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‘Operation stop Boris’: deputies of all parties prepare a rebellion in parliament to stop a Brexit without agreement

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  • To avoid withdrawal from the European Union without an agreement, a group of British deputies has chosen to vote against the autumn parliamentary break to extend the time for negotiations.
  • Conservative sources point to Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s strategic advisor, as the main instigator of the hard-line Brexit and allege that he has undue influence on Downing Street.

Operation stop Boris

A group of rebel deputies of the British Parliament is trying to prevent Boris Johnson from leaving the European Union on October 31 without an agreement. Increasingly outraged by the power and influence of Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s controversial assistant, deputies are thinking of voting against the fall parliamentary break to achieve their goal.

Formed by members of all parties, the group of congressmen is quickly reviewing the legislative options that remain to face the hard line of Cummings. Johnson’s ally is described by a Conservative Party source as the man who has imposed the “reign of terror” at 10 Downing Street, with the goal of achieving a Brexit on October 31 at any cost.

Three of the rebel deputies have explained to The Guardian that one of the measures they are considering is to submit an amendment to the motion that is presented every year to interrupt the sessions in mid-September so that the parties hold their congresses. Avoiding the interruption, the chamber would have another three weeks of extra sessions to prevent a Brexit without agreement and would open the possibility of reserving more days for the rebels to control matters to be dealt with in parliament. The ultimate goal is to pass a bill that forces the Johnson government to request an extension of article 50 in Brussels.

Since joining Johnson’s team, Cummings has told government advisers that Downing Street is willing to do everything necessary to have a Brexit on October 31, with or without an agreement. Possible measures to achieve this include suspending parliamentary sessions, ignoring any motion of censure against Johnson or calling general elections “of the people against politicians” to be held after Brexit.

Alarm for the growing role of Cummings

But within Downing Street, the alarm also grows between special advisors and conservative deputies, given the magnitude of the influence exerted by Cummings and his willingness to face parliament.

Cummings’ requirement to join the Government was to have control over Johnson’s office, sources from the Conservative Party explain. Once inside, he has dedicated himself to the removal of the most moderate advisers – such as Johnson’s former strongman at the London city hall Sir Eddie Lister – while he was putting together a team consisting of “true believers” of the hard-line Brexit, many of them members of the campaign that defended the exit of the EU in the 2016 referendum.

According to that source, the control that Cummings exerts on Downing Street is like a “reign of terror.” Immobilized by the fear of losing their job, the advisors have been instructed to work at full speed so that there is Brexit on the deadline of October 31.

In principle, the media received information that Lister would be Johnson’s new chief of staff. Within the government team, there are those who describe him as one of the “sensible”. But in internal emails of Downing Street, you can see that Cummings has become the “assistant to the prime minister” in charge of Brexit and internal policy, with Lister reduced to the position of “main strategic advisor”, responsible for issues Foreign, Business and Security.

A relevant adviser to the conservatives has explained to The Guardian that Cummings is the one who “directs the show, without any doubt”; and that it is even more ruthless and complicated to work than Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, Theresa May’s former advisors : “The level of terror is greater than what Priti Patel would like to exercise on criminals; it’s much, much scarier than when Nick Timothy was. It’s like two Fionas and one Nick in one; the worst of both worlds in one person. “

Cummings, however, also has advocated, including a special advisor who worked with the last two administrations. “Dom needs people who know how to do their job, who meet the prime minister’s priorities and who give sincere answers when there are problems,” he explains. “In the previous government, you could end up fired just because someone else had a bad day.”

Concern about the role of Cummings has also extended to some conservative deputies who admit to being alarmed by all the power Cummings has accumulated in a short time for a non-elected office. “[Cummings] is a non-elected advisor, and there is a concern that the prime minister is becoming a facade for Cummings’ ideological plans,” explains one of them.

A plan in which Corbyn as prime minister

If there are rebel deputies of several parties thinking of using the legislation to block a Brexit without an agreement, it is partly because the Labor Party has emphasized that it will not enter into a possible government of national unity in the event of a motion of censure. Before reaching an agreement with the other parties to support candidates such as Yvette Cooper or Ken Clarke, Labor prefers general elections or a minority Labor government led by Jeremy Corbyn. 

John McDonnell, head of Foreign Affairs in the Labor opposition, explained that if there is a motion of censure and Johnson loses it, Corbyn is committed to forming a provisional government with the support of rebel conservative deputies and other opposition parties. What if the conservative leader does not resign? “Although he would rather not have to drag the queen to this,” McDonnell said half-jokingly, “he would send Jeremy Corbyn by taxi to Buckingham Palace to tell him: ‘Let’s take the witness.”

