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Could this be the reason for abuse by offended parties?

Could this be the reason for abuse by offended parties?

December 6, 2019
Reprint – December 11, 2929

The electorate showed their expectations in the result

This Editorial is reprinted because of some strange comments directed at the Editor during following a press conference held in Seprember past. The comments were in response to an inquiry to which no direct response was given but a reference to an article/editorial in “November or just following the 2019 general elections.”
There is also reprinted a column article in an effort to discover if that might have been the offending article.
These are presented as as they were before and we contend that like almost always the opinions, analysis, and facts presented are intended as presented. We then challenge the offended party or parties to present to us after a second read exactly what they have found offensive, untrue or even disagreable.

There aren’t many who think of the seriousness, or of the importance of the election of men and women who will represent and lead them in the affairs of governing them and their land.

But when one reads the following from one of a series of articles which have appeared in TMR over the past several months, again it would take those interested in the seriousness and the reality of the men and women of whom this refers to understand that a general election is indeed a serious thing.

The few lines read: “…if our “permanent government” – the senior civil service – is “not fit for purpose” (as former Governor Carriere said in an unguarded, frank moment) then we are going to be hampered every step of the way by lack of capacity, foot-dragging, outright incompetence, and even corruption. And if many candidates for election are cut from the same roll of cloth,[1] that will only multiply the problem.

“For elections to work, we need to have a choice of credible, competent, good-character candidates with sound policy proposals, and if policies are to be implemented, our senior civil service will need drastic reforms led by Cabinet. We will have to fix the DfID-FCO side of the problem, too.“

This part of the problem is why, over the past several years, months and weeks, here at TMR we have looked at the needed Charter of Good Governance and Development Partnership MoU with the UK; which have actually been on the table for several years but were obviously road-blocked. Such agreements and such Resolutions of our Assembly would give us tools to drain the murky waters so beloved of swamp-dwelling chaos-dragons . . . that’s how they can lurk in ambush.

A capacity-building component would help us build a new generation of policy and political leadership. The creation of a priority transformational programme with agreed “catalytic” infrastructure-building projects supported by designated expediters and sound PRINCE2-style governance systems would then move us beyond the stop, study, start, stop, restudy pattern. For sure, without a protected seaport, without an improved airport, without fibre optic cable digital access and without developed geothermal energy, we are a poor investment and growth prospect.

We would like to offer that although towards the end of the PDM government’s term in office the Legislature was divided 5-4 just as the incoming MCAP government will experience, it is in many ways not the same as that experienced by the former MCAP government of 2009-2014. The Reuben T Meade’s government had three newcomers to his government to the six members at the beginning but ended up with two newbies as this government begins with. This government has four experienced parliamentarians in opposition.

The expectations for this new MCAP team can be reflected in the outcome of the election particularly that during this campaign there were some very key issues that were barely mentioned if at all. Good knowledge of all of which will be very vital to any future success or progress that this struggling island could enjoy.

We hope to take the lead in bringing these seriously to the fore in a brand new and hopefully challenging way as the early months of this new Legislature’s reign.

[1] TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/we-need-a-new-politics-of-truth-soundness-and-national-consensus/

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9066069/Woke-folk-beware-Freedom-speech-includes-right-offend-say-judges-landmark-ruling.html

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, De Ole Dawg, Editorial, Elections, International, Local, News, Opinions, Politics, Regional0 Comments

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MNI: Post-Election reflections and challenges, 2019MNI: Post-Election reflections and challenges, 2019

How will we best manage our development partnership with the post-Brexit UK and the upcoming UN Charter Article 73 C24 visit?

BRADES, Montserrat, Dec. 2, 2019 –  The November 18, 2019 elections are over, having delivered a five-seat majority to the leading opposition party, MCAP; led by Montserrat’s newly elected third Premier, Hon. Mr. Easton Taylor Farrell. Congratulations and best wishes for good success in leading Montserrat in the coming days, starting with the upcoming UN Decolonisation Committee visit under the UN Charter, Article 73; which is expected around the middle of this month.

We also note that, with a split opposition, the former administration PDM team is now the bulk of the opposition, three seats led by Hon Mr. Paul Lewis. Former Premier Romeo sits as the fourth opposition member, having been elected on an independent ticket. We wish the new opposition well too, not least because a good opposition that is credible as the potential next government is a key part of our democratic system.

That said, it is interesting to observe that there was a fall in turnout rate for the 2019 election as compared with the 2014 one: 2,410 of 3,858 registered voters [62.47%] as opposed to 2,747 of 3,866 [71.06%].

That is, while registered voters fell slightly [8 voters], the voter turnout fell by 337.

The total 2019 MCAP vote was 8,512 and the total, PDM – counting “seven plus one” – was 7,029. In 2014, MCAP had 8,193 votes and PDM had 11,591. The MCAP support grew by 319 and the PDM fell by 4,562. This election was more of a loss for the PDM than a triumph for MCAP.

However, as the margin of victory was one seat, for purposes of analysis, let us ponder the effect of just three hundred disaffected PDM supporters turning out and supporting their party. Where, the ninth past the post candidate in the actual 2019 election [Hon Mr. Hogan] garnered 873 votes. (In 2014, Hon Mr. Willock was 9th, with 1,117 votes.)

In our hypothetical “+300 PDM” Election 2019, for instance, Hon Mr. Lewis (with + 300 votes) would have had 1,551 votes. Hon Mr. Romeo (the “plus one”), would have had 1,360 votes. The “seven plus one” PDM vote total would also have shifted to 9,429.

More importantly, Mr. Hixon would have had 1,162 votes, switching the election to the other side.

Comparison: voting patterns 2014 (HT: Wikipedia)

The new 9th past the post would – for the moment – be Hon Mr. Kirnon, at 970 votes. But, if we add 300 votes to Mr. Emile Duberry, he would now have 998 votes, matching Hon Deputy Premier Dr. Samuel Joseph, so Mr. Kirnon would have been defeated.

That is, the election would have likely swung the other way, 5:4 or perhaps even 6:3.

(Recall, the “+300 PDM” model is only a hypothetical estimate to help us understand the actual election’s outcome.)

An obvious lesson from this comparison is that a party leadership “coup” six weeks before an election is not a well-advised electoral strategy. A slightly less obvious one is that allowing hostile messaging to dominate for years on end is also not a well-advised electoral strategy, especially when one’s party is obviously trending towards splits. Doubtless, our politicians, pundits, and public relations gurus have taken due note.

However, there is a further issue, one that carries such urgency that it needs to be put on the table now, for national discussion. Yes, even during the traditional new government honeymoon period.

For, in the next few weeks, we expect to see a UN Committee of 24 visit under the UN Charter, Article 73. However, skepticism on the relevance of the UN and similar skepticism on the UN Charter, Article 73 (thus the FCO commitment that the OT’s have a “first call” on the UK’s development budget) were a major part of MCAP’s messaging over the past several years and so such skepticism has become entrenched in much of popular opinion.
This is in a context where the UK is in a Brexit-dominated General Election. One, where newly incumbent Euro-skeptic Prime Minister the Hon Mr. Boris Johnson seems likely to handily win re-election. (Where, the previous UK Prime Minister, Hon Mrs. May, resigned several months before the election.)

Further to this, the UK press has shown for months, that Hon Mr. Johnson has pushed to reduce DfID to being a Department under FCO. For example, as a July 24, 2019, Guardian article reports, on becoming Prime Minister, Hon Mr. Boris Johnson:
. . . spoke of the “jostling sets of instincts in the human heart” – the instinct to earn money and look after your own family, set against that of looking after the poorest and neediest, and promoting the good of society as a whole. The Tory party has the “best instincts” to balance these desires, he said:

This balancing act will be tested soon after he moves into No 10 . . . . The UK’s £38bn defense budget is just 2.5 times greater than the £14bn aid budget.

