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Britain’s Prime Minister Battles to Keep Brexit

Barnier said Thursday that “getting an agreement is in everybody's interest” and that “something has to change” to secure a divorce deal.

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Britain
DUP Party leader Arlene Foster and Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds, left, make a statement to the media after exiting 10 Downing Street. London, Jan. 17, 2019. British Prime Minister Theresa May is reaching out to opposition parties and other lawmakers to put Brexit back on track. (VOA)

British Prime Minister Theresa May was consulting opposition parties and other lawmakers Thursday in a battle to put Brexit back on track after surviving a no-confidence vote, though there was little immediate sign of a breakthrough from talks branded a “stunt” by the main opposition leader.

European Union countries were stepping up preparations for a disorderly British exit on March 29 after the U.K. Parliament rejected May’s Brexit withdrawal deal with the bloc.

Lawmakers threw out the deal Tuesday, in a crushing defeat for May, who suffered the worst parliamentary defeat in modern British history.

The drubbing was followed by a no-confidence vote in the government, but May’s minority Conservative government survived it on Wednesday night with backing from its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party.

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Prime Minister Theresa May sits down in Parliament after the vote on May’s Brexit deal, in London, Britain, Jan. 15, 2019 in this image taken from video. VOA

May said she would hold talks “in a constructive spirit” with leaders of opposition parties and other lawmakers in a bid to find a way forward for Britain’s EU exit.

The government confirmed that May will meet a Monday deadline to publish a Plan B, and that lawmakers will have a full day to debate it – and, crucially, amend it – on Jan. 29.

There was little sign of a breakthrough in uniting Parliament’s feuding Brexit factions, whose conflicting demands range from a postponement of Britain’s departure date to a new referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he wouldn’t meet with May until she took a no-deal Brexit “off the table.”

“To get a deal that can command a majority in Parliament, Theresa May has to ditch the red lines and get serious about proposals for the future,” Corbyn said during a speech to supporters in the English seaside town of Hastings.

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Anti-Brexit demonstrators react after the results of the vote on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal were announced in Parliament square in London, Jan. 15, 2019.VOA

“Last night’s offer of talks with party leaders turned out to be simply a stunt, not the serious attempt to engage with the new reality that’s needed,” he said.

Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas, who met with May on Thursday morning, said the prime minister was “in a fantasy world” if she thought the deal could be transformed by Monday.
“Parliament is gridlocked,” she said.

May so far has showed little inclination to make major changes to her deal or lift her insistence that Brexit means leaving the EU’s single market and customs union. Many lawmakers think a softer departure that retained single market or customs union membership is the only plan capable of winning a majority in Parliament. They fear the alternative is an abrupt “no-deal” withdrawal from the bloc, which businesses and economists fear would cause turmoil.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a longtime Labour Party leader, told the BBC on Thursday that it would be “sensible” for Corbyn to meet with May to better define the type of Brexit that Britain wants. He warned that a “no-deal” Brexit would do substantial harm to Britain’s economy.

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Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

As Britain flounders, the 27 other EU countries have stood firm, saying they won’t renegotiate the withdrawal agreement and insisting the British government and its lawmakers to decide what they want to do.

Some British lawmakers want May to call for an extension of negotiations with the EU and postpone the March 29 deadline to leave the bloc, while others are lobbying for a second Brexit referendum.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe held a special government meeting Thursday on planning to cope with a “no-deal” Brexit.

The French parliament adopted a law Wednesday allowing emergency measures after March 30 in the event Britain leaves without a deal.

Britain, May
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labor Party, talks during a no-confidence debate after Parliament rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal, in London, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

Such measures could aim to reduce problems in cross-border trade and transport, notably through the Eurotunnel beneath the English Channel, and allow British workers and retirees based in France temporary permission to stay until a longer-term deal is worked out.

Throughout the Brexit negotiations, EU leaders accused Britain of trying to “cherry pick” benefits of membership in the bloc, seeking to retain access to the EU’s single market while ending the free movement of European citizens into Britain and breaching other EU guiding principles.

Also Read: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May Survives Through Vote Of No-Confidence

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who said Wednesday that he was more concerned than ever that Britain could crash out of the EU without an agreement, said the red lines set out by Britain’s negotiators had “shut doors.”

Barnier said Thursday that “getting an agreement is in everybody’s interest” and that “something has to change” to secure a divorce deal.

“If (the red lines) change, we’ll change,” Barnier said after meeting Portuguese officials in Lisbon. (VOA)

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BBC Decides to Expand its Shortwave Radio Service in Kashmir to Beat Communications Blackout

Although he did not mention the media, he traced the general obsequiousness to 1,200 years of "ghulami" or subjugation

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BBC, Shortwave Radio, Service
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had touched on the reasons for this spinelessness in his very first speech in Parliament in May, 2014. Pixabay

It is just as well that the BBC has decided to expand its shortwave radio service in Kashmir to beat the communications blackout. This is not the first time the BBC has played this role – and for good reason. Because the supine, mainstream media in L.K. Advanis words crawls when it is asked to bend.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had touched on the reasons for this spinelessness in his very first speech in Parliament in May, 2014. Although he did not mention the media, he traced the general obsequiousness to 1,200 years of “ghulami” or subjugation. Moghuls cannot be blamed for warts on the media’s face because in their period there was no media to speak of. Yes, one great editor of a paper called Urdu Akhbar, was tied to a cannon by the British and blown to smithereens for his critical writings. The Editor, Molvi Mohammad Baqar was the son of the greatest stylist in Urdu literature, Mohammad Hussain Azad.

