Johnson Pledges January Brexit After Missing ‘Do Or Die’ Deadline

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on October 30, 2019.  AFP

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson blamed his opposition Labour rival for Britain’s failure to leave the European Union by Thursday’s deadline and promised to deliver Brexit by January — if he wins the upcoming pre-Christmas election.

Johnson is riding high in opinion polls going into the December 12 vote that will be Britain’s third in four years.

But he risks a backlash over his unkept “do or die” promise to take Britain out by October 31 — and again set himself up for another potential fall by promising to meet the next deadline.

The Conservative leader, who wants no more delays to the process, cast himself as a victim of parliamentary opposition parties that refused to follow the wishes of UK voters who chose to leave Europe in the knife-edge 2016 referendum.

“After three-and-a-half years, it was perfectly obvious to me that this parliament is just not going to vote Brexit through,” Johnson said during a campaign stop at a hospital.

“If you vote for us and we get our programme through, which we will — as a I say, it’s oven-ready, it’s there to go — we can be out, at the absolute latest, by January next year.”

 ‘It’s not about me’ 

Pro-EU campaigners and business executives breathed a sigh of relief that Britain had been given a stay of execution to avoid a Halloween Brexit nightmare that could have seen it crash out of the bloc after 46 years without a plan.

Johnson confounded expectations by securing a revised EU divorce deal that Brussels had long refused to touch.

But he was forced to follow through on parliamentary orders and ask EU leaders for more time after Labour mustered enough cross-party support to extend parliamentary debates and delay a final vote.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would throw out Johnson’s plan and get Brexit “sorted” within the first six months of grabbing power by negotiating more EU-friendly separation terms.

He would then put it up for a vote against the option of simply staying the 27-nation bloc.

“We’ll let the people decide whether to leave with a sensible deal or remain. It really isn’t that complicated,” Corbyn told a party rally at a London art centre.

“And we, the Labour government, will carry out whatever the people decide.”

But the veteran socialist avoided answering a direct question on which way he himself would vote.

“It’s not about me, it’s not any individual on this platform, it’s not a presidential election,” Corbyn said.

 ‘Government that cares’ 

Corbyn has been accused of seeking to shift the debate onto more domestic subjects such as health and social care to avoid scrutiny of his own vague position on Europe.

He has said in the past that he voted to leave in 2016. But he has also spent much of his political career attacking Brussels as a cauldron of crony capitalism.

Corbyn promised to push the most “radical” agenda Britain has ever seen. He pledged to put “wealth and power in the hands of the many” and eliminate everything from poverty to university tuition fees.

“Together we can pull down the corrupt system to build a genuine government that cares for all,” he said.

Business leaders warn that Labour’s plan to reimpose state ownership over railways and other major industries would cost at least £196 billion ($253 billion, 228 billion euros).

But a National Institute of Economic and Social Research study suggested Wednesday that Johnson’s Brexit deal could leave Britain £70 billion worse off in 10 years.

 Outgoing MPs blame abuse 

Almost 60 members of the 650-seat lower House of Commons have announced they will not stand in the coming election.

The number has raised eyebrows because — while dozens usually leave before general election — many came from the more moderate and wing of Johnson’s party.

Senior cabinet minister Nicky Morgan was one of several to at least partly link her decision to the “abuse” lawmakers receive from the public.

Divisions over Brexit have seen sometimes toxic rhetoric on all sides. Death threats against lawmakers and attacks on social media have risen in recent years.

Morgan described the “clear impact on my family and the other sacrifices involved in, and the abuse for, doing the job of a modern MP”.

Long-standing Conservative MP Caroline Spelman warned of a “wild west of internet abuse” as she stepped down.

AFP

British MPs Vote For December Election To Break Brexit Deadlock

Labour MP Nick Smith, Labour MP Nic Dakin, Conservative MP Stuart Andrew and Conservative MP Iain Stewart preparing to deliver the result of a vote on the programme motion setting out the proposed timetable for the Brexit withdrawal Agreement Bill in the House of Commons in London on October 22, 2019.  HO / AFP / PRU

 

British MPs on Tuesday agreed to hold an early election on December 12, backing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call to try to break the crippling political deadlock that has seen Brexit delayed three times.

Hours after the EU formally agreed to postpone Britain’s departure again, up to the end of January, lawmakers voted for the country’s third election in four years.

