Man Ray Departure of summer 1914
But if you close Parliament right ahead of the biggest political decision in ages, what reason could there be to re-open it again?
Boris Johnson has asked the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, whether parliament can be shut down for five weeks from 9 September in what appears to be a concerted plan to stop MPs forcing a further extension to Brexit, according to leaked government correspondence. An email from senior government advisers to an adviser in No 10 – written within the last 10 days and seen by the Observer – makes clear that the prime minister has recently requested guidance on the legality of such a move, known as prorogation. The initial legal guidance given in the email is that shutting parliament may well be possible, unless action being taken in the courts to block such a move by anti-Brexit campaigners succeeds in the meantime.
On Saturday Labour and pro-Remain Tory MPs reacted furiously, saying that the closure of parliament, as a method for stopping MPs preventing a potentially disastrous no-deal Brexit, would be an affront to democracy and deeply irresponsible, particularly given the government’s own acceptance of the economic turmoil no-deal could cause. Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Any plan to suspend parliament at this stage would be outrageous. MPs must take the earliest opportunity to thwart this plan and to stop a no-deal Brexit.” The prominent Tory remainer and former attorney general Dominic Grieve added: “This memo, if correct, shows Boris Johnson’s contempt for the House of Commons. It may be possible to circumvent the clear intention of the House of Commons in this way but it shows total bad faith. Excluding the house from a national crisis that threatens the future of our country is entirely wrong.”
They don’t agree as much as they say here.
Donald Trump has described Boris Johnson as “the right man” to deliver Brexit, as the pair met for a breakfast meeting at the G7 summit in Biarritz. Asked what his advice was for Brexit, the US president said: “He [Johnson] needs no advice, he is the right man for the job.” Johnson said Trump was “on message there”. Trump also talked up the prospects for a US-UK trade agreement after Brexit, saying it would be a “very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had”. The pair were speaking to reporters after a working breakfast, accompanied by advisers and officials. Johnson confirmed he had reiterated his opposition to the NHS being opened up to US firms as part of any trade deal – and to the UK lowering animal welfare standards to US levels to get a deal.
“Not only have I made clear of that, the president has made that very, very clear. There is complete unanimity on that point,” he said. He suggested there would be “tough talks ahead”. Before their meeting, Johnson had said he would raise with Trump the issue of the increasingly bitter trade spat between the US and China; and press him to throw open the US market to British goods after Brexit. When Trump was asked by reporters if allies were pressuring him to give up his trade war with China he said: “Not at all.” He said his predecessors had allowed Beijing “to get away with taking hundreds of billions of dollars out every year, putting it into China”. Asked if he had second thoughts on escalating the dispute he said: “Sure … why not.” But then he added: “I have second thoughts about everything.”
Boris and Donald in Biarritz
Not much there to gain.
The US must lift restrictions on UK businesses if it wants a trade deal with the UK, Boris Johnson has said. Travelling to the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, the PM said there were “very considerable barriers in the US to British businesses”. Mr Johnson said he had already spoken to President Donald Trump about his concerns, adding he would do so again when they meet on Sunday morning. The prime minister will also hold talks with EU Council President Donald Tusk. “There are massive opportunities for UK companies to open up, to prise open the American market,” Mr Johnson said.
“We intend to seize those opportunities but they are going to require our American friends to compromise and to open up their approach, because currently there are too many restrictions.” Offering an example of a restriction, Mr Johnson said: “Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don’t know, some sort of food and drug administration restriction.” He continued: “UK bell peppers cannot get into the US market at all. “Wine shipments are heavily restricted. If you want to export wine made in England to the US you have to go through a US distributor. “There is a tax on British micro-breweries in the US that doesn’t apply to US micro-breweries in the UK.”
“When Boris says the EU isn’t going to get the £30Bn the UK owes them he’s talking about:
Pensions for British civil servants
Subsidies for British farms
Funds for British regional development
Most of that “EU money” is spent in the UK.”
Boris Johnson is expected to tell EU boss Donald Tusk that Britain will only pay a quarter of its so-called Brexit divorce bill if the country leaves without a deal on 31 October. The prime minister is due to meet the European Council president at the G7 summit in France later today. It is understood he will tell Mr Tusk that under no deal, the UK would only owe about £9bn of the £39bn liability agreed by former prime minister Theresa May. The approach is likely to stoke tension with other EU leaders at the meeting in Biarritz. In June, a source close to French President Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the G7 summit, said refusing to pay was the “equivalent to a sovereign debt default”.
Others argue the UK is legally bound to pay the £39bn sum and warn that reneging on the obligation will prevent a future trade deal being struck and could even lead to the EU pursuing the funds through the courts. It follows a war of words between Mr Johnson and Mr Tusk on Saturday over who would be to blame if the UK left the EU without an agreement. The government has also ramped up its preparations for Brexit, announcing that an online “60-second checker” will be brought in so businesses and the public can “work out what, if anything, they need to do before 31 October”. Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the government would shortly begin an “engagement campaign to get the country and business ready for Brexit”.
