Britain clinches Brexit deal, Johnson now faces parliament challenge

Robie de Guzman   •   October 17, 2019   •   319

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (not pictured) at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 15 October 2019. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN / POOL

Britain clinched a last-minute Brexit deal with the European Union on Thursday (October 17), but still faced a challenge in getting it approved by parliament.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain and the European Union had agreed a “great” new Brexit deal and urged lawmakers to approve it at the weekend.

“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control,” Johnson said in a tweet.

Johnson is hoping to get approval for the agreement in a vote at an extraordinary session of the British parliament on Saturday, to pave the way for an orderly departure on October 31.

However, the Northern Irish party that Johnson needs to help ratify any agreement has refused to support the deal that was hammered out over weeks of negotiations.

The head of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said in Brussels he was “unhappy” with the deal and would vote against it. Lawmakers in his party said they had been told to vote for another referendum on Saturday.

Johnson has no majority in the 650-seat parliament, and in practice needs 320 votes to get a deal ratified this Saturday – in what will be the first Saturday session since the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982. The DUP have 10 votes.

The British parliament defeated similar deals struck by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, three times.

Johnson won the top job by pledging to renegotiate May’s agreement, though he is reviving the bulk of it now, with changes to the protocol on how to treat the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

The uncertainty over parliament’s approval means that, two weeks before the latest date for the United Kingdom’s departure from the world’s largest trading bloc, the possible outcomes still range from an orderly departure to a chaotic exit or even another referendum that could reverse the entire endeavour.

It is unclear what Brexit will ultimately mean for the United Kingdom and the European project – built on the ruins of World War Two as a way to integrate economic power and thus end centuries of European bloodshed.

Johnson, who was the face of the campaign to leave the EU in Britain’s 2016 referendum, has repeatedly said he will not ask for a delay – even though parliament has passed a law to oblige him to do just that if it has not agreed and ratified a deal by Saturday. (Reuters)

China warns of consequences if UK offers residency to HK citizens

UNTV News   •   July 2, 2020

China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday (July 2) that Britain would bear all consequences for any move it took to offer Hong Kong citizens a path to settlement in the UK.

China reserved the right to act against Britain over the issue, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing, without specifying what countermeasures Beijing might take.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday (July 1) that China’s imposition of a security law on Hong Kong was a “clear and serious” violation of the 1984 Joint Declaration and that Britain would offer around 3 million residents of the former colony a path to British citizenship. (Reuters)

(Production: Joseph Campbell, Wang Shubing)

EU sets ‘safe’ travel list, excluding United States

UNTV News   •   July 1, 2020

The European Union has excluded the United States from its initial “safe list” of countries from which the bloc will allow non-essential travel from Wednesday (July 1).

The 27-member bloc gave approval on Tuesday (June 30) to leisure or business travel from 14 countries beyond its borders, the Council of the EU, which represents EU governments, said in a statement.

The countries are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

China has also been provisionally approved, although travel would only open up if Chinese authorities also allowed in EU visitors. Reciprocity is a condition of being on the list.

Russia, Brazil and Turkey, along with the United States, are among countries whose containment of the virus is considered worse than that of the EU average and so will have to wait at least two weeks. The bloc will carry out fortnightly reviews.

The move is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations, particularly countries in southern Europe hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It acts as a recommendation to EU members, meaning they could potentially set restrictions on those entering from the 14 nations and will almost certainly not allow access to travelers from other countries. (Reuters)

(Production Hortense de Roffignac)

Venezuela’s Maduro orders EU envoy to leave the country

UNTV News   •   June 30, 2020

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday (June 29) ordered the European Union envoy to leave the country, hours after the EU announced sanctions against several officials loyal to the socialist leader.

The EU subjected 11 officials to financial sanctions, citing their actions against the democratic functioning of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

The European bloc earlier this month said a decision by the South American nation’s Supreme Court in May to ratify an ally of Maduro as president of the National Assembly was illegitimate. Opposition leader Juan Guaido was the rightful congressional president following his election by the majority of members in January, not the court-approved Luis Parra, the EU said.

Parra was among those named in Monday’s sanctions, along with Franklyn Duarte and Jose Gregorio Noriega, who were named as vice-presidents of the assembly in the May court ruling.

Maduro gave the EU envoy, Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, 72 hours to leave the country after the sanctions were announced.

“A plane can be loaned to her to leave,” he said during an appearance on Venezuelan state TV.

Maduro also said his government was reserving diplomatic action in the case against the Spanish ambassador in Caracas, Jesus Silva, whom he said was “an accomplice of the criminal and terrorist Leopoldo Lopez, as published in the Wall Street Journal, for the plan to assassinate me, to assassinate the country’s top military and political leader.”

Last week, the U.S. newspaper published a report citing sources close to the opposition leader Lopez, indicating that he had come into contact with several security firms for an armed action in Venezuela. (Reuters)

(Production: Efrain Otero, Liamar Ramos)

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