British PM accepts key amendments from hard-line Brexiteers

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. (AFP)
Updated 17 July 2018

British PM accepts key amendments from hard-line Brexiteers

  • Lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 305 to 302 to approve the amendment to the customs legislation, known as the Taxation
  • May’s authority has been weakened with the resignations of major figures Boris Johnson and David Davis and a series of lesser officials who disagree with her Brexit plan

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accepted amendments to a customs bill put forward by Brexit hard-liners who oppose her plan for a “common rule book” with the European Union after the country leaves the bloc.
Even with those unwanted concessions, the government only barely won a Monday night vote, gaining 305 votes in favor and 302 against. The bill would prevent Britain from collecting tariffs on behalf of EU nations unless the EU does the same for the UK
The government avoided what would have been an embarrassing defeat, but the razor-thin margin reveals the fragility of May’s support as she tries to find a way to move the complex Brexit process forward.
A Downing Street spokesman said the government accepted the amendments because it sees them as consistent with the prime minister’s plan as set out in a formal white paper last week.
However, critics said May had caved in to pressure from Brexit supporters who want a complete break with Europe. They said the changes would greatly limit May’s ability to move forward with the plan that prompted two hard-liners in her Cabinet to resign in protest last week — and fresh resignations of lesser figures Monday.
The amendments seek to limit the government’s ability to set up the customs arrangements May has advocated, which would keep close ties to Europe. They were proposed by the European Research Group, the research arm of May’s Conservative Party which is headed by lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Another Conservative Party legislator, Anna Soubry, who opposes the “hard” Brexit that would see Britain leave the EU without a trade deal in place, said the government’s acceptance of the four amendments mean that Rees-Mogg is now effectively “running Britain.”
May also came under fire Monday from a former Cabinet minister who called for a new Brexit referendum, an idea immediately rejected by the prime minister’s team.
Former Education Secretary Justine Greening, also a Conservative, said the UK Parliament was “gridlocked” over the divisive issue. She said she and other senior Tory lawmakers favor a new vote.
Greening said she would campaign to keep Britain in the EU, if a new referendum were held.
The day’s developments heaped additional pressure on the beleaguered May, whose party is deeply split and does not enjoy majority control in Parliament.
Her recent white paper outlining plans for a common rule book with the EU over trade in goods has infuriated those who favor a complete break even if it risks causing an economic shock.
May defended her plan as she opened the Farnborough International Airshow. She said it would safeguard vital jobs in the aviation industry and keep Britain’s tradition as a nation in the forefront of the aviation industry.
The issue is sensitive because Airbus signaled in June that it would have to consider its long-term plans for Britain if there is no Brexit deal.
May said the plan outlined in the white paper honors the wishes of British voters — who in June 2016 backed Brexit with 52 percent of the vote — while protecting industry and national security.
May’s authority has been weakened with the resignations of major figures Boris Johnson and David Davis and a series of lesser officials who disagree with her Brexit plan.
The skirmishes are expected to continue Tuesday when a different trade bill is debated. There is also a move for Parliament to begin its summer recess several days early in a bid to curtail the chaos of recent weeks.


Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

Updated 15 October 2019

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

  • Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.