Connect with us

Brexit

On the campaign trail - The funny, strange and surreal of Britain's #GeneralElection

Published

on

Britain’s election campaign has delivered funny, strange and surreal moments, from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit-branded boxing to a stranded train full of journalists on their way to a speech about rail investment, write William James and Kylie MacLellan.

Here are some the highlights from six weeks of cross-country campaigning:

DELIVERING THE MESSAGE (11 December)

What do a donut, a digger, boxing gloves and a scarf have in common? All have been printed, painted, woven or iced with the Conservative election slogan “Get Brexit Done”.

It is not unusual for political parties to come up with one or two central campaign messages and plaster them across lecterns, placards and buses.

But while Labour’s “Time for real change” and “For the many, not the few” slogans have appeared in the usual places, Johnson’s Conservatives have gone to greater lengths to try and ensure their message gets through.

On a whistle-stop final day of campaigning Johnson added a few more to the list: a branded apron worn while making a pie and a milk crate used to make a delivery to a voter’s house.

GOVERNMENT BORROWING UP (3 December)

Johnson’s efforts to stimulate the economy in the English city of Salisbury ran out of cash.

Touring local businesses at a Christmas market, Johnson visited a butcher and helped out at one stall, serving up sweets in front of the cameras.

But the prime minister, whose Conservatives have cast themselves as the party of fiscal discipline, came unstuck when he tried to pay for chocolate brownies.

Fumbling through his wallet, Johnson had to ask his team for a loan. “I’m out of cash” he said. “I lashed out on some sausages earlier on and it cleaned me out!”

CORBYN’S LITTLE RED BOOK (3 December)

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, carries a little red book with him all over the country.

Not the collection of quotations from communist leader Mao Zedong - once brandished in parliament by Corbyn’s would-be finance minister - but a handwritten diary of knowledge he has picked up on the election trail.

“The wisdom that is there amongst people all over the country is something that absolutely inspires me, I go around with a notebook everywhere,” he said during a television interview.

His interviewer on chat show This Morning asked: “What are you going to write about us?”

He replied: “What a charming morning I am having, what wonderful Christmas decorations you’ve got.”

THE CASE FOR RAIL INVESTMENT (7 November)

British Finance Minister Sajid Javid tore up the spending rules by promising to pump billions into upgrading the country’s schools, hospitals, roads and railways.

Shortly before his speech was due to start, word went around from a Conservative Party official that the start of the event in the northern English city of Manchester would have to be delayed - problems on the railway had left the travelling press pack stranded miles from the venue.

SIGNED, SEALED... DELIVERED? (22 November)

When is a manifesto not a manifesto? Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage says it is when it’s a ‘contract with the people’.

Farage eschewed the campaign tradition of a manifesto launch, a glitzy media event to promote a book of policies the party wants to implement if it wins power.

Instead, he invited journalists, left a small book of his policies on each seat and made a grand entrance to a thumping soundtrack (‘Power’ by Kanye West).

“This is not a manifesto, because a word association test for manifesto gave us the word ‘lies’,” he said. “It’s a contract with the people.”

Brexit

President Sassoli to EU leaders: Help get the budget negotiations moving again

Published

on

President Sassoli with French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel at the 15 October summit © KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / POOL / AFP 

In a speech at the EU summit on 15 October, Parliament President David Sassoli insisted it is now up to EU leaders to unlock the stalled negotiations on the 2021-2027 budget.

President Sassoli urged the EU heads of government to update the negotiating mandate they have given to the German Council presidency to make agreement on the EU long-term budget possible.

He noted that Parliament’s negotiators have asked for an additional €39 billion for key EU programmes that benefit Europeans and promote a sustainable recovery. “This is a paltry sum when set against an overall package worth €1.8 trillion, but one which would make an enormous difference to the citizens who will benefit from our common policies,” President Sassoli said, referring to the total amount of the seven-year budget and the Covid-19 recovery plan.

Sassoli noted that if Parliament’s compromise proposal is accepted by the Council, the budget spending ceiling will have to be raised by only €9 billion and this will bring the ceiling of those programmes to exactly the same level of spending as in the 2014-2020 period in real terms.

He said that the interest payments for the debt that the EU plans to issue to finance the recovery must be counted on top of the programme ceilings so as not to further squeeze the financing of these policies. The recovery plan “is an extraordinary commitment, and therefore the cost of the interest should be treated as an extraordinary expense as well. It should not come down to a choice between these costs and the [budget] programmes”.

The President also stressed the need for a binding timetable for the introduction of new types of budget revenue over the coming years and for flexible provisions in the budget to finance unforeseen future events.