Someone will veto it.
Boris Johnson has issued a slapdown to Emmanuel Macron over the French president’s threat to veto a EU trade deal with South American states including Brazil, claiming that concern over the Amazon fires was being used as an “excuse” to interfere with free trade. Mr Macron has warned that he will block the EU-Mercosur deal – on the brink of completion after 20 years of talks – unless Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro shows he is taking seriously his duty to protect his country’s environment as part of the global fight against climate change. Arriving at the G7 summit hosted by Mr Macron in the French coastal resort town of Biarritz, Mr Johnson restated his horror at the thousands of wildfires currently wreaking devastation across swathes of the Brazilian Amazon.
But he stopped well short of supporting the president’s proposal, also backed by Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar, to withhold final EU approval for the free trade agreement until Mr Bolsonaro meets environmental commitments. The Mercosur deal, also covering Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, is opposed by many in France because it would expose the country’s farmers to competition from large quantities of cheap beef from South America. Mr Johnson said that he would do “everything we possibly can” to help Brazil tackle the “tragedy” of rainforest destruction But asked whether he would join other leaders in refusing to ratify the Mercosur deal, he said: “People will take any excuse at all to interfere with free trade and to frustrate trade deals, and I don’t want to see that.
Merkel wants that deal.
EU Council president Donald Tusk said it was hard to imagine the bloc ratifying its trade pact with South America’s Mercosur grouping as long as Brazil fails to curb the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest. The European Union “stands by the EU-Mercosur agreement”, Tusk told reporters at a G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France on Saturday. “It is hard to imagine a harmonious process of ratification by the European countries as long as the Brazilian government allows for the destruction of the green lungs of planet earth,” he said. French President Emmanuel Macron has said the G7 should hold emergency talks on the Amazon fires, taking the lead in piling pressure on Brazil’s far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro.
He and Irish leader Leo Varadkar have both pledged to block a new trade deal between the EU and Latin American trading bloc Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. But Spain, which has close ties to South America, does not support the moves to block the massive trade, the government in Madrid said Saturday. Spain “does not share the position of blocking the deal,” and “has been at the forefront of the last effort to sign the EU-Mercosur agreement that will open huge opportunities for the two regional blocs,” Madrid said in an online message to media. On Friday Germany said that opposing the trade pact was “not the right response” to tackling the Amazon fires in Brazil.
From the time he campaigned for president, Bolsonaro vowed to open the Amazon to development, finishing hydroelectric dams and paving roads that cut through the forest. I traveled to the region in June for Rolling Stone on a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting to witness firsthand the battle over the forest’s future. Emboldened by the election of Bolsonaro, farmers were already burning forest to clear more land for soy farms and cattle ranches. Bolsonaro owes his election largely to a relatively new coalition in Brazil known as the Beef, Bible and Bullets caucus, which pressured his predecessor, Michel Temer, to open the Amazon for development to stave off a scandal that threatened to engulf his presidency.
According to documents leaked earlier this week, Bolsonaro has been implementing a strategy to “occupy” the Amazon with development projects — including the Trombetas River hydroelectric plant and the Obidos bridge over the Amazon River — and to prevent conservation. FUNAI, the government agency charged with protecting indigenous land, has had its budget cut in half, and IBAMA, the agency that cracks down on those destroying the forest, has had dozens of its bases shut down. Bolsonaro installed a climate-change denier as environmental minister and tried to put FUNAI under the agriculture department, which would have opened indigenous land to development had it not been blocked by congress.
The tragedy of all of this is that for over a decade, Brazil was the world’s leader in stopping deforestation. Under the leftist Worker’s Party, deforestation in Brazil dropped by 85 percent between 2004 and 2015 due to a series of aggressive reforms and the demarcation of national forest, conservation units, and indigenous reserves. IBAMA functioned as a sort of elite environmental commando unit, choppering into cleared land where, by law, they were empowered to seize tractors and bulldozers, or torch them so they couldn’t be used again.
Now, the agencies are stripped of power and resources and barely able to function in some places. “Our operations have nearly ground to a halt,” an IBAMA agent tells me. “There’s a sense of impunity that nothing will happen if the forest is cleared. It’s open season.”
“..1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday..”
Hundreds of new fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil, official data showed Saturday, amid growing international pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro to put out the worst blazes in years. The fires in the world’s largest rainforest have triggered a global outcry and are dominating the G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France. Official figures show 78,383 forest fires were recorded in Brazil so far this year, the highest number of any year since 2013, and experts say the clearing of land during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing has accelerated the deforestation. More than half of the fires are in the Amazon, and some 1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday, according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
The new data came a day after Bolsonaro authorized the deployment of the military to fight the fires and crack down on criminal activities in the region. The blazes have stirred outrage globally, with thousands protesting in Brazil and Europe on Friday. Earlier this week, Bolsonaro blamed the fires on non-government organizations, suggesting they deliberately started them after their funding was cut. The growing crisis threatens to torpedo a blockbuster trade deal between the European Union and South American countries, including Brazil, that took 20 years to negotiate.
