Johnson suspends UK Parliament after latest Brexit defeat

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A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows members of parliament walking from the House of Commons to the House of Lords in London on September 10, 2019, during the ceremony to prorogue (suspend) parliament. (AFP PHOTO / PRU)
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A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Lady Usher of the Black Rod Sarah Clarke (CL) walking with Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow (CR) from the House of Commons to the House of Lords in London on September 10, 2019, during the ceremony to prorogue (suspend) parliament. The UK Parliament was prorogued, or suspended, until October 14, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2019

Johnson suspends UK Parliament after latest Brexit defeat

  • Parliament enacted a law to block a no-deal Brexit next month
  • Parliament was then suspended — or prorogued— at the government’s request until Oct. 14

LONDON: The simmering showdown between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Britain’s Parliament over Brexit came to a head as lawmakers delivered three defeats to the government’s plans for leaving the European Union, before being sent home early Tuesday for a contentious five-week suspension of the legislature.
In a session that ran well past midnight, Parliament enacted a law to block a no-deal Brexit next month, ordered the government to release private communications about its Brexit plans and rejected Johnson’s call for a snap election to break the political deadlock.
Parliament was then suspended — or prorogued— at the government’s request until Oct. 14, a drastic move that gives Johnson a respite from rebellious lawmakers as he plots his next move.
Opponents accuse him of trying to avoid democratic scrutiny. What is usually a solemn, formal prorogation ceremony erupted into raucous scenes as opposition lawmakers in the House of Commons chamber shouted “Shame on you” and held up signs reading “Silenced.”
Commons Speaker John Bercow expressed his displeasure at Parliament’s suspension, saying “this is not a standard or normal prorogation.”
“It’s one of the longest for decades and it represents an act of executive fiat,” he said.
The prime minister has had a turbulent week since Parliament returned from its summer break on Sept. 3. He kicked 21 lawmakers out of the Conservative group in Parliament after they sided with the opposition, and saw two ministers quit his government — one of them his own brother.
Parliament’s suspension ended a day of blows to the embattled Johnson. First an opposition-backed measure designed to stop Britain from crashing out of the EU on Oct. 31 without a divorce deal became law after receiving the formal assent of Queen Elizabeth II. The law compels the government to ask the EU for a three-month delay if no deal has been agreed by Oct. 19.
Johnson says the country’s delayed exit must happen at the end of October, with or without a divorce agreement to smooth the way. But many lawmakers fear a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating, and are determined to stop him.
“I will not ask for another delay,” Johnson said. But he has few easy ways out of it. His options — all of them extreme — include disobeying the law, which could land him in court or even prison, and resigning so that someone else would have to ask for a delay.
Legislators also demanded the government release, by Wednesday, emails and text messages among aides and officials relating to suspending Parliament and planning for Brexit amid allegations that the suspension is being used to circumvent democracy.
Under parliamentary rules, the government is obliged to release the documents.
In a statement, the government said it would “consider the implications of this vote and respond in due course.”
Then, early Tuesday, lawmakers rebuffed, for a second time, Johnson’s request for an early election, which he said was “the only way to break the deadlock in the House.”
Opposition parties voted against the measure or abstained, denying Johnson the two-thirds majority he needed. They want to make sure a no-deal departure is blocked before agreeing to an election.
“We’re eager for an election, but as keen as we are we, we are not prepared to inflict the disaster of a no deal on our communities, our jobs, our services, or indeed our rights,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
Johnson acknowledged Monday that a no-deal Brexit “would be a failure of statecraft” for which he would be partially to blame.
On a visit to Dublin, Johnson said he would “overwhelmingly prefer to find an agreement” and believed a deal could be struck by Oct. 18, when leaders of all 28 EU countries hold a summit in Brussels.
The comments marked a change of tone, if not substance, for Johnson, who is accused by opponents of driving Britain at full-tilt toward a cliff-edge Brexit.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned Johnson that “there’s no such thing as a clean break,” and if Britain crashed out, it would “cause severe disruption for British and Irish people alike.”
Johnson and Varadkar said they had “a positive and constructive meeting,” but there was no breakthrough on the issue of the Irish border, the main stumbling block to a Brexit deal.
The EU says Britain has not produced any concrete proposals for replacing the contentious “backstop,” a provision in the withdrawal agreement reached by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May that is designed to ensure an open border between EU member Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland.
An open border is crucial to the regional economy and underpins the peace process that ended decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
Opposition to the backstop was a key reason Britain’s Parliament rejected May’s Brexit deal with the EU three times earlier this year. British Brexit supporters oppose the backstop because it locks Britain into EU trade rules to avoid customs checks, something they say will stop the UK from striking new trade deals with countries such as the United States.
Varadkar said he was open to any alternatives that were “legally workable,” but none had been received so far.
“In the absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal for us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bercow, whose control of business in the House of Commons has made him a central player in the Brexit drama, announced he would step down after a decade in the job.
The colorful speaker, famous for his loud ties and even louder cries of “Order!” during raucous debates, told lawmakers he will quit the same day Britain is due to leave the EU, Oct. 31.
Throughout the three years since Britain voted to leave the EU, Bercow has angered the Conservative government by repeatedly allowing lawmakers to seize control of Parliament’s agenda to steer the course of Brexit.
He said he was simply fulfilling his role of being the “backbenchers’ backstop” and letting Parliament have its say.
“Throughout my time as speaker, I have sought to increase the relative authority of this legislature, for which I will make absolutely no apology,” he said.


PML-N moves court to get unconditional travel nod for ailing Nawaz Sharif

Updated 35 min 36 sec ago

PML-N moves court to get unconditional travel nod for ailing Nawaz Sharif

  • Petition filed in Lahore High Court to remove Sharif’s name from the no-fly list
  • Government had earlier offered a one-time travel waiver to Sharif against Rs.7 bn surety bond to avail treatment abroad

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president, Shahbaz Sharif, said on Thursday that a petition had been filed in the Lahore High Court to remove the name of his brother and ailing former premier Nawaz Sharif from the no-fly list. 

He said that Sharif, who was serving his sentence on corruption charges, had been granted bail on health grounds and that the government’s conditional approval for his travel abroad for medical treatment was a “terrible demand” with “no legal, constitutional or judicial basis.” 

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Shahbaz Sharif said that the government’s “intentional delay” could be life-threatening to the 69-year old thrice former premier.

The country’s law minister, Farogh Naseem, told a news conference in Islamabad on Wednesday that a sub-committee looking into the issue had decided to allow the former prime minister to leave the country for medical treatment.

“However, this will be one-time permission that will be subject to the provision of indemnity bonds worth Rs7 billion rupee,” he told the media. “Sharif will be allowed to go anywhere in the world but will have to return in four weeks.”

Naseem said the permission was granted to fulfill the government’s obligation in view of the former prime minister’s “critical medical condition.”

Reacting to the conditional permission, Haq told Arab News that the government was admitting that Sharif was seriously ill but was also creating hurdles in his way to travel abroad for medical treatment.

“The court has granted him an eight-week bail,” he added, “but the government is reducing that to four weeks and imposing an irrational condition. It is highly condemnable and we strongly protest this decision.”

However, he added the decision to accept or reject the government’s offer “solely rested with Nawaz Sharif and his family.”