The UK prime minister is running out of options after Ireland’s leader rebuffs any suggestion of no border ‘backstop’.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is entangled in a major parliamentary showdown over his bid to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union by an October 31 deadline, with or without a deal.
Rebel and opposition MPs last week voted in favour of a bill that could force the prime minister to request a Brexit delay until January 31, 2020.
Reacting to the move, Johnson immediately pushed for a snap general election on October 15, arguing MPs had voted to “scupper any serious negotiations” with the EU. His bid for a new poll was blocked by legislators, however.
Here are all the latest updates:
Tuesday, September 10
EU’s von der Leyen: Next steps in Brexit in UK hands
The next president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, said on Tuesday the next steps on Brexit are entirely in the hands of the United Kingdom.
President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said the EU had never wanted Brexit to happen, but respected Britain’s decision to go.
“Brexit, should it happen, is not the end of something, but the beginning of our future relationship,” she said.
“I want this relationship, as it has been in the past, to be a good relationship.”
Irishman named to run EU trade in build-up to Brexit
Irishman Phil Hogan was appointed on Tuesday to lead the EU’s international trade affairs from November, a clear message to London as the sides prepare to negotiate a new deal after Brexit.
In announcing the appointment, the next head of the EU’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen, said Hogan was “an excellent and fair negotiator” and did a “brilliant” job heading agriculture affairs in the outgoing Commission.
“It is very important to have together a very good free trade agreement,” von der Leyen told a news conference to unveil her team for the next Commission, which must still be approved by the European Parliament, one of the bloc’s legislative bodies.
MP Rowley: Idea that MPs are silenced is bizarre
Lee Rowley, a Conservative Party MP, slammed the MPs who voted against the snap general election sought by the government.
He also criticised them for holding up signs with the word “silenced” on them, during the prorogation ceremony of parliament.
“The idea that MPs are silenced is bizarre. For 2yrs our Parliament has talked only of Brexit,” he said on Twitter on Tuesday.
“Every question time, every debate, every subject hijacked, however tangential. And the result? No solutions because most MPs want only to stop it. Time to end this broken Parliament.”
The idea that MPs are silenced is bizarre. For 2yrs our Parliament has talked only of Brexit. Every question time, every debate, every subject hijacked, however tangential. And the result? No solutions because most MPs want only to stop it. Time to end this broken Parliament
— Lee Rowley (@Lee4NED) September 10, 2019
MP Boles: Prorogation galvanised MPs
Nick Boles, a British MP and former minister who resigned from the Conservative Party earlier in the year, criticised Johnson’s Brexit policy and prorogation of parliament on Twitter.
“Johnson announced prorogation because he thought it would make it impossible for Parliament to stop No Deal Brexit on 31 October,” he wrote.
“Instead it galvanised MPs and peers and we passed the Benn Act which does just that. What other benefit does prorogation bring him?”
The so-called Benn law, adopted on Monday, ensures the country does not leave the EU without a deal at the end of October.
Nick Boles left the Conservatives in April, opposing the party’s Brexit policy.
Johnson announced prorogation because he thought it would make it impossible for Parliament to stop No Deal Brexit on 31 Oct. Instead it galvanised MPs and peers and we passed the Benn Act which does just that. What other benefit does prorogation bring him?
— Nick Boles (@NickBoles) September 10, 2019
Johnson’s adviser: Britain will leave EU on time
Prime Minister Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings said on Tuesday that Britain will leave the EU on time.
When asked what the government’s next move would be on Brexit, Cummings, he told reporters: “You guys should get outside London and go to talk to people who are not rich remainers.”
Asked if the UK would leave on time, he said: “Sure”.
Monday, September 9
Foreign minister: Government will always respect the rule of law
The British government will always respect the rule of law, foreign minister Dominic Raab said, responding to concerns that Johnson could ignore legislation that may force him to delay Brexit.
“This government will always respect the rule of law. That’s been our clear position, consistently, and frankly it’s outrageous that that is even in doubt,” Raab told parliament.
“Of course, how the rule of law will be respected is normally straightforward, but sometimes it can be more complex because there are conflicting laws or competing legal advice.”
MPs vote to demand government hand over Brexit documents
MPs voted to demand the government publish documents relating to its planning for a no-deal Brexit and private communications from government officials involved in a decision to suspend parliament.
The 311 to 302 vote is binding on the government, but had been opposed by ministers who said there were concerns about the scope of the documents requested, and that they had been sufficiently transparent on the subject.
MP Dominic Grieve, who proposed the motion, said there were suspicions that Parliament was being suspended to stop the legislature from debating the risks of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.
Grieve was expelled from Johnson’s Conservative Party last week for voting against the prime minister on Brexit.
Read more here.
‘Backstop must be abolished’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes the Irish backstop must be abolished from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and set out possible solutions when he met his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar earlier, his spokesman said.
“The backstop needs to be abolished. What the PM was setting out today were some potential solutions as we go forwards. We want to work with the EU on getting a deal,” the spokesman said, adding that “there is a large amount of work still to do”.
UK speaker John Bercow to step down
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said he will step down by the end of next month after a decade in the job.
Bercow told legislators if parliament votes in favour of an early election, he will quit before the campaign. If they do not he will quit on October 31 – the day Britain is set to leave the European Union. He added he would quit both as speaker and as a member of parliament.
Bercow has angered the Conservative government by repeatedly allowing MPs to seize control of parliament’s agenda to steer the course of Brexit. He said he was simply fulfilling his role of letting parliament have its say.
