- 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)
Police Arrest Hong Kong Man for Booing Chinese National Anthem
The man’s boos were launched during the first time the Chinese national anthem had ever been played for a Hong Kong athlete at the Olympics.
Instulting the Anthem
Hong Kong authorities announced Friday that a man was arrested for allegedly booing and “insulting” the Chinese national anthem while watching the Olympics on Monday.
The unnamed 40-year-old, who identified himself as a journalist, was allegedly watching the Olympics fencing medal ceremony for Hong Konger Edgar Cheung at a local mall. When the anthem began playing, he allegedly began booing and chanted “We are Hong Kong!” while waving a British Hong Kong Colonial flag.
The man’s actions were particularly noteworthy because it was the first time the Chinese national anthem had been played for a Hong Kong athlete in the Olympics. Hong Kongers compete at the Games under a separate committee called Hong Kong, China. The last time a Hong Konger won gold was in 1996 for windsurfing, at which time the British anthem of “God Save the Queen” was played.
Concerns for Freedom of Speech
The man is suspected of breaking the relatively new National Anthem Ordinance, which was passed in June 2020, and has a penalty of up to three years in prison and fines of $6,000 for anyone who publicly and intentionally insults the anthem. The law mirrors one in mainland China, but it has faced considerable scrutiny from increasingly persecuted pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong.
They argue that it tramples the right to free speech, which is supposed to be enshrined in the city’s Basic Law. Hong Kong police, however, say that’s not the case and claim that his actions breach common restraints on freedom of speech. Senior Superintendent Eileen Chung said that his actions were “to stir up the hostility of those on the scene and to politicize the sport.”
Police issued a warning that it would investigate reports of others joining his chants or violating the separate National Security law passed last year.
This incident isn’t the only case of alleged politicization of the Games. Badminton player Angus Ng was accused by a pro-Beijing lawmaker of making a statement by sporting a black jersey with the territory’s emblem. The imagery was very similar to the black-and-white Hong Kong flag used by anti-government protesters.
Ng countered that he wore his own clothes to the event because he didn’t have sponsorships to provide jerseys and he wasn’t authorized to print the emblem on a jersey himself.
See what others are saying: (Inside) (Al Jazeera) (CNN)
Canadian Catholic Priest Says Residential Schools Survivors Lied About Abuse
The Roman Catholic Church is facing considerable backlash across Canada for its treatment of indigenous peoples in the residential school system, along with its subsequent efforts to downplay the problem.
Priest Sparks Outrage
Father Rheal Forest was put on forced leave Wednesday following remarks he made over a weeks-long period starting July 10 in which he doubted victims of the country’s infamous residential school system.
Residential schools were a system of schools largely for indigenous children that were mostly run by the Catholic Church with federal government funding. The schools were notoriously cruel and long faced allegations that children had been abused or went missing under their care.
To date, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at four former residential schools across Canada, a fraction of the over 130 that used to exist.
Forest, of the St. Boniface archdiocese in Winnipeg, was standing in for a couple of weeks while the main priest at his church was away. During that time, Forest told parishioners that victims of the residential schools, particularly those sexually abused, had lied.
“If [the victims] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” he said.
“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”
In that same sermon, he also added that during his time with Inuit groups in the north of the country, most had allegedly said they appreciated the residential school system. Instead, he said they blamed any abuses on lay people working at the facilities rather than priests or nuns.
Forest’s comments drew a ton of backlash, prompting the archdiocese to place Forest on leave. A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that the institution “completely disavow” Forest’s comments, adding, “We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.”
Overall, the archdiocese has attempted to apologize to indigenous communities for its part in the residential school system, with Archbishop Albert Legatt saying in a video that the way forward was by “acknowledging, apologizing, and acting” on terms set by indigenous groups.
Church Allegedly Kept Money From Victims
Forest’s views and subsequent dismissal aren’t the only public relations scandal the Roman Catholic Church faces in Canada.
According to documents obtained by CBC News, the Church spent over a decade avoiding paying out money to survivors per a 2005 agreement. At the time, it, alongside the protestant churches that also ran some residential schools, agreed to pay an amount to victims of the schools in the tens of millions.
Instead, according to an internal summary of 2015 court documents, the Catholic Church spent much of that money on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans. It seems that some of this was technically legal, such as a promise to give tens of millions back via “in-kind” services; however, there was no audit completed to confirm that these services actually happened or to prove the alleged value of the services. This led to doubts about whether or not they were done effectively.
The Catholic Church was unique among the signatory churches in the 2005 agreement with its efforts to avoid paying victims. All of the other denominations paid out their sums many years before without issues.
While priests such as Father Forest have supported the Church, there has been internal backlash. Father André Poilièvre, a Saskatoon priest and Order of Canada recipient, said the Church’s actions are “scandalous” and “really shameful,” adding, “It was a loophole. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical.”
With these latest revelations, widespread anger at the Church has triggered allegations that indigenous groups are behind a spree of church burnings across the country.
The entire situation is likely going to continue to smolder as a government commission set up to investigate the schools estimates there will be thousands of more unmarked graves found across Canada.
See what others are saying: (CBC News) (The Guardian) (CTV News)
Tokyo Sets Back-to-Back Records for Number of Daily COVID-19 Cases
Some positive cases were detected among people attending the Olympic Games, including a handful of athletes.
Cases Going Up
The Tokyo Olympic Games found itself in more controversy on Wednesday after Tokyo experienced a record number of daily COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.
On Tuesday, the city recorded 2,848 new cases of the virus, passing the 2,500 daily new case threshold for the first time since the pandemic began. Then on Wednesday, it shattered the record again with 3,177 new COVID-19 cases.
At least 155 of those new cases were detected among people attending the Games, including a handful of athletes, which contrasts Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s promise that the Olympics wouldn’t be hit with the virus. The spike in new cases has largely been attributed to the delta-variant, something that many countries are dealing with around the world.
Nishimura Yasutoshi, a Japanese economic minister, told a parliamentary panel this week that COVID-19 cases are expected to continue rising for at least a few days. He also explained that many people may have delayed getting tested last week due to holidays, therefore inflating total daily new case numbers.
Governors in prefectures around Tokyo have moved to ask the government for states-of-emergency, which Tokyo is already under.
Doubts About Government Response
The prime minister said in a press conference on Tuesday that “the government has secured a new drug that reduces the risk of serious illness by 70 percent,” adding, “we have confirmed that this drug will be used thoroughly from now on.”
However, he never actually mentioned what drug he was referencing.
“In any case, under these circumstances, I would like to ask the people to avoid going out unnecessarily and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on TV,” Suga continued.
He also stressed that canceling the Olympics amid the outbreak was completely out of the question, although there have been continued calls from the public and opposition lawmakers for just that.
Beyond refusing to cancel the Games, Suga is facing backlash for refusing to enact strict state-of-emergency protocols. Currently, the measures in Tokyo are almost all voluntary and consist of asking people to stay home, along with requesting restaurants that serve alcohol to completely close and telling all others to shut down by 8 p.m.