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#Brexit in chaos after court rules PM's suspension of parliament was unlawful

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of the British parliament was unlawful, a Scottish court ruled today (11 September), prompting immediate calls for lawmakers to return to work as the government and parliament battle over the future of Brexit, write Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge of Reuters.

Scotland’s highest court of appeal ruled that Johnson’s decision to prorogue, or suspend, parliament from Monday until 14 October was unlawful — a blow for the government as it seeks to leave the European Union on 31 October with or without a deal.

With seven weeks until Britain is due to leave the EU, the government and parliament are locked in conflict over the future of Brexit, with possible outcomes ranging from leaving without a deal to another referendum that could cancel the divorce.

“We are calling for parliament to be recalled immediately,” said Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry, who led the challenge, after Scotland’s Court of Session ruled the prorogation should be annulled.

“You cannot break the law with impunity, Boris Johnson.”

The government will appeal against the ruling to the Supreme Court, the United Kingdom’s highest judicial body, and an official said Johnson believed parliament remained suspended pending a decision by that court.

Still, a group of opposition lawmakers gathered outside the 800-year-old Palace of Westminster demanding its recall.

Johnson announced on 28 August that parliament would be prorogued, saying the government wanted the suspension so it could then launch a new legislative agenda.

Opponents said the real reason was to shut down debate and challenges to his Brexit plans. The court was shown documents that showed Johnson was considering prorogation weeks before he formally asked Queen Elizabeth to suspend the legislature.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the ruling, saying it was a matter for the government.

Dominic Grieve, one of 21 Brexit rebels thrown out of Johnson’s Conservative Party last week, said that if Johnson had misled the queen, he should resign.

Johnson, who was a figurehead for the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, when 52 percent of voters backed Brexit, has rejected opposition complaints that he was denying parliament the right to debate Brexit in an undemocratic way.

Johnson’s bid to quit the bloc “do or die” on Oct. 31 has hit the buffers: parliament has ordered him to delay Brexit until 2020 unless he strikes a deal while a new Brexit Party is threatening to poach Conservative voters.

After three years of tortuous Brexit crisis, British politics is in turmoil, with the prime minister blocked by parliament and an election or even a second referendum on the cards.

In an excoriating judgment, the Scottish judges ruled the principal reason for parliament’s suspension was to stymie lawmakers and allow Johnson to pursue a no-deal Brexit policy.

“This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities,” concluded one judge, Philip Brodie, according to a summary of the court verdict.

Judge James Drummond Young had determined that “the only inference that could be drawn was that the UK government and the Prime Minister wished to restrict Parliament”, it added.

Last week, the High Court of England and Wales rejected a similar challenge by campaigners, was a political not a judicial matter.

The 2016 Brexit referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the EU, and has given rise to soul-searching about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and modern Britishness.

It has also triggered civil war inside both of Britain’s main political parties as dozens of lawmakers put what they see as the United Kingdom’s fate above that of party loyalty.

The divisions in the opposition Labour Party over Brexit were on display on Wednesday, when its deputy leader, Tom Watson, said he supported pressing for a second referendum before an early national election.

“So let’s deal with Brexit, in a referendum, where every person can have their say, and then come together and fight an election on Labour’s positive social agenda on our own terms, not on Boris Johnson’s Brexit ‘do or die’,” he said in a speech in London.

His argument, which puts him at odds with leader Jeremy Corbyn, is that an election might fail to resolve the deadlock over Brexit. Corbyn says Labour would offer the people a second referendum on a credible option to leave against remaining in the EU after an election.

Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party which could take votes away from both main parties, offered Johnson an election pact on Wednesday but said that unless there was a clean break with the EU, the Conservatives would take a “real kicking” in any election and could not win a majority.

“If we go beyond the 31 October and we are still a member of the European Union - which looks increasingly likely - then a lot of votes will shift from the Conservative Party to the Brexit Party,” Farage told reporters.

Johnson ruled out a pact with Farage.

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EU's Barnier still hopes trade deal with Britain possible, sources say

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The European Union’s Brexit negotiator told the bloc’s 27 national envoys to Brussels that he still hoped a trade deal with Britain was possible, stressing that the coming days would be decisive, diplomatic sources with the bloc told Reuters, write and

Michel Barnier addressed the gathering on Wednesday (16 September) and the three sources either participated in the discussion behind closed doors or were briefed on its content.

“Barnier still believes a deal is possible though the next days are key,” said one of the EU diplomatic sources.

A second diplomat, asked what Barnier said on Wednesday and whether there was still a chance for a new agreement with the UK, said: “The hope is still there.”

The first source said tentative concessions offered by the UK on fisheries - a key point of discord that has so far prevented agreement on a new EU-UK trade deal to kick in from 2021 - were “a glimmer of hope”.

Reuters reported exclusively on Tuesday (15 September) that Britain has moved to break the deadlock despite that fact that publicly London has been threatening to breach the terms of its earlier divorce deal with the bloc.

