UK PM Johnson to submit Brexit grand bargain but Ireland skeptical

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to get rid of the hotly contested element of the Brexit divorce agreement — the Irish border backstop. (Reuters)
Updated 01 October 2019

UK PM Johnson to submit Brexit grand bargain but Ireland skeptical

  • The UK is heading toward an Oct. 31 exit date without a clear understanding of what happens next
  • ‘What we want to do is to get rid of the backstop, that is the most important thing’

MANCHESTER, England: Prime Minister Boris Johnson will shortly present the European Union with proposals for an amended Brexit agreement, including new ideas that remove the contested insurance policy for the Irish border that Britain previously signed up to.
More than three years since the 2016 referendum, the United Kingdom is heading toward an Oct. 31 exit date without a clear understanding of whether it will leave with a deal, without a deal or even leave by that deadline.
Even before the proposals were formally made, Ireland dismissed the ideas that had been previously floated with Foreign Minister Simon Coveney quipping: “Non-Starter.”
“We’ve made a very good offer, we’re going to make a very good offer, we’re going to be tabling it formally very soon,” Johnson, a Brexiter who helped lead the Out campaign in the referendum, told the BBC.
“We do think there’s a good way forward, we do think there’s a good solution. I very much hope that our European, EU friends in Brussels, in Dublin, in Germany as well will want to take it forward.”
Johnson said he wanted to get rid of the hotly contested element of the Brexit divorce agreement — the Irish border backstop — and that there was no point in leaving the EU if one stayed locked in an EU customs union.
“What we want to do is to get rid of the backstop, that is the most important thing,” Johnson said.
“Getting rid of the backstop is a fantastic thing because what that does is it enables the UK genuinely to take back control of our regulatory framework, our tariffs, our customs and commercial policy and it allows us to go forward with a new and exciting relationship, not just with the EU but also with the rest of the world,” he said.
The backstop is an insurance policy to prevent the return of border infrastructure between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Johnson brushed away criticism of leaked plans to manage the Irish border after Brexit, saying comments from Brussels and Dublin were not aimed at Britain’s final proposals.
“As far as I can make out from what I’ve seen from the response from Brussels and I think Dublin, they’re not talking about the proposals that we’re actually going to be taking, they’re talking about some stuff that went in previously,” Johnson told the BBC.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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