After leaving his job as foreign secretary, Johnson spelled out his thinking over foreign aid, telling the Financial Times that if “Global Britain” is going to achieve its “full and massive potential” then we must bring back the Department for International Development (DfID) to the Foreign Office. “We can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’ money as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO.”

The Guardian article adds, how:
In February, [Hon. Mr. Johnson] went further. Writing the foreword of a report by Bob Seely, a Tory member of the foreign affairs select committee, and James Rogers, a strategist at the Henry Jackson Society thinktank, he suggested aid should “do more to serve the political and commercial interests” of Britain.

That report “called for the closure of DfID as a separate department and argued the UK should be free to define its aid spending, unconstrained by criteria set by external organisations.” It went on to assert that DfID’s purpose “should be expanded from poverty reduction to include ‘the nation’s overall strategic goals’,” and that “the Foreign Office should incorporate both DfID and the trade department.” Which, is precisely what has been put on the table.

While, the UK cannot unilaterally redefine what Development Aid is [the OECD defines that], it is clear that there will be strong pressure to reduce UK aid from the 0.7% of national income target level that has been met since 2013/14 and which is actually mandated by current UK law. And, mixing in trade and strategic goals is likely to raise questions on the quality of aid offered under such a reduced budget. (Perhaps, too, it may be advisable for the UK to ponder that timely aid that addresses root causes of conflict is a lot cheaper and far less risky than major wars are.)

What this means for us, is that the importance of the UN Charter as a cornerstone of International Law since 1945 has suddenly shot up as the UK moves towards Brexit. In that context, Article 73 mandates that the UK is legally bound to “ensure [our political, social, educational and economic] advancement” and to “promote constructive measures of development” that are of particular value.

Especially, where £30 million under the CIPREG programme and another £14.4 million for the seaport under the UKCIF are on the table. And where these sums are programmed into existing projects, so that attempts to re-open the negotiations may well carry significant risks of further delay or even loss of funding. (Let us recall, that for years, sections of the UK press have decried £400+ million in cumulative aid to Montserrat as a “fiasco” and worse.)

[1] See UK Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jul/24/trade-foreign-aid-boris-johnson-dfid

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Sauce for de Goose...But, not for de Gander?

Sauce for de Goose…But, not for de Gander?

Part 107 – 06/2020 (Contribution)

BRADES, Montserrat, December 14, 2020 –  In Britain, the Bird served at table for Christmas Day was often a Goose, not a Turkey. The male Goose (the Gander), of course, can be cooked up just as nicely, and it makes sense to use the same sauce. That’s where the saying comes from. Here in the Caribbean, we might note that the same knife used for a sheep can be used for a goat too; and both can be used to make our national dish, Goat Water.

Those of us who have monitored political commentary for the past few years will of course immediately spot the point. For years, members of our present Government hammered away at the last Government, week by week, even accusing it of “bamboozling” the Budget.  That’s another way of saying, fraud; a pretty serious charge.  Meanwhile, we are yet to hear a sound, detailed explanation for the nineteen ($19) million dollar reduction in the hole in the budget, but that was dealt with by TMR last time.

What we need to look at today is the reaction of the new government to, much milder criticism than what it dished out, week by week, year by year, when somebody else was in the hot seat. For, there has been talk of threats to shut down a popular call-in show which has become a place where various members of the public have aired their displeasure with the new government and its handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Admittedly, could be a difficult challenge.

Even more interesting was the sudden rediscovery by members of the public that indeed, the UK has confirmed that the reasonable assistance needs of Overseas Territories have a first call on the UK Development budget. That, used to be laughed to scorn, and the counter-point that sixty percent [60%] of salaries of members of the legislature and civil servants came from the UK, honouring that commitment, was typically sidestepped.

Perhaps, we can learn from how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot. (This saying likely comes from the 1700s where the fashion was to have both shoes looking the same, so after a time, one needed to swop over which foot one put a given shoe on, lest it becomes misshapen. Ouch! We have long since learned that it is a better idea to have left foot and right foot shoes.)

In an oddly related development, the UK’s now-former Development Minister in the newly fused FCDO – DfID is no more – resigned due to the Government’s declared intent to cut the 0.7 percent development aid target to 0.5 percent[1]:

Elizabeth Sugg, who was minister for overseas territories and sustainable development and special envoy for girls’ education — a priority area of government development policy — said she “cannot support or defend” the decision to lower the aid budget to 0.5% of GNI.

In her resignation letter, she wrote: “I believe it is fundamentally wrong to abandon our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development. This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good … The economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crises.” [Devex dot com]

As Devex continued, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, “pledged to return to spending 0.7% on aid ‘when the fiscal situation allows.’ ” 

It added that “prime ministers, secretaries of state, and backbench Conservative MPs were among those who kicked back against the government’s decision, saying it was a breach of the party’s commitments — maintaining the 0.7% spending target was a Conservative manifesto pledge — and would undermine the U.K.’s international position. ”

Indeed, former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who resigned when he lost the Brexit referendum, said “[the 0.7 percent pledge] said something great about Britain . . . we were actually going to do something about [global challenges], we were going to lead, we were going to show the rest of the world . . .  and I think it’s sad we’re standing back from that.”

In short, there is some seriousness about the development aid pledge. 

Similarly, when the “poverty reduction” criterion is given an exception for OT’s in Section 2 of the UK International Development Act, 2002,[2]  it sets up what was pledged ten years later on p. 13 of the 2012 FCO White Paper on OT’s[3]:

“The UK Government’s fundamental responsibility and objective are to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples. This responsibility flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations. It also flows from our shared history and political commitment to the wellbeing of all British nationals. This requires us, among other things, to promote the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the people of the Territories, to ensure their just treatment and their protection against abuses, and to develop self-government and free political institutions in the Territories. The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.

This is actually a longstanding pledge and is a key plank for our development aid negotiations. Especially, as we are not generally eligible for aid from other donor agencies. Under UN Charter, Article 73, the UK is our main development aid partner.  This is a key point for any future Premier to bear in mind.

Also, what Article 73 of the UN Charter[4] – which the UK here acknowledges as having legal force – actually says is that the UK is to “ensure” political, economic, social, and educational advancement and is to “promote” constructive measures of development. All of this, was always only a few clicks away on the Internet. There is no excuse for the dismissive rhetoric and ridicule for several years; rhetoric that now stands in the way of acknowledging that this is the way forward to sound relief and stimulus to break out of Covid-19 stagnation.

(A year later, we can also see why the UN Article 73, Committee of Twenty-Four decolonisation visit that was fought for so hard by the previous government was absolutely pivotal. But due to much the same ill-advised rhetoric, it was dismissed by too many of our political voices. What a difference a year makes!)

Let us see how we can work to find a good way forward.

Yes, it is clear that sauce for the Goose is sauce for the Gander, too.


