Archive for the ‘British politics’ Category

UK to celebrate Brexit with flags and ‘light display’

Boris Johnson has unveiled plans to mark January 31 with a light show, a countdown and a special address.

No. 10 will mark the U.K.’s exit at 11 p.m. with a light display in Westminster, which will include a countdown clock projected onto the black bricks of Downing Street. Other buildings on Whitehall will also be lit up.

The government said in a press statement that it wanted to use the moment to “heal divisions, re-unite communities and look forward to the country that we want to build.”

Cabinet ministers will hold a meeting in the north of England during the day to discuss “levelling up” all parts of the country — in other words, spread resources to areas of the country outside of the south-east of England —  and Johnson will deliver a speech to the nation in the evening.

The union jack will be flown from all the flag poles on Parliament Square, No. 10 said. A commemorative Brexit coin will come into circulation, etched with the words “peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.”

Separately, the Leave Means Leave campaign, headed by Nigel Farage, said it had been granted permission to hold a celebration on Parliament Square that night.

A bid to ring Big Ben’s bells to mark the occasion has failed, after parliamentary authorities said they could not legally accept crowdfunding to make it happen. The cost of sounding Big Ben, which is under repair, was estimated to be up to £500,000.

Lib Dem MEP Antony Hook launched a rival crowdfunding campaign to display a huge “We still love the EU” banner on the white cliffs of Dover before January 31.

What the History of Australian Independence can tells us about Britain’s Journey ahead

Debates over Brexit have been “dominated by a yearning for restoring UK sovereignty”. The Brexit vote during June 2016 was declared  as an independence day by key members of the leave campaign. Similarly, such sentiments have been used about the exit day on which the UK is to leave the EU under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act   Independence is often perceived as one decisive moment – a clean break with the past and a new beginning. However, this article posits that independence might be better thought of as a gradual process, characterized by both change and continuity. Taking the example of the development of ...

Barnier: Goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain will be checked after Brexit

Goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain after Brexit will be subject to checks and controls, the EU’s chief negotiator said Tuesday, contradicting statements made by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Implementation of this [Northern Ireland] protocol foresees checks and controls for goods entering the island of Ireland,” Michel Barnier told the European Parliament.

“I look forward to a constructive cooperation with U.K. authorities to ensure that all the provisions set out in this agreement are respected and made operational.”

Johnson has insisted such controls would not be introduced under his Brexit deal with Brussels, doubling down on this point during a press conference Monday.

“Be in no doubt. We are the government of the United Kingdom. I cannot see any circumstances whatever in which they will be any need for checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB,” Johnson said.

“The only circumstances in which you could imagine the need for checks coming from GB to NI, as I’ve explained before, is if those goods were going on into Ireland and we had not secured, which I hope and I’m confident we will, a zero tariff, zero quota agreement with our friends and partners in the EU.”

The transport of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain had been one of the most contentious issues hashed out during Brexit negotiations, with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party insisting there should be no divergence in rules between their region and the rest of the U.K.

Boris Johnson: Brexit trade deal ‘epically likely’ by end of year

LONDON — Boris Johnson said Tuesday it is “epically likely” the U.K. will strike a comprehensive trade deal with the European Union by the end of the year.

In his first major television interview since becoming prime minister, Johnson said he was “very, very, very confident” the U.K. would strike a deal, but added: “This is not about a deal, this is about building the great new partnership, and from January 31 what we’re going to do is start working with our friends and partners around the world, not just with the EU.”

But he acknowledged to the BBC that a deal with the EU might not be done, saying: “You always have to budget for complete failure of common sense.”

Johnson, who led the campaign to take Britain out of the European Union, said that Brexit was “one of my least favorite subjects, because we need to move on.”

Asked about a campaign to have Big Ben — the iconic great bell the the Palace of Westminster’s clock tower — to ring out to mark Britain’s departure from the EU at the end of the month, Johnson said the government was looking into it.

