- Queen Elizabeth II granted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request to suspend British Parliament ahead of Brexit, with critics saying Johnson’s action is an attempt to keep parliament from barring a no-deal Brexit.
- While some like U.S. President Donald Trump expressed support for Johnson, others took to the street and social media in protest, including actor Hugh Grant who tweeted at the PM saying, “Fuck off you over-promoted rubber bath toy. Britain is revolted by you and you little gang of masturbatory prefects.“
- Shortly after the announced prorogue, two members of Johnson’s Conservative Party resigned.
Outrage after Parliament Suspended
After Queen Elizabeth II agreed to suspend — or “prorogue” — British Parliament per Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request, some lawmakers responded by resigning and others vowed to challenge the move in court.
In a letter, Johnson said he ordered the prorogue to give his government time to lay out a “new bold and ambitious domestic agenda” after Brexit; however, many critics say it is an attempt by Johnson to prevent parliament from blocking a “no-deal” Brexit. Johnson has touted that he will remove the United Kingdom from the European Union by October 31 with or without a deal.
On Wednesday, Johnson announced the suspension following the Queen’s approval. Because the Queen must remain politically neutral, it would have been seen as an unusual move for her to deny his request, but it is also a formality for the prime minister to ask the Queen before proroguing parliament.
Though parliament was already scheduled to enter a three-and-a-half week recess on September 16, the prorogue will add another week to the recess.
The move now further limits the time members of parliament have to negotiate a deal or to block Johnson’s no-deal, but some are expected to still make an attempt to introduce legislation blocking a no-deal.
The move also comes after some had speculated that parliament might have tried to cancel the initial recess to allow more time to talk about Brexit. Historically, parliament usually convenes in times of national crisis.
Additionally, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would try to block the prorogue with legislation. So far, there’s already been an attempt in the Scottish courts to reverse the suspension, a move predicted by some in Johnson’s own Conservative Party.
Others in the opposition Labour Party have described the move as unconstitutional.
Corbyn has also said he plans to hold a vote of no confidence against Johnson, a move condemned by President Donald Trump.
“Would be very hard for Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, to seek a no-confidence vote against New Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” Trump said, “especially in light of the fact that Boris is exactly what the U.K. has been looking for, & will prove to be “a great one!” Love U.K.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, also defended Johnson, saying, “I don’t think there is any attempt to railroad,” and calling the backlash the “candyfloss of outrage.”
Johnson’s move resulted in a variety of other consequences, including the resignation of two lawmakers within Johnson’s party.
Thursday, Scotland’s Conservative Party Leader Ruth Davidson resigned, pointing to the birth of her son as one of her main reasons. Notably, however, she did mention feeling conflicted over Brexit. Thus, many news outlets in the U.K. interpreted her timing as a nod to the prorogue.
George Young, Baron of Cookham and junior whip, likewise resigned. Unlike Davidson, he pegged his resignation directly at the prorogue.
In a letter, he said Johnson “risks undermining the fundamental role of Parliament at a critical time in our history, and reinforces the view that the government may not have the confidence of the House for its Brexit policy.”
Protests to the Suspension
Many citizens have also protested the move, both in the streets and online. In front of Johnson’s home at 10 Downing Street, protesters hurled chants such as “No one voted for Boris” and “Stop the coup.”
Online, the hashtag #stopthecoup circulated, with people pointing to a past statement by Johnson saying he wouldn’t suspend parliament. In that statement, he described such an action as “arcane.”
“This isn’t about left, right, centre, leave or remain,” one Twitter user said. “This is about ensuring that democracy can never be put on pause when an unelected politician finds it inconvenient.”
While people chanted “No one voted for Boris,” Johnson did assume the prime minister role after beating Jeremy Hunt in elections in July. Those elections, however, consisted only of votes from Conservative Party members, with Johnson gathering about 92,000 of 139,000 votes.
Actor Hugh Grant also leveled insults against Johnson, blasting him in a Twitter post.
“You will not fuck with my children’s future,” Grant said. “You will not destroy the freedoms my grandfather fought two world wars to defend. Fuck off you over-promoted rubber bath toy. Britain is revolted by you and you little gang of masturbatory prefects.”
The U.K. laid the groundwork for Brexit following a referendum in June 2016, where 52% of voters chose to leave the E.U. In total, 72% of registered voters participated in the referendum.
