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Boris Johnson’s Brother Resigns From Parliament Amid PM’s Second Call for Election

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  • Boris Johnson is expected to make another call for snap elections following his defeat in parliament on Wednesday.
  • After PM Johnson lost his majority and expelled 21 Tories from the Conservative party, Johnson’s brother, Jo Johnson announced his resignation, citing being “torn between family loyalty and the national interest.”
  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Johnson at his home and extended negotiations for a free trade agreement, claiming it would boost trade between the countries three to four times.

Johnson to Make Another Call for Elections

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make another call for snap elections on Monday, following his failure on Wednesday to garner enough votes to hold elections.

Also on Wednesday, Johnson was first defeated when the House of Commons passed legislation that would bar the United Kingdom from executing a no-deal Brexit. Following that vote, Johnson then called for the elections that would open all 650 seats, including his own as prime minister. 

The second vote, which ended 298 to 56, failed to attract the two-thirds majority needed to initiate the elections, which would occur three years before the term is over.

Opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he will vote for elections, but only after the bill blocking a no-deal becomes law.

After securing approval from the Commons, the bill moved to the House of Lords, which announced it will finish all related proceedings by Friday afternoon. If it passes, it will be sent back to the Commons for any amendments. If passed again in the Commons, it will then head to Queen Elizabeth II who will almost certainly sign it into law. 

Johnson has argued that blocking a no-deal option would prevent him from negotiating a better deal with the European Union, though he has repeatedly said he would remove the U.K. from the EU “do or die.” On Wednesday, Johnson called the block a surrender bill, claiming it will kill any chance for him to secure a better deal.

For his part, Johnson believes the EU will only agree to a better deal if it suspects the U.K. might pull out without a deal. While experts forecast a no-deal would seriously rupture the U.K.’s economy, it would also be expected to damage the economies of other European countries. 

Johnson also said he had made “substantial progress” in arguing for a new deal, but a spokesperson for the EU told reporters “there is nothing new” from London.

“It’s basically a policy that’s cloaked in mystery, like the emperor’s new clothes,” Corbyn said in the Commons. “There really is absolutely nothing there.” 

Nonetheless, if the no-deal Brexit ban becomes law, Johnson may be forced to ask the EU for an extension to the October 31 deadline. Johnson has repeatedly stated he will not ask for another extension, following two granted to his predecessor Theresa May.

“I would rather be dead in a ditch,” he told reporters Thursday.

Johnson’s Brother Resigns from Parliament

In another blow to Johnson, his brother Jo Johnson announced his resignation on Twitter Thursday morning. 

“It’s been an honour to represent Orpington for 9 years & to serve as a minister under three PMs,” Johnson wrote. “In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest – it’s an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles as MP & Minister. #overandout”

Some political commentators have speculated the resignation might stem from PM Johnson’s expulsion of 21 conservative members of parliament on Tuesday. In a reply, David Gauke — an MP who Johnson expelled — hinted at the tensions within the Conservative Party.

“Lots of MPs have had to wrestle with conflicting loyalties in recent weeks. None more so than Jo. This is a big loss to Parliament, the Government and the Conservative Party.”

A spokesperson for the prime minister later thanked Jo Johnson for his service and said his constituents “could not have asked for a better representative.”

Prime Minister Johnson faced questions from reporters later in the day, with many of them asking about his brother’s exit. PM Johnson then responded by saying that while they disagree on how to approach Brexit, his brother wants the government to solve Brexit and has been supportive of his domestic policies.

U.S. and U.K. Potential Free Trade Agreement

Amid the turmoil in the U.K., President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have offered their support for Brexit.

Pence met with the prime minister of Ireland on Wednesday, where he mentioned a potential free trade agreement with the U.K. post-Brexit. Previously, Trump had said he would sign a “very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had.”

The following day, Pence met with Johnson at his home on 10 Downing Street, extending an invitation to discuss a free trade agreement and claiming it could increase trade between the two countries by three to four times.

“The president often says the US has the biggest economy in the world and we truly believe that a free trade agreement between the United States and the U.K. could increase trade between our country by three or four times,” Pence said to Johnson. 

See what others are saying: (Time) (Reuters) (NPR)

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Biden Vows to Defend Taiwan if Attacked by China

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Some praised the remarks for clarifying U.S. foreign policy, while others feared they could escalate tensions with China.


Biden’s Remarks Create Confusion

During a Monday press conference in Tokyo, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would intervene to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

The remark caught many off guard because it contradicted decades of traditional U.S. foreign policy toward China.

A reporter said, “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”

“Yes,” Biden answered. “That’s a commitment we made. We are not — look, here’s the situation. We agree with a One China policy. We signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there.”

“But the idea that it can be taken by force — just taken by force — is just not appropriate,” he continued. “It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

Beijing considers the Taiwanese island to be a breakaway province, but Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has claimed to represent the real historical lineage of China.

Since 1972, the U.S. has officially recognized only one China, with its capital in Beijing. However, Washington maintains extensive informal diplomatic ties with Taipei and provides military assistance through weapons and training.

Successive U.S. presidents have also committed to a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” refusing to promise or rule out a direct military intervention in case China attacks Taiwan.

The strategy is meant to deter China while avoiding a hard commitment to any action.

Biden Sparks Controversy

The White House quickly sent a statement to reporters appearing to walk back Biden’s remark.

“As the president said, our policy has not changed,” the statement said. “He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”

Monday was not the first time Biden made similar remarks regarding China and Taiwan.

Last August, he promised that “we would respond” if there was an attack against a fellow member of NATO and then added, “same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan.”

In October, he again told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the U.S. would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, prompting the White House to hurriedly walk back his statement.

Monday’s remark was received with support as well as criticism.

“Strategic ambiguity is over. Strategic clarity is here,” Tweeted Matthew Kroenig, professor of government at Georgetown University. “This is the third time Biden has said this. Good. China should welcome this. Washington is helping Beijing to not miscalculate.”

“It is truly dangerous for the president to keep misstating U.S. policy toward Taiwan,” historian Stephen Wertheim wrote in a tweet. “How many more times will this happen?”

“The West’s robust response to Russian aggression in Ukraine could serve to deter China from invading Taiwan, but Biden’s statement risks undoing the potential benefit and instead helping to bring about a Taiwan conflict,” he added. “Self-injurious and entirely unforced.”

Biden also unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a trade agreement signed by the U.S. and 12 Asian nations.

The agreement appeared to many like another move to cut off China from regional trade pacts and supply chains in Washington’s strategic competition with Beijing.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (The South China Morning Post)

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Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders

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Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.


Azovstal Waves the White Flag

Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.

A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.

The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.

It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.

Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.

Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.

Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.

Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands

After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.

The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.

Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.

The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.

The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.

It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)

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Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls

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Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.


Hundreds Make It Out Alive

A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.

People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.

The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.

Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.

“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”

63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.

“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.

Putin’s Plans Go Poorly

In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.

On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.

The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”

Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.

After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.

“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.

On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.

Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.

The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”

“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.

Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.

See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (U.S. News and World Report) (The Hill)

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