- Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost a call to hold snap elections after the House of Commons voted to block a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday.
- The motion to bar the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union will now move to the House of Lords.
- On Tuesday, Johnson expelled the 21 Conservative Party MP’s that voted against him to take control of the government.
Vote to Block No-Deal Brexit
Lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would prevent a no-deal Brexit after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost his first vote in British Parliament on Tuesday.
Johnson lost the vote 327 to 299. The bill now heads to the House of Lords, which must also pass the legislation for it to go into effect. If it passes, Johnson could be forced to go back to the European Union and ask for another extension. Johnson previously said he will not ask the EU for an extension.
The vote Tuesday night set the stage for Wednesday’s blockade of a no-deal divorce plan from the EU. That vote took power from Johnson to be able to deliver a Brexit deal of his choice and allowed parliament to set Wednesday’s agenda.
At the beginning of the day, Johnson held a majority in parliament by a single member. While delivering a speech, however, Johnson lost that majority when fellow Conservative Party member Philip Lee moved to sit with the Liberal Democrats, who are anti-Brexit.
During the Tuesday vote, which MP’s cast 328 to 301, Johnson suffered a massive blow to his majority, losing the support of 21 fellow conservatives. Directly following the announcement of the vote, a lawmaker mocked Johnson, shouting, “Not a good start, Boris!”
Johnson has argued that if the United Kingdom votes to stop a no-deal, the U.K. will effectively be surrendering to the EU. Johnson said he believes the only way the EU will offer a better deal is if it thinks the U.K. will walk away without any deal at all come the October 31 deadline. This is because a no-deal Brexit is expected to damage other European economies, along with the U.K.’s.
Calls for a General Election
Following the vote to block a no-deal, Johnson called for general elections on October 15 but failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to initiate snap elections.
Johnson had promised to call for a general election if a no-deal Brexit was blocked in the House of Commons. That would have meant all 650 seats in the House of Commons, including Johnson’s prime minister position, would open up three years before their terms are scheduled to end.
Previously, opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he will only agree to elections if a no-deal blockade is passed.
Johnson Expels Tories
During the vote on Wednesday, another conservative, Caroline Spelman, broke from Johnson after she voted to block a no-deal; however, the Telegraph reported she will not lose her membership in the Conservative Party.
The announcement comes in contrast of Tuesday’s vote, where Johnson threatened to expel any conservatives who voted against him. Johnson then followed through with his promise and expelled those 21 conservatives from the party later the same evening.
Some of those conservatives include the grandson of Winston Churchill, Nicholas Soames, and Ken Clarke, who has been in parliament since 1970 and is known as the Father of the House.
“I do think the prime minister, with the greatest respect, has a tremendous skill in keeping in keeping a straight face whilst he’s being so disingenuous,” Clarke said on Wednesday.
None of those conservatives, however, were fired from their positions; instead, they will serve as independents. Nonetheless, they will be unable to run for re-election as conservatives.
What Brexit Means for the U.K.
In June 2016, U.K. citizens voted to leave the E.U. in a referendum, garnering 52% of the majority. Since then, lawmakers have attempted to push through with the deal, but each attempt has faced massive hurdles.
The day following the referendum, then-prime minister David Cameron resigned, with Theresa May assuming the position shortly thereafter.
In 2019, she failed to execute a Brexit deal in parliament three times and ultimately resigned in July. Conservative Party members then elected Boris Johnson, who has promised to take the U.K. out of the EU by the current October 31 deadline with or without a deal.
Johnson had also promised to negotiate a better deal with the EU, but the EU has said it won’t budge on the deal it’s already offered.
An attempt to solve Brexit before a no-deal comes amid shortage fears for necessities like food, gas, and medicine — including insulin. Economists warn a no-deal divorce would be a huge blow to the economy.
Last week, Johnson reportedly took steps to protect his ability to execute a no-deal Brexit after asking Queen Elizabeth II to suspend, or “prorogue,” parliament. In a statement, Johnson said the prorogue was to give him time to develop a robust post-Brexit domestic policy.
