brexit chaos
October 29, 2019

Boris Johnson got his wish.

The United Kingdom is all but certain to have a general election on Dec. 12 after MPs backed a bill put forth by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday by a count of 438 to 20, just one day after his previous motion was resoundingly defeated.

The bill still needs to be approved by the House of Lords, but it could become law by the end of the week. Assuming that it's approved as expected, U.K. voters will head to the polls in less than two months.

This all stems from Brexit (what else could it be at this point, really?). Johnson has so far been unable to get his withdrawal legislation through Parliament, but with the deadline now extended until Jan. 31 of next year, he and other U.K. leaders believe the only way to resolve the stalemate over the country's departure from the European Union will come through a snap election.

It sounds like it'll be a doozy, too. Johnson is seeking to regain a Conservative parliamentary majority, while Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn vowed the opposition will "launch the most ambitious and radical campaign" the U.K. has ever seen. "This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country and take on the vested interests holding people back," Corbyn said. Read more at Bloomberg and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

October 28, 2019

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in the loss column again.

On the same day Johnson begrudgingly accepted the European Union's offer of extending the Brexit deadline until Jan. 31, 2020, MPs voted down the prime minister's bid to hold early general elections. While Johnson publicly said nobody "relishes" the idea of a general election, The Washington Post notes he "very much" wants one since it could lead to him reclaiming a parliamentary majority and, eventually in his eyes, free the U.K. from its Brexit quagmire once and for all.

He had no such luck Monday, with MPs voting for the motion 299 to 70. That fell short of the required two-thirds majority with the Labour Party continuing to abstain while the possibility of a no-deal Brexit remains in play. However, both Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn have hinted they could back an early election scheduled for December under a new plan proposed by the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalist Party that would only require a simple majority of votes.

And with that, the saga continues. Read more at The Guardian and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

October 21, 2019

The Brexit clock is ticking for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and he just hit another momentary snag.

With 10 days remaining until the Oct. 31 deadline, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow denied Johnson's attempt to put the Brexit deal he brokered with the European Union up for a "meaningful vote" Monday. Bercow said the motion was the same as the one that was debated Saturday before Parliament passed an amendment requiring Johnson to ask for an extension from the EU before voting on his deal, which he did begrudgingly.

Bercow said debating the motion again would "be repetitive and disorderly," citing a parliamentary rule from 1604 which prohibits the government from repeatedly asking Parliament to vote on the exact same motion. The speaker did say he was not preventing a vote on Johnson's legislation at a later date, but added that MPs must see the legislation, which is being introduced for a first reading Monday, first. Once they've gone through that, MPs will vote on whether to back it tomorrow.

Bercow received some pushback for his decision from Conservatives, and a spokesperson for Johnson said the government was "disappointed," but several other MPs respected the conclusion. Read more at The Financial Times and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

October 19, 2019

Oh, so close.

It looks like the Brexit deal U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson brokered with the European Union on Thursday won't get through British Parliament on Saturday, as Johnson had hoped, adding to a growing list of defeats in his short tenure.

U.K. Parliament passed an amendment during its first Saturday session in 37 years that requires Johnson to request a Brexit delay from the European Union by 11 p.m. Saturday. The vote was tight, but ultimately a cross-party group backed the amendment by a count of 322-306. It does not necessarily mean that the MPs were opposed to Johnson's deal — instead it signals they are withholding their support. Oliver Letwin, the MP who led the charge for the amendment, said he was leaning toward backing Johnson's deal, but he prioritized keeping the insurance policy of an extension in place to prevent the U.K. from crashing out of the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal, should Parliament have blocked it.

The government was clear that, after being defeated in the amendment vote, it would abandon a follow-up vote on the deal, as the amendment rendered it "meaningless." It appeared Johnson was close to receiving the votes he needed to pass the deal, and he said he would move forward with Brexit legislation next week, though he insisted he will not negotiate a delay with the EU in the meantime. Read more at BBC and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

October 15, 2019

A Brexit deal, in which Northern Ireland would "de jure be in the U.K.'s customs territory but de facto in the European Union's," is in the works The Guardian reports,

A draft text of the agreement — which allegedly includes a customs border in the Irish sea — could reportedly be published as early as Wednesday if Downing Street signs off on the concessions, sources told The Guardian. Even if that does happen, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will still have to usher the agreement through British Parliament, which was a difficult task for his predecessor, Theresa May. But there has not yet been any public criticism from Brexit hardliners.

