Very British coup condemned by Johnson’s critics

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  • Euractiv.com

29.08.2019.

NEIL HALL / EPA

Boris Johnson, prime minister of United Kingdom

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LONDON

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced down critics from across the political spectrum yesterday, after requesting the Queen to approve a temporary dissolution of Parliament, which Her Majesty, following precedent, approved.

The move came just over two months ahead of the UK’s planned departure date from the EU, and will narrow the window of opportunity for MPs to prevent Johnson from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal.

Parliament will be suspended from September 10 until October 14, when the Queen’s speech will be delivered – setting out the agenda of the new government.

EURACTIV understands that not all Cabinet Ministers were aware of the UK PM’s intentions to request the intervention of the Queen, which provoked outcry both from Johnson’s political opponents and from some in his own party.

A Westminster source also informed EURACTIV that the mood amongst backbench Tory MPs is “highly divergent” – with some reacting with approval and others openly criticising Johnson’s bid to stifle opposition to his Brexit intentions.

Former Chancellor and MP Phillip Hammond condemned the measures as a “constitutional outrage” and “profoundly undemocratic.”

The pro-EU MP Anna Soubry, who had previously rebelled against the government’s Brexit stance and left the Conservative Party to form a new group in the Commons, accused Johnson of “abusing the Queen and putting her in a very difficult position.”

Moreover, in a highly unusual move, the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, also intervened in the debate, saying that it is “blindingly obvious” that Johnson’s intention was to “stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country.”

Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party also weighed in, calling Johnson a “tin pot dictator” while the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell called the plans a “very British coup.”

Meanwhile, letters to the palace from both the Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn fell on deaf ears.

Corbyn confirmed on Wednesday that the Labour Party would table legislation next week to prevent Johnson closing Parliament, as well as presenting a motion of no confidence in the government. His stance, however, provoked a reaction from across the Atlantic, with US President Donald Trump saying that it “would be very hard” for Corbyn to seek a no-confidence vote.

The effect of Johnson’s dissolution of Parliament will be a significant reduction in the number of days MPs sit in the Commons, leading up to the Brexit withdrawal date.

However, the UK Prime Minister said on Wednesday that there would be “ample time” on both sides of the European Council summit on October 17, “for MPs to debate the EU and Brexit.”

In Brussels, a source associated with the Brexit Taskforce in the European Commission informed EURACTIV that the department’s “working assumption is that Brexit happens on 31 October.”

The source added, however, that the “sooner [a deal is agreed], the better.”

(Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com)

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BERLIN

Nitrate pollution. German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner met with Environment Commissioner Karmelu Vella on 28 August to discuss the continued breach of the EU’s nitrates directive. The EU executive said Germany is on the right track but that planned measures must be worked out more precisely and, above all, much more quickly. “There will be stricter measures,” Klöckner said. The new rules meant “very, very great efforts for farmers”, she added. (Claire Stam,EURACTIV.de)

>>Read more about the topic:EU close to fining Germany over nitrate pollution

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PARIS 

Goulard hopes for economic porfolio. The Macron government hopes that Commission nominee Sylvie Goulard’s experience of EU lawmaking at the height of the eurozone crisis will enable her to secure a prominent economic portfolio, After being a prominent member of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs committee for eight years, Goulard has been a governor at Banque de France for the last two years since being forced to resign as Macron’s defence minister. Read more (EURACTIV.fr) 

MADRID

Political deadlock blocks funding. Spain’s State lawyer has said that an acting executive is not allowed to provide extra financing for the autonomous communities and regions. On Tuesday, Spain’s State Lawyer sent a letter to the Ministry of Finance explaining that it is illegal to unlock funds (in this specific case: advanced payments), amounting to €5 billion, for the autonomous communities, due to the current political stalemate, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

Despite the claims of the Catalonia region and the demands of the conservative Popular Party (PP) to allow the unlocking of such funds, Spain’s State Lawyer reminded that an acting government has “limited” powers and cannot take decisions that could affect the performance of a (future) new government.

Several autonomous governments in Spain have voiced their concerns against the political stalemate and the lack of a proper national budget, which is forcing them to cut public spending. Acting Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, has promised to find an “interim” solution.(EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

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ROME

Toward a new government. At the end of the second round of talks with President Sergio Mattarella, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment Five Star Movement announced they will make an attempt to form a new ruling coalition in the next few days. Today (29 August), Giuseppe Conte is set to meet President Mattarella and receive a fresh mandate to present his executive’s team, likely to be at the beginning of next week.