The Conservatives had said they would run against Bercow in the next national election, breaking a convention that the speaker be elected unopposed.
Queen Elizabeth approves law seeking to block October 31 no-deal
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth gave final approval to a piece of legislation that seeks to prevent Boris Johnson from taking the country out of the EU without an exit deal on October 31.
The step, known as royal assent, is effectively a rubber-stamp from the monarch for the law that passed through parliament last week despite opposition from the government.
The royal assent was announced in parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords.
PM says he’s ‘undaunted’ by parliament’s bid to block ‘no-deal’
Boris Johnson said he was undaunted by an attempt by legislators to block a no-deal Brexit, setting up a showdown with parliament after it passed legislation demanding that he delay Brexit unless he strikes a new agreement.
“I’m absolutely undaunted by whatever may take place in parliament,” Johnson said in Dublin.
“We must get Brexit done because the UK must come out on October 31, or else I fear that permanent damage will be done to confidence in our democracy in the UK,” he added.
It was unclear what Johnson’s next move would be: the law will oblige him to seek a delay unless he can strike a new deal, but EU leaders have repeatedly said they have received no specific proposals from Britain.
‘Strange state of affairs’
Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, reporting from London, said Johnson’s positive attitude was not shared with his Irish counterpart at their joint news conference in Dublin. Johnson met Ireland’s Leo Varadkar at noon.
“The Irish position absolutely maintains that they have to have an insurance policy – known as “the backstop” – to organise the border, and movement of goods and people until another solution can be found,” Lee said.
He added that one of Johnson’s ministers, Amber Rudd, resigned on the weekend as she received a single piece of paper after requesting information on the prime minister’s alternative proposals to the Brexit deal.
“Boris Johnson says he has many ideas over the issue, but he does not tell anyone what they are,” Lee said.
“If the Johnson camp actually does have ideas, and he is not sharing them not just only with the media, but not with his cabinet ministers either, this is a strange set of affairs.”
UK parliament’s suspension ‘to begin’ late on Monday
The month-long suspension of the British parliament ordered by Boris Johnson in an apparent bid to stop MPs from blocking his Brexit strategy will begin late on Monday, his spokesman said.
“Parliament will be prorogued at close of business today,” the spokesman said, using the parliamentary term for the suspension.
He added it would take place regardless of the outcome of a government-led vote on holding a snap election next month.
— MerrionStreet.ie #StaySafe #HoldFirm (@merrionstreet) September 9, 2019
Johnson: I want to find a Brexit deal
Johnson said he wanted to find a Brexit deal with the EU, but also stressed that his country should come out of the bloc on October 31.
Speaking at a news conference with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Johnson added that no deal was still an option.
“I have looked carefully at no-deal – of course we could do it and get through it, but it would be a failure of statecraft,” he said.
Johnson said: ”For the sake of business, of farmers and for millions of ordinary people who are now counting on us to use our imagination and creativity to get this done, I want you to know I would overwhelmingly prefer to find an agreement.”
He added: “A deal can be done by October 18, let’s do it together.”
Varadkar: No backstop is no deal
Ireland’s Leo Varadkar said that the EU had not received from Britain any alternatives to the so-called backstop provision in the Brexit divorce deal.
“We haven’t received such proposals to date,” Varadkar said, talking to reporters with Johnson in Dublin.
“No backstop is no deal,” he added, noting the meeting between the pair was “an opportunity to see where there might be common ground.”
The backstop is a provision in the withdrawal agreement Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May struck with Brussels to keep the Irish border open regardless of the outcome of Britain’s future relationship with the EU.
Johnson seeks snap poll again as Brexit delay bill to become law
Johnson will try for a second time to call a snap election, but is set to be thwarted once more by opposition MPs who want to ensure he cannot take Britain out of the EU without a divorce agreement.
With no majority in parliament, which is determined to prevent what many businesses fear would be a calamitous way to quit the EU, Johnson was seeking a fresh poll in a bid to win a mandate for keeping his promise of exiting the EU by October 31, with or without a deal.
Any new election would require the support of two-thirds of MPs, but opposition parties have said they will not agree to such a vote until a ‘no-deal’ exit is ruled out.
UK parliament to ask for emergency Brexit debate on Monday – ITV
British opposition MPs are due to request an emergency debate in parliament to try and force the government to publish a no-deal Brexit planning document and make Johnson adhere to law, an ITV correspondent said.
The correspondent said on Twitter he understood the MPs had agreed to their action late on Sunday. Al Jazeera could not immediately confirm that.
Opposition MPs are increasingly concerned that Johnson will try to ignore a bill, due to be signed into law on Monday, to force him to request a Brexit delay if parliament has not agreed to a deal or to leave the EU without an agreement by October 19.
They are keen to see a document detailing the government’s impact assessment of a so-called no-deal Brexit.
Sunday, September 8
Irish PM does not expect Brexit deal at pre-EU summit
The most likely venue for an agreement on an orderly Brexit is an EU summit over October 17-18, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, dismissing any expectations of progress in his Monday meeting with Boris Johnson.
“I don’t think the meeting tomorrow is a high-stakes meeting in that I don’t anticipate a big breakthrough,” Varadkar said ahead of the meeting with his British counterpart.
“If we come to an agreement that will happen most likely in October at the EU summit,” he added.