In fact, Steve Baker, the leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, said he emerged from a Downing Street meeting "optimistic that it is possible to reach a tolerable deal that I am able to vote for." Johnson's ally and the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said he believes Johnson has the numbers he needs in Parliament, though Northern Ireland's conservative Democratic Unionist Party could still be a tough get. Meanwhile, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, though more cautious, told reporters that "initial indications are that we are making progress, that the negotiations are moving in the right direction."

Still, there's some nervousness among EU nations that negotiations are being rushed ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline, The Guardian reports. It's time to wait and see. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

October 7, 2019

It was no secret that the European Union wasn't prepared to accept U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's latest Brexit proposal, but The Guardian obtained leaked documents with the EU's point-by-point reasoning for its rejection.

Johnson's plan included Northern Ireland remaining in an all-Ireland regulatory zone within the EU's single market for goods and electricity, but with a catch that the EU reportedly couldn't come to terms with. Northern Ireland's parliament would hang on to veto powers to block the arrangement every four years, which was cause for concern for the EU.

Beyond that, The Guardian reports that the EU believes Johnson's plan could eventually result in abuses within the trading market. For example, they argue Johnson and his team provided no details about how to combat smuggling and that they removed assurances made by previous Prime Minister Theresa May that Northern Ireland would not enjoy a competitive advantage when it comes to trade. The EU also noted that the U.K. would have access to EU databases which would allow it to police the Irish customs border and the U.K.-Northern Ireland regulatory border even if the proposal was vetoed.

EU sources denied that Brussels would present a counteroffer to Downing Street. "It is the U.K. that wants to replace the backstop — and that is our solution," one senior EU diplomat said. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

September 24, 2019

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unsurprisingly said Tuesday he does not agree with the British Supreme Court's ruling that his suspension of Parliament was unlawful. But, speaking to reporters in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, Johnson said he would "obviously" respect the verdict.

He added that the ruling will make getting a Brexit deal done with the European Union ahead of the October 31st more difficult, but "we'll get on."

The Guardian notes that the ruling doesn't prevent Johnson from trying to suspend Parliament again, though a suspension could reportedly only last a few days if he made another attempt. Johnson said he thinks there's still a good case for a Queen's speech — which is always preceded by a prorogration of Parliament — despite the ruling.

While some MPs have called for Johnson's resignation, his comments would indicate that's not something he's considering at the moment, and a Downing street source confirmed he won't be stepping down. Instead, Johnson will reportedly leave New York earlier than expected Tuesday evening, so he can return to London. Tim O'Donnell

September 16, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was greeted by the sound of protesters booing him when he arrived in Luxembourg on Monday, and the reception he received from the country's top leaders wasn't much friendlier.

Johnson was in Luxembourg for his first face-to-face meeting with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, The Associated Press reports. With Britain scheduled to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, the two are trying to come up with a divorce agreement, but the European Commission said in a statement the meeting ended with no plan in place. Johnson has not offered any "legally operational" solutions to the so-called "backstop," which would guarantee that goods and people are able to freely cross the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.

Johnson was scheduled to attend a news conference with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, but refused to attend due to the rowdy anti-Brexit protesters. Bettel met with him privately, and said Johnson needs to "stop speaking and act," adding, "You can't hold their future hostage for party political gains." A no-deal Brexit could have catastrophic economic repercussions, but Johnson is adamant that Britain will leave the EU by Halloween, with or without a deal.

An EU summit will be held in mid-October, and hopes are high that a deal will be reached then. Johnson suspended Parliament until Oct. 14, in order to give himself distance from lawmakers who are trying to block a no-deal Brexit, and on Tuesday, Britain's Supreme Court will mull whether that decision was lawful. Catherine Garcia

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