Posts Tagged ‘referendum’

EU leaders ‘almost unanimous’ for second Brexit vote: Malta PM

September 20, 2018

There is “almost unanimous” backing among European Union leaders for Britain to hold another referendum on Brexit, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Thursday.

“We would like the almost impossible to happen, that the UK has another referendum,” Muscat told BBC radio.

“I think most of us would welcome a situation where there is the possibility of the British people putting things into perspective, seeing what has been negotiated, seeing the options, and then deciding once and for all.”

Muscat’s stance was reiterated by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who said he would support Britain holding another vote on EU membership.

© AFP | Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat speaks to the media as he arrives in Salzburg, Austria on September 19, 2018 prior to a dinner as part of the EU Informal Summit of Heads of State or Government

Babis added he had been “shocked” by Britons’ June 2016 decision to leave the bloc — now scheduled to happen in March next year — which has added to Europe’s growing list of problems.

“I’m very unhappy that (the) UK is leaving so it would be better maybe to make another referendum and maybe the people in the meantime they could change their view,” he told the BBC.

“Because then we will solve the problem quite quickly.”

Six months ahead of Britain’s planned EU departure, calls have been growing for a second referendum — backed by an expanding list of centrist politicians.

The campaign for another poll has also attracted hefty financial backing, including from Hungarian-US billionaire George Soros, with a series of events staged across Britain over the summer to drum up support.

But the government is opposed to another referendum, while the main opposition Labour Party is not supporting the calls but also not ruling out the prospect.

The pro-EU Best for Britain group said the Maltese and Czech leaders statements showed “there is still time for the UK to check with the people if Brexit is what they still want.”

Its chief Eloise Todd added: “It’s time to give the people — not politicians — the final say on Brexit.”



Brexiteers start ‘chuck Chequers’ campaign against UK PM May’s plans

September 18, 2018

Brexiteers who support a clean break with the European Union have launched a nation-wide advertising campaign in an attempt to force Prime Minister Theresa May to ditch her Brexit proposals.

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Tory hardliners: Jacob Rees-Mogg, left, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove © FT Montage Getty/Bloomberg/AFP

The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29 yet still riven by disagreements over Brexit: supporters of EU membership are calling for another referendum while many Brexit supporters say May is being far too weak in divorce talks.

The Brexit-supporting Leave Means Leave group has taken out advertisements in 30 regional newspapers across Britain that dismiss May’s so-called Chequers proposals as “same old, same old”.

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Anti-Brexit demonstrators wave flags outside the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain, September 10, 2018.  REUTERS/Hannah McKay

“We have relaunched the Leave campaign and we will stop at nothing to ensure the Prime Minister chucks Chequers and delivers Brexit in its entirety,” Richard Tice, Vice-Chairman of Leave Means Leave, said.

“Leave Means Leave will be engaging with as many people across the country to ensure Project Fear is torn apart so that the economic benefits of Brexit are revealed.”

May’s proposals, named for a country house where they were hashed out in July, call for free trade of goods with the EU, with Britain accepting a “common rulebook” that would apply to those goods.

Supporters of a decisive Brexit say that would leave Britain subject to decisions in Brussels without any input.


Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden

UK: Lord Mervyn King attacks ‘incompetent’ Brexit approach

September 5, 2018

Mervyn King, the former Bank of England governor, has branded the Government’s Brexit preparations as “incompetent”.

In a damning assessment, Lord King said it “beggars belief” that Britain, one of the world’s leading economies, had found itself in a situation where the country was being told to take a course of action or face catastrophe.

However he suggested blame should be shared by the Government, Parliament as whole and those on Whitehall who were tasked with making key decisions.

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Mervyn King, the former Bank of England governor, has branded the government’s Brexit preparations as “incompetent”

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BBC News

Former Bank of England governor Lord King has blasted Brexit preparations as “incompetent”.

The Brexit supporter said it “beggared belief” that the world’s sixth-biggest economy should be talking of stockpiling food and medicines.

This left the government without a credible bargaining position, he said.

A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) said that getting a good deal with the EU was “by far, the most likely outcome”.

Lord King said that “a government that cannot take action to prevent some of these catastrophic outcomes illustrates a whole lack of preparation”.

“It doesn’t tell us anything about whether the policy of staying in the EU is good or bad, it tells us everything about the incompetence of the preparation for it.”

Lord King said the 11th-hour preparation for a no-deal Brexit had undermined the government’s negotiating position.