[1] See, https://www.devex.com/news/uk-minister-resigns-as-senior-conservative-mps-condemn-end-to-0-7-aid-budget-98643

[2] See, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/1/part/1

[3] See https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32952/ot-wp-0612.pdf

[4] See, https://legal.un.org/repertory/art73.shtml

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Ministers mull ‘Tier 4’ crackdown after Christmas with commuting banned, non-essential shops shut and schools closed an extra week – after Boris Johnson plunged 38 million into Tier 3 AND warned No Deal is ‘very likely’

MailOnline - news, sport, celebrity, science and health stories

Friday, Dec 18 2020

6 AM 11°C 9 AM 11°C 5-Day Forecast

  • Tier Three restrictions extended yesterday, plunging 38 million people into the new year under the toughest curbs
  • Swathes of the Home Counties will join London in Tier 3 tomorrow along with Manchester and the North East
  • Experts fear decisions will not be enough to avert more draconian measures due to Covid surging in England
  • It comes as Boris Johnson warned a No Deal Brexit is ‘very likely’ if the EU does not budge overfishing rules 

By James Robinson for MailOnline and Jason Groves And Claire Ellicott For The Daily Mail and James Tapsfield Political Editor For Mailonline and Jack Maidment, Deputy Political Editor For Mailonline

Ministers are mulling over a ‘Tier 4’ crackdown after Christmas, with commuting banned, non-essential shops shut and schools closed an extra week, as officials search for new plans to keep Covid case numbers under control.

Tier Three restrictions were extended yesterday so that two thirds of homes in England ¿ and 38million people ¿ can now expect to go into the new year under the toughest curbs. Pictured: Boris Johnson yesterday speaking with Ursula von der Leyen
Pictured: Boris Johnson yesterday speaking with Ursula von der Leyen. Tier Three restrictions were extended yesterday so that two-thirds of homes in England – and 38 million people – can now expect to go into the new year under the toughest curbs.

As Boris Johnson last night gave the green light to plunge large swathes of England’s Home Counties into Tier 3 – bringing the number of people living under the toughest restrictions to 38 million – Government officials revealed even tougher measures could be on the way. 

The areas of southern England will join London in the highest tier tomorrow, while Manchester and the North East were told they could not move down a grade despite recording fewer cases. 

Tory MP Rob Butler said yesterday’s tier moves heralded ‘the bleakest of midwinters, especially for hospitality businesses’.

His comments came as Prime Minister last night warned a No Deal Brexit is ‘very likely’ unless the EU gives ground on trade talks. 

Despite yesterday’s announcement of increasing restrictions on large parts of the country, experts fear the decisions will not be enough to avert more draconian measures because Covid is surging nationally.   

A Whitehall official told the Times: ‘There is a case for going further than Tier 3 and it is getting stronger.

‘[That could mean] closure of non-essential retail, stay-at-home orders. That would have to be actively considered in conversation with the local authority.’

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has previously endorsed a ‘Tier 4’ as a way of tightening restrictions in order to control the virus.

Wales meanwhile is going into another lockdown on December 28 and Northern Ireland last night backed plans for a six-week shutdown starting on Boxing Day.

Scottish leaders said that tougher virus restrictions after Christmas – including a lockdown – were a ‘possibility’. 

Teachers were last night told that they will have to help mass test millions of secondary school pupils – while in other developments:

Pictured: A map of England’s tiers: Swathes of the Home Counties will join London in the highest tier tomorrow while Manchester and the North East were told they could not move down a grade despite recording fewer cases.
  • Rishi Sunak extended until May the £5billion-a-month furlough scheme amid fears that tough virus restrictions could extend beyond Easter;
  • Fears of a third wave mounted as daily Covid cases jumped again to 35,383, although this included 11,000 from Wales which were not recorded earlier this month because of a computer glitch;
  • London emerged as the new Covid hotspot with 319.3 cases per 100,000 people in the week to December 13, up more than 50 percent from 199.9 in the previous week;
  • Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that the combined impact of Covid and lockdowns would have a ‘substantial’ impact on health, education, and poverty for years;
  • Mr. Johnson warned that Brexit talks were now in a ‘serious situation’ following a phone call with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen – although fishing rights now seem to be the only major sticking point;
  • Priti Patel urged families to cancel Christmas plans that involve traveling long distances, as Labour called for the five-day festive amnesty to be axed altogether;
  • Matt Hancock said the situation in Kent had become so dire that everyone in the county should now ‘behave as if they have the virus and are trying not to pass it on to somebody else’;
  • Former minister Tobias Ellwood apologised after Downing Street criticised him for breaching Covid restrictions by speaking at a Christmas dinner attended by 27 people.

Read full click here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9065485/Boris-Johnson-warns-No-Deal-likely-plunging-38-million-Tier-3-lockdown-misery.html?ito=push-notification&ci=61134&si=21848963

And, BREXIT update: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9064869/Boris-Johnson-Ursula-von-der-Leyen-set-Brexit-call-tonight.html?ito=push-notification&ci=61071&si=21848963

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Brexit LIVE: Boris finds solution to major obstacle in talks – Brexiteers ‘will be happy’

THE UK is “heading towards” a Brexit deal with the EU that will make eurosceptics happy.

By Brian McGleenon

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Nigel Farage reveals his ‘fear’ over Brexit

The news of a possible breakthrough of the months-long deadlock came in the last hour. The BBC’s political editor Nicholas Watt tweeted: “Big buzz in the last hour among Tory MPs that the UK is heading towards a Brexit deal with the EU. Eurosceptics being reassured they will be happy.” Mr. Watt added: “Nothing confirmed yet and MPs saying: many a slip between cup and lip. But MPs being told the signal will come if and when Jacob Rees-Mogg announces that the commons will sit on Monday and Tuesday next week. That would come before any UK / EU announcement.”

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He also tweeted: “Interesting to see an informal cabinet push to reassure veteran Brexiteers. “They are being told their concerns have been addressed.

The news of a possible breakthrough of the months-long deadlock came in the last hour. The BBC’s political editor Nicholas Watt tweeted: “Big buzz in the last hour among Tory MPs that the UK is heading towards a Brexit deal with the EU. Eurosceptics being reassured they will be happy.” Mr. Watt added: “Nothing confirmed yet and MPs saying: many a slip between cup and lip. But MPs being told the signal will come if and when Jacob Rees-Mogg announces that the commons will sit on Monday and Tuesday next week. That would come before any UK / EU announcement.”

“Key issue is over the level playing field a mechanism in which EU and UK would observe common rules but in a way that would respect sovereignty.”

The UK is heading towards a deal with the EU a BBC correspondent has said
The UK is heading towards a deal with the EU a BBC correspondent has said (Image: GETTY)

This news comes after reports the two sides in negotiations have failed to agree to substantial elements of a deal this week, sparking anger in Brussels.

As it stands, the issues of fair competition, fisheries, and governance still remain the main areas of divergence between Michel Barnier and Lord David Frost.

However, other substantial elements within the deal, such as the Erasmus+ exchange programme have caused talks to stall.

Such is the chaos over the matter, one MEP compared negotiating with the UK to “climbing the Himalayas”. 

A member of the EU Parliament’s UK coordination group, Nathalie Loiseau, said: “We are far from an agreement.

“Nothing is impossible to a willing heart, but it’s like climbing the Himalaya from the northern side.”

Throughout talks, officials have expressed their concern over losing access to the valuable student exchange programme. 

Education and business leaders had stated the loss of the programme would remove £243 million a year in income and cause an estimated 17,000 students to miss out on studying abroad. 

In particular, students from less affluent backgrounds would be worst hit as they would be unable to fund their travel and expenses without the programme. 

Overall, the project receives £420million from EU students who study in the UK – after subtracting membership costs it drops to £243 million. 

Joe Fitzsimons, the head of education and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “Many employers deeply value the kind of international experience the Erasmus scheme helps foster.

“Given the benefits it can bring students and businesses, maintaining access to Erasmus and wider EU research and education partnerships has been a priority for the IoD from the off.”

On Monday, Mr. Barnier held talks with EU ambassadors to brief them on the current state of affairs before negotiations with Lord Forst reconvened. 