Sassoli defended Parliament’s demand for ambitious emission reduction targets. “We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2030. We need a target, which acts as a bright beacon on the path to climate neutrality. Protecting the environment means new jobs, more research, more social protection, more opportunities.”

“We should use the economic stimuli provided by public institutions to radically change our growth models while guaranteeing a fair transition that works for us and for future generations. No one should be left behind,” he added.

Commenting on the ongoing negotiations on future EU-UK relations, Sassoli expressed concern about the lack of clarity from the UK side. “I hope that our UK friends use the very narrow window of opportunity that remains to work constructively towards overcoming our differences,” he said, adding that the UK should honour its commitments and remove the controversial provisions in its internal market act.

Sassoli also called for a de-escalation of tensions with Turkey. “The Turkish rhetoric is growing increasingly aggressive and the country's intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is certainly not helping matters. Now is the time for the EU to fully support German mediation efforts, to stand united and speak with one voice,” he said.

Continue Reading

Brexit

EU negotiators expect to resume trade talks with UK, EU sources say

Published

on

Negotiators from the European Union travelled to London on Thursday (22 October) to resume talks with Britain, two EU sources said, a move that could mark a new push to protect billions of dollars worth of trade, write and

Both the EU and Britain have spent days calling on the other side to offer more concessions in talks, which have been all but deadlocked since the summer, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson walked away from the negotiations last week.

A no-deal finale to Britain’s five-year Brexit drama would disrupt the operations of manufacturers, retailers, farmers and nearly every other sector - just as the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

Earlier, European Council President Charles Michel told the European Parliament that time was “very short”.

“We stand ready to negotiate 24/7, on all subjects, on legal texts. The UK has a bit of a decision to make and it’s their free and sovereign choice,” Michel said.

He said Britain’s answer would determine its level of access to the EU’s internal market of 450 million consumers. The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the parliament an agreement was still “within reach”.

Britain confirms withdrawal from EU military missions, diplomats say

Norway and Britain in provisional trade agreement on goods for no-deal Brexit scenario

“Time is of the essence...along with our British counterparts, we must find solutions to the most difficult areas,” Barnier said in comments that pushed sterling higher.

London has this week refused to continue full negotiations, saying the EU must “fundamentally change” its stance.

The EU sees this as bluff by Prime Minister Boris Johnson but has also extended an olive branch by talking up UK sovereignty, as well as the EU’s readiness to discuss intensively, across the board and on specific legal texts.

A UK spokesman said London noted “with interest” Barnier’s comments that touch “in a significant way on the issues behind the current difficulties in our talks”.

Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost had been due to speak on the phone at 14h GMT on Wednesday (21 October).

Michel stressed the 27 EU members were ready for an abrupt split without a new agreement to avoid tariffs or quotas with three main sticking points in the negotiations: fishing rights, economic fair play and settling disputes.

“We don’t need words, we need guarantees,” he said of fair competition safeguards.

Michel called for a “binding, independent arbitration” to redress market distortions swiftly, adding that London’s draft Internal Market Bill - which would undermine Britain’s earlier divorce deal with the EU - only strengthened the bloc’s resolve to ensure tight policing of any new deal.

The EU’s executive Commission said London must respect its Brexit settlement regardless of the trade talks.

Michel said losing access to British waters would damage the EU’s fishing industry, and the EU therefore wanted to prolong the status-quo just as London sought to keep the EU market open for UK companies.

“But the UK wants access to the single market while at the same time being able to diverge from our standards and regulations when it suits them,” Michel said.

Following Brexit last January, Britain’s current EU trading terms expire in 10 weeks and unfettered commerce will end without a new treaty.

Keen to avoid any blame, the bloc is ready to negotiate until mid-November but must then ratify any deal in the European Parliament before time is up.

Continue Reading

Brexit

EU says Britain must respect withdrawal pact, deal or no deal

Published

on

By

Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight Commissioner Maros Sefcovic addresses lawmakers during a plenary session of Work Programme 2021 at the European Parliament in Brussels. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Britain must implement the Withdrawal Agreement on its exit from the European Union, regardless of the outcome of ongoing trade talks between the two sides, a senior European commissioner said on Wednesday (21 October), writes Kate Abnett.

“Deal or no deal, the Withdrawal Agreement must be respected,” European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic (pictured) told the European Parliament.

Sefcovic said the EU is committed to reaching a deal on the trade agreement and other aspects of their future relationship, but that the two sides remain “far apart” on the issues of fisheries and the so-called level playing field of fair competition.

“Our objective is still to reach an agreement that will pave the way for a new fruitful relationship between the EU and UK. We will continue to work for such an agreement, but not at any price,” he said.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Facebook

Twitter

Trending