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

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.”


Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

Updated 30 October 2020

Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

  • Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants
  • The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital

NAIROBI: A Kenyan court Friday handed prison terms of 33 and 18 years respectively to two men accused of conspiring with the Al-Shabab extremists who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing 67 people.

Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants from the Somalia-based extremist group who died in what was then Kenya’s worst terrorist attack in 15 years.

The accused asked the judge for leniency, saying they had already served seven years behind bars and had family to care for.

“Despite mitigation by their defense lawyers on their innocence, the offense committed was serious, devastating, destructive, that called for a punishment by the court,” Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi told a Nairobi courtroom.

He sentenced the men to 18 years for conspiracy and 18 for supporting extremists, but ordered they serve both terms together. Abdi was also given an additional 15 years for two counts of possessing extremist propaganda material on his laptop.

He will serve 26 years and Mustafa 11, taking into account their pre-trial detention.

The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital and began throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and business owners.

A four-day siege ensued — much of it broadcast live on television — during which Kenyan security forces tried to flush out the gunmen and take back the high-end retail complex.

Although there was no specific evidence Abdi and Mustafa had provided material help, the court was satisfied their communication with the attackers amounted to supporting the armed rampage, and justified the guilty verdict for conspiracy.

The marathon trial began in January 2014. A third accused was acquitted of all charges.
The Westgate attack was claimed by Al-Shabab in retaliation for Kenya intervening military over the border in Somalia, where the extremist group was waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile central government.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which in 2011 drove Al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and other urban strongholds after a months-long offensive.

In a car the attackers drove to Westgate, police found evidence of newly-activated SIM cards used by the gunmen. Their communications were traced, including calls to Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa.

A fourth defendant, Adan Mohammed Abdikadir, was acquitted in early 2019 for lack of evidence.

The Westgate attack was the deadliest incident of violent extremism on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which killed 213 people.

But since the assault on the shopping complex, Al-Shabab has perpetrated further atrocities in Kenya against civilian targets.

In April 2015, gunmen entered Garissa University and killed 148 people, almost all of them students. Many were shot point blank after being identified as Christians.

In January 2019, the militants struck Nairobi again, hitting the Dusit Hotel and surrounding offices and killing 21 people.

Al-Shabab warned in a January statement that Kenya “will never be safe” as long as its troops were stationed in Somalia, and threatened further attacks on tourists and US interests.

That same month, Al-Shabab attacked a US military base in northeast Kenya in a cross-border raid, killing three Americans and destroying a number of aircraft.