Although gaps still remain, he indicated the UK had backtracked on its demands thus sparking hope a deal could be agreed. 

A UK source later denied that, saying: “The inaccurate briefings from the EU side in recent days have made a difficult discussion even more challenging in the short period of time we have left.”

FOLLOW BELOW FOR LIVE UPDATES:

There could be a build up of lorries on roads towards the UK's ports

There could be a build-up of lorries on roads towards the UK’s ports (Image: GETTY)

9.20 pm update: The UK has made plans to rival Singapore with a new post-Brexit shipping ‘tonnage tax’ regime

The UK wants London to rival Singapore as a hub for shipping companies to register their vessels.

The Government hopes to reforms the shipping industry’s so-called “tonnage tax” after January 1, 2021.

Changing the UK’s shipping tax and regulation regime could be worth £3.7bn to the economy over three years.

It could also create 2,500 high-quality jobs directly, and 25,000 in related companies.

Boris Johnson is hoping to deregulate shipping in the UK
Boris Johnson is hoping to deregulate shipping in the UK (Image: GETTY)

8.30 pm update: Robert Peston hints at ‘preparation for no-deal’ as MPs face extra Commons sittings

MPs are preparing for the prospect of having to work between Christmas and the New Year as a result of a possible no-deal Brexit, ITV’s Robert Peston has said.

Lawmakers were this week told to expect extra Commons sittings over the festive period in order for a Brexit trade deal to be passed. But Mr. Peston said the additional sittings could be used to conduct last-minute preparations for a hard Brexit.

6.50 pm update: A post-Brexit tax regulation bill has just been approved by the House Commons.

Pro-Brexit MPs raised concerns about UK sovereignty after the end of the transition period, this led to MP’s voting for a ‘Post-Transition Period’ tax bill.

The new Bill will introduce framework for customs duty charges on goods being imported into Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

It also sets out customs duties on goods arriving in Great Britain from Northern Ireland.

6.20 pm update: German minister said a no-deal Brexit risks hundreds of jobs in the country’s fishing industry.

Germany’s fishing industry stands to suffer an almighty blow if the UK and the EU cannot agree to a free trade deal before the end of the Brexit transition period, a German minister has admitted.

6.00 pm update: ‘No reason to be excited’ about progress in today’s Brexit negotiations.

Earlier today it was suggested that negotiations had taken a step forward.

However, a source close to the UK negotiators said: “The position is the same, talks remain very difficult.”

The Downing Street source added: “We’re not close on this stuff yet. There’s a lot of outstanding details to go through, on other areas too, so there’s genuinely no reason to be excited about things today.”

5.12 pm update: The news of a deal with the EU has been dismissed as “total rubbish” by Downing Street, according to the Daily Mirror Political Editor.

Pippa Crerar Daily Mirror Political Editor tweeted: “Somebody at No 10 told me it’s “total rubbish” but then I guess they would, wouldn’t they?”

Sky News Europe Correspondent Adam Parsons tweeted: “I know Westminster is apparently talking about an imminent deal but I haven’t heard anyone say that among Brussels diplomats.”

5.05 pm update: EU hauliers warn they will cancel bookings to the UK after December 31.

The hauliers from the EU said they would ditch their orders destined for the UK because of the fear of queues of trucks miles long at the border.

One of Europe’s largest truck firms, Girteka Logistics, warned it could turn away deliveries to the UK if Brexit triggers chaos at the border.

4.55 pm update: The pound rockets as Boris Johnson secures huge Brexit breakthrough with EU.

The pound has jumped on the back of reports that a trade deal between the UK and the EU is imminent.

A tweet from Nicholas Watt suggested there was a “big buzz” among Conservative MPs about a possible deal on Tuesday afternoon that caused the pound to rise.

4.45 pm update: The BBC’s Nicholas Watt has also claimed that Brexiteers want a decent amount of time to examine the treaty bill.

He tweeted: “Brexiteers say they would need a decent amount of time to examine the treaty bill – legislation to enact any UK / EU deal. They need to examine it in the round and in minute detail. They want to see it by Thursday – and no later than Friday – if commons to consider it Monday and Tuesday.”

4.40 pm update: A new park for haulage is being built to take the pressure off Kent’s roads post-Brexit.

The new lorry park will not be fully operational when the transition period ends on 1 January.

The government has blamed wet weather for work falling behind schedule.

4.30 pm update: Italian Prime Minister Conte ‘cannot accept’ Brexit deal without a level playing field

Italy’s prime minister has said he will not accept a trade deal with the UK “without level playing field conditions.

The leaders of the bloc’s 27 member states remain united in their stance to secure a strong deal with Britain. But he said Brussels would not sign any agreement which does not include common rules and standards designed to prevent business on either side from undercutting firms.

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EU USED Sturgeon’s independence bid to ‘destabilise’ Brexit Britain

3.45 pm update: The UK has signed a £5bn trade deal with Mexico.

The deal is seen as a “stepping stone” to a huge 11-nation trading pact.

The deal will also be seen as a major boost to Boris Johnson’s plans for when the UK has fully cut ties with Brussels.

3.15 pm update: Member of House of Lords urges Boris Johnson to consider the devasting impact of a no-deal on the UK’s services industry.

The member of the House of Lords said the “EU is frankly irreplaceable” in terms of the sector’s trade. 

Nicholas Le Poer Trench said on Tuesday that “services are 80 percent of our GDP and our services trade with Europe makes up 51 percent of our services exports.

“As it stands, Europe is a hugely important market for services. The most important.”

2.26 pm update: ‘France throwing toys out the pram!’ Boris Johnson urged to STOP negotiating with Barnier

Boris Johnson has been urged to walk away from Brexit negotiations after Michel Barnier introduced a punishment clause which could see Britain slapped with trade sanctions if EU fishermen are banned from UK waters.

During a series of private Brussels briefings, the Frenchman accused Downing Street of ‘backtracking’ on its own proposals for a three-year transition period for fishing rights.

While addressing MEPs, Mr. Barnier said Britain would have to face a potential punishment clause with “consequences” for any future decisions to close its fishing grounds to EU vessels.

The Frenchman suggested economic sanctions – such as trade tariffs – could be introduced to counter any such moves by Downing Street.

But Britons have lashed out at Mr. Barnier’s proposed plans with many calling for the Prime Minister to end negotiations now. One reader said: “So Joker Barnier expects the UK to agree to be penalised by the EU unless we guarantee FREE access rights now and in the future.

“What does Barnier not understand about taking back full control and regaining our UK sovereignty?”

A second reader said: “So basically he wants to punish us for controlling our own waters under International law.

“This is not the EU negotiating, this is France throwing its toys out the pram.

“We should refuse to deal with Barnier.”

Hardest hit countries from a no deal Brexit

Hardest hit countries from a no-deal Brexit (Image: Express)

1.52 pm update: Negotiations making slow progress – Simon Coveney 

UK and EU officials have made slow progress this week during negotiations, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said today.

He told RTE: “I think what we’re seeing this week, having had a number of stalls in this process, is slow, but at the same time some, progress.

“My understanding is we’re making some progress in that area the level playing field.

“I think you can take it that because negotiating teams have gone really quiet here, that’s an indication to me that there is a serious if difficult negotiation continuing. I’m still hopeful that can result in a successful outcome agreement.”

1.19 pm update: Leaving without a deal most likely 

During a Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister stated leaving without a deal remains the most likely outcome from talks. 

Although he stated negotiations will continue, gaps still remain between the two sides. 

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister opened Cabinet with an update on the ongoing negotiations with the EU.