He added: “We haven’t had a credible bargaining position, because we hadn’t put in place measures where we could say to our colleagues in Europe, ‘Look, we’d like a free-trade deal, we think that you would probably like one too, but if we can’t agree, don’t be under any misapprehension, we have put in place the measures that would enable us to leave without one.'”

‘Significant progress’

In response, the government said it was “focused on negotiating a deal of unprecedented scope and ambition”.

“We have already made significant progress,” the DExEU spokesperson added. “The vast majority of the Withdrawal Agreement has now been agreed, and we are making further progress on the outstanding separation issues”.

But Lord King predicts that we will find ourselves with what’s been dubbed as Brino – Brexit in name only – which he said was the worst of all worlds. It’s also a state of affairs that he fears could drag on for years.

“I think the biggest risk to the UK, and this is what worries me most, is that this issue isn’t going to go away, you know the referendum hasn’t decided it, because both camps feel that they haven’t got what they wanted.”

‘Depressing’ debate

Lord King expressed regret and surprise that it was more difficult for a single country to present a united front than the other 27 EU members.

He said: “They must have been really worried that they had 27 countries to try to corral, how could they have a united negotiating position, they were dealing with a country that was one country, made a clear decision, voted to leave, it knew what it wanted to do, how on earth could the EU manage to negotiate against this one decisive group on the other side of the Channel?

“Well, the reality’s been completely the opposite. The EU has been united, has been clear, has been patient and it’s the UK that’s been divided without any clear strategy at all for how to get to where we want to go.”

He also said he found the current level of debate around Brexit “depressing” and said it obscured the real challenges ahead.

“The biggest economic problems facing the UK are, we save too little, we haven’t worked out how to save for retirement, the pension system is facing I think a real challenge, we haven’t worked out how to save enough for the NHS and finance it, we haven’t worked out how we’re going to save enough to provide care for the elderly.

“These are the big economic challenges we face, but are they being discussed at present in an open way?

“No, because the political debate has completely taken up by Brexit,” he said. “It’s a discussion where both sides seem to be throwing insults at each other.”

Lord King might argue he is being much more even-handed, with stinging criticism for all involved.

His comments come as Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham calls for Brexit to be postponed, if a no-deal scenario seems likely.

In a speech on Wednesday, the former Labour minister will say that although “a price would undoubtedly be paid in terms of social cohesion,” a suspension of the process would be necessary to avoid damaging jobs.

Fears of ‘no deal’ prompt a surge in Brexit regret — “Economic vassalage”

July 31, 2018

London: A Brexit backlash is stirring just eight months before the UK is due to leave the European Union, as headlines warn of stalled negotiations, hospitals stockpiling medicines and supermarkets stockpiling food.

For the first time since the 2016 referendum, a major poll has shown the public breaking sharply against Brexit.

By Nick Miller

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About half the population want another referendum to give them a choice between the government’s proposed Brexit model, a ‘no deal’ Brexit, or deciding instead to stay in the EU, the Sky Data poll published on Monday revealed.

If there were such a vote 58 per cent would choose to “remain” in the EU, 32 per cent would vote for ‘no deal’ with Brussels, and only 10 per cent for the Brexit plan that Theresa May thrashed out with her cabinet a fortnight ago – prompting several high profile ministerial resignations.

Just one in 10 voters think the government is doing a good job negotiating Brexit, the poll found. Two-thirds expect Britain will get a bad deal once negotiations are finished, including a majority of Leave voters.

Remain voters want a new vote, while Leave voters want a new team running Brexit – possibly led by Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary who quit after describing May’s Brexit plan as “volunteering for economic vassalage”.

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Only 10 per cent of people would vote for British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan if another vote was held, a poll has revealed.

Photo: AP

Until now most polls have showed few signs of ‘Bregret’, staying within a few percentage points of the referendum result. Most polls showed a slight advantage to Remain, but were balanced by the fact that many Remainers are young people less likely to vote.

Unless the new poll is a statistical anomaly, a lot of former pro-Brexit voters are now starting to change their minds.

“The lack of faith in the [government’s] handling of Brexit is affecting perceptions of Brexit itself,” Sky’s political editor Faisal Islam said.

“The Brexit middle ground is disappearing from underneath the Prime Minister’s feet.”

The government has recently revealed more about its plans for ‘no deal’, where Britain crashes out of the EU without any agreement with Brussels on how to balance the books, keep the Irish border open or manage trade, customs or migration.

‘No deal’ is a growing possibility, as negotiations move slowly in Brussels and the UK parliament has several times come within just a few votes of blocking key Brexit legislation.