French FM says ‘no’ to Brexit delay in current circumstances
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian rejected the prospect of any further delay to Britain’s exit from the EU amid ongoing political chaos in the UK.
“In the current circumstances, it’s no! … We are not going to go through this every three months,” Le Drian said on the Le Grand Rendez-vous Europe1/CNEWS/Les Echos programme.
“The (British) say that they want to put forward other solutions, alternative arrangements so that they can leave … But we have not seen them and so it is ‘no’,” he added. “They have to tell us what they want.”
All 28 EU member states must approve any further delay to Brexit.
Johnson will not seek Brexit delay: Ministers
Johnson is sticking to his Brexit plan and will not seek a delay to Britain’s departure from the EU at a summit next month, two ministers said, despite the latest resignation from his government.
After Work and Pensions Minister Amber Rudd quit late on Saturday over his Brexit policy, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and Finance Minister Sajid Javid said Johnson was determined to “keep to the plan” to leave the EU by October 31 with or without a divorce deal.
“The prime minister will go to the council meeting on the 17th and 18th (of October), he’ll be trying to strike a deal. He absolutely will not be asking for an extension in that meeting,” Javid told the BBC.
Saturday, September 7
Minister resigns over expulsion of Conservative MPs
Amber Rudd resigned as Britain’s work and pensions minister and quit as a Conservative MP over Johnson’s decision to expel 21 members of the parliamentary Conservative Party for backing a bill designed to prevent the country from leaving the EU without a divorce agreement.
“I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled,” Rudd said in a post on Twitter.
In her resignation letter, Rudd described the move as an act of “political vandalism” and said she no longer believed leaving the EU with a deal was the government’s “main objective”.
I have resigned from Cabinet and surrendered the Conservative Whip.
I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled.
I have spoken to the PM and my Association Chairman to explain.
I remain committed to the One Nation values that drew me into politics. pic.twitter.com/kYmZHbLMES
— Amber Rudd (@AmberRuddUK) September 7, 2019
Legislators prepare court action to enforce Brexit delay
British MPs are preparing legal action in case Johnson tries to defy legislation compelling him to seek a further delay to Brexit, main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC.
The BBC reported that politicians, including moderate Conservatives expelled this week from their party for backing the bill, had lined up a legal team and were willing to go to court to enforce the legislation if necessary.
Corbyn said Labour was not as a party taking legal action but was aware of politicians’ manoeuvres on the matter.
“We need a clear statement from the prime minister that he is going to abide by that act of parliament,” he told the BBC.
Read more here.
UK police and pro-Brexit activists scuffle in London
There were some brief scuffles at Parliament Square in London as rival rallies were held over the UK’s Brexit impasse, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Police had minor clashes with some of the pro-Brexit protesters, who threw barricades at officers, AP reported. Anti-Brexit demonstrators were also gathered at the site.
Friday, September 6
House of Lords approves Brexit bill
Britain’s upper chamber House of Lords approved a bill designed to prevent the country from leaving the EU next month without a divorce agreement.
The bill had already been approved by MPs in the lower chamber House of Commons. It will become law within days once it gets the formality of royal assent.
The bill will force Johnson to ask the EU to postpone Brexit if no divorce agreement is in place by October 19.
Read more here.
EU still waiting for UK Brexit proposals
The European Union said it was still waiting for proposals from the British government on how to end its political impasse on Brexit, while talks about their stalled withdrawal agreement continue in Brussels.
European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said: “For progress to be made in the talks, it remains crucial that the EU does receive concrete proposals on all changes that the United Kingdom would like to see, of course in compatibility with the withdrawal agreement.”
UK negotiator David Frost held the second round of technical talks this week with EU officials at the European Commission’s headquarters. The commission is supervising Brexit negotiations on behalf of Britain’s 27 EU partners.
Two more sessions are set to be held next week.
UK opposition to oppose mid-October election
Britain’s opposition parties said they will not support Johnson’s call for an election when it comes to a vote next week.
The parties had been mulling whether to agree to an October 15 poll, which can only be triggered if two-thirds of politicians agree.
After discussions, opposition legislators said they would not back an election until the government had asked the EU to delay Brexit. A bill compelling the government to do that is set to become law, but opposition MPs said parliament needs to be sitting next month to make sure it happens.
Read more here.
EU leaders confused by Brexit ‘mess’
Senior European Union officials said Britain’s position on leaving the bloc is confusing and that it seemed increasingly likely the country will depart without an agreement.
Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, described the situation in Britain as “quite a mess”.
“It seems very obvious that we are not getting Brexit with an agreement,” he added.
European Parliament President David Sassoli meanwhile said “everything seems to be rather confused”, adding it was “very difficult to understand what the British government and parliament want to do right now”.
High Court rules on suspension of parliament case
Britain’s High Court rejected a claim that Johnson was acting unlawfully by suspending parliament for several weeks ahead of the country’s scheduled departure from the EU.
Transparency campaigner Gina Miller took the government to court in a bid to stop the suspension scheduled for next week.
High Court judges ruled against her, but said the case could be appealed to the Supreme Court. The top court is due to hear the case on September 17.
Thursday, September 5
Delay Brexit? ‘I’d rather be dead in a ditch,’ says PM
Boris Johnson promised he would never delay Britain’s exit from the European Union, due on October 31.
Asked if he could promise to the British public that he would not go to Brussels and ask for another delay to Brexit, Johnson said: “Yes I can. I’d rather be dead in a ditch.”
“It achieves absolutely nothing. What on Earth is the point of further delay,” he added, speaking at a police station in northern England.
