Brexit vote may be reversed, says British campaigner Farage

Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage arrives for a meeting with European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (unseen) at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 8, 2018. (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)
Updated 14 January 2018
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Brexit vote may be reversed, says British campaigner Farage

LONDON: Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage said on Sunday he was increasingly concerned that a vote for Britain to leave the European Union could be overturned by a powerful group of the bloc’s supporters.
In an interview with Britain’s Observer newspaper, Farage, former head of the euroskeptic UK Independence Party, said a well-organized and funded group of campaigners that wants to remain in the EU was drowning out those who want to leave.
“The Remain side are making all the running,” said Farage. “They have a majority in parliament, and unless we get ourselves organized we could lose the historic victory that was Brexit.”
Last week, Farage said he was warming to the idea of holding a second vote on Britain’s membership of the EU to settle the argument — an idea written off by other Brexit campaigners who urged the government to press on with exit talks with the bloc.
In 2016, Britons voted 52 to 48 percent in favor of ending its membership of the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out a second referendum, saying her government was seeking an amicable divorce with the EU which will safeguard the economy and enable Britain to secure trade deals with other countries.
But some Brexit campaigners fear her approach has led to the watering down of several of their demands, including the ability to reduce immigration and to reclaim sovereignty by leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Several pro-EU campaigners say the need for a second referendum has become more pressing because public opinion is showing some signs of turning against Brexit as the difficulty of negotiations to leave the bloc becomes increasingly clear.
On Thursday, a ComRes poll for the Daily Mirror newspaper of 1,049 adults showed that although more people think there should not be a second referendum (51 to 43 percent), if there were to be a re-run, voters say they would opt to stay in the EU by 55 to 45 percent.


Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

Empty seats of the United States delegation are pictured one day after the US announced their withdraw during a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 6 min 1 sec ago
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Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal

GENEVA: Diplomats from across the globe defended the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday after the US withdrew from a body it branded an anti-Israel “cesspool.”
Slovenian ambassador Vojislav Suc, who currently holds the council’s rotating presidency and has been pushing a faltering reform drive, described the Geneva-based chamber as the best place to trigger action on dangerous rights crises.
“Let me say it very clearly, if human rights issues are not discussed here, in this very room, they have little chance to be dealt with meaningfully anywhere else,” he told the council’s 38th session, hours after Washington announced its pullout.
Suc further praised the 47-member council as the “only intergovernmental body responding to human rights issues and situations worldwide.”
Once he receives formal notification of the US withdrawal, Suc said he would arrange for the American seat to be removed and work with the General Assembly to elect a replacement member. China, which has on multiple occasions voiced support for multilateral institutions abandoned by US President Donald Trump, portrayed the council as “a major body... to promote the realization of human rights.”
“All delegations attach great importance to this body,” said Chinese ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yu Jianhua.
China currently sits on the council and rights groups have repeatedly criticized Beijing for seeking to stifle criticism of its own conduct.
The EU assured that it “remains steadfastly and reliably committed to the Human Rights Council,” and said it would continue to try to fix the body’s problems despite the US withdrawal.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN ambassador Nikki Haley announced the decision on Wednesday, making good on a threat Haley made in Geneva a year ago.
They said their calls for change, notably to fix “hypocrisy” and “unrelenting bias” against Israel were ignored.
Membership of the council, established in 2006 to replace the disgraced Human Rights Commission, has long been controversial.
Current members include Burundi, the Philippines and Venezuela — all nations accused of massive abuses against civilians.
But the main US objection was the council’s Agenda Item 7, which mandates discussion of Israel at each of the three annual sessions.
Israel is the only country recorded as a dedicated agenda item.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal, experts and diplomats have noted that without US pushback, resolutions approving investigations of Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territories could multiply.