It is a gamble for Johnson, who leads a minority Conservative government, but he had nowhere left to turn after MPs rejected the Brexit terms he struck with Brussels less than two weeks ago.

His Conservatives are currently well ahead of the opposition Labour party in opinion polls, and he hopes to win a majority in the lower House of Commons in order to push through his Brexit plan.

But his failure to keep to his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU on October 31 risks a backlash.

The election outcome could have huge implications for Britain’s tortuous Brexit process, which began with the 2016 EU referendum.

Labour is committed to a new “people’s vote”, while two smaller opposition parties want to reverse Brexit and remain in the European Union.

Many Labour MPs are wary of an election, fearful of defeat under their leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn, but he swung his support behind the poll.

The other 27 EU member states earlier formally adopted Monday’s decision by envoys to delay Brexit by up to three months until the end of January, with an option for Britain to leave early if it ratifies an exit deal.

“To my British friends, The EU27 has formally adopted the extension. It may be the last one. Please make the best use of this time,” European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter.

The election bill will now go to the unelected upper House of Lords for debate on Wednesday, but peers are expected to back the plan, paving the way for parliament to be dissolved early next week .

 ‘New mandate’ 

Johnson took office in July promising to end the wrangling over Brexit which has bitterly divided the country, but a rebellion over his hardline strategy left him without a majority in parliament.

Unable to win MPs’ support for his divorce terms, he was forced by law earlier this month to ask his fellow EU leaders for a delay.

After three failed attempts to pass a normal election motion, which requires the support of two-thirds of MPs, Johnson on Tuesday took an alternative path.

He introduced a bill to legislate for an election — a method which required only a simple majority, and this passed by 438 votes to 20.

“We are left with no choice but to go to the country to break free from this impasse,” he had told MPs.

A newly elected parliament would have a “new mandate to deliver on the will of people and get Brexit done”, he said.

In a move to unite his Conservative party ahead of the poll — the first to be held in December since 1923 — Johnson readmitted 10 of the 21 MPs he expelled last month for defying his Brexit plan.

 Radical campaign 

Labour had sought to push for the general election to be held on December 9, but this was defeated by 315 votes to 295.

Veteran socialist Corbyn had been torn between rival camps over whether to support Johnson’s election initiative.

But the smaller Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats — who both oppose Brexit — wanted an election, making it hard for Labour to stand in their way.

Corbyn had refused to back an election until Johnson’s threat to leave the EU without a divorce deal was removed, but said this was resolved by the three-month Brexit delay.

“This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country and take on the vested interests holding people back,” he said Tuesday.

“We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change that our country has ever seen.

“This is our chance to build a country for the many not the few and fit for the next generation.”

Experts warn that British politics remains deeply volatile more than three years after the referendum vote, and say the election result could be unpredictable.

There was significant voter switching between the 2015 and 2017 elections.

Election specialist John Curtice from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow said Johnson is in a strong position to get a majority — but an election remains a gamble.

“Boris has to win. A hung parliament and Boris is out,” he said, warning that a Labour-led coalition would likely take over.

AFP

UK Set For Election As EU Warns No More Brexit Delays

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

 

British MPs looked set Tuesday to vote for a pre-Christmas elections to try to resolve the political deadlock over its exit from the European Union, as the bloc warned there may not be any more Brexit delays.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying for a fourth time to call a snap poll for December, and looks likely to succeed after the main opposition Labour party said it would support him.

As ever in the tortuous Brexit process that began with the 2016 EU referendum, however, there was a risk of the House of Commons rejecting the plan in a row over extending the franchise to EU citizens and teenagers.

In Brussels, European Council President Donald Tusk warned against prolonging the turmoil.

Confirming that the three-month Brexit delay approved in principle by EU members on Monday had now been formally adopted, he warned: “It may be the last one.

“Please make the best use of this time.”

 ‘New mandate’ 

Johnson took office in July promising to end more than three years of political wrangling over Britain’s EU exit but a rebellion over his hardline strategy has left him without a Commons majority.

Unable to get MPs’ support for his divorce deal with Brussels, he was forced by law to abandon his “do-or-die” pledge to leave the bloc on October 31.

He is now pressing for an early election in December which he hopes will give him the Commons majority he needs to push through legislation to enact Brexit.

After three failed attempts to pass a normal election motion, which requires the support of two-thirds of MPs, the prime minister on Tuesday took an alternative path.