The clock is currently being refurbished and Johnson said it would cost £500,000 to “restore the clapper” for the bell to ring on January 31 and he was looking at a way to raise funds.

Arlene Foster appointed Northern Ireland first minister

The Northern Ireland Assembly appointed Arlene Foster as first minister on Saturday after a compromise deal ended years of deadlock.

Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, was first minister in the last government. Michelle O’Neill, vice president of Sinn Féin, was named deputy first minister.

The Stormont assembly sat for the first time in three years following the two parties’ decision Friday to agree to a deal — brokered by the U.K. and Irish governments — to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

“Today we will re-establish an Executive after three years of stalemate … We won’t solve every problem immediately but local Ministers will get on with key reforms in schools and hospitals,” Foster tweeted.

O’Neill said: “It is time for an assembly of equality, integrity and that delivers first class public services for all citizens.”

Senior Portuguese diplomat named EU’s ambassador to UK

João Vale de Almeida will be the European Union’s ambassador to the U.K. after Brexit, according to two EU officials and one EU diplomat.

The senior diplomat from Portugal previously served as the EU’s envoy to the United Nations and to the U.S., and has a decades-long career in the EU, including being a Commission director general and former President José Manuel Barroso’s chief of cabinet.

Vale de Almeida was the frontrunner for the job, as reported in POLITICO Brussels Playbook last year.

At the end of last year, Vale de Almeida was back in Brussels and speculating on Twitter about his next move.

He’ll be heading up a delegation that will start work on February 1.

On Brexit Day, January 31, the Commission’s office in London will close down and the day after, the new EU delegation, modeled on its diplomatic mission to Washington, will spring up in its place.

The delegation will effectively be an embassy run by the European External Action Service, the EU’s foreign policy arm.

It will stay in the Commission’s current base at 32 Smith Square in Westminster. The building — Europe House — served as the Conservative Party’s headquarters for half a century.

“The preparations for the opening of the new EU delegation to the United Kingdom are currently being finalized,” an EU spokesperson said.

The new embassy will initially employ 26 people from both the EEAS and the Commission, according to the spokesperson. That will make it just under one-third of the size of the EU’s delegation to Washington, which has around 90 staff — although only 30 of them are European diplomats.

The embassy’s final mandate will be decided in Brussels next week.

“The EU Delegation to the United Kingdom will support the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement as well as the negotiation process related to the future EU-U.K. relationship,” as well as provide diplomatic representation for the EU, according to the spokesperson.

Just 17 people currently work at the Commission’s representation in London, some of whom will transfer over to the embassy on February 1. Its size has been reduced considerably over the past three years, with staff departing amid uncertainty about the future relationship between the U.K. and EU.

New staff who were recruited to join the EU delegation to London and were preparing to start work in the spring — when the U.K. was originally supposed to be leaving — have been forced to wait almost a year because of repeated delays to the exit.

Northern Ireland parties agree power-sharing deal

LONDON — The Northern Ireland Assembly will sit Saturday for the first time in three years.

Northern Ireland’s main parties on Friday agreed to accept a deal proposed jointly by the U.K. and Irish governments.

The deal, published Thursday night, contained compromise solutions to disputes that contributed to the three-year break in power sharing, such as legislative provisions to protect the Irish language, action to reduce hospital waiting lists, and a pledge to increase the number of police officers.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said her party would support the deal after a meeting of the party’s ruling executive.

“We now have the basis to restore power sharing, and we’re up for that,” McDonald said. “There’s no doubt there are serious challenges ahead; the impact of Brexit, austerity and other pressing issues. But the biggest and most significant challenge will be ensuring we have genuine power sharing build on equality, respect and integrity.”

Her Democratic Unionist Party counterpart, Arlene Foster, called the deal “fair and balanced,” and said the assembly would sit on Saturday.

The previous Northern Irish executive, a coalition between the Democratic Union Party and Sinn Féin, collapsed in January 2017.

All sides had until Monday to restore power sharing or face an election, something both main parties were keen to avoid after they performed badly in the U.K. December general election.

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