A third source, a senior EU diplomat, confirmed the UK offer but stressed it was not going far enough for the bloc to accept.

Brexit talks descended into fresh turmoil this month over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to pass new domestic laws that would undercut London’s earlier EU divorce deal, which is also aimed at protecting peace on the island of Ireland.

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned Britain that it must honour the Northern Irish peace deal as it extracts itself from the EU or there would be no US trade deal for the United Kingdom.

The third EU source, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said that the bloc would take a more rigid line in demanding a solid dispute settlement mechanism in any new UK trade deal should Johnson press ahead with the Internal Market Bill.

“There is unease about what Britain is doing but Barnier has stressed he will keep negotiating until his last breath,” said a fourth EU diplomat, highlighting the bloc’s wariness about being assigned blame should the troubled process eventually fail.

Asked about an estimate by Societe Generale bank, which put at 80% the probability of the most damaging economic split at the end of the year without a new deal to carry forward trade and business ties between the EU and the UK, the person said:

“I would put it around the same mark.”

Barnier is due to meet his UK counterpart, David Frost, around 1400 GMT in Brussels on Thursday.

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Biden warns UK on #Brexit - No trade deal unless you respect Northern Irish peace deal

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US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned the United Kingdom that it must honour the Northern Irish peace deal as it extracts itself from the European Union or there would be no US trade deal, write and

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” Biden said in a tweet.

“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

Johnson unveiled legislation that would break parts of the Brexit divorce treaty relating to Northern Ireland, blaming the EU for putting a revolver on the table in trade talks and trying to divide up the United Kingdom.

He says the United Kingdom has to have the ability to break parts of the 2020 Brexit treaty he signed to uphold London’s commitments under the 1998 peace deal which ended three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland between pro-British Protestant unionists and Irish Catholic nationalists.

The EU says any breach of the Brexit treaty could sink trade talks, propel the United Kingdom towards a messy exit when it finally leaves informal membership at the end of the year and thus complicate the border between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator told the bloc’s 27 national envoys that he still hoped a trade deal with Britain was possible, stressing that the coming days would be decisive, three diplomatic sources told Reuters.

Michel Barnier addressed the gathering on Wednesday and the three sources either participated in the discussion behind closed doors or were briefed on its content.

“Barnier still believes a deal is possible though the next days are key,” said one of the EU diplomatic sources.

Johnson told The Sun that the EU was being “abusive” to Britain and risking four decades of partnership.

He said the UK must “ring-fence” the Brexit deal “to put in watertight bulkheads that will stop friends and partners making abusive or extreme interpretations of the provisions.”

Societe Generale analysts said on Thursday they now see an 80% chance that Britain and the EU will fail to strike a trade deal before the end of the year.

Biden, who has talked about the importance of his Irish heritage, retweeted a letter from Eliot Engel, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives, to Johnson calling on the British leader to honour the 1998 Good Friday peace deal.

Engel urged Johnson to “abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts to flout the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

He called on Johnson to “ensure that Brexit negotiations do not undermine the decades of progress to bring peace to Northern Ireland and future options for the bilateral relationship between our two countries.”

Engel said Congress would not support a free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom if Britain failed to uphold its commitments with Northern Ireland.

The letter was signed by Representatives Richard Neal, William Keating and Peter King.

Johnson is pushing ahead with his plan.

His government reached a deal on Wednesday (16 September) to avert a rebellion in his own party, giving parliament a say over the use of post-Brexit powers within its proposed Internal Market Bill that breaks international law.

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UK sees 'a way through' parliamentary maze for #Brexit treaty breach bill

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government sees a ‘way through’ the parliamentary maze for his bill that would break the Brexit divorce treaty as it talks with rebels in the Conservative Party, a minister said on Wednesday (16 September). write Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton.

Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, which the EU has demanded he scrap by the end of September, is currently being debated in parliament, though he is facing a rebellion by some members of his Conservative Party.

“I believe there is a way through,” Robert Buckland told the BBC when asked about negotiations with rebels in parliament over the bill, adding that London wanted a deal with the EU.

“In terms of shared understanding, I have already seen quite a difference,” he said when asked about a possible compromise in parliament.

Asked if he had been involved in negotiations with Bob Neill, a Conservative lawmaker, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “There are lots of discussions going on with all MPs from all parts of the debate, not just Bob Neill.”

“We want to get this bill through, we want to make sure that we are ready for any disagreements or disputes that might arise if we don’t get agreement in the joint committee,” he said. “For me, I just want Brexit sorted.”

Buckland told Times Radio that the bill was needed as an insurance policy in case the EU made a “material breach” of their obligations but that the talks were not yet at that stage and that London would use current mechanisms to find a compromise.

The EU says Johnson’s bill could collapse trade talks and propel the United Kingdom towards a messy Brexit while former British leaders have warned that breaking the law is a step too far that undermines the country’s image.

Johnson said it was essential to counter “absurd” threats from Brussels including that London put up trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland and impose a food blockade - steps he said threatened the United Kingdom’s unity.

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