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Boris Johnson’s Parliament Suspension Thrown Out After U.K. Supreme Court Rules It Unlawful

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  • The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom unanimously voted Tuesday to rule Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament unlawful.
  • Lawmakers will return to parliament on Wednesday to continue talks concerning Brexit ahead of the country’s current Oct. 31 deadline.
  • Several major lawmakers in the U.K. have called upon Johnson to resign.

Parliament Suspension Ruled Unlawful

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of British Parliament unlawful on Tuesday, making it “void and of no effect.”

The ruling follows a similar decision made by Scotland’s Court of Session following Johnson’s announcement of the suspension, or prorogation. After losing in Scotland, Johnson’s government appealed to the U.K. Supreme Court.

“This was not a normal prorogation in the run-up to a Queen’s speech,” Lady Brenda Hale, president of the Supreme Court, said in its decision. “It prevented parliament from carrying out its constitutional role for five out of the possible eight weeks between the end of the summer recess and exit day on the 31st of October.”

“Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons as the elected representatives of the people, has a right to a voice in how that change comes about,” she continued. 

The Supreme Court issued its ruling on the basis that Johnson made a political move to attempt to stop other lawmakers from debating Brexit. When Johnson first announced the suspension, those lawmakers condemned the action because it would mean they had less time to reach a deal. They then accused Johnson of attempting to secure a means to execute a no-deal Brexit, if necessary.

Johnson has repeatedly stated that he will take the country out of the European Union by its current Oct. 31 deadline with or without a deal, even after lawmakers passed legislation barring him from taking the U.K. out of the EU without a deal.

In addition to being hailed as unprecedented (U.K. courts generally do not rule on government decisions unlike in the United States), the verdict suggests Johnson misled the Queen when he asked her to suspend the government, per tradition.

Johnson Responds to Suspension

Johnson is currently in the United States at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York, but he will be leaving early Tuesday night to return to the U.K.

“I strongly disagree with this decision of the Supreme Court,” he said, “I have the utmost respect for our judiciary. I don’t think that this was the right decision.”

At the same time, Johnson said he would respect the court’s decision; however, he suggested potentially proroguing parliament again. If he were to seek another prorogation, it would likely only be for a few days to prepare for a Queen’s speech, which would outline the government’s proposed domestic policy.

Parliament Reconvenes Wednesday

Also following the decision, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow said parliament will reconvene Wednesday, with members of parliament expected to hold emergency debates.

Johnson and opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn are also expected to spar at the dispatch box, with Corbyn asking Johnson to resign. 

Also of note, the suspension would have essentially deleted any pending bills that weren’t passed before lawmakers left, but now, those bills are back on the table. Some of those include Brexit-related legislation concerning immigration, fisheries, and agriculture.

Calls for Johnson to Resign

Tuesday also brought forth a fresh wave of backlash directed at Johnson, with #BorisLiedToTheQueen trending on Twitter. 

More notably, multiple lawmakers called on Johnson to resign, including Corbyn who said he was inviting Johnson to be the U.K.’s shortest-serving prime minister.

“It demonstrates a contempt for democracy and an abuse of power by him,” Corbyn said. “I will be in touch immediately to demand that parliament is recalled so that we can question the prime minister, demand that he obeys the law that’s been passed by parliament, and recognize that our parliament is elected by our people to hold our government to account.” 

“I invite Boris Johnson, in the historic words, to consider his position and become the shortest prime minister there’s ever been,” he continued.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, also called Johnson unfit to serve as prime minister. On the other hand, Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage said the suspension was the “worst political decision ever,” though he stopped short of calling for Johnson to resign. Instead, he said Johnson should fire his most senior aide who is suspected to have been behind the prorogation idea. 

Ahead of Tuesday’s ruling, Johnson said he would not resign if he lost the case. It is possible if Johnson refuses to step down tomorrow, lawmakers will attempt a vote of no confidence against him.

See what others are saying: (The Independent) (The Guardian) (Wall Street Journal)

International

New Zealand Considers Banning Cigarettes For People Born After 2004

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  • New Zealand announced a series of proposals that aim to outlaw smoking for the next generation with the hopes of being smoke-free by 2025.
  • Among the proposed provisions are plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and possibly prohibit the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to anyone born after 2004; effectively banning smoking for that generation.
  • Beyond that, the level of nicotine in products will likely be significantly reduced, setting a minimum price for tobacco and heavily restricting where it can be sold.
  • The proposals have proven to be popular as one in four New Zealand cancer deaths are tobacco-related, but some have criticized them as government overreach and worry a ban could lead to a bigger and more robust black market.

Smoke Free 2025

New Zealand announced sweeping new proposals on Thursday that would effectively phase out the use of tobacco products, a move that is in line with its hopes to become a smoke-free country by 2025.

Among a number of provisions, the proposals include plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and bar anyone born after 2004 from buying tobacco products. Such a ban would effectively end tobacco sales after a few decades. The government is also considering significantly reducing the level of nicotine allowed in tobacco products, prohibiting filters, restricting locations where tobacco products can be purchased, and setting a steep minimum price for tobacco.

“We need a new approach.” Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verral said when announcing the changes on Thursday. 

“About 4,500 New Zealanders die every year from tobacco, and we need to make accelerated progress to be able to reach [a Smoke Free 2025]. Business-as-usual without a tobacco control program won’t get us there.”

The proposals received a large welcome from public health organizations and local groups. Shane Kawenata Bradbrook, an advocate for smoke-free Maori communities, told The Guardian that the plan “will begin the final demise of tobacco products in this country.” 

The Cancer Society pointed out that these proposals would help combat health inequities in the nation, as tobacco stores were four times more likely to be in low-income neighborhoods, where smoking rates are highest.

Not Without Flaws

The proposals weren’t completely without controversy. There are concerns that a complete ban could bankrupt “dairy” store owners (the equivalent to a U.S. convenience store) who rely on tobacco sales to stay afloat. 

There are also concerns that prohibition largely doesn’t work, as has been seen in other nations with goods such as alcohol or marijuana. Many believe a  blanket ban on tobacco will increase the incentive to smuggle and sell the products on the black market. The government even acknowledged the issue in a document outlining Thursday’s proposals. 

“Evidence indicates that the amount of tobacco products being smuggled into New Zealand has increased substantially in recent years and organised criminal groups are involved in large-scale smuggling,” the document said.

Some are also concerned about how much the government is intervening in people’s lives.

“There’s a philosophical principle about adults being able to make decisions for themselves, within reason,” journalist Alex Braae wrote. 

The opposition ACT party also added that lowering nicotine content in tobacco products could lead to smokers smoking more, a particular concern as one-in-four cancer cases in New Zealand are tobacco-related.

See what others are saying: (Stuff) (Independent) (The Guardian)

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International

Egypt Seizes Ship That Blocked Suez Canal Until Owners Pay Nearly $1 Billion

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  • 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)

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Treated Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Will Be Released Into Ocean

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  • 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.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (KBS World) (NBC News)

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