New vote for Monday on snap election
Johnson’s government said it would make a second attempt next week to call an early general election to try to break the political deadlock over Brexit.
The day after MPs rejected the first attempt to call a snap poll, senior minister Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs he would put forward a “motion relating to an early parliamentary election” to be voted on on Monday evening.
A similar move on Wednesday night failed after the main opposition Labour Party abstained.
EU fears UK approach on Irish border: sources
The European Union was increasingly worried about Johnson’s stance on the Irish border issue and future competition rules.
Diplomats and officials told Reuters news agency EU negotiator Michel Barnier informed envoys from the 27 other member states in Brussels that London had presented no specific ideas on how to replace the “backstop” – an insurance policy to keep the Irish border free of checks.
His top aide confirmed to EU capitals on Thursday that British Brexit negotiator David Frost offered no new, workable proposals during his visit to Brussels the previous day.
“The mood is dark, we are looking at a no-deal Brexit as a default,” an EU diplomat said.
Johnson has argued that, by brandishing a threat to leave the EU without an agreement settling the divorce, he can win concessions at a summit in Brussels on October 17-18.
“The Brits have an unrealistic belief that everything will be miraculously solved at the summit,” another EU diplomat said.
Only election will unblock Brexit: PM
Johnson said there must be an election so the British public can decide whether to leave the European Union on October 31 – as he wishes – or remain in the bloc for longer.
“I don’t want an election at all but frankly I can’t see any other way” to end the Brexit impasse, he said.
Whether the UK left the EU on October 31 “really should be a matter for the people of this country to decide”, he added.
Johnson has pushed for an early election as a way to break the impasse, as legislators try to stop the UK from leaving the European Union next month without a divorce deal in place.
PM’s brother resigns over Brexit ‘conflict’
Johnson‘s brother, Jo, resigned as a junior minister and said he would step down as a member of parliament, citing a conflict between family loyalty and the national interest.
“In recent weeks, I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest – it’s an unresolvable tension and time for others to take on my roles as MP and minister,” he said.
It was the latest blow to the prime minister, whose authority and ability to govern has been diminished by a rebellion among Conservative MPs over his refusal to rule out a “no-deal” withdrawal from the European Union.
Read more here.
Government gives up attempts to delay bill
The government abandoned attempts in parliament’s upper chamber House of Lords to block a bill which could prevent the UK from leaving the EU without a deal.
The government announced it was dropping its opposition to the legislation and peers agreed to return the bill to the lower chamber House of Commons on Monday for any amendments before passing into law.
Legislators in the House of Commons hope to pass the bill into law before parliament is suspended at some point next week.
Opposition says bill should pass
The main opposition Labour Party said parliament should be able to pass legislation designed to block a no-deal Brexit before Boris Johnson suspends parliament for more than a month next week.
Johnson’s supporters ended a filibuster in the upper chamber House of Lords when the government gave up trying to block a bill that could to force Johnson to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit if he fails to reach an agreement with Brussels.
“Govt commits to allowing (the draft legislation) to complete all stages in course of Thurs & Friday – with the bill then going back to the Commons for any further consideration on Monday,” the main opposition Labour Party said in a post on Twitter.
Wednesday, September 4
MPs block Johnson’s bid for election
Legislators defied Johnson for a third successive time to block his bid for a snap general election on October 15.
Johnson needed to win two-thirds majority support among parliament’s 650 MPs for the ballot to be held – at least 434 votes – but only 298 voted in favour of the motion proposed while 56 voted against. The main opposition Labour Party instructed its MPs to abstain.
The recently-installed British prime minister introduced the proposal for a fresh poll immediately after legislators backed a bill which could block a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
PM opens early election debate
Reacting to MPs’ approval of a bill which could block a no-deal Brexit on October 31, Johnson opened a debate on a motion calling for a snap general election on October 15, arguing legislators had voted to “scupper any serious negotiations” with the EU.
The Labour Party-led bill, he said, “insists Britain acquiesce to demands of Brussels” and “forces the prime minister … to surrender in international negotiations”.
Speaking after Johnson, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would back an election once the bill it passed in the House of Commons was made into law, arguing Johnson’s election plan contained “the poison of a no-deal”.
A vote on the motion is expected at about 20:30 GMT.
MPs approve bill that could block October 31 no-deal Brexit
Legislators in the UK’s House of Commons voted by 327 to 299 to approve a bill which could make it unlawful for Johnson to take the UK out of the EU by October 31 without a withdrawal agreement, as he has repeatedly pledged to do in the event the bloc refuses to offer a new divorce deal.
The opposition Labour Party-led legislation will now proceed to the upper chamber House of Lords.
MPs approve change to Brexit delay bill to allow vote on May’s deal
Legislators approved a change to a bill aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit that would allow them to vote on the existing Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May.
The amendment was passed without a vote.
EU nationals can apply for 3-year right to remain
Britain announced that in the event of a no-deal Brexit it would grant EU nationals entering Britain between the planned Brexit date at the end of October and the end of 2020 a three-year right to remain.
“After Brexit, EU citizens who move to the UK for the first time will be able to apply for a 36-month temporary immigration status – European Temporary Leave to Remain (TLR),” the government said in a document.
“Applications to the new Euro TLR scheme will be simple and free and will be made after arrival in the UK,” it added.
