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Archive for the ‘Divorce from Great Britain’ Category

Hundreds of Brexit Party candidates will run in UK election

November 04, 2019

LONDON (AP) — Nigel Farage unveiled hundreds of Brexit Party candidates for Britain’s general election on Monday, and warned the governing Conservatives that the U.K. will never leave the European Union without his party’s backing.

All seats in the 650-seat House of Commons are up for grabs in the Dec. 12 election. Farage says his party will run in almost every constituency unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson scraps his EU divorce deal.

Johnson hopes to win a Conservative majority so that he can break the country’s Brexit deadlock and get his EU divorce deal through Parliament. Farage, who has run for Parliament seven times without success, says he won’t be a candidate himself.

Farage’s party, which was founded earlier this year, rejects Johnson’s Brexit deal, preferring to leave the bloc with no agreement on future relations in what it calls a “clean-break” Brexit. The party says leaving with a deal, as Johnson wants, would mean continuing to follow some EU rules and holding years of negotiations on future relations.

Farage told a crowd of supporters at a rally in London that Johnson’s deal “is not Brexit. It is a sell-out.” Farage called the Conservatives are arrogant for not joining him in a “leave alliance.” “There will be no Brexit without the Brexit Party,” he said. “Of that I am certain.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, a friend of Farage, also urged the two politicians to form an electoral pact, saying last week that Farage and Johnson together would be “an unstoppable force.” But Johnson has ruled out doing a deal with Farage. And Brexit-supporting Conservatives have criticized Farage, saying he could split the pro-Brexit vote and allow the left-of-center opposition Labor Party win power.

Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg said that “it would be a great shame if he carries on fighting after he has already won to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. “I understand why Nigel Farage would want to carry on campaigning because he has been campaigning for the best part of 30 years and it must be hard to retire from the field. But that is what he ought to do,” Rees-Mogg told LBC radio.

Britain’s unpredictable election taking place more than two years early, and after three years of political wrangling over Brexit. The Labor Party is trying to shift the campaign’s focus from Brexit to domestic political issues such as schools, health care and Britain’s social inequities.

The centrist Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit, are wooing pro-EU supporters from both the Conservatives and Labor in Britain’s big cities and liberal university towns. Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson demanded to know Monday why she wasn’t invited to take part alongside Johnson and Corbyn in the only televised debate of the campaign announced so far.

She said leaving her out of the Nov. 19 debate on broadcaster ITV would exclude “the voice of the millions of people who voted to remain, who want to stop Brexit.” “It looks like they are sexist, or they are scared, or possibly both,” she said.

Health care or Brexit? UK parties pick their election issues

October 31, 2019

LONDON (AP) — The opposition Labor Party kicked off its campaign for Britain’s December general election with one overriding message Thursday: It’s not just about Brexit. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn put the emphasis firmly on economic and social issues, calling the Dec. 12 vote a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the country. All seats in the 650-seat House of Commons are up for grabs in the early election, chosen by Britain’s 46 million eligible voters.

In his first stump speech of the six-week campaign, Corbyn outlined the left-of-center party’s plan to take on the “vested interests” and “born to rule” elites that he said are hurting ordinary people. The stance was an attempt to pivot the election battle away from the political turmoil swirling around Britain’s stalled departure from the European Union.

Returning to his party’s core issues, Corbyn called out prominent business leaders — including media mogul Rupert Murdoch and aristocratic landowner the Duke of Westminster — as he painted Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives as champions of the wealthy few.

“We’re going after the tax dodgers. We’re going after the dodgy landlords. We’re going after the bad bosses. We’re going after the big polluters. Because we know whose side we’re on,” Corbyn told supporters at a rally in London. “Whose side are you on?”

Britain was supposed to leave the EU on Thursday, and Johnson spent months vowing that Brexit would happen on schedule, “come what may.” But after Johnson failed to get British lawmakers to pass his Brexit divorce deal with the bloc, the EU granted Britain a three-month delay, setting a new Brexit deadline of Jan. 31.

Johnson pushed to have this election two years early in order to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. While Johnson’s Conservatives have a wide lead in most opinion polls, analysts say the election is unpredictable because Brexit cuts across traditional party loyalties. For many voters, their identities as “leavers” or “remainers” are more important than party affiliation.