The media, as we know it today, was a gift of the British. The imperial DNA is indelibly embedded in this media, both electronic and print, which dominates the Indian mindscape.

Mark Twain had put his finger on the nerve. “There are only two forces that carry light to all corners of the globe – the sun in the heavens and the Associated Press down here.”

BBC, Shortwave Radio, Service
It is just as well that the BBC has decided to expand its shortwave radio service in Kashmir to beat the communications blackout. Pixabay

It is this western “ghulami”, which tempers our nationalism. To wear the badge of nationalism, the formula is simple: heap hatred on Pakistan and work assiduously to have your progeny parked permanently in the US.

The other day The Indian Express devoted its entire front page to an advertisement about itself. The heading was: “Is Your Opinion Yours?”

“Your opinion should belong to you.”

The ad signs off:

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“The Indian Express.

For the Indian Intelligent.”

The ad is loaded with irony. One full inside page of the newspaper, at least three to five times a week, is a straight lift from The Economist including its main editorial. Why Xi Jinping is slipping, how Putin’s end is round the corner, why Maduro must quit Venezuela, how the Jewish museum in Berlin reflects the Muslim-Palestinian perspective and so on. This is in addition to countless other news items from French, British and American news agencies.

How then do you explain the July 28, 2019 page one of the Indian Express asking a young lady, stepping out into the world, “Is your opinion yours?” It is a little impertinent of the newspaper to pose the question when its own opinions on foreign affairs are The Economist’s, and sundry western agencies. Most newspapers are guilty on that count.

BBC, Shortwave Radio, Service
This is not the first time the BBC has played this role – and for good reason. Because the supine, mainstream media in L.K. Advanis words crawls when it is asked. Pixabay

The Economist is a great magazine but it represents interests of the right-wing western establishment. By having this publication saturate our media space, we expose our ruling class to a point of view which is not ours, unless we have avowedly surrendered our independence to our previous masters.

What the BBC is proposing now is to expand its short wave radio to beat the blackout in what is now “undisputedly” India. Here is yet another irony. The BBC has always had credibility in a state where a balanced, fearless Indian media would have gone miles to win hearts and minds.

When the senior Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, the present Mirwaiz’s father, was assassinated in 1990, I accompanied BBC’s Satish Jacob, to cover the Mirwaiz’s funeral at the Idgah. Why did Mark Tully the Bureau Chief himself not cover the most important of stories? After all, 72 men and women were killed in the violence. Since the BBC radio was the only credible media which covered Kashmir, Tully would be mobbed because he was too well known. Satish, his deputy, would turn up with his fancy recorder but he would project himself as “German radio” which the agitated Kashmiris had no interest in.

I sought protection joining the funeral as Satish’s sidekick. My appearances on Doordarshan were on issues unrelated to Kashmir. But the agitated processionists put two and two together and, not only did they identify me, they turned upon me with unspeakable fury. They had recognized me from my Doordarshan appearances. I had incurred their wrath because in a BBC radio interview I had pointed my finger of suspicion for the murder of Mirwaiz at various groups in the valley but not on Indian agencies. “You are a sarkari chamcha” they jeered at me.

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The mob multiplied in geometrical progression. Soon I had thousands, arms raised, about to assault me in unison. It was a frenzied, lynch mob. Just then a short man with light eyes, wearing a blue shirt and trouser, whipped out a revolver. He shouted above the din. “I shall finish him off.” Then he waved his revolver at the howling, screaming mob. “Move back.”

He dragged me by the sleeves to the exit. “Now you can go, and do not be seen here.” He was Feroz from the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). This was the Front’s signal that it was not anti-India.

The story now has taken a much more blistering turn. The BBC’s credibility will grow astronomically unless strings are pulled at its head office in London with the following message: “Look, you have turned your face away from the Palestinian story under pressure of the Jewish lobby. Why can’t you turn your face away from this one? BBC will have to ponder. The Arab audience has been neutralized by Israeli stratagem, Saudi money and the western media. But is the BBC prepared to forgo the steady, reliable clientele in Pakistan?

The only balm on the wounded Kashmiri psyche will be to shut up the screaming jingoist anchors controlling the multiple channels. Open the valley to a balanced, independent media. It may take time but it will work in the long run. Of course, I may be speaking out of turn because no one quite knows the depth of the brutality inflicted on the people. Only when the dark curtain of secrecy is lifted from the valley will we know whether the wounds are amenable to any kind of cure. (IANS)