MPs back second reading of ‘rebel alliance’ Brexit bill
MPs voted by 329 to 300 in favour of holding a second reading on a bill introduced by the main opposition Labour Party which seeks to give Johnson’s government until October 19 to negotiate a new deal with the EU, or get MPs’ consent for a no-deal exit from the bloc.
The bill will now move on to committee stage. MPs will then vote again on the bill at about 18:00 GMT. If successful at this juncture it will move to the upper chamber House of Lords.
Any election must happen before October EU summit: Gov’t spokesman
If a general election is necessary, it must take place before an EU summit which starts on October 17, Johnson’s spokesman said.
Earlier, the British leader had called for an October 15 snap poll if legislation seeking to block a no-deal Brexit was passed by a so-called “rebel alliance” of MPs keen to avert such a scenario.
Under UK law, two-thirds of parliamentarians must sign off on holding a general election for it to take place.
MPs begin debating bill that could block no-deal
The purpose of legislation MPs are hoping to pass on Wednesday is to ensure the country does not leave the EU without a deal at the end of October, opposition Labour Party MP Hilary Benn said as he presented the bill to parliament.
“The purpose of the bill is very simple. It is to ensure that the United Kingdom does not leave the European Union on the 31st October without an agreement,” Benn told parliament at the start of the debate on the legislation.
“The bill is deliberately open as to the purpose of the extension,” he added.
If passed, the legislation would make it unlawful for Johnson to take the UK out of the EU by Halloween without a divorce deal – unless parliament signs off on a no-deal exit first.
Labour to vote against general election
Britain’s main opposition Labour Party will not back a vote expected to be brought forward later on Wednesday to hold an election and was seeking to pass legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit before backing a new poll, the party’s finance policy chief said.
John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow finance minister, told reporters the party was “not going to be tricked or conned by Johnson so we’re looking at every way in which, having secured the legislation, he can’t wriggle out of abiding by the law and implementing it”.
“At the moment there’s nothing that Johnson has done in recent weeks that gives us confidence he’s going to abide by the law,” he added.
Bank of England scales back worst-case Brexit estimate
The Bank of England, the UK’s central bank, lowered its estimate for the scale of damage to Britain’s economy in a worst-case Brexit scenario because of preparations undertaken since the end of last year, Governor Mark Carney said.
Carney said the central bank now estimated that gross domestic product would contract by 5.5 percent peak to trough, less than the 8 percent seen in a set of scenarios published in November.
In a letter to legislators, Carney stressed the Bank of England had drawn up scenarios of what could happen rather than forecasts for the most likely outcome and said “more can be accomplished” if there is a further Brexit delay to January 31.
MP slams ‘divisive’ PM Johnson
Amid the UK’s unfolding Brexit crisis, Labour Party MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi demanded Johnson apologise for saying Muslim women wearing the veil looked like “bank robbers” or “letterboxes” in a 2018 article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Addressing the prime minister in parliament, Singh said: “For those of us who from a young age have had to endure and face up to being called names such as towel-head, or Taliban, or coming from bongo-bongo land, we can fully appreciate the hurt and pain of already vulnerable Muslim women when they are described as looking like bank robbers and letterboxes.”
If you have ever experienced racism or discrimination, you can appreciate full well the hurt and pain felt by Muslim women, who were singled out by this divisive Prime Minister. It’s high time he apologised for his derogatory and racist remarks! 1/2 pic.twitter.com/t6G56coA3U
— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) September 4, 2019
Singh also asked Johnson when he was going to order an inquiry into alleged Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, after the latter pledged to do so during his campaign earlier this year to become the party’s leader.
‘Turning page on austerity’
Sajid Javid, Britain’s finance minister, said he was “turning the page on austerity” as he outlined spending increases widely seen part of a push for an early election by Johnson.
“A new economic era needs a new economic plan and today we lay the foundations with the fastest increase in day-to-day spending in 15 years,” Javid told parliament.
In his first major speech since taking over the public purse strings in July, Javid promised more money for “the people’s priorities” – education, health and the police – after a decade of tight spending controls under successive Conservative Party-led governments.
Read more here.
Turkey says no-deal Brexit could cost $3bn in trade losses
Turkey may lose trade with Britain worth up to $3bn in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said, adding that many Turkish companies lacked information on the consequences of such a scenario.
Pekcan, speaking at a Turkey-UK Business Forum in Istanbul, said the losses would stem from Britain hiking import tariffs after Brexit in sectors including steel, car manufacturing and textiles. She also said her ministry would begin touring the country to inform companies on the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit.
UK has presented no Brexit solutions, Ireland says
Britain has not yet presented any solutions to solve the Brexit impasse, Ireland’s foreign minister said after Johnson told parliament “substantial progress”was being made in negotiations over a new divorce deal.
“This process cannot move forward unless and until the British government comes forward with actual proposals that make sense so we can interrogate them,” Simon Coveney told reporters.
“The British government does need to hear this message very clearly both privately and publicly that this is a problem that’s real, that’s complex and needs a solution, and at the moment they haven’t come forward with any solutions,” he added.
At the heart of the Brexit impasse is the existing withdrawal agreement’s so-called “backstop” provision, a clause designed to ensure no hard border is restored between Northern Ireland, a constituent part of the UK, and EU member Ireland.
‘Like a dictator, more than a democrat’
Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the House of Commons, said Johnson was “behaving like a dictator, more than a democrat”.
“The PM must be stopped, MPs must unite across this house to take no-deal off the table tonight,” Blackford told parliament.