The prime minister plans to campaign as a Brexit champion and blame his opponents for the delay. “Today should have been the day that Brexit was delivered and we finally left the EU,” Johnson planned to say Thursday in later campaign stops, according to his office. “But despite the great new deal I agreed with the EU, Jeremy Corbyn refused to allow that to happen — insisting upon more dither, more delay and more uncertainty for families and business.”

Labour is hoping that voters want to talk about issues such as health care, the environment and social welfare — all of which saw years of funding cuts by Conservative governments — instead of more Brexit debates.

The party is divided between those such as Corbyn, who are determined to go through with Brexit, and others who want to remain in the EU. After much internal wrangling, Labour now says if it wins the election, it will negotiate a better withdrawal agreement with the EU, then call a referendum where voters will be able to choose between that Brexit deal and remaining in the bloc. It has not said which side it would support.

“The prime minister wants you to believe that we’re having this election because Brexit is being blocked by an establishment elite,” Corbyn said. “People aren’t fooled so easily. They know the Conservatives are the establishment elite.”

“Labor will get Brexit sorted within six months. We’ll let the people decide whether to leave with a sensible deal or remain,” he said. “That really isn’t complicated.” Corbyn shrugged off suggestions that he is dragging down the party’s popularity. Critics say the 70-year-old socialist is wedded to archaic policies of nationalization and high taxes, and accuse him of failing to stamp out anti-Semitism within the party.

“It’s not about me,” Corbyn said Thursday. “It’s not a presidential election. It is about each and every one of us (candidates).” Many British voters are fed up as they face the third major electoral event in as many years, after the country’s 2016 EU membership referendum and a 2017 election called by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May to try to strengthen her hand in negotiations with the EU.

May’s move was a spectacular miscalculation that cost the Conservative Party its majority in Parliament. It left her unable to get her Brexit divorce plan approved by lawmakers, leading to her resignation and the rise of a new prime minister, Johnson, who took power in July.

More than three years after the Brexit referendum, Brexit positions have become entrenched and the debate has soured, with lawmakers on all sides receiving regular abuse online and in the streets. The toxic political atmosphere has prompted some long-time lawmakers to drop out of the race altogether. Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan of the Conservative Party is among those opting out, citing the abuse she had received over Brexit.

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly tweeted: “MPs need to be resilient, we understand that a political life is unpredictable and very often stressful. But hearing so many good colleagues, particularly women, leaving Parliament because of online and physical abuse is heartbreaking.”

UK’s party leaders brace for Brexit election

October 30, 2019

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn were set to trade barbs over Brexit and public spending Wednesday when they face off in Parliament for the last time before a Dec. 12 general election.

The House of Commons on Tuesday approved an early election in hopes of breaking the deadlock over Britain’s departure from the European Union. While Johnson’s Conservative Party has a wide lead in opinion polls, analysts say the election is unpredictable because Brexit cuts across traditional party loyalties.

Johnson and Corbyn will trade carefully crafted quips when they face off in their regularly scheduled question-and-answer session. This will be the last episode of Prime Minister’s Questions before Parliament is suspended for the election.

Johnson has told Conservative lawmakers this will be a “tough election.” After three years of inconclusive political wrangling over Brexit, British voters are weary and the results of an election are hard to predict.

The House of Commons voted 438-20 on Tuesday night — with dozens of lawmakers abstaining — for a bill authorizing an election on Dec. 12. It will become law once it is approved Wednesday by the unelected House of Lords, which doesn’t have the power to overrule the elected Commons.

The looming vote comes two and a half years before the next scheduled election, due in 2022, and will be the country’s first December election since 1923. Meanwhile, the Brexit conundrum remains unsolved — and the clock is ticking down to the new deadline of Jan. 31.

“To my British friends,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted Tuesday. “The EU27 has formally adopted the extension. It may be the last one. Please make the best use of this time.”

December election? UK ponders early, Brexit-dominated vote

October 29, 2019

LONDON (AP) — Britain appeared on course Tuesday for an early general election that could break the country’s political deadlock over Brexit, after the main opposition Labor Party said it would agree to the government’s request to send voters to the polls in December.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing for a Dec 12 election in hopes of breaking the Parliamentary stalemate that blocked his plan to take Britain out of the European Union this month. Earlier this week, the EU granted Britain a three-month Brexit extension until Jan. 31.

Johnson — who has had to abandon his vow to lead Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 “do or die” — accused his opponents of wanting to prolong the Brexit process “until the 12th of never.” He told lawmakers in Parliament on Tuesday there was no choice but “to go to the country to break free from this impasse.”

