Boris Johnson builds lead in race to be UK prime minister

Boris Johnson arrives at BBC studios to take part in a TV debate with candidates campaigning to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, in London. (Reuters)
Updated 18 June 2019

Boris Johnson builds lead in race to be UK prime minister

  • Johnson won 126 of the 313 votes cast Tuesday in a second-round ballot of Conservative Party lawmakers
  • Johnson added a dozen votes to his tally from last week, securing more votes than the combined total for the next three challengers: Hunt with 46 votes, Gove with 41 and Stewart with 37

LONDON: Boris Johnson increased his lead Tuesday in the race to become Britain’s next prime minister as one of his rivals was eliminated in a party vote, leaving a five-strong field.
Johnson won 126 of the 313 votes cast Tuesday in a second-round ballot of Conservative Party lawmakers, all but guaranteeing he will be one of the final two candidates in a runoff that will be decided by party members.
Dominic Raab, who tried to vie with Johnson for the votes of committed Brexit supporters, got 30 votes, three short of the threshold needed to go through to the next round.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and Home Secretary Sajid Javid all remain contenders in what is now effectively a race for second place.
All five candidates were taking part in a live television debate on Tuesday evening, two days after Johnson skipped another televised debate despite being the front-runner for the post.
Tory lawmakers will vote again Wednesday and, if needed, Thursday. The final two contenders will go to a postal ballot of all 160,000 Conservative Party members nationwide.
The winner, due to be announced in late July, will replace Theresa May as both party leader and British prime minister. May stepped down as party leader earlier this month after failing to secure Parliament’s approval for her Brexit deal.
Johnson, a flamboyant former foreign secretary, was already the front-runner after last week’s first round of voting in a race that started out with 10 competitors. He has since been backed by several lawmakers who have dropped out, including hard-line Brexit supporters Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom and moderate Matt Hancock.
Johnson added a dozen votes to his tally from last week, securing more votes than the combined total for the next three challengers: Hunt with 46 votes, Gove with 41 and Stewart with 37.
All the contenders vow they will succeed where May failed and lead Britain out of the European Union, though they differ about how they plan to break the country’s Brexit deadlock.
Johnson — a leading figure in the 2016 campaign to leave the EU — says the UK must leave the bloc on the scheduled date of Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal to smooth the way.
The EU says it won’t reopen the Brexit agreement it struck with May’s government, which has been rejected three times by Britain’s Parliament. Many economists and businesses say a no-deal exit would cause economic turmoil by ripping up the rules that govern trade between Britain and the EU.
Johnson’s rivals are divided over how willing they are to contemplate a no-deal Brexit. Javid says no-deal would be preferable to further delay, while Hunt warns it would cause “potentially severe economic disruption” and Gove says he would be willing to postpone Brexit further in order to secure a deal.
Johnson’s team is keeping him on a tight leash, wary of gaffes that could derail his campaign. Johnson is admired by many Conservatives for his ability to energize voters, but others mistrust him for his long record of misleading and false statements, verbal blunders and erratic performance in high office.
Stewart, who started the campaign as a rank outsider but has electrified the race, accused Johnson of selling “fairy tales” about how he would solve the Brexit puzzle.
Stewart’s energetic campaign and call for compromise has won praise from many outside the Conservative Party. He urged Tory lawmakers to put him into the final two and give the party a distinct alternative to Johnson.
“I would love to go against him in the final two in order to give members the chance to choose whether they want Boris’s Brexit or mine,” Stewart said.


US imposes visa rules for pregnant women on ‘birth tourism’

Updated 43 sec ago

US imposes visa rules for pregnant women on ‘birth tourism’

  • Applicants will be denied a tourist visa unless they can prove they must come to the US to give birth for medical reasons and they have money to pay for it
  • he practice of traveling to the US to give birth is fundamentally legal

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Thursday imposed new visa rules aimed at restricting “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the United States to give birth so their children can have US citizenship.
Applicants will be denied a tourist visa unless they can prove they must come to the US to give birth for medical reasons and they have money to pay for it — not just because they want their child to have a passport.
“Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism. The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.”
The practice of traveling to the US to give birth is fundamentally legal, although there are scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion. And women are often honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even show signed contracts with doctors and hospitals.
The State Department “does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining US citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States — an activity commonly referred to as ‘birth tourism’ — is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature,” according to the new rules, which were published Thursday in the Federal Register and take effect Friday.
While the new rules deal specifically with birth tourism aimed at wealthy immigrants coming largely from China and Russia, the Trump administration also has turned away pregnant women coming over the US-Mexico border as part of a broader immigration crackdown. Those women were initially part of a “vulnerable” group that included others like small children who were allowed in, while tens of thousands of other asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico to wait out their cases.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but Trump has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship — anyone born in the US is considered a citizen, under the Constitution. The Republican president has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it’s not so easy to do.
Regulating tourist visas for pregnant women is one way to get at the issue, but it raises questions about how officers would determine whether a woman is pregnant to begin with and whether a woman could get turned away by border officers who suspect she may be just by looking at her.
And critics of the new policy say it could put pregnant women at risk.
Consular officers don’t have the right to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant or intends to become so. But they would still have to determine whether a visa applicant would be coming to the US primarily to give birth.
Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the US and abroad. Companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care. Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the US
The US has been cracking down on the practice since before Trump took office.
“An entire ‘birth tourism’ industry has evolved to assist pregnant women from other countries to come to the United States to obtain US citizenship for their children by giving birth in the United States, and thereby entitle their children to the benefits of US citizenship,” according to the State Department rules.
There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the US specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012 about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the US and then left the country.
“This rule will help eliminate the criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” according to the rules. “The recent federal indictments describe birth tourism schemes in which foreign nationals applied for visitor visas to come to the United States and lied to consular officers about the duration of their trips, where they would stay, and their purpose of travel.”