UK ministers attack Britain’s upper house over Brexit vote

File photo showing the Houses of Parliament in London (Reuters)
Updated 01 May 2018
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UK ministers attack Britain’s upper house over Brexit vote

LONDON: Ministers criticized the upper house of parliament on Tuesday due to its vote to give parliament powers to block or even stall Brexit, saying the move would tie the government’s hands in negotiations with the European Union.
The House of Lords voted overwhelmingly on Monday in favor of an amendment to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint, or the EU withdrawal bill, to offer what some peers said was a truly “meaningful vote” on any final deal.
It was seventh of nine defeats in the last two weeks for the government, which says the EU withdrawal bill is purely a technical document to “copy and paste” EU law into British law and guarantee a smooth Brexit.
At a meeting of May’s top cabinet ministers, the prime minister and her Brexit secretary, David Davis, led the expressions of disappointment over the Lords’ vote.
“Cabinet expressed its strong disappointment at the defeats inflicted on the EU withdrawal bill in the House of Lords, saying they risked tying the government’s hands behind its back in negotiations with Brussels,” May’s spokesman told reporters.
He added, “The prime minister said when the bill returns to the House of Commons, the government will be robust. She said it was vital to ensure the legislation is able to deliver the smooth Brexit which is in the interests of everybody in the United Kingdom.”
He declined to comment directly on whether the government would try to overturn the amendment which, if passed by the lower house, would allow parliament to send ministers back to the negotiating table in Brussels or halt the Brexit process.
“As for individual amendments, we have said we will look at those and discuss those in due course,” the spokesman said, adding that if the government’s hands were tied in the talks, “that’s not something we believe is in the UK’s interest.”
The government has said parliament will get a vote on any final deal with the EU, but only to “take it or leave it.” Some peers in the House of Lords, and lawmakers in the lower house, want parliament to be given a bigger say in the process.
Earlier, May’s trade minister, Liam Fox, accused the unelected peers in the upper house of “trying to block the democratic will of the British people.”


Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum to return home from exile

Updated 22 July 2018
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Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum to return home from exile

  • Dostum’s return follows nearly three weeks of mass protests in northern Afghanistan
  • The protests were a major headache for the government amid increased attacks by the Taliban and Daesh

KABUL: Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who was exiled by President Ashraf Ghani’s government over allegations of sexual abuse, returned home on Sunday to rapturous reception from supporters and is set to resume his duties as normal.
Dostum’s return follows nearly three weeks of mass protests in northern Afghanistan by his ethnic Uzbek supporters, who blocked several border crossings and government institutions, and threatened to boycott the long-delayed October elections.
The protests were a major headache for the government amid increased attacks by the Taliban and Daesh in the north recently.
Dostum’s supporters accuse Ghani of having sidelined him. The protests were triggered by the arrest of Nizamuddin Qaisari, a senior commander and Dostum loyalist accused of severe human rights abuses and threatening to kill provincial officials.
In a video, government troops were seen beating Qaisari’s handcuffed guards during his arrest, stoking further anger.
Haroon Chakansuri, a spokesman for Ghani, said Dostum had gone to Turkey for nearly 14 months for unspecified medical treatment, and would return home on a chartered aircraft on Sunday and be given an official reception.
Accusations that Dostum had ordered his guards to sexually abuse and torture political rival Ahmad Eschi will be handled independently by the courts, Chakansuri said. Dostum supporters say the allegations about Eschi are a conspiracy.
Ghani picked Dostum, the self-proclaimed leader of ethnic Uzbeks, as his running mate in the 2014 elections.
Ghani last year blocked Dostum’s return from exile when he tried to fly home to form an opposition alliance including senior government members.
The ethnic Uzbek vote is essential for any candidate in the presidential elections slated for next year. Ghani has said he will stand for office again.