“There is only one way to get Brexit done in the face of this unrelenting parliamentary obstructionism, this endless, willful, fingers crossed, ‘not me guv’ refusal to deliver on the mandate of the people — and that is to refresh this Parliament and give the people a choice,” Johnson said.

For weeks, opposition parties have defeated Johnson’s attempts to trigger an election. But now that Brexit has been delayed, Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said his opposition party would vote in favor of an early election because the prospect that Britain could crash out of the EU without a divorce deal had been taken off the table.

“I’ve said consistently, when no-deal is off the table we will back an election,” Corbyn said. “Today, after much denial and much bluster by the prime minister, that deal is officially off the table, so this country can vote for the government that it deserves.”

Labor’s shift means the U.K. is likely headed for its first December election since 1923. As it stands, Britain is not scheduled to hold a general election until 2022. On Monday, Johnson proposed a Dec. 12 election under a different procedure that required a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons but lawmakers voted it down — Johnson’s third such defeat.

The House of Commons was scheduled to vote later Tuesday on a government bill calling for a Dec. 12 election. Unlike Monday’s vote, it only needs a simple majority to pass. Corbyn’s support means it’s likely to succeed, although opposition politicians could press the government to alter the date by a day or two.

The Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party have proposed an earlier election date of Dec. 9 to reduce the possibility that Johnson could try to pass his EU divorce bill — which would allow Britain to leave the bloc and hand Johnson a major political achievement — before the campaign begins.

“It cannot be the 12th,” said Liberal Democrat lawmaker Chuka Ummuna, who suggested his party could accept a compromise date of Dec. 10 or 11. “We will see what else they come forward with,” he said. “We have got to break the gridlock.”

A last-minute obstacle emerged when opposition parties announced plans to try to amend the terms of an early election to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 and expand the voting base to include citizens of the 27 other EU nations who are living in Britain.

It’s unclear whether those amendments will be put to a vote. But the government said if they were, and they passed, it might withdraw its bill altogether. Johnson took office in July vowing to “get Brexit done” after his predecessor, Theresa May, resigned in defeat. But the Conservative leader, who said just weeks ago that he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than postpone the Oct. 31 Brexit date, was forced by Parliament to seek the extension in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would damage the economies of both Britain and the EU.

Johnson plans to campaign as a leader who has a viable, strong Brexit plan for the country but who has been stymied by an anti-democratic opposition and a bureaucratic EU. On Tuesday, he accused opponents of betraying voters’ decision to leave the EU. He declared that without an early election, the British government would be like the cartoon character Charlie Brown, “endlessly running up to kick the ball only to have Parliament whisk it away.”

An election is a risk, though, not only for Johnson’s Conservatives but also for Labor. Opinion polls currently give Johnson’s Conservatives a lead over Labor, but there’s a strong chance that an election could produce a Parliament as divided over Brexit as the current one. And the last time a Conservative government called an early election, in 2017, it backfired, and the party lost its majority in Parliament.

Voters are wary of politicians from all sides after more than three years of Brexit drama, and all the parties are worried about a backlash from grumpy voters asked to go to the polls at the darkest, coldest time of the year.

“We all know that a poll in December is less than ideal,” said Pete Wishart, a lawmaker with the opposition Scottish National Party. “But it is worth that risk in order that we remove this prime minister.”

Brexit Party wins, Conservatives bashed in UK’s EU voting

May 27, 2019

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s governing Conservative Party was all but wiped out in the European Parliament election as voters sick of the country’s stalled European Union exit flocked to uncompromisingly pro-Brexit or pro-EU parties.

The main opposition Labor Party also faced a drubbing in a vote that upended the traditional order of British politics and plunged the country into even more Brexit uncertainty. The big winners were the newly founded Brexit Party led by veteran anti-EU campaigner Nigel Farage and the strongly pro-European Liberal Democrats.

With results announced early Monday for all of England and Wales, the Brexit Party had won 28 of the 73 British EU seats up for grabs and almost a third of the votes. The Liberal Democrats took about 20% of the vote and 15 seats — up from only one at the last EU election in 2014.

Labor came third with 10 seats, followed by the Greens with seven. The ruling Conservatives were in fifth place with just three EU seats and under 10% of the vote. Scotland and Northern Ireland are due to announce their results later.

Farage’s Brexit Party was one of several nationalist and populist parties making gains across the continent in an election that saw erosion of support for the traditionally dominant political parties.