It did, however, severely limit the time parliament would have to agree on a deal or to block a deal, adding a week to a previously scheduled three-and-a-half week recess.
Following the suspension, protests and petitions surged. Some lawmakers like George Young and Ruth Davidson even resigned, though Davidson attributed her resignation to caring for her newborn son. Still, many media outlets connected the timing of her resignation with parliament’s prorogue.
On Wednesday, Davidson spoke out directly about the expulsion of Soames from the Conservative Party. Soames has served in parliament since 1980, and including Tuesday’s vote, had only voted against the Conservative Party three times.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Guardian) (Washington Post)
Egypt Seizes Ship That Blocked Suez Canal Until Owners Pay Nearly $1 Billion
- Egyptian authorities seized the Ever Given, a mega-ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month, after a judge ruled Wednesday that the owners must pay $900 million in damages.
- The ship was seized just as it was deemed fit to return to sea after undergoing repairs in the Great Bitter Lake, which sits in the middle of the Suez Canal.
- The vessel’s owners said little about the verdict, but insurance companies covering the ship pushed back against the $900 million price tag, saying it’s far too much for any damage the ship actually caused.
Ever Given Still in Egypt
An Egyptian court blocked the mega-ship known as the Ever Given from leaving the country Wednesday morning unless its owner pays nearly $1 billion in compensation for damages it caused after blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month.
The Ever Given’s ordeal started when it slammed into the side of the canal and became lodged, which caused billions of dollars worth of goods to be held up on both sides of the canal while crews worked round the clock to free the vessel. An Egyptian judge found that the Ever Given becoming stuck caused not only physical damage to the canal that needed to be paid for but also “reputational” damage to Egypt and the Suez Canal Authority.
The ship’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, will need to pay $900 million to free the ship and the cargo it held, both of which were seized by authorities after the ship was transported to the Great Bitter Lake in the middle of the canal to undergo now-finished repairs. Shoei Kisen Kaisha doesn’t seem to want to fight the judgment in court just yet. It released a short statement after the ruling, saying that lawyers and insurance companies were working on the claims but refused to comment further.
Pushing Back Against The Claim
While Shoei Kisen Kaisha put in a claim with insurers, those insurance companies aren’t keen on just paying the bill. One of the ship’s insurers, UKP&I, challenged the basis of the $900 million claim, writing in a press release, “The [Suez Canal Authority] has not provided a detailed justification for this extraordinarily large claim, which includes a $300 million claim for a ‘salvage bonus’ and a $300 million claim for ‘loss of reputation.’”
“The grounding resulted in no pollution and no reported injuries. The vessel was re-floated after six days and the Suez Canal promptly resumed their commercial operations.”
It went on to add that the $900 million verdict doesn’t even include payments to the crews that worked to free the ship, meaning that the total price tag of the event could likely be far more for Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the multiple insurance companies it works with.
See what others are saying: (Financial Times) (CNN) (The Telegraph)
Treated Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Will Be Released Into Ocean
- The Japanese government confirmed Tuesday that it will officially move forward with plans to dump millions of gallons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
- The government spent a decade decontaminating the water, only leaving a naturally occurring isotope in it that scientists recognize as safe for people and the environment.
- Despite the safety claims, protesters took to the streets in Tokyo to show disapproval of the decision. Local business owners, in particular, have expressed fears that more municipalities worldwide could ban Fukushima products, including fish, because of distrust in the water.
- Meanwhile, officials have insisted that the dump is necessary as the water takes up a massive amount of space, which is needed to store highly radioactive fuel rods from the remaining cores at the now-defunct nuclear facility.
Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.
Radioactive or Bad Publicity?
After years of discussions and debate, the Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
Government officials consider the move necessary, but it’s facing backlash from local businesses, particularly fisheries, over potential consequences it could have. Many are especially concerned that the decision will create bad press for the region as headlines about it emerge. For instance, a headline from the Guardian on the issue reads, “Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea.”
