British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigns, throwing Brexit plans into disarray

Boris Johnson followed Brexit minister David Davis by resigning on Monday. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 09 July 2018

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigns, throwing Brexit plans into disarray

  • Resignation comes after Brexit minister David Davis stepped down
  • Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plans thrown into disarray

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned on Monday hours after the Brexit minister stepped down, in a major blow to Prime Minister Theresa May and her plans for leaving the EU.

In a two-page letter to May, Johnson warned that the Brexit "dream is dying" and Britain is "headed for the status of colony" with its plan to stay close to the EU.

He said that while he initially accepted the government's proposal, it now "sticks in the throat".

"Brexit should be about opportunity and hope. It should be a chance to do things differently, to be more nimble and dynamic, and to maximise the particular advantages of the UK as an open, outward-looking global economy," he wrote.
"That dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt."

May's office announced earlier in the day that she had accepted the resignation, shortly after Brexit minister David Davis stepped down.

Jeremy Hunt, the long-serving health minister, was named as Johnson's replacement. While Johnson was one of the most high-profile Brexit campaigners, Hunt backed "Remain" during the 2016 referendum campaign.

In private, Johnson had reportedly criticized May’s plan for retaining strong economic ties to the EU even after Brexit.

Since cabinet approval for the plan on Friday, however, he had refrained from public comment.

He was due to co-host a summit on the Western Balkans in London on Monday but did not show up.

The two resignations leave May badly exposed at the top of a government unable to unite over Britain’s biggest foreign and trading policy shift in almost half a century.

It also puts a question mark over whether the leader will try to weather the resignations and stand firm in her commitment to pursue a “business friendly” Brexit, or will be faced with more challenges to her authority and calls to quit herself.

Addressing parliament just minutes after her office announced that Johnson had quit, May told MPs she appreciated the work of her two ministers.

She added with a hint of irony: “In the two years since the referendum, we have had a spirited national debate, with robust views echoing around the Cabinet table as they have on breakfast tables up and down the country.”
“Over that time, I’ve listened to every possible idea and every possible version of Brexit. Mr. Speaker, this is the right Brexit,” she said to jeers from the opposition Labour Party.

May believed she had secured a hard-won agreement with her deeply divided cabinet of ministers on Friday to keep the closest possible trading ties with the EU.

But it soon began to unravel, when Davis resigned late on Sunday and launched a no-holds-barred attack on her plan, calling it “dangerous” and one which would give “too much away, too easily” to EU negotiators, who would simply ask for more.

With Johnson’s resignation, a noisy rebellion among the ranks could gather steam. Many Brexit campaigners in her Conservative Party say she has betrayed her promise to pursue a clean break with the EU.

In response to the resignations, European Council President Donald Tusk raised the idea that Brexit might be called off, writing on Twitter: “Politicians come and go but the problems they have created for people remain.”

“I can only regret that the idea of Brexit has not left with Davis and Johnson. But ... who knows?”

The resignations come less than nine months before Britain leaves and just over three before the EU says it wants a deal.

Her earlier reluctance to spell out her strategy was for fear of encouraging exactly this — angering one of the two factions in her Conservative Party that have sparred with each other since Britain voted to leave at a 2016 referendum.

Many euroskeptics accused her of siding with the “Remainers” in her cabinet — those who voted to stay in the EU and have been lobbying for a Brexit that would preserve the complicated supply chains used by many of Britain’s biggest companies.

They fear a clean break would cost jobs.
But on the other side of the party divide, they feel that her words have not been matched by her deeds, proposing to negotiate a deal which could leave Britain still accepting EU rules and regulations without being able to influence them.

Johnson’s tenure as foreign secretary has been dominated by Brexit and his fractious relationship with May. 

On the Middle East, he attempted to take a tougher line on Syria.

In February, the foreign secretary backed airstrikes against the Syrian government in response to the use of chemical weapons. Two months later, Britain joined France and the US in a joint military operation against targets in the country.

Johnson came under fire last year after a gaffe that was seized upon by the Iranian government  to strengthen their case against a dual British Iranian charity worker accused of being a spy.