“He re-emphasised the desire to reach a free trade agreement – but not at any cost – and reiterated that any agreement must respect the independence and sovereignty of the UK.

“The Prime Minister made clear that not being able to reach an agreement and ending the transition period on Australian-style terms remained the most likely outcome but committed to continuing to negotiate on the remaining areas of disagreement.”

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Brexit LIVE: Major part of deal COLLAPSES – EU says UK talks ‘like climbing Himalayas’

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BREXIT talks have been hit by a major blow after the two sides failed to agree to substantial elements of a deal this week, sparking anger in Brussels.

By Brian McGleenon PUBLISHED: Tue, Dec 15, 2020 | UPDATED: 15:57, Tue, Dec 15, 2020 1064

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Nigel Farage reveals his ‘fear’ over Brexit

As it stands, the issues of fair competition, fisheries, and governance still remain the main areas of divergence between Michel Barnier and Lord David Frost. However, other substantial elements within the deal, such as the Erasmus+ exchange programme have caused talks to stall. Such is the chaos over the matter, one MEP compared negotiating with the UK to “climbing the Himalayas”. 

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A member of the EU Parliament’s UK coordination group, Nathalie Loiseau, said: “We are far from an agreement.

“Nothing is impossible to a willing heart, but it’s like climbing the Himalaya from the northern side.”

Throughout talks, officials have expressed their concern over losing access to the valuable student exchange programme. 

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Education and business leaders had stated the loss of the programme would remove £243million a year in income and cause an estimated 17,000 students to miss out on studying abroad. 

In particular, students from less affluent backgrounds would be the worst hit as they would be unable to fund their travel and expenses without the programme. 

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Overall, the project receives £420million from EU students who study in the UK – after subtracting membership costs it drops to £243million. 

Joe Fitzsimons, the head of education and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “Many employers deeply value the kind of international experience the Erasmus scheme helps foster.

“Given the benefits it can bring students and businesses, maintaining access to Erasmus and wider EU research and education partnerships has been a priority for the IoD from the off.”

On Monday, Mr. Barnier held talks with EU ambassadors to brief them on the current state of affairs before negotiations with Lord Forst reconvened. 

Although gaps still remain, he indicated the UK had backtracked on its demands thus sparking hope a deal could be agreed. 

A UK source later denied that, saying: “The inaccurate briefings from the EU side in recent days have made a difficult discussion even more challenging in the short period of time we have left.”

FOLLOW BELOW FOR LIVE UPDATES:

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3.45 pm update: The UK has signed a £5bn trade deal with Mexico.

The deal is seen as a “stepping stone” to a huge 11-nation trading pact.

The deal will also be seen as a major boost to Boris Johnson’s plans for when the UK has fully cut ties with Brussels.

3.15 pm update: Member of House of Lords urges Boris Johnson to consider the devasting impact of a no-deal on the UK’s services industry.

The member of the House of Lords said the “EU is frankly irreplaceable” in terms of the sector’s trade. 

Nicholas Le Poer Trench said on Tuesday that “services are 80 percent of our GDP and our services trade with Europe makes up 51 percent of our services exports.

“As it stands, Europe is a hugely important market for services. The most important.”

2.26 pm update: ‘France throwing toys out the pram!’ Boris Johnson urged to STOP negotiating with Barnier

Boris Johnson has been urged to walk away from Brexit negotiations after Michel Barnier introduced a punishment clause which could see Britain slapped with trade sanctions if EU fishermen are banned from UK waters.

During a series of private Brussels briefings, the Frenchman accused Downing Street of ‘backtracking’ on its own proposals for a three-year transition period for fishing rights.

While addressing MEPs, Mr. Barnier said Britain would have to face a potential punishment clause with “consequences” for any future decisions to close its fishing grounds to EU vessels.

The Frenchman suggested economic sanctions – such as trade tariffs – could be introduced to counter any such moves by Downing Street.

But Britons have lashed out at Mr. Barnier’s proposed plans with many calling for the Prime Minister to end negotiations now. One reader said: “So Joker Barnier expects the UK to agree to be penalised by the EU unless we guarantee FREE access rights now and in the future.

“What does Barnier not understand about taking back full control and regaining our UK sovereignty?”

A second reader said: “So basically he wants to punish us for controlling our own waters under International law.

“This is not the EU negotiating, this is France throwing its toys out the pram.

“We should refuse to deal with Barnier.”

Hardest hit countries from a no deal Brexit

Hardest hit countries from a no-deal Brexit (Image: Express)

1.52 pm update: Negotiations making slow progress – Simon Coveney 

UK and EU officials have made slow progress this week during negotiations, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said today.

He told RTE: “I think what we’re seeing this week, having had a number of stalls in this process, is slow, but at the same time some, progress.

“My understanding is we’re making some progress in that area the level playing field.

“I think you can take it that because negotiating teams have gone really quiet here, that’s an indication to me that there is a serious if difficult negotiation continuing. I’m still hopeful that can result in a successful outcome agreement.”

1.19 pm update: Leaving without a deal most likely 

During a Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister stated leaving without a deal remains the most likely outcome from talks. 

Although he stated negotiations will continue, gaps still remain between the two sides. 

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister opened Cabinet with an update on the ongoing negotiations with the EU.

“He re-emphasized the desire to reach a free trade agreement – but not at any cost – and reiterated that any agreement must respect the independence and sovereignty of the UK.

“The Prime Minister made clear that not being able to reach an agreement and ending the transition period on Australian-style terms remained the most likely outcome but committed to continuing to negotiate on the remaining areas of disagreement.”

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12.48 pm update: PM’s officials warn Brexit trade talks still ‘difficult’ despite claims deal is close

Boris Johnson’s officials yesterday warned that Brexit trade talks are still “difficult” despite claims from Brussels that a deal is close.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has told European ambassadors that an agreement on future ­relations between the UK and bloc could be reached this week after progress over the weekend.

But tensions were rising again ­yesterday after the EU demanded the power to punish the UK with restrictions on British firms, including car manufacturers, in retaliation for any move to block European fishing fleets from UK coastal waters.

A senior Government source accused the EU of briefing ­“inaccurate” accounts of the latest developments.

The source said: “Talks remain ­difficult and we have not made ­significant progress in recent days, despite efforts by the UK to bring energy and ideas to the process.

“Like any sovereign country, we must have the right to take our own decisions and to choose regulations that suit the UK.

“We can not sign up to dynamic alignment through the back door. The UK cannot be locked into the EU’s regulatory orbit.”

11.48 am update: Ben Habib hits out at EU

Commenting on a piece by former BBC man, Andrew Neil, the former Brexit Party insisted the EU is “not a liberal democracy”. 

He added: “The EU is not a liberal democracy; it does not practice market economics; and, it only applies its laws when it suits it.

“Worrying you would think as you do.”

EU losses from hard Brexit

EU losses from hard Brexit (Image: Express)

11.38 am update: Try your worst, Michel! Fishing chief says UK in control even if EU forces through no deal

A fishing chief has backed Boris Johnson’s Brexit approach, claiming the UK would thrive even in a no-deal Brexit.

Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, said the fishing industry was not concerned about a no-deal Brexit. I

Mr. Park admitted the Association would prefer an agreement on fisheries within a wider trade deal under a framework agreement but said the UK would remain in control even under no deal.

The fishing boss said: “In terms of the larger vessels that benefit from greater shares of regulated stocks, we would immediately move into coastal state negotiations where hopefully we could negotiate greater shares of those stocks on the basis that we give other people access to the water, so there’s no change in terms of what it means for the sector that fishes your cod, your haddock, and other stocks.