Where it all started.
The record number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has coincided with a sharp drop in fines for environmental violations, BBC analysis has found. Official data from Brazil’s environment agency shows fines from January to 23 August dropped almost a third compared with the same period last year. At the same time, the number of fires burning in Brazil has increased by 84%. It is not known how many of these fires have been set deliberately, but critics have accused President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration of “green lighting” the destruction of the rainforest through a culture of impunity. Mr Bolsonaro has sent in the military to help put out the fires after coming under pressure from the international community, saying he wanted to “help protect” the Amazon.
[..] Analysis by BBC Brasil shows the number of fines handed out by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) for environmental violations has dropped significantly since Mr Bolsonaro took office on 1 January. This year saw the lowest number of fines handed out by the agency in a decade (in the period between January and August). Between 1 January and 23 August 2019, the total number of fines handed out was 6,895. Ibama handed out 9,771 fines during the same period in 2018: a drop of 29.4%. The total number of fines relating to “flora” – which includes deforestation and burning – dropped from 4,138 to 2,535 over the same period. And in the nine states that make up the Brazilian Amazon, the drop in fines relating to flora dropped from 2,817 to 1,627.
[..] During last year’s presidential race, Mr Bolsonaro vowed to open up the Amazon for commercial activity. When he was sworn in, he stayed true to his word. Many of his critics say that Mr Bolsonaro operates a double standard when it comes to addressing environmental crimes, most of which remain unpunished. After all, the president promised a tough stance on criminal activity. Now, in face of national and international pressure, Mr Bolsonaro appears to have changed his tone and finally adopted measures to battle the fires. But he still hasn’t acknowledged the link between the fires and the increase in deforestation in Brazil this year. And in a televised address on Friday he reinforced his plans to bring “economic dynamism” to the Amazon.
Satellite data published by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) has shown an increase of 85% this year in fires across Brazil, most of them in the Amazon region.
Only speak when we tell you to.
Democratic National Committee members on Saturday voted down a resolution that would have resulted in single-issue debates among candidates — including on the issue of the climate crisis. The language that was rejected — inserted at the behest of climate change activists during a contentious Resolutions Committee meeting on Thursday — said the DNC, “will continue to encourage candidates to participate in multi-candidate issue-specific forums with the candidates appearing on the same stage, engaging one another in discussion.” Democratic presidential candidates are barred from appearing together on stage outside of DNC-sanctioned debates.
The committee’s approved language from Thursday “essentially lifted the ban on candidates being unable to appear together on a stage at a forum or a candidate gathering,” Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski, a leader in the effort, told CNN. DNC members defeated the move to lift such a ban Saturday in a 222-137 vote. There were multiple observers from both sides who monitored the vote count. Prior to the voting, DNC Chairman Tom Perez set up a system for members on both sides to speak about their reasoning. The text approved in committee also conflicted with the resolution itself because it stated, “the DNC concluded that it should not hold debates devoted to one specific topics, nor can it agree to requests for such debates by individual presidential candidates.”
Tulsi’s on active duty in Indonesia. When she gets back she will be out.
Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign has called on the DNC to ensure fairness by updating its approved debate-qualifying polls, raising concerns about a lack of transparency and the consistency of the required criteria. In order to qualify for the next round of Democratic presidential debates in September, the Democratic National Committee’s rules require all candidates to have 130,000 unique donors and to have reached 2 percent in four approved polls. Representative Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has surpassed 2 percent in 26 national and state polls – including two polls by the biggest newspapers in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina – but only two of these are DNC-certified.
Strangely, the DNC has not released the criteria it used to select the sixteen polling organizations they have certified. “Without these exclusions, Gabbard would have already qualified,” her campaign says. Gabbard’s team also point out that there have only been four certified polls released since the second round of Democratic debates, whereas there were 14 released after the first debate. Gabbard was the most googled candidate after her second debate and had a standout moment when she confronted Kamala Harris’s record of incarcerating people for marijuana use when she was attorney general. She was also the most googled candidate during the first debate.
The DNC had said that it would “continually assess” the race and make adjustments when necessary, given the fluid nature of the race, when it released a memo explaining its process in 2018, and the Gabbard campaign is calling on it to do so now to ensure fairness before the August 28 cut-off date. “Crucial decisions on debate qualifications that impact the right of the American people to have the opportunity to participate fully in the Democratic process should not be made in secret by party bosses,” the Gabbard campaign cautioned.