Polls open in Ireland for Brexit-dominated vote

A woman walks past a polling station as voting for the European Parliament elections got underway, in west Belfast, northern Ireland on May 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2019

Polls open in Ireland for Brexit-dominated vote

  • Most of Ireland’s mainstream parties have campaigned heavily to cement the nation’s place in the future of the European project
  • The results of the vote are expected on Monday

DUBLIN: Voters in Ireland began casting ballots Friday in European elections that are being overshadowed by neighboring Britain’s failure to leave the bloc nearly three years after the seismic Brexit vote.
After months of political paralysis in London and amid concerns about economic disruption, most of Ireland’s mainstream parties have campaigned heavily to cement the nation’s place in the future of the European project.
The candidates for the European Parliament have also pledged to dampen the economic shock predicted to radiate into Ireland if and when its closest trading partner leaves the European Union.
Two Irish MEPs will be elected to new seats, created in anticipation of Britain’s 73 lawmakers retiring from their posts.
However, they will be unable to take up their positions until Britain finalizes its split with the EU.
The results of the vote are expected on Monday.
Later on Friday the Czech Republic kicks off its two-day voting process, a day after residents cast their votes in Britain and also in the Netherlands where the Labour party scored a surprise victory to win most seats in the elections.
Other members of the 28-nation EU will vote on Saturday or Sunday.
Ireland is also voting Friday in a referendum to reform its constitutional laws on divorce in the latest drive to modernize the once staunchly Catholic nation.
At present couples must live separately for four out of five years before they may be granted a divorce, a hangover condition from the 1995 referendum which legalized the dissolution of marriage.
If the provision is repealed, the Irish government has signaled it will bring forth legislation shortening the requirement to two out of the previous three years.
The latest vote follows a landslide referendum last May which saw Ireland vote 66 percent in favor of repealing its constitutional ban on abortions.
In October voters also lifted a rarely enforced constitutional ban on blasphemy.
The referendum result is expected to be announced on Saturday.

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.