British MPs set to vote on delaying Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May responds to the result of a vote in the House of Commons in London on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 which rejected a no-deal Brexit. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019
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British MPs set to vote on delaying Brexit

  • The delay would be until June 30 if the Brexit deal is finally approved
  • Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May will also have to convince ‘each and every’ EU country to grant any delay

LONDON: British MPs will vote today on whether to ask the European Union for an extension to the March 29 Brexit deadline, with the whole process mired in chaos.
It comes after MPs on Wednesday voted to reject a no-deal Brexit, in an intense week of parliamentary ballots.
The government will ask British lawmakers to endorse its plan to hold another vote on the divorce deal in the coming days and to request a delay whatever the outcome.
The delay would be until June 30 if the Brexit deal is finally approved. But it has already been overwhelmingly rejected twice by parliament — in January and earlier this week.
If MPs vote against the deal once again, the government said the Brexit delay could be much longer and may force Britain to take part in European Parliament elections in May.
Brexit has become deadlocked in the British parliament, reflecting the deep divisions that remain in Britain almost three years after the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union.
Any request for a delay would still have to go before EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on March 21-22.
They have already stated that they will only agree to push back the Brexit date if Britain makes concrete proposals to break the crisis.
Unless British MPs agree to the deal or EU leaders unanimously approve a delay, Britain would still have to crash out of the EU with no deal in place on March 29.
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the European Parliament’s Brexit committee, tweeted that he is “against any extension of Article 50 (the Brexit process), even for just 24 hours, if it is not based on a clear majority from the House of Commons in favor of something.”
Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May will also have to convince “each and every” EU country to grant any delay, Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok stressed on Wednesday.
The series of votes has further entrenched the divide between the rival British camps, both in the chamber and in the country at large as protesters of both factions once again gathered outside Westminster.
“Unfortunately, our deceitful prime minister and many in her cabinet have tried to derail the Brexit process by never standing strong to the EU and saying if we don’t get a proper deal we’re just walking away,” said Brexit supporter Suzanne Hall, 56.
“I think there needs to be a second referendum,” countered Christine Bobin, 64. “I don’t think people voted knowing what was going to happen.”
This week’s machinations in parliament come two years after Britain set the clock ticking on its departure from the EU following the 2016 referendum.
May had hoped that last-minute assurances from EU chiefs on key sticking points in her deal, chiefly the backstop proposal to keep the Irish border open, would get it through parliament.
However, she was torpedoed by legal advice from her Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who said the changes would not allow Britain to leave the backstop of its own accord, raising fears that the country would be stuck in an indefinite customs union with the EU.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Wednesday said Brussels will not rework the painstakingly-negotiated withdrawal agreement.
“Why would we prolong the negotiation? To do what? Because the ... negotiation is finished, we have a treaty, it’s there,” he said, holding up the 585-page document.
Barnier warned that “the risk of no-deal has never been higher.”
The British government on Tuesday said that in such an eventuality it would scrap tariffs on 87 percent of imports and would not apply customs checks on the border with Ireland.
Anti-Brexit supporters are also buoyed, believing that the failure of May’s deal and MP’s rejection of a no-deal exit brings the country a step closer to a second referendum or to stopping Brexit entirely.
May gave them a boost on Wednesday, telling parliament: “We could leave with the deal which this government has negotiated, but subject to a second referendum, but that would risk no Brexit at all.”
MPs first rejected the Brexit deal in January by a historic margin of 230 votes. Though some euroskeptics changed their minds, Tuesday’s defeat was still by a hefty 149 votes.


Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

Updated 54 min 28 sec ago
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Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

  • Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied
  • One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland

ZURICH: Switzerland’s parliament approved allowing convicted militants to be sent home to countries where they could face torture, leaving the government to decide how to implement the motion without breaking international law.
The Swiss constitution bans expelling people to countries where they might be subject to torture. But parlimament’s upper house on Tuesday narrowly adopted a motion allowing exceptions for foreign militants, as the Swiss lower house had done.
The motion stems from discontent among lawmakers over the ability of Iraqi militants convicted in Swiss courts of aiding Daesh to avoid being sent home because of the ban on exposing people to torture or other inhumane treatment.
Conservative critics say the ban has cost taxpayer money to care for convicted militants and angered citizens who say Switzerland should not have to host such people on its soil.
Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied.
“The security of the Swiss population has top priority but we also have to adhere to the limits of the rule of law.”
One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland. Freed from prison, he now lives in a transit center for asylum seekers and is fighting extradition.
Switzerland said this month it would not help bring home its own stranded citizens who had joined extremist forces in Syria and Iraq, insisting national security was paramount.
Switzerland is a signatory to the United Nations’ 1984 Convention against Torture, which bars expulsions of people to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
Iraq is also a party to the convention, but lacks laws or guidelines providing for judicial action when defendants allege torture or mistreatment, Human Rights Watch said in a report last year. It said torture was rampant in Iraq’s justice system.