An analysis published by The Times newspaper earlier on Wednesday suggested Johnson’s Conservative Party would lose 10 of their 13 seats in Scotland at any new election amid an expected SNP surge, with support for Scottish independence now at 49 percent, according to polling conducted by YouGov.
Johnson proposes October 15 election
During his first outing at weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson claimed his government was making “substantial progress” in talks with the EU over a new Brexit deal but refused to directly answer questions from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn over what fresh proposals his administration had put to the bloc.
Johnson also told parliament a Labour Party-led plan to try and prevent a no-deal departure from the bloc was a “surrender bill” and challenged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to vote in favour of a general election for October 15 if the legislation passed.
“This government will take this country out of the European Union on October 31st, and there is only one thing that stands in our way, it is the ‘surrender bill’ currently being proposed by the leader of the opposition,” Johnson said.
“Can I invite the leader of the opposition to confirm, when he stands up shortly, that if that surrender bill is passed, he will allow the people of this country to have their view on what he is proposing to hand over in their name, with an election on October 15,” he added.
UK’s Corbyn says will not fall for PM’s ‘tricks’
Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told opposition parties Labour would not fall for “Boris Johnson’s tricks” and would not support a new election until he is confident that the threat of a no-deal Brexit has been removed.
Corbyn, who has repeatedly called for a new election, hosted opposition parties as part of a series of meetings to try to thwart what many of them see as Johnson’s bid to lead Britain out of the European Union without a deal on October 31.
“Jeremy made clear that Labour wants a general election, and soon, but that we will not fall for Boris Johnson’s tricks,” his office said in a statement.
Risk of no-deal Brexit has increased: EU
The risk of Britain crashing out of the EU without a divorce deal to cushion the blow has increased, the bloc warned Wednesday, as political turmoil raged in London.
“The short time remaining and the political situation in the United Kingdom have increased the risk that the United Kingdom will withdraw on that date without an agreement,” the European Commission said as it issued its final preparations for a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit.
Major Brexit events expected today
Johnson’s defeat in parliament on Tuesday leaves Brexit up in the air. Below is an outline of the major Brexit events expected today. All times are in GMT.
1100: Johnson versus Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.
1200: Finance minister Sajid Javid will announce increases in public spending, preparing the ground for a possible snap election call by Johnson, who is seeking a way to break resistance to his Brexit plans.
1400: Opposition parties and Conservative Party rebels grab control of House of Commons business to usher in a debate on Labour legislator Hillary Benn’s bill to block a no-deal Brexit.
There will be votes on the bill before 1800.
1800: Johnson seeks a general election (up to 90 minutes).
1930: Possible vote on an election.
Scottish court rules parliament suspension lawful
Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament later this month until mid-October is lawful, a Scottish court ruled.
More than 75 legislators had legally challenged Johnson’s right to suspend, or prorogue, parliament arguing it was illegal and unconstitutional because he was seeking to do so in order to force through a no-deal Brexit on October 31 by limiting the opportunity for MPs to block such a move.
“This is political territory and decision-making, which cannot be measured by legal standards, but only by political judgements,” Judge Raymond Doherty said in his ruling.
“I do not accept the submission that the prorogation contravenes the rule of law.”
We do not trust PM Johnson – Labour Brexit spokesman
Britain’s main opposition Labour Party does not trust Johnson’s proposal to hold an election on October 15, before the country is due to leave the EU, its Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said.
Labour wants a no-deal Brexit to be taken off the table before it backs a snap poll.
“When he [Johnson] says October 15, I can tell you across all the opposition parties and some Tory MPs, they do not trust him,” Starmer told the BBC.
Top adviser to UK PM denies he said EU talks were a sham
Johnson’s top adviser Dominic Cummings denied that he had described the government’s attempts to renegotiate the Brexit deal with Brussels as a sham.
Cummings, the former head of the Vote Leave campaign, was said to have made the remarks after Johnson’s visit to Paris and Berlin last month.
When asked if the Brexit negotiations with the EU were a sham, Cummings said: “No. I never said that.”
Hopes for Brexit delay rally pound
The British pound bounced in the wake of a parliamentary vote opening the door for another Brexit delay.
The pound, which has lost nearly 20 percent of its value since the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, fell to as low as $1.1959 on Tuesday but then rebounded after Johnson lost his working majority in the British parliament following the defection of one of his Conservative Party MPs.
Traders in London said heightened uncertainty was making investors panic, as the battle over Brexit continues this week.
Read more here.
Tuesday, September 3
Brexit Britain fumes at reclining MP
The sight of hardline Brexit backer Jacob Rees-Mogg stretching out across the front bench of Britain’s parliament during a particularly heated debate became an instant meme and attracted anger from the government’s critics.
With his round glasses pointing at the ceiling and wearing a double-breasted suit, the image of Rees-Mogg apparently taking a rest in the crucial final minutes before a crunch Brexit vote lit up Twitter.
The physical embodiment of arrogance, entitlement, disrespect and contempt for our parliament. pic.twitter.com/XdnFQmkfCS
— Anna Turley (@annaturley) September 3, 2019
Read more here.
Rebel Conservative Party MPs to be expelled from party: Report
Johnson’s chief whip, or parliamentary enforcer, was speaking to Conservative Party legislators who voted in favour of a move to try to stop a no-deal Brexit to inform them they would be expelled from the party, Reuters news agency reported, citing a spokesman for the British leader.
