the biggest rally, crowds gathered near parliament in London chanting “stop the coup” and waving EU flags.

Queen Elizabeth approved the request to end what has been the longest session of parliament in nearly 400 years in the second week of September and reopen it on October 14 — just over two weeks before Brexit.

The House of Commons typically goes into recess around the annual party conference season, which kicks off on September 14 and ends on October 2, but critics slammed this more lengthy break.

Corbyn has said he may call a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s government, which commands a majority of just one seat.

The pound remained under pressure Thursday after sliding on news of the suspension.

Backstop or bust

In the seismic 2016 referendum on Britain’s EU membership, 52 percent voted in favour of leaving the bloc, a result that has left parliament and the country bitterly divided.

Johnson insists Britain must leave by the October 31 deadline — already twice-delayed — with or without a divorce deal from Brussels.

Parliament has rejected three times the withdrawal agreement struck between Brussels and the government of Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.

Eurosceptics objected to a so-called “backstop” provision to keep the Irish border open for people and goods, which would keep Britain closely aligned with the EU.

Johnson, who took office barely a month ago, wants the EU to drop the backstop measure entirely — something Brussels has repeatedly ruled out.

An EU summit on October 17-18 will likely determine whether there is any scope for compromise.

If not, Britain will end its four decades of membership without a deal governing key issues such as  future trade relations and citizens’ rights.

AFP

‘We Believe In Africa,’ Prime Minster Abe Says At TICAD Opening Ceremony

The seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama, Japan has officially been declared open by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Japanese Prime Minister at the ceremony describes TICAD as a conference that believes in Africa and one that will continue to guide Africa and Japan.

Abe also listed  Japanese interventions in Africa.

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Some of the interventions listed by Abe include clearing of land mines, health care, water supply, building infrastructure and capacity building in Africa.

Leaders who also gave opening speeches at the conference include Al Fatah Elsisi of Egypt; UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres and the Africa Union Chairperson, Musa Faki Mohammed among others.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is also at the conference. He is accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum; Kwara State governor AbdulRaham AbdulRazaq and Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and other top government officials.

President Buhari is expected to deliver Nigeria’s Statement during Plenary Session Three in which he would appraise Nigeria-Japan relations and takeaways from TICAD6.

Johnson ‘Marginally’ More Optimistic On Brexit Deal After G7

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that he was “marginally more optimistic” on the chances of clinching a deal for Britain’s exit from the EU after talks at the G7 this weekend, but acknowledged it would be difficult.

“I am marginally more optimistic,” he said after intense contacts on Brexit at the G7 with fellow leaders.

But he added: “It will be difficult… there is a substantial disagreement” between Britain and the EU.

Johnson insisted that it was up to the EU to improve the chances of a deal but needed to negotiate a new agreement on leaving without the so-called “backstop” for Ireland.

The backstop provision, strongly opposed by Johnson’s government and Brexit supporters, is meant to guarantee that border checks will not return between Ireland, an EU member, and Britain’s Northern Ireland.

The EU has so far rejected negotiating a new deal, which was approved by the government under Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May but repeatedly rejected by the British parliament.

“All the statistical estimates I give for a deal… they all depend exclusively on the willingness of our friends and partners (in the EU) to compromise on that crucial point and get rid of the backstop and the current withdrawal agreement.”

Addressing concerns he is prepared to ignore parliament so that Britain leaves the EU on October 31, Johnson said British people were tired of reading about Brexit on the front pages of their newspapers.

“I think that this is a matter for parliamentarians to get right themselves,” he said, adding that it was up to lawmakers to implement the outcome of the 2016 referendum that called for the EU exit.

“People have just about had enough of this conversation and they are yearning for a moment when Brexit comes off the front pages. But that can only happen when we come out of the EU on October 31,” he said.

Johnson also reaffirmed that if Britain left the EU without a deal it would not pay all of the £39 billion ($47 billion, 43 billion euro) divorce bill that has already been negotiated.

He did not specify how much, if any, would be paid.

“Under any circumstances, if there is a no-deal outcome, very substantial sums will be available from the 39 billion for the UK to spend on our priorities, including managing that no-deal scenario,” he said.

The EU insists Britain must pay the bill even if it crashes out of the bloc without a deal.

British Pound Rises As Johnson Takes Office

 

 

The British pound rose Wednesday as arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson prepared to take over as prime minister, while European stocks mostly fell on the weak mining sector.

Sterling gained versus the euro and dollar as traders readied for Johnson — a leading Leave campaigner in Britain’s shock Brexit referendum three years ago — to take the reins from outgoing premier Theresa May.

He is to be appointed later Wednesday by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

Sterling had briefly rallied Tuesday in reaction to Johnson’s election as Conservative Party leader, with investors keen to see whether he pushes ahead with a no-deal divorce from the European Union at the end of October.

Brexit scepticism ‘priced in’ 

“The pound is beginning to stabilise, proving that a lot of the scepticism about Boris Johnson’s Brexit policy was already built into the price,” said City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta.

“Sterling is trading a touch higher this morning,” she noted.

May was forced out after failing to get parliamentary support for a Brexit deal she had struck with EU leaders.

Meanwhile, Europe’s major stock markets mostly fell, with miners weighed down by sliding iron ore prices, dealers said.

In afternoon trading, London’s FTSE 100 was down by 0.8 percent.

In the eurozone, Paris CAC 40 shed 0.3 percent but Frankfurt’s DAX 30 won 0.4 percent in value.

“The FTSE 100 is firmly in the red as mining stocks are weighing on the index,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

“A sell-off in iron ore prices in China has prompted a decline in major mining stocks like Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, and Glencore.

“Brazil’s Vale won approval to restart iron ore production, and that triggered the drop in iron ore prices.”

  Tech under threat 

Most Asian markets enjoyed another day of gains, with support coming from more healthy earnings results and renewed hopes for a resolution of the China-US trade war.

The latest big-name firms to post positive results were Coca-Cola, toymaker Hasbro and Harley-Davidson, helping all three main indexes on Wall Street end with sharp gains overnight.

Adding to the upbeat mood were reports that US President Donald Trump’s Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead a delegation to China next week to resume trade talks.

The meeting would be the first head-to-head talks since negotiations were cut short in May by Trump’s surprise decision to hit China with more tariffs for what he called Beijing’s backsliding.

However, US markets opened lower Thursday as investors turned their attention to a US government investigation into top tech firms, with the Dow sliding 0.5 percent.

The Justice Department announced it would begin an antitrust review of major online platforms to determine if they have “stifled” innovation or reduced competition, and while it did not name specific firms, it appears Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are in the crosshairs.

“In other words, it will focus on some of the biggest, most successful, and widely-held, stocks in the land,” said market analyst Patrick O’Hare at Briefing.com.

“They are all trading lower in pre-market action — nothing major, but indications nonetheless that are a dragnet for the broader market,” he added.

Key figures around 1330 GMT 

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2489 from $1.2440 at 2050 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.29 pence from 89.64 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1150 from $1.1152

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.05 yen from 108.23 yen

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 7,496.88 points

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.3 percent at 5,600.48

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 12,535.63

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 3,530.80

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.5 percent at 27,225.14

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 21,709.57 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 28,524.04 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 2,923.28 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: UP less than 0.1 percent at $63.87 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.3 percent at $56.92