Conservative Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was a “painful result” and warned there was an “existential risk to our party unless we now come together and get Brexit done.” The results reflect an electorate deeply divided over Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the EU, but united in anger at the two long-dominant parties, the Conservatives and Labor, who have brought the Brexit process to deadlock.

Britain is participating in the EU election because it is still a member of the bloc, but the lawmakers it elects will only sit in the European Parliament until the country leaves the EU, which is currently scheduled for Oct. 31.

Farage’s Brexit Party was officially launched in April and has only one policy: for Britain to leave the EU as soon as possible, even without a divorce agreement in place. Farage said his party’s performance was “a massive message” for the Conservatives and Labor, and he said it should be given a role in future negotiations with the EU.

“If we don’t leave on Oct. 31, then the scores you have seen for the Brexit Party today will be repeated in a general election — and we are getting ready for it,” said Farage. But the election leaves Britain’s EU exit ever more uncertain, with both Brexiteers and pro-EU “remainers” able to claim strong support. Labor and the Conservatives, who in different ways each sought a compromise Brexit, were hammered.

The result raises the likelihood of a chaotic “no deal” exit from the EU — but also of a new referendum that could reverse the decision to leave. The Conservatives were punished for failing to take the country out of the EU on March 29 as promised, a failure that led Prime Minister Theresa May to announce Friday that she is stepping down from leading the party on June 7. Britain’s new prime minister will be whoever wins the Conservative party leadership race to replace her.

The favorites, including ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have vowed to leave the EU on Oct. 31 even if there is no deal in place. Most businesses and economists think that would cause economic turmoil and plunge Britain into recession. But many Conservatives think embracing a no-deal Brexit may be the only way to win back voters from Farage’s party.

Labor was punished for a fence-sitting Brexit policy that saw the party dither over whether to support a new referendum that could halt Brexit. Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry said the party needed to adopt a clearer pro-EU stance.

“There should be a (new Brexit) referendum and we should campaign to remain,” she said.

UK’s anti-EU Brexit Party launches EU election campaign

April 12, 2019

LONDON (AP) — Pro-Brexit British politician Nigel Farage on Friday launched a campaign for an election that may never take place to an institution he routinely insults — the contest for U.K. seats in the European Parliament.

Britain was supposed to have left the European Union before the European elections, which take place in late May in every EU nation. But with Britain’s Parliament still deadlocked over whether to approve the government’s divorce deal with the bloc, EU leaders have postponed the Brexit deadline until Oct. 31.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says taking part in this year’s European elections three years after the nation voted to leave the EU would be “unthinkable.” She still hopes Britain can avoid the U.K.’s May 23 election by leaving the 28-nation bloc before then.

But with British lawmakers unwilling to endorse the divorce agreement that May forged with the EU, preparations have begun to fill the 73 U.K. spots in the 751-seat European legislature. Winning candidates from Britain will only get to serve as long as their country remains in the EU.

Britain’s ruling Conservatives and the opposition Labor party are unenthusiastic about running in the European Parliament election, where they are likely to be punished by disgruntled voters. But pro-Brexit and pro-EU parties are eager to run in a contest seen by many as a way to express their strongly divergent views on the EU.

Farage held the first campaign rally of his newly formed Brexit Party, calling delays to Britain’s departure from the EU “a willful betrayal of the greatest democratic exercise in the history of this nation.”

“The fightback begins here,” said Farage, who formerly led the U.K. Independence Party and has sat in the European parliament since 1999. Farage was instrumental in helping the Leave side win Britain’s 2016 referendum on EU membership, but stepped down as UKIP leader after the referendum. UKIP has since shifted to the far right; its new leader hired anti-Muslim agitator and convicted fraudster Tommy Robinson as an adviser.

Farage said he did not want to be a part of a party that promoted “violence, criminal records and thuggery.” Other candidates for the Brexit Party include Annunziata Rees-Mogg, sister of pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg.

“I joined the Conservative Party in 1984 and this is not a decision I have made lightly — to leave a party for which I have fought at every election since 1987, from Maggie Thatcher through to Theresa May,” she said. “I know which one I’d rather have representing us now.”

The pro-EU Independent Group, founded by British lawmakers who quit Labor and the Conservatives, has registered to become a political party so it can run in the EU election on a platform calling for a new referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

After months of acrimonious, indecisive yet cliff-edged wrangling in Parliament over Brexit, U.K. lawmakers began a 10-day Easter break on Friday. May has urged them to “reflect” and use the break to “resolve to find a way through this impasse.”

