UK opposition leader will back second Brexit vote if party wants it

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on stage at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, north west England on September 23, 2018, the official opening day of the annual Labour Party Conference. Britain's Labour Party kicks off its annual conference on Sunday hoping to prove it is ready to unseat the embattled Conservative government despite its own splits on Brexit and rows over anti-Semitism. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2018
0

UK opposition leader will back second Brexit vote if party wants it

  • Corbyn still prefers election over second EU referendum
  • PM May says she will hold nerve over EU divorce plan

LIVERPOOL: British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday he would back a second Brexit referendum if his Labour Party votes to pursue the move, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May, whose plans for a divorce deal with the EU have hit an impasse.
Corbyn, a veteran euroskeptic, has resisted growing demands to back a new “People’s Vote” on the decision to quit the European Union, keen to keep those party members on board who voted in favor of Brexit at a 2016 referendum.
But the political landscape has changed since May’s plans for Brexit — the biggest shift in British policy for more than four decades — were resoundingly rebuffed by the EU on Thursday, with any outcome of the negotiations more uncertain than ever.
With talk of a new election swirling after May’s “Chequers” plan was all but shredded at an EU summit last week and chances of a disorderly departure that could damage the economy rising, the opposition party is under pressure to set the Brexit agenda.
At Labour’s annual conference in the northern city of Liverpool, Corbyn, who in 1975 voted “No” to Britain’s membership of the then-European Community, said he would act on the result of a debate in Labour on a second Brexit vote. But he was clear that he preferred a new election.
“Our preference would be for a general election and we can then negotiate our future relationship with Europe but let’s see what comes out of conference,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying Labour was ready to vote against any deal.
“Obviously I’m bound by the democracy of our party.”
Labour is expected to discuss several motions on Brexit at its conference, and it remains unclear what the proposal on a second referendum might be — it could be a clear backing of a vote or something less black-and-white.
Corbyn has long said that a “People’s Vote” is not off the table for his party, and a source close to the leadership urged caution over an as-yet unknown motion, repeating the Labour leader’s stance that he does not support a second referendum.
Len McCluskey, a Corbyn ally and leader of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite, further muddied the water when he said any such second referendum “shouldn’t be on: ‘Do we want to go back into the European Union?’,” adding people had voted in 2016 when Britain backed leaving the EU by a narrow 52-48 percent.

NEW ELECTION?
Corbyn wanted his conference to be an opportunity to sell his alternative vision for Britain’s economy, pressing his argument for the renationalization of rail, mail and utilities, and to rally the party for a possible early election.
But with Britain due to leave the EU in March, Brexit was likely to dominate the conference.
Thousands of supporters of a second vote marched through Liverpool’s streets on Sunday to make their feelings known.
After weeks of both EU and British officials making positive noises about the prospects of clinching a divorce deal and one on a future trading relationship, the mood turned sour on Thursday in Salzburg, Austria when EU leaders came out, one by one, to criticize “Chequers” as unrealistic.
A tacit deal to try to offer her some support before she heads to what is going to be a difficult annual conference of her Conservative Party later this month was broken by some British diplomatic missteps.
May says she will hold her nerve in the talks, pressing the EU to come up with an alternative proposal to her Chequers plan, named after the prime minister’s country residence where a deal was hashed out with her top ministers in July.
But the impasse with the EU has prompted some to predict an early election — a notion Brexit minister Dominic Raab said was “for the birds.”
While saying she will stick to her guns, May might have little chance but to change tack after a party conference where the deep divisions over Europe that have riven her Conservatives for decades will be in plain sight.
A senior pro-EU Conservative lawmaker, Nicky Morgan, said May would have to give ground on trade and customs arrangements with the EU to overcome the biggest hurdle to a withdrawal accord — the prevention of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland, a member of the EU.
And if Labour’s Corbyn does come out with clear support for a second referendum, the pressure on the Conservatives to get any deal through parliament will only grow.
“We would vote it down if it didn’t meet our tests in order to send the government, if it is still in office, straight back to the negotiating table,” Corbyn said. “And if there is a general election and we are in office we would go straight to the negotiating table.”


Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

Updated 22 February 2019
0

Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

  • Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama ‘Empire,’ went from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month
  • Smollett accused of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions

CHICAGO: An American TV actor was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly masterminding an elaborate “publicity stunt” that sought to exploit the “pain and anger of racism” with a staged assault on the streets of Chicago.

It was the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has seen 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama “Empire,” go from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month.

An incredulous Chicago police chief accused Smollett of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions, because he was allegedly “dissatisfied with his salary.”

In a sign of the national attention the case has drawn, President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, taking issue with the fact Smollett claimed his assailants invoked the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan along with racist slurs during the purported attack.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told an emotionally-charged news conference — during which he lashed out angrily at the actor for sullying the city’s image.

“Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” he said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Smollett turned himself in early Thursday morning, was arrested and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, and was granted $100,000 bond.

He was freed from jail late in the afternoon, and said nothing to the throng of media. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

His legal team pushed back hard later Thursday, claiming the police press conference had been prejudicial and “the presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon.”

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” attorney Jack Prior told AFP in a statement.

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Smollett had claimed that two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck — but police grew suspicious of his account after they failed to corroborate it.

Trump took aim at the actor for having tarnished his supporters, tweeting: “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?“

Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produce “Empire” and had stood by the actor, said “we understand the seriousness of this matter” and “are considering our options.”

Authorities said the two men who staged the attack with Smollett were brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who have both previously worked on “Empire,” and were acquaintances of the actor — while one provided him with drugs.

The brothers have cooperated with police since their arrest late last week and have not been charged with a crime.

Smollett allegedly first concocted a false threatening letter he had sent to himself — which is under a separate FBI investigation — and when that did not get enough attention, paid the brothers to have the assault staged.

Prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed an elaborate plot that Smollett allegedly orchestrated with exacting detail — telling the brothers when and how to attack him, including pointing out a street camera he assumed would capture the event, but was in fact pointing in a different direction.

The allegations were backed by a mountain of evidence, including a cashed check that Smollett wrote to pay for the stunt, authorities said.

Initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock, and an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians alike, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who denounced “an attempted modern day lynching.”

Trump initially described the alleged attack as “horrible.”

Since then, Smollett’s story has become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

Opinion writers have complained about a rush to judgment, and politicians, celebrities and nonprofit groups have felt pressure to explain their initial reactions.

The president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said the Smollett news was “both devastating and frustrating.”

“I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt and disappointed to channel that into productive activism — because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help,” Chad Griffin tweeted.