However, the two parties, who have long been rivals, have so far only agreed that outgoing premier Giuseppe Conte should be prime minister, without facing issues such as parties’ picks for other top government jobs or drafting a common government platform.(Gerardo Fortuna, EURACTIV.com)

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ATHENS 

Greek PM in Berlin. Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Finance Minister Christos Staikouras are visiting Berlin today to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Olaf Scholtz to present the new government’s reforms and their plan to attract foreign direct investments. The Cabinet yesterday approved an Investment Bill aimed at cutting bureaucracy, reducing investment obstacles and accelerating companies’ licensing. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

Measles re-appear. Meanwhile, Athens is alarmed by fresh data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggesting that Greece no longer belongs to the group of countries, where measles is considered eliminated. The group includes the UK, Albania and the Czech Republic.

NICOSIA

Minimum wage? Labour Minister Zeta Aimilianidou has said that for some low-income hospitality workers a minimum wage will be regulated by law. The Cypriot government is in contact with ILO and the European Commission in testing various scenarios for the implementation of a national minimum wage.(Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

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WARSAW

New polls ahead of October elections. According to Polish pollster Marcin Palade, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS/ECR) party got the highest average support in August (45%) followed by the European Coalition (30%), which consists of Civic Platform (PO/EPP) and some minor parties, while the newly formed leftist bloc got 12%. The right-wing Polish People’s Party (PSL/EPP) comes fourth with 6.5%, while far-right Konfederacja 4.5%. This means that if elections were held today, PiS would obtain a majority in the Polish parliament.  (Łukasz Gadzała), EURACTIV.pl)

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BRATISLAVA

Ready to block Mercosur. Slovak Minister of Agriculture Gabriela Matečná (SNS) is ready to block the Mercosur trade deal. “The reason is food scandals from the past, low quality and safety standards of food, but most importantly the devastation of Amazon’s rainforests,” the ministry has said. Matečná said Brazil’s stance on the issue was “unacceptable” and called on the EU to use all means at its disposal, including economic pressure, to change this approach.

Slovakia has its own problems with deforestation, due to excessive and sometimes unlawful logging. Matečná recently refused to suspend the logging even temporarily, saying the deforestation is caused by climate change. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk)

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PRAGUE

Czechs eye digital economy or foreign trade. “We debated several options [of EU Commission portfolios], but I cannot speak about them publicly,” said Czech candidate for the new Commission, and current Commissioner, Vera Jourova following a meeting with the future Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen. Jourova is currently in charge of Justice, Consumer Rights and Gender Equality portfolio and would like to move on to digital economy or foreign trade. According to PM Andrej Babis, Czechs are interested in the post of EC vice-president and a strong economic portfolio. (Ondřej Plevák, EURACTIV.cz)

>>Check the latest developments on the next EU Commission here.

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BUCHAREST

Pressure for a confidence vote. President Klaus Iohannis refused PM Viorica Dancila’s request to name new ministers, saying the proposals put forward by the socialist party PSD were unacceptable. Iohannis said the government needs to get a new confidence vote in the parliament as its structure has now changed, following the decision of junior partner ALDE to leave the governing coalition. If PSD doesn’t get the Parliament approval, there are still democratic and constitutional solutions for Romania to avoid a crisis, said Iohannis. Dancila hit back, saying the government will try to get the necessary support from the parliament to carry on its mandate and criticised the president for his “electoral” attitude.(EURACTIV.ro)

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SOFIA

Von de Leyen to Bulgaria. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov will receive on Thursday Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, the government’s press service has announced. The two will reportedly discuss European and world affairs. Regarding the Bulgarian nominee for Commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, Borissov has repeatedly said he would like a “modern” portfolio for her, mentioning the digital economy, IT technologies and cybersecurity. (Georgi Gotev, EURACTIV.com)

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ZAGREB

GDP slows down. In the second quarter of 2019, the Croatian economy increased by 2.4%, significantly slower than the first quarter (3.9%).  PM Andrej Plenković said it was good news, pointing out that the government is doing everything to strengthen the economy’s resilience to a possible new recession. However, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić warned about the high import dependency of the Croatian economy. More on novac.hr. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr 

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BELGRADE

Serbian PM with Borrell. According to Serbian PM Ana Brnabi, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said that when he becomes the new EU diplomacy chief, for which he is the nominee, one of his priorities would be the final resolution of the Kosovo issue. She said Borrell’s appointment would be a “good move for the EU, not because of Serbia’s views, but rather because Brussels needs fewer bureaucrats and more direct and brave people like Borrell.” (beta.rsEURACTIV.rs)

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SARAJEVO

Non-vaccinated with measles. Only eight of 866 Sarajevo Canton residents who were diagnosed with measles since the beginning of the year were vaccinated, according to the Public Healthcare Institute, reports N1. (Željko Trkanjec, Euractiv.hr)

 

[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Benjamin Fox]

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