The problem with carrying out that plan is that many rebel conservative deputies do not trust a plan that ends with Corbyn as acting prime minister. That is the reason why instead of a vote to make the government fall, they prefer the option of legislating to prevent Brexit without agreement.

Peter Kyle, the Labor deputy who devised an intermediate solution in which an eventual agreement with the EU should be approved by a second referendum, says he has no doubt that the chamber can stop all Johnson and Cummings initiatives against parliament to achieve a Brexit without agreement.

“Of course we can decide not to take the [autumn] break; of course we can decide to file an amendment against how it has been so far; the parliament will be up to par if the government acts unconventionally and does not respect the sovereign power of parliament; and if the government breaks the rules, we will create new rules, “he explains. Kyle believes that the deputies will not be intimidated by Cummings, a “dissenting populist who raises in the gallery of his blogging friends” about a Brexit without agreement.

Chuka Umunna, deputy of the Liberal Democratic Party and spokesman for the Treasury, is not so clear. In his opinion, the “vital interparty work” that is being done will only be successful if a sufficient number of Labor and Conservative deputies are reached willing to prevent Brexit without agreement. “Everything will remain in nothing as long as the current alliance between at least 25 Labor deputies continues, including 8 of those who sit in the front row, and a majority of conservative deputies who persist in voting against legally binding measures that would prevent Brexit without agreement on the House of Commons, “he says.

According to experts, a plausible plan for rebel deputies of all parties is to take control of the agenda using recess motions, called “periodic motions of suspension.” Generally, no amendments can be made against those motions, but John Bercow, the president of the House of Commons, took a controversial first step in January by allowing conservative deputy Dominic Grieve to file an amendment against the convention. to a similar motion – the one that set a three-day deadline for the then Prime Minister to return to the House with another plan in case her agreement was rejected.

Grieve, a former attorney general, avoids talking about the possibility of submitting an amendment to the motion on the September recess. But he does advance that it would be unconstitutional to have Johnson disobeying a hypothetical motion of censure and staying on Downing Street until after October 31, the Brexit deadline.

On Tuesday, when a Sky News reporter addressed him outside his home, Cummings made a rare statement suggesting that parliament could find no way to prevent a Brexit without agreement forcing the prime minister to resign. “It’s the simplest thing, the prime minister believes that politicians cannot choose which votes are respected, that’s the key,” he said. “I don’t think I’m being arrogant; I don’t know much about many things; Mr. Grieve … we’ll see if he’s right.”

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Charming, hypocritical and terribly English: Europe’s verdict on Boris Johnson

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  • Relevant voices from the European scene value the controversial figure of Boris Johnson, the newly released prime minister of the United Kingdom.
  • Salvatore Margiotta, a member of the Democratic Party, says Johnson is “a poker player who will now have to show his lantern”.
  • Bild’s principal analyst, Franz Josef Wagner, describes Johnson as a product of the “black and quirky” sense of humor of the English.

The then British Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson

Intelligent, cultured, charming, witty, self-critical and terribly English. But he is also deceitful, dishonest, dark, hypocritical and a danger to his country and to Europe. A poker player who has not yet discovered the lantern.

While Boris Johnson becomes comfortable in his new position, promising until death that the United Kingdom will cease to belong to the European Union in 90 days even if it is without an agreement, politicians and analysts in Europe observe between fascinated and scandalized.

“Like many, I was easily captivated by his attitude, his self-confidence, his intelligence,” said Han ten Broeke, a former Dutch deputy EU affairs specialist. “It’s a pleasure to hear it. I have a weakness for the English and Boris is one of the reasons,” he added.

But time has passed and Ten Broeke changed his mind. “The charm, the intellect, the self-confidence … Now I think he has too much confidence in himself,” he says. “The promise of simple solutions to complex problems. The consequences could be disastrous,” he said.

He also points out that the European Union could give a little in the exit agreement and that the price of not reaching an agreement would be much higher for the United Kingdom than for the EU. “I see a single reason why Johnson may want a way out without an agreement. A dark and cynical reason: to win a new term in the next election, putting his party’s interests ahead of those in the country, at a crucial moment.” he declared.

Another lifelong Anglophile, André Gattolin, Vice President of the European Affairs Committee of the French Senate, remarked that the new Prime Minister has carefully cultivated “a caricature image: hair, jokes, flags, zip lines, provocations.”