Johnson introduced a bill to legislate for an election — a method which requires only a simple majority to pass.

“We are left with no choice but to go to the country to break free from this impasse,” he told MPs.

A newly elected parliament would have a “new mandate to deliver on the will of people and get Brexit done”, he said.

 Radical campaign 

In a major boost, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced his support for a December poll after meeting with his top team on Tuesday morning.

The veteran socialist has been torn between rival camps within his own party over whether to proceed, with some fearing Labour faces electorate defeat.

Corbyn had argued that he would not allow an election until Johnson’s threat to leave the EU without a divorce deal was removed.

The EU’s agreement to delay Brexit meant that “for the next three months, our condition of taking no-deal off the table has now been met”, he announced.

“We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”

After the EU delay, the government halted costly “no-deal” exit preparations and reportedly melted down 50-pence commemorative Brexit coins.

However, the risk of a disorderly exit may still remain, for example if there is no Brexit deal by January and the EU declines to grant a further delay.

 ‘Boris has to win’ 

Johnson is pressing for an election on December 12, but some opposition parties pushing for December 9 — with the decision to be made in votes later Tuesday.

There is a risk that the election plan is derailed, due to a number of amendments tabled to Johnson’s legislation.

One demands EU citizens living in Britain be allowed to vote in the election, while another wants the franchise extended to people aged 16 and 17.

The government opposes both, and Downing Street said that if either passed, it would abandon the entire project.

There have been two general elections in the last four years in Britain, in 2015 and 2017, and the next is not scheduled to happen until 2022.

Johnson is taking a risk in calling an early poll, but he has few other options.

John Curtice from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow said Johnson is in a strong position to get a majority but an election remains a gamble.

“Boris has to win. A hung parliament and Boris is out,” he said, referring to situation — as is the case now — where no party has a majority in the Commons.

Curtice told AFP that failure to win a Conservative majority would see a Labour-led coalition seek a new Brexit referendum.

 

 

Boris Johnson Revives Push For Early Election

A handout picture released by the UK Parliament Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gesturing during the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) session in the House of Commons in London on October 23, 2019. 
JESSICA TAYLOR / AFP / UK PARLIAMENT

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday made a fresh push to get lawmakers to back his plan for a pre-Christmas election after a third Brexit delay.

The Conservative leader is trying to lead Britain through a three-year crisis that was meant to end Thursday with the country’s exit from the European Union.

But he was forced to abandon his “do-or-die” pledge to leave the bloc on schedule and begrudgingly accepted another extension from Brussels until the end of January next year.

Britain’s inability to break its half-century bond with the EU has called a halt to costly “no-deal” exit preparations and reportedly seen freshly minted 50-pence commemorative Brexit coins melted down.

Johnson is now trying to secure an early general election in a bid to win a majority that could allow him to push through legislation to enact Brexit.

His third attempt to get parliament to agree to disband early and hold a general election on December 12 ended in failure again on Monday night after he failed to get the required support of two-thirds of MPs.

But he was set to try yet again for the same date on Tuesday using a different parliamentary procedure that would only require a simple majority to get his early polls.

He consulted his cabinet ministers early Tuesday to plot strategy in advance of another gruelling session of the House of Commons that could stretch into the night.

Johnson’s new attempt amends existing laws requiring a two-thirds majority by proposing a simple bill with an election date.

“This house cannot any longer keep this country hostage,” Johnson told lawmakers after they defeated Monday’s election attempt.

Date Debate

Johnson’s election push is piling pressure on the main opposition Labour Party to come out in support.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is being torn by rival camps within his own party and facing poor poll numbers that show the Conservatives in a strong lead.

Corbyn has argued that he cannot back an election until Johnson promises not to take Britain out of the EU without a new trade deal when the post-Brexit transition period ends in December 2020.

Britain would be following EU rules until that time.

“This is a prime minister who cannot be trusted,” Corbyn said Monday.

But some Labour members voted for an early election and others are signalling a general acceptance that one is probably inevitable by this stage.

The main arguments have now boiled down to the actual date of the polls. The last election to be held in December was in 1923.

Johnson insists on December 12. A rival plan proposed by the pro-European Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) proposes December 9.

The second option is also preferred by Labour as it edges toward backing an early poll.

Some in the party say the later date reduces the number of more liberal students voting because it comes after they finish their semesters and return home for the winter break.