In March, he praised the sweeping reform program in Saudi Arabia during a visit to the UK by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

*With Reuters and AFP


Emotional Muslims return to Christchurch mosque as New Zealand works to move on

Updated 23 March 2019

Emotional Muslims return to Christchurch mosque as New Zealand works to move on

  • Al Noor was handed back to the local Muslim community on Saturday and began allowing small groups onto its grounds around midday
  • “We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” said Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at Al Noor

CHRISTCHURCH: Muslims held emotional prayers inside Christchurch’s main mosque on Saturday for the first time since a white supremacist massacred worshippers there, as New Zealand sought to return to normality after the tragedy.
The Al Noor mosque had been taken over by police for investigations and security reasons after alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant gunned down Muslims gathered there and at a smaller mosque for Friday prayers on March 15, killing 50 people.
Al Noor was handed back to the local Muslim community on Saturday and began allowing small groups onto its grounds around midday.
“We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” said Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at Al Noor, adding that there were no plans yet to fully reopen.
Among the first to enter was massacre survivor Vohra Mohammad Huzef, who said two of his roommates were killed and that he managed to live only by hiding under bodies.
“I could feel the bullets hitting the people and I could feel the blood coming down on me from the people who were shot,” said Huzef, a Christchurch civil engineer originally from India.
“Everyone wants to get back in again to give praise and to catch up. This is the central point of our community.”
The attacks shocked a country of 4.5 million that is known for its tolerance and prompted global horror, heightened by Tarrant’s cold-blooded livestreaming of the massacre.
New Zealand came to a standstill on Friday to mark one week since the bloodshed, with the Muslim call to prayer broadcast across the country followed by two minutes of silence.
The ceremonies saw poignant scenes of Maoris performing the traditional haka war dance, and non-Muslim New Zealand women donning makeshift Islamic headscarves in solidarity.
A day earlier, the country outlawed the military-style rifles used in the assault with immediate effect.
But one of four concert sites at a music festival in the capital Wellington was evacuated on Saturday night just before a planned minute of silence for Christchurch, underlining lingering apprehensions.
Police cited unspecified “concerns about a person,” but later called it an “innocent misunderstanding” and the concert was slated to proceed.
In Christchurch, police also handed back Linwood Mosque, the second killing zone several kilometers away from Al Noor, but no plans to allow visitors were announced.
An armed police presence will remain at both mosques, as well as others around New Zealand.
Workers have rushed to repair the mosques’ bullet-pocked walls and clean blood-spattered floors.
At Al Noor, visitors knelt at a garden tap to wash their feet and faces in ritual pre-prayer ablutions.
Some wept quietly inside the mosque, where bright sunlight streamed through windows and the air smelled of fresh paint. No bullet holes were seen.
Men and women then knelt and prayed on a padded carpet underlay taped to the floor, still awaiting replacements for the mosque’s blood-stained rugs.
Several members of Christchurch semi-professional football club Western A.F.C. arrived in team colors to honor three victims who were known to the team due to their interest in the sport. The players left a bouquet of flowers outside the entrance to the mosque’s grounds.
The victims included 14-year-old Sayyad Milne, who dreamed of playing in goal for Manchester United, according to his father.
“We all love playing football and the best thing we can do is just to go out and enjoy it really, and obviously play for those guys that have been lost and think about them while we are doing it,” said team member Aaron McDonald, 20.
The mosque’s imam Gamal Fouda arrived draped in a New Zealand flag.
The day before, Fouda delivered an impassioned memorial service at a park next to the mosque that was watched globally and in which he praised “unbreakable” New Zealand for uniting in the tragedy’s wake.
Around 2,000 people gathered Saturday at the same park to join a “March for Love” procession through Christchurch.
Officials and police said two relatives of victims had died, with New Zealand identifying one as 65-year-old Suad Adwan, who had arrived from Jordan for the burial of her son Kamel Darwish, 38.
The grief-stricken mother was found Saturday morning having apparently died in her sleep, just hours after her son’s burial, of what police called a “medical event.”
No other details on the deaths were given.
But normality slowly returned to Christchurch as children played cricket near Al Noor and a previously scheduled 100-kilometer (62-mile) cycling race went ahead as planned.
New Zealand, which has already charged two people for distributing the gruesome livestreamed video of the attack, has now also made it a crime to share the alleged killer’s “manifesto,” local media reported.
In the document, Tarrant says the killings were in response to what he termed a Muslim “invasion” of Western countries.
“Others have referred to this publication as a ‘manifesto’, but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism,” Chief Censor David Shanks was quoted as saying.