Talks continued Friday between senior lawmakers in May’s Conservative-led government and the Labor Party in hopes of striking a compromise Brexit deal that can win majority support in Parliament. Several rounds of negotiations over the past week have so far failed to reach a Brexit compromise.

Labor economy spokesman John McDonnell said the talks would continue and “we will see by the end of next week how far we have got.”

Johnson’s win elevates ‘no-deal’ Brexit risks to UK economy

July 23, 2019

LONDON (AP) — With Boris Johnson confirmed as the next U.K. prime minister, the outlook for the British economy has become murkier — and potentially more perilous. Johnson’s comprehensive victory over Jeremy Hunt in the battle to lead the governing Conservative Party has made it more likely that Britain could leave the European Union on Halloween without a withdrawal agreement, leading to tariffs and broad disruptions to trade.

Most economists think such a “no-deal” Brexit would cause a deep recession. Whether it would be as deep as the one after the global financial crisis — a contraction of more than 6% in the economy — no one knows, but almost all economists agree that jobs will be lost and the pound will slide.

And its impact could sap business confidence more broadly: the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that a “no-deal” Brexit represents one of the key risks to the world economy. A “no-deal” Brexit means that on Nov. 1, tariffs will be slapped on goods traded between the U.K. and the remaining 27 EU countries. Other impediments to trade would be imposed, such as new restrictions on the movement of people and regulatory standards, including on Britain’s crucial financial services sector. Britain would also face the prospect of losing trade deals the EU has struck over the years, including with Canada and Japan — these account for around 11% of U.K. trade.

That raises the stakes for companies like the operator of the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France, which warned Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit is now “very likely.” British business associations quickly issued statements after Johnson’s election urging him to secure a deal.

Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder whose has gone from owning a record label to planning flights to space, is among the high-profile business leaders who have also spoken out publicly against a no-deal Brexit. He believes the pound will slump in value to be worth just a dollar for the first time ever.

The currency has borne the brunt of Brexit uncertainty, falling more than 10% from $1.50 on the day after the June 2016 referendum. It’s near two-year lows at $1.2450. Though both sides of the English Channel will suffer in a “no-deal” scenario, Britain would suffer more. British exports to the EU account for around 13% of the country’s annual GDP, against around 3% of the GDP of the other 27 EU nations.

Planning for a no-deal Brexit, which Johnson is expected to accelerate in his first days in 10 Downing Street, will help marginally. Measures such as stockpiling medicines, sourcing more products from outside the EU, or modifying road links in southeast England to manage freight traffic can help, but only up to a point.

“Planning is unlikely to do much to mitigate the short-term disruption of ‘no deal’,” said John Springford, deputy director at the Centre for European Reform. For one, he said, there is too little time to build new border and road infrastructure to reduce congestion at the Channel Tunnel and ferry crossings and on the highways that bring trucks up toward London.

In his pitch to become prime minister, Johnson said he wants an agreement but that he would make sure Britain leaves the EU on Oct. 31. The U.K. Parliament is seemingly opposed to a “no-deal.” Many Brexiteers have suggested that Johnson suspend parliament to allow Brexit to happen anyway. The implications of that would be unpredictable. Johnson has said he doesn’t want to go down that path but hasn’t ruled it out.

Given these uncertainties, business executives are unsure how to plan and have reined in investment over the past two years. That’s one of the main reasons why Britain’s economy, which by some estimates is second only to Germany in Europe, has stuttered and talk of a recession has grown.

“With economic growth already faltering, a disorderly ‘no-deal’ Brexit could cause widespread disruption to trade, a sharply lower exchange rate, higher inflation and lower living standards,” said Arno Hantzsche and Garry Young of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

Johnson could push for a general election in the fall if he fails, as expected, to renegotiate May’s agreement. With opinion polls showing Britain’s electorate splintered, several outcomes are possible, including one whereby a new government backs another referendum to reverse the initial result.

Johnson could equally opt to ditch his “do-or-die” pledge and seek another extension, giving him time to put a crowd-pleasing tax-cutting budget in place for an election next year. Whatever happens — and given this is Brexit, anything can — the British economy is set to remain stuck in the mud for months. How it pans out will hinge on the decisions Johnson makes in his first weeks in power.

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