The following day, then-Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would resign. Theresa May then assumed the role.
May planned to take the U.K. out of the E.U. by March 2019, but she failed three times in parliament. The first vote easily failed in January, with the other two occurring in March.
Largely, those votes failed because of a dispute over the border between the independent Republic of Ireland and the UK-controlled Northern Ireland. Many conservative MP’s feared the current agreement with the U.K. — known as a backstop, where Northern Ireland’s seamless border would largely be maintained — would allow the E.U. to hold too much power over the U.K.
May later asked for an extension to the E.U. exit agreement. The E.U. then extended that agreement until October 31.
In June, May resigned as prime minister, citing her failure to launch a Brexit deal. Johnson then took on the role in July, vowing the country would leave by the intended October 31 date.
Johnson ran his election on a platform that he would argue a new deal with the E.U. The E.U. then said it would not change the deal. Though Johnson has said he would prefer to leave with a deal, he contends he will leave with a no-deal if one is not reached.
Experts warn that a no-deal could lead to shortages of food, gas, and medicine. Economists also fear a no-deal could tank the economy.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (New York Times) (The Guardian)
Saudi Arabia To Require Vaccine for Hajj Pilgrims
- Saudi Arabia will require all pilgrims participating in the Hajj this year to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to local media.
- The Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime if they are physically or financially able to.
- Many believe the inoculation requirement may help allay suspicions over vaccines within certain Muslim communities.
- Those suspicions have persisted despite Muslim leaders clarifying that there are no theological problems with taking any of the COVID-19 vaccines available.
COVID-19 Vaccines for Pilgrims
Saudi Arabia’s health ministry will only allow people vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend the Hajj this year, according to local outlet Okaz.
The Hajj is a mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca for all Muslims at least once in their lifetime – assuming they are physically and financially able to. However, requiring a vaccine before taking part in the Hajj isn’t a new thing. In fact, Saudi Arabia already has a list of necessary vaccinations for pilgrims.
For a virus that is among the most virulent in recent history and requiring a COVID-19 vaccine makes sense, especially since the Hajj is among the most densely populated events in the world.
In an effort to combat COVID-19, Saudi Arabia has also introduced restrictions over how many pilgrims can come to Mecca for the first time in modern history.
Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to partake in the Hajj will likely have the added benefit of allaying fears about COVID-19 vaccines in Muslim communities, which account for nearly 2 billion people in the world. While Muslims overall support vaccinations and their religious leaders openly support vaccination efforts, some do doubt vaccines for either political reasons or religious ones.
Changes in Vaccine Hesitancy
Suspicions have arisen due to recent history, notably after Osama bin Laden was located through a vaccine program that acted as a front for the C.I.A. That incident led to a wider-anti vaccine movement in parts of Pakistan that have seen vaccine clinics burned to the ground.
Others are worried over more religious concerns, such as whether the vaccines are Halal, which is roughly the Muslim version of Kosher. To that, most major vaccines say that they are Halal and contain no animal products, such as Pfizer’s, Moderna’s, and AstraZeneca’s,
While other possibly non-Halal vaccines, such as Sinovac’s, have been given the okay from major Islamic authorities, such as Indonesia’ Ulema Council.
The concerns over whether a vaccine is Halal or not may be mute as most imams and Islamic councils have clarified that such dietary restrictions are trumped by the need to save human lives.
While the Health Ministry’s statement is for 2021, it’s possible that the decision will last beyond that based on the pandemic’s progress.
See what other are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Hill) (Middle East Eye)
E.U. and U.S. Sanction Russian Officials Over Navalny Detention
- The E.U. and U.S. coordinated new sanctions against seven Russian officials tied to the current fate of activist and Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
- More efforts are expected to follow, with officials claiming that 14 Russian entities tied to the manufacturing of Novichok – the rare nerve agents that supposedly poisoned Navalny – are the next to be sanctioned.
- Despite the sanctions, Biden’s administration hopes to be able to work with Russia on other world issues, such as nuclear arms in Iran and North Korea.
- Navalny himself isn’t likely to benefit from the sanctions as he’s serving a 2.5-year prison sentence in one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies.
Coordinated Efforts by E.U. and U.S.
The U.S. and E.U. both announced coordinated sanctions against Russia Tuesday morning over the poisoning, arrest, and detention of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
In particular, seven senior officials are targeted by the sanctions.