“In terms of these larger vessels, we have no concerns because we think we can seek a good deal through the avenue which is the international norm where you sit down and negotiate with your neighbours in terms of who gets access to where and what they can catch so we think.

“In that aspect, a no-deal is no worse than getting a deal through a fisheries framework agreement.”

Brexit news: Michel Barnier briefed ambassadors on Monday

Brexit news: Michel Barnier briefed ambassadors on Monday (Image: PA)

10.54 am update: Brexit deal could be struck within days 

A diplomat from the EU stated a deal could be struck although any deal could fall throw at the last minute. 

They said: “Patient still alive but keep the undertaker on speed dial.”

Both Michel Barnier and Ursula von der Leyen had stated talks have progressed to the final stages. 

A spokesman for the UK said: “The PM’s words that no-deal remains the most likely outcome stand.”

10.22 am update: Widdecombe rages at Boris’s no deal bluff and warns of “massive Brexit trade deal fudge”

Boris Johnson has been issued a stern warning by Brexiteer Ann Widdecombe who insisted the Prime Minister has “no excuse” to not see Brexit through.

The former Brexit Party MEP insisted that Britons are counting on Boris Johnson to deliver Brexit on December 31 after negotiations were extended on the weekend.

Speaking on Farage LIVE, Ann Widdecombe said: “People do forgive him. I think part of that is due to his opposition being so appalling weak.

“If people think that Boris is weak well, Keir Starmer is hardly there at all.

“Part of it is that but the other part is people desperately want to believe in Boris.

“They think he’s the real thing. He’s very different from previous Prime Ministers.

“They want to believe in Boris. I used to believe in Boris and I really hoped that he would see this through when he got his majority of 80 after all, he’s got no excuse not to see it through.”

Brexit: Ann Widdecombe criticizes Boris Johnson’s negotiations
ttps://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1372608/Brexit-news-latest-brexit-deal-michel-barnier-david-frost-fisheries-no-deal-boris-johnson?utm_source=express_newsletter&utm_campaign=politics_newsletter2&utm_medium=email&jwsource=cl

9.38 am update: Brexit fisheries chaos as Dutch warn ‘many will go bankrupt’ without UK waters

Brexit has caused concern in the Netherlands as its fishermen warn many will go bankrupt if the country can no longer fish in UK waters.

A no-deal Brexit could cause disruption for fishermen on both sides of the English Channel, but Dutch fishermen have previously expressed concern over the long term impacts of the UK’s departure.

Dutch skipper Cor Vonk said in 2019 that “many will go bankrupt” in the Netherlands if access to UK waters is ended.

He said: “It’s really a disaster for the fishermen, as 50 percent of their turnover is caught in British waters. So for the Dutch fishermen, it’s really a tragedy if the British waters are closed.

“We’re talking about 500 to 600 families left in the drink. Many fishermen will go bankrupt, and perhaps us too.”

8.47 am update: Boris Johnson to launch post-Brexit trade drive 

The Prime Minister will travel to India in January 2021 in order to boost trade ties with the country. 

it will be his first bilateral visit since taking office and will mark a year where the UK will hold the G7 and UN climate change summits. 

Mr. Johnson said: “I am absolutely delighted to be visiting India next year at the start of an exciting year for Global Britain, and look forward to delivering the quantum leap in our bilateral relationship that Prime Minister Modi and I have pledged to achieve.

“As a key player in the Indo-Pacific region, India is an increasingly indispensable partner for the United Kingdom as we work to boost jobs and growth, confront shared threats to our security and protect our planet.”

Brexit endgame

Brexit endgame (Image: Express)

8.31 am update: EU must move!

Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay has claimed the EU must change its position if a deal is to be reached. 

He told Sky News: “The discussions are ongoing. The fundamentals remain the same.

“It is in both sides’ interest to have a deal. That is what the Prime Minister has committed to.

“The Prime Minister is battling for Britain. And whether there is a deal is not simply down to the actions of the Prime Minister, it needs the EU to move to respond.”

7.47 am update: French fishermen vow to blockade Channel as no-deal Brexit could spark “warlike” scenes

French fishermen have threatened to blockade Dover and Calais if there is a no-deal Brexit – warning it could spark “warlike” scenes in the English Channel.

Trawlermen warned they would disrupt the flow of ferries carrying vital goods in response to being shut out of Britain’s fishing grounds.

A union baron said Britain’s threat to send gunboats to police the UK’s coastal waters “would mean that we are negotiating things that relate to war”.

Downing Street is still claiming a no-deal Brexit is the “most likely” outcome for the trade talks.

Dimitri Rogoff, president of Normandy’s regional fisheries committee, claimed the move would see Dutch, Belgian and German ships flocking into French waters.

He said: “If we are deprived of our fishing grounds, we will not watch the British supply the French market.

“There will therefore be blockages to ferries, since this mainly happens by ferries. And on that, we are quite clear and determined.”

Brexit news: Fisheries

Brexit news: Fisheries (Image: Express)

7.19 am update: “Negotiating with the UK like trying to climb the Himalayas” 

The areas of divergence remain between the two sides but now talks have failed to reach an agreement on the valuable Erasmus+ programme. 

The project generates £243million a year for the UK and allows an estimated 17,000 students to continue their education abroad. 

On Monday, Mr. Barnier concluded the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on the programme. 

Following the news of the deadlock, MEP Nathalie Loiseau and member of European Parliament’s UK coordination group said: “We are far from an agreement.

“There are indeed other points than the level playing field, governance, and fisheries which remain to be solved.

“Nothing is impossible to a willing heart, but it’s like climbing the Himalaya from the northern side.”

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Bill Barr has resigned. But did he jump or was he pushed?

By Andrew Feinberg


Russia denies claims it was responsible for massive hacking campaign targeting US government and private companiesTony-winning choreographer, actress Ann Reinking dies at 71

Just moments after California’s 55 electoral votes officially made Joe Biden the President-elect of the United States, the man he will replace in 37 days reacted the same way he did after voters dealt him a severe rebuke at the ballot box two years ago: he forced out an Attorney General who’d refused to violate longstanding Department of Justice policies for his political benefit.

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© Provided by The Independent – Bill Barr has resigned. But did he jump or was he pushed?
Will he be remembered for this act, or for his bending over for Trump

“Just had a very nice meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House. Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!” Trump tweeted, adding that Barr would be leaving just before Christmas to “spend the holidays with his family” (a familiar Washington bromide long used to paper over the reason for many a resignation).

An accompanying resignation letter revealed that Barr had spent part of the meeting endeavouring “to update [Trump] on the Department’s review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election and how these allegations will continue to be pursued” (Barr recently told the Associated Press that no fraud has been found) and noted that he was “greatly honored” to have had an opportunity to serve once again as Attorney General, a position he previously held during the second half of the George HW Bush administration. After devoting several paragraphs to praising the president, Barr closed the missive by noting that his second stint as the nation’s top law enforcement officer will come to an end on December 23.

While multiple news outlets had in recent days reported that Barr had planned to stay on through the end of Trump’s term, in the same manner, he had done with the elder President Bush, he, like his predecessor Jeff Sessions, had lost Trump’s confidence because of a refusal to cross an ethical line.

Sessions had spent nearly all of his two-year tenure at the helm of the Justice Department as a hate object for the president and his supporters, thanks to his decision to follow the counsel of career ethics experts who advised him that as a former adviser to Trump’s 2016 effort, he was required to recuse himself from any matter which might involve the president’s campaign.

But what line was it that pushed Trump’s patience with one of his most trusted advisers and loyal soldiers beyond its breaking point?  

