’Collaborators’ are undermining Britain’s Brexit bet, PM says

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a roundtable on the criminal justice system at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain August 12, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2019

’Collaborators’ are undermining Britain’s Brexit bet, PM says

  • PM says parliament and EU collaborating, no deal more likely
  • Former finance minister takes aim at Johnson adviser

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LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday some British lawmakers hoping to block Brexit were engaged in “terrible” collaboration with the European Union by undermining London’s negotiating hand and so making no deal more likely.
Hours after senior lawmakers said they would seek to prevent any attempt to ignore parliament over Brexit, Johnson used a question-and-answer session on Facebook to attack them.
“There is a terrible kind of collaboration as it were going on between those who think they can block Brexit in parliament and our European friends,” Johnson, who has been hailed by the US president as “Britain’s Trump,” said on Facebook.
“We need our European friends to compromise and the more they think that there’s a chance that Brexit can be blocked in parliament, the more adamant they are in sticking to their position,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s use of the word “collaborator” has historical echoes for Britons given the use of that epithet for people who cooperated with Nazi Germany during World War Two.
It followed remarks by former finance minister Philip Hammond that parliament will block a no-deal Brexit if unelected people behind Johnson try to wrench Britain out on Oct. 31 without agreement.
The United Kingdom is heading toward a constitutional crisis at home and a showdown with the EU as Johnson has vowed to leave the bloc in 78 days time without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate a Brexit divorce.
After more than three years of Brexit dominating EU affairs, the bloc has repeatedly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement which includes an Irish border insurance policy that Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, agreed in November.
Hammond, who served as May’s finance minister for three years, said unelected people in Johnson’s Downing Street office were setting London on an “inevitable” course toward a no-deal Brexit by demanding the Irish backstop be dropped.
“The people behind this know that that means that there will be no deal,” Hammond told the BBC. “Parliament is clearly opposed to a no-deal exit, and the prime minister must respect that.”

LAWMAKERS’ RESOLVE
The former minister’s first public intervention since resigning indicates the determination of a group of influential lawmakers to thwart Johnson if he goes for a no-deal Brexit.
Hammond said he was confident parliament, where a majority oppose a no-deal Brexit, would find a way to block that outcome.
It is, however, unclear if lawmakers have the unity or power to use the 800-year-old heart of British democracy to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 — likely to be the United Kingdom’s most consequential move since World War Two.
Opponents of no deal say it would be a disaster for what was once one of the West’s most stable democracies. A disorderly divorce, they say, would hurt global growth, send shockwaves through financial markets and weaken London’s claim to be the world’s preeminent financial center.
Brexit supporters say there may be short-term disruption from a no-deal exit but that the economy will thrive if cut free from what they cast as a doomed experiment in integration that has led to Europe falling behind China and the United States.
Heading toward one of the biggest constitutional crises in at least a century, Britain’s elite are quarrelling over how, when and even if the result of the shock 2016 referendum will be implemented.
Part of the problem is that Britain’s constitution, once touted as a global model, is uncodified and vague. It relies on precedent, but there is little for Brexit.
The House of Commons speaker John Bercow told an audience in Scotland that lawmakers could prevent a no-deal Brexit and that he would fight any attempt to prorogue, or suspend, parliament “with every bone in my body”.
Johnson, who replaced May after she failed three times to get her Brexit deal through parliament, has refused to rule out proroguing the House of Commons and Brexit supporters have vociferously encouraged him to do so if necessary.
Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, has reportedly said he could delay calling a general election until after Oct. 31, even if he lost a no confidence motion, allowing for a no-deal Brexit while parliament is dissolved.
Clearly with him in mind, Hammond said there were people “who are pulling the strings in Downing Street, those who are setting the strategy.” Cummings declined to comment to Reuters.


Go to Israel, see ‘cruel reality of the occupation’: Omar

US Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference on August 19, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (AFP)
Updated 32 min 16 sec ago

Go to Israel, see ‘cruel reality of the occupation’: Omar

  • The Republican president subjected them to a series of racist tweets last month in which he called on them to “go back” to their “broken” countries

ST. PAUL, Minnesota: Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib sharply criticized Israel on Monday for denying them entry to the Jewish state and called on fellow members of Congress to visit while they cannot.
Omar, of Minnesota, suggested President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were suppressing the lawmakers’ ability to carry out their oversight role.
“I would encourage my colleagues to visit, meet with the people we were going to meet with, see the things we were going to see, hear the stories we were going to hear,” Omar said at a news conference. “We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us.”
At Trump’s urging, Israel denied entry to the first two Muslim women elected to Congress over their support for a Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions global movement. Tlaib and Omar, who had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian group, are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Tlaib, a US-born Palestinian-American from Michigan, had also planned to visit her aging grandmother in the West Bank. Israeli officials later relented and said she could visit her grandmother after all.
But Tlaib got emotional as she told how her “Sitty” — an Arabic term of endearment for one’s grandmother that’s spelled different ways in English — urged her during a tearful late-night family phone call not to come under what they considered such humiliating circumstances.
“She said I’m her dream manifested. I’m her free bird,” Tlaib recalled. “So why would I come back and be caged and bow down when my election rose her head up high, gave her dignity for the first time?“
Tlaib and Omar were joined Monday by Minnesota residents who said they had been directly affected by travel restrictions in the past. They included Lana Barkawi, a Palestinian-American, who lamented that she has never been able to visit her parents’ homeland.
Barkawi said she had a chance to visit her father’s village in the West Bank near Nablus during a family visit to Jordan about 25 years ago, but her parents decided not to risk crossing the border.
“My father could not put himself to be in a position where an Israeli soldier is the person with control over his entry into his homeland,” Barkawi said. “This is an enduring trauma that he and my mother live.”
Before Israel’s decision, Trump tweeted it would be a “show of weakness” to allow the two representatives in. Israel controls entry and exit to the West Bank, which it seized in the 1967 Mideast war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories the Palestinians want for a future state.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley kept up the administration’s criticism of the two lawmakers.
“Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have a well-documented history of anti-Semitic comments, anti-Semitic social media posts and anti-Semitic relationships,” he said in a statement. “Israel has the right to prevent people who want to destroy it from entering the country — and Democrats’ pointless Congressional inquiries here in America cannot change the laws Israel has passed to protect itself.”
Supporters say the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a nonviolent way of protesting Israel’s military rule over Palestinians, but Israel says it aims to delegitimize the state and eventually wipe it off the map.
The two congresswomen are part of the “squad” of four liberal House newcomers — all women of color — whom Trump has labeled as the face of the Democratic Party as he runs for reelection. The Republican president subjected them to a series of racist tweets last month in which he called on them to “go back” to their “broken” countries. They are US citizens — Tlaib was born in the US and Omar became a citizen after moving to the US as a refugee from war-torn Somalia.
“There is no way that we are ever, ever going to allow people to tear us down, to see us cry out of pain, to ever make us feel like our (citizenship) certificate is less than theirs,” Omar said. “So we are going to hold our head up high. And we are going to fight this administration and the oppressive Netanyahu administration until we take our last breath.”