But behind the satirical character there is “a very intelligent strategist: after all, he has come to power and did so from within traditional structures.” “Yes, it is true that he has very little room to maneuver and will soon face reality. He will have to negotiate, find something he can present as a triumph,” he added.

However, his mere presence at 10 Downing Street has shown that Johnson was not as clumsy as the mainland media painted him, says Gattolin. “He pretends to be an elephant in a pot shop, but he knew how to enter through the big door. He is playing a game, and so far we could say that he has played quite well,” he said.

Some people have had experience with Johnson games. And they have smitten. In November 2016, Martin Ehl’s quarter-hour interview with the then foreign affairs secretary briefly earned him international fame when Johnson was quoted as saying that the notion that freedom of movement was a fundamental value of the EU was an “asshole.”

Quickly, the Government went out to clarify that it had been misquoted, despite the fact, had agreed with the British embassy to review the interview before publishing it. The Czech newspaper published the audio of the interview on its website, in which it was clearly heard how next to the offensive expression Johnson added: “You can translate ‘asshole’ to Czech.”

Ehl said then that Johnson was “a politician and does what he thinks is best for him.” I had no problem with that, said the journalist, “but I do have a problem when someone tries to undermine our honesty and dignity … In it, I saw a professional politician who knew he was talking to a journalist and who knew he had to say something to hit strong and a good headline. But he wasn’t very careful. ”

Pascal Boniface, director of the French Institute for Strategic and International Affairs, agreed that it was a mistake of the French both to make fun of Johnson and laugh at Donald Trump at the time. “We sat to make fun of them and in the meantime, they take their plans to action,” he reflected.

Boniface talks about the similarities he sees evident between both leaders: both lead from the front, taking few hostages; both are opportunists who are guided more by public opinion than by a specific ideology. But when it comes to Europe, he added, Johnson’s biggest problem is that the United Kingdom is not the United States.

“The European reflex is still to show some deference towards the United States,” he said. “But the EU of 27 will make efforts to save the deal with the United Kingdom. It will be terrible for Johnson to collide with that reality. He may frighten conservative parliamentarians to support him in Parliament, but he will not be able to give in to the EU, “he said.

Sandro Gozi, former Italian secretary of state for European affairs and current advisor to the French Government, believes that Johnson is “a man who has changed his mind about many things.” However, he has been “completely consistent as prime minister on the question of Europe: The United Kingdom must withdraw on October 31. That we must respect. But the question is how the United Kingdom will withdraw. We are waiting for your proposal. The ball is in its roof. A hard-line Brexit would be your choice. ”

Salvatore Margiotta, a member of the Democratic Party, agrees. Johnson is “a poker player who will now have to show his lantern.” “We are facing a farce, a kind of false Brexit. An exit without an agreement would have dramatic consequences, especially for the United Kingdom. And Johnson, who is partial but not stupid, knows it,” he said.

Ulrike Herrmann, economic analyst at the German leftist newspaper Taz added that it would be “interesting to see when and how Boris Johnson turns around. Because he has a pragmatic relationship with power.” “He has reached the prime minister by becoming the hardline. But in the long term he can only remain in power if he says goodbye to the hardline Brexit,” he said.

Gabriel Felbermayr, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, suggested that it will soon be clear if Johnson really had a plan, but “with his provocative style, he is certainly not the right person to build a bridge between his country, facing himself, and Brussels. ”

Markus Becker, a Spiegel correspondent in Brussels, wondered if Johnson “is simply going to let there be no agreement, hoping, as always, to get away from the matter with a mixture of boldness, charm and good luck, and then blame another for chaos. ”

Bild’s principal analyst, Franz Josef Wagner, described Johnson as a product of the English “black and quirky” sense of humor: Mr. Bean, Monty Python, jokes against the Germans … “When things go wrong, the Englishmen laugh instead of complaining, “he said. “I just hope they can continue laughing during the Boris Johnson government,” he said.

Some people certainly have their doubts. The Nobel Prize winner for literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, recently defined Boris Johnson as “a liar and a clown” and warned that it represents a threat to “progress, civilization, and culture in the United Kingdom.”

However, Carles Casajuana, who was Spain’s ambassador to the United Kingdom between 2008 and 2012 and who met Johnson when he was mayor of London, remembered him as a “very intelligent and very nice” person, who was hiding behind “a veil of frivolity. I think in the end it is much more calculating than you want to see.

