UK’s Boris Johnson has one thing on his mind: Brexit now

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for the Conservative party's manifesto launch in Telford, Britain November 24, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 24 November 2019

UK’s Boris Johnson has one thing on his mind: Brexit now

  • Johnson promised to bring his Brexit deal back to Parliament before Christmas

LONDON: The formal launch of the Conservative Party’s election pledges Sunday centered around the key plank of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s campaign: making Brexit happen.
Speaking to a friendly crowd, Johnson trashed his opponents — most notably the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, his prime rival — and claimed that his Conservatives are the sole party in next month’s election that will actually get Brexit done.
A platform launch is often used to introduce a number of new promises and programs, but Johnson chose instead to hone his message, reiterating his party’s Brexit stance.
“Unlike any other party standing in this election, we are going to get Brexit done,” he told supporters while waving his party’s printed platform.
Johnson said the rival parties — the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and others — would only bring more delay and eventually betray the will of voters as expressed in the 2016 vote in favoring of leaving the European Union.
Johnson spent more time ridiculing opposition Corbyn than offering details about the plans laid out in the party platform, poking fun repeatedly at Corbyn’s plan to remain neutral if a second referendum is held next year, as Labour wants.
“Let’s go carbon-neutral by 2050 and Corbyn-neutral by Christmas,” he said to appreciative chuckles from the crowd.
Johnson promised to bring his Brexit deal back to Parliament before Christmas, with passage likely assured if the Conservatives win a majority in the Dec. 12 vote. He said that would enable his government to get Britain out of the EU by the Jan. 31 deadline while other parties would slow the process down for months or stop it altogether.
Johnson is trying to keep the focus on Brexit policy, while Corbyn’s Labour hopes people will look at a broader range of issues, including funding of the National Health Service and restoration of cuts in public services.
In his response, Corbyn said Johnson can’t be trusted.
“After a decade of the Conservatives cutting our NHS, police and schools, all Boris Johnson is offering is more of the same: more cuts, more failure, and years more of Brexit uncertainty,” Corbyn said, adding that only Labour can deliver “real change.”
Labour has outlined ambitious and costly new proposals while the Conservative platform, only about half as long as Labour’s, takes a more limited view of what’s needed. Johnson repeated several times that making Brexit happen would “unleash” Britain’s potential.
The Conservatives, leading in most opinion polls and mindful of a series of problems that followed the party’s platform launch in 2017, took a cautious approach Sunday, declining to outline a rash of new programs that might spawn controversy.
The manifesto does call for increased spending to recruit 20,000 more police and 50,000 nurses, and also a 2 billion pound ($2.57 billion) nationwide pothole repairing effort. It also makes crowd-pleasing gestures like eliminating car parking charges at hospitals for staff working night shifts, disabled people, those with terminal illnesses and their families.
The prime minister for the most part stayed on familiar ground, blaming the outgoing Parliament for the failure to make Brexit happen by the last deadline at the end of October.
The 2016 referendum, which saw 52% of British voters choose to break with Europe after decades of integration, was followed by difficult negotiations with the EU that eventually led to a divorce deal — but one that was rejected in Parliament and then renegotiated by Johnson.
The prime minister says that will change if his party wins a majority, because each Conservative candidates has agreed to back the deal.
His repeated promise to “get Brexit done” will be much more difficult if he doesn’t win an outright majority as other parties plan to slow Brexit down — or halt it completely.
Johnson revealed the party’s campaign plans at an event in the West Midlands, where the Conservatives hope to make inroads with traditional Labour Party voters unhappy with the opposition party’s Brexit stance.
Johnson called the election more than two years early in a bid for a parliamentary majority that would back his Brexit plan before the Jan. 31 deadline.
All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs.

Thunberg condemns climate inaction as Trump joins Davos

Updated 21 January 2020

Thunberg condemns climate inaction as Trump joins Davos

  • Business leaders are likely to be concerned by the state of the global economy
  • The IMF cut its global growth estimate for 2020 to 3.3 percent

DAVOS: Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg on Tuesday slammed the business elite for doing “basically nothing” on climate change, as the Davos forum braced for an address from US President Donald Trump hours before his impeachment trial begins.

The 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss Alps resort got under way seeking to thrash out dangers to both the environment and economy from the heating of the planet.

Trump, who has repeatedly expressed skepticism about climate change, is set to give the first keynote address of Davos 2020, on the same day as his impeachment trial opens at the Senate in Washington.

Before his appearance, Thunberg underlined the message that has inspired millions around the world, saying “basically nothing has been done” to fight climate change.

“It will require much more than this. This is just the very beginning,” the 17-year-old said.

Speaking calmly and with a wry smile, Thunberg acknowledged that her campaign which began with school strikes had attracted huge attention without yet achieving concrete change.

“There is a difference between being heard to actually leading to something,” she said.

“I am not the person who should complain about not being heard,” she said to appreciative laughter.

“I am being heard all the time. But the science and the voice of the young people are not at the center of the conversation.”

While the WEF and individual business leaders have been detailing their own concerns about climate change, Greenpeace complained in a new report that some of the world’s biggest banks, insurers and pension funds have collectively invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal in 2016.

“Pretty much nothing has been done as global Co2 emissions have not been reduced. And that is of course what we are trying to achieve,” said Thunberg.

There are no expectations that Trump and Thunberg, who have exchanged barbs through Twitter, will actually meet, but the crowded venue and intense schedule mean a chance encounter cannot be ruled out.

When Trump and his entourage walked through UN headquarters last year at the annual General Assembly, a photo of the teenager staring in apparent fury at the president from the sidelines went viral.

Tweeting before arriving in Davos aboard his Marine One helicopter, Trump appeared in bullish mood, writing he would “bring Good Policy and additional Hundreds of Billions of Dollars back to the United States of America!”

Although Trump’s Republican party holds a majority in the Senate and is almost sure to acquit him on charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress, the impeachment adds volatility to an already tense 2020 presidential election.

Sustainability is the buzzword at the Davos forum, which began in 1971, with heel crampons handed out to participants to encourage them to walk on the icy streets rather than use cars, and the signage paint made out of seaweed.

Trump’s opposition to renewable energy, his withdrawal from the Paris accord negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, and the free hand extended to the fossil fuel industry puts him at odds with this year’s thrust of the event.

“People are playing a lot more attention to” climate, Eurasia Group president Ian Bremner told AFP at Davos, adding there was “genuine action by some big players,” after investment titan BlackRock said it was partially divesting out of coal.

“But let’s be clear — a big part of this is because we failed for a very long time and governments continue to fail,” he added.

Business leaders are likely also to be concerned by the state of the global economy whose prospects, according to the International Monetary Fund, have improved but remain brittle.

The IMF cut its global growth estimate for 2020 to 3.3 percent, saying that a recent truce in the trade war between China and the US had brought some stability but that risks remained.

“We are already seeing some tentative signs of stabilization but we have not reached a turning point yet,” said IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva.

Activists meanwhile will be pressing for much more concrete action to fight inequality, after Oxfam issued a report outlining how the number of billionaires has doubled in the past decade and the world’s 22 richest men now have more wealth than all the women in Africa.