- Federal Security Service Director Aleksandr Bortnikov
- Chief of the Presidential Policy Directorate Andrei Yarin
- First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko
- Deputy Minister of Defense Aleksey Krivoruchko
- Deputy Minister of Defense Pavel Popov
- Federal Penitentiary Service director Alexander Kalashnikov
- Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov.
Both the E.U. and U.S. also plan to add fourteen entities that are involved in making the extremely deadly Russian nerve agent Novichok.
First Step For Biden
These sanctions are the first such action by the Biden administration against Russia and seem to be a tone shift from the previous administration. The Trump administration was considered relatively soft on Russia and only enacted a few sanctions over election interference, which were only softly enforced.
One U.S. official, according to NBC News reportedly said, that “today is the first such response, and there will be more to come.”
“The United States is neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia nor are we seeking to escalate,” the official went on to add.
The man at the center of all this, Alexei Navalny, has been an outspoken critic of Putin who was arrested when he returned to Russia from Germany after being treated for Novichok poisoning.
He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison over alleged fraud crimes and is reported to have been sent to one of Russia’s worst penal colonies outside of the city of Pokrov to serve out his term.
Biden Faces Criticism Over U.S. Airstrike in Syria
- On Friday, the U.S. conducted an airstrike against an Iranian-back militia in Syria after it shot rockets into northern Iraq and injured U.S. service personnel.
- The airstrike marks the first in Biden’s presidency, and while normally a routine response, it caused particular backlash against the president, who campaigned on getting out of “forever wars” in the region.
- Many felt like Biden was more concerned with bombing people in the Middle-East than he was with passing his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which was being debated by Congress at the time.
- The targeting of an Iranian-backed militia likely didn’t help efforts to start informal talks with Iran on Sunday in an effort to reignite the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Striking Back Against Militias
The U.S. military conducted an airstrike on an Iranian-backed militia in Syria on Friday, marking it as the first such airstrike under President Joe Biden’s term.
The airstrike was conducted as retaliation after the militia launched rockets into northern Iraq; killing civilians, contractors, and injuring a U.S. service member as well as other coalition troops.
Despite airstrikes being a routine response for such situations over the last 20 years, the decision caused Biden to face intense backlash in the U.S.
For many, it set the tone and seemed to contradict some of his earlier stances when running for office. In 2019, for instance, Biden made it clear that he wanted to get out of Iraq as soon as possible, as well as speed up the removal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. However, such airstrikes are often blamed for further entrenching the U.S. in the region.
Biden received criticism across the political spectrum, with only a few conservatives praising the airstrike as a necessary move to protect U.S. troops.
In Congress, many Democrats called the move unconstitutional, a stance the party has had since at least 2018 when Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said a similar airstrike conducted by President Trump required the approval of Congress. The Biden administration pushed back against this, sending a letter to Congress on Sunday saying the president had the power to use limited force without the body’s approval via the War Power Act.
Public Perception in a Downward Spiral
Many Americans have mocked Biden for seemingly feeling comfortable enough to use his executive power to bomb militias while also expressing apprehension toward using that same power to forgive student loans.
Others pushed back against the idea that the airstrike was a form of defensive retaliation
“This latest Biden airstrike is being spun as “defensive” and “retaliatory” despite its targeting a nation the US invaded (Syria) in response to alleged attacks on US forces in another nation the US invaded (Iraq),” wrote one user on Twitter, “You can’t invade a nation and then claim self-defense there. Ever.”
Some of the biggest criticism the president received came from those who said it seemed like his priorities were off-base. Because while the airstrike was conducted, Congress was debating his $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
Civil Rights activist Ja’Mal Green, for instance, tweeted, “We didn’t flip Georgia Blue for Biden to air strike Syria. We flipped Georgia Blue for our $2,000 Stimulus Checks.”
However, it’s worth noting that there’s not much Biden can do right now to push his stimulus package through Congress, other than attempt to convince some on-the-fence senators like Joe Manchin (D-WV). Still, the perception of confused priorities was enough to anger many.
All of this likely didn’t help when the E.U. foreign policy chief, on behalf of all the countries who signed the Iran Nuclear deal, attempted to convince Iran to engage in informal talks to try and restart the deal on Sunday. A proposal was shot down by Iran.
“Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh