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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Angry exchanges as U.K. braces for key Brexit vote in parliament

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Nine days that could determine the future of Britain’s relationship with the European Union (EU) kicked off Monday with angry exchanges in the House of Commons.

Members of Parliament (MPs) grilled the government’s top legal officer, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, over legal advice he has given to ministers on the Brexit agreement Prime Minister Theresa May has agreed with the EU.

At the heart of the wrangle is the refusal of the government to publish the full legal advice which details the risk that the border issue between Northern Ireland and Ireland could permanently tie Britain to an arrangement with Brussels.

In a dramatic speech Cox confirmed that Britain will not be able to cancel a so-called backstop clause on the Irish border question without approval from Brussels.

Cox told MPs, "There is no unilateral right to terminate this arrangement," with the Daily Telegraph reporting that one MP listening to the debate shouted out:

"It’s a trap."

It emerged last night that opposition party politicians have called on Parliament to consider contempt proceedings against May’s government over its refusal to publish all of the advice given by Cox.

Under the deal backed by the European Council, Britain will leave the bloc next March, with an implementation period starting the next day and continuing until the end of December 2020.

During that period nothing will change and the aim is to agree on a new permanent trade deal with Britain as a non-member of the EU.

But to avoid the return of a border between Northern Ireland and Dublin the EU has insisted on a backstop arrangement to prevent a return to a visible border on the island of Ireland.

The UK, EU and the Irish government have each said they don’t want to see the return of a border, but if no deal is reached by the end of 2020, a backstop could be introduced that would keep Britain locked into a customs arrangement with the EU, with no unilateral power to withdraw from it.

The House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said he will issue a speedy ruling on the call for a contempt debate.

It was the latest twist in what is destined to be a roller coaster nine-day in British politics with nobody certain of the outcome.

MPs return Tuesday for the start of what will be a five-day debate on May’s Brexit deal, with a crucial vote taking place on Dec. 11.

May is already on target for a humiliating defeat in a week’s time, with politicians from all parties, including her own Conservatives, threatening to vote against it.

The big question in Westminster Monday night was whether the statement delivered by Cox to MPs will make things better or worse for May, who has insisted the deal she has brokered with Brussels is the best for Britain.

In his statement, Cox admitted that May’s deal was a calculated risk, but he believed that if the House of Commons votes down May’s proposals next week there will be what he described as great and chaotic disorder.

Cox said he would have preferred to have seen a unilateral right of termination in the Northern Ireland backstop arrangement, but added he supported May’s deal because he did not believe Britain would be willingly trapped in it permanently.

"It represents a sensible compromise, it has unattractive elements but these must be weighed up against the realities of the alternatives," he told MPs.

The main opposition shadow attorney general, Labor’s Nick Thomas-Symonds responded:

"Isn’t the reality that the government does not want MPs to see the full legal advice for fear of the political consequences."

A contempt debate will be a political sideshow to the decision in the main debate starting Tuesday on the Brexit deal.

Geraint Johnes, Professor of Economics of Lancaster University, told Xinhua on Monday that it is very likely that the Brexit deal will be vetoed by the parliament on Dec. 11, adding:

"It is hard to predict what would follow."

Johnes said if the deal is rejected he believed Britain could either leave EU without a deal or seek a Norway plus model which he believed stood a better chance of support in the British parliament.

Other academics have warned Britain could be plunged into a constitutional crisis.

What nobody yet knows though is whether May has a Plan B up her sleeve in readiness for a possible rejection of the Brexit deal she had touted around the country, and the world.

Campaigners for a second referendum are scenting the likelihood of winning their fight to allow the people of Britain to have another vote on its EU membership.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

British Prime Minister Theresa May refuses to say "we will be better off"
after Brexit, but sure about keeping her job after parliament vote

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday refused twice to say her much criticised Brexit deal would ensure that Britain will be better off after the departure from the European Union (EU), but predicted she will still be in her job in a fortnight, when the House of Commons will vote on the Britain-EU agreement.

Her prediction is seen as a possible sign she is planning a second Commons vote on her Brexit deal if it is defeated in eight days.

Asked on ITV’s This Morning to assure the nation that it would be more prosperous under her leaving deal, the prime minister replied:

"We can be better off."

Asked to say again "we will be" better off, May just said:

"That’s up to us."

May’s uncertain words came with just over a week to go before the vote in the Commons on whether to endorse her agreement on the terms Britain will leave the large trading bloc, plus an outline declaration on possible future trade terms.

At present, the prime minister faces growing political pressure in the run-up to the historic Commons vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement on Dec. 11. The parliament will kick off a five-day debate on the controversial deal starting Tuesday.