Labour’s trade spokesman Barry Gardiner told BBC radio “the first thing” for Johnson to do to get his party’s backing was “to ensure that students are not going to be disenfranchised by an election on December 12”.

The debate appears to be one of principle.

The SNP’s parliamentary leader Ian Blackford urged Labour to not “be the handmaidens to the prime minister’s Brexit” and to fight for the earlier date.

Johnson is mainly concerned about amendments that could be attached to his bill.

One proposed option would extend voting rights to EU citizens — a group that strongly opposed Brexit.

Another would lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

UK Parties Argue Over Election As EU Mulls Brexit Extension

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

 

Britain appeared to move a step closer Sunday to holding an early election in December, after two opposition parties backed the idea — but only if EU leaders delay Brexit until January.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats broke ranks with the main opposition Labour party to offer Prime Minister Boris Johnson the snap poll he wants, only on their terms.

But his government dismissed it as a “gimmick”, while the plan depends on how long European Union leaders will delay Brexit — and they are watching to see what happens in London.

Britain is due to end its 46 years of EU membership on Thursday, but Johnson was forced by law to request a three-month delay after MPs last weekend refused to approve his exit deal, the latest twist in the tumultuous divorce process.

Exasperated EU leaders have agreed to a postponement but disagree over the length, with a decision due on Monday or Tuesday.

At the same time, Johnson will ask British lawmakers to back an early election. He wants a December 12 vote, hoping MPs will approve his divorce deal first.

But his minority Conservative government needs the support of opposition MPs, and they have previously twice refused.

The Labour party dislikes his Brexit deal and says it will not back an election until the risk of Britain leaving the EU with no deal at all is removed.

But in a new twist, the SNP and the Lib Dems — which both strongly oppose Brexit and between them have 54 MPs in the 650-seat House of Commons — have offered another way.

They propose that MPs give up on Johnson’s Brexit deal and move to a December 9 vote — as long as EU leaders agree to delay Brexit until January 31.

‘See what the EU says’ 

Members of Johnson’s government dismissed the SNP-Lib Dem idea as a “gimmick” and a “stunt”.

“If the SNP and Lib Dems want an election then they have a chance to vote for one as quickly as tomorrow when the government’s motion is voted on,” Culture Minister Nicky Morgan told Sky News.

Senior Labour MP Diane Abbott said her party would wait to hear from Brussels.

“We are waiting to see what the EU says. Make no mistake… the Labour party is up for an election,” she told BBC television.

Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament, tweeted that the SNP-Lib Dem proposal was “sensible”.

And France, which has so far objected to a three-month Brexit delay, said Sunday that an election would be a reason for a postponement.

“If they want to hold elections, we must give them the time to do that,” European Affairs minister Amelie de Montchalin told French media.

 Holding Britain ‘hostage’ 

Johnson has proposed an election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which requires the support of two-thirds of MPs — 434 out of 650.

The SNP and Lib Dems propose instead passing a bill with the single purpose of holding a December 9 vote, which could pass with a simple majority.

“The SNP is prepared to back a bill that seeks to bring forward an early general election on Monday December 9 once an extension to the Brexit deadline to January 31, 2020 has been secured,” SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said.

However, to even be debated the legislation requires government support or an emergency motion backed by a majority of MPs to make time in the parliamentary timetable.

Johnson, a leading Brexit figure in the 2016 EU referendum, is currently ahead in opinion polls.

But experts say the referendum upset traditional political allegiances, and voter volatility makes an election result hard to predict.

Downing Street is wary of a backlash among voters angry that Johnson missed his repeated promises to leave the EU on October 31.

But it could mitigate the damage by persuading MPs to ratify the divorce deal before an election — or at least showing that they tried.

“Parliament cannot hold the country hostage any longer,” Johnson said in a statement late Saturday.

AFP

UK Tragedy: Driver Remanded In Prison Over 39 Dead Migrants

Police officers drive away a lorry, with black plastic visible at the rear, in which 39 dead bodies were discovered sparking a murder investigation at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, east of London, on October 23, 2019.

 

A UK court on Monday remanded in custody a truck driver over the deaths of 39 Asian migrants he had been smuggling, in a case that has horrified Britain and sparked a search for their country of origin.

