- 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.
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.