Corbyn responds to pressure to support second referendum
Jeremy Corbyn is defying calls from Labour MPs and members to support a second Brexit referendum, saying instead that Theresa May should seek a different deal from the EU if her deal is rejected in parliament.
On Tuesday a new report revealed that the majority of Labour party members support the idea of a fresh referendum, in a study of attitudes towards Brexit from different political parties. This led to increased pressure on Corbyn to change course on the party’s approach.
However, Corbyn said on Wednesday that Labour’s policy remained “sequential”, and that no new plans could be made until May’s deal is voted down when it reaches parliament.
Meanwhile, The Guardian newspaper has reported that a group of high-profile left-wing Labour figures are planning a policy commission to make the left’s case for remaining in the EU, including including Ann Pettifor, a former adviser to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, as well as the economics commentator Paul Mason, and Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the TSSA trade union.
Where are we with May’s Brexit deal?
MPs are expected to have their ‘meaningful vote’ on Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the week commencing 14 January. The vote was originally set to take place in December, but May postponed this after it appeared that her deal would not get majority support in parliament.
It has been confirmed that German chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Theresa May on Christmas Eve and again on Wednesday, and that the PM has made several calls to EU leaders as part of the wider plan to get her deal through the Commons.
Downing Street has not revealed the details of any conversation between May and EU leaders. Before Christmas, the prime minister was seeking reassurances from the EU27 on the Irish border, though these were not given.
Alongside Brexiteers who oppose the deal – largely because of the backstop – the DUP remain perhaps the biggest group who could torpedo May’s Brexit deal. The party still say they intend to vote down the deal when it reaches parliament, after May failed to get legally binding commitments from the EU that would ensure Northern Ireland could not be held in such a backstop arrangement on an indefinite basis.
Javid under fire for dissuading asylum seekers
The home secretary Sajid Javid has received strong criticism after appearing to suggest that asylum seekers should be deterred from crossing the Channel, by making it harder to gain asylum in the UK, a right enshrined in international law.
Speaking on a visit to Dover, the home secretary questioned why ‘genuine asylum seekers’ did not seek asylum in the first safe country they entered, rather than making the journey to the UK.
Speaking on Wednesday, Javid said: “A question has to be asked: if you are a genuine asylum seeker why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country that you arrived in?”
He added: “Also, if you do somehow make it to the UK, we will do everything we can to make sure that you are often not successful because we need to break that link, and to break that link means we can save more lives.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said that Javid’s comments were part of a Conservative party “obsession with maintaining a hostile environment”. She added: “Suggesting that the British government would deny legitimate asylum claims is not only a disgrace but a breach of the 1951 refugee convention.”
British MPs call for access to women’s rights activists after claims of torture
A group of British MPs is calling to have access to women’s rights activists being held in Saudi Arabia, after allegations that they have been subjected to ill-treatment, including sexual assault and torture.
More than a dozen activists, some of whom were heavily involved in securing the right for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, were detained following a crackdown by authorities in May last year.
Some of the group were released without charge, but at least eight women and some male supporters of the movement to remove the driving ban have been kept in custody.
The group of lawmakers and advocates, including Conservative former chair of the foreign affairs select committee Crispin Blunt, the Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, and Paul Williams, a Labour member of the health and social care select committee, intend to producer a detailed document of their findings on the case following a detention review panel.
Speaking earlier this week, Blunt said: There are credible concerns that the conditions in which the Saudi women activists are being detained may have fallen significantly short of both international and Saudi Arabia’s own standards.
“We make this request to the Saudi authorities so that we can assess for ourselves the conditions in which the Saudi women activists have been and are being detained today.
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