Maurice Robinson, a 25-year-old from Northern Ireland known as Mo, was charged Saturday with 39 counts of manslaughter, money laundering and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

As bereaved families in Vietnam prayed for their missing sons and daughters, some of whose identies emerged online, Robinson made no statement in a brief video appearance at a court in Chelmsford, northeast of London.

He has been scheduled to enter a plea at London’s Old Bailey court on November 25.

The eight women and 31 men found Wednesday in a refrigerated container in Essex, southeast England, were originally identified as Chinese.

But several Vietnamese families have come forward since, saying they feared their relatives were among the dead, and UK authorities have walked back their original statement.

 Mourning in Vietnam 

The grim case has again cast light on the extreme dangers facing illegal migrants seeking better lives in Europe, and reopened debates across Britain about ways to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

Britain is now conducting its largest murder investigation since the July 7, 2005 London suicide bombings that killed 52 people.

Officials started collecting DNA samples from families in Nghe An and Ha Tinh, impoverished provinces in central Vietnam where most of the suspected victims came from.

On Monday, Vietnam said Britain had sent documents to help with the complicated task of identifying the bodies, many of whom were believed to be carrying falsified passports.

“The UK side has sent four sets of dossiers related to the Essex lorry deaths… for verification coordination,” Vietnam’s Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son said.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry is gathering information on the suspected victims, the report said, after hair and blood samples were collected from several families.

UK authorities arrested another man wanted in the case on Saturday in Dublin, while three others detained earlier have been released on bail.

The man arrested Saturday is also believed to be in his 20s and from Northern Ireland, although no details about his identity have been released.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who campaigned for stronger borders while pushing Britain to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, signed a book of condolence Monday and laid flowers in Grays, east of London, where the truck was found.

Interior minister Priti Patel was also due to answer questions about the case in parliament.

The tragedy has plunged communities in central Vietnam into mourning as families desperately wait for news from their missing relatives.

Vietnamese media reported that as many as 24 of the victims could be Vietnamese although officials have not confirmed the number.

Central Vietnam has long been a source of illegal migration to Britain for people seeking better lives.

Vietnamese migrants often work illegally in nail bars or cannabis farms, heavily indebted and vulnerable to exploitation.

AFP

UK Truck Tragedy: 20 Vietnamese Feared Dead

 

As many as 20 Vietnamese citizens are feared among 39 people found dead in a truck in Britain this week, families and community organisers said Saturday, as one of the alleged truck owners denied involvement in the tragedy.

British police initially said all of the 31 men and eight women found early Wednesday in a refrigerated lorry in an industrial park in Grays, east of London, were believed to be Chinese nationals.

Four people have been held over the incident, which has shocked Britain and shed light on dangerous trafficking routes into Europe taken by undocumented migrants.

Several Vietnamese families now fear their relatives, who may have been carrying falsified Chinese passports, are among the victims.

Britain-based community group VietHome said it had received “photos of nearly 20 people reported missing, age 15-45” from Vietnam, a popular source for smuggled migrants looking to better their lives in the UK.

Nguyen Dinh Gia told AFP Saturday he got a call from his son two weeks ago saying he was planning to go to Britain where he hoped to work in a nail salon.

His 20-year-old son Nguyen Dinh Luong had been living in France and said the journey would cost 11,000 pounds ($14,000).

But Gia received a call several days ago from a Vietnamese man saying “Please have some sympathy, something unexpected happened,” he recounted to AFP.

“I fell to the ground when I heard that,” Gia said. “It seemed that he was in the truck with the accident, all of them dead,” he added.

A 26-year-old Vietnamese woman Pham Thi Tra My is also believed to be among the victims after her family received a text message from her hours before the migrants were discovered.

“I’m sorry Mom. My path to abroad doesn’t succeed. Mom, I love you so much! I’m dying because I can’t breathe,” she said in the message confirmed by her brother Pham Manh Cuong.

He received another message from her a few hours later saying: “Please try to work hard to pay the debt for mummy, my dear,” according to a text sent at 4:28 am Vietnam time on Wednesday (2128 Tuesday GMT) seen by AFP.

The family, who live in a bare home with a corrugated tin roof in central Vietnam, have asked Vietnamese officials to help find the missing woman.

 Pushed by poverty 

The truck carrying the migrants arrived in Purfleet on the River Thames estuary on a ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge just over an hour before ambulance crews called the police at 1:40 am.

The driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, was arrested at the scene.

A married couple were held in Warrington in northwest England on Friday, including a woman who allegedly once owned the truck that carried the container, according to media reports.

The pair denied any involvement and said the truck had been sold to an Irish company more than a year ago.

“It’s nothing to do with us now,” said one of the accused, Joanna Maher, as quoted by The Times.

A fourth suspect, a 48-year-old man from Northern Ireland, has also been arrested.

Investigators started carrying out autopsies Friday to establish how the victims died before the work begins on trying to identify them.

The police investigation is Britain’s largest murder probe since the 2005 London suicide bombings.

The suspected Vietnamese victims both come from Ha Tinh, an impoverished province in a part of Vietnam where many of the country’s illegal migrants come from.

Many have their sights set on Britain, where they end up working in nail salons or on cannabis farms, hoping for quick riches.

They can pay smugglers up to $40,000 for the dangerous journey across eastern Europe — often via China or Russia — an enormous sum in Vietnam where the annual per capital income is around $2,400, according to the World Bank.

Those who cannot pay upfront often have to work off their debt to traffickers, which may include a fee for falsified documents.

The Vietnamese embassy in London is working to “accelerate the process of confirming the victims’ identities”, according to a statement from the foreign ministry in Hanoi.

AFP

Brexit: Boris Johnson Offers Dec 12 For Snap Election

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gesturing during the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) session in the House of Commons in London on October 23, 2019.  JESSICA TAYLOR / AFP / UK PARLIAMENT

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday offered parliament more time to scrutinise his Brexit deal if it agrees to hold a snap general election on December 12.

The premier suspended debates on his EU divorce deal after MPs on Tuesday refused to rush it through parliament in time for the October 31 Brexit deadline.

Johnson is vehemently opposed to delaying Britain’s exit from the European Union a third time this year but has been forced by parliament to request a delay.

Lawmakers on Tuesday gave their support “in principle” for the agreement — but voted down the proposed timetable.

It had been the first time that the House of Commons had backed any Brexit proposal since the 2016 EU referendum.

The EU is expected to agree the length of a Brexit deadline extension on Friday.

Johnson has asked the EU for a three-month delay that could be cut short in case of a breakthrough that finally sees the deal approved by MPs.

Johnson said Thursday that the only way to make real progress now was by MPs agreeing to a general election.

“If they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal, they can have it — but they have to agree on a general election on December 12,” he said.

“It’s time, frankly, that the opposition summoned up the nerve to submit themselves to the judgement of our collective boss, which is the people of the UK.”

The main opposition Labour Party has previously refused to back snap polls until the possibility of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit on October 31 has been firmly ruled out.

The party’s parliamentary business spokeswoman Valerie Vaz reaffirmed that position in parliament — to jeers from Conservative MPs.

“The Labour Party will back an election once no deal is ruled out and if the extension allows,” Vaz said.

 Narrow margins 

Two-thirds of MPs must vote in favour of an early election and Johnson is currently running a minority government.

Passing his Brexit legislation would rely on the shaky support of ousted Conservatives and Labour rebels, largely representing Brexit-supporting constituencies.

Top Labour Party members fear early polls because of Johnson’s relatively high public approval ratings.

Instead, they have pushed leader Jeremy Corbyn to support holding a second Brexit referendum.

The Britain Elects poll aggregator puts Johnson’s Conservatives on 35 percent, Labour on 25 percent, the Liberal Democrats on 18 percent, the Brexit Party on 11 percent and the Greens on four percent.

Some members of Johnson’s cabinet and advisers have also reportedly expressed reservations about an election held soon after another Brexit delay — a prospect that Johnson had repeatedly ruled out.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister responsible for scheduling the business of parliament, told MPs that they would have “an opportunity to debate and approve” Johnson’s election proposal on Monday.

He said the government was willing to have parliament sit 24 hours a day, every day until dissolution on November 6 if they backed an election, to give them time to scrutinise the Brexit bill.

The row over Brexit overshadowed a symbolic win for Johson on Thursday, with MPs voting in favour of his government’s annual legislative programme by 310 to 294 votes.

The outcome saves Johnson from overseeing the first government to have its agenda rejected in nearly 100 years.

AFP

Police Identify 39 People Found Dead Inside Truck As Chinese Nationals

 

The 39 people found dead in a truck in Britain were Chinese nationals,  British media outlets reported on Thursday, citing sources.