The British government and the Bank of England both said in their separate reports last week that the country will be worse off after leaving the regional bloc on March 29 next year, in contrast to public expectations that the country will be able to take back its control and prosperous after the divorce.

Her uncertain and certain words came in both situations when she avoided giving direct answers to questions by the TV presenter.

Meanwhile, the prime minster was pressed by Phillip Schofield on the TV programme who asked:

"In two weeks time, will you be booking a holiday, do you think you’ll still have a job in two weeks time?"

Laughing, she assured him that she would still be in her post, adding:

"My job is to ensure we do what the public asked us to."

"I will still have a job in two weeks’ time," she said, calling on members of parliament to "hold our nerve."

The prime minister ducked direct questions if she would resign if her deal fell through, saying:

"I’m focusing on, you know, getting that vote, and getting the vote over the line."

"This is not a, sort of ‘oh, well, it’s just any old vote’," she said.

"Actually, this is about delivering for what people voted for when they voted in that referendum to leave the EU."

Ever since taking office in 2016 shortly after the Brexit referendum, the prime minister repeatedly pledged that her government will work very hard to deliver Brexit in accordance with the referendum outcome.

She dismissed calls for a second referendum, but left the door open for a possible change of mind.

She also ruled out any possible amendment to the Brexit deal put to vote in the parliament.

Also on Monday, senior Labour member of parliament, Yvette Cooper, appealed in the Standard Evening newspaper for the members of parliament on all sides to unite to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Cooper said the parliament had to take control because May had "done so little to build trust or confidence so far."

Cooper also backed an extension of Article 50 to postpone Brexit, saying that "this is a mess and we are going to need enough time to sort it out."

The prime minister appeared to have given up attempting to unveil a tough clampdown on low-skilled immigration ahead of the Brexit vote.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Monday admitted it was "very unlikely" that the long-delayed White Paper setting out a future immigration system would be revealed before it.

May is being defied by at least three cabinet members including Javid, who want low-skilled workers from overseas to be allowed in to prevent gaps in the workforce for sectors like social care and hospitality, according to the widely read newspaper.

"It’s unlikely, actually very unlikely, to be published before the vote," Javid told Radio 4’s Today programme.

"It will be published soon."

Previously, the home secretary has said he thought it would come in time for members of parliament to weigh it up before voting on Brexit.

Downing Street on Monday defied warnings it will be held in contempt of Parliament by refusing to publish full legal advice about May’s Brexit deal.

Labour, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democratics and the Democratic Unionists have signed a joint letter to John Bercow, the Commons speaker, suggesting the government was in contempt of parliament for failing to publish the full Brexit legal advice from British Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.

On Monday afternoon, Cox gave the Commons a pared-down statement setting out only what the government was prepared to reveal it was told.

But pressure rose after a new apparent leak in the Daily Telegraph, which said May’s Brexit adviser Olly Robbins warned the backstop risked a "bad outcome" in which regulatory checks would be needed across the Irish Sea and security co-operation would be at risk.

In her statement to brief the parliament on her trip to the just concluded Group of 20 (G20) summit on Monday afternoon, the prime minister said that Britain will seek to set up new markets after Brexit.

Members of Parliament will vote on Dec.11 on the deal with British Environment Secretary Michael Gove warning on Sunday that if the deal did not get enough support "there is a chance of no Brexit at all or a second referendum."

May said, "When it comes to the vote, I hope MPs (members of parliament) will put the national interest first and recognise that we have a duty to do what the people asked us to."

She insisted that the Brexit deal is in the best interest of the country, including job and security.

During her appearance on ITV she was asked about her testing role as prime minister.

She said, "Politics is tough. It’s the same as any other job."

Responding to questions over a possible second referendum, she said:

"People are talking on a second vote when we haven’t even delivered on a first vote.

"We asked people to vote and we said please decide. People voted to leave and I think there is a democratic duty to deliver on it.

"So let’s deliver on the first vote."

She was also asked about a television debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit which is penned for Dec.9.

Downing Street accused Corbyn on Sunday of "running scared" of a Brexit TV debate.

Corbyn said on Saturday that he was prepared to accept Downing Street’s preferred option of the BBC, provided it was a straight head to head discussion between the two leaders.

The Labour leader had previously indicated his support for a rival ITV proposal based on a simple one-on-one format, in contrast to the BBC offer which also involves the leaders taking questions from a wider panel.
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Scots first minister says May Brexit deal to make Scotland poorer

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in Edinburgh on Tuesday that the Brexit deal agreed by British Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU leaders will make Scotland poorer.

Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), published an analysis of the impact of May's deal on the people of Scotland, saying compared to staying in the EU, it will cost every resident of Scotland thousands of dollars.

The SNP's 35 politicians, who represent Scottish seats in the House of Commons, have said they will vote against the Brexit deal when it is debated at Westminster in December.

The assessment claimed the British government's draft agreement with Brussels could cost 1,600 pounds per person by 2030.

The study said it is not even certain that a free trade deal will be agreed between Britain and EU, meaning the cost could be higher.

The study was released 24 hours before May heads to Scotland on the next leg of her round-Britain tour to seek support for her deal.

Commenting on the study, Sturgeon said the analysis shows why the deal agreed by the prime minister is "unacceptable" to the Scottish authorities and "damaging" to the people of Scotland.

"No government of Scotland with the interests of this and future generations at heart could possibly accept it," she said.

Sturgeon said that the deal would take Scotland out of the EU against its will and remove Scotland from the European Single Market of 500 million people.

It would also take Scotland out of the Customs Union and the benefits of EU trade deals with more than 40 countries across the globe.

"In short, it will make us poorer," said Sturgeon, adding:

"Perhaps worst of all, it will take away opportunities from the young people of Scotland and from the generations to come."

Sturgeon added:

"Quite simply this is a bad deal, which the UK Government is seeking to impose on the people of Scotland regardless of the damage it will cause.

"It will not end uncertainty.

"It will extend it.

"We are being asked to accept a blindfold Brexit with all the difficult decisions kicked down the road."

Sturgeon said the Scottish authorities will also support a second referendum on EU membership, with the option to remain in the bloc on the ballot paper.

Judges at the European Court of Justice based in Luxembourg concluded a four-hour hearing Tuesday on whether Britain can call off the process of leaving the EU without permission from its 27 member states.

The verdict will be given later at a date yet to be decided.

The legal challenge was made by members of the Scottish parliament as well as Scottish members of the European parliament who asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the matter.

The decision is expected to help clarify the options available to MPs and the British government if May's Brexit deal is rejected by parliament.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May spent the day in Wales and Northern Ireland as part of a "charm offensive" to rally support for her Brexit deal.

At the Royal Welsh Show in Powys, May met farmers and manufacturers to answer questions on the withdrawal deal.

May has remained determined to to see the deal through.

"The British people want MPs to get on with a deal and allow the country to come together," she said.
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United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May faces
fresh constitutional row over Brexit legal advice

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Britain’s main opposition Labor Party warned Sunday that it will launch contempt proceedings against the government if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to publish the full legal advice on her Brexit plan.

Keir Starmer, Labor’s Brexit spokesman, said on Sunday that all parties would press for contempt proceedings if Members of Parliament (MPs) are not given access to the advice given by the attorney general previously.

May has promised MPs a "reasoned statement" on the legalities.

Media said the fresh constitutional row over Brexit came as many Brexiteers believe the Northern Ireland "backstop," a way to keep the Irish border open if trade talks stall, offers the European Union (EU) an effective veto on Britain’s leaving.

May has insisted the Brexit agreement’s legal text is clear that any backstop would be temporary.

Britain was scheduled to leave the economic and political union on March 29, 2019. May confirmed on Nov. 26 that the British parliament’s vote on the Brexit deal is expected to be held on Dec. 11.

However, the main opposition leader, Labor’s Jeremy Corbyn, said that May’s deal was a "botched" job, and that the negotiations between Britain and the EU had failed.
.

Britain Commons speaker backs Brexit contempt debate

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The Speaker of the British House of Commons John Bercow on Monday ruled that the government may have been in contempt of Parliament by not publishing Brexit legal advice.

Bercow said there is an arguable case that a contempt of Parliament has been committed.

MPs will debate and vote on Tuesday on whether or not to refer the case to the Standards Committee.

British media said the latest development would delay the start of the debate on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Six political parties, including the Opposition Labor and minority government partners the DUP, have teamed up to fight the Conservatives’ decision only to publish a summary of the legal advice.

Punishments for contempt of parliament are rare.

An MP, who is found in contempt, could be suspended or expelled from parliament.
.

Britain could face constitutional crisis if Prime Minister
Theresa May loses crucial Brexit vote, says academic

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Britain could be plunged into a constitutional crisis if Prime Minister Theresa May loses her crucial Brexit vote on Dec. 11, a leading political academic told Xinhua on Sunday.

Lawmakers will start a marathon five-day debate on Tuesday on the withdrawal deal agreed between May and the European Council a week ago.

With up to 100 Conservatives MPs threatening to vote against the deal, it will plunge Britain’s roller-coaster process of leaving the European Union (EU) into unchartered waters.

So far nobody knows what will happen if May loses the vote, with leading politicians and political commentators putting forward a range of post-vote scenarios.

They range from May seeking a modified deal from Britain, to her resigning as prime minister to let a new occupant of 10 Downing Street to take over the Brexit relay race, to a snap general election.