The ‘no deal’ plans include warnings that cancer drugs and insulin for diabetics could be left in short supply.

The army will deliver food, medicine and fuel in the case of shortages if Britain crashes out of the EU, the Sunday Times reported.

Plans usually reserved for civil emergencies have been dusted down, with helicopters and army trucks ferrying supplies to the vulnerable.

The National Health Service would go onto crisis footing, with medicines, vaccines and blood products brought in from outside the EU and stockpiled.

More than 37 million packs of medicines come from Europe to the UK each month, the Financial Timesreported early in July.

The government is also trying to find huge new “lorry parks” for thousands of trucks to sit in as they go through new customs checks, in order to avoid estimated 27 kilometre-long queues.

A source told the Times “people will s–t themselves and think they want a new referendum or an election” if they see the full no-deal plan.

But furious Brexiters accused the government of deliberately trying to frighten voters with a drip-feed of no-deal scare stories.

The Scottish government has also hinted it plans to stockpile medicines and blood products.

It is not only the UK that would suffer: Ireland is also storing up medicines and blood, because a lot of its supply chains currently come through the UK.

British supermarkets have reportedly asked suppliers to begin no-deal contingency planning.

One coffee supplier told the Sunday Times it was considering storing up to eight weeks’ stock in Britain in preparation for Brexit day.

And a supermarket chairman told the paper it was “looking at all the options” and there could be competition for warehouse space for stockpiles later in the year.

Another poll by YouGov released on Friday found that 83 per cent of Leave voters stuck by their decision, but 7 per cent had changed their minds and another 10 per cent didn’t know whether they had been right in hindsight.

An earlier YouGov poll saw Prime Minister Theresa May’s personal favourability at an all-time low.

When voters were asked who would make the best prime minister, the winner was “don’t know” at 39 per cent, followed by May on 32 per cent and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn on 26 per cent.

Another poll released on Monday found that 56 per cent of small companies would vote to stay in the EU if there was a re-run of the Brexit referendum – and only 32 per cent wished to leave.

The survey showed a 7 per cent swing towards remaining since April 2017.

Theresa May’s status quo Brexit will fail the left-behinds who backed Leave

July 27, 2018

The key question — what kind of economy do we want? – seems to have been almost entirely forgotten.

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By Jeremy Warner
The Telegraph

Amid the incessant rowing over what kind of Brexit we should be pursuing, an equally important, interrelated question – what kind of economy do we want? – seems to have been almost entirely forgotten.

On becoming premier, Theresa May spoke of the “burning injustices” of British society, and her heart went out to the “ordinary working-class families” who “just about manage”. Standing in front of No 10, she promised that “the government I lead will not be driven by the interests of the privileged few but by yours.” Her remarks seemed to recognise that Brexit was more than just a vote to leave the EU. It was a scream of anger, a great venting of pent-up frustrations with our economy and politics….

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British voters support a referendum on final Brexit deal — YouGov

July 27, 2018

The proportion of voters who favor a referendum on the final terms of any Brexit deal has overtaken those who do not for the first time, according to a YouGov poll for The Times.

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When they were asked whether there should be a referendum on the final terms of any Brexit deal, 42 per cent said there should be a fresh vote while 40 per cent said there should not. The rest did not know.

The poll of 1,653 adults in the United Kingdom was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday this week, The Times said.

Fifty-eight per cent of Labour voters, 67 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters and 21 per cent of Conservative voters supported a second referendum.

In the June 23rd, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million votes, or 51.9 percent of votes cast, backed leaving the EU while 16.1 million votes, or 48.1 percent of votes cast, backed staying. Many opinion polls were wrong about the result.

In the June 23, 2016 UK referendum, about 17.4 million votes, or 51.9 percent of votes cast, backed leaving the EU. (Reuters)

Two years on from the referendum, the YouGov poll showed that the views of most voters on whether to leave had not changed.

In the event of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership tomorrow, 45 per cent said that they would vote to remain, while 42 per cent would vote to leave, with 4 per cent saying that they would not vote and 9 per cent saying they did not know, The Times said.


Tony Blair calls for second vote to fix Brexit ‘mess’

July 17, 2018

“It’s a total and complete mess”: Former prime minister Tony Blair does not hold back when asked in an interview with AFP what he makes of the British government’s approach to Brexit.

Blair, who held the office for 10 years, said he sympathises with Prime Minister Theresa May as she seeks to unite her party behind a plan for leaving the European Union, suggesting she has “the least enviable job in Western politics”.

But the former Labour leader warned that with the scheduled date for Brexit approaching in March next year, it is time for her to admit “there’s no way out” and call another referendum — with the option of staying in the EU.