“The chief whip is speaking to those Tory [Conservative] MPs who did not vote with the government this evening. They will have the Tory whip removed,” Reuters quoted the spokesman from Johnson’s office as saying.
Opposition defiant over election timing
Reacting to Johnson’s threat to push for a general election, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he wanted legislation preventing a no-deal Brexit in place before his party could agree to a new poll.
“As I have said before: if the prime minister has confidence in his Brexit policy – when he has one he can put forward – he should put it before the people in a public vote,” Corbyn said in parliament.
“And so, he wants to table a motion for a general election, fine get the bill through first in order to take no-deal off the table,” he added.
The Labour leader’s comments were echoed by other opposition politicians – including Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, and the leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford, who both said there should be no election while no-deal remained a possibility.
Johnson threatens election
Johnson said his government would table a motion on Wednesday asking legislators to allow a snap election after MPs voted to seize control of the parliamentary agenda, suggesting a poll would be the only way to resolve Britain’s Brexit impasse if he is forced to seek another delay to the UK’s departure from the EU.
“I don’t want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop negotiations and to compel another pointless delay to Brexit, potentially for years, then that will be the only way to resolve this,” Johnson said.
Under UK law, two-thirds of parliamentarians must sign off on holding a general election for it to take place.
MPs vote to seize control of parliament
Legislators backed a motion allowing a cross-party alliance of opposition MPs and Conservative Party rebels to take control of the parliamentary agenda.
MPs voted by 328 to 301 in favour of the proposal, with 21 Conservative legislators rallying against Johnson’s administration to inflict a first House of Commons defeat on the recently-installed prime minister.
Legislators are expected to table a bill on Wednesday that, if passed, would make it unlawful for Johnson to take the UK out of the EU on October 31 without a divorce deal – unless parliament signs off on a no-deal exit first.
Ireland to ramp up Brexit preparations
Ireland will begin a new phase of no-deal Brexit preparations on Wednesday with a call to action encouraging businesses to increase their level of preparedness, the government said after its weekly Cabinet meeting.
“The government was this evening briefed on the latest position on Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK, and in that context, noted the increasing risk of a no-deal Brexit on October 31,” a government statement said.
“The government also noted that a number of exercises are planned for the coming weeks to help further refine preparations and inform the approach to emergency crisis management in the event of a no deal Brexit,” it added.
EU to help firms, workers in case of no-deal: Report
The European Commission will propose financial help for EU businesses, workers and farmers if Britain crashes out of the bloc without any agreement, Reuters news agency reported, citing a document seen by the news agency.
On Wednesday, the EU executive arm will propose using the European Solidarity Fund, normally used to help victims of natural disasters in the EU, to cushion the financial blow for some EU countries most exposed to trade with Britain, Reuters reported.
The Commission also wants to use the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, created to help EU workers who lose jobs due to globalisation, to be used for those dismissed after a “no-deal” crashing out, the document seen by Reuters said.
Labour Party want election, but after no-deal ruled out
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, told Sky News the Labour Party was desperate to hold a general election but suggested the party might vote against any move tomorrow by the government to bring forward a ballot.
Thornberry said Labour wanted to see legislation ruling out a no-deal Brexit on October 31 passed first amid fears Johnson’s government could win required parliamentary support for an election to be held before the deadline for leaving the bloc, only to subsequently postpone the vote and take Britain out of the EU by default.
‘The people are our masters’
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, denounced proceedings in parliament as “unconstitutional” as he rallied against legislators bid to alter the government’s Brexit plan.
“The use of emergency debates is unconstitutional. And the bill itself is yet more unconstitutional,” Rees-Mogg told MPs in the Commons, adding that legislators should not “challenge the people” over their decision to exit the EU.
“We should recognise that the people are our masters and show us to be their lieges and servants, not to place ourselves in the position of their overlords,” he added.
Speaker approves emergency debate on Brexit
Speaker John Bercow granted approval for an emergency debate on Brexit applied for by Conservative Party MP Oliver Letwin.
The debate will last for up to three hours, Bercow said, after a requisite more than 40 MPs assented to it going ahead.
It will conclude with a vote on whether MPs can seize control of the parliamentary agenda on Wednesday, when rebel Conservative and opposition legislators hope to introduce legislation which could ultimately lead to the blocking of a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
Churchill’s grandson, former minister, to vote against PM
Conservative Party MP Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Britain’s World War Two leader Winston Churchill, said he would rebel against the government over its Brexit plan.
Replying to a Twitter post by former Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart, in which the one-time Conservative leadership candidate announced he would vote against “no-deal”, Soames commented “MeToo”.
— Nicholas Soames (@NSoames) September 3, 2019
Several high-profile Conservative MPs, including a number of former ministers, earlier announced they would vote to oppose a no-deal Brexit on October 31. Among them were former finance minister Philip Hammond and former justice minister David Gauke.
‘What a way to end summer holidays’
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from London, said Johnson had endured a “bruising” time in parliament as MPs keen to prevent a no-deal Brexit rallied against him on their first day back in the House of Commons after a summer recess.
“It has been a pretty extraordinary day… what a way to end the summer holidays,” Hull said, referencing Conservative MP Phillip Lee’s dramatic defection from the party.
Commenting on rebel and opposition MPs upcoming attempt to bring forward fresh Brexit legislation, Hull said any vote on the proposed bill was likely to be “extremely close”.
“It relies on a number of Conservative Party MPs to break ranks and vote against their own government if it is to succeed … but the rebel alliance, as they call themselves, believe they have the numbers to win,” he added.