Berta Herrero, a journalist specializing in the European Union said that from Spain we tend to see Johnson as a “kind of kamikaze”, very imprecise. “They see him as reckless, as someone who has built a career based on lying and convincing people of what he wants, of his fantasies, not necessarily of facts or truths,” he said. “He’s trying to copy Trump, but he’s more like his little brother,” he criticized.

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A report from the UK Government shows that modern diesel emits more than they say

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The work of the Agency for Driving Models and Vehicles warns that exceeding the limits of some pollutants of these modern cars puts at risk the improvements in the air quality of low emission areas.

Actual driving tests of the DVSA

After almost four years of the Dieselgate scandal, an official report from the United Kingdom again calls into question the emissions declared by diesel cars, but this time of the most modern with the strictest Euro 6 pollution control standards. The work warns that these differences in the emissions of the “cleaner” diesel models they put at risk the improvements in the air quality of the low emission areas, the areas such as Central Madrid to reduce pollution. 

Although the new models that enter the market comply with the strictest regulations of the Euro 6 plan, in which NOx levels have been reduced by more than 55%, the  new DVSA report (the Agency for Driving Models and Vehicles), which analyzes 28 of the most commercialized vehicles in the United Kingdom, points out that the actual emissions of cars are, in many cases, much higher than what appears in the European tests . And only one diesel car, of all those who studied, respected the EU limits to protect air quality.

Especially, the tests showed that the Nissan Qashqai diesel exceeded the legal limits of NOx more than 17 times and the Renault  Kadjardiesel  13 times. Also, important mismatches were found with regulations in diesel versions of models such as the BMW 1 series, the  Hyundai Tucson, the Jaguar F-Pace, the Vauxhall Astra or the Volvo XC60.

“This is a scandal that affects all consumers,” explains Katie Nield of the environmental lawyers’ organization, ClientEarth, “and unfortunately it is having an impact on people’s health, so it cannot be justified.”

The main reason why the cars obtained different results in the study of the British government was that they carried out the test in a real environment, that is, it was measured what these vehicles emitted on the road, with normal driving conditions, instead of in a lab. However, until September 1 of this year, the European tests will not include such evaluations for NOx emissions.

Meanwhile, once the cars have acquired one of the European qualifications, at the moment there is no device that requires manufacturers to rectify their product, as explained by a representative of the organization AIR (Allow Independent Road Testing). Even when it has been discovered that it does not adapt to the regulations. “The DVSA can only suggest voluntary changes to manufacturers,” he explains, “once the product has passed the tests, there is no legal obligation.”

This is exactly what happened after the report. Although most of the affected companies have ensured that they will review their products, as requested by the British government, NISSAN has refused to make any changes to its Qashqai model despite exceeding the allowed NOx limits more than 17 times.

“The problem is that diesel companies have not been consistently held responsible for contributing illegal and dangerous levels to European Union air pollution,” explains Nield. “And the new diesel is not as clean as we have been led to believe.”

In fact, only the Mercedes-Benz E-class diesel successfully passed the test. Even in CO 2 emissions, the levels in real conditions of almost all vehicles far exceeded the limits recorded in official figures.

According to the report, not even by replicating the EU tests, did they get many cars and vans to repeat the numbers they claim to issue, which demonstrates the importance of stricter controls in the WLTP laboratory tests (the current ones in Europe) and that Emissions testing in real conditions (RDE, are introduced Real Driving Emissions ).

In fact, the idea of ​​establishing an independent and approved measurement for all vehicles, just like the one offered by the AIR organization, seems justifiable. Where appropriate, no test is performed in the laboratory but all vehicles are examined through portable meters that quantify emissions in real driving.

With this system, in addition to avoiding counterfeits that, as discovered in the Volkswagen scandal, facilitate controlled laboratory conditions, an indicative is developed for all cars. According to this organization, even if the EU enters its test in real conditions, manufacturers will participate to a large extent in the tests and, by including only new vehicles, will exclude much of the current fleet.

As associations such as the OCU or Ecologists in Action have been warning, the report of the British government calls into question the reliability of some environmental label systems such as that of the DGT in Spain, as they penalize older, but not modern, diesel. 

“Governments have to ensure that companies respect the common good,” says lawyer Kate Nield. If the test measures do not reflect reality, any policy that is applied based on them, such as those in low emission areas, will not be as effective. Nor will they improve as much as they want everyone’s air.

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