© AFP | Former British prime minister Tony Blair says it’s time for Theresa May to admit “there’s no way out” and call another Brexit referendum

“Once this thing has been started by a referendum it can frankly only be finished by a fresh vote,” he said.

Blair left office in 2007 and spent many of the following years abroad, including as an international envoy to the Middle East.

But these days he is more often found in London, where he has plunged back into British politics.

“I’m passionately opposed to Brexit and I still believe it can be changed,” the 65-year-old told AFP in the offices of his non-profit organisation, the Institute for Global Change.

After two years of wrangling with her Conservative party, May finally presented her plan this month for economic ties with the EU after Brexit, sparking outrage among hardliners in the party for giving too much away to the EU.

– May’s plan is ‘mush’ –

Blair himself said it was a “mush”, an “incomplete half-in half-out” plan that pleased no one — and was unlikely to be accepted by Brussels.

He noted the inherent dilemma in Brexit — stay close to the EU to protect trade but forfeit the opportunities of going it alone, or cut ties altogether and risk damage to the economy.

With parliament “paralysed” on the way forward, “the only way in the end this is going to be resolved is putting it back to the people”, he said.

Blair’s interventions on Brexit have not always been well received in Britain, where his decision to join the United States in invading Iraq in 2003 remains hugely controversial.

But while the prime minister who called the Brexit vote in 2016, David Cameron, has retired from the public eye to write his memoirs, Blair refuses to stay silent.

Some have suggested Blair had a role in Brexit by failing to limit migration from new EU member states from central and eastern Europe when they joined in 2004, leading to a huge influx of workers that sparked public alarm.

He rejected the idea as “ridiculously overhyped”, insisting non-EU migration was a driver of Brexit vote — while acknowledging that if he had stayed in power longer, he might have tried to “tighten things up”.

– Populism risk –

The European Union itself is currently split over how to handle irregular migration and asylum seekers, divisions Blair described as “very dangerous”.

“There is a crisis. The popularism of left and right is, you know, (at) risk of breaking the back of Western politics,” Blair said.

He admitted that “the centre ground of politics is pretty absent at the moment” — but denied suggestions he could help form a new centrist party in Britain.

His own Labour party has moved to the political left since he was in charge, and while many of its MPs are pro-European, its socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn is more sceptical.

Labour backs Brexit but has called for a new customs union with the EU, and has refused to rule out a second vote.

Blair said that for all his hopes of stopping Brexit, it depended on “whether at the top of the Labour party the leader, the people around the leader, still want Brexit to go through”.

But he said he hoped it would “come back to sense”, adding that in the meantime, he would press his case.


Thousands join London Pro-EU march to demand Brexit deal referendum

June 23, 2018

Around 100,000 supporters of the European Union marched through central London on Saturday to demand that the British government hold a final public vote on the terms of Brexit, organizers said.

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EU supporters, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal, walk through Trafalgar Square in the ‘People’s Vote’ march in central London, Britain June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Protesters packed the main arteries of the capital, waving British, Irish and European flags and colorful banners to call for a “People’s Vote” on the eventual deal in which Britain leaves the world’s biggest trading bloc.

On the second anniversary of the 52 to 48 percent Brexit vote, polls show political divisions are entrenched. Despite some confusion over what Brexit will actually mean there has been no clear change of heart.

The “People’s Vote” campaign, which includes several pro-EU groups, is campaigning for a public ballot “so that we can decide if a decision that will affect our lives for generations makes the country better or worse off”.

Neither of Britain’s two main political parties back the idea of holding a referendum on the final deal.

“People have seen politicians making a cataclysmic mess of a really bad deal they didn’t vote for, or even a no deal they didn’t vote for,” a spokesman for the campaign told Reuters.

“This is the people telling the political elite that they got it wrong.”

One banner read: “17 million voted for Adolf Hitler. 17 million voted for Brexit. 17 million can be wrong” and another couple carried a placard which read: “We are doing this for our grandchildren.”

A Survation poll earlier this week found that 48 percent of respondents supported a referendum on the final deal, while 25 percent were opposed.

As yet there is no certainty about what the final deal could look like, amid infighting in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government as well as among some of its opponents about what they want from Britain’s new trading ties with the EU after it leaves in March next year.

Airbus SE100.64
  • AIR.PA


Marking the anniversary, Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson, one of the main proponents of the “Leave” vote, wrote a column in tabloid newspaper the Sun defending Brexit.