The victims were discovered in a container on the back of a truck in Grays, east of London, on Wednesday, shortly after arriving by ferry from Belgium.

The local Essex Police force, which is working with immigration officials, said their initial priority was to try to identify the victims, thought to be 38 adults and one teenager.

The truck was moved Wednesday to a more secure location at the nearby Tilbury docks so the bodies could be removed.

Essex Police and the Chinese embassy in London did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2000, the bodies of 58 clandestine Chinese immigrants were discovered in a Dutch truck at the southeastern English port of Dover. Two people survived.

AFP 

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.

 

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

UK Will Leave EU By Oct 31, British Govt Vows

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks on a point of order after the House of Commons in London on October 19, 2019 voting to back an amendment in the name of former Conservative MP Oliver Letwin which delays the decision on the Brexit deal.  PRU / AFP

 

A defiant British government doubled down on Sunday, insisting it would leave the European Union in 11 days’ time despite parliament forcing a reluctant prime minister to request another delay.

In a day of high drama on Saturday, MPs in the House of Commons passed up the chance to decide on the revised withdrawal agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had negotiated with the European Union.

That defeat leaves Johnson under mounting pressure to find a way out of paralysing impasse on when and how Britain would leave the EU bloc after Britons narrowly voted to exit in a 2016 referendum.

Late Saturday, Johnson reluctantly sent European Council President Donald Tusk a letter legally imposed on him by parliament requesting an extension — but refused to sign it.

The Conservative leader sent a second, signed letter insisting he was not seeking an extension to the Brexit deadline, which has already been postponed twice, warning that “a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners”.

Having failed to back a divorce deal, which Johnson had secured on Thursday, MPs triggered a law requiring him to write to EU leaders asking to delay Brexit, to avoid the risk that Britain crashes out in less than a fortnight’s time.

Senior cabinet minister Michael Gove, the government’s Brexit planning chief, was nonetheless adamant that Britain would leave the EU on schedule.

“Yes. We are going to leave on October 31. We have the means and the ability to do so,” he told Sky News television.

 EU ‘fed up’: Raab 

The government will bring forward this week the domestic legislation needed to implement the divorce deal, with a first vote as soon as Tuesday.

Separately, it is seeking a new yes-or-no vote on approving the deal on Monday, although this may fall foul of parliamentary procedure.

Commons Speaker John Bercow will rule on whether Johnson can hold a “meaningful vote” on the deal.

“If we get the legislation through then there is no extension. October 31 is within sight,” said Gove.

He said it was dangerous to assume that the 27 other EU leaders would grant an extension.

More than three years on from the June 2016 vote to leave the EU, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC television that from his conversations with other EU capitals, “they are fed up with this now — and we are fed up with it”.

Johnson’s number two added that he was “confident” of leaving on October 31.

The Labour main opposition has lambasted Johnson’s deal as a “sell-out” and voted for the delay.

However, senior figures hinted Sunday that they could let it go through, subject to amendments including a second referendum pitting a divorce deal against remaining in the bloc after all.

“What we are trying to achieve is that this deal in particular, but any deal, is put up against Remain in a referendum,” the party’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer told the BBC.

“And we will have to see tactically how we get there.”

Johnson “might even meet the deadline”, finance spokesman John McDonnell told Sky News.

 Europe mulls response 

Brussels officials pressed on with plans to ratify the divorce deal as European leaders considered Johnson’s delay request.

Ambassadors and senior officials from the other 27 member states met Sunday.

“The EU is keeping all options open and has therefore initiated the ratification process so that it can be handed over to the European Parliament on Monday,” an EU diplomat told AFP.

“The EU will probably pursue this strategy until there is clarity on the British side,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Tusk will spend a “few days” canvassing member state leaders, and diplomats said this would mean the British parliament will have to vote on Brexit again before hearing their decision on the October 31 departure.

MPs voted by 322 votes to 306 on Saturday to support former Conservative MP Oliver Letwin’s amendment to buy extra time.

Letwin said he would now switch and vote for the deal. Former interior minister Amber Rudd said the same, meaning Johnson is just a few votes short.

“We appear to have now the numbers to get this through,” said Raab.

The Brexit date has already been pushed back twice from March 29, to the fury of those who wanted to chart their own course and abandon the European project after nearly 50 years.

AFP