Professor Anthony Glees from the University of Buckingham told Xinhua in an exclusive interview:

"This is a political crisis which can, on Dec. 11, become a constitutional crisis if May loses, as all the experts believe she will do.

"If it is not resolved properly and quickly it will explode into a crisis affecting everyone in the UK, old, young, rich, poor, employer and employee, the sick and the healthy."

The leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, said in a Sunday morning television interview that his party will call for a confidence vote in May’s government if she loses the vote, with a snap general election a possible outcome.

To add to May’s political woes, opposition parties at Westminster are on the warpath over a government refusal to publish advice given about the Brexit withdrawal deal by the country’s top legal officer, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.

Cox, who wrote the advice, will make a statement on Monday in the House of Commons on the advice he has given, with only a summary of the legal advice published.

The Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 MPs give May’s minority government its slender majority, has accused the government of having something to hide by holding back on the full advice politicians have demanded.

Behind the row over the advice is a suspicion by some politicians that it explains the arrangements in the withdrawal deal over the fate of the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

A permanent solution to maintaining a frictionless border between the two parts of Ireland has yet to be agreed by Britain and the EU.

The fear among some politicians is that a temporary border arrangement, which May insists would only be for a short time, could be in place indefinitely as it would need approval from the European Union to remove.

The Sunday Times claims in a major report that Britain would be trapped indefinitely in a customs union with Brussels if MPs back May’s Brexit deal.

"The government’s top law officer ruled that the only way Britain could escape the backstop would be to sign a new trade deal, which could take years.

But he warned Britain could remain trapped if those talks collapsed," said the newspaper.

Its report claimed the details have been confirmed to the newspaper by three serving cabinet ministers, including the former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who resigned recently because of his opposition to May’s deal with the EU.

On the last day of her visit to Argentina where she attended the G20 Summit, May said:

"The next nine days are a really important time for our country leading up to the vote on this deal."

May has insisted she will press on with promoting her withdrawal agreement, saying it is the best deal for the country and respects the decision of the 2016 referendum when Britain voted to leave the EU.

She returned to 10 Downing Street Sunday to prepare for what will be one of the most important and intense periods in British politics in a generation.

Meanwhile Glees, who is director of the Center for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, said it seems inevitable May will lose on Dec. 11, with no more than 286 of the 650 MPs backing her, and the number of supporters decreasing on a daily basis.

May’s withdrawal plan, said Glees, is a compromise which has split MPs in the House of Commons because it pleases neither side.

Glees acknowledged that despite what MPs say, nobody can be sure how they will vote on Dec. 11.

On the question of what will happen, Glees told Xinhua:

"We are moving now into totally uncharted waters. Mrs May will probably want to try again if she loses on Dec. 11.

"Perhaps a stock market and currency slump would focus Conservative MPs’ minds on the need to support her a second time.

"Perhaps she would dissolve Parliament and have a general election."

Glees says his understanding is that May believes the British people voted to quit the EU and if she does not achieve this it will destroy the Conservative Party.

In a reference to the long standing Eurosceptic wing within the Conservative party, Glees said:

"The Brexiters have, after 40 years, finally won and May has to recognize that.

"At the same time, as a vicar’s daughter, she genuinely wants not to harm ordinary British people."

Glees said if it ends in disaster for May, and she faces a confidence vote it could lead one of her ministers taking over as prime minister.

"Or there could be an early snap general election and a new Labour leader, perhaps with my former Brunel student John McDonnell (Labour’s Shadow Chancellor) in Downing Street.

"Britain could then enter a long period of political and economic decline, ending in state socialism in our country or a period of rule by experts and security chiefs."

However, it is also possible, believed Glees, that May will decide there needs to be a second referendum.

"It is inconceivable that a government, or a political party that induced widescale economic collapse in the UK could survive," said Glees.

The latest YouGov poll, carried out for the People’s Vote campaign, shows support for remaining in the EU at 55 percent, the highest level by the polling company since the 2016 referendum.
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British minister resigns in protest at Theresa May Brexit deal: report

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The UK’s minister for universities and science Sam Gyimah has resigned in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit deal, it was reported here Friday.

Local newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that Gyimah called the Brexit deal "naive" and said any deal struck with Brussels will be "EU first".

The Conservative MP has become the seventh member of the Government to quit since May unveiled the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

Gyimah said the plan was "not in the British national interest" and that voting for it would "set ourselves up for failure" by surrendering "our voice, our vote and our veto".

He said that May should not rule out holding a second referendum, The Daily Telegraph reported.
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SEE ALSO:

Prime Minister Theresa May facing tough
grilling in Commons over Brexit vote deal

             

 

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