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Getting out of Europe is proving harder than most Britons thought

Sunday September 15 2019

BREXIT

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers his speech at the Convention of the North, in the Magna Centre in Rotherham, northern England, on September 13, 2019. PHOTO | CHRISTOPHER FURLONG | AFP 

GERRY LOUGHRAN
By GERRY LOUGHRAN
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This nation has been experiencing some of the most extraordinary political developments in its modern history, and the reason you haven’t seen much about them here is because they are almost impossible to describe.

An unusual event in the morning is followed by an extraordinary happening in the afternoon topped by an incredible development at night.

It all has to do with Brexit, the planned British exit from the European Union of 28 nations, which was decreed, foolishly in my view, by a public vote of 52 per cent to 48 per cent back in 2016.

The exit was due to take place on March 29 of this year, but it has been delayed twice because Britain’s MPs rejected a deal with Europe, not once but three times.

This resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May and her replacement by Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary who vowed to take Britain out of the EU by October 31, come what may.

But Johnson is finding this harder than he thought.

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EXTENSION

Twice he tried to call an early election to boost his paper-thin Conservative Party majority, but not enough MPs supported him.

What’s more, the different opposition parties came together and voted through a new law which forces the Johnson government to seek yet another delay, the third, so that new negotiations can take place.

The MPs’ new law requires Johnson to seek an extension to negotiations on October 19, if no deal has been agreed by then.

Judicial sources say that if he refuses, the Prime Minister could be held in contempt of court and even face the possibility of imprisonment.

The situation as I write is that Parliament has been suspended for five weeks, during which time Johnson will press on trying to secure a deal with the EU while still preparing to leave without one.

PROTEST

While it is normal for governments to suspend Parliament occasionally so as to prepare a fresh legislative programme, the length of this suspension – five weeks – and its timing has provoked controversy.

At the last Parliamentary session before the shutdown in the early hours of last Tuesday, some MPs waved placards saying “Silenced” and shouted “Shame on you”.

Welsh and Scottish MPs sang patriotic Welsh and Scottish anthems.

You see what I mean by the most extraordinary political developments in the country’s modern history?

* * *

All watches should be banned during examinations to prevent cheating, according to an inquiry into malpractice by pupils across the United Kingdom.

Smart watches connected to the internet are already banned, but the review stated that it is becoming difficult to distinguish between hi-tech and traditional watches.

Warning of the sophistication of internet-enabled devices, the review chairman, Sir John Dunford, said, “It can look as if it’s a time-telling watch, and actually you press a button and it becomes an email-type watch.”

He called for a blanket ban on all watches. “If you don‘t ban them all, then you are giving a very difficult job to invigilators,” he said, adding that schools would have to make sure there were visible clocks on classroom walls.

Despite the changing technology, the review found no increase in cheating, with only 0.02 per cent of pupils, that is 2,735, found guilty in the past year.

* * *

An update on the six-year-old French boy who was thrown from the top of a building in London: he is making “amazing progress”. A statement by his family said.

“Even if he can’t speak or move his body for the moment, we now know for sure that he understands us. He smiles and we saw him laughing several times. It gives us a lot of strength and hope.”

The 17-year-old youth who allegedly threw the boy from the Tate Modern art gallery on August 4 has been charged with attempted murder. His trial will start in London next February 3.

* * *

Richard Keedwell, aged 71, is a stubborn man. Fined £100 (Ksh12,970) for speeding, he disputed the charge and appealed. He lost. He appealed to a crown court and lost again.

He says that over three years, he spent the best part of £30,000 representing barristers’ fees, court costs and travel expenses.

“I am sick and tired of the whole system which is steamrolling ordinary people,” he said.

* * *

Thoughts on Brexit:

From ex-footballer Gary Lineker: “They say a Brexit deal could take 10 years. That’s not fair. Most of the people who voted for it will be dead by then.”

(Referendum demographics indicated that older people were most likely to vote for an exit from Europe.)

From comedian Leo Kearse: “One man said he voted "Leave" to get rid of the Muslims. He’s going to be surprised when he discovers the Muslims don’t come from Luxembourg.”

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