Britain had voted for “the freedom to bust out of the corsets of EU regulation and rules” he said, and any softening of the final deal – such as continued membership of the single market and customs union – would be unwelcome.

Those who voted for Brexit had not changed their minds, he said. “They don’t want some bog roll Brexit – soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long” he said, using a British slang term for toilet paper.

Johnson was also quoted in the Telegraph newspaper by two sources as dismissing business leaders’ concerns about the impact of Brexit, using foul language in a meeting with EU diplomats. A spokesperson for the foreign office disputed whether he had used bad language and said he had been attacking business lobbyists.

Speaking on BBC radio, Jurgen Maier, head of German manufacturer Siemens in Britain, said slogans such as “full British Brexit” – used by Johnson – were “incredibly unhelpful”.

“What we need to do now is get closer to our European partners and work out what a realistic, pragmatic Brexit is, which works for both sides,” he said.

On Friday, Airbus (AIR.PA) said that if Britain were to leave the EU without a deal it would be forced to reconsider its long-term position and put UK jobs at risk.

Reporting by Henry Nicholls in London, additional reporting and writing by Elisabeth O’Leary in Edinburgh; Editing by Andrew Bolton


Rift appears in Catalan govt as Madrid power takeover begins

October 25, 2017


© AFP | Protesters wave Catalan flags during a pro-independence rally in Barcelona, on October 21, 2017

BARCELONA (AFP) – Several members of Catalonia’s separatist government told the region’s leader they want elections to avoid a power takeover by Madrid, a source close to him said Wednesday, as a rift appeared in the regional executive.

Many believe calling early elections would be an alternative to the region declaring independence, and thus a solution out of Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

The crisis was sparked by a divisive independence referendum that went ahead on October 1 despite a court ban.

Several regional government members expressed their support for elections in a meeting on Tuesday with regional president Carles Puigdemont, said the source, who refused to be named.

Spain has vowed to start taking over Catalonia’s political power and finances in the coming days if it does not stop its independence drive.

Puigdemont’s ruling coalition is hugely disparate, with the far-left CUP and left-wing ERC parties that prop up his conservative PDeCAT grouping gunning for him to declare independence.

According to Catalan daily La Vanguardia, the meeting yielded “intense debate” and went on well into the night, with no decision reached.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stressed that constitutional measures to take over Catalonia’s powers were “the only possible response” to Puigdemont’s independence push.

“I am fulfilling my obligation by implementing (constitutional article) 155, faced with contempt for our laws, the constitution, Catalonia’s status and contempt for millions of Catalan citizens who see that their government has liquidated the law,” he told parliament.

But implementing article 155 could spark unrest in the northeastern region which, though divided on independence, is fiercely protective of its language and autonomy.

On Wednesday, independence supporters were preparing to take to the streets again. Teachers were planning a rally in Barcelona, the Catalan capital, and grassroots organisations dubbed “committees to defend the referendum” were also due to protest.


Catalans Do Not Declare Independence But Will Seek Independence by Negotiations With Spain

October 10, 2017

BBC News

President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, speaks in his address to the Catalan Parliament at the Palau del Parlament de Catalunya on October 10, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain
Mr Puigdemont said the “people’s will” was to break away from Madrid. Getty

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said his people voted for independence from Spain – but that he wants a negotiated solution with Madrid.

He asked the regional parliament in Barcelona to suspend the effect of the vote so talks could begin – rather than breaking away immediately.

A vote on 1 October resulted in almost 90% of voters backing independence, Catalan officials say.

Madrid said it was illegal and Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended it.

No voters largely boycotted the referendum ballot – which had a reported turnout of 43% – and there were several reports of irregularities.

National police were involved in violent scenes as they manhandled voters.

Mr Puigdemont told the regional parliament that the “people’s will” was to break away from Madrid, but he also said he wanted to “de-escalate” the tension around the issue .

He hailed the referendum process and condemned the actions of the Spanish government, but acknowledged that people on all sides were worried about what would happen next.

“We are all part of the same community and we need to go forward together. The only way forward is democracy and peace,” he told deputies.

But he also said Catalonia was being denied the right to self-determination, and paying too much in taxes to the central government in Madrid.

Catalan police have been posted outside the parliament in Barcelona, sealing off the grounds to the public. A large pro-independence rally is currently taking place in the area.

People attend a pro-independence rally near the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain October 10, 2017
A pro-independence rally was held near the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona. Reuters
Catalonia's regional police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, guard the regional assembly parliament building in Barcelona, 10 October 2017
Armed police were deployed outside the parliament. Reuters Photo