‘No mandate, morals, majority’
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked Johnson for trying to take Britain out of the EU without a deal despite the costs of such a move.
Addressing parliament, Corbyn said the government had “no mandate, no morals, and, as of today, no majority”.
“The attack on our democracy in order to force through a disastrous no-deal Brexit is unprecedented, anti-democratic and unconstitutional,” he added.
Boris Johnson's government has no mandate, no morals and, as of today, no majority. pic.twitter.com/kjbh3b1T8b
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) September 3, 2019
No-deal can be managed, minister says
Michael Gove, the government minister in charge of preparing Britain for a no-deal Brexit, acknowledged that departing the EU without a withdrawal agreement would present significant challenges but said the risks could be mitigated.
Gove also told MPs that many of the steps required to ensure smooth trade after Brexit were the responsibility of businesses.
Johnson slams ‘surrender bill’
Johnson denounced legislation prepared by opposition MPs which could, if passed, force the British leader to request a Brexit extension from the EU until January 31, 2020.
Addressing parliament, Johnson said the bill amounted to “surrender” and would leave Britain locked in to the EU for as “long as they [the bloc’s members] want and on their terms”.
“I will never surrender the control of the negotiations in the way the leader of the opposition is demanding,” he said, referring to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“Enough is enough. This country wants this done. They want the referendum respected. We are negotiating a deal and though I am confident of getting a deal we will leave on 31 October in all circumstances. There will be no further pointless delay,” he added.
No-deal Brexit would cost UK billions, UN says
Leaving the EU without a trade deal would cost Britain at least $16bn in lost exports, and would probably cost far more after indirect effects are taken into account, a report by the UN trade agency UNCTAD said.
“UNCTAD’s research indicates that a no-deal Brexit will result in UK export losses of at least $16 billion, representing an approximate 7% loss of overall UK exports to the EU,” the agency said.
“These losses would be much greater because of non-tariff measures, border controls and consequent disruption of existing UK-EU production networks,” it added.
A no-deal #BREXIT could cost the UK billions in lost export earnings.
— UNCTAD (@UNCTAD) September 3, 2019
The Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK government’s independent forecasting body, warned in July that a no-deal departure from the EU would shrink the British economy by two percent and plunge it into a recession.
Conservative MP defects, gov’t loses majority
MP Phillip Lee defected from the Conservative Party to join the opposition Liberal Democrats, leaving Johnson’s government without a working majority.
“This Conservative Government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways,” Lee said in a statement.
“It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom. More widely, it is undermining our country’s economy, democracy and role in the world,” he added, before accusing Johnson’s administration of “using manipulation, bullying and lies … in a deliberate and considered way”.
After a great deal of thought, I have reached the conclusion that it is no longer possible to serve my constituents’ and country’s best interests as a Conservative Member of Parliament. My letter to the Prime Minister: pic.twitter.com/0QreSbSdwR
— Dr Phillip Lee 🔶 (@DrPhillipLee) September 3, 2019
Read more here.
Johnson to meet Irish PM
Johnson said he would meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Monday as part of efforts to reach a deal to leave the EU.
Addressing parliament after it returned from a summer recess, Johnson said he was making progress in talks with the EU to change an agreement negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May.
He argued there were other ways to avoid any return to a hard border between Northern Ireland, a constituent part of the UK, and EU member Ireland than the existing withdrawal agreement’s so-called “backstop” provision.
European leaders have consistently rejected calls for the safety net to be axed, however, with the bloc’s lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier saying over the weekend that the controversial clause was the “maximum flexibility” the EU could offer.
Opposition alliance bids to avert no-deal
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said opposition parties were “united” in working together on ways to stop Johnson from using an early election to force through a no-deal Brexit.
“We are confident that the legislative route we have adopted has every chance of being successful, and we are working on ways in which we can prevent Boris Johnson manipulating an election to force a no-deal Brexit,” Corbyn said in a statement after meeting the leaders of other opposition parties.
“Labour wants to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and to have a general election, so we can end austerity and invest in our communities. I am confident we can have both, and we’ve been in discussions about a way to achieve this,” he added.
Court hears suspension of parliament case
Johnson was looking to suspend parliament two weeks before this month’s planned shutdown was officially announced, a court was told.
The prime minister attracted controversy when he announced on August 28 he would suspend parliament from mid-September to mid-October to allow the government to announce a new legislative programme.
Political opponents, who argue it was simply a tactic to prevent them from trying to stop a no-deal Brexit, had already turned to Scotland’s highest civil court to ask it to rule that it would be illegal and unconstitutional for parliament to be suspended before the EU exit date.
At a hearing, the lawyer representing more than 70 legislators told Scotland’s Court of Session that two weeks before Johnson’s announcement, he was sent a note from an aide asking if he wanted to prorogue, or suspend, parliament from mid-September. A tick and the word “yes” was written on the document, lawyer Aidan O’Neill said.
Johnson declined to give a sworn statement to the court setting out his reasons for shutting down parliament.
Sterling plunged to a three-year low below $1.20 as Johnson’s implicit threat to legislators to back him on Brexit or face an election sent investors scrambling to dump British assets.
The pound, which has lost 20 percent of its value since Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, fell as low as $1.1959 before recovering.
Barring an October 2016 flash crash when sterling briefly reached $1.15, the British currency has not regularly traded at such levels since 1985, according to Refinitiv data cited by Reuters news agency.
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