While the water is contaminated and radioactive, it’s not nearly what the headlines make it out to be. The government has spent the last decade decontaminating it, and now it only contains a trace amount of the isotope tritium. That isotope is common in nature and is already found in trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. Its radiation is so weak that it can’t pierce human skin, meaning one could only possibly get sick by ingesting more than that has ever been recorded.
According to the government, the decontaminated water at Fukushima will be diluted to 1/7 of the WHO’s acceptable radiation levels for drinking water before being released into the ocean over two years.
Something Had To Eventually Be Done
Over the last decade, Japan has proposed this plan and other similar ones, such as evaporating the water, which the International Atomic Energy Agency said last year met global standards.
The water has been sitting in containers for years, so why is there a push to remove it now? Space and leakage seem to be the primary reasons.
The water containers are slowly being filled by groundwater, and the government expects to run out of space relatively soon. Space is sorely needed, as Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has pointed out in the past that the government wants to use the space to store damaged radioactive fuel rods that still need to be extracted from the plant. Unlike the water, those rods are dangerously radioactive and need proper storage.
Regardless, Suga reportedly recognizes that removing the water is going to end up as a lose-lose situation.
“It is inevitable that there would be reputational damage regardless of how the water will be disposed of, whether into the sea or into the air,” he said at a press conference last week. As expected, the government’s decision did trigger backlash, prompting many demonstrators to take to the streets of Tokyo Tuesday in protest.
To this day, eleven countries and regions still ban many products from the Fukushima prefecture despite massive clean-up efforts that have seen people returning to the area to live.
Greta Thunberg To Skip U.N. Climate Change Conference, Citing Vaccine Inequality
- Young environmental activist Greta Thunberg will not attend the U.N.’s climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland this November.
- “Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem,” the 18-year-old tweeted Friday, adding, “Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions.”
- Since rollouts began late last year, 40% of vaccines have been administered in wealthy and Western countries, according to The Washington Post.
- Scientists have warned that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.
Thunberg Points To Vaccine Inequality
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she is skipping the UN’s climate change conference.
The COP26 summit is set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland in November, but 18-year-old Thunberg told BBC she won’t attend because she’s concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on attendance.
In a Twitter thread Friday, she responded to a headline about her plans to miss the summit.
“Of course I would love to attend…But not unless everyone can take part on the same terms. Right now many countries are vaccinating healthy young people, often at the expense of risk groups and front line workers (mainly from global south, as usual…),” she wrote.
“Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem.”
“Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions,” the teen continued.
Thunberg went on to say that if the summit is delayed, it doesn’t mean urgent action should too.
“We don’t have to wait for conferences nor anyone or anything else to dramatically start reducing our emissions. Solidarity and action can start today,” she added before noting that digital alternatives for the conference would also be insufficient.
“High speed internet connection and access to computers is extremely unequal in the world. In that case we would lack representation from those whose voices need to be heard the most when it comes to the climate crisis,” she wrote.
Data on Global Vaccine Distribution Efforts
According to The Washington Post, nearly 20% of people in the United States are now vaccinated, but many other countries are unlikely to hit that same metric by the end of the year, even with international assistance through the Covax program.
Current projections predict it could be years before developing countries distribute enough doses to come close to herd immunity, which scientists say requires inoculating around 70-80% of a population.
Since rollouts began late last year, enough shots have been distributed to fully vaccinate about 5% of the world’s population, but The Post reported that the vast majority have been administered in wealthy and Western countries.
Around 40% of vaccines have been given in 27 wealthy nations that include only 11% of the world’s population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
That’s pretty concerning because scientists also warn that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.
Thunberg’s comments are a blow for U.K. organizers, who have already postponed the conference once from last November because of the pandemic. Even now, there has been speculation that it could be delayed again this year.
Thunberg would not play a formal role at the conference but her decision not to attend is a significant symbolic moment.
At COP25, the young climate change activist gave a headline speech and she typically attends major climate events of this nature. On top of that, reports say this summit was slated to be one of the most consequential climate conferences since the 2015 Paris accord.
On the agenda for this year’s conference discussions were country-level plans for cutting carbon emissions, along with progress on the Paris agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.