The same line that former FBI Director James Comey may have gotten Trump elected by crossing just over four years ago.

It was Comey who upended the 2016 race on October 28 of that year by revealing, in a letter to Congress, that the Bureau had reopened the long-running investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server after finding a cache of emails on a laptop belonging to the husband of a Clinton adviser in the course of an unrelated probe. A second letter, sent three days before the November 9 election, alerted Congress that FBI would not be changing its recommendation that Clinton not be charged with any crimes, but after nine days of non-stop media coverage of the first letter, the damage was done.

Six months later, in a memo to Sessions, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein noted that numerous former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General had strongly decried Comey’s pre-election actions broke with longstanding rules requiring the department to refrain from any announcements or overt actions which could impact an election within 60 to 90 days of Election Day. It was that breach of protocol (and others) that formed the backbone of Rosenstein’s (largely pretextual, as it turned out) recommendation that Trump fire Comey.

During his tenure, Barr has been a willing lightning rod for criticism by legal experts and former DOJ officials who’ve slammed what they say has been a willingness on his part to politicize the Justice Department to serve Trump’s goals, including issuing a statement about former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign that largely downplayed its findings, overriding career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations for Trump confidante Roger Stone, and pushing to drop charges against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Yet in the end, there was one line Barr would not cross: he would not put his thumb on the scales by publicly revealing that his department has been investigating whether Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, has violated any federal tax laws.  

According to The Wall Street Journal, an investigation into the younger Biden’s taxes had been underway for some time, but Barr had laboured to keep it under wraps in compliance with that longstanding policy.

During a Saturday interview with Fox News, Trump said that he was “disappointed” in Barr’s decision, and lamented that the soon-to-be former AG “should have stepped up”.

But Trump, who has boasted of not needing to read, might have seen Barr’s adherence to tradition coming had he done a bit of research on him.

In 1992, as the elder President Bush was locked in a fierce re-election battle against then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, whose involvement in a failed Arkansas land deal was coming under FBI investigation.

When FBI officials appeared to pressure then-Arkansas US Attorney Charles Banks into taking steps (such as issuing subpoenas) that would have become public before Election Day, Banks pushed back, writing:  “Neither I personally nor this office will participate in any phase of such an investigation … prior to November 3, 1992.”

“For me personally to participate in an investigation that I know will or could easily lead to the above scenario and to the possible denial of rights due to the targets, subjects, witnesses, or defendants is inappropriate. I believe it amounts to prosecutorial misconduct and violates the most basic fundamental rule of Department of Justice policy,” he wrote.

The investigation did not become public knowledge until after Clinton had defeated Bush (who remained the most recent one-term president until Biden’s victory over Trump), but three years later when irate Republicans on a Senate committee looking into the deal asked Barr about Banks’ decision (which they implied may have cost Bush the election) Barr said he knew of “no basis for questioning” it.

“There are cases where the role of the sensitive figure is such that you wouldn’t think that they would really be ultimately tied up in a thing as subjects or targets, and you would want to assure that the case does not play a role in the election process by assuring that there are no public steps taken,” Barr said during a 1995 deposition under oath. “Based on what I knew … this would fall in that category.”

When the same situation presented itself a quarter-century later, Barr did the same thing.

In his resignation letter, Barr said “it is incumbent on all levels of government … to do all we can to assure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in their outcome.”

It may have cost him 37 more days on the job, but by remaining consistent in following this one area of Justice Department policy, Barr may have done exactly that. Read More

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Why Trump’s latest Electoral College ploy is doomed to fail

By NICHOLAS RICCARDI, Associated Press 


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Even as President-elect Joe Biden’s victory was affirmed by the Electoral College on Monday, Republican electors supporting President Donald Trump met in a handful of battleground states won by Biden and tried to appoint themselves as “alternate electors” that could keep the president in office.

Electoral College elector Robin Smith, left, and others clap after casting their votes for President of the United States at the state Capitol, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, Pool)

© Provided by Associated Press Electoral College elector Robin Smith, left, and others clap after casting their votes for President of the United States at the state Capitol, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, Pool)

Would that deny Biden his presidency? In a word, no. The competing slates were just the latest effort by Trump and his allies to use the complex machinery of U.S. presidential elections to sow confusion and doubt about Biden’s victory.

Here’s an explanation of what really happened:

CAN THESE “ALTERNATE ELECTORS” CHANGE THE OUTCOME OF THE ELECTION?

Again, no. Biden won the election. Biden won more votes than Trump in 25 states and the District of Columbia, amassing a total of 306 electors. Those results have been certified, and the governor in each state signed off on a group of electors pledged to vote for the winner. That’s who voted Monday. The Republican “electors” were not designated by any state official and have no legal status yet.

The next step is on Jan. 6, when both chambers of Congress meet and accept the electors’ votes. A handful of Republicans in the House have already signaled they plan to object to this. They need to find a Republican senator to potentially force a vote in Congress.

But the existence of that alternative slate doesn’t change the facts in Washington — Democrats control the House and aren’t going to overturn Biden’s election by rejecting his electors. Trump quite simply doesn’t have the votes to change anything.

Even in the GOP-controlled Senate, enough Republican senators have signaled objections to Trump’s attempts to overturn the election to make it very unlikely that the chamber would select his alternate slate of “electors” over the Biden ones the battleground states are sending.

If, somehow, the Senate did vote for the rival electors, the deadlock wouldn’t necessarily help Trump. Federal law provides for electors appointed by a state’s governor to win any split decisions in Congress. The governors of all the contested states won by Biden, Democratic and Republican, appointed electors for Biden.

The existence of the rival slates does have a technical impact though — Congress will likely have to go through the motions of rejecting them, said Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University.

“They’re dead on arrival and will be treated as frivolous and hardly worth the time of day,” Foley said.

Steven Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, tweeted: “Don’t be distracted by these preposterous mock electoral votes—they don’t change how (asterisk)anything(asterisk) is going to unfold, since congressional Republicans could’ve objected (asterisk)without(asterisk) them. Either way, without a House majority, all Rs can do is slow the counting down on 1/6—not stop it.”

Vladeck added: “That doesn’t mean they’re not offensive; they are. But they don’t—and aren’t going to—change any of the legal calculus going forward.”

HAS ANYTHING LIKE THIS EVER HAPPENED BEFORE?

Yes, actually. In the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, Hawaii’s Republican governor certified a Republican slate of electors after the initial count had Nixon winning the state by about 100 votes. But Democratic electors met anyway and insisted that Kennedy would win an ongoing recount.

The Democrats were right, and when it came time for Congress to consider which group of electors to count, it chose the Democratic one. It was Nixon himself, who was presiding over Congress as the outgoing vice president, who made the decision.

Pennsylvania’s alternate slate of Republican electors even cited the 1960 Hawaii case in a press release Monday, saying they were simply following Hawaii Democrats’ lead. “We took this procedural vote to preserve any legal claims that may be presented going forward,” said Bernie Comfort, Pennsylvania chair of the Trump campaign. “This was in no way an effort to usurp or contest the will of the Pennsylvania voters.”

Still, there’s an obvious difference — the outcome of the Hawaii election was actually unclear when the rival slates were appointed. Biden won Pennsylvania by 80,000 votes, and every court challenge the Trump campaign and its allies filed to contest has failed. Hawaii’s governor ended up sending both slates of electors to Congress. Pennsylvania’s governor is only sending Biden’s.

Under federal law, if there’s a tie between the two chambers of Congress, the slates sent by governors will be declared the winner. That’s the ultimate guarantee the pro-Trump slates will lose because none were endorsed by governors on Monday.

The other historical example is the election of 1876, where three states saw both parties submit rival slates of electors as having won their states. That chaos is what led to the federal law laying out the procedure for Congress to accept or reject rival slates of electors, which is what will lead to any “alternates” being rejected.

IF IT CAN’T WORK, WHY ARE TRUMP SUPPORTERS DOING THIS?

It’s unclear. Trump and his allies have spent the past several weeks pursuing legal challenges that have virtually no chance of succeeding. But as he loses at each step, Trump has succeeded in convincing many Republicans that the election was flawed and that he was robbed of a second term. He’s also raising millions of dollars. That money will likely keep coming in even if there’s no chance of his latest gambit working.

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Electoral College elector Robin Smith, left, and others clap after casting their votes for President of the United States at the state Capitol, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, Pool)

A historic moment, like many others – electors cast their votes…

TMR: The day regarded in several states as historic, culminating a historical election, though not yet quite complete and still among threats of ‘civil war’.

Electoral College elector Robin Smith, left, and others clap after casting their votes for President of the United States at the state Capitol, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, Pool)
© Provided by Associated Press Electoral College elector Robin Smith, left, and others clap after casting their votes for President of the United States at the state Capitol, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, Pool)

See more of the process…

Joe Biden (left) – Donald Trump (right)

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Trump World Is A Cult. Can Its Followers Be Saved?

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by Mara Santilli  

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Trump World Is A Cult. Can Its Followers Be Saved?

It’s been over a month since US Election Day, and other than surreptitiously greenlighting the transition to the Biden administration, neither Donald Trump nor his inner circle (nor many of his supporters) have publicly acknowledged the results of the vote. There are a variety of narratives that Trump World™ has perpetuated to explain the loss, including voter fraud, and followers are not only buying them, but are also spreading even more nonsensical theories online. 

A relentless acceptance of blatant lies coupled with unconditional support of a leader are classic symptoms of cult-like behaviour. Perhaps Sen. Bernie Sanders described it best: “The GOP has ceased to be a political party. It is now a cult.” 

While some might be tempted to dismiss this rhetoric as mere hyperbole, several key aspects of cults — including a charismatic authoritarian leader and an extremist ideology — are present in Trump’s case, explains Janja Lalich, Ph.D., cult researcher, professor emerita of sociology at California State University, Chico, and author of Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults. And research published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology backs up Lalich’s claims: Trump’s fear-mongering and inflammatory statements, especially toward marginalised groups, reinforces social hierarchy and skews toward authoritarianism, the study states. Lalich also says that while she doesn’t see concrete evidence of a formal indoctrination program in Trump’s supporters, she does “see the blind followership that we see in cults, and the resistance to counter-information.” 

Cults, Lalich explains, thrive on enforcing a punishment-and-rewards system among members. This is evident within Trump’s circle of political loyalists (looking at you, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Rudy Giuliani) and the endless revolving door of White House administration members. There are rewards and recognition for those who praise him, like Kellyanne Conway, who rose to fame as the voice of “alternative facts” after leading a successful campaign for Trump. And then there are the punishments: the Apprentice-like firing of staff members who speak out against the leader in any way, and the recent police raid on the home of a scientist who published COVID numbers. Plus, Trump’s leadership enables figures like McConnell to wield their power by advancing policy in the Senate, and then sneaking in a confirmation of the next Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett, before the election. Lalich points out that this works in two ways for a Trump lackey like McConnell; he attains power for himself and serves the leader’s agenda. 

The punishment-and-rewards system applies to Trump’s family as well. Most of his adult children, specifically Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, have roles in their father’s political sphere, so there’s power they can gain from participation, along with financial gain. Nepotism seems to be a uniting thread among cult-like, authoritarian leaders; Kim Jong Un’s family in North Korea is notorious for that, says Lalich.

Beyond the inner circle of a cult, there’s what Lalich calls the “outer rung,” explaining: “They’re the very necessary supporters who lend legitimacy to the cult.”  In this case, Trump’s corporate donors and Republican politicians who neither fully endorse nor disavow Trump’s tyrannical behaviour, can be considered part of the outer rung; their tacit support of the cult gives them economic and political influence, according to Lalich. By refusing to condemn  Trump’s authoritarianism, blatant white supremacy, xenophobia, misogyny, and lies, they are complicit in it. 

Religion and spirituality also play an important role in Trump’s ascent to and hold on power, as well. Glorifying himself as Christ-like has become normalised; at a recent rally, Trump claimed that “only Jesus Christ is more famous than him,” and his son Eric remarked that his father has “saved Christianity”. These ideas of a leader being some kind of second-coming of a Christ figure or other prophetic figure are also typical of cultic structure, Lalich says. Trump’s loyal followers run the gamut from evangelical Christians, who seem to take comfort in the idea of him as a Christ figure, to some people who believe in New Age philosophies, who have referred to Donald Trump as a “light worker”.  The New Age movement perpetuates the idea that “you create your own reality, and it doesn’t have to match anyone else’s reality,” says Dr. Lalich, which makes it easy to see why some followers would be comfortable with Trump and pro-Trump conspiracy theories. Certain factions of the New Age spiritual and wellness communities are also coming to Trump by way of conspiracy theories like QAnon (which is where Charlotte Ward’s term conspirituality comes into play). Influencers who pander to those groups, like yogi Krystal Tini, to the tune of 147,000 followers, have espoused both QAnon-related rhetoric and anti-vax and COVID-related misinformation

This embrace of false information really does trickle down from groups that spew dangerous conspiracy theories and into the general population. Disinformation has been a central tenet to Trump’s entire campaign and presidency, and has given rise to QAnon — a cult in its own right. The QAnon conspiracy theory-turned-movement asserts that Trump is the saviour who can bust the alleged liberal-sanctioned pedophile ring headquartered in a Washington, D.C., pizza shop (hence, PizzaGate). While these theories sound beyond belief to many, experts say that, for those who adhere to them, they are a way to make sense of a chaotic world. But in this search for deeper meaning, many conspiracy theorists tend to fall down a rabbit hole that’s difficult to escape. 

Cult psychology is known for its “all or nothing” approach, in that there are implications if you denounce or leave the cult — a system of punishments and rewards kicks in. “Individuals who are members of cults and gangs may be completely ostracised, abused, or even killed if they do not recite and ultimately believe racial rhetoric and ideology,” says Leela Magavi, M.D., a psychiatrist and Regional Medical Director for Community Psychiatry in Southern California. The more deeply followers get involved in the cult or conspiracy theory, the trickier it is to find their way out. That’s how they may find themselves willing to die for their leader, another terrifying aspect of cults and one apparently invoked by the Arizona Republican Party recently.

While dying for Trump is probably not on the agenda of most members of his cult, their collective fate following his electoral loss is unclear. “If we liken it to what happens when a cult leader dies or a cult breaks up, factions will develop; some people will rally around the leader, and try to get him to run again for office, while others work on their own political ambitions,” Lalich says. Some people may still view Trump as the “second coming” and try to keep that idea alive, and other supporters will likely continue promoting the QAnon theories. There may even be some former supporters of Trump or of QAnon who see the light and leave the cult, or at least fall away from it when they stop seeing Trump occupying their screens every single day, Lalich added.Or maybe not. Trump’s tweets about winning the election and his attempts to overturn the results are both pathetic and unsuccessful with the country-at-large, but he still has millions of followers who believe in him, including many who have been tormenting election officials in states like Michigan and Georgia. This means that he has a built-in audience for more than just Twitter — maybe even enough for his own television network, where he can grow his base in a new, terrifying way.

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