Brexit doubts abound as Boris Johnson loses majority in parliament after defection

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was braced for a showdown with parliament on Tuesday over his Brexit plan that could spark a snap election and derail Britain's exit from the European Union next month. (AFP Photo/PRU)
Updated 03 September 2019

Brexit doubts abound as Boris Johnson loses majority in parliament after defection

  • Johnson implicitly warned lawmakers on Monday that he would seek an election if they tied his hands in talks with EU
  • Conservative lawmaker Phillip Lee joined the opposition Liberal Democrats ahead of a showdown with rebel MPs over Brexit

LONDON: British lawmakers on Tuesday began a bid to stop Boris Johnson pursuing what they cast as a calamitous 'no-deal' Brexit, a challenge that a senior government source said would prompt the prime minister to press for a snap election on Oct. 14.

More than three years after the UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, the outcome of the Brexit crisis remains uncertain, with possible outcomes ranging from a turbulent no-deal exit to abandoning the whole endeavour.

Johnson implicitly warned lawmakers on Monday that he would seek an election if they tied his hands in talks to negotiate a last-minute divorce deal, ruling out ever countenancing a further delay to Brexit, originally due to take place last March but now scheduled for Oct. 31.

But then Conservative lawmaker Phillip Lee joined the opposition Liberal Democrats ahead of a showdown with rebel MPs over Brexit that could lead to a snap election within weeks.

That set up an historic showdown between prime minister and parliament in a country once touted as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability. Sterling flirted briefly with some of its lowest levels since 1985.

On parliament's first day back from its summer break, an alliance of opposition lawmakers and rebels in Johnson's Conservative Party put forward a motion to launch their bid to block a no-deal exit, and appeared confident of victory.

Johnson cast the challenge as an attempt to force Britain to surrender to the EU just as he hopes to secure concessions on the terms of the divorce - a step he said he would never accept.

"It means running up the white flag," Johnson said. "It is a bill that, if passed, would force me to go to Brussels and beg an extension. It would force me to accept the terms offered. It would destroy any chance of negotiation for a new deal.

Just as Johnson began speaking, he lost his working majority in parliament when one of his own Conservative lawmakers, Phillip Lee, crossed the floor of the House of Commons to join the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told parliament that Johnson's was a government with "no mandate, no morals and, as of today, no majority."

The pound sterling hit multi-year lows against the dollar on Tuesday amid fears of a no-deal Brexit but rebounded after Johnson lost his working parliamentary majority.

“For all the uncertainty that lies ahead, markets see a Boris Johnson led no-deal Brexit as the worst-case scenario and thus treat anything that undermines that as pound positive,” said Joshua Mahony at IG.

Sterling struck $1.1959 in early European business, its worst trading level since 1985 with the exception of a 2016 “flash crash” which took it even lower for a very short moment.

“Though there is no doubt plenty of pain on the horizon, sterling managed to shake off the excesses of its Tuesday’s slide as the session went on,” said Connor Campbell at Spreadex.
 


Germany wants broader Iran nuclear deal

Updated 10 min 59 sec ago

Germany wants broader Iran nuclear deal

BERLIN: Germany said Friday that a new broader Iran nuclear accord must be reached to also rein in Tehran’s ballistic missile program, warning that the 2015 deal was no longer enough.
“A form of ‘nuclear agreement plus’ is needed, which also lies in our interest,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, told Spiegel magazine in an interview.
“We have clear expectations for Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic rocket program which threatens the whole region. Iran must also play another role in the region.”
“We need this accord because we distrust Iran,” he added.
The 2015 nuclear deal — known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
The European Union and the United States were key signatories in the deal but US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and has reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign.
President-elect Joe Biden has signalled that Washington could rejoin the deal as a starting point for follow-on negotiations if Iran returned to compliance.
But Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has rejected talk of reopening the 2015 deal, saying on Thursday: “We will not renegotiate a deal which we negotiated.”
He added that Western powers should look to their own behavior before criticizing Iran.
He also complained at what he characterised as a lack of European outrage at the assassination of one of Iran’s leading nuclear scientists, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran last week — an attack Tehran has blamed on Israel.
Decades old US-Iranian tensions dramatically escalated after Trump walked out of the deal.
In recent months, alarm has also grown over Iran’s regional activities through proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, which the West says destabilizes the region.