UK PM Johnson promises a bold new Brexit deal

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is welcomed in 10 Downing Street on Wednesday by staff. (Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2019

UK PM Johnson promises a bold new Brexit deal

  • New leader: ‘The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts’

LONDON: Boris Johnson launched his premiership with a bid to do a bold new Brexit deal with the EU by Oct. 31, rebuking “gloomsters” and the political class who he said had forgotten the people who they should serve.

Johnson took office on Wednesday, replacing Theresa May who stepped down having failed to deliver Brexit or implement many of the reforms she promised when taking office in 2016.

He comes to power at a time of national crisis, promising Britain will leave the EU at the end of October but with little sign that Brussels will bend to his demand to sweeten the terms of the country’s departure.

“We are going to fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people and come out of the EU on Oct. 31. No ifs or buts,” he said.

“We will do a new deal, a better deal that will maximize the opportunities of Brexit while allowing us to develop a new and exciting partnership with the rest of Europe.”

But, in a 12-minute speech outside glossy black door to the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, Johnson delivered a thrusting rebuke to those who have criticized his planned approach as light on detail and heavy on rhetoric.

“The doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters — they are going to get it wrong again,” Johnson said, rocking up on the balls of his feet as he spoke.

“The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts.”

Casting aside his trademark clownish demeanor and rambling delivery, he followed a written script, setting out an ambitious agenda beyond Brexit — promising tax reform, a new social care system, and an economic stimulus package.

“I will tell you something else about my job. It is to be Prime Minister of the whole United Kingdom and that means uniting our country answering at last the plea of the forgotten people and the left behind towns,” he said.

Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt was leaving the role and will not serve in new Johnson’s team of senior ministers, she said on Wednesday.

“I’m heading to the backbenches from where the PM will have my full support,” Mordaunt, a Brexit supporter who backed Johnson’s opponent Jeremy Hunt in the leadership race, said on Twitter. 

While Johnson has said he does not want an early election, some MPs have vowed to thwart any attempt to leave the EU without a divorce deal. 

Nigel Farage, whose Brexit Party trounced the Conservatives in May’s EU elections, said he was open to an electoral pact with the new prime minister.

Kashmir shutdown caused losses of more than $1 bln, trade body says

Updated 19 min 14 sec ago

Kashmir shutdown caused losses of more than $1 bln, trade body says

  • Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said that it is planning to sue the government for damages
  • India's home ministry and local government officials did not comment on the losses report

SRINAGAR: Economic losses in Kashmir have run well over a billion dollars since India revoked its autonomy and statehood in August, the main trade body in the Himalayan region said, adding that it planned to sue the government for damages.
India turned its erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into a federally-controlled territory, tightening control in a shock move it said would rein in militancy in the region also claimed by neighboring Pakistan, and promote its development.
But the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said development was elusive, thanks to a protracted shutdown after people closed markets and businesses as a mark of protest, and for fear of reprisals from insurgents.
It estimated economic losses ran into least 100 billion rupees ($1.40 billion) by September, but now exceeded that, said Nasir Khan, its senior vice president.
“We’ll ask the court to appoint an external agency to assess the losses, because it is beyond us,” said Khan, adding that India’s telecoms blackout in the region meant the body could not reach business owners by telephone to prepare estimates.
Instead, it had to send staff to meet them and gather details.
India’s home ministry and local government officials did not respond to detailed requests for comment.
Besides severing telecoms links ahead of its decision, India imposed curbs on travel and sent thousands of troops to the heavily-militarised region, citing security concerns.
Some curbs have since been eased, but access to the Internet remains largely blocked.
India and Pakistan have tussled over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947, with each claiming the region in full but ruling it only in part.
For decades, India has battled insurgency in the portion it controls. It blames Pakistan for fueling the strife, but Pakistan denies this, saying it gives only moral support to non-violent separatists.
The clampdown has hit tourism as well as farming, horticulture and the arts and crafts that contribute the most to its export-oriented economy.
“I don’t see any stability for many months here,” said Vivek Wazir, who runs a hotel in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar. “There’s too much uncertainty.”
Although a few years ago he planned to expand his business in Kashmir, Wazir said the hotel was now barely breaking even, and he was instead considering opening one in the neighboring Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
India canceled an investor summit it had planned in Kashmir in October, and most tourists have stayed away after a spate of attacks on non-locals in recent weeks, which police blame on militants backed by Pakistan.
“I’d be surprised if any genuine investors came,” said Khan